Content about Disaster

December 11, 2013

A specter is haunting Israel; it’s the specter of democracy. In Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, the American journalist Max Blumenthal holds up a mirror to Israeli society and reveals the specter of a failed democracy now hurtling toward fascism.

In 73 chapters and 410 pages, Blumenthal documents the racism that pervades Israeli society and institutions and traces its origins to the Zionist movement’s settler-colonial project to create an ethnocratic state bent on excluding and dispossessing the indigenous Palestinian population. Others have done this before, but several things make Blumenthal’s book unique.

Based on four years of research, much of it spent in Israel and the occupied West Bank, Goliath may be the most comprehensive survey yet of contemporary Israeli society and politics. At the same time, its ability to link the past to the present shows a continuum of racism and authoritarianism throughout Israel’s history.

Unlike some critiques that focus mainly, if not exclusively, on the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Blumenthal confronts the Nakba — the forced displacement of Palestinians before Israel’s establishment in 1948 — to illustrate liberal Zionism’s hypocrisy. He excoriates its embrace of the two-state solution as a means of preserving Jewish supremacy and avoiding the “demographic nightmare” of Palestinian babies.

Moreover, Blumenthal provides a profile of Palestinian activists and legislators and an emerging anti-Zionist, Jewish Israeli left that is rarely, if ever, found in the mainstream corporate media.

Blumenthal tells his story in vignettes that detail just how openly racist Israel has become. These stories underscore the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, not just in the West Bank and Gaza but also within Israel itself, showing the growing popularity of the far right with its hate-mongering rhetoric aimed not just at Palestinians but also asylum-seeking Africans.

 

 

November 16, 2013

Ecuador made an undisclosed settlement with Colombia in a case brought before the International Court of Justice for damages Colombia caused by the spraying of herbicides used to kill coca plants cultivated along the border of the two countries. The coca plants are used to  produce the illegal drug cocaine. The secrecy surrounding the friendly settlement  has angered those affected by the fumigation.

The settlement originally stipulated that Colombia was to pay $15m in compensation, to be invested in areas in Ecuador affected by the aerial spraying of coca crops with the glyphosate herbicide near the country’s border. But how and when the investments will be made has not yet been clarified.

The Colombian government also pledged not to carry out aerial spraying over the next year within 10km of the border with Ecuador, between the southwest Colombian provinces of Putumayo and Nariño and the northern Ecuadorian provinces of Sucumbíos, Carchi and Esmeraldas.

But that 10-km strip could be narrowed to 5 and eventually 2km within two years, according to the conditions explained in Appendix 1 of the settlement agreement.

Exclusion zone

The appendix states that after the first year, once the scientific analyses are studied, the binational technical group will assess whether Ecuadorean territory was affected by the spraying. If it was not, the exclusion zone will be reduced to 5km wide for one year, and after that, to 2km.

That is the main concern of peasant farmers who say their health, crops and livestock have been affected by glyphosate spraying.

 

Reducing the width of the exclusion zone to 2km "is unfair, but the agreement has already been signed, and since it was between governments, we were left high and dry; but we will continue the struggle," Daniel Alarcón, the head of the Federation of Peasant Organizations in the Ecuadorian Border Zone of Sucumbios (FORCCOFES), said.

The settlement does not provide a real solution because "they will continue spraying near us," he said.

"It will affect us - we hope only minimally - but if a single drop of glyphosate falls we will protest because we are prepared to carry this through to the end, to get reparations for the damage caused."

Alarcón was referring to the health problems and deterioration in the quality of life that tens of thousands of people have suffered as a result of Colombia’s spraying near the Ecuadorean border between 2000 and 2007 with the aim of eradicating coca crops.

According to a survey conducted by Forccofes, some 15,000 families live in the border area in question, and the 10,000 families living along the San Miguel river have been affected the most by the spraying.

Cancer On the Rise

"The effects are still being felt; the land has not returned to normal production levels," said Alarcón, who lives in 5 de Agosto, a community in the border district of General Farfán. "Cancer was almost unheard of here before, and now people are continuously dying of cancer because of the glyphosate, which has contaminated the water sources."

The agreement between the two countries refers to the chemical composition of the herbicide that figures in the environmental management plan authorized by Colombia’s environment ministry in Resolution 1054, from 2003.

According to the settlement, the mixture - which according to the government is used throughout the national territory - contains 44 percent glyphosate, one percent Cosmo Flux, and 55 percent water.

But the label for the Monsanto corporation’s Roundup glyphosate herbicide recommends a concentration of 1.6 to 7.7 percent glyphosate, with an absolute upper limit of 29 percent.

There are no long term studies on the impact of Cosmo Flux on the environment or on humans.

An econometric study carried out this year by two professors at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, on the health effects of aerial spraying, found that it had "a very significant" impact in terms of the likelihood of miscarriage. It also found a correlation between aerial spraying and skin problems.

Uruguayan political analyst Laura Gil, who disseminated the terms of the settlement in Colombia on October 1, said that it was "unacceptable for Ecuadorians to receive more [safety] guarantees than Colombians."

Secret negotiations

She added, however, that "...agreements like this strengthen relations. It’s better to try to settle things through negotiations, rather than through a legal sentence, even though the International Court of Justice is a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

"But it is not acceptable for it to be done through secret diplomatic negotiations," she added, pointing out that the content of the binational agreement did not go through the Colombian Congress.

"It’s obvious why not: because the legislators would demand a halt to the spraying."

Amira Armenta, an expert with the Transnational Institute’s Drugs and Democracy program, wrote that the settlement would not really change anything because Colombia would continue spraying in border provinces.

According to the latest study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Nariño and Putumayo are the provinces with the highest density of coca cultivation - 22 percent and 13 percent, respectively, of the country’s total coca cultivation in late 2012.

"In the last decade, Nariño has suffered from the highest levels of spraying in the country, and in spite of that it continues to boast the title of biggest producer," Armenta writes.

The settlement also states that before spraying in a border area, the Colombian government will give the Ecuadorean government 10 days notice, indicating the exact locations and dates of the fumigation.

"This is much more than what could have been achieved in a legal ruling, because it is very difficult for an international court to require a country to assume a commitment of this nature since the country can claim that it affects its sovereignty," Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said about the agreement. "But it is possible to achieve when it is a friendly settlement."

Ecuador and Colombia also agreed to sign a special expedited protocol for addressing complaints from Ecuadorian citizens in border areas. But the protocol has not yet been enacted.

November 16, 2013

Ecuador made an undisclosed settlement with Colombia in a case brought before the International Court of Justice for damages Colombia caused by the spraying of herbicides used to kill coca plants cultivated along the border of the two countries. The coca plants are used to  produce the illegal drug cocaine. The secrecy surrounding the friendly settlement  has angered those affected by the fumigation.

The settlement originally stipulated that Colombia was to pay $15m in compensation, to be invested in areas in Ecuador affected by the aerial spraying of coca crops with the glyphosate herbicide near the country’s border. But how and when the investments will be made has not yet been clarified.

The Colombian government also pledged not to carry out aerial spraying over the next year within 10km of the border with Ecuador, between the southwest Colombian provinces of Putumayo and Nariño and the northern Ecuadorian provinces of Sucumbíos, Carchi and Esmeraldas.

But that 10-km strip could be narrowed to 5 and eventually 2km within two years, according to the conditions explained in Appendix 1 of the settlement agreement.

Exclusion zone

The appendix states that after the first year, once the scientific analyses are studied, the binational technical group will assess whether Ecuadorean territory was affected by the spraying. If it was not, the exclusion zone will be reduced to 5km wide for one year, and after that, to 2km.

That is the main concern of peasant farmers who say their health, crops and livestock have been affected by glyphosate spraying.

 

Reducing the width of the exclusion zone to 2km "is unfair, but the agreement has already been signed, and since it was between governments, we were left high and dry; but we will continue the struggle," Daniel Alarcón, the head of the Federation of Peasant Organizations in the Ecuadorian Border Zone of Sucumbios (FORCCOFES), said.

The settlement does not provide a real solution because "they will continue spraying near us," he said.

"It will affect us - we hope only minimally - but if a single drop of glyphosate falls we will protest because we are prepared to carry this through to the end, to get reparations for the damage caused."

Alarcón was referring to the health problems and deterioration in the quality of life that tens of thousands of people have suffered as a result of Colombia’s spraying near the Ecuadorean border between 2000 and 2007 with the aim of eradicating coca crops.

According to a survey conducted by Forccofes, some 15,000 families live in the border area in question, and the 10,000 families living along the San Miguel river have been affected the most by the spraying.

Cancer On the Rise

"The effects are still being felt; the land has not returned to normal production levels," said Alarcón, who lives in 5 de Agosto, a community in the border district of General Farfán. "Cancer was almost unheard of here before, and now people are continuously dying of cancer because of the glyphosate, which has contaminated the water sources."

The agreement between the two countries refers to the chemical composition of the herbicide that figures in the environmental management plan authorized by Colombia’s environment ministry in Resolution 1054, from 2003.

According to the settlement, the mixture - which according to the government is used throughout the national territory - contains 44 percent glyphosate, one percent Cosmo Flux, and 55 percent water.

But the label for the Monsanto corporation’s Roundup glyphosate herbicide recommends a concentration of 1.6 to 7.7 percent glyphosate, with an absolute upper limit of 29 percent.

There are no long term studies on the impact of Cosmo Flux on the environment or on humans.

An econometric study carried out this year by two professors at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, on the health effects of aerial spraying, found that it had "a very significant" impact in terms of the likelihood of miscarriage. It also found a correlation between aerial spraying and skin problems.

Uruguayan political analyst Laura Gil, who disseminated the terms of the settlement in Colombia on October 1, said that it was "unacceptable for Ecuadorians to receive more [safety] guarantees than Colombians."

Secret negotiations

She added, however, that "...agreements like this strengthen relations. It’s better to try to settle things through negotiations, rather than through a legal sentence, even though the International Court of Justice is a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

"But it is not acceptable for it to be done through secret diplomatic negotiations," she added, pointing out that the content of the binational agreement did not go through the Colombian Congress.

"It’s obvious why not: because the legislators would demand a halt to the spraying."

Amira Armenta, an expert with the Transnational Institute’s Drugs and Democracy program, wrote that the settlement would not really change anything because Colombia would continue spraying in border provinces.

According to the latest study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Nariño and Putumayo are the provinces with the highest density of coca cultivation - 22 percent and 13 percent, respectively, of the country’s total coca cultivation in late 2012.

"In the last decade, Nariño has suffered from the highest levels of spraying in the country, and in spite of that it continues to boast the title of biggest producer," Armenta writes.

The settlement also states that before spraying in a border area, the Colombian government will give the Ecuadorean government 10 days notice, indicating the exact locations and dates of the fumigation.

"This is much more than what could have been achieved in a legal ruling, because it is very difficult for an international court to require a country to assume a commitment of this nature since the country can claim that it affects its sovereignty," Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said about the agreement. "But it is possible to achieve when it is a friendly settlement."

Ecuador and Colombia also agreed to sign a special expedited protocol for addressing complaints from Ecuadorian citizens in border areas. But the protocol has not yet been enacted.

November 8, 2013

 

(Lahore) A young American housewife has experienced the unfortunate corruption, cruel and inhumane treatment that exists within the Pakistani government. Married to a Pakistani businessman, the young housewife, whose name is withheld to prevent further incident, has lived in Pakistan for over six years and recently required a routine renewal of her Visa. During the process, she and her family were met with rudeness, disregard and an unwillingness to help. Unfortunately, her appalling encounter is becoming the routine for Americans when dealing with corrupt elements in Pakistan. Still, for this young housewife, the memory of years of service by American Muslims shines in contrast to the disrespect delivered to innocent housewives, students, and humanitarian workers who have sacrificed, given aid, and shown kindness to the people of Pakistan who overwhelming support and respect American Muslims. The young housewife speaks exclusively to The Islamic Post about those good works with the aim of exposing and ridding the Pakistani government of those who fraudulently represent them.

 

As an expectant mother in her last trimester, the young American housewife sent her husband’s brother with the paperwork to renew her visa at the Ministry of Interior office in Islamabad. Oddly, it was after review of the documentation that he was spoken to harshly, treated rudely, and told he must bring the passport owner to Islamabad. Her brother-in-law insisted on processing the visa immediately explaining the delicate condition of the young housewife who was under doctor’s orders to refrain from travel. Furthermore, there was no security to accompany her in an area highly susceptible to the abduction of foreign nationals. The explanations afforded no leniency. The reply from the Pakistani official was a firm “no” as well as an indication that the young housewife’s visa might be cancelled altogether.

 

Against doctor’s orders, the young housewife travelled five hours to Islamabad. The Pakistani government official remained discourteous to the young housewife, not caring that she was visually suffering from apparent maternal pangs. Thankfully, his boss learned of the entire situation and immediately gave due and proper respect as well as provided a one-year extension to the visa. After leaving, the young housewife learned that the rude official who initially rejected the paperwork brazenly reversed his boss’s permission and changed the visa to expire in three months. Furthermore, he advised that the young housewife cannot come back to the office for renewal, but instead might have to go to America. She knew these were not empty threats because some years ago several American doctors, humanitarian workers and students were sent home from Pakistan after visa extensions were denied.

 

This type of corruption, hatred and ill-treatment of American Muslims has permeated the government of Pakistan for years and should be known by every American organization. It is well understood that when Muslims from America come to know that one of their honorable daughters has been mistreated, it could cause great strife. To create disruption between the American Muslims and Pakistanis living in America would be a great failing after decades of faithful service provided by American Muslims who work hard to look after Pakistanis everywhere.

After catastrophic disasters, floods and earthquakes, it is the American Muslims who sacrificed time, money and family to travel to the country of Pakistan to offer help to the people. Following the devastating 2005 earthquake, American Muslim Medical Relief Team, AMMRT, sent doctors, nurses and medical staff worked in tent camps to offer food, medicine and comfort to those affected and displaced from their homes. On the contrary, it is well known that many corrupt individuals within the Pakistani government took donations of medicines and money and embezzled them to sell on the black market - denying comfort and healing for their own people. Due to this corruption, the American doctors working in Pakistan were faced with medical supply shortages. At one time there were two hundred burned children seeking medical care, but doctors had no surgical knives. It was the American Muslims who provided the much-needed supplies to save the lives of suffering Pakistani children. In return, the Pakistan government provided not even a word of thanks, except one article found in the daily Nation newspaper.

American Muslims have touched even the lives of Kashmir refugees when the rest of the world turned a blind eye. For four years, American Muslim ladies provided money, food, shelter, education and assistance to the refugees from Kashmir. In 2010, flooding in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan was described by General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, as the worst disaster he’d seen in his life. The American Muslims responded with immediate aid. A member of the American Muslim Medical Relief team recalls their flood relief effort, “During the flood relief work, we were not treated well by the government even though we were there to help the people of Pakistan who appreciated us. When our team was preparing to return home to America, we had a lot of unexpected expenses and unfortunate experiences. For one, we incurred the expense of transporting our medical supplies because Pakistan International Airlines withdrew their offer to carry aid for free. We also had trouble with our visas similar to the young housewife. I remember those two issues being a major setback. We were in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, in which travel visas and transportation should not have been an issue.”  

In the case of the young housewife, the Pakistani official who cancelled the one-year visa should never be allowed to again interfere and mistreat citizens. The family calls for the immediate transfer of the Pakistani official and restoration of the one-year visa as promised. The American Muslims have also formed a delegation who will further pursue the matter in the US. Therefore, this resolution has been promptly adopted by The Muslims of America, Inc., and the staff and students of the International Quranic Open University, Inc for immediate attention.

November 8, 2013

 

(Lahore) A young American housewife has experienced the unfortunate corruption, cruel and inhumane treatment that exists within the Pakistani government. Married to a Pakistani businessman, the young housewife, whose name is withheld to prevent further incident, has lived in Pakistan for over six years and recently required a routine renewal of her Visa. During the process, she and her family were met with rudeness, disregard and an unwillingness to help. Unfortunately, her appalling encounter is becoming the routine for Americans when dealing with corrupt elements in Pakistan. Still, for this young housewife, the memory of years of service by American Muslims shines in contrast to the disrespect delivered to innocent housewives, students, and humanitarian workers who have sacrificed, given aid, and shown kindness to the people of Pakistan who overwhelming support and respect American Muslims. The young housewife speaks exclusively to The Islamic Post about those good works with the aim of exposing and ridding the Pakistani government of those who fraudulently represent them.

 

As an expectant mother in her last trimester, the young American housewife sent her husband’s brother with the paperwork to renew her visa at the Ministry of Interior office in Islamabad. Oddly, it was after review of the documentation that he was spoken to harshly, treated rudely, and told he must bring the passport owner to Islamabad. Her brother-in-law insisted on processing the visa immediately explaining the delicate condition of the young housewife who was under doctor’s orders to refrain from travel. Furthermore, there was no security to accompany her in an area highly susceptible to the abduction of foreign nationals. The explanations afforded no leniency. The reply from the Pakistani official was a firm “no” as well as an indication that the young housewife’s visa might be cancelled altogether.

 

Against doctor’s orders, the young housewife travelled five hours to Islamabad. The Pakistani government official remained discourteous to the young housewife, not caring that she was visually suffering from apparent maternal pangs. Thankfully, his boss learned of the entire situation and immediately gave due and proper respect as well as provided a one-year extension to the visa. After leaving, the young housewife learned that the rude official who initially rejected the paperwork brazenly reversed his boss’s permission and changed the visa to expire in three months. Furthermore, he advised that the young housewife cannot come back to the office for renewal, but instead might have to go to America. She knew these were not empty threats because some years ago several American doctors, humanitarian workers and students were sent home from Pakistan after visa extensions were denied.

 

This type of corruption, hatred and ill-treatment of American Muslims has permeated the government of Pakistan for years and should be known by every American organization. It is well understood that when Muslims from America come to know that one of their honorable daughters has been mistreated, it could cause great strife. To create disruption between the American Muslims and Pakistanis living in America would be a great failing after decades of faithful service provided by American Muslims who work hard to look after Pakistanis everywhere.

After catastrophic disasters, floods and earthquakes, it is the American Muslims who sacrificed time, money and family to travel to the country of Pakistan to offer help to the people. Following the devastating 2005 earthquake, American Muslim Medical Relief Team, AMMRT, sent doctors, nurses and medical staff worked in tent camps to offer food, medicine and comfort to those affected and displaced from their homes. On the contrary, it is well known that many corrupt individuals within the Pakistani government took donations of medicines and money and embezzled them to sell on the black market - denying comfort and healing for their own people. Due to this corruption, the American doctors working in Pakistan were faced with medical supply shortages. At one time there were two hundred burned children seeking medical care, but doctors had no surgical knives. It was the American Muslims who provided the much-needed supplies to save the lives of suffering Pakistani children. In return, the Pakistan government provided not even a word of thanks, except one article found in the daily Nation newspaper.

American Muslims have touched even the lives of Kashmir refugees when the rest of the world turned a blind eye. For four years, American Muslim ladies provided money, food, shelter, education and assistance to the refugees from Kashmir. In 2010, flooding in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan was described by General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, as the worst disaster he’d seen in his life. The American Muslims responded with immediate aid. A member of the American Muslim Medical Relief team recalls their flood relief effort, “During the flood relief work, we were not treated well by the government even though we were there to help the people of Pakistan who appreciated us. When our team was preparing to return home to America, we had a lot of unexpected expenses and unfortunate experiences. For one, we incurred the expense of transporting our medical supplies because Pakistan International Airlines withdrew their offer to carry aid for free. We also had trouble with our visas similar to the young housewife. I remember those two issues being a major setback. We were in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, in which travel visas and transportation should not have been an issue.”  

In the case of the young housewife, the Pakistani official who cancelled the one-year visa should never be allowed to again interfere and mistreat citizens. The family calls for the immediate transfer of the Pakistani official and restoration of the one-year visa as promised. The American Muslims have also formed a delegation who will further pursue the matter in the US. Therefore, this resolution has been promptly adopted by The Muslims of America, Inc., and the staff and students of the International Quranic Open University, Inc for immediate attention.

October 27, 2013

Residents of the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan are still struggling to dig out of the rubble left by two recent major earthquakes in September. The central government, meanwhile, is being accused of dragging its feet in allowing international aid to reach the disaster zone.

Islamabad has been involved in an intense struggle to crush the separatist aims of the province's Baluch population. This has heightened the complications of providing relief following the quakes that hit on September 24 and 28, killing nearly 700 people and leaving some 1,000 injured.

The central government has maintained tight control over the relief effort amid the continuing insurgency and, with their safety in mind, has denied the involvement of outside aid agencies.

Local aid workers acknowledge that there have been some cases of insurgents attacking security forces following the disaster. But aid workers, they say, have not been targeted.

“We will not allow army or FC (paramilitary Frontier Corps) here, only NGOs or local officials are allowed to come here,” Balochistan National Movement’s Dr. Manan Baloch  told Agence France Presse (AFP).

In 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross scaled down its operations in the country, including ending its activities in Balochistan, following the death of one of its staff members.

Only a small number of local organizations have ongoing operations in the province. One of them is the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, whose local network on the ground enabled it to be among the first responders in the quake’s aftermath.

Provincial officials have stated that international aid workers cannot be allowed in until their security can be ensured. Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch, the province's top elected official, has nevertheless written to Islamabad requesting that international aid agencies be allowed to participate in the relief effort. But weeks after the quakes, with government agencies were on leave to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday, Minister Baloch is still awaiting a reply.

Help Desperately Needed

Zahid Ali is a local aid worker participating in relief efforts in Awaran district, which is located at the epicenter of the September quakes. He paints a grim picture of utter destruction. He says that more than 90 percent of the traditional mud-brick houses in the region have collapsed and remaining ones have been damaged so badly that they are not usable.

He says that aid in the form of food, medicine, and tents has reached disaster-hit areas, but a lot of work remains to be done. "I request that international agencies, the United Nations in particular, come here quickly because the people need them urgently," Ali says. "We need their aid in the form of food items and non-food items. We need blankets because the winters are approaching. We require lots of daily-use utensils for cooking. Above all, we need a lot of medical assistance."

Ali says that Minister Baloch spent five days in Awaran following the earthquakes. At the time, Ali says, the chief minister pledged to push Islamabad to appeal to the United Nations for help.

Minister Baloch's spokesman, Jan Muhammad Bulaidi, accused the insurgents of hampering the delivery of aid to the very people they claim to be fighting for. "The separatists should curtail their activities in the aftermath of the disaster. They should allow aid workers and state agencies to help people," he said.

"The separatists need to change their attitude. They need to be aware of the problems of their people. They should allow aid organizations to go to the affected regions and help people," Bulaidi said. "Aid workers would go there only if they can be assured of their security by the authorities."

Agencies At The Ready

International aid organizations cite Islamabad's reluctance as the main hurdle to them reaching quake victims. Many aid workers, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that they are ready to go to Awaran as soon as they get a nod from Islamabad.

In particular, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is only awaiting a green light from Pakistani authorities. MSF was one of the first organizations to publically call on Islamabad to allow humanitarian access to Awaran. "It's crucial that the authorities allow impartial humanitarian assistance into the Awaran area in order to respond to any unmet needs," the international aid agency's operations manager, Chris Lockyear, said in an October press statement.

The magnitude 7.7 and 6.8 earthquakes that struck in late September left more than 100,000 people homeless and affected more than 300,000 people. In addition to Awaran, they jolted the nearby districts of Kech, Khuzdar, Kharan, Gwadar, Panjgur, and Chaghi.

These regions are a stronghold of Baluch separatists who have waged many violent insurgencies against Islamabad over the past six decades. Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in the latest rebellion, which erupted after the 2006 killing of prominent Baluch politician Nawab Akbar Bugti. Many hard-line Baluch factions now claim to be fighting for a separate homeland.

Resource-rich Balochistan has experienced a few major earthquakes. In April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Balochistan. In 1935, a major quake killed 60,000 people.

October 27, 2013

Residents of the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan are still struggling to dig out of the rubble left by two recent major earthquakes in September. The central government, meanwhile, is being accused of dragging its feet in allowing international aid to reach the disaster zone.

Islamabad has been involved in an intense struggle to crush the separatist aims of the province's Baluch population. This has heightened the complications of providing relief following the quakes that hit on September 24 and 28, killing nearly 700 people and leaving some 1,000 injured.

The central government has maintained tight control over the relief effort amid the continuing insurgency and, with their safety in mind, has denied the involvement of outside aid agencies.

Local aid workers acknowledge that there have been some cases of insurgents attacking security forces following the disaster. But aid workers, they say, have not been targeted.

“We will not allow army or FC (paramilitary Frontier Corps) here, only NGOs or local officials are allowed to come here,” Balochistan National Movement’s Dr. Manan Baloch  told Agence France Presse (AFP).

In 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross scaled down its operations in the country, including ending its activities in Balochistan, following the death of one of its staff members.

Only a small number of local organizations have ongoing operations in the province. One of them is the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, whose local network on the ground enabled it to be among the first responders in the quake’s aftermath.

Provincial officials have stated that international aid workers cannot be allowed in until their security can be ensured. Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch, the province's top elected official, has nevertheless written to Islamabad requesting that international aid agencies be allowed to participate in the relief effort. But weeks after the quakes, with government agencies were on leave to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday, Minister Baloch is still awaiting a reply.

Help Desperately Needed

Zahid Ali is a local aid worker participating in relief efforts in Awaran district, which is located at the epicenter of the September quakes. He paints a grim picture of utter destruction. He says that more than 90 percent of the traditional mud-brick houses in the region have collapsed and remaining ones have been damaged so badly that they are not usable.

He says that aid in the form of food, medicine, and tents has reached disaster-hit areas, but a lot of work remains to be done. "I request that international agencies, the United Nations in particular, come here quickly because the people need them urgently," Ali says. "We need their aid in the form of food items and non-food items. We need blankets because the winters are approaching. We require lots of daily-use utensils for cooking. Above all, we need a lot of medical assistance."

Ali says that Minister Baloch spent five days in Awaran following the earthquakes. At the time, Ali says, the chief minister pledged to push Islamabad to appeal to the United Nations for help.

Minister Baloch's spokesman, Jan Muhammad Bulaidi, accused the insurgents of hampering the delivery of aid to the very people they claim to be fighting for. "The separatists should curtail their activities in the aftermath of the disaster. They should allow aid workers and state agencies to help people," he said.

"The separatists need to change their attitude. They need to be aware of the problems of their people. They should allow aid organizations to go to the affected regions and help people," Bulaidi said. "Aid workers would go there only if they can be assured of their security by the authorities."

Agencies At The Ready

International aid organizations cite Islamabad's reluctance as the main hurdle to them reaching quake victims. Many aid workers, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that they are ready to go to Awaran as soon as they get a nod from Islamabad.

In particular, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is only awaiting a green light from Pakistani authorities. MSF was one of the first organizations to publically call on Islamabad to allow humanitarian access to Awaran. "It's crucial that the authorities allow impartial humanitarian assistance into the Awaran area in order to respond to any unmet needs," the international aid agency's operations manager, Chris Lockyear, said in an October press statement.

The magnitude 7.7 and 6.8 earthquakes that struck in late September left more than 100,000 people homeless and affected more than 300,000 people. In addition to Awaran, they jolted the nearby districts of Kech, Khuzdar, Kharan, Gwadar, Panjgur, and Chaghi.

These regions are a stronghold of Baluch separatists who have waged many violent insurgencies against Islamabad over the past six decades. Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in the latest rebellion, which erupted after the 2006 killing of prominent Baluch politician Nawab Akbar Bugti. Many hard-line Baluch factions now claim to be fighting for a separate homeland.

Resource-rich Balochistan has experienced a few major earthquakes. In April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Balochistan. In 1935, a major quake killed 60,000 people.

September 30, 2013

Is there a correlation between pitocin and Autism?  Researchers at Duke University are now putting the pieces together.  They say that evidence points to pitocin, as a possible cause of Autism.    The use of pitocin to induce labor has been steadily climbing for the past 20 years- about the same time period as the increase in Autism has been reported.    In 1992, a survey by the medical anthropologists at the University of Texas found that 81% of women in U.S hospitals receive pitocin to either induce labor or augment labor.  Currently, public health authorities have identified an enormous increase in the incidences of childhood Autism.  In California, the number of kids receiving state services for autistic disorder has nearly quadrupled since 1987.   The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say they feel that pitocin may cause serious health concerns for the newborn.

So what is pitocin and what is its origin?  In 1953, the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company developed the drug, which is a synthetic substance that mimics the natural hormone oxytocin.  The body makes oxytocin naturally, and is produced during breast feeding (causing the letdown of milk), and during company and privacy, it is produced by men and women.  It aids in emotional bonding and social interactions.  The artificial oxytocin substance called pitocin, comes from the pituitary glands of cattle and is a widely used drug, used during labor and delivery.    There is  nationwide and worldwide pitocin abuse, with the rate of Autism climbing right along beside it.  Remember -  there are side effects to all pharmaceutical drugs.  Here are 18 reasons to avoid pitocin.  These are warnings from the manufactures themselves, to the public, about their product:

 

18. Pitocin, just like any drug, can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which causes hives, difficulty breathing and swallowing, heart palpitations, and can lead to death.

17. There is an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage after Pitocin-augmented births.

16. Pitocin can disrupt the normal heartbeat of the mother, causing reactions such as cardiac arrhythmia or premature ventricular contractions, a condition where the person experiences irregular or ‘skipped’ heartbeats and/or palpitations.

15. Another risk of Pitocin is pelvic hematoma, a blood clot or even larger area of blood in the soft tissue of the pelvis.

14. Pitocin has an antidiuretic effect on the body, meaning it increases the absorption of water. This leads to the risk of water intoxication, especially when there are additional fluids such as saline in the IV or lots of water to drink. There have been cases of women suffering severe cases, including coma and even death, during pitocin-induced labor.

13. Pitocin can cause a hypertensive episode in the mother. This basically means a sudden surge in blood pressure, and if the elevation is severe enough, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

12. Fatal afibrinogenemia is another listed side effect of Pitocin. In everyday language, this translates to slow, uncontrollable bleeding that results in death.

11. Women have died from uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding on the brain, water intoxication, hemorrhage, and uterine rupture after the use of Pitocin during the first and second stages of labor.

10. There have been no studies to examine the carcinogenicity or mutagenicity of Pitocin. In layman’s terms, we have no idea if this drug causes cancer or causes cells to change in any way.

9. We have no idea what kind of effect Pitocin has on a woman’s future fertility, let alone the fertility of her newborn baby.

8. The deaths of babies, for a variety of reasons, have been associated with the use of Pitocin during labor.

7. Pitocin has been associated with heart problems in the newborn, such as bradycardia (slow heartbeat), premature ventricular contractions, and other arrhythmias.

6. Cases of permanent damage to the newborn’s brain or central nervous system have been documented as a result of Pitocin-induced births {could they have conveniently left out the illness by the name of Autism here}.

5. Pitocin during labor is associated with low scores on the five minute Apgar test, the newborn exam that looks at alertness, respiratory, and circulatory health.

4. Retinal hemorrhage, a common symptom of shaken baby syndrome, can be caused by the physical force of a Pitocin-induced birth.

3. Increased risk of newborn jaundice is associated with Pitocin.

2. Hypertonic (excessively strong) contractions, and tetanic (prolonged) contractions are some of the most common side effects of Pitocin overdose. If the contractions are coming so fast that there’s no resting time in between, the dose is too high. And this leads to my number 1 reason to say no to this drug, because it seems that far too often, an inappropriately high dosage is given.

1. Overdose of Pitocin is characterized by an even more frightening list of symptoms, including cervical and vaginal lacerations, deceleration of the baby’s heart rate, postpartum hemorrhage, fetal hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), and even organ failure and death in the mother or baby.

 

There are always risks involved when we interrupt the natural flow of childbirth. Many doctors feel nothing should be administered during childbirth, because it could damage the fetus.  The list of dangerous and fatal complications from using pitocin is very long.  New findings suggest pitocin causes Autism.  Is it possible that flooding the immature body of a fetus (especially boys) with gender-specific synthetic hormones from animals, could somehow interfere with the functions of their psychological systems?  We really  need to think about this.  Also interesting to note is that in the early 1990’s, the Midwife Alliance of North America (MANA) embarked upon a statistical study, which spanned 20 years. They used nationally certified professional midwives.  They compiled statistics on 15,000 births.  All of the births were unmedicated during labor, and surprisingly - none of the children were Autistic. So - does the use of Pitocin cause….Autism?

September 30, 2013

Is there a correlation between pitocin and Autism?  Researchers at Duke University are now putting the pieces together.  They say that evidence points to pitocin, as a possible cause of Autism.    The use of pitocin to induce labor has been steadily climbing for the past 20 years- about the same time period as the increase in Autism has been reported.    In 1992, a survey by the medical anthropologists at the University of Texas found that 81% of women in U.S hospitals receive pitocin to either induce labor or augment labor.  Currently, public health authorities have identified an enormous increase in the incidences of childhood Autism.  In California, the number of kids receiving state services for autistic disorder has nearly quadrupled since 1987.   The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say they feel that pitocin may cause serious health concerns for the newborn.

So what is pitocin and what is its origin?  In 1953, the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company developed the drug, which is a synthetic substance that mimics the natural hormone oxytocin.  The body makes oxytocin naturally, and is produced during breast feeding (causing the letdown of milk), and during company and privacy, it is produced by men and women.  It aids in emotional bonding and social interactions.  The artificial oxytocin substance called pitocin, comes from the pituitary glands of cattle and is a widely used drug, used during labor and delivery.    There is  nationwide and worldwide pitocin abuse, with the rate of Autism climbing right along beside it.  Remember -  there are side effects to all pharmaceutical drugs.  Here are 18 reasons to avoid pitocin.  These are warnings from the manufactures themselves, to the public, about their product:

 

18. Pitocin, just like any drug, can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which causes hives, difficulty breathing and swallowing, heart palpitations, and can lead to death.

17. There is an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage after Pitocin-augmented births.

16. Pitocin can disrupt the normal heartbeat of the mother, causing reactions such as cardiac arrhythmia or premature ventricular contractions, a condition where the person experiences irregular or ‘skipped’ heartbeats and/or palpitations.

15. Another risk of Pitocin is pelvic hematoma, a blood clot or even larger area of blood in the soft tissue of the pelvis.

14. Pitocin has an antidiuretic effect on the body, meaning it increases the absorption of water. This leads to the risk of water intoxication, especially when there are additional fluids such as saline in the IV or lots of water to drink. There have been cases of women suffering severe cases, including coma and even death, during pitocin-induced labor.

13. Pitocin can cause a hypertensive episode in the mother. This basically means a sudden surge in blood pressure, and if the elevation is severe enough, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

12. Fatal afibrinogenemia is another listed side effect of Pitocin. In everyday language, this translates to slow, uncontrollable bleeding that results in death.

11. Women have died from uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding on the brain, water intoxication, hemorrhage, and uterine rupture after the use of Pitocin during the first and second stages of labor.

10. There have been no studies to examine the carcinogenicity or mutagenicity of Pitocin. In layman’s terms, we have no idea if this drug causes cancer or causes cells to change in any way.

9. We have no idea what kind of effect Pitocin has on a woman’s future fertility, let alone the fertility of her newborn baby.

8. The deaths of babies, for a variety of reasons, have been associated with the use of Pitocin during labor.

7. Pitocin has been associated with heart problems in the newborn, such as bradycardia (slow heartbeat), premature ventricular contractions, and other arrhythmias.

6. Cases of permanent damage to the newborn’s brain or central nervous system have been documented as a result of Pitocin-induced births {could they have conveniently left out the illness by the name of Autism here}.

5. Pitocin during labor is associated with low scores on the five minute Apgar test, the newborn exam that looks at alertness, respiratory, and circulatory health.

4. Retinal hemorrhage, a common symptom of shaken baby syndrome, can be caused by the physical force of a Pitocin-induced birth.

3. Increased risk of newborn jaundice is associated with Pitocin.

2. Hypertonic (excessively strong) contractions, and tetanic (prolonged) contractions are some of the most common side effects of Pitocin overdose. If the contractions are coming so fast that there’s no resting time in between, the dose is too high. And this leads to my number 1 reason to say no to this drug, because it seems that far too often, an inappropriately high dosage is given.

1. Overdose of Pitocin is characterized by an even more frightening list of symptoms, including cervical and vaginal lacerations, deceleration of the baby’s heart rate, postpartum hemorrhage, fetal hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), and even organ failure and death in the mother or baby.

 

There are always risks involved when we interrupt the natural flow of childbirth. Many doctors feel nothing should be administered during childbirth, because it could damage the fetus.  The list of dangerous and fatal complications from using pitocin is very long.  New findings suggest pitocin causes Autism.  Is it possible that flooding the immature body of a fetus (especially boys) with gender-specific synthetic hormones from animals, could somehow interfere with the functions of their psychological systems?  We really  need to think about this.  Also interesting to note is that in the early 1990’s, the Midwife Alliance of North America (MANA) embarked upon a statistical study, which spanned 20 years. They used nationally certified professional midwives.  They compiled statistics on 15,000 births.  All of the births were unmedicated during labor, and surprisingly - none of the children were Autistic. So - does the use of Pitocin cause….Autism?

August 23, 2013

Between 2001 and 2008, mainstream media outlets predominantly featured anti-Islam organizations, leading to altered “contours of mainstream discourse.” That’s according to North Carolina Professor Christopher A. Bail’s study that used “anti-plagiarism” software to examine the coverage of Muslims in the mainstream American press. Bail surveyed more than “1,084 press releases about Muslims produced by 120 civil society organizations to 50,407 newspaper articles and television transcripts” during the seven crucial years after 9/11.

Bail told the British Wired magazine that journalists became enamored with the those spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric, and that even though “the vast majority of organizations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages,” journalists so closely followed extremists that the groups became perceived as “mainstream.” Muslim groups, as a result, were sidelined and became less influential. Bail painted a disturbing picture for Wired, saying:

“I think most Americans are exposed to anti-Muslim messages in the media and elsewhere. The danger, I believe, is that many Americans have not been exposed to the positive messages of Muslim organisations because they receive so little media coverage.”

An August 2011 Center for American Progress study, Fear Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,  Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller are  featured prominently in  the study, three of the anti-Muslim, Islamophobia movement’s most paranoid propagandist, revealed that seven different organizations have given $43 million over 10 years to a small, interconnected group of individuals and organizations responsible for mainstreaming fear, bigotry and hate against Muslims and Islam in America. The money helped Islamophobic messages take hold.

The Wall Street Journal’s Muslims: Representing Islam in American Print News Media by Suad Joseph and Benjamin D’Harlingue, University of California, Davis points out the negative impact the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)  “Op-Eds,” had in shaping public opinion of Muslims and Islam prior to September 11. The articles during January 1, 2000 to July 31,2007  construct an unbridgeable difference between Muslims and the West. In the commentaries, Muslims, whether citizen or foreign, are frequently portrayed as “not us,” as the embodiment of the illegible, inscrutable other reflecting the binary of Samuel Huntington’s (1996) clash of civilizations – two cultures, two religions, two civilizations. This notion of unbridgeable cultural difference, traceable across multiple WSJ commentaries, portrays Islam as inscrutable and almost unintelligible to Judeo-Christian theology and philosophy.

As an example, in an April 8, 2003 article,  authored by Noah Feldman, entitled “Muslim Democrats? Why not!,” He writes: “Separation of church and state is an excellent idea, even, even a constitutional necessity, in a religiously diverse country like the U.S. Where almost everybody in a country is Muslim, however, a democratic state may nonetheless have a religious character”. The authors of the research note “Moreover, it assumes that a state governing predominantly Muslims is inherently more likely to have a religious character.”

What  the Journal pointed out is the discrete use of words and the hidden effect they have on the reader in planting seeds of discord and fear, to bring about a clash between Muslims and Christians.  Feldman's writings plaid partner in creating the Anti Sharia movement. The theme across the WSJ articles is anti- modern anti-democratic, repeatedly presenting Islam and Muslims as a threat to American standards of living and values.

As noted in the Study, in a reference from Pierre Bourdieu (2005), he argued that the journalistic field has an increasingly powerful hold on the production of meaning.  He explained, “...the journalistic field, which is increasingly heteronomous, in other words, increasingly subject to the constraints of the economy and of politics, is more and more imposing its constraints on all other fields, particularly the fields of cultural production such as the field of the social sciences, philosophy, etc., and on the political field” .

Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network - the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators - have worked hard to push narratives that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.

And the network has had its effect. “The groups that were getting the majority of the attention, especially after 9/11, were some of the least representative groups, or what I call fringe groups,” Bail said.

Islamophobia Studies Journal, Spring 2012, Volume 1, Issue 1, UC Berkley

Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project,

Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley.

August 23, 2013

Between 2001 and 2008, mainstream media outlets predominantly featured anti-Islam organizations, leading to altered “contours of mainstream discourse.” That’s according to North Carolina Professor Christopher A. Bail’s study that used “anti-plagiarism” software to examine the coverage of Muslims in the mainstream American press. Bail surveyed more than “1,084 press releases about Muslims produced by 120 civil society organizations to 50,407 newspaper articles and television transcripts” during the seven crucial years after 9/11.

Bail told the British Wired magazine that journalists became enamored with the those spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric, and that even though “the vast majority of organizations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages,” journalists so closely followed extremists that the groups became perceived as “mainstream.” Muslim groups, as a result, were sidelined and became less influential. Bail painted a disturbing picture for Wired, saying:

“I think most Americans are exposed to anti-Muslim messages in the media and elsewhere. The danger, I believe, is that many Americans have not been exposed to the positive messages of Muslim organisations because they receive so little media coverage.”

An August 2011 Center for American Progress study, Fear Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,  Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller are  featured prominently in  the study, three of the anti-Muslim, Islamophobia movement’s most paranoid propagandist, revealed that seven different organizations have given $43 million over 10 years to a small, interconnected group of individuals and organizations responsible for mainstreaming fear, bigotry and hate against Muslims and Islam in America. The money helped Islamophobic messages take hold.

The Wall Street Journal’s Muslims: Representing Islam in American Print News Media by Suad Joseph and Benjamin D’Harlingue, University of California, Davis points out the negative impact the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)  “Op-Eds,” had in shaping public opinion of Muslims and Islam prior to September 11. The articles during January 1, 2000 to July 31,2007  construct an unbridgeable difference between Muslims and the West. In the commentaries, Muslims, whether citizen or foreign, are frequently portrayed as “not us,” as the embodiment of the illegible, inscrutable other reflecting the binary of Samuel Huntington’s (1996) clash of civilizations – two cultures, two religions, two civilizations. This notion of unbridgeable cultural difference, traceable across multiple WSJ commentaries, portrays Islam as inscrutable and almost unintelligible to Judeo-Christian theology and philosophy.

As an example, in an April 8, 2003 article,  authored by Noah Feldman, entitled “Muslim Democrats? Why not!,” He writes: “Separation of church and state is an excellent idea, even, even a constitutional necessity, in a religiously diverse country like the U.S. Where almost everybody in a country is Muslim, however, a democratic state may nonetheless have a religious character”. The authors of the research note “Moreover, it assumes that a state governing predominantly Muslims is inherently more likely to have a religious character.”

What  the Journal pointed out is the discrete use of words and the hidden effect they have on the reader in planting seeds of discord and fear, to bring about a clash between Muslims and Christians.  Feldman's writings plaid partner in creating the Anti Sharia movement. The theme across the WSJ articles is anti- modern anti-democratic, repeatedly presenting Islam and Muslims as a threat to American standards of living and values.

As noted in the Study, in a reference from Pierre Bourdieu (2005), he argued that the journalistic field has an increasingly powerful hold on the production of meaning.  He explained, “...the journalistic field, which is increasingly heteronomous, in other words, increasingly subject to the constraints of the economy and of politics, is more and more imposing its constraints on all other fields, particularly the fields of cultural production such as the field of the social sciences, philosophy, etc., and on the political field” .

Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network - the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators - have worked hard to push narratives that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.

And the network has had its effect. “The groups that were getting the majority of the attention, especially after 9/11, were some of the least representative groups, or what I call fringe groups,” Bail said.

Islamophobia Studies Journal, Spring 2012, Volume 1, Issue 1, UC Berkley

Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project,

Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley.

August 23, 2013

The relentless use of US assassination drones in Yemen has once again put the Yemeni government on the spot light. Sana’a(the Yemeni capital) is blamed for failing to meet the people's demand and bring an end to what many believe is the illegal targeted killing of Yemenis.

President Obama, in a speech on drones earlier this year, claimed America’s actions are legal - the latest in a string of attempts made by his administration to justify covert strikes carried out by the US overseas, in countries including the Arab peninsula’s poorest nation, Yemen. US officials claim that the drone program in Yemen-which has claimed the lives of about 15 Yemenis since June- is being conducted with the cooperation of the Yemeni government.

Due to the increase in drone attacks in Yemen, many rights activists and international anti-war organizations have called on the administration of US President Barack Obama to end its drone program in the country.  Members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a US-supported initiative intended to influence the political future of Yemen after the overthrow of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule,  overwhelmingly voted to criminalize drone strikes in Yemen. While it is clear that no leader may lawfully authorize another sovereign to slaughter his own people, the decision to criminalize drones strikes sends a clear warning message to current Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi - if the current practice is to continue, it may well lead to a criminal prosecution.

Through his unconditional consent to the use of drones in his country, President Hadi, a former major general who was elected president early in 2012, has already alienated many of his supporters - especially those people who, like him, are from the southern region, which bears the brunt of the strikes.

In a Press TV interview,  Baraa Shiban,  project coordinator for the London-based human rights organization, Reprieve,  stated that his organization  has commenced an anti-US drone campaign in Yemen.  A member of the transitional justice team in the National Dialog Conference, Mr. Shiban says  they have successfully passed a law in the first phase of the conference to criminalize killings outside the rule of law.

Press TV also reported that Sahar Ghanem,  also a national dialogue member, stated that according to medical experts, nearly 70 percent of drone attack survivors, including many children, are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They are now terrified to even leave their homes and go to school in areas of the country which have experienced numerous US assassination drone strikes.

In a recent meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, President Hadi stated that he hoped that the dialogue will lead "Yemen into security and stability", a major goal of the NDC.  However, observers cite an uneasy situation arising in relation to the intentions and expectations of US involvement in Yemeni internal affairs via the NDC.  Though injecting large sums into the push for ‘democratic reforms’ in Yemen, there are apparent rankles of hypocrisy visible to Yemenis as the US ‘ignores outcomes and decisions of the NDC that it doesn’t like’, mentioned  Ghada  Eldemellawy, investigator for the NGO Reprieve, which currently represents 15 prisoners in Guantanamo, including three Yemenis.  Ms. Eldemellawy  stated that  although  US President Obama claims that the drone program is operating in order to safeguard America’s national security, the targeting killings have had the opposite effect of rallying more Yemenis towards  aggressive and defensive attitudes and actions – extremism. Some militants may have died through these strikes, but the US is losing the long battle for hearts and minds.

August 23, 2013

The relentless use of US assassination drones in Yemen has once again put the Yemeni government on the spot light. Sana’a(the Yemeni capital) is blamed for failing to meet the people's demand and bring an end to what many believe is the illegal targeted killing of Yemenis.

President Obama, in a speech on drones earlier this year, claimed America’s actions are legal - the latest in a string of attempts made by his administration to justify covert strikes carried out by the US overseas, in countries including the Arab peninsula’s poorest nation, Yemen. US officials claim that the drone program in Yemen-which has claimed the lives of about 15 Yemenis since June- is being conducted with the cooperation of the Yemeni government.

Due to the increase in drone attacks in Yemen, many rights activists and international anti-war organizations have called on the administration of US President Barack Obama to end its drone program in the country.  Members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a US-supported initiative intended to influence the political future of Yemen after the overthrow of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule,  overwhelmingly voted to criminalize drone strikes in Yemen. While it is clear that no leader may lawfully authorize another sovereign to slaughter his own people, the decision to criminalize drones strikes sends a clear warning message to current Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi - if the current practice is to continue, it may well lead to a criminal prosecution.

Through his unconditional consent to the use of drones in his country, President Hadi, a former major general who was elected president early in 2012, has already alienated many of his supporters - especially those people who, like him, are from the southern region, which bears the brunt of the strikes.

In a Press TV interview,  Baraa Shiban,  project coordinator for the London-based human rights organization, Reprieve,  stated that his organization  has commenced an anti-US drone campaign in Yemen.  A member of the transitional justice team in the National Dialog Conference, Mr. Shiban says  they have successfully passed a law in the first phase of the conference to criminalize killings outside the rule of law.

Press TV also reported that Sahar Ghanem,  also a national dialogue member, stated that according to medical experts, nearly 70 percent of drone attack survivors, including many children, are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They are now terrified to even leave their homes and go to school in areas of the country which have experienced numerous US assassination drone strikes.

In a recent meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, President Hadi stated that he hoped that the dialogue will lead "Yemen into security and stability", a major goal of the NDC.  However, observers cite an uneasy situation arising in relation to the intentions and expectations of US involvement in Yemeni internal affairs via the NDC.  Though injecting large sums into the push for ‘democratic reforms’ in Yemen, there are apparent rankles of hypocrisy visible to Yemenis as the US ‘ignores outcomes and decisions of the NDC that it doesn’t like’, mentioned  Ghada  Eldemellawy, investigator for the NGO Reprieve, which currently represents 15 prisoners in Guantanamo, including three Yemenis.  Ms. Eldemellawy  stated that  although  US President Obama claims that the drone program is operating in order to safeguard America’s national security, the targeting killings have had the opposite effect of rallying more Yemenis towards  aggressive and defensive attitudes and actions – extremism. Some militants may have died through these strikes, but the US is losing the long battle for hearts and minds.

July 10, 2013

Fasting is prescribed for us.  Allah has ordained a month specifically for fasting and remembrance of Him.  Our bodies are designed to clean themselves and heal themselves ritually every Blessed Ramadan.  This internal house cleaning is necessary to keep us healthy and vibrant.  Fasting provides the perfect condition for the body to heal itself.  Fasting gives the brain and the nervous system a break; it also clears and strengthens the mind.  It gives the vital organs a complete rest.  It increases the powers of digestion, and allows the organs of elimination to do their jobs.  Nutritionists and health experts are very concerned about supplying the body with enough food; however, they give little attention to the damage brought on by too much food, and too little attention to the elimination of waste.  To many people, food means love, security, and comfort.  They mentally believe they cannot live without it.  They indulge and over-indulge; but what exactly happens when you fast?

1.    The body breaks down fats faster.

2.    The blood flows quicker to other organs, and tissues are repaired faster.

3.    The digestive process rejuvenates itself, and it boost the immune system.

4.    By giving the internal organs a rest, this gives them the opportunity to rebuild their strength.

5.    We eliminate waste from the blood quicker which increases the body’s ability to dissolve clots.

6.    White blood cells destroy bacteria better.

Most people overeat and don’t exercise.  This pattern of dietary destruction continues daily for 365 days a year.  While fasting we must remember our Lord and be thankful to Him for caring enough about us to give us a month of reflection. Spiritually and physically, we need all the help we can get, and Ramadan is the cure.  When fasting, the body can remove chemicals and toxins responsible for a wide variety of diseases.  A very big problem with eating is usually too much fat, sugar, and salt. All of the above items are deadly in excess.  By using fat as an example, we will explain how in excess it harms our systems. First, it enters the blood stream, then the cellular spaces, and then it enters the cells.   When the cells become overloaded with excess fat, this causes stagnation, cell degeneration, inflammation and sometime toxemia. Fasting helps us to revive, rejuvenate and heal.  Restoration of health and purification of self are the goals for all during this blessed month.  

Here are two Ramadan treats I found that should be made with the most wholesome and organic ingredients you can find. In moderation, we will find success.  Ramadan Kareem

SWEET POTATO KHEER

Ingredients:

1 cup grated sweet potatoes

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh coconut, scraped

5 cardamoms, ground

4 cups full cream milk
What you do:

Wash, peel and grate sweet potatoes. Cook in milk till it turns soft and the mixture thickens. Then add sugar, cardamom powder and coconut and cook for a few minutes. Serve hot or cold. This kheer looks like vermicelli kheer and tastes excellent.
STUFFED BANANAS

What you need:

6 ripe, peeled rajali ( a ripened plantain) bananas

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh coconut

green cardamom  powder

ghee (clarified butter) for frying
What you do:

Cut banana into 3-inch pieces. Cook sugar and coconut with cardamom powder on slow fire, until sugar melts and the mixture thickens. Slit each banana piece, and fill in coconut mixture. Hold together with a toothpick. Fry in ghee over medium flame till golden brown.

July 10, 2013

Fasting is prescribed for us.  Allah has ordained a month specifically for fasting and remembrance of Him.  Our bodies are designed to clean themselves and heal themselves ritually every Blessed Ramadan.  This internal house cleaning is necessary to keep us healthy and vibrant.  Fasting provides the perfect condition for the body to heal itself.  Fasting gives the brain and the nervous system a break; it also clears and strengthens the mind.  It gives the vital organs a complete rest.  It increases the powers of digestion, and allows the organs of elimination to do their jobs.  Nutritionists and health experts are very concerned about supplying the body with enough food; however, they give little attention to the damage brought on by too much food, and too little attention to the elimination of waste.  To many people, food means love, security, and comfort.  They mentally believe they cannot live without it.  They indulge and over-indulge; but what exactly happens when you fast?

1.    The body breaks down fats faster.

2.    The blood flows quicker to other organs, and tissues are repaired faster.

3.    The digestive process rejuvenates itself, and it boost the immune system.

4.    By giving the internal organs a rest, this gives them the opportunity to rebuild their strength.

5.    We eliminate waste from the blood quicker which increases the body’s ability to dissolve clots.

6.    White blood cells destroy bacteria better.

Most people overeat and don’t exercise.  This pattern of dietary destruction continues daily for 365 days a year.  While fasting we must remember our Lord and be thankful to Him for caring enough about us to give us a month of reflection. Spiritually and physically, we need all the help we can get, and Ramadan is the cure.  When fasting, the body can remove chemicals and toxins responsible for a wide variety of diseases.  A very big problem with eating is usually too much fat, sugar, and salt. All of the above items are deadly in excess.  By using fat as an example, we will explain how in excess it harms our systems. First, it enters the blood stream, then the cellular spaces, and then it enters the cells.   When the cells become overloaded with excess fat, this causes stagnation, cell degeneration, inflammation and sometime toxemia. Fasting helps us to revive, rejuvenate and heal.  Restoration of health and purification of self are the goals for all during this blessed month.  

Here are two Ramadan treats I found that should be made with the most wholesome and organic ingredients you can find. In moderation, we will find success.  Ramadan Kareem

SWEET POTATO KHEER

Ingredients:

1 cup grated sweet potatoes

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh coconut, scraped

5 cardamoms, ground

4 cups full cream milk
What you do:

Wash, peel and grate sweet potatoes. Cook in milk till it turns soft and the mixture thickens. Then add sugar, cardamom powder and coconut and cook for a few minutes. Serve hot or cold. This kheer looks like vermicelli kheer and tastes excellent.
STUFFED BANANAS

What you need:

6 ripe, peeled rajali ( a ripened plantain) bananas

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh coconut

green cardamom  powder

ghee (clarified butter) for frying
What you do:

Cut banana into 3-inch pieces. Cook sugar and coconut with cardamom powder on slow fire, until sugar melts and the mixture thickens. Slit each banana piece, and fill in coconut mixture. Hold together with a toothpick. Fry in ghee over medium flame till golden brown.

July 7, 2013

Top judge Adli Mansour,  who took the oath hours after a military coup,  praised the armed forces and Egyptian people, saying the protests embodied “the nation’s conscience, its ambitions and hopes.”

Morsi was taken to the defence ministry while his "entire presidential team" has been detained, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman claimed.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 300 leaders and members of Morsi’s Islamist party, according to local reports.

The upheaval comes after days of mass rallies against Egypt's first democratically-elected leader, who army chiefs say had "failed to meet the demands of the people".

In a ceremony broadcast live on state TV today, Mansour – the chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court – said the era of "worship of the ruler" should end.

He praised the massive street demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ousting and hailed the youth behind the protests that began on June 30. Mansour said: “The most glorious thing about June 30 is that it brought together everyone without discrimination or division. “I offer my greetings to the revolutionary people of Egypt.”

Deposed Morsi, who came to power a year ago, took to FACEBOOK just minutes after military leaders booted him from power to denounce the dramatic developments as “a full military coup”.

In his statement, he said he “totally rejected” his overthrow by the army, which has suspended the country’s constitution and called for early elections.

He also asked Egyptian citizens,  both civilians and military, to “abide by the constitution and the law and not to respond to this coup”.

It was unclear if Morsi had access to his own Facebook page or if it was posted by an aide.

Last night Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommended against all but essential travel to Egypt by Brits.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in jubilation following a week of bloody protests in which 50 died.

Green lasers replaced guns in Cairo, sending beams of light into the sky from central Tahrir Square, which was packed with cheering protesters.

Demonstrators had accused Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of pursuing an Islamist agenda and of failing to tackle Egypt's economic problems.

Elsewhere in the capital, Islamist supporters of Morsi reacted angrily, shouting: “No to military rule.”

Others chanted: “Islam is coming! We will not leave!”

Opponents and supporters of Morsi also clashed in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where at least one person was killed and 50 injured as gunfire broke out. Four of Morsi supporters died in fighting with security forces in the town of Mersa Matruh 100 miles west.

An influential Egyptian Salafist movement, Dawa Salafiya, called on Islamists to leave the streets and go home and urged “all sons of the Islamist movement” not to put themselves in danger and to understand the “reality of the change that is happening in the political situation”.

Egypt’s Muslim and Christian clerics backed the army-sponsored roadmap, which replaces President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and appoints a temporary government of technocrats.

Coptic Church head Pope Tawadros II said the plan offered a political vision and would ensure security for all Egyptians.

Liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei also threw his weight behind it, declaring the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 had been relaunched.

Army chiefs played down fears of a prolonged military dictatorship, assuring the US that they were not interested in long-term rule, said sources.

They have pledged to put a civilian government in place quickly and said they will take steps to ensure the safety of diplomatic missions in Egypt, US officials said. But Washington announced last night that non-essential diplomats and embassy families would leave Egypt amid the unrest.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Brits “should consider whether they have a pressing need to remain”.

He added they “should stay close to home or their hotel, and keep a low profile”.

The Red Sea resorts most popular with Brits are hundreds of miles from Cairo and have not seen protests.

July 7, 2013

Top judge Adli Mansour,  who took the oath hours after a military coup,  praised the armed forces and Egyptian people, saying the protests embodied “the nation’s conscience, its ambitions and hopes.”

Morsi was taken to the defence ministry while his "entire presidential team" has been detained, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman claimed.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 300 leaders and members of Morsi’s Islamist party, according to local reports.

The upheaval comes after days of mass rallies against Egypt's first democratically-elected leader, who army chiefs say had "failed to meet the demands of the people".

In a ceremony broadcast live on state TV today, Mansour – the chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court – said the era of "worship of the ruler" should end.

He praised the massive street demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ousting and hailed the youth behind the protests that began on June 30. Mansour said: “The most glorious thing about June 30 is that it brought together everyone without discrimination or division. “I offer my greetings to the revolutionary people of Egypt.”

Deposed Morsi, who came to power a year ago, took to FACEBOOK just minutes after military leaders booted him from power to denounce the dramatic developments as “a full military coup”.

In his statement, he said he “totally rejected” his overthrow by the army, which has suspended the country’s constitution and called for early elections.

He also asked Egyptian citizens,  both civilians and military, to “abide by the constitution and the law and not to respond to this coup”.

It was unclear if Morsi had access to his own Facebook page or if it was posted by an aide.

Last night Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommended against all but essential travel to Egypt by Brits.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in jubilation following a week of bloody protests in which 50 died.

Green lasers replaced guns in Cairo, sending beams of light into the sky from central Tahrir Square, which was packed with cheering protesters.

Demonstrators had accused Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of pursuing an Islamist agenda and of failing to tackle Egypt's economic problems.

Elsewhere in the capital, Islamist supporters of Morsi reacted angrily, shouting: “No to military rule.”

Others chanted: “Islam is coming! We will not leave!”

Opponents and supporters of Morsi also clashed in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where at least one person was killed and 50 injured as gunfire broke out. Four of Morsi supporters died in fighting with security forces in the town of Mersa Matruh 100 miles west.

An influential Egyptian Salafist movement, Dawa Salafiya, called on Islamists to leave the streets and go home and urged “all sons of the Islamist movement” not to put themselves in danger and to understand the “reality of the change that is happening in the political situation”.

Egypt’s Muslim and Christian clerics backed the army-sponsored roadmap, which replaces President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and appoints a temporary government of technocrats.

Coptic Church head Pope Tawadros II said the plan offered a political vision and would ensure security for all Egyptians.

Liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei also threw his weight behind it, declaring the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 had been relaunched.

Army chiefs played down fears of a prolonged military dictatorship, assuring the US that they were not interested in long-term rule, said sources.

They have pledged to put a civilian government in place quickly and said they will take steps to ensure the safety of diplomatic missions in Egypt, US officials said. But Washington announced last night that non-essential diplomats and embassy families would leave Egypt amid the unrest.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Brits “should consider whether they have a pressing need to remain”.

He added they “should stay close to home or their hotel, and keep a low profile”.

The Red Sea resorts most popular with Brits are hundreds of miles from Cairo and have not seen protests.

July 7, 2013

The life that evolved in the mosques of the Muslim world spread outward to put its mark upon influential circles everywhere. The mosque played a great part in the spread of education in Islam.

The Holy Qur'an urges the faithful to think, ponder, reflect and acquire knowledge that would bring them closer to God and to His creation. This is the purpose of education. In the solitude of the mosque, the mind is released from the constraints of the mundane, is open to enlightenment, and enabled to align thought to reach its full spectrum of creativity.

The Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him), commanded knowledge upon all Muslims, and urged them to seek knowledge as far they could reach, and also to seek it at all times. Following these commands and traditions, Muslim rulers insisted that every Muslim child acquired learning, and they themselves gave considerable support to institutions, particularly mosques, to foster learning. This contributed largely to making elementary education almost universal amongst Muslims. It was this great liberality, which the Muslims displayed in educating their people, that was one of the most potent factors in the brilliant and rapid growth of Islamic civilization.

The association of the mosque with education remains one of its main characteristics throughout history. The school became an indispensable appendage to the mosque. From the start, the mosque was the centre of the Islamic community, a place for prayer, meditation, religious instruction, political discussion, and a school. And anywhere Islam took hold, mosques were established, and basic instruction began. Once established, such mosques could develop into well known places of learning, often with hundreds, sometimes with thousands of students, and frequently containing important libraries.

Education was so universally diffused that it was said to be difficult to find a Muslim who could not read or write.

The first school connected with a mosque, was set up at Medina in 653, whilst the first one in Damascus dates from 744, and by 900 nearly every mosque had an elementary school for the education of both boys and girls. 

 

Teaching and learning in most large mosques became a fully fledged profession, and the mosque school took on the semblance of an academy or even a university later on. So important were the mosque schools as centres of higher learning, indeed, that many of them still exist today as the oldest universities in the world. Amongst these, Al-Qayrawwan and Al-Zaytuna in Tunisia, Al-Azhar in Egypt, and Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. As places of renown, they attracted great names of Muslim scholarship, either as students, or teachers, or both. Many among the graduates of the mosques of Muslim Spain were Ibn Roshd, Ibn Al-Sayigh, and Ibn Bajja. In Basra (Iraq) Al-Khallil Ibn Ahmad gave lectures on philosophy at a mosque, and one of his students was Sibawaih who later became one of the most renowned Arabic grammarians of all times. From the beginning of the 9th century until our time, `the glory’ of the Qarawiyyin, it is held, was its body of scholars (ulama).  The renown of such places attracted large numbers of students.

 

In the early Islamic era, the mosque was used for the teaching of one or more of the Islamic sciences and literary arts, but after the mid- ninth century, more and more came to be devoted to the legal sciences and scientific subjects. The mosques gradually took on wider functions on top of learning. Tracing this evolution, in the tenth century there was a flourishing of a new type of college, combining the masjid with a khan or inn to lodge law students from out of town. The great patron of this second stage in the development of the college was Badr ibn Hasanawaih (d. 1014/1015), governor of several provinces under the Buyids, and to whose name 3,000 masjid-khan complexes were credited over the thirty-year period of his governorship. Assistance for students in the various mosques was substantial. At the Qarawiyyin, for instance, students were not only exempt from paying fees but were also given monetary allowances periodically. The rulers played a major part in the endowment of mosques for education purposes. At the Qarawiyyin were three separate libraries, the most prestigious of which being the Abu Inan Library, founded by the Merinid Sultan, Al-Mutawakkil Abu Inan. In more than one respect Islam influenced Europe and subsequently the rest of the world with its system of education, including universality and its methods of teaching and granting diplomas.  The influence also came in the form of the many translated books of Islamic scholars which formed the core of European education in their first universities (Montpellier, Bologna, Paris, Oxford…), which all were founded in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries.

 

Islam and knowledge are inseparable, and from the very early stages. Other than the urge of the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which prompted people to learn, the concrete symbol of Islam, the Mosque, was the centre of learning. And, indeed, until now, in most parts of the Islamic world, the word Jamia means at once both mosque and school, even when they are separate buildings, most often distant from each other. Finally, `Jamia’, the word for university in Arabic derives from Jami, mosque. No similar derivation exists in any other language or culture; there exists no better association between Islam and higher learning than this.

By means of the religious education, a Muslim develops the faculties to modulate the knowledge acquired through secular education by a process that provides spiritual and psychological maturity. This unlocks the mental and physical potential of human beings to fulfill their obligations to Almighty God, as well as their responsibilities toward humanity.

July 7, 2013

The life that evolved in the mosques of the Muslim world spread outward to put its mark upon influential circles everywhere. The mosque played a great part in the spread of education in Islam.

The Holy Qur'an urges the faithful to think, ponder, reflect and acquire knowledge that would bring them closer to God and to His creation. This is the purpose of education. In the solitude of the mosque, the mind is released from the constraints of the mundane, is open to enlightenment, and enabled to align thought to reach its full spectrum of creativity.

The Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him), commanded knowledge upon all Muslims, and urged them to seek knowledge as far they could reach, and also to seek it at all times. Following these commands and traditions, Muslim rulers insisted that every Muslim child acquired learning, and they themselves gave considerable support to institutions, particularly mosques, to foster learning. This contributed largely to making elementary education almost universal amongst Muslims. It was this great liberality, which the Muslims displayed in educating their people, that was one of the most potent factors in the brilliant and rapid growth of Islamic civilization.

The association of the mosque with education remains one of its main characteristics throughout history. The school became an indispensable appendage to the mosque. From the start, the mosque was the centre of the Islamic community, a place for prayer, meditation, religious instruction, political discussion, and a school. And anywhere Islam took hold, mosques were established, and basic instruction began. Once established, such mosques could develop into well known places of learning, often with hundreds, sometimes with thousands of students, and frequently containing important libraries.

Education was so universally diffused that it was said to be difficult to find a Muslim who could not read or write.

The first school connected with a mosque, was set up at Medina in 653, whilst the first one in Damascus dates from 744, and by 900 nearly every mosque had an elementary school for the education of both boys and girls. 

 

Teaching and learning in most large mosques became a fully fledged profession, and the mosque school took on the semblance of an academy or even a university later on. So important were the mosque schools as centres of higher learning, indeed, that many of them still exist today as the oldest universities in the world. Amongst these, Al-Qayrawwan and Al-Zaytuna in Tunisia, Al-Azhar in Egypt, and Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. As places of renown, they attracted great names of Muslim scholarship, either as students, or teachers, or both. Many among the graduates of the mosques of Muslim Spain were Ibn Roshd, Ibn Al-Sayigh, and Ibn Bajja. In Basra (Iraq) Al-Khallil Ibn Ahmad gave lectures on philosophy at a mosque, and one of his students was Sibawaih who later became one of the most renowned Arabic grammarians of all times. From the beginning of the 9th century until our time, `the glory’ of the Qarawiyyin, it is held, was its body of scholars (ulama).  The renown of such places attracted large numbers of students.

 

In the early Islamic era, the mosque was used for the teaching of one or more of the Islamic sciences and literary arts, but after the mid- ninth century, more and more came to be devoted to the legal sciences and scientific subjects. The mosques gradually took on wider functions on top of learning. Tracing this evolution, in the tenth century there was a flourishing of a new type of college, combining the masjid with a khan or inn to lodge law students from out of town. The great patron of this second stage in the development of the college was Badr ibn Hasanawaih (d. 1014/1015), governor of several provinces under the Buyids, and to whose name 3,000 masjid-khan complexes were credited over the thirty-year period of his governorship. Assistance for students in the various mosques was substantial. At the Qarawiyyin, for instance, students were not only exempt from paying fees but were also given monetary allowances periodically. The rulers played a major part in the endowment of mosques for education purposes. At the Qarawiyyin were three separate libraries, the most prestigious of which being the Abu Inan Library, founded by the Merinid Sultan, Al-Mutawakkil Abu Inan. In more than one respect Islam influenced Europe and subsequently the rest of the world with its system of education, including universality and its methods of teaching and granting diplomas.  The influence also came in the form of the many translated books of Islamic scholars which formed the core of European education in their first universities (Montpellier, Bologna, Paris, Oxford…), which all were founded in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries.

 

Islam and knowledge are inseparable, and from the very early stages. Other than the urge of the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which prompted people to learn, the concrete symbol of Islam, the Mosque, was the centre of learning. And, indeed, until now, in most parts of the Islamic world, the word Jamia means at once both mosque and school, even when they are separate buildings, most often distant from each other. Finally, `Jamia’, the word for university in Arabic derives from Jami, mosque. No similar derivation exists in any other language or culture; there exists no better association between Islam and higher learning than this.

By means of the religious education, a Muslim develops the faculties to modulate the knowledge acquired through secular education by a process that provides spiritual and psychological maturity. This unlocks the mental and physical potential of human beings to fulfill their obligations to Almighty God, as well as their responsibilities toward humanity.

July 3, 2013

Imam Al Ghazali may have lived over 900 years ago, but in the true spirit of Islam, his work, analysis and thoughts are as relevant today as they were when the scholar waited for his ink to dry on the paper on which he wrote, in the 11th century.

We may like to think of ourselves as continually evolving over hundreds of years as the world around us also transforms, but essentially, we are the same as our ancestors. We have similar hands and feet, eyes and ears, a heart, lungs, a mind and a soul.

 

Imam Al Ghazali’s analysis of people and society is based on the Holy Qur’an, the hadith and Islamic history. His ability to break down complex information and ideas about our very nature makes his books powerful tools, which are breathtaking to read. People of all faiths have, over the centuries, talked about Al Ghazali’s brilliance, but the impact can only be fully felt when his books are opened and his thoughts are shared.

 

On the basic subject of a person’s character, he writes: “Goodness of character was the attribute of the Master of Messengers, peace be upon him, and is the fruit of the pious and self-discipline of the people of constant worship. Bad character is a mortal poison, which set a distance between man and the proximity of the Lord of the Worlds, and induced him to follow the path of Satan the accursed. Foul characteristics are the very sickness of hearts and the diseases of the soul, constituting an illness which deprives man of everlasting life. It is reported that the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace,  was once told that a certain woman fasted all day and prayed all night, but was possessed by bad character, so that she injured her neighbours with her words. ‘There is no good in her,’ he said, ‘she is of Hell’s people’. It is also reported that the last of God’s Messengers , peace be upon him, said ‘You will not be able to suffice all people with your wealth; suffice them therefore with a cheerful face and a goodly character.’”

 

So what is good character? In his search for the answer, Imam Al Ghazali turns to a host of ahadith, including, ‘A man once asked the Messenger of God, peace and blessing be upon him, about character, and he recited His statement: “Hold to forgiveness, and enjoin kindness, and turn aside from the ignorant ones.” Then he said, ‘It is that you should seek reconciliation with those who avoid you, give to those who withhold from you and forgive those who deal with you unjustly.’

“Therefore the fundamental good traits of character are four in number: wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. By ‘wisdom’, we mean a condition of the soul by which it distinguishes true from false. By ‘justice’, a condition of the soul by which it controls anger and desire. By ‘courage’, we refer to the irascible faculty of the intellect, while by ‘temperance’ we have in mind the disciplining of the intellect and the Law. It is from the equilibrium of these four principles that all good traits of character proceed. When the intellect is balanced, it brings forth discretion, excellence and an understanding of the subtle implications of actions and the hidden defects of the soul. When unbalanced, in excess, then cunning, swindling, deception and slyness result. An example is thus: ‘Courage’ gives rise to nobility, endurance, dignity and suppression of rage. When unbalanced, this same trait can give rise to recklessness, arrogance, conceit, pride and quickness of anger. ‘Temperance’ is a quality that gives rise to generosity, modesty, patience and tolerance, but in excess it leads to greed, cupidity, ostentation and immorality.”

“All human traits constitute branches of Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice and a perfectly just equilibrium in these four has been attained by no one but the Emissary of God, peace and blessing be upon him; other people are of divergent degrees of proximity and distance from them.”

Even though Imam Al Ghazali identifies the various aspects of character, he also considers the excuses people use for not adopting good character and changing traits about themselves. He tackles this issue head on.

“Know that the man who is dominated by sloth will consider unpleasant any spiritual struggle and discipline, or any purifying of the soul and refinement of the character. He will claim that the traits of a man’s character cannot conceivably be altered, and that human nature is immutable. Firstly, he will say that character is the form of the inward in the same way that the created form of man is the form of the outward. No one is able to alter his external appearance: an ugly man cannot render himself handsome, and vice versa; and thus a person who is ugly on the inside, cannot change. Secondly, he will assert that goodness of character proceeds from suppressing one’s desire and anger, and that he has tested this by means of a long inward struggle which demonstrated to him that these things are part of one’s character and nature, so busying oneself with such struggling is profitless and a waste of time.

To such an objection we would say: Were the traits of character not susceptible to change, there would be no value in counsels, sermons and discipline, and the Holy Last Messenger , may God bless him and grant him peace, would not have said, ‘Improve your characters!’ It is possible to improve the character even of an animal: a falcon can be transformed from savagery to tameness; a dog from mere greed for food to good behaviour and self-restraint, and these constitute a change in character.”

 

Al Ghazali practically informs us that certain human traits like anger and desire cannot be entirely suppressed or dominated, but we can make these characteristics obedient and submissive through means of self-discipline and struggle. He says we must endeavour to control these traits as “we have been commanded to do, for it constitutes the means of our salvation and our coming to God.”

 

However, Imam Ghazali believes we have been weakened when it comes to dealing with ourselves because we have been “plunged into the desires of the world and fallen into slumber.” This was his view of Muslims over 900 years ago, since then we have seen the rise and fall of a Muslim empire; Muslim scientists and philosophers leading the world through their knowledge; and Islam spreading to every part of the world.

It is evident that Ghazali was able to identify the tiny roots of a widespread problem centuries before it would take root in the form we have today. The world may be a very different place to the one it was hundreds of years ago, but our personal challenges and distractions have remained enclosed within us. They are still waiting to be challenged - with the help of the books, moral parents, teachers and spiritual guides that we are still fortunate to have. May the Almightly suffice Mankind, the Family of God, allowing us to reach high plateaus.

Extracts taken from Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul and on Breaking the Two Desires. Books XXII and XXIII of The Revival of the Religious Sciences, first published by the Islamic Texts Society 1995.

 

July 3, 2013

Imam Al Ghazali may have lived over 900 years ago, but in the true spirit of Islam, his work, analysis and thoughts are as relevant today as they were when the scholar waited for his ink to dry on the paper on which he wrote, in the 11th century.

We may like to think of ourselves as continually evolving over hundreds of years as the world around us also transforms, but essentially, we are the same as our ancestors. We have similar hands and feet, eyes and ears, a heart, lungs, a mind and a soul.

 

Imam Al Ghazali’s analysis of people and society is based on the Holy Qur’an, the hadith and Islamic history. His ability to break down complex information and ideas about our very nature makes his books powerful tools, which are breathtaking to read. People of all faiths have, over the centuries, talked about Al Ghazali’s brilliance, but the impact can only be fully felt when his books are opened and his thoughts are shared.

 

On the basic subject of a person’s character, he writes: “Goodness of character was the attribute of the Master of Messengers, peace be upon him, and is the fruit of the pious and self-discipline of the people of constant worship. Bad character is a mortal poison, which set a distance between man and the proximity of the Lord of the Worlds, and induced him to follow the path of Satan the accursed. Foul characteristics are the very sickness of hearts and the diseases of the soul, constituting an illness which deprives man of everlasting life. It is reported that the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace,  was once told that a certain woman fasted all day and prayed all night, but was possessed by bad character, so that she injured her neighbours with her words. ‘There is no good in her,’ he said, ‘she is of Hell’s people’. It is also reported that the last of God’s Messengers , peace be upon him, said ‘You will not be able to suffice all people with your wealth; suffice them therefore with a cheerful face and a goodly character.’”

 

So what is good character? In his search for the answer, Imam Al Ghazali turns to a host of ahadith, including, ‘A man once asked the Messenger of God, peace and blessing be upon him, about character, and he recited His statement: “Hold to forgiveness, and enjoin kindness, and turn aside from the ignorant ones.” Then he said, ‘It is that you should seek reconciliation with those who avoid you, give to those who withhold from you and forgive those who deal with you unjustly.’

“Therefore the fundamental good traits of character are four in number: wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. By ‘wisdom’, we mean a condition of the soul by which it distinguishes true from false. By ‘justice’, a condition of the soul by which it controls anger and desire. By ‘courage’, we refer to the irascible faculty of the intellect, while by ‘temperance’ we have in mind the disciplining of the intellect and the Law. It is from the equilibrium of these four principles that all good traits of character proceed. When the intellect is balanced, it brings forth discretion, excellence and an understanding of the subtle implications of actions and the hidden defects of the soul. When unbalanced, in excess, then cunning, swindling, deception and slyness result. An example is thus: ‘Courage’ gives rise to nobility, endurance, dignity and suppression of rage. When unbalanced, this same trait can give rise to recklessness, arrogance, conceit, pride and quickness of anger. ‘Temperance’ is a quality that gives rise to generosity, modesty, patience and tolerance, but in excess it leads to greed, cupidity, ostentation and immorality.”

“All human traits constitute branches of Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice and a perfectly just equilibrium in these four has been attained by no one but the Emissary of God, peace and blessing be upon him; other people are of divergent degrees of proximity and distance from them.”

Even though Imam Al Ghazali identifies the various aspects of character, he also considers the excuses people use for not adopting good character and changing traits about themselves. He tackles this issue head on.

“Know that the man who is dominated by sloth will consider unpleasant any spiritual struggle and discipline, or any purifying of the soul and refinement of the character. He will claim that the traits of a man’s character cannot conceivably be altered, and that human nature is immutable. Firstly, he will say that character is the form of the inward in the same way that the created form of man is the form of the outward. No one is able to alter his external appearance: an ugly man cannot render himself handsome, and vice versa; and thus a person who is ugly on the inside, cannot change. Secondly, he will assert that goodness of character proceeds from suppressing one’s desire and anger, and that he has tested this by means of a long inward struggle which demonstrated to him that these things are part of one’s character and nature, so busying oneself with such struggling is profitless and a waste of time.

To such an objection we would say: Were the traits of character not susceptible to change, there would be no value in counsels, sermons and discipline, and the Holy Last Messenger , may God bless him and grant him peace, would not have said, ‘Improve your characters!’ It is possible to improve the character even of an animal: a falcon can be transformed from savagery to tameness; a dog from mere greed for food to good behaviour and self-restraint, and these constitute a change in character.”

 

Al Ghazali practically informs us that certain human traits like anger and desire cannot be entirely suppressed or dominated, but we can make these characteristics obedient and submissive through means of self-discipline and struggle. He says we must endeavour to control these traits as “we have been commanded to do, for it constitutes the means of our salvation and our coming to God.”

 

However, Imam Ghazali believes we have been weakened when it comes to dealing with ourselves because we have been “plunged into the desires of the world and fallen into slumber.” This was his view of Muslims over 900 years ago, since then we have seen the rise and fall of a Muslim empire; Muslim scientists and philosophers leading the world through their knowledge; and Islam spreading to every part of the world.

It is evident that Ghazali was able to identify the tiny roots of a widespread problem centuries before it would take root in the form we have today. The world may be a very different place to the one it was hundreds of years ago, but our personal challenges and distractions have remained enclosed within us. They are still waiting to be challenged - with the help of the books, moral parents, teachers and spiritual guides that we are still fortunate to have. May the Almightly suffice Mankind, the Family of God, allowing us to reach high plateaus.

Extracts taken from Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul and on Breaking the Two Desires. Books XXII and XXIII of The Revival of the Religious Sciences, first published by the Islamic Texts Society 1995.

 

July 3, 2013

Our world has become very toxic, and our foods and water are also contaminated . On a daily basis, we compromise our health as we intake the toxins that are often hidden in the everyday foods and drinks that we consume. Thus, we too,  have made ourselves toxic.

How is our food contaminated? We often take for granted that if food products are on the store shelves, they are safe for us. How wrong we are to believe this myth. These unnutritious foods are ‘conveniently packaged‘ in toxic plastics, aluminums, and lead.  As a result, we are full of plastic, aluminum and lead, too.   

In essence, we are entrapped in a form of enslavement, with our health consumed by these harmful products, masked as food. By comparison, for centuries physical enslavement was a heinous crime wherein slaves were often mistreated, and done much mental harm. They were not treated as brothers, as was the custom in Islamic societies, instead they were treated like animals, no more than mere cattle. The unfortunate slaves would, rise, work, eat and sleep on command.  They had no say so in their personal affairs.  When freedom came to them, the slaves remained mentally dependent on mainstream thinking: trusting the media, indulging in popular foods, dress, entertainment and medical wonders as best they could afford.  

When it comes to food, the same mentality exists today. We are again following and not rationalizing with regard to what is best for us.  Scientific studies show that the larger masses of this country are sick, sickness attributed to eating contaminated foods.  

Here is a list of everyday food items proven to be quite harmful:

Potato chips, soda, unorganic coffee (acidic and too extreme for the body daily), mayonnaise, catsup, vegetable oils, butter (if you made it, you can trust it), all dairy (full of hormones), creamers (plastics and un-natural oils), white sugar (animal substances are inside it), brown sugar (same as white, shaded brown), splenda and aspartame (poison), white flour and all products made from it, all meats that are not organically grown,  cake mixes, canola oil, all soy products, gum, candies and most bottled water.

If you haven’t grown it, raised it, or made it, you do not know what you are eating. Let the truth be told.

What can you do about this now? To start, don’t continue to trust poisoned, processed toxic foods. Detox first; then replace them with live, whole foods and grains.  Here is an example of wholesome food replacements:

Sesame seeds, tahini paste, chappati bread, olive oil, grade B or C maple syrup, organic fresh fruits and vegetable eaten in their season only, organic honey that has not come from bees fed sugar, bean sprouts which can be grown in your homes, barley, wheat grass, apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s or any other organic vinegar, white vinegar is harmful), almonds, walnuts, un-sulfured dried fruits, organic meats raised on your farms, and herbs.  

Herbs are concentrated whole foods that your body recognizes and absorbs readily.  They work slower on some individuals due to auto-intoxification (self induced pollution).  The quality of food you eat affects your life. To ensure your future, and the safety of your children, your diets must change for the better.   

Slaves ate the worst provisions on the plantation. How much farther have we come?

July 3, 2013

Our world has become very toxic, and our foods and water are also contaminated . On a daily basis, we compromise our health as we intake the toxins that are often hidden in the everyday foods and drinks that we consume. Thus, we too,  have made ourselves toxic.

How is our food contaminated? We often take for granted that if food products are on the store shelves, they are safe for us. How wrong we are to believe this myth. These unnutritious foods are ‘conveniently packaged‘ in toxic plastics, aluminums, and lead.  As a result, we are full of plastic, aluminum and lead, too.   

In essence, we are entrapped in a form of enslavement, with our health consumed by these harmful products, masked as food. By comparison, for centuries physical enslavement was a heinous crime wherein slaves were often mistreated, and done much mental harm. They were not treated as brothers, as was the custom in Islamic societies, instead they were treated like animals, no more than mere cattle. The unfortunate slaves would, rise, work, eat and sleep on command.  They had no say so in their personal affairs.  When freedom came to them, the slaves remained mentally dependent on mainstream thinking: trusting the media, indulging in popular foods, dress, entertainment and medical wonders as best they could afford.  

When it comes to food, the same mentality exists today. We are again following and not rationalizing with regard to what is best for us.  Scientific studies show that the larger masses of this country are sick, sickness attributed to eating contaminated foods.  

Here is a list of everyday food items proven to be quite harmful:

Potato chips, soda, unorganic coffee (acidic and too extreme for the body daily), mayonnaise, catsup, vegetable oils, butter (if you made it, you can trust it), all dairy (full of hormones), creamers (plastics and un-natural oils), white sugar (animal substances are inside it), brown sugar (same as white, shaded brown), splenda and aspartame (poison), white flour and all products made from it, all meats that are not organically grown,  cake mixes, canola oil, all soy products, gum, candies and most bottled water.

If you haven’t grown it, raised it, or made it, you do not know what you are eating. Let the truth be told.

What can you do about this now? To start, don’t continue to trust poisoned, processed toxic foods. Detox first; then replace them with live, whole foods and grains.  Here is an example of wholesome food replacements:

Sesame seeds, tahini paste, chappati bread, olive oil, grade B or C maple syrup, organic fresh fruits and vegetable eaten in their season only, organic honey that has not come from bees fed sugar, bean sprouts which can be grown in your homes, barley, wheat grass, apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s or any other organic vinegar, white vinegar is harmful), almonds, walnuts, un-sulfured dried fruits, organic meats raised on your farms, and herbs.  

Herbs are concentrated whole foods that your body recognizes and absorbs readily.  They work slower on some individuals due to auto-intoxification (self induced pollution).  The quality of food you eat affects your life. To ensure your future, and the safety of your children, your diets must change for the better.   

Slaves ate the worst provisions on the plantation. How much farther have we come?

June 26, 2013

 

As many as 200,000 people marched through the streets of Brazil's biggest cities, as protests over rising public transport costs and the expense of staging the 2014 World Cup have spread.

The biggest demonstration was in Rio de Janeiro, where 100,000 people joined a mainly peaceful march.

In the capital, Brasilia, people breached security at the National Congress building and scaled its roof.

The protests are the largest seen in Brazil for more than 20 years.

'Not satisfied'

In Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, about 65,000 people took to the streets.The wave of protests kicked off when Sao Paulo residents marched against an increase in the price of a single bus fare, from 3 reals ($1.40, £0.90) to 3.20.

Authorities said the rise was well below inflation, which since the last price increase in January 2011 has been 15.5%, according to official figures.

The way these initial marches were policed - with officers accused of firing rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters - further incensed Sao Paulo residents and shifted the focus from rising transport costs to wider issues.

"For many years, the government has been feeding corruption, people are demonstrating against the system," Graciela Cacador told Reuters news agency.

Others complained about vast sums of money spent on hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics instead of being invested in health and education.

"This is a communal cry saying: 'We're not satisfied!'," Maria Claudia Cardoso told the Associated Press news agency.

"We don't have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact we're not taking it anymore," she said.

"We need better education, hospitals and security, not billions spent on the World Cup," said one mother who attended the Sao Paulo march with her daughter.

"We're a rich country with a lot of potential but the money doesn't go to those who need it most," 26-year-old photographer Manoela Chiabai told the Associated Press.

Police took a hands-off approach at the demonstration following an earlier meeting between protest organizers and security chiefs at which they had agreed that regular police would not carry rubber bullet guns.

'Legitimate'

Protests were reported in as many as 11 cities.  In Rio 100,000 people took part in a mainly peaceful march, although a small group threw rocks at police, wounding five officers. They also set fire to a car and vandalized the state assembly building.

Police there reportedly used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse them.

More than 40 people were arrested in the southern city of Porto Alegre after a small group peeled away from the main march of about 10,000 demonstrators and set alight bins and shops.

They were booed by those participating in the main march, who called for a peaceful protest.

On Tuesday, Porto Alegre Mayor Jose Fortunati said he had sent a bill to the city council proposing that bus companies be exempt from taxes in return for them promising to lower their fares.

There were also clashes with police in Belo Horizonte, which was hosting the latest game in the Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament for the World Cup.

An 18-year-old is reportedly in a stable condition in hospital after falling from an overpass in the city.

And in Brasilia, more than 200 protesters managed to get onto the roof of the National Congress building. After negotiations with police, the crowd agreed to leave. Later, youths formed a human chain around the building, the AFP news agency said.

"Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate," President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement. "It is natural for the young to demonstrate."

However, Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo warned protesters that the authorities would not allow them to disrupt the Confederations Cup or next year's World Cup.

"The government assumed the responsibility and the honour to stage these two international events, and will do so, ensuring the security and integrity of the fans and tourists," he said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on both sides to remain calm.

"We urge the Brazilian authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with spreading social protests in the country, and also call on demonstrators not to resort to acts of violence in pursuit of their demands," said a spokesman for the High Commissioner.

"With further protests planned, we are however concerned that the reported excessive use of police force in recent days should not be repeated."