Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, International, Magazine/ Culture, Religion | Tags: Eidul Adha 2008, Hajj 2008, Sighting Hilal
Altered Eid, Hajj Dates Could Deprive
Dr. Usman Ali, NJ
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced Eid-ul-Fitr to have been Tuesday, September 30, 2008 this year. The kingdom claimed to have sighted the new moon which, in Islam, commences the lunar month. Eid-ul-Fitr is the holiday which ends the month-long fasting of Ramadan. In spite of this, scholars claim it to have been impossible for the human eye to have seen the hilal at that time, since the new moon had only entered its 7th hour. Hence, the Islamic method, which follows the pattern of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) for entering a new Islamic month, seems to have been neglected.
As the Muslim world approaches the pilgrimage, or Hajj, season and Eid-ul-Adha, which follows the ceremony, one wonders whether a similar scenario will occur.
Unfortunately, the Muslim world appears to be disunited, when little regard is paid towards matters like the correct observance of holy days. When commemorated with care however, these observances bring blessings and protection from the Most High.
Maybe year after year, the doors are closed on the mercy of Ramadan for millions all around the world a day too early.
Yes, one might argue that the Muslims have been warned in the traditions that these days were going to come. Does this mean we should not do anything about them? Some may say, “No, but God put them there, he chose them to be the custodians of the Holy Cities. They have been appointed by Allah, so they must be right.” If such were the case, the idols placed in the Holy Sanctuary around the Kaaba for hundreds of years after the time of Abraham (peace be upon him) were also “put” there and therefore can, (God forbid) be justified? We seek refuge in Allah.
History records other atrocities committed by the custodians of the Holy cities. The genocide of 680 AD, which started from the Battle of Karbala, continued on for a year with the killing of thousands of Muslim men, women, and children. Also, hundreds of murders were committed on the grounds of the two Holy Mosques. Hundreds of women were raped to such an extent that the following year has been referred to as “The Year of The Illegitimate Children” in the two Holy Cities. All of this mayhem was conducted by the so-called custodians of Makkah and Madinah, the two Holy Cities.
In the late seventeen, and early eighteen hundreds –just over a thousand years later– the current occupiers carried out a similar unrighteous act. Unfortunately, it can easily be argued that the genocide was on a much larger scale. The third genocide concluded in 1926.*
Even so, these physical attacks could be said to have been outweighed by the spiritual harm done to the Muslims by their teachings, not to mentions the overall damage to the perception of Islam. There is a very simple concept, traditional Islam equals love, whereas the new version of “Islam,” the so-called fundamentalist version that was created by think tanks in the 1700’s is equivalent to hate. Yet, the majority have adopted silence for the sake of false unity, a true abandonment of intellect.
May the Almighty Creator forgive us all. May the Almighty Creator protect us all.
*All of this historical information can easily be found in any encyclopedia or world history book. A few references which are easily located are: The House of Saud: The Rise and Rule of the Most Powerful Dynasty in the Arab World, by David Holden; England and the Middle East: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire, by Elie Kedourie; Supremacy and Oil: Iraq, Turkey and the Anglo American World Order, by William Stivers; With Lawrence in Arabia (Prion Lost Treasures), by Lowell Thomas, just to name a few.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Magazine/ Culture, Poetry | Tags: Books, poetry
From the upcoming title being published by Zavia Books:
Pir: Pearls from the Ocean of His Secrets
By Ahmad Qadri
Islamic Post Contributing Writer
Ihave been to your tavern.
Oh, I thank you for the wine.
One sip of your secret elixir and my animal self began to die.
In ecstasy, I found myself chanting Allah’s Holy Name:
Allah-Hu, Allah-Hu, Allah-Hu, again, again and again.
I lost myself in your tavern,
where your brand of wine has gained much fame.
Travelers come from far and wide to drink.
Yes, jinn, man, and malaaikah (angels) come to quench to their thirst.
Drinking the wine of Love like pilgrims drink
from Zam Zam, their stomach about to burst.
I sat as listener to the dhikr.
As the intoxicated tavern keeper began to sing;
sakinah (peace) fell upon us all,
as the malaaikah began to spread their wings!
The keeper in Love’s ecstasy started to cry,
as he began to describe:
“With this wine of ishq
your spirit will fly!”
“Believe me” he said confidently,
“I do it all the time!
I have flown the fourteen valleys.
I have known hardships, test and trial.
“This atom you call the universe
is truly not worth your while.
“Only to roam inside your soul
is where you will find true gold.”
Dig fast and deep,
before you grow too old!
Outside my tavern is the life of this world,
the jahil’s (ignoramus’) amusements,
the bakhil’s (miser’s) delusion,
a place of endless doubts and confusion.
“Have another cup with me,
if you have the capacity!”
Why do you wait? Life is short.
For this you can make haste.
Drink to your fill.
This wine of love makes none ill.
In fact, you will become one
with t he One’s will.
“What was a secret shall become known!
Why, my dear friends…
Shall I tell where I have flown?!”
One drunkard in the tavern said,
in a soft intoxicated moan…
“I have seen the white hawk flying high and alone, circumambulating the throne.”
*This poem was written in the Zavia of El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, Hashmi, in the Himalayan Mountains after El Sheikh delivered a discourse in which was said:
“The sheikh is the tavern keeper.
The Zavia is the tavern. Love is the wine.”
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Magazine/ Culture, Poetry | Tags: Hassan Ibn Thabit, Islamic Poets
Hazrat Hassan Ibn Thabit
By Hassan Abdul hakim
Islamic Post Contributing Writer
When the enemies of Islam would use their poets to defame the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the Messenger of Allah would send forward Hassan Ibn Thabit, and he would, in most beautiful words, defend the most blessed honor of our Beloved, upon whom be peace.
Hassan Ibn Thabit was one of the eldest of the companions of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him). A man known for his gift with words, Hassan Ibn Thabit accepted Islam in his sixties and lived until he had almost 120 years.
“Has not the eye yet left its sleeplessness,
and its shedding of tears and loosing them?”
The Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him) ordered a pulpit to be established for Hassan Ibn Thabit, upon which he could stand while reciting his poetry. The Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prayed for him saying, “The Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) will support you as long as you defend Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him).
“I could not praise the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) with my words; rather, my words were made praiseworthy by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).”
Of all the poets since the dawn of Islam and those who recite their words in song, Hassan Ibn Thabit (may Allah be pleased with him) had the honor of being the first with the distinction to use his words in the praise and defense of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him). While many of the Islamic songs these days are based upon what a poet has written and what he has heard, the words of Hassan Ibn Thabit were a reflection of his blessed eyes, for his poetry is based upon what he himself had seen.
The poetry of Hassan Ibn Thabit (May Allah be pleased with him) has become renown and loved throughout the Muslim world, memorized by thousands, young and old, and echoed from home to home.
As-subhu bada min tala’atihi
Wal laylu daja min wafaratihi
Sa’tish shajaru nataqal hajaru
Shaqqal qamaru bi ishaaratihi
Kanzul Karami, Maulan Ni’ami
Haadil Umami li Shari’atihi
Fa Muhammaduna hua Sayyiduna
Fal ‘izzu lana li ijaabatihi
Indeed, still he is spreading the love and defending the honour of the Beloved Last Messenger (may the peace of Allah be upon him) through his words 1400 years later.
“I shall never cease to praise him.
It may be for so doing I shall be for ever in Paradise
With the Chosen One for whose support in that I hope.
And to attain to that day I devote all my efforts.”
The following poem by Hazrat Hassan ibn Thabit, may Allah be pleased with him, was translated by Aisha Bewley.
When I saw his light shining forth,
In fear I covered my eyes with my palms,
Afraid for my sight because of the beauty of his form.
So I was scarcely able to look at him at all.
The lights from his light are drowned in his light
and his face shines out like the sun and moon in one.
A spirit of light lodged in a body like the moon,
a mantle made up of brilliant shining stars.
I bore it until I could bear it no longer.
I found the taste of patience to be like bitter aloes.
I could find no remedy to bring me relief
other than delighting in the sight of the one I love.
Even if he had not brought any clear signs with him,
the sight of him would dispense with the need for them.
Muhammad is one not like other human beings.
Rather he is a flawless diamond, and the rest of mankind just stones.
Blessings be on him so that perhaps Allah may have mercy on us
on that burning Day when the Fire is roaring forth its sparks.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Magazine/ Culture, Religion | Tags: Abraham, Ibrahim, Qurbani, Sacrifice
EID UL ADHA
Excellence of Qurbani
As the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja draws near, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, to commemorate the willingness of Messenger Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) in obedience to the Most High. Throughout history, mankind has been commanded to sacrifice things held dear to prove loyalty and love for the Creator of the World. For the lovers of the Almighty, sacrifice is synonymous with surrender. From the first Messenger of Allah, Adam, to the Holy Last Messenger and Beloved of Allah, Muhammad, all surrendered to the Almighty Creator by making great sacrifices with love and willingness. (May the peace of Allah be upon all of His Messengers.) In many countries Eid-ul-Adha is also referred to as the Qurban Eid. The word qurban, or sacrifice, comes from the Arabic word qurb. Qurb signifies nearness, closeness, approach, and the like. It should be mentioned that only by true submission to the Almighty can one achieve “nearness.”
The history of qurbani, the slaughtering of meat bearing animals after the Hajj pilgrimage, and dates back to the beginning of mankind with the two sons of Adam. When Cain and Abel had an argument, their father, Adam, commanded them to do qurbani to see whose sacrifice Allah, the Most High, would accept.
“And recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam in truth. When each offered a sacrifice, it was accepted from one, but not from the other. The latter said to the former, “I will surely kill you.” The former said, “Verily, Allah accepts only from those who have taqwa ( God-consciousness).” ( Holy Qur’an 5:27)
The Messenger Abraham (or Ibrahim, peace be upon him), who is known as the Friend of Allah, was also commanded to make a great sacrifice. He was told by the Almighty to sacrifice his son. In this, he did not hesitate for an instant, although we find the venerable Ibrahim to have prayed to Allah Almighty fervently for a son:
“My Rabb (Cherisher & Sustainer), grant me a son, one of the righteous.” So, We we gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy.’”(37:100)
After a few years, the venerable Ismail (Ishmael), a radiant son, was born to Ibrahim and his wife, the venerable Lady Hajirah (Hagar).Yet, when the Friend of Allah, Ibrahim, was commanded by his Lord to sacrifice his beloved son, the Most High found father and son obedient to the Divine command:
“And, when he (Ismail) was old enough to walk with him, he (Ibrahim) said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you. So, look, what you think?” He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, if Allah wills, you shall find me of the patient.’’ (37:101-102)
In Tafsir Usmani we find: “As Ibrahim was pressing the knife to Ismail’s throat, the sound of takbir “Allah is Great, Allah is Great,” was heard coming from heaven. This was the voice of Angel Gabriel, who in Arabic is Jibrail (may the peace of Allah be upon him and the Holy Messengers of Allah). Allah had created a ram as a substitute sacrifice for Ismail then, summoning Jibrail from paradise, commanded Jibrail to take the ram to Ibrahim. The angel appeared in the heavens, bearing that ram and proclaiming the Supreme Greatness of Allah. When Ibrahim heard the voice of Jibrail, he realized that his trial was over. In grateful response, he glorified and extolled his Rabb with the words: “There is no god but Allah, Allah is Greater [than anything whatsoever].” The venerable Ismail also realized that the mercy of the All-Compassionate and Beneficent Allah had arrived. Saying: “Allah is Greater, and to Allah belongs all praise,” as he joined in the glorification. Then Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, addressed His special friend, Ibrahim, with the following words:
“O Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the vision!’’ Verily, thus do We reward the doers of good. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial.” And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. And We left him among the later generations.” (37:103-108)
Due to the loving friendship between Allah and his servant the venerable Ibrahim, a ram was substituted in the place of the venerable Ismail. Yet, the “great sacrifice” was not the ram, but the grandson of the Holy Last Messenger, Imam Hussein (may Allah’s peace be upon them) who would live many generations after. Imam Hussain, of the noble lineage of Ismail through his blessed grandfather, substituted himself and his family members to save the spirit of Islam, which was, indeed, the greatest of sacrifices. Imam Hussein refused to give his pledge of loyalty to the person who had wrongfully assumed the role of caliph, an openly perverted man and sinful drunkard, Yazid, son of Muawiyah. If Imam Hussein had submitted, the people of the time would have joined him assuming the course of action to be correct, and it cannot be surmised from this to what levels morality would have sunk.
But Yazid, the accursed traitor of religion and peace, was intent upon securing the pledge of Imam Hussein, even if it was obtained by force of bloodshed. In the end, Imam Hussein and his entire family, save a few who were spared, were martyred in a most brutal fashion during the first century of Islam. The lessons learned from the tragedy of Karbala, the desolate area where the massacre took place, imparted significant wisdom. Sacrifice is not always done after receiving a command to do so. Imam Hussein wore the spirit of sacrifice upon his shoulders, and acted by the initiative of his inner character true to the legacy of the chiefs of all Muslims, his grandfather, the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and father, the venerable Ali, by sacrificing, without being asked or told.
The slave of the Almighty submits to the molding of his character into the spirit of selflessness, even if it be at the price of his life and possessions. This is the spirit of qurbani during Eid-ul-Adha, which brings one near to the pleasure of the Almighty.
Requirements of Qurbani
Qurbani is wajib, or compulsory, according to Imam Abu Hanifah upon every non-traveler in his town of residence who possesses 613.35 grams of silver, or its equivalent in money, personal ornaments, stock in trade, or any other form of wealth which is surplus to his/her basic needs. Each adult member of a family who possesses that much wealth must perform his or her own qurbani separately. It was reported that the Beloved of Allah, the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The first thing that we do on the day of the Eid is to perform the prayers. Then we go home and carry out our qurbani. Thus, whoever does those acts has conformed to our way. For those who slaughtered before it (the prayer of Eid ul Adha), then the meat slaughtered is for family members. It is not an act of qurbani.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
The animals used for qurbani must be free from any form of handicap such as being blind, sick, lame, or undernourished. They must be slaughtered by a Muslim in the appropriate humane manner, adhering to the Islamic principles. It is preferable that the meat from qurbani be divided in three equal parts: one for the home, one for relatives and friends, and one for the poor and needy. The meat from qurbani can be distributed to Muslims or non-Muslims. The Holy Companion, Ans, reported that the Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him) sacrificed, with his own hands, two white rams with black markings. He mentioned the name of Allah and recited takbir.
Upon performing qurbani, the Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him) would declare: “Verily I turn my face towards the One who created the heavens and the earth, as one upon the religion of Abraham, being upright, and I am not one of the polytheists. Verily my prayer, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. There is no partner with him and I am one of the Muslims. O Allah, it [the qurbani] is Thine and for Thee, from Muhammad and his Ummah. In the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest.” He then slaughtered the cattle.
Hazrat Zaid bin Arkam reports that the Companions of the Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him) asked him: “Oh Messenger of Allah, what is the sacrifice?” He said, “It is the way of your forefather Ibrahim.” They asked, “What (reward) is for us therein?” He replied: “There is a reward for every hair. ”
The Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, (peace be upon him) sacrificed his person and wealth in the service of others throughout his pristine, blessed life. During the ten years in which he lived in the holy city of Madinah, the Messenger of Allah performed qurbani in each of those years. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his noble family, and brethren, who are the Holy Messengers of God.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Magazine/ Culture | Tags: Dr. Jemille, Health, Losing Weight
Dr. Jemille: Obesity
Overview of a ‘Growing’ Problem
By Dr. Jemille A. Wasi
Islamic Post Staff Writer
A short while before embarking on my medical relief mission to Pakistan, I was training in a hospital where I made a startling discovery. During rounds, I walked past a scale and decided to weigh myself. I stood there wide-eyed as the numbers continued to climb, and was shocked when they finally stopped. For someone who had weighed around 150 lbs for the previous 18 years of my life—eating anything under the sun—I was surprised to see the final number on the scale read 186 lbs.
I reflected on the fact that over the period of a couple of years I had gained over 30 lbs. I attributed this gain to the fact that during medical training we were often forced to eat what was convenient. This inevitably led to unhealthy dietary choices and periods of inactivity.
As I look around our community, I see the issue of weight becoming more prevalent. The more disturbing fact is that the ages of affected individuals are getting younger every day. In order for this to change, I think it is important to understand the basics.
As you take food into your body, it is initially broken down into sugars, proteins, and fat. Whatever energy your body needs energy for all its various processes and activities, it uses the sugars first. If you take in more food than your body’s energy needs, then the sugars, proteins and fats that aren’t used are converted to fat and stored in your body’s energy storage units, commonly known as adipose, or fat, tissue. If, during your life, you continue to take in more food than you use on a daily basis, the amount of fat you have will increase.
One thing that may not be commonly understood is that every individual is born with a certain amount of fat storage “units” —let’s say 10 for example. Each one of these units can hold only so much fat; so as your fat content increases, your body has to “make” another unit to store the excess. The problem with this is that you can only increase the number of units; that is to say, you can go from 10 to 11 but you cannot go back down to 10 because once you have created that extra unit. It remains for life. When a person “loses” fat they only decrease the amount of fat molecules in each storage unit, but the amount of units still remain the same.
Another problem is that as the amount of storage compartments increase, they get squeezed closer together and the individual lipid molecules become tighter and therefore harder to get rid of.
Effects of weight gain
The problems with weight gain are not merely cosmetic. The higher your fat content, the greater the chances that you will develop increased blood cholesterol levels, leading to atherosclerosis. In addition, the more weight a person carries adds stress to joints and bones and also makes a person less able to tolerate exercise. This causes deconditioning (being “out of shape”), which in turn leads to less desire to exercise thus continuing a vicious cycle of inactivity.
Another effect is seen with the heart. As a person increases in size, the heart has to work harder to supply oxygen-rich blood to that extra fat tissue. This increased work load brings about an enlargement in heart size, with no real increase in strength. This can lead to heart attacks, and conditions like high blood pressure and heart failure.
Furthermore, overweight individuals are at an increased risk of developing Type II Diabetes, as the increase in adipose tissue leads to insulin resistance. In pediatric populations this is becoming more of an issue. The old term for Type II Diabetes had to be changed from “Adult Onset Diabetes” to “Non-Insulin Dependant Diabetes” as a result of the amount of children who now have this disease.
The last effect of note is that our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) –which is the rate that our bodies use energy when we are completely at rest—slows down as we gain weight.
Changing the trend
Over 65% of people in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This number has tremendously increased over the years from values of 13% in 1962 and 31% in 1994. In addition, the number of overweight children in America has tripled since 1980. This is mostly due to inactivity (read increased television/internet time) and a higher consumption of food.
Thus, to alter the current trend involves two important keys: making appropriate dietary choices, and exercising.
Most people recognize the word calories, and correlate this word to energy used, or burned, during exercise. However, despite the common misconception that people burn a lot of calories when they do exercise, each pound of fat is roughly 3500 calories. To put this into perspective, consider that the amount of calories burned for every mile a person walks is based on a calculation: (your weight x 2) divided by 3.5. So, for each mile a 125 pound person walks he or she only burns about 71 calories …71!
While exercising is important for weight loss, it is more important to decrease the amount of calories one takes in and this means making appropriate dietary choices.
Because many of us have children, we know that they are a major determinant in the foods we buy. Another issue is that many of us are on a limited budget and many of the foods that are considered healthy cost more money. Due to these two factors we tend to purchase food that is convenient and inexpensive. Unfortunately, most of the foods in this category are not conducive to losing weight. This is even worse for adults because of our lower BMR.
The key is to try to get low calorie foods –like fruits and vegetables, and avoid high calorie, processed foods –like cookies, chips, and sodas. Personally, I have found it helpful to change all of the beverages that I take with meals to water. Consider that if you were to drink a 12 oz soda with each meal, this alone would equal about 400 calories/day. In a period of a week that would almost be enough calories to equal 1 pound.
Although dietary measures are more important in weight loss, exercise still has its merits. Not only does physical activity help with weight reduction, it also assists an increase in BMR, and is beneficial to your heart because it makes it beat faster and stronger. It should be noted that you do not need to have a gym membership to exercise. You can do activities with your children: take walks, play ball or go bike riding. These things will give you all the exercise you need. On a daily basis one only needs about 20-30 minutes of activity to stay fit.
When I came home from Pakistan I weighed 157 lbs. Those 30 lbs that I had added on in medical school were gone! The reason for this was that we had to walk to many of the places we wanted to go and our diet was much improved, almost consisting of only fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Even after saying all this there is a much simpler way to stay in shape. Can you guess? It is called… following the Sunnah, the life pattern of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him! If you don’t eat to your fill, consume the appropriate amount of beverage, and walk your 40 steps after a meal, you may find that all the above-mentioned advice is unnecessary!
As always, only from Allah, the Most High and Glorified, can we be healed!
By Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writer
In the arena of politics, Americans have come to expect any manner and number of spectacles inspired and expedited by the desperation of political contenders, and their avid well-wishers, as they seek to slay the reputation, integrity, and good record of one another. Election 2008 being no exception, two citizens organizations have lodged official disapproval and detestation of the distribution by mail, and via a Sunday edition of at least 70 U.S. newspapers, of an inflammatory DVD purportedly to warn Americans of the dangerous threat of “radical Islamic elements” to the security of the United States. The film is entitled “Obsession, Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” and was distributed by a tax-exempt organization called the Clarion Fund.
Hate Hurts America (HHA), denounced the film with extensive research into the supporters of the production. HHA is “a nonpartisan diverse community coalition that brings together Americans of various faiths, races, and backgrounds in a unified stance against hate, incitement, community divisiveness, and intolerance – particularly against America’s minorities,” according to its website. “Although HHA is an advocate group for the Constitutional right of free speech, though biased or bigoted – they declare that “we also believe that while Americans should respect the right of bigots to free speech, we are under no obligation to accept, embrace, or promote their bigoted endeavors. In fact, we believe in asserting our own free speech toward exposing bigotry and challenging intolerance.”
With regards to “Obsession,” in particular, the group explains how the film “begins with a brief disclaimer that states: ‘It is important to remember that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror.’ However, the remainder of the film distorts facts and events” about Muslims to the degree where the intentions of the producers were called into question.
On the website ObessionWithHate.com, HHA published an expose′ and detailed rebuttal of the information contained in the above-mentioned DVD. “The HHA coalition believes that “As American citizens, we are alarmed by the massive distribution of this hate DVD, through the swing states” -key states whose votes are sought after by the presidential candidates. The distribution of the film was funded by The Clarion Fund, although HHA found the monetary sources of Clarion itself to be elusive. The group further states that the source of the widespread distribution, as well as the sponsoring individuals, or groups behind it, should be clearly known by all.
In its turn, the Council on American Islamic Relations filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commmission citing that –in addition to the exaggerated information contained in the DVD– the timing of the distribution of the anti-Islamic propaganda may have been purposely planned to coincide with the presidential election in order to influence public opinion against one of the candidates. In a statement to the press, the Council on American Islamic Relations’ executive director Nihad Awad declared, “American voters deserve to know whether they are targets of a multimillion-dollar campaign funded and directed by a foreign group seeking to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria as a way to influence the outcome of our presidential election.”
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Meg McLaughlin undertook an investigation in order to find the source of the DVD newspaper inserts, an estimated 28-million copies, which were broadly disbursed from around mid-September. Ms. McLaughlin’s state of publication, Florida, was one of at least 15 states inundated by the video, and was also carried by the St. Petersburg Times in Tampa. According to her article, “Senders of Islam movie ‘Obsession’ Tied to Jewish Charity.” the Clarion Fund, was also found to be connected by a number of links to the Israeli charity and public relations organ, Aish HaTorah. Some staff members and employee’s names are listed simultaneously in both the Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah. McLaughlin mentions that “Clarion’s address, according to Manhattan directory assistance, is the same address as Aish HaTorah International, which in turn is a fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah. The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International are also connected to the group called HonestReporting, which produced Obsession. HonestReporting’s 2006 tax return uses the same address.”
Ms. McLaughlin also found that “two of the three Clarion Fund directors at the time of its incorporation in November 2006 appeared as Aish employees on Aish Web sites at the same time. The third appeared on the Aish executive committee. A June 15, 2001, article in the Jerusalem Post stated that Aish HaTorah provided, at that time, $150,000 in seed money to create an organization called Media Watch International’ which merged with HonestReporting, the group that made the Obsession video, four years later.
Clarion’s point of view is being promulgated as ‘free speech’ in hopes that the DVD be categorized as a politically neutral piece. However, Ms. McLaughlin’s article relates the opinion of Marc Owens, a Washington tax attorney who has worked for 10 years in the Tax Exempt department at the IRS, and who surmised that if the agency finds a definite link between the DVD and the Aish organization, it will assess if the film is actually meant as “an inflammatory hate message instead of a charitable, educational message.” The answer found by the IRS will determine whether or not the groups will retain their tax-exempt status.
-Researcher Dalya A. Wadud contributed to this report.
Filed under: Business/Economy, December Volume 1 - 2008, Front Page News, International | Tags: Brad Sherman, G20, Havel, Kucinich, Paul Craig Roberts
By Muhammad Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer
President-elect Barack Obama made a rare pre-inaugural call in November for the support of Congress, when it reconvenes January 6, for a two-year economic stimulus program. The announcement reflects the seriousness of the situation, an “economic crisis of historic proportions,” in the words of the president-elect, and worse than previously believed. President-elect Obama has emphasized that aides, like New York Federal Reserve President, Timothy Geithner, who is now the treasury secretary designate, are to seek the consultation of congress for the passing of the bill so that, following the January 20 inauguration, his team can “hit the ground running” on the long road to repair the economy.
Although the team has been working closely with President Bush to ease the transition, the president-elect opted out of the November 15th G20 summit in Washington, D.C. The summit was expected to “discuss cooperative measures for responding to the global economic meltdown and ways to prevent future crises,” as stated by the AFP. The agenda was set primarily by leaders in the European Union.
Some believe the G20 summit, which included names like Brazil, South Korea and Indonesia, along with the United States and the usual European players, was in a rush to pile on more of the same fiscal policies that lay at the root of the current problem. In an interview with The Associated Press, Vaclav Havel, the former President of Czechoslovakia, emphasized leaders should pay more attention to the lessons of the current crisis before moving forward. “It’s a warning against the idea that we understand the world, that we know how everything works,” said Mr. Havel. “It’s a warning against the pride of economists who think they understand everything and have the whole world… mapped out.”
In the opinion of the former democratic leader of the eastern European nation, who was instrumental in toppling communism, in that country, in the late 1980’s, “the major problem is where modern civilization is going.”
He could be correct.
Western European leaders, headed by France and the United Kingdom, heralded a new world financial and monetary order just before the summit, one which would give more regulatory powers to the International Monetary Fund.
While the EU Observer reported the final conclusions of the Washington summit “came well short of delivering any construction of a new global financial architecture,” the summit did, however, agree to grant more powers to the International Monetary Fund, the global symbol of financial lending bound by “conditionalities,” or preconditional performance targets.
Before the summit, British prime minister, Gordon Brown, spoke of “very large and very radical changes.” According to Mr. Brown, the summit was set to address plans in which the bailouts of financial institutions –$2.3 trillion dollars in the case of the European Union– would simply be preliminary moves to “global action as sweeping as that which gave birth to the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF in the 1940s.”
Yet, critics state that the bailouts, even as a first step, hardly address the problem. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Treasury, said, “All it [the bailout] does is take troubled financial assets off the books of the banks and puts them on the books of the United States Treasury, that is [to say], puts them on the taxpayers’ books.”
While governments in Latin America have been criticized severely for nationalizing natural resource industries, that had been primarily in the hands of foreign investors, the European Union now owns majority shares of European banks, and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s purchase of $125 billion in banking assets means that it now owns 55% of the country’s banking assets.
Two of the most well known nationalizations of private entities are the buyout of primary lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as the country’s largest insurance company, American International Group (AIG).
Anthony Perez of the Epoch Times reported, “Despite growing criticism, U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson defended the U.S. bailout plan as ‘necessary.’”
“Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans—me included,” Secretary Paulson recently said. “Yet, the alternative of leaving businesses and consumers without access to financing is totally unacceptable.”
The EU has also faced an overwhelming amount of backlash from their efforts towards a new order, with EU leaders reportedly risking their political standing for the European bailouts.
Apparently the same goes for U.S. congressmen, whose approval rating was only 18% before the economic crisis, and by some estimates has now fallen to 10%.
“From a capitalistic standpoint,” Representative Dennis Kucinich told Fox News from Capitol Hill, “[the bailout] actually destroys the idea of a free market economy.”
A more palpable solution, said former Assistant Treasury Secretary Roberts, lies with mortgage defaults. “The only way to address the problem is to address it at the homeowner level,” the former assistant secretary to the Treasury said, “What they should have done is what they did in the 1930s during the Great Depression. They created a homeowners loan corporation. They refinanced all the mortgages and they saved the housing sector.”
Part of President-elect Obama’s stimulus package includes help for the millions of Americans who remain in jeopardy of losing their homes.
“We will review the implementation of this Administration’s financial program to ensure that our government’s efforts are achieving their central goal of stabilizing financial markets, while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance,” stated the president-elect in his first press conference after winning, by a landslide, on the premise of change.
–Shahida Rasheed and Abdul Hamid A. Aziz contributed to this report.
SPEAKING ON THE ECONOMY, What the critics said about the first bailout, as other rescue attempts ensue:
CONGRESSMAN DENNIS KUCINICH OF OHIO: “We are now facing the perfect financial storm. The elements are the deficit spending for the war … the lack of serious investment in our country and now $700 billion to Wall Street. We are being hollowed out.”
CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN, BRAD SHERMAN: “A few members [of Congress]were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no. That’s what I call fear mongering, unjustified, proven wrong.”
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY TO THE U.S. TREASURY: “All it [the bailout] does is take troubled financial assets off the books of the banks and puts them on the books of the United States Treasury, that is [to say], puts them on the taxpayers books.”
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, International, National | Tags: Ricardo Urbina, Tallahassee, Uighur, Uyghur
By Bashirah A. Malik
Islamic Post Staff Writer
In Tallahassee, Florida, Presbyterian Rev. Brant Copeland, Muslim Imam Naeem Harris, and Reformist Rabbi Jack Romberg stood side by side, united in their efforts to accommodate three of the 17 Uighur Muslims who had been accused of state terrorism in China, and held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Uighurs are seeking autonomy of the Xingjian province, formerly known as East Turkistan, which was occupied around 1755 by the Chinese. Although the majority of the people living in the province are Muslim, the Uighur struggle has been likened to that of Buddhist Tibet.
“We’re going to show the people of Tallahassee and Florida when people of faith come together for the community good what happens,’’ Salah Bakhashwin, a longtime capital resident who spread the word through the city’s 3,000-member Muslim community, told the Miami Herald.
But the hopes of religious leaders of settling 3 of the 17 men in Tallahassee, who had already been cleared for release from Guantanamo, were dashed in the Washington DC Circuit Court this autumn in a split 2-1 decision.
The panel sided with government lawyers who had argued against the men being released. The Justice Department attorneys, representing the executive branch, are preparing a full appeal to keep the men detained at Guantanamo.
A US Federal Judge had previously ordered that the group of Muslims held at the detention facility in Guantanamo since their capture in 2001 should be released into freedom in the United States due to the threat of imprisonment and torture if they were to be deported back to China.
But the men have been held for years in legal limbo at the prison camp in Guantánamo.
In what has been described as a landmark decision, United States District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said there was no evidence the detainees, who have been held at Guantanamo for nearly seven years, were “enemy combatants” or a security risk, and that the U.S. Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without cause. Their lawyers stated that the U.S. authorities have cleared the Uighers of suspicion of being terrorists, and that the men have been cleared for release since 2004.
The prosecution, led by Justice Department attorney John O’Quinn, however, has argued that Judge Urbina did not have the authority to order the Uighurs released into the United States, but that the men also could not be returned to China where they are still considered terrorists and may be tortured.
The Chinese government continues to demand that the Uighurs be placed in Chinese custody. It is well known that Beijing has waged a relentless campaign against many Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang, in far western China, who are seeking greater autonomy and independence for the region. “We hope the U.S. will take our position seriously and repatriate these persons to China sooner rather than later,” stated Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
Judge Urbina called the ongoing detention unlawful with a reminder that the U.S. constitution prohibits indefinite imprisonment without charges.
Lawyers for the detainees said Urbina’s ruling marks the first time a federal court has ordered the release of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay into the United States. An attorney for some of the prisoners’, Sabin Willett said, “We are thrilled. Justice has too long been delayed, but today we saw a great judge give a principled and just decision.” Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch said, “The government should not drag its feet, but should immediately release these men from their unlawful confinement at Guantanamo.”
In 2006 the United States allowed five Chinese Muslims released from Guantanamo to seek asylum in Albania. Thus far the U.S. has been unable to find a country willing to accept the remaining Uighurs.
Religious and community leaders had already found housing and work for three of the men in question. The community’s consensus to take in the Uighurs could have been, “an opportunity to show a lot of non-Muslims the real religion of Islam,” in the words of Imam Naeem Harris.
With the efforts shown thus far, it may still be.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Interfaith, International, World | Tags: Diplomacy, Propaganda, USAID
By Noora Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Over three hundred million dollars was awarded this fall to private public relations contractors to boost the image of America in Iraq using public diplomacy and polling as part of a new strategic communications initiative headed by the Department of Defense.
Public diplomacy is a combination of the international outreach efforts that had traditionally been undertaken by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the diplomatic endeavors of the State Department. But after 2003, when torture at Abu Ghraib was exposed, there have been calls by various government offices for a more consolidated effort to communicate the global democratic aims of the United States, to the Muslim world in particular.
USAID is undertaking training, education, and also policy development for the Defense Department’s new responsibilities via the Office of Military Affairs.
The definition of “public diplomacy” differs slightly, but significantly, from that of “psychological operations,” or PsyOps, which have been part of the military since World War II. Both are characterized by not crediting the content of the campaigns to the Pentagon and, as such, are prohibited for broadcast within the United States.
In 2006 the overall stated goal of U.S. public diplomacy efforts was stated as: “To understand, inform, engage, and influence the attitudes and behavior of global audiences in ways that support the United States’ strategic interests.”
In slight contrast, the Defense Department defined PsyOps in 2003 as: “Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.” Here, the emphasis was on conveying information and changing opinions, a notable difference from the acts of informing and engaging circa 2006.
However, the definition of propaganda before 2003 differs greatly. The following is from the Department of Defense in 1987: “The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.”
The most recent definition of public diplomacy –cited first– which is based on a higher level of understanding between the United States and the Islamic World, was quoted from a 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, “State Department Efforts to Engage Muslim Audiences Lack Certain Communication Elements and Face Significant Challenges.” The brief dealt with the difficulties facing the U.S. government’s communication of positive messages to the Muslim world, and gave examples of how public diplomacy has been attempted.
One of the projects discussed in the GAO report highlighted Muslims living in America to illustrate “the common values and beliefs shared by Muslims and Americans demonstrate that America is not at war with Islam, and stimulate dialogue between the United States and the Muslim world.”
The above-mentioned campaign, called the Shared Values Initiative, was launched in 2002. Although innovative, it was discontinued about the same time as the Abu Ghraib scandal, after some U.S. embassies abroad expressed reluctance to promote the advertisements, as they were viewed by media outlets in many countries as “propaganda, and unlikely to succeed as long as U.S. foreign policy remained unchanged.”
Other examples of public diplomacy include learning exchange programs and a Rapid Response Unit –established in the Bureau of Public Affairs– to produce a daily report on breaking world news from foreign news outlets to assist officials in espousing the U.S. position on those issues.
While nations with significant Muslim populations are being targeted as one grouping and inclusive culture spanning 58 nations in Europe, Africa, and Asia, specific advances are also being made to various countries.
The Arabic-language magazine, Hi, was started in July 2003 with an annual budget of $4.5 million to highlight American culture, values, and lifestyles. Hi, directed at Arab youth in the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to influence Arab youth to have a more positive perception of the United States, according to the GAO report.
The GAO states the other areas targeted for propaganda include Nigeria, whose U.S. embassy project, “Influencing International Public Opinion,” states intent to move the opinions of Northern Nigerians to mirror those of the rest of the Nigerian population, which is largely supportive of U.S. values and principles. In Pakistan, the project is called “Promoting Mutual Understanding,” and its aims are to enhance the image of the United States in that nation, and increase the depth of understanding among Pakistanis of how American society, culture, and values shape the objectives behind, and reasons for, U.S. policies towards Pakistan. The third is Egypt’s “Advancing American Values” program, which promotes “information activities, exchanges, and local information programming to bolster awareness among Egyptians of values shared with Americans and increase Egyptian public understanding of American society.”
On a broader level, a united effort is being sought by the GAO, and also some members of Congress, to coordinate the efforts of various offices to reach a “younger, broader, deeper” audience in the Muslim world. According to one senior official in Washington, D.C, “Younger,” denotes “the need to target even high school students who might be tomorrow’s opinion leaders;” “broader” implies “the need to reach beyond elites and target disadvantaged youth as well;” and “deeper” signifies the desire that all program participants have “as meaningful an experience as possible.”
“Experience also shows that to be effective, we must adopt a model of partnership, not paternalism,” concurred President G.W. Bush in a September speech made to the United Nations, in a show of support for the new diplomacy initiated under his administration.
Filed under: Business/Economy, December Volume 1 - 2008, Interfaith, International, World | Tags: Islamic Banking, Islamic Economics, Islamic Finance, Sharia
Usury-Free Sharia Compliance Proves a Blessing as Islamic Investing and Banking Thrives, Despite Tailspin of Interest-Based Systems
By Umm Abdul Malik
Islamic Post Staff Writer
While the Federal Reserve, U. S. Treasury, European Union, G-8 and scores of financial experts work tirelessly to organize, and re-organize a multi-billion dollar financial parachute for the plummeting interest-based financial system, Islamic investing and banking is proliferating by leaps and bounds, and even flourishing –so stated Credit Suisse senior banking associate, Fares Mourad, in a recent Reuters report. Credit Suisse of Switzerland, a prominent European wealth management institution, affirms that its Islamic banking business is growing by double digits. The crisis of the banking world has actually boosted Islamic financial commerce, luring investors who seek assets that are not affected (and are not predicted to be affected) by the havoc that has hit the rest of the financial world.
“If you invest in Islamic finance products, you tend not to be sensitive to developments (ups, downs, and crashes) in interest rates. I’ve seen asset managers in the United Kingdom who are saying they would like to include Islamic investments in their total asset allocation,” Mr. Mourad intimated to European Wealth Management correspondent, Douwe Miedema, even though investors keen on strict adherence to the Islamic laws regarding commerce and financial transactions do not have as broad a variety of financial instruments with which to maneuver as their interest-bearing counterparts in the general marketplace.
Islamic Economic Principles are Rooted in Revelation.
The framework for Islamic financial dealings is contained within the text of the Holy Qur’an, and the laws derived from the commands of the Almighty Creator that are contained in the sacred text. Many of the injunctions related to commerce and finance were introduced to the society of the Holy Last Messenger of Islam, Muhammad, may the peace of the Almighty be upon him, and were immediately implemented as guidelines for Islamic living, as they were supported by Divine sanction and authority.
The foremost pillar of Islamic finance, and the source of much of its allure, is the prohibition of charging or taking interest. Another regulation requires risk-sharing between the extender of venture capital and the entrepreneur.
In addition, Islamic investing dictates that businesses be legal in Islam, i.e., “Sharia-compliant:” in no way involved in production, sales, or trading of: pork or its by-products; alcoholic products; immoral or lewd products, literature, and media; interest-based banking and financial services like insurance.
An umbrella of social responsibility covers the Islamic financial system and those who conduct their business under its cover. To further illustrate, there is no profit for the investor if there are losses for the business. A key element to the current global financial disaster is businesses devoid of profit in a situation exacerbated by the charging of interest on principle.
The Dow Jones Islamic Index.
With the ranks of Muslim investors swelling rapidly as the Muslim population in the United States tops six million, and as overseas Muslim investors seek Sharia-compliant investment opportunities and financial products, the Dow Jones financial news corporation compiled the first American Shari-compliant index – companies whose business practices conform to Islamic standards.
In 1999, Dow Jones employed a board of six Sharia scholars who would review and screen companies. Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard were among the 1,800 companies out of a total of 5,000 that were included in the first Islamic index. There are now more than 60 Dow Jones Indexes that track and chart Sharia-compliant stocks and bonds.
Eric Meyer, Connecticut financial advisor with the investment fund Shariah Capital, advises that western financial institutions and banks need to have Shariah-compliant products or risk losing market share. Some investment firms retain a Shariah Board to review and determine whether a particular type of financial transaction complies with the Islamic law.
As more banks offer Muslim and other customers Islamic lending and investment options, more advisors trained in the intricate, and sometimes complex, rules that govern Islamic finance are in demand. Three prominent companies advise clients regarding Islamic investing: Saturna Capital, Azzad Asset Management, and Allied Asset Advisors.
The fundamentals of the economic system developed by the Muslim world over centuries has indeed provided the modern world unexpected guidance at a critical period in time, illustrating the Divine Wisdom in a way of conducting commerce with conscience and social responsibility.
Filed under: Business/Economy, December Volume 1 - 2008, International, World | Tags: oil
By Khalida Khaleel
Islamic Post Staff Writer
As oil prices plummet, and gloomy predictions prevail, some oil-producing countries are feeling the impact more than others after the rapid 3 month decrease in the price per barrel from $147 to $55 (at press time); while in some areas, the oil industry is being bailed out with tax dollars.
In one such instance, the Russian government pledged $50 billion to help refinance the foreign debt of oil and gas companies in the country in an attempt to curtail the effects of the global economic crisis upon its oil industry.
For its part, OPEC has decided to cut production slightly to maintain profits in the face of the apparent decrease in oil demand. It had been said that consumers worldwide are simply spending and traveling less, causing gas prices to plummet. Whether or not it is fair to the consumer, the intergovernmental oil monopoly, OPEC, “ Wants You to Pay More for Gas,” as was bluntly described in a Time Magazine headline from October .
As regards Venezuela, analysts have raised questions about the likelihood of the nation surviving the squeeze, which began, according to industry definitions, the moment the price of oil dropped below the $70 per barrel mark. Bloomberg’s headline predicted: “Chavez Ambitions in Venezuela May Fade With Oil Price;” although the Venezuelan president may yet disagree (See VENEZUELAN ECONOMY, C4, Col. 5)
But the outlook is not predicted to be gloomy for everyone.
Like their Russian counterparts, major oil companies in Britain and the United States are also being given a helping hand against financial disaster, in this case, by the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. In closed-door talks held in London, 34 petrol giants, including Shell, British Petroleum (BP), Exxon Mobil and Chevron, met with Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq’s Minister for Oil, to bid on contracts to help extract 115 billion barrel of proven oil. The bid is a landmark for the war-torn country, whose oil resources have not been sold as such since 2003.
According to the UK Telegraph, “Iraq was at the forefront of world-wide oil production until the Ba’athist regime nationalized the industry in the 1970s. Although Saddam Hussein made deals with French, Russian and Chinese oil companies in the 1990s, United Nations sanctions barred the country’s re-emergence as a leading source of energy supplies.”
The daily news outlet also quoted aides at the Park Lane meeting in London as saying, “the location was deliberately chosen to demonstrate that Iraq had shed its old pre-occupations about foreign powers dominating the industry, which generates ninety per cent of its annual income.”
In an article entitled, “Iraqis Have Money but Lack Know-How in Spending It,” the Associated Press claims “Iraq’s government has an unusual money problem as much of the world grapples with a credit crunch — it can’t spend its oil riches fast enough.”
This conclusion was reached as the result of a U.S. Government Accountability Office report which estimated Iraq could arrive at a $79 billion budget surplus by the end of the year considering, “oil revenues and unspent funds from previous budgets.”
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, International, World | Tags: Abdul Gayoom, Maldive Islands, Maldives, Mohamad Nasheed, Wahhabism
By Mubeen Khaleel
Islamic Post Staff Writer
While U.S. presidential candidates were engaging in the final rounds of fierce political debate before the elections, their counterparts in the Maldives, a conglomerate territory of more than one thousand small islands, had a larger topic added to the agenda: the correct manner of adhering to religion.
In a local editorial, columnist for the Maldives’ MiniVan News, Shawna Aminath, wrote that the government’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party accused the largest opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party of not setting a broad Islamic example; the MDP, in turn, accused President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of secularism. “The key topic of discussion by both parties, in the country’s first multi-party elections, has become baseless accusations over religion. However, the threat Islam is facing in the Maldives is not over the invasion of another religion. It is over the widening gap within our culture,” Ms. Aminath said.
The journalist went on to accuse the candidates in the elections of focusing on each other’s practice of Islam; whereas, she claimed, a united front was more important –regardless of party politics– against extremism which –having invaded the adherents of Islam and other religions- remains a politically and socially destructive force.
While religious discussion is a rarity in most political arenas, in the Republic of Maldives, things have been done differently, even when compared to most nations that also have a majority of Muslim citizens. In 1978, the Maldivian government was declared Islamic, as it forms laws based on the wide spectrum of the Islamic societal, economic, administrative and punitive laws, collectively and commonly known as Sharia law. Maldivian law is also complemented by a body of English common laws. There is a democratic parliament of representatives –the People’s Majlis– which gathers the consensus of the local authorities who administer the approximately 200 inhabited islands of the Maldives. There is also a Cabinet of Ministers, which is appointed by the president.
Maldives’ president of more than two decades, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, made strides to honor his promises of an Islamic system.
The outgoing president also achieved a more representative political system by legalizing political parties. This left an open door for a new political party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, and Mr. Gayoom’s ultimate defeat by MDP party leader, Mohamad Nasheed, the president-elect.
During the campaign, numerous messages had been recorded on the website of Mr. Nasheed, while still a member of the People’s Majlis, requesting him to give the extremism concern serious consideration as, according to Ms. Aminath’s report, there is a “genuine crisis of Islam in the Maldives.”
Some went so far as to suggest that “Wahhabis,” whose teachings form the foundation for extremist –and often ignorant– groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban, be outlawed.
Although marginalized, the ranks of the “haabees,” as the group is known in the Maldives, are augmenting in the islands of the republic. According to one commentator, the members promote their teachings not as Wahhabism but as “Unitarianism,” as the term Wahhabi is often considered a slur. Another reason is that the extremist group considers other Muslims to be polytheist if they show respect to holy people, visit the grave sites of the same, or even pay tribute to the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Wahhabism is named after Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who helped initiate Saudi rule. Since the Saudi kingdom began, the graves of virtually all the Holy Companions and the members of the Blessed Household of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him, have been destroyed, an act which has drawn immense criticism from the Muslim world.
With such a modified position on what is permissible or not, some adherents to the sect have also been known to actually disapprove of those who follow the accepted, codified law.
Sometimes disapproval leads to violence.
An attempt in January on the life of President Abdul Gayoom, by an assailant alleged to be a Wahhabi, was followed by the September bomb attack that left 12 tourists dead, and Maldivians outraged. Leaders in the Maldives, thereafter, transcended political contentions in order to focus attention on the spread of violence, and resultant danger to innocent victims (primarily Muslim). In the words of President-elect Mohamed Nasheed, “Maldivian politicians have shown a rare show of solidarity in standing united through these testing times. Despite differences of political thought or opinion, they have given out a very clear message that the Maldives cannot afford to have a [another] similar incident and that comprehensive and effective action must happen on all fronts to make sure a 9/29 (the date of the Sultan Park bombing) never repeats on Maldives soil.”
Maldivians are watching to see whether the new administration will hold true to this stance.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Interfaith, International, World | Tags: Muslims in France
By Umm Abdul Malik
Islamic Post Staff Writer
While Muslims in France struggle to defend many of their cultural rights –including how adherents may dress in public schools– and complex issues related to the French social order, there is a corner of this European nation where religious diversity is being embraced, and even supported by law. In Alsace-Moselle, an agriculturally, geologically, and industrially prosperous region in eastern France, the local government adheres to a pre- World War II law that not only provides subsidies to the religious groups that have been established there for decades, but also promotes religious education in public schools.
Alsace-Moselle was part of Germany during and after World War I, in 1905, when France passed laws separating “church and state.” The regional edict still applies. The Treaty of Concordat grants public funds for the building of structures for worship, and provides funding to cover compensation for clergy.
The predominant Jewish, Roman Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran denominations enjoyed the multi-faceted support of the government in the region exclusively until, in 1998, leaders of these four groups officially recognized the proliferating Muslim presence within the larger local population and, by written petition, insisted Muslims be afforded the same rights, privileges, and assistance as required by law. Despite this significant consensus, there was fierce political debate in Alsace-Moselle on how and to what degree the law should apply to the Muslims.
The then-current Mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, lost his position when the petition was presented in 1998. The new mayor restricted the building permit for the new mosque to include only the religious areas, and excluding a study center and auditorium, even refusing approval for a minaret.
Construction on the Grand Mosque did not begin until 2007. Mr. Ries was re-elected in March of 2008, with the help of strong Muslim support, proposing that the masjid be completed as soon as possible.
“Muslims today represent the second (largest) religion of France, as well as of Alsace-Moselle,” commented Mayor François Grosdidier of the town of Woippy, where one-third of its 15,000 inhabitants are Muslims, with the same proportion of Muslims in the regional population of 2.9 million. “I don’t think the current situation can last in our country, it’s not sustainable.” Mayor Grosdidier added that excluding Muslims and suppressing their ability to be open and practice their way of life openly will lead them to seek support from foreign governments, an unnecessary complication. In the opinion of some, this historically auspicious region, once known as Alsace-Lorraine, could serve as an example of what is possible to achieve in the quest to integrate Muslims into the meld of society in France, which has the largest population of Muslims (six to seven million) and Jews of any European nation. Although there are about 1,700 Muslim worship places in France, only 400 of them could be categorized as actual mosques, while the remainder are temporary places for prayer in gymnasiums, unused shops, or apartment house basements.
Mr. Fouad Douia, head of the consortium of Muslim communities in Alsace-Moselle, was appointed to oversee the construction of a “stately mosque” (Grand Mosque) in the renowned city of Strasbourg, on the Ill River.
In an interview with the International Herald Tribune, Mr. Douia remarked that still, Alsace-Moselle is a model for interfaith dialogue which is considerably stronger than in the rest of France. The consortium head commented that Muslims look forward to the opportunity for Islamic education for their school children, as well as the establishment of a theological faculty for the training of Muslim clergy. Mr. Douia, however, lamented the dichotomy of the modern societies’ refusal to expedite religious equality, among other standards of fairness. “There’s great hypocrisy in French politics; people don’t name things as they are.”
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, International, travel, World | Tags: IQOU, Pakistan Consulate, Racial Profiling
By Muhammad Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer
In the third week of November, staff and students of the International Quranic Open University (IQOU) received “unjust treatment” at the hands of the Pakistani Consulate General’s office in New York City.
Upon application, Islamic Post Senior Reporter, Khadijah Smith, Nuriyah Nisaa Brooks, staff writer and teacher; along with her assistant, Saminah Abdul Jalil, were denied visas of more than 30 days for their assignments.
On Monday, November 17, IQOU staff members experienced a “tremendous amount of difficulty” upon their visit to the Pakistani consulate where the correspondents were denied the 3 month visas. In what seemed a display of showmanship, the staff were then told to return the following day, with promises of a 45 day visa, which the consulate said would be issued “at the very least.” However, upon returning on Tuesday, only 30 day visas were issued.
IQOU staff and students remain awestruck at the way the diplomatic representatives of Pakistan rendered their thanks to the University. After having fostered decades of understanding and common ground between the United States and Pakistan, IQOU received shortened lengths of stay; whereas –according to the Pakistan Interior Division website– American correspondents normally receive the three month time period that had been requested by the IQOU division, the Islamic Post. On the other hand, tourists are allowed stays up to six months.
The deputy director insists that this is not the first incident in which IQOU staff and students were ill-treated at the consulate for no apparent reason. “This is ingratitude, the same ingratitude with which the University was treated in 2005 when we came to the consulate, supplies in hand, to help victims after the first earthquake,” IQOU Deputy Director, Khalifa Muhammad Hussain Abu Bakr told the Islamic Post. “What does it say about the diplomatic efforts of those on the receiving end to behave in this manner? It is unbecoming,” The American Muslim Medical Relief Team, which operates under the auspices of IQOU, sent doctors and nurses who left their families in 2005 to assist victims in Pakistan. The team rendered medical treatment, free of charge, to innumerable earthquake victims at the Ayub Medical Hospital Complex in Abbottabad. Working tirelessly, and without salary, team members became heroes of the day in Pakistan, and back home as well. The three men and five women dispatched to Abbottabad brought with them much needed medical supplies, food, army-type canvas tents, woolen blankets, sweaters, and other warm clothing for the thousands of men, women, and children who were left without homes, shelter, or a means to keep warm as cold temperatures swept the mountainous regions, which had been hardest hit. The supplies were distributed in Azad Kashmir and the Mansehra area. IQOU saved lives in areas from which other, perhaps more well-known, workers pulled out in despair regarding the devastating medical crisis and constant subsequent deaths. The American Muslims, clearly visible and in uniform, won over the hearts of patients and set an example for the local staff. Eid found them distributing sweets and juices to the patients.
For their part, IQOU staff and students, in the USA, launched diligent telethon fund-raisers in the United States and Canada; most even went door to door soliciting donations. Given the manner in which Pakistan is represented in the media, this was no easy task; yet, American and Canadian non-Muslims and Muslims gave generously, their hearts having been struck by the overwhelming human catastrophe which, as the weeks ensued, was becoming a humanitarian failure.
Staff members repeatedly asserted that the New York consulate should be able to differentiate between friend and foe, and insist they “would be in Balochistan right now helping the people,” but insufficient support is being lent by the consulate.
Clothing and other non-perishables were to be delivered by journalists of the Open University for the 20,000 displaced victims of October’s Balochistan earthquake. The Pakistani Embassy issued a general request for aid for Balochistan in the beginning of November; it is inconceivable that the consulate in New York, while subordinate to the embassy, would not be of the utmost assistance to the University staff in their quest to aid the people of Pakistan,
IQOU is already taking further steps to address the matter. The Honourable Saqib Rauf, Vice Consul General, is currently being contacted directly with the grievances of the University; if necessary the University intends to contact the Embassy directly to rectify the matter. -Aisha Abdallah contributed to this report.
The International Quranic Open University (IQOU) staff and students express their profound appreciation and thanks to Dr. Tariq Ali Shah, of the American Dental Professionals, for the rendering of services, free of charge, to the American Muslim ladies now visiting Pakistan. It is the heritage of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (may the peace of Allah be upon him and his family), which imparts such an Islamic spirit of selflessness and helping one’s brethren that has been so graciously displayed by Dr. Tariq Ali Shah to the American guests of his country.
As IQOU has observed, people worldwide are fleeing from imaan, that faith which is put into practice. This has therefore been a refreshing experience for the university, which sends its members to study abroad and learn the true culture of Islam.
Pakistan, which has hosted the descendants of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) for well over a thousand years, has been the choice destination of IQOU students for decades because of the love of the Holy Last Messenger in this part of the world who, along with his distinguished and most blessed family members (descendants, in this case), has ennobled the world with the true spirit of brotherhood, which leaves behind all other considerations. (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the King of Creation and upon all of his family.)
For this reason, the gratitude of the University cannot be fully expressed, even when counting the many people who have benefitted from the extended services of Dr. Tariq Ali Shah. May the doctor continue in his current noble example.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Interfaith, International | Tags: Israeli Settlers, Palestine Olive Grove
Settler violence continued to escalate in November after Israeli policemen dismantled an “illegal” outpost, subsequently coming under a hail of stones from inhabitants.
In ensuing settler riots, anger was taken out at Palestinian graves which were defaced with paint.
Tensions were triggered this autumn after an incident involving a Palestinian living in the occupied territory who, in violation of religious holiday rules, drove his car through a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in the city of Acre in October. Stones were pelted at the man, as he went to collect his daughter from relatives who lived in the Jewish area of town. Subsequent clashes lasted five days.
The unrest carried on into the beginning of the two month long olive season which also began in October in the West Bank city of Hebron. Reuters reported that 40 members of the group Rabbis for Human Rights would act as “human shields” if necessary, to protect Palestinian olive growers. Israeli police and soldiers have already been grappling, in Hebron, with settlers who “tried to drive off local Palestinians and international supporters of Palestinian rights in the West Bank,” Reuters said. “It’s unfortunate that some people filled with mistaken religious fervor are choosing to insult, be violent, and try to steal the olives,” said the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, Arik Ascherman.
Arab News reported the militants say they want a secure route from the settlement, through the olive grove, to a cave regarded as a Jewish holy site. About this matter, Rabbi Ascherman commented, “There are those who say all the land of Israel belongs only to the Jewish people.”
Outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert seems to concur with the Rabbi. “If we sit on another hilltop, or another hundred meters…is [this] what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”
Mr. Olmert also strongly denounced the recent settler provocations saying, “This is a group, that is not small, of… people who behave in a way that threatens proper law and governance…This is unacceptable and we cannot countenance it.”
“What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me,” Mr. Olmert began. “The time has come to say these things.”
But religious and political leaders are not the only ones denouncing the violence.The officer responsible for the entire West Bank, General Gadi Shamni, also expressed “harsh criticism” to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz for “extremist West Bank settlers.”
However, according to Gen. Shamni, the acts of violence are being encouraged by some members of the general public, settler leadership, and even rabbis.
A senior rabbi in the Gush Etzion settlements south of Jerusalem recently published a pamphlet in which he said Jews in the Peace Now organization deserved the death penalty. According to The National of Dubai, the religious leader denounced the peace activists as “worse than heretics and apostates.”
“In the past, only a few dozen individuals took part in such activity, but today that number has grown into the hundreds,” said Gen. Shamni, “That’s a very significant change. These hundreds are engaged in conspiratorial actions against Palestinians and the security forces. It is a very grave phenomenon.”
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, International, World | Tags: Editorial, Muslim Victims, Suicide Bomber, Tafkir, Terrorism, Wahhabism
By Khalida Khaleel
Islamic Post Staff Writer
The Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), has said:
“Verily, I fear about a man from you who will read the Qur’an so much that his face will become enlightened and will come to personify Islam.
“This will continue until Allah wishes, when these things will be taken away from him; as he will disregard them by putting them all behind him and attack his neighbor with the sword accusing him of polytheism (shirk).
The Holy Last Messenger, peace be upon him, was asked, ‘Which of the two was the mushrik (the one committing shirk), the attacker or the attacked?’ The Holy Last Messenger (may the peace of Allah be upon him) replied, ‘The attacker (the one accusing the other of shirk).’” *
An article appeared recently in the Oxford Journals entitled, “The Role of Religion in the Generation of Suicide Bombers,” in which author Dr. Sadik H. Kassim asserted, after thorough research, that although terrorist acts “suggest an inter-civilizational conflict between Islam and the West, the primary casualties of which are non-Muslim civilians,” Muslims have become the disproportionate victims of terrorism.
Between 1993 and 2003, according to a U.S. Senate hearing on terrorism, most of the victims of terrorist attacks over the last decade have been Muslims. They were killed by those who –having a dubious interpretation of Islam– accused their victims of being mushrik.
Over 2000 Muslims have died in the last year in attacks perpetrated by the misguided who believe that it is meritorious to kill their Muslim brethren.
Journalist, Mustafa Qadri, in his article, “The Taliban’s War Against Muslims,” interviewed a Taliban supporter. The man, a common rickshaw driver, claimed the people killed or injured by the Taliban “deserved their fate,” and that, “According to our faith, those who do not obey Islam are no longer Muslim; and it is lawful to kill them.”
History of an ideology.
A man named Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who lived in the mid 1700s in Saudi Arabia, was the first in modern times to proclaim the lives and property of mainstream Muslims lawful to take, and to condemn large groups of Muslims as polytheists. In the wake of the tyranny he propagated, which had no basis in the religion of Islam, the Ottoman empire was destroyed.
Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s ideology was not quite new, however. He was preceded in his thought by the Khawarijis (eng. Kharjites), 7th century rebel mutineers who believed, and behaved, much the same as their current day counterparts.
While the rickshaw driver refers to the Taliban as “holy warriors,” and “true Muslims,” authors Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey, in a research article published in The Washington Quarterly in 2006 entitled, “The Madrasa Scapegoat,” found that, out of the worst anti-Western terrorist acts committed between 1993 and 2004, only 11% of those found responsible had completed any sort of Islamic schooling required to embark upon the path of becoming an Islamic scholar.
Despite this fact, the image of such mutineers has been greatly enhanced via the large media houses who casually refer to Wahhabis, in particular, as: “puritanical,” “strict,” “ultra-orthodox,” “fundamentalist,” and “Sunni.”
Yet, it is well known that Ibn Abdul Wahhab, for whom this group is named, openly shunned the work of authentic Sunni scholars.
However, it is an unfortunate understatement to say that political movements often hide behind the cloak of religion.
Robert Pape in his book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Bombing, cataloged and analyzed every suicide attack committed between the years 1980 and 2003 and found that out of 315 attacks, religion was not the root cause of a single one. On the contrary, while the top three groups who instigated suicide bombings during the 23 year period followed a religion: the Tamil Tigers (Hindu- 69 attacks); Hezbollah (Shiite and Christian, also Atheist/Communist- 36); Al Qaeda (Wahhabi- 21); all of the suicide bombings were found to be politically, not religiously, motivated.
If there is a civilization clash, it is not between Islam and the West, but the friction between trying to make political extremism conform to religious teachings.
* Hafiz Imam Abu Yala (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) narrated this saying from the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (may the peace of Allah be upon him), in his Musnad, with the chain going back to the companion of Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him), Sayyedina Huzaifa (may Allah be pleased with him). The classification of this Hadith is Jayyid (having strong authenticity).
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Interfaith, National | Tags: Indigenous Patriotism
Yes, you can be Muslim, and American, and love being both. There is no separation.
The religion of Al Islam is growing at such a magnitude in America; and many have been questioned about their patriotism. I am an American through and through. I am the descendent of Native Americans and Africans who were enslaved in this great country, and later fought for their freedom to live peacefully in this country. So, to even consider making a distinction between being Muslim and American is an insult. I love my country, and my ancestors have helped build this country. I find it hard to believe that my religion, Al Islam, and my love for Allah and the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) would prevent me from loving my country.
The election campaign brought this question up time and time again; however, I think Colin Powell summed it up in his interview with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press. Gen. Powell responded to the question surrounding the religion of the now president-elect, Senator Barack Obama. “He’s always been a Christian. But really, the right answer is, ‘What if he is [Muslim]?’ Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no; that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”
My response when hearing this was: “Thank you, I am happy this has been said.”
This notion of questioning any American about their patriotism is wrong, regardless if they are Muslim, Christian, or any other religion. We are all American and proud to be! -Hanifah Begum, NC
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Front Page News, Interfaith, National | Tags: Blessings from Hardship
By Noora Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer
For a two week period this autumn, severe gasoline shortages gripped the Southeastern United States, leaving residents in some areas of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee struggling to get to work, and go about their daily tasks. The worst cases had drivers, who were close enough, pushing their cars up to gas pumps, while others left their cars abandoned on the side of the road.
With no major gasoline storage facility or refinery in the Southeastern region, Gulf Coast pipelines are depended upon to carry gas eastward where tankers can transport it to retailers. Those pipelines were not working to capacity due to damage from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
“The shortage was terrible,” said Hanifah Mustafa, of Charlotte, North Carolina, “People were unable to get to work, school, or appointments. There were numerous fights at gas stations, and lots of cars left on the side of the road. The lines for gas were two hours long.”
Yet, according to Mrs. Mustafa, the shortage also did a lot to bring Muslims and Christians closer together. “This gas shortage and the economic crisis has opened the eyes of the people, allowing them to see that Muslims are their friends, family, and neighbors, who are in the same boat,” said the mother of three.
Mrs. Mustafa’s older children, ages 12 and 7, did not experience fear in Charlotte as nerves frayed and tempers flared, but only wanted to “get to the Holy Khanqah” to pray for things to get better for all. The twelve year old referred to a place for prayer, where people of all faiths may beseech the Almighty with high expectations. The Holy Khanqah in South Carolina was built by the local Muslim community. “My kids only feel sorry for the people and want to know how we can help,” stated the young mother and author of a children’s book published by Zavia Books entitled Moral Stories For Muslim Children.
Some months later, gas availability is back to normal, but Charlotte is not. Many people have suffered a loss in income because they were unable to afford or obtain gas to get to work. Gas prices went up to $4.49 a gallon during the two week period of the crisis, but have since dropped down almost two dollars in some places.
Some companies offered little leniency to employees unable to find fuel, only encouraging their workers to carpool. “There has been so much firing lately it’s hard to tell if it has to do with the gas shortage,” added Mrs. Mustafa, full time homemaker who is also pursuing her second bachelor’s degree in accounting.
“I spoke to my neighbor, a 65 year old, who was attacked while just going to the gas station store, not even getting gas. She and many of the people I came in contact with blame the current economic policies for the malaise of difficulties,” commented Mrs. Mustafa, although the message from the mainstream media has long painted overseas difficulties to be the culprit.
“It’s amazing to see the change in attitude of the people. They are reaching out to me wherever I go: the library, supermarket, post office, you name it. I smile, and here they come!” she added. “Some say the (blame rests with the) Zionists; it depends on who you talk to. But the blame is never on the Muslims.”
When asked what local people are doing to remain calm amidst these trying economic difficulties, Mrs. Mustafa replied that the community is joining hands to assist those in need, and improve their daunting situation in whatever way they can.
“I recently met a few ladies who were out campaigning for the elections, and I had the opportunity to speak with them. It was wonderful. It seems that the people are waking up. They are out there trying to help one another, and make everyone aware that it’s not the Muslims who are responsible for all this. One of the ladies had a newborn that she named Barack Hussein, and I shared with her that my son’s name was Mubarik Hasan. They said so many people are taking on Muslim names and standing together for the good of our children and our future,” Hanifah Mustafa continued.
“One of the [campaigning] ladies who were speaking pointed to my oldest and said, “He is our future.”
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Front Page News, International, World | Tags: Opinion Polling
By Yasmin A. Atheem
Islamic Post Staff Writer
The American polling systems were vindicated in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, showing that pre-election estimates were accurate in not only predicting a win for President-elect Barack Obama, but also what the election could mean for America and the world.
The previously coined term ‘Bradley effect’ was not to be found –where European American voters provide data to pollsters indicating they will vote for an African American candidate, but neglect to lend their support in the voting booth. The term was coined after very strong poll results among European American voters turned into a loss at the voting booth for former mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, CA, an African American.
Not surprisingly, pollsters from more than half the world concurred with the choice of the American people, when they chimed in on the presidential race before the elections, offering a diverse population sample and proving certain sentiments are felt globally.
Research from GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, has shown that the world keenly followed the U.S. presidential elections with attention similar to American citizens. In fact, so closely were the candidates examined that an international consensus showed people as near as Mexico and Canada, and as far away as China and Russia agreeing with America’s next presidential choice.
The BBC World Service published the results of the poll on WorldPublicOpinion.org saying all 22 countries polled preferred President-elect Barack Obama to be elected instead of Republican rival John McCain. People around the world felt “if Barack Obama is elected president, America’s relations with the rest of the world are likely to get better. If John McCain is elected, the most common view in 19 countries is that relations will stay about the same as they are now,” according to the poll.
There are those who feel polls are of little value, like Harvard Crimson journalist, Christopher W. Snyder, who wrote in 2004 that what “polls give us is a way of feeling like we’re not alone in our opinions.”
However, since 1946 with the inception of the UN Security Council, the United States has wielded a great deal of international power as one of five permanent members on the Council who retain the right to vote and also to veto. This exclusivity makes the label “leader of the free world” more than a figurative term. With only five nations: China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States determining a great deal in the realm of global affairs, people of other countries are concerned about just how much the foreign policies of the new president will effect their lives.
The BBC poll gathered opinions from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and also the United States, with questions on the two major candidates. One of the questions posed asked: “For each of the following possible candidates, if they were elected President, do you think America’s relations with the rest of the world would become a lot better, somewhat better, stay about the same, become somewhat worse, or a lot worse?”
Results indicated: “Americans tend to share the predominant view expressed in other countries that an Obama presidency would improve US relations with the world, with 46 per cent taking that position, 19 per cent saying that relations would stay the same and 27 per cent saying they would get worse. Also similar to the rest of the world, the most common view (held by 41% of Americans) is that relations would remain the same under a McCain presidency, while 30 per cent of Americans think they would get better and 22 percent that they would get worse.
“In fifteen countries the dominant position was that, because Obama is an African-American, if he were to be elected it would fundamentally change their perception of the United States. Not surprisingly it would have the biggest impact on Kenyans (85%) and Nigerians (69%), but large numbers also say they would be impressed in Egypt (65%) and America’s neighbors/allies Mexico (60%), Australia(59%), and Canada (54%). In only two countries do majorities say that it would not fundamentally affect their view of America—Poland (59%) and Lebanon (51%), while a plurality take this position in Turkey (40%) and Russia (26%). In three others, views are divided on this question –Italy, Singapore, and Brazil.”
The polls of this presidential campaign have provided a sounding board where Americans and other citizens of the world have shown they are willing to stand behind a leader that supports peace and unity amongst European and African Americans, Christians and Muslims, the United States and the rest of the world. President-elect Obama’s win signals that the majority of Americans are ready to move towards reconciliation and away from compartmentalization and segregation, which aspirations appear, for now, to be global.
-Researcher Dalya A. Wadud contributed to this report.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Front Page News, International, World | Tags: Mossad, Yemen
A terrorist cell was apprehended in Yemen after a suicide attack on the U.S. embassy there. The Yemeni state-run news agency, Saba, reported the cell to have links with an Israeli intelligence agency. The report, quoting an unnamed source, said investigations and data retrieved from a computer seized from the cell, showed there was correspondence between the Islamic Jihad group’s deputy leader Bassam Abdullah Fadhel Al-Haidari and an Israeli intelligence agency. Saba quoted the source as saying that the correspondence between the two sides included a request from the Israeli side to implement terrorist attacks inside Yemen.
“Islamic Jihad” pointedly mentioned its affiliation with Al Qaeda after claiming responsibility for the September 17 U.S. embassy bombing:
“We, the Organization of Islamic Jihad, belonging to the Al-Qaeda network, repeat our demand of (Yemeni President) Ali Abdullah Saleh to free our detained brothers within 48 hours,” said a statement signed by self-proclaimed leader Abu Ghaith al-Yamani.
The cell included six members led by Emad Ali Saeed al-Rwoni, known as “Abu al-Gaith al-Miqdad al-Yamani.” It has sent several threatening letters targeting Arab and foreign embassies in Yemen such as embassies of Britain, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
From BBC News: “A terrorist cell was arrested and will be referred to the judicial authorities for its links with the Israeli intelligence services,” President Saleh told a gathering at Al-Mukalla University, in Hadramawt province.
“Details of the trial will be announced later. You will hear about what goes on in the proceedings,” he added.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said the Yemeni president’s statement was without foundation.
According to the Yemen Observer, the network was comprised of 40 people from different Arab nationalities spying for the Mossad (Israeli international intelligence), said sources from National and Political Security Units. The members of the espionage network entered Yemen on the premise of conducting business, tourism, and even for preaching in mosques. Saleh said that the suspected spies form an undercover terrorism cell hiding under a fake religious cloak. Members were arrested individually and found to be in possession of detailed maps for sensitive security sites, intelligence telecommunication units and advanced tracking devices.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Front Page News, National | Tags: Ahli Bait, obama, Syed
The Pakistani newspaper Nawai-e Waqt recently reported, as a result of extensive research, that President-elect Barack Hussein Obama, though a Christian, enjoys the highest rank in Islam, one not attainable even through his extensive community activism and multiculturalism. The daily publication established Kenyan Syed Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., the now deceased father of the President-elect of the United States, to be, by birthright, in the ranks of the descendants of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad –may Allah’s peace be upon him and his family for eternal times.
The title Syed, also spelled Sayyid, is generally used before the name of a descendant of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) and denotes the honor in which the family of the Holy Last Messenger, is held.
Being the son of a Syed, the President-elect himself is Syed. Syed Barack Hussein Obama, will do well to remember this, as his greatest honor in order to continue to make his mark in the tradition of those who, whether they are following Islam as good Muslims, or even adhering to the Ten Commandments as good Christians, are known by the characteristics of generosity, chivalry, and patience.
To illustrate the high regard for Syeds and Syedas (f.) amongst all true Muslims, a famous tradition of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, follows, in which the Beloved of the Most High (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) said: “I am leaving for you two precious and weighty symbols that if you adhere to both of them you shall not go astray after me. They are, the Book of Allah (Holy Qur’an), and my progeny. The Rahman (All Merciful Creator) has informed me that these two shall not separate from each other till they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise).”*
The fact that President-elect Syed Obama is Christian does not, however, remove the spirit of mercy which descends from the Most High Almighty Creator to the lineage of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), due to the love of the Almighty for His Messenger. Nor does it stop the spiritual inheritance from spreading through the family of a Syed, be they Muslims or non-Muslims. Even the mother of the President-elect, Syeda Stanley Ann Dunham, attained to this honor upon marriage with a Syed, regardless of either of their religious, or non-religious, affiliations; after her divorce, she lived for some years in Lahore, Pakistan, called the City of the Saints, and passed away in the United States shortly thereafter.
About his own faith, President-elect Syed Obama says: “When I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works, with that newfound faith, that [it] fortified my commitment to the work I was doing in the community, because it taught me that [although] I can sit in church and pray all I want, I won’t be fulfilling the Lord’s will unless I am doing the Lord’s work.”
As a correlation, it is an Islamic principle that imaan is something to be found within a person’s good actions and deeds, and that what lies at the core of a person’s belief system cannot be translated into English as mere “faith.”
According to the Islamic belief system, there is a tree of generosity in Paradise, the branches of which hang down into this world. Those who grab hold of that tree, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, will eventually be pulled up into that mercy.
It is therefore hoped that the President-elect, Syed Barack Obama, will utilize the mercy that has been extended to him. The recollection of how much he himself has been discriminated against by various elements throughout his honorable lifetime, should facilitate the continued use of his worldwide popular support in a way befitting the character of his birthright, and his own character, by administering justice to his fellow American citizens, without allowing racial or religious tensions to overshadow the essence of a Syed, for whom tolerance and mercy prevails.
*This famous and sound tradition was recorded in the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Tafsir ibn Kathir, and many other sources. A similar tradition regarding the descendants of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), has appeared in Sahih Muslim.
By Safiyah A. Khafidh
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Cuba recently announced the find of an offshore oil belt in the Gulf of Mexico estimated to hold resources of 20 billion barrels of oil. This amount of oil, on par with U.S. reserves, has the “potential for giant and super giant oil fields,” according to Rafael Tenreyro Perez, Cuba’s exploration manager at the state’s oil company Cubapetroleo, or Cupet. Contrary to this information is a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) which estimates that Cuba’s offshore oil fields contain no more than 9 billion barrels of oil. However, Christopher Schenk, leader of the USGS study, acknowledged that the US trade embargo against Cuba prevented the USGS from having access to Cuba’s figures. He also noted that the Cuban geologists were “really good,” and if they had Cuba’s numbers they would raise their estimates. Tenreyro explained that Cuba’s higher estimates are based on the availability of more and better data of the offshore ecology. “We have more data. I’m almost certain that if they ask for all the data we have, (their estimate) is going to grow considerably,” said Tenreyro. Cupets’ conclusions are based on comparisons to similar geological structures found in Mexico’s huge Cantarell oil field, in the Bay of Campeche. He further states that “All these geological elements indicate that we are talking about a new oil province, an oil zone that has not been drilled nor has it been touched.”
Cuba is currently producing only half of its needs, 60,000 barrels a day, all based onshore. Venezuela supplies the remainder under a barter agreement in which Cuba supplies doctors and sports instructors.
.Apparently, Cuba’s find has far reaching implications. It would place the island in the world’s top 20 oil producers. “It would change their whole equation. The government would have more money and no longer be dependent on foreign oil. It could join the club of oil exporting nations,” said Kirby Jones, founder of the U.S. -Cuba Trade Association. Kirby also drew attention to the affect this will potentially have on the 40 yr. old US embargo.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Ramadan, Trinidad
Interfaith in the Caribbean
By Umm Suleiman
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Many non Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago abstained from eating for part of the day, or drank water only or ate fruits for some days in honor of the holy month of Ramadan.
Numerous family members and peers in the work place skipped meals in an effort to show solidarity with Muslims.
Although Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, many Christians and God fearing people also attempt fasting during this time, but admit that the fast of the Muslim requires more self sacrifice than perhaps they can manage.
While it is only Allah, the Most High, who helps the Muslims to fast through some of these hot days on the two islands, where Muslims tally about 11% of the population, people of the Old and New Testaments used to fast in the same manner as the Muslims, from before sunrise to after sunset, in accordance with Divine command.
The population of the Caribbean island is predominantly Christian, and support for Muslims continued through to the celebration of Eid ul Fitr.
Eid is a public holiday and a national celebration in Trinidad and Tobago, and was declared for October 1st this year by President George Maxwell Richardson. As is customary the President was advised by representatives of the Muslim community based on the estimated date for citing the new moon.
Muslims have traditionally invited non Muslim family and friends to their homes to partake in sharing a meal on Eid day. As a result, Eid festivities have become part of the general culture. Non Muslims expect and look forward to being invited to eat roti and curried dishes and to drink sawien, a drink made from vermicelli, milk, raisins and spices.
Well wishers also give Eid cards and gifts to their Muslim brothers and sisters. It is not uncommon to have a relative request from the recipient a translation of the Arabic on a decorative plaque which they purchased as a gift. A person may receive their most expensive Eid gift from a non Muslim.
This year there were banners proclaiming the celebration of Eid in several public places. While an Eid banner is expected to be displayed on mosques, it was truly a wonderful sight to behold a large, fluttering sign displaying best wishes on the National Library.
Our Christian and non Muslim brothers and sisters who “fasted” this Ramadan and took the time to congratulate, and even celebrate, on the occasion of Eid ul Fitr 2008, brought an abundance of joy to the festivities of the fast-breaking this year.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Arawaks, Caribs, Trinidad
By Sabeerah Abdul- Majied
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Web logs from students of Caribbean Civilization a Foundations Course at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad W. I., ranged from disgust to hurt, after discovering that stories they have learned about “Caribs and Arawaks,” which two tribes are usually mentioned as being the original indigenous Caribbean peoples, are apparently untrue.
Most students have learned throughout their elementary and high school years that when Columbus “discovered” the Caribbean there were two tribes: the warlike “Caribs” and the peaceful “Arawaks.” These tribes were well established in the region prior to the arrival of the Spanish explorers, the most notable among them being Christopher Columbus, who stumbled upon the Caribbean islands and set about searching for gold for Spain.
Students had also been told that the Spaniards had to confront the “Caribs” who were said to be cannibals.
“People will laugh at you if you try to tell them that there were no Caribs,” Sharlene wrote in her blog. Another student was downright scared about the religious belief system he was taught. He wrote, “It is quite possible that their [i.e., Europeans] religion and teachings could be false? What religion did we have before they changed us?”
These are conflicting thoughts that students have to deal with as they gain new understandings about lies recorded in history books for over 500 years. Historians are revising the accounts sometimes with the aid of technology. For example archaeologists state that no evidence supports widespread and systematic cannibalism by indigenous peoples. They have found no scorched human bones or bones with knife or saw cuts or unnatural fractures widely scattered. Hence the Myth of Carib cannibalism has been exposed.
In fact the native peoples did not even call themselves Caribs or Arawaks. Those were names given to them by the Spaniards after they invaded in the 15th century. There were no passive Arawak tribes in the Greater Antilles either. In reality the “so called” passive Arawaks confronted the strange and terrifying European weapons with determination and courage. Several stories like that of chief Hatuey, who fought the Spanish and was later captured and burnt at the stake are now told. Native peoples were murdered, enslaved or they died from the diseases that resulted from contact with the European explorers who landed.
These new understandings inspire rewriting of the history of indigenous peoples, enslaved peoples, and indentured labourers. These “revisionist” writings seem to be part of a worldwide trend towards the revitalization of ancient cultures and practices. Among them are stories of indigenous peoples around the world who were massacred or wronged by invaders and then had historical lies written about them by their conquerors.
Indigenous peoples in the Americas want the world to know that their ancestors valued and respected the earth, and lived in traditional balance having respect for different peoples and creatures. They were not scalp-hunting “Wild Indians.” Also those who are yet uninformed need to know that many enslaved Africans were Muslims!
They were forcefully given new names and new identities by their captors.
These new understandings about world histories, peoples and cultural practices are gaining worldwide recognition as we race towards the last days. As more and more lies are exposed we need to understand the common roots that tie us all to one Almighty creator and unite. He made us different that we might know one another, not oppress each other or separate into fragmented groups. We need to discover the truth and act upon new knowledge simply to survive!
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Chavez, Venezuela
The strategies adopted by the Bolivarian government, in the last ten years, protect Venezuela, at the moment, from the world-wide financial crisis that has untied the United States and Europe.
Among Venezuela’s main strategies has been the consolidation of strategic alliances with Brazil, Russia, India and China, from which arose a common fund between China and Venezuela, valued at USD 6 billion, for projects aimed at reducing Venezuela’s dependence on oil exports.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a monthly report, however, advising Venezuelan economic authorities to revise government spending in 2009, as the 2008 budget was based on a much higher oil revenue than what is projected for next year with the rapid fall in oil prices.
Venezuela has, however, diversified its hydrocarbon exports to direct them to countries other than the United States, through initiatives like Petrocaribe and agreements with GAZ-PROM and Lukoil, of Russia.
Since a 2003, the adoption of changes to the Commission of Currency Administration (Cadivi), have preserved the value of the bolivar, avoiding speculative attacks to the currency, by assigning the currencies to the productive and high-priority sectors for the unfolding of the country and making optimal use of the savings of all Venezuelans.
The state has also been fortified with action of a different nature. In fiscal matters, the modernization of the customs system and the implementation of plans against duty evasion and contraband has improved collection of funds, which has allowed the treasury a further reduction in its dependency on oil exports.
The executive branch also took the decision, in 2005, to transfer most of its international reserves to the Bank of International Payments of Basel, Switzerland, having already feared the danger represented by depositing them in American institutions.
Thanks to these, and other, measures, the financial system of the country is good. -ABN
Se Considera la Economía Venezolana Buena
Las estrategias adoptadas por el Gobierno Bolivariano, en los últimos diez años, protegen actualmente a Venezuela de la crisis financiera mundial que ha desatado el modelo capitalista desde Estados Unidos y Europa.
Entre las principales acciones está la consolidación de alianzas estratégicas con Brasil, Rusia, India y China, unión de la que surgió el Fondo Pesado Estratégico China-Venezuela, conformado inicialmente con 6 mil millones de dólares en 2007. Además, el país ha diversificado sus exportaciones de hidrocarburos para dirigirlas hacia destinos distintos a los Estados Unidos, a través de iniciativas como Petrocaribe y acuerdos con GAZ-PROM y Lukoil, de Rusia.
La adopción de un control de cambios en 2003 así como el nacimiento de la Comisión de Administración de Divisas (Cadivi), han preservado el valor del bolívar, evitando ataques especulativos a la moneda, asignando las divisas a los sectores productivos y prioritarios para el desenvolvimiento del país y haciendo un uso óptimo del ahorro de todos los venezolanos.
El Estado se ha fortalecido con acciones de diferente índole. En materia fiscal está la modernización del sistema aduanero y la implementación de planes contra la evasión y el contrabando, dirigidos a crear una cultura tributaria y a mejorar la recaudación, lo que ha permitido que el Fisco reduzca cada vez más su dependencia de las exportaciones petroleras.
Del mismo modo, ha sido positiva la decisión del Ejecutivo de trasladar, en 2005, la mayor parte de sus reservas internacionales al Banco de Pagos Internacionales de Basilea, Suiza, por el peligro que representaba tenerlas depositadas en instituciones estadounidenses.
Asimismo, se estableció un nivel óptimo de Reservas Internacionales, con el propósito de destinar las excedentarias a la inversión social y productiva. De esta manera nace el Fondo de Desarrollo Nacional (Fonden), esquema destinado al fortalecimiento de la economía.
Un exitoso manejo de pasivos, como lo demuestra el retiro de bonos Brady con vencimientos a corto plazo; el desarrollo, en 2003, de una curva soberana de rendimiento; y la honra, en 2007, de los compromisos con el Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Mundial, junto a las medidas arriba mencionadas, permiten que hoy Venezuela pueda sentirse segura de los embates que sufre el capitalismo mundial con esta crisis financiera de inestimables consecuencias.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Dominican Republic
By Jerry Peña
Islamic Post Contributing Writer
& Muhammad Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer
The USS Kearsarge arrived outside of the Dominican Republic this fall on Mission Continuing Promise (CP) 2008 which, as reported by Navy News, is a “collaborative effort between the United States and partner militaries, non-governmental organizations and partner-nation support organizations to build strong partnerships that can be called upon in the event of a regional situation requiring cooperative solutions.”
Two Dominican doctors, appointed by the Dominican Republic Secretary of State to assist in organizing CP 2008 events in the Dominican Republic, were invited aboard the vessel and assisted the Kearsarge’s surgical team with hernia operations.
According to Navy News, Kearsarge’s mission in the region is to “conduct civil-military operations, including humanitarian and civic assistance as well as veterinary, medical, dental and civil engineering support to six partner nations and to send a strong message of United States compassion, support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean.”
The vessel is under the operational control of the U.S. 4th Fleet.
It has been some months since the Pentagon announced the re-establishment of the 4th Fleet, which had been dissolved in 1950.
Military leaders explain that they are to have under their responsibility more than 30 countries, covering 15.6 million square miles in adjacent waters of Central and South America, along with the Caribbean Sea and its 12 islands, Mexico and the European territories this side of the Atlantic.
Any 4th Fleet vessels can approach within a few miles of any nation in the region.
Northrop Grumman, whose president sits on the board of directors Chevron-Texaco, is one of the contractors for the fleet.
While the mission of the USS Kearsarge is diplomatic, the general mission of the Fleet is to watch ships, airplanes and submarines that traffic through the Caribbean, Central and South America with the purpose of undertaking, in conjunction with armed forces of other countries in the Americas, contingency tasks, cooperation and, if necessary, battle against narcoterrorism and other illicit activities.
Kearsarge was scheduled, after departure from the Dominican Republic, to continue with its mission in Trinidad and Tobago and then Guyana.
-The partial Spanish translation of this article is below.
Hace ya unos cuantos meses que se anuncio en el Pentágono sobre el restablecimiento de su IV Flota, disuelta en 1950. Su misión en estos tiempos será vigilar busques, aviones y submarinos que transiten por el Caribe, América Central y América del Sur con el fin de emprender, en conjunto con fuerzas armadas de otros países, tareas de contingencia, de cooperación y, si es necesario, de combate contra el narcoterrorismo y las actividades ilícitas.
Los propios jefes militares explican que tendrán bajo su responsabilidad a más de 30 países cubriendo 15,6 millones de millas cuadradas en las aguas adyacentes de Centro y Suramérica, el mar Caribe y sus 12 islas, México y los territorios europeos en este lado del Atlántico.
La principal constructora es la Northrop Grumman, cuyo actual presidente también forma parte de la Junta Directiva de la petrolera de Estados Unidos Chevron-Texaco.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Guyana is considering building a ‘firewall’ to cushion the crushing impact of the current world financial crisis and is seeking an urgent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Summit to craft a regional response, President Bharrat Jagdeo announced on Wednesday.
“This is going to spread like wildfire,” President Jagdeo said as he summoned a news conference following his trip to Europe, China and New York.
According to a Guyana Chronicle report, the President said that the international crisis was not limited to the financial markets, but would impact on the rest of the economy.
The Guyana leader, who is also an economist, said that the local banking system was “isolated from the impact because banks here were not investing heavily in the world markets reeling from the freefall.” He added that the banking system here remained sound and depositors’ funds should be safe.
He said also that insurance companies had assured him that they were also not affected and would be able to pay out policies to policy holders.
“The worry for developing countries like Guyana is that major international banks have frozen credit, investors that look to these to raise funds may not be able to pursue their schemes,” Guyana’s president told The Chronicle. “These include the Russian giant bauxite company RUSAL and the firms considering investing in the major hydro-power in the hinterland.”
He added, “Once credit dries up it affects everything else.”
The Guyana leader said that investment inflows and remittances from Guyanese abroad may also be reduced because of the crisis that could lead to massive layoffs in the United States and other developed countries.
Resulting falling world market prices for Guyana’s main export commodities, including wood products were an additional concern, he added.
He told newsmen that he had asked CARICOM Chairman and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minster, Baldwin Spencer to convene a special summit of the grouping’s leaders to discuss the implications and responses. -Caribbean Net News
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Dominican Republic
By Noora Ahmad
& Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writers
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported recently that harvests in Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed by 40 percent what is needed for the people of the region.
The Dominican Republic, however, wishes to compete with larger grain-exporting countries like Brazil and Argentina in becoming the breadbasket of the region.
The focus for the small nation, which shares half of what used to be known as the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is on a variety of food items, instead of the overproduction of one or two main cash crops which has a tendency to destroy the soil and create an export tunnel, while the general populace remains without basic food items.
Currently, the Spanish-speaking island grows 85% of its own food. This is remarkable in an era when most Caribbean countries, and even nations in South America, must import food to meet the local demands. Dominicans grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and other foods; its people are not suffering the anguish of food shortages. With sugarcane being its most important cash crop, along with rice, coffee, corn, and tomatoes, the island’s farms also mass-produce sorghum, plantain, red and black beans, fragrant cilantro, onions, and garlic, along with cassava and sweet potatoes, and an extensive array of fruits such as passion fruit, bananas, tamarind, guava, and coconuts.
While other islands have allowed their markets to be flooded with food items that are less expensive than local production as part of free trade agreements, the Dominican Republic imports mainly to satisfy those of its nationals who, having lived in the United States or Europe, had become accustomed to northern brand names.
It is the local industry, however, that supplies the numerous tourism venues with the majority of its consumption demands, creating a robust commercial flow within the country.
In terms of exports, the Dominican Republic has developed firm trade partners worldwide, with the United States, from which 75 percent of its export business is derived, and markets in Canada, Japan, and Western Europe where manufactured clothing, medical devices, nickel, sugar, coffee, cacao, and tobacco are traded.
The republic’s president, Leonel Fernandez, has turned the nation’s resources and attention toward increased food production beyond its current state by means of decreased production costs, and proliferation of modern technical expertise in growing methods and irrigation throughout the country. The government announced that it is offering farmers many incentives, including land for lease specifically for food production. One example of its bio-technical progress is the development of a fertilizer made from sugarcane that would drastically cut the escalating cost of (and dependence upon) petroleum-based fertilizers.
Dominican Republic’s prosperity has enabled it to be of assistance to its neighbors and even more distant countries that were seized by the waves of violent storms of the past year. Shipments of food, building materials, and other supplies reached Cuba in the wake of hurricanes that ravaged the island, causing loss of lives, crops, and shelter for its citizens. With much resolve, President Fernandez is vigorously leading the Dominican Republic towards an amplified role in commerce, economic development, and international fellowship.
By Abdul Qadir A. Ghani
Islamic Post Staff Writer
As the American stock market points slide rapidly, global exchanges are largely following suit, Latin America being no exception.
However, from the entire region, Mexico is taking the biggest blow. Due to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the Mexican economy is closely interlinked with that of the rest of the northern continent, but especially that of the United States.
Mexico exports 90 percent of its goods to the United States.
Interpress Service News reported “unemployment is up” in Mexico while “companies have put their plans on ice, the government has stopped putting out tenders, remittances from migrants are down, and exports have shrunk.”
“I understand the government has to keep calm and show optimism, but let us not be naïve. Mexico is heavily dependent on the U.S. economy, more so than any other Latin American country,” Ángel Vega, a university professor and business consultant, told IPS.
“Mexico will certainly not face a crisis like the 1994-1995 debacle [when the Mexican banking system suffered a collapse], but times are difficult, and will carry on that way as long as the problems continue in the United States,” said Mr. Vega.
As nervous investors began pulling money out of emerging markets, consumers in the entire region have felt the pain in the form of rising prices of food and other commodities.
Subsequent increases in the cost of living in Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries in particular, has become acute.
The ripple effects in the region as a whole have caused political and business leaders to re-examine their economic standing, while some countries, according to the International Herald Tribune, have built up stabilization funds to aid them against the Wall Street turmoil.
Over the past decade, there has been growing resentment for U.S. economic policies in the region, which has resulted in a mass effort to reduce dependence on the U.S. economy, as well as from global lending institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. As elaborated in the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman, foreign investment is largely to blame for policies that have excluded South American nations from profiting from their own national resources, thus contributing to an aftermath of poverty, civil strife, and international debt.
Ecuador, for example, had benefitted from an influx of U.S. dollars since its government stopped using local currency in 2000, in an effort to halt inflation. The “dollarization” that took place is said to have opened the door to greater business and investment opportunities, thereby fostering stability to Ecuador’s economy. However, VOA news reported that the dollar economy means Ecuador’s Central Bank has few tools to protect itself from a widening crisis. Pablo Davalos, economist at the Catholic University of Ecuador says whatever problems exist in the U.S. economy affect Ecuador directly.
Argentine President Cristina Fernández said, “We are seeing how that first world –once portrayed as the goal that we had to reach– is bursting like a bubble.” She continued, “South America was told that the market solves everything, but now we have the strongest state intervention since the point when the U.S. told us that the state was not necessary.”
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told Brazilian reporters that “The world will never be the same after this crisis…..A new world has to emerge, and it’s a multi-polar world.”
However, a new world may still be a lofty ideal for the region, which is still dependent upon foreigners due to long-standing trade agreements.
Ricardo Sanguino, the director of the finance committee in Venezuela’s national assembly stated, “The crisis affects us because we’re not a completely closed economy, but the impact won’t be disastrous.”
While oil prices dropped to $55 a barrel at print time, as a result of decreased consumption as the crisis wracks its way through the world, the Venezuelan economy did fine when the rate was the same in 2006. With the central bank’s $39 billion in reserves, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he has enough resources and even other assets to ride out the storm. The rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, confirmed recently that, in spite of an inflation buildup, the outlook in Venezuela remains stable.
Yet, Venezuela is a global trader and the fallout of the economic crisis is stretching farther than the Americas. While the U.S. economic crisis has been compared to that of era of the Great Depression in the United States, during the 1930’s, predictions of a global Depression are also in the wind.
“It is not by chance that what began as initiatives by Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia or Argentina, have been taken up by the vast majority and made concrete in the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bank of the South, the Great National companies in the energy sphere, and others that are currently serving as a support to member countries,” reported the Cuban news outlet Granma International.
Latin America still entertains hopes for a regional economic trading system of their own, one that would be more impervious to global trends.