June Vol. 1, 2009
By Subhana A. Rahim
While recession woes and the economic crisis in the United States are at their greatest peak since the Great Depression, the need to find the source of America’s financial catastrophe and create preventative measures have become a necessity. The Senate responded to this need recently by adopting the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (FERA). This Act, which was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), broadens the scope by which the government can investigate and prosecute financial institutions in the mortgage lending business. Previous statutes generally impose sentences and fines for infractions relating to conventional banks and financial institutions. This most recent legislation widens the range of financial institutions that are affected, by specifically including mortgage lending companies. It also imposes stiffer penalties and fines for mail and wire fraud associated with financial institutions. One component of the act calls for a bipartisan Financial Markets Commission, whose mission will be to examine the economic crisis from both international and domestic aspectsand will have full subpoena powers as well.
While proponents for this endeavor claim that this well- honed legislation leaves no stone unturned in terms of prosecution, critics of this Act argue that portions of FERA are redundant, overreaching and highly unnecessary as there are laws that are already in place that address the specific infractions mentioned in the amendments. For example, the verbiage regarding “bribery” and “false statements” are already potentially punishable by hefty fines and extended jail terms of up to $1 million and 30 years respectively. Detractors are also concerned with the high costs that the government will incur for holding lengthy commissions thereby eating away at taxpayers’ money. The House of Representatives’ legislation is expected to mimic that of the Senate’s regarding the establishment of the commission.
June Vol. 1, 2009
Muslims of the Americas Representatives Relocate to the Frontier State; Welcomed with Open Arms and Friendship
By A. Abdul Qadir Qadri
Shuaib and Malika Ahmed recently departed to a new frontier in the Alaskan tundra to establish an independent, self-sufficient, purely Islamic village. They reported their first day in Alaska as being filled with blessings and guidance. The family’s intentions are to further the mission to unite Muslims and Christians on their similar values.
Mr. Ahmed reported making contacts immediately upon arrival at the airport, as the cab driver was a Muslim from Macedonia, in Eastern Europe. “Right away, common ground was established,” said Mr. Ahmed. “We were able to tell him of the support the International Quranic Open University gave to the Bosnian Ambassador to the United Nations, Muhamed Sacirbey, during the 1990s. This was the first person we met and he enjoyed hearing about this.” Bosnia and Madedonia are both Balkan nations.
Two very warm and welcoming receptionists met Mr. and Mrs. Ahmed at the hotel; as the couple introduced themselves, they gave each a copy of the Islamic Post as a token of appreciation. Shuaib Ahmed mentioned to the young lady that he and his wife were looking for a Church to attend Bible study class as part of their interfaith studies and efforts to build bridges between adherents of the two faiths, Islam and Christianity. One of the receptionists invited the Muslim family to her church without hesitation: the Antioch Church of God in Christ.
At the Bible study, they were each very well received. The Bible study related to the Honorable Messenger Jesus, peace be upon him, and his compassion for poor, the sick, and the suffering. The couple participated in the lesson and their input was appreciated throughout. After the study session, the group engaged in a warm conversation explaining that there is no reason for dissension, nor any segregating factor between Al Islam and Christianity. The Church’s Pastor, James Willis, expressed joy and a spirit of cooperation at the Muslim family’s sincere efforts for peace and unity.
Shuaib and Malika Ahmed were also fortunate to find an apartment quickly. As they explained their purpose for relocating to Anchorage, the leaseholders became overwhelmed with excitement and inspiration, and invited them to attend an election rally for Mr. Eric Croft, who is one of the upcoming candidates for Mayor of Anchorage. The couple attended the election rally with their new friends and neighbors who were excited to have them as part of the gathering. Malika and Shuaib Ahmed then met personally with Mr. Croft. The aspiring mayor was impressed by their presence and enthusiasm. In his speech, he expressed the desire to combat forces which keep people apart, such as prejudice and racism. “He seemed to be very sincere about making life better for all people,” said Mr. Ahmed.
Mr. and Mrs. Ahmed later contacted another church, which extended an open invitation for participation in their activities.
Having found employment opportunities, the couple will be continuing their work towards developing and improving their new local community, God-willing, and will be reporting to keep Islamic Post readers updated.
The Vice Chancellor of the International Quranic Open University, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani Hashmi, initiated the new project for the purposes of cultivating understanding of Islam and furthering interfaith dialog in what is known as the ‘Last Frontier State.’.
June Vol. 1, 2009
By Yasmin A. Atheem
The State of Hawaii passed a resolution on May 6 marking September 24, 2009 as Islam Day. The resolution, known as HCR100, passed with overwhelming support in a 22-3 vote. The small island state, home to over 3,000 Muslims, passed the resolution in which it states the island will “recognize the rich religious, scientific, cultural, and artistic contributions” of Islam and the Islamic world.
Senator Will Espero of Hawaii told Fox News his supporting thoughts about the new resolution: “We are a state of tolerance. We understand that people have different beliefs. We may not all agree on every single item and issue out there, but to say and highlight the negativity of the Islamic people is an insult to the majority [of believers] who are good, law-abiding citizens of the world.”
The three declining votes included two Republicans who disagree with the declarations set forth in the resolution, and one Democrat who opposed on the grounds of separation of church and state.
Hakim Ouansafi, president of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Star Bulletin, “The legislators have done in one resolution more to plant seeds of understanding than anyone could dream.”
The “Islam Day” bill now moves to Hawaii governor Linda Lingle, for signing.
The following is the House Concurrent Resolution 100 (HCR100) in it’s entirety:
PROCLAIMING SEPTEMBER 24, 2009, AS ISLAM DAY:
WHEREAS, Hawaii is known for the wealth of its cultural and religious diversity and the harmony with which people of many cultures and religions live together; and WHEREAS, Muslims constitute an ethnically diverse part of Hawaii’s cultural fabric, with around 3,000 practicing members; and
WHEREAS, the Prophet Mohammad [peace be upon him] left his house to migrate to Madinah and reached Quba in the vicinity of Madinah on the 12th day of Rabi ul-Awwal according to the lunar calendar, or September 24th according to the Gregorian calendar, thereby marking the birth of Islam; and
WHEREAS, Islam, a religion with a long and noble history, is the second largest religion in the world, with over one billion followers spread across every continent, and including members of many nations and cultures; and
WHEREAS, the Islamic world preserved and made original contributions to works of science and philosophy during the Middle Ages when these disciplines were threatened by bigotry and prejudice in other parts of the world; and
WHEREAS, Islamic artists, scientists, and philosophers have a rich history of contribution to world literature and our collective scientific understanding; and
WHEREAS, the Islamic faith shares common teachings found in the texts of both Christianity and Judaism, whose followers are respected and considered “People of the Book;” and
WHEREAS, Islamic doctrine encourages generosity in its adherents, maintaining that those who possess much have a responsibility to care for those in need; and
WHEREAS, Islam, along with its monotheistic counterparts, holds that peace is a divine quality and necessary for collective human happiness; and
WHEREAS, Islam strives for a world-wide community which, in the words of one Islamic poet-philosopher, “does not recognize the superficial differences of race, or history, or nationality”; and
WHEREAS, the United States and countries of the Islamic world hold in common many beliefs and values including concepts of world community and mutual responsibility; and
WHEREAS, international understanding and peace, as well as understanding and peace in our local communities, are strengthened by free and open communications among everyone representing various cultural and religious traditions; and
WHEREAS, the 96th United States Congress officially recognized the noble qualities of Islam in a concurrent resolution on October 15, 1979 (SCR 43), honoring the religion’s 14th centennial; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Twenty-fifth Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2009, the Senate concurring, that September 24, 2009, shall be known as “Islam Day” to recognize the rich religious, scientific, cultural, and artistic contributions Islam and the Islamic world have made since their founding; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to Hawaii’s congressional delegation, the Governor, and the Board of the Muslim Association of Hawaii.
June Vol. 1, 2009
By Jameelah A. Aziz
The Constitution of the United States was developed by our founding fathers to ensure equality for all, indifferent to race, gender, age or religion. In the first amendment of the US Constitution it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. However, in certain instances it seems as if the rights of minors are not always equal to that of adults and therefore can, and have, been suppressed. This phenomena is seen at times within the public school system, where it can be said that students’ constitutional rights are being violated across the country.
This practice has been recently observed in the case of ten year old Adam Awwad, a Muslim student at the Albert Payson Terhune Elementary School in Wayne, NJ, who went through difficulty when looking for a place to perform his prayers which, in Islam, are made five times daily on a fixed, mandatory schedule, including during work or school times. For quite some time, Adam’s mother, Rola Awwad, had been seeking an appropriate environment in school for her son to pray. To accommodate Rola’s request, the Wayne School District offered Adam the time to pray outside at recess or inside the classroom while his classmates were there. Mrs Awwad found this arrangement to be “unacceptable” for her son. She wanted a quiet and clean place for her child to pray. The elementary school showed concern about the safety of Adam if he were to be left alone and unattended.
According to the school’s website, their mission is to “create independent thinkers and social problem solvers who are respectful of themselves and others.”
Muslim advocates were attracted to the situation at the school and made suggestions to the family of bringing their issue to the state for resolution.
Meanwhile, after concerns that other students would make fun of him, Adam took it upon himself to pray during lunchtime in the back of the classroom while the other students played games. Now he is joined by four other Muslim classmates. Mrs Rola Awwad’s seven year old daughter, Amana, also has similar arrangements in her second grade classroom.
According to North Jersey News, Mrs Awwad said the Council on American-Islamic Relations had considered bringing the issue before the state Board of Education. But Awwad said she wants to wait and see if the current arrangement continues to work for her children.
Muslims aren’t the only ones having difficulty exercising their religious rights in school, Christians are as well. In 2007, The Christian Post reported that twelve Christian students were suspended for holding a morning prayer meeting at the cafeteria of Heritage High School in Vancouver, Washington. The suspensions were later retracted. Also in 2007, two students of the College of Alameda in California were threatened with suspension because they were praying on campus with an instructor. Bay Area News reported that Kandy Kyriacou and Ojoma Omaga- were found praying with their ailing teacher. The two students are currently suing Peralta Community College District for violation of their civil rights under the premise that school administration and teachers are not only responsible to educate and provide a safe learning environment, but also must respect student’s individual rights.
June Vol. 1, 2009
By Jannah A. Malik
Recently the House passed a bill for the purpose of modernizing, renovating, and repairing public school facilities. The bill, which encourages the creation of clean and healthy environments for schoolchildren, would also promote energy conservation, while at the same time producing thousands of jobs. Passing 275 to 155, the bill will now go to the Senate. If approved it would allot a starting amount of $6.4 billion within the first year and similar amounts throughout the next five years.
The bill states that the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, shall work with recipients of funds under this Act to promote appropriate opportunities for participants in a YouthBuild program, as well as using existing Job Corps members and individuals enrolled in a junior or community college. The text of the bill cites the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 as justification to offer “employment experience on modernization, renovation, repair, and construction projects” funded under the bill.
A separate $600 million would be approved under the act within a six year period for public schools in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi that were damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
By the year 2015, 100% of funds available for green building projects would have to meet ‘green standards’ for energy sources as well as construction materials. Amongst the companies that provide the necessary materials according to these standards or guidelines are: EnergyStar, Green Globes, and the Leadership and Environmental Design (Leed) Green building rating system.
Supporters of the bill spoke about the pressing need for funds for repairs in schools. Rep. John Hall (D-NY) stated: “America’s aging schools are in dire need of assistance. I am a former trustee and school board president. I have seen it. Buildings are crumbling while school districts are having trouble paying their energy bills. This bill would help school districts invest in repairs, construction and green modernization without passing the burden on to local taxpayers who in New York, I know, can’t afford any more property tax.”
In opposition some expressed great concern over the cost of the bill. “No one is going to argue in favor of a less-than-perfect physical structure for students,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) “But what I believe we need to argue is how do you pay for that. And again, I believe very strongly that we, as a federal government, have reached way too far into so many different areas.”
Allowing for oversight, however, the bill states in its text that: “Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a study to determine, and report to the Congress on, the extent and types of projects in keeping with the uses of funds authorized under this Act being undertaken in schools around the United States, the geographic distribution of green, high-performing schools in the United States, including by urban, suburban, and rural areas, and the relative access to such schools of the demographic groups described in section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.”
Objecting to the cost of the new school construction plan, former President George W. Bush threatened to veto the bill last year. Similar legislation was also not passed by the Senate. The bill’s sponsors, however, are more hopeful of its enactment due to President Barack Obama’s making school improvement projects one of his many priorities.
June Vol. 1, 2009
By Gregory Jones
Ann Wright, a retired United States Army colonel and retired official of the U.S. State Department, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War, recently spoke at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, at an event co-sponsored by Alaskans for Peace and Justice, and Alaskans for Palestine. The title of the program was “Heart to Heart Conversations: Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran.” Ret. Colonel Wright also made available her book, which she coauthored with Susan Dixon, entitled, Dissent: Voices of Conscience – Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War in Iraq.
Ret. Col. Ann Wright encouraged the audience to speak with their elected officials about the injustices perpetrated by corrupt government officials. She also called for a stop to the unconditional support which the US seems to give Israel.
Having served 13 years active duty in the US Army and 16 years in the Army Reserve, Ms Wright then served as a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Somalia, Grenada, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Micronesia, and Mongolia. However, Ret. Col. Ann Wright is most widely recognized for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the Bush Administration 2003 invasion of Iraq.
During the past 6 years, Wright has been an influential spokesperson for the anti-war movement. “I knew that the invasion and occupation of an oil rich, Arab, Muslim nation would be a disaster,” Wright claims.
At the University of Alaska, Wright expressed regret about the innocent women and children being killed and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. She spoke about the torture which took place at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, and encouraged President Obama’s administration to punish those who authorized the torture.
Ten days after Israel’s 22 day offensive on Gazan citizens, Ms. Wright traveled to Gaza, along with Code Pink, an organization started by American women who were in opposition to the Bush Administration’s War Policies. The Egyptian border with Gaza, controlled by Israel since a 2005 peace agreement, was closed. Consequently, relief agencies and human rights organizations were denied access to aid the suffering people of Gaza. The retired colonel, however, was greeted at the border by the Red Crescent relief organization, and by special order of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne Mubarak (President of the Red Crescent), Ms Wright and Code Pink were allowed to enter and report atrocities committed against the Palestinian population of Gaza, the majority which are women and children.
Ann Wright encourages Americans to become aware of what is going on. “The media has been unprofessional in covering and reporting the news,” Wright said at the Alaska event. She urged people to contact their congressional delegates in mass numbers to get their attention; but nevertheless stated her opinion that many politicians are afraid of the Israeli lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
As we stood at city hall marking the end of the Milad Parade and Festival procession, I glanced over to the women standing next to me with a homemade banner. After introducing myself and my Christian mother, I kindly asked Ann Clune if I could take a picture of her banner. Ann told me that her daughter had spent time making her the banner, which read, “True Peace Comes Not From Bombs, Change The Cycle.”
During a brief talk with Mr and Mrs Jim Clune, I learned that the two had done some online advertising for the event. The Clunes are Catholics and attend St. James Church in Johnson City, NY, and are members of a peace vigil group that has been meeting weekly with other groups in the town’s Federal Building for over 9 years now.
Another attendee, Ms. Grace Walter –who also attended last year’s program– had this to say: “It reminded me of the civil rights movement when blacks, along side with whites, marched for equality. I hope that Muslim-Christian dialogue continues.”
-Islamic Post Staff Writer, Jameelah Kareem
By Asma A. Adl
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Cuban President Raul Castro spoke at a meeting of Latin American leftist leaders in Venezuela recently stating that Havana is prepared to discuss any issue the new U.S. administration. “We’ve told the North American government, in private and in public, that we are prepared, wherever they want, to discuss everything —human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners– everything, everything, everything that they want to discuss,” as reported by CNN. Mr. Castro insists that the communist island nation be treated as an equal.
President Obama, during a press conference in Mexico City stated Washington is ready to “recast our relationship” with Cuba. The President also says that his decision to relax travel and remittances to Cuba are very significant and merit reciprocal steps by the island’s communist government; that the importance of the steps taken should not be overlooked, also stating that they are extraordinarily significant for Cubans and Cuban Americans alike. “I think what you saw was a good-faith effort, a show of good faith on the part of the United States that we want to recast our relationship [with Cuba],” he said, if Cuba is ready to change.
Mr. Obama does acknowledge that the debate will continue over the prohibition of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, also stating that “there is not much discussion of the ban on Cuban people traveling elsewhere, and the severe restrictions that they are under.”
President Obama says with understanding that “50 years of frozen relationships will not thaw overnight.”
(IP) –The United States and Canada, its closest northern neighbor, have affirmed a new commitment to a stronger alliance between the two North American nations. The two countries share one of the longest international borders in the world, and also share over $20 billion dollars in commercial revenue generated across those borders. Meetings between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama on his official state visit earlier this year produced confirmations on both sides of a renewed cooperation and collaboration on many fronts. President Obama was greeted by throngs of Canadians, smiling, cheering and waving Canadian and American flags, in a display of approval for their country’s relationship with the U.S. and its new chief executive.
In a public address, the Canadian prime minister indicated that the U.S. and Canada are “allies, partners, neighbors, and the closest of friends …a relationship built on our shared values – freedom and democracy.” Both countries have agreed to revamp and streamline border-crossing procedures that will improve security and eradicate border delays that are costing the U.S. and Canada $13 billion dollars yearly, as estimated by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; as well as the need for immediate concerted efforts to strengthen the international financial system. Also stressed are collaborations on clean energy technology, environmental protection, energy security, and a firm commitment to stability and progress in Afghanistan.
By Jameelah Kareem
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –After nearly 30 years of serving as a director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, Dr. Ann Holmes Redding announced she had converted to Islam in an interview with the Seattle-based Diocese of Olympia’s newspaper, Episcopal Voice.
Yet, Dr. Redding does not feel she has left Christianity at all. “The way I understand Jesus is compatible with Islam,” she said. “I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam.”
Dr. Redding had begun to study Islam in the awake of the tragedy of 9/11 and her conversion was sparked by an inter-faith gathering she attended 3 years ago. “It was much more this overwhelming conviction that I needed to surrender to God and this was the form that my surrender needed to take,” she recalled, as reported by CNN.
Despite an uproar on the part of some church members, Dr. Redding remained firm in her beliefs and convictions. Dr. Redding states that some interpret her being a Muslim as her “abandoning the church… and that [there] comes an understanding that you have to be one or the other, and most people would say that. It simply hasn’t been my experience that I have to make a choice between the two,” the minister told Seattle Times.
Redding does not believe that God and Jesus are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus. And she believes that Jesus is the Son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.
Many others like Dr. Redding have come to realize that the differences between Christianity and Islam are as thin as a line, and that the two religions should unite in preparation for Jesus, the Spirit of God, to return.
Last month marked Redding’s 25th Anniversary of her ordination as an Episcopal priest. Two hundred of Redding’s friends turned out for her commemoration of the event and also came to celebrate the publication of an interfaith book she co-authored. Dr. Redding called the event a celebration of “her movement into the next phase of ministry as both Christian and Muslim.”
Dr. Redding is working to establish Abrahamic Reunion West, a nonprofit institute to bring together the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“As frightening as it is,” she said, “I’m willing to let God be in charge of this path of mine.”
By Fatimah Dawud
Islamic Post Staff Writer
BINGHAMTON –The United Muslim Christian Forum (UMCF) was recently invited to be a part of a tour of Binghamton hosted by Mayor Matthew T. Ryan, to review accomplishments of his past years in office and to discuss his future plans should he be re-elected joining a small crowd that chanted, “Four more years!”
“I think UMCF presence made a big statement for the Muslim community as a whole by being there,” noted a representative of the group. “Upon arrival, there were only about 30 people in attendance, so they were able give our congratulations and support to the Mayor directly before talking with other supporters.”
Mayor Matthew Ryan led the one mile walk around Binghamton which started at the Perry building (a historical site in Binghamton), passing by Abu’s House of Halal, and ended at the Regency Hotel. There the Mayor gave a press conference to announcing his running for another Mayoral term of four years.
“Jawad and Ahmad Muhammad, had the opportunity to stand next to Mayor Matthew Ryan as he delivered his speech.” By this time total number in attendance to this event went from 30 to 150 people.
As the day concluded the Mayor spoke with members of the United Christian Muslim Forum extending his gratitude for their attendance. The mayor was the guest speaker at the recent UMCF parade.
By Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –Islamic financial institutions are weathering the economic storms by most accounts, according Professor Ibrahim Warde of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, who compared the increase in Islamic economic institutions and their unique financial products with the dramatic resurgence of Muslim women wearing their traditional head scarves.
Although much of the Middle Eastern financial structure is part and parcel of the western conventional finance, which includes involvement with interest-related dealings, 2007 saw growth in the Islamic financial sector worldwide in an upwards spike of $900 billion dollars, Professor Warde explained. Accompanying this rapid growth, Islamic scholars who are knowledgeable in the detailed science of Islamic economics are in sharp demand as banking companies on both sides of the Atlantic, and beyond, seek more precise definitions and explanations of the demands of the Islamic law system upon financial transactions.
Islamic bonds, or sukuk, have been among the most prolific of financial products over the last two years. A bond is a loan to an investment group or company, who then rents the money to a business that may need capital for various reasons. The price of the bond is repaid in a specified time period, with the additional profit of the “rental fee” paid to the person who originally purchased the bond. The critical feature of Islamic investment is that it is illegal to “sell” debt. Sukuk is now being re-examined by Shari’a financial scholars to assure its current form is fully in compliance with the dictates of the Islamic law.
Throughout the Muslim world, homes are being sold by means of Islamic financial transactions, i.e., in accordance with the Shari’a legal requirements. Dr. Muzzammil H. Siddiqi, stated, by way of advertising his services, that Muslims should, wherever possible, opt to utilize Islamic banks for home financing since it is now readily available. The murabahah transaction (as it is called) is the Islamic transaction for home buying or other types of large purchases, where the bank would actually purchase the property for the buyer, and attach its fees onto the purchase price. The buyer will then pay, in installments, the price agreed upon by the bank and the buyer for the purchase – without riba, or interest on the installments.
The University Bank of Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has done nearly $80 million dollars in Islamically approved residential and business mortgages for Muslims in 15 states, was recently recognized by the American Bankers Association for its service to its Muslim clients. The bank was also rated “Outstanding” by the FDIC (Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation) for community service and for its commendable reinvestment in the community. It features Shari’ah compliant ‘Deposits of University Bank and Mortgage Alternative’ (MALT) products, and also has an investment division that offers SC (Shari’a compliant) Mutual Funds, or investing groups, to its Muslim and non-Muslim customers. While the stock market recorded one of its worst weeks, and General Motors slid towards bankruptcy, the University Bank recorded one of its best periods ever, completing 11 home sales to Muslim clients, with four more closings expected the following week. The New York Times reported that Steven Ranzini, president of University Bank, recognizes a fringe benefit of serving the Muslim community, in that clients who navigate through the process to acquire a home via a Shari’a compliant mortgage, has done so based upon his own religious convictions that the client is not very likely to default as it would be considered almost a sin to do so. In the words of Mr. Fariz Huzair, who recently purchased a home in Michigan, “In my heart, I’m doing this because it’s the command of my Creator …you have a standard you’re supposed to live up to.”
By Maryam Yahya
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –First Lady Michelle Obama took center stage on the South Lawn of the White House recently as she broke ground for a spring vegetable garden. Mrs. Obama and 23 fifth graders from Washington’s Bancroft Elementary School dug up the soil of a plot that measured 1,100 square feet. Her green-thumbed student helpers hail from a school that has already been gardening for a few years in their own schoolyards. Bancroft Elementary happens to be one of the thousands of schools in the United States that have committed time and energy into making their gardens a place of outdoor instruction in science, nutrition and economics. The students will continue to assist Mrs. Obama and the White House staff on a consistent basis by planting, weeding and harvesting the vegetables and herbs.
The Obama’s spring garden will boast 55 varieties of vegetables and herbs ranging from cilantro and basil to red romaine lettuce and sugar snap peas. Fresh berries will be available for the picking as well. A portion of the healthy produce will be used by the White House cooking staff for meals that will be served there and the remaining portion will be donated to Miriam’s Kitchen, a facility that caters to the needs of the homeless in the Washington DC area. During a recent visit to Miriam’s Kitchen, Mrs. Obama expressed her excitement about being involved with the homeless project there. “We are facing some tough times in this country and there is a moment in time when each and every one of us needs a helping hand,” said Mrs. Obama. “I want to, on behalf of the White House and the administration, thank the staff and the volunteers of Miriam’s Kitchen for their work here.”
At a time when many parts of the world are experiencing an economic downturn and as obesity has become a primary focus on a national level, advocates for locally grown food have garnered much attention. Worldwide supporters of local growing recognize the boons that are afforded to individual growers. The cost savings found in using less oil for transporting produce from industrial farms, reduced use of chemicals found in industrial pesticides and the reduced need for biological or chemically engineered fertilizers are just a few of the pros of local gardens. The Obama’s decision to use part of the White House lawn sends a clear signal to the world that local gardening is essential to keeping costs down and quite crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
By Jameelah A. Aziz
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –With the pressures of rising costs of living, the current economy is taking a strain on Americans across the nation, and tent cities are on the rise. Most notably they are in the downtown areas of Phoenix, New York, Washington, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Denver, Nashville, and Atlanta. Families are struggling to find a balance but have been stretched to their financial limits.
In the past year, 3.5 million men, women and children experienced homelessness. Included in this population were 600,000 families and 4,000 veterans, including about 1,500 from the war in Iraq. With unemployment predicted to reach over 9% by 2010 and the foreclosure crisis continuing unabated, the ranks of the homeless are expanding faster than the current capacity for public assistance. A recent survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 12 major cities reported an increase in homelessness as a result of foreclosure. Such an increase in homelessness inevitably means that more people will be forced to live without proper health care, food or shelter, according to National Homelessness.
Approximately 3.2 million foreclosures forced a majority of homeowners to be displaced by either staying with relatives or living out of their vehicles before giving up all hopes and living under bridges or other means.
President Obama stated during a press conference that homelessness was bad even before the economy was bad. When a question was posed to him by Kevin Chapelle of Ebony Magazine on what he would say to homeless families, especially the children who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the county, the President replied that he was “heartbroken that any child is homeless in America and the most important thing that I can do on their behalf is make sure that their parents have a job.”
This indeed is a great crisis and action must take place. What can we do? The National Center of Homelessness suggests that “we” (as Americans) should get involved by: Making a donation of any amount; Helping homeless families while shopping online; Sharing with those most in need through planned giving; Attending an event on the subject to learn more.
Filed under: Business/Economy, International, May Volume I - 2009, World | Tags: G20, IMF
By Noora Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer(IP) –A major goal of boosting the power and influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global lending institutions was accomplished at the G20 financial summit last month by doubling, and in some cases quadrupling lending capacity to assist nations weighed down by financial woes. A total of $850 billion was allocated by G20 nations in support of increased lending, along with an additional $250 billion culled from special drawing rights (SDRs) –a currency belonging to the IMF and not overseen by any regulating agency.
The Wall Street Journal printed an article entitled The G20’s Funny Money which lambastes SDRs as “bits of paper printed by IMF officials in the basement,” which nonetheless could commit the U.S. taxpayer to come to their support. In explaining how the SDRs work, the Journal notes that so far Congress has had to be consulted and that the last decision to increase the issuance of the pseudo-currency, taken by the Clinton Administration in 1997, had been blocked by the Congress. The Journal then quotes Ted Truman, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, who he believes an actual allocation could be made by the US Treasury Secretary with only consultation with Congressional leaders, not a vote.
While SDRs are backed by the yen and the euro in addition to the dollar, management of the IMF’s currency will not be at the discretion of the countries in ownership of those currencies. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the international business editor of the Daily Telegraph, cites the clause calling for the issuance of $250 billion in SDRs as “a revolution in the global financial order.” He writes: “In effect, the G20 leaders have activated the IMF’s power to create money and begin global ‘quantitative easing.’ In so doing, they are putting a de facto world currency into play. It is outside the control of any sovereign body.” The BBC reports IMF managing director Dominique Strauss Kahn as having noted “that this was the first step to the IMF becoming a lender of last resort or, in effect, the world’s central bank.”
While no specific targets (besides Mexico) were mentioned in the G20 declaration on Delivering Resources Through The International Financial Institutions for the $850 billion in increased loans via development banks, roughly half of the $250 billion is set to “go directly to emerging market and developing countries.” In conclusion, the declaration on increased lending stated: “Emerging and developing economies, including the poorest, should have greater voice and representation.” This refers primarily to the emerging economies of Brazil and India, according to the BBC.
Other new administrative policies include the US potentially losing its veto power in the World Bank and IMF. More Western countries could find their voting rights “severely reduced,” again, as reported by the BBC. Even “the convention that an American heads the World Bank and a European heads the IMF will also now be abandoned, the G20 leaders say,” the BBC also stated.
An IMF statement after the summit listed other assumed duties:
“Economic forecaster. IMF economic forecasts were now the central reference point for countries planning how to respond to the cris
“Policy advisor. The IMF had become a partner for governments to discuss policies and help them analyze what policy responses to the crisis would work.
“Economic surveillance. The IMF will monitor policy implementation by governments around the world.”
Sources: BBC, LPAC, IMF, G20, Wall Street Journal
(IP) –It is doubtful that when former US President George W. Bush went forward with the roadmap to peace in the Middle East –the center focus of which is a two-state solution and the re-creation of a Palestinian state– that Mr Bush anticipated opposition from fellow Christians.
The Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, however, is not surprised. The group, consisting “of pastors, academics, students, interested laypersons and a Rabbi” say they are “disturbed by the growing influence of Christian Zionism on the political scene in America,” and say the “ideology” of Christian Zionism is a “major factor in the stalled peace process in Israel / Palestine.”
As Israeli politicians from the right expressed their opposition over current President Barack Obama’s support for a two-state solution, members of the aspiring American lobby group, Unity Coalition for Israel (UCI) were sending emails to President Obama and other members of his staff, questioning “the wisdom” of the new US administration, according to Press TV reports.
Michael Freund of the Jerusalem Post defines UCI as “an umbrella group representing over 200 Christian and Jewish organizations across the US,” and claims the lobby group has “the ability to bring together millions of American Christians on Israel’s behalf.”
Mr Freund also wrote in another piece for the Jerusalem Post that “the sudden burst of Christian pro-Israel activity did not emerge out of thin air, of course. It is the result of a lot of vision and hard work.” He continues: “Working through constituent groups such as Bridges for Peace and Christian Friends of Israel, the [UCI] coalition has… become a leading voice for Israel in the halls of power in Washington.”
Yet and still, the struggle for global support in the occupation of Palestine and subsequent war against Hamas continues, and not all Israelis are in agreement with the stalled peace process. Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions –based in Jerusalem with its own chapters in the United States writes unabashedly: “It is our role as proponents of human rights, international law, decolonization, the integrity of cultures and a just peace in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere to highlight the injustice and unsustainability of Israel’s Occupation both on the ground and globally, the quicker to bring it to an end.”
By Fatimah Dawud
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –Members of the Muslims of the Americas (MOA) and other groups attended the prayer vigil at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Binghamton, NY. The community stood in unified grief over the shooting tragedy that left 14 dead last month. MOA members Abu Amir, Ibrahim Caba, M Asraf, Fatimah Begum, Shireen Rashid, Umm Shafi, Bilquis Abdallah, Layla Abdullah, Hanan Aziz and others lit candles in support of the people who lost family members and friends after a gunman attacked the American Civic Association center while English classes were in session for immigrants. The following is a narrative of Fatimah Begum, who attended the vigil:
“When we first got there we were greeted with welcoming smiles and hugs. Deacon Barbara Hayden came right up to us and thanked us for coming. After her, other pastors, deacons, and fathers came and greeted us. We thanked them for inviting us and mentioned that we came on behalf of His Eminence, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani.”
“The first to speak was the Head of the Broome County Council of Churches, Mr Sellepack. He opened with a welcoming address, and mentioned Muslims as friends, saying Muslims and Christians have to come together in this time of need to join together for peace for the community. He thanked us for being there.
“After the refreshments, Mr. Sellepack came down and again thanked us for coming and we talked about future projects together to help the community.”
Fatimah Begum continues: “Camera men for all TV stations across the country were there, BBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other local new stations. Most stations were able to come in to tape the vigil; however, Deacon Barbara came to tell us that Fox News came to the door and asked to come in and tape the prayer vigil but she told them they were not welcome in her church. She felt that they insulted us with their recent report and said she does not want to have anything to do with them. They stayed outside.
“We mingled and exchanged information with others, talked about how we are going to assist and console the families, and left our names and numbers for where we could be reached if anyone might need our services, and prepared to take our leave. We were walking out we met the Imam of one of the mosques here in Binghamton and he told us that two Muslim women were killed in this tragedy.”
Other major news networks had been scheduled to visit Holy Islamberg and interview a family living in a model Muslim village during the weekend following the parade. However, MOA postponed the media gathering after hearing news of the tragedy that shook Binghamton, grieving the small city and its Muslim neighbors in Holy Islamberg, which is located a short distance away.
Filed under: International, May Volume I - 2009, National, World | Tags: Opinion
By Noora Ahmad
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –US President Barack Obama stood before the Turkish Parliament recently conveying the mission of his administration to “bridge misunderstandings” between the West and the Muslim world. “We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world –including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans.”
“This is not where East and West divide; this is where they come together,” the President pointed out about Turkey, a secular nation whose citizens are majority Muslims. This statement also describes the millions of Muslims who reside in the United States, the majority of whom were born Muslim American. East and West have met, and thrived, in many Western countries as well, despite those who feel threatened at the prospect.
While comments like those from President Obama, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams –who recently applauded “a number of fairly senior people” in British society for drifting towards an understanding of sharia, or Islamic law– others like Netherlands MP Geert Wilders, chairman for Party for Freedom in that country, are simultaneously trying to stop the flow towards common ground. Wilders, on his most recent tour of Britain and the United States voiced his fears regarding Muslim converts and the spread of Islam with numerous comments that were not well researched, including his assertion: “There might be moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam.”
Noah Feldman, an adjunct senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in his article, “Why Sharia?” that the mere mention of Islamic law is “radioactive,” especially in the case of Rowan Williams who drew no end of criticism for suggesting that certain rules in sharia be placed on equal footing with various laws of Judaism that have been allowed in domestic affairs of Jews living in the United Kingdom.
Fueling the controversy, another CFR writer, Laura Vriens, in her recent article, “Islam: Governing Under Sharia,” offered misinformation for those already concerned about the rights of women in an Islamic society. “Despite official reluctance to use hadd punishments [sic], vigilante justice still takes place. Honor killings, murders committed in retaliation for bringing dishonor on one’s family, are a worldwide problem,” writes Vriens, discarding the fact that vigilantism is not a part of the Islamic legal and judicial system. Hadd is a verb signifying punishment issued via a judge in an Islamic court of law; it is not vigilantism. Adultery has spawned both Muslims and non-Muslims to wrongfully take the law into their own hands and illegally murder the alleged culprits. Yet, in Islam four eyewitnesses to the act of adultery or an unforced confession are necessary before any punishment is meted out. Nevertheless, these arguments are largely moot under a non-Islamic government as the lesser punishments remain voluntary on the culprit and heavier punishments do not apply in a non-Islamic society.
To clarify this, while most Muslims adhere to the moral and religious code found in sharia while residing in non-Islamic countries, the status of a Muslim living in a non-Islamic country is different from one who lives in an Islamic state, and the sharia does not enforce certain punishments in that case. Nevertheless, using orientalist texts, ignorance and fear, a good many continue to promote false information about Islam and its governing system, which they derive out of context at best and blatantly distort at worst. Situations in history which applied to those living under the rule of the Islamic empire –which became known as the Ottoman Empire in the latter years before its demise– are being used for such distortions.
One legal term which was applied during the Islamic empire is dhimmi. A dhimmi is a non-Muslim who chooses to remain under an Islamic government. The term indicates a person who has agreed to pay a tax that will afford them protection from foreign threats along with the Muslim citizens of the state, while relieving them of military duty from which others are not exempt. These days, the word dhimmi is widely misconstrued and is being used in unscholarly circles as a sort of insult or slur to apply to any non-Muslim who is sympathetic to Muslims on the whole, or who advocates for Muslims to be treated with respect. Such detractors loudly proclaim that common ground between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors and government will lead to an eventual sharia takeover wherein all others will be deprived of their rights. On the contrary, some would say history proves modern democracy to have derived from Islam, because when the Islamic system was flourishing, Europe was suffering under feudal oppression.
In the Middle Ages, when Islam was at its peak, the laws of Islam were never forced upon the non-Muslims living in Islamic territories. For example, in one of the classic texts of Islamic jurisprudence by Abul Hasan Ahmad Al-Qudoori (362 AH- 428 AH), Mukhtasar, it is stated clearly that non-Muslims are even allowed to continue the trade of alcohol amongst themselves. While Islam contains strong injunctions against intoxicants and Muslims who adhere to sharia do not indulge in alcoholic beverages whether they reside in Muslim or non-Muslim countries, non-Muslims are not made to adhere to these rules under Sharia. Imam Qudoori relates this legal judgment by stating: “Wine is to the non-Muslim what juice is to a Muslim.” Just as juice is lawful to a Muslim, alcohol is lawful to a non-Muslim.
Any peace-minded person will recognize the merit of these statements. The element of cohesiveness among religions was reiterated by President Barack Obama at the conclusion of his visit to Turkey: “One of the great strengths of the United States is –although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population– we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”
The Imam of the Muslims of the Americas (MOA), El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani is a great teacher of patriotism and love of one’s country and reminds the Muslims living in the West not to be incited by those who encourage hate, whoever they may be, and whatever words or actions such people take to invoke intolerance. This universal advice is sufficient.
Filed under: Business/Economy, Interfaith, International, May Volume I - 2009, National, Religion, World
(IP)– This month, regulatory bodies are reviewing the excessive interest, or usury, being charged by credit card companies. After being pursued in an antitrust case for “non-compliance” to European Commission rules regarding cross border fees, MasterCard settled out of court. While, according to European Union regulators, the credit card company agreed to reduce fees that raise costs for retailers, the New York Times reports MasterCard said the reduction was simply provisional and that it would continue a broader battle over the level of the fees in court. Here at home, United States lawmakers moved, in turn, to provide people with credit card debt relief from abusive rate and billing practices, as reported by Market Watch. A new Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights would restrict retroactive rate increases on existing balances, double-cycle billing, and “due-date gimmicks,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, who has spearheaded the legislation. Market Watch further noted, “The proposals approved by a House subcommittee are similar to final rules passed late last year by the Federal Reserve and other regulators… [In addition] a Senate committee approved its own set of credit card restrictions.”
This issue at stake for the European Commission and American lawmakers and regulators is the age-old question of controlling the flow of usury –the excessive rate of return charged by banks and lending institutions on interest-based loans. Financial experts recently criticized the wildfire spread of usury as being one of the major factors that led to the current economic crisis.
Usury had been strictly regulated in most countries until the late 1600s when usurious practices were first officially sanctioned by a head of state, William of Orange in Britain, who supported the establishment of the Bank of England –a private institution at the time. The practice of high rates of return gradually spread, but the institution was nevertheless widely viewed with distaste. Because it is easy for anyone –but particularly poor people and those in desperate circumstances– to find themselves in a reciprocating pattern of debt due to compound interest and the like, usury has been taken as a form of oppression. In this sense, secular and religious norms are in agreement. The major religions have been against such banking practices since their inception.
The First Council of Nicaea in 325, forbade clergy from engaging in usury which, at the time, meant interest of any kind. Pope Clement V made the belief in the right to usury a heresy in 1311. Islam has always forbidden interest, whether by modern definitions of usury or not, and continues to uphold the same prohibition. The Torah also carries prohibition of usury.
But in 2009, after many centuries, usurious practices seem to have overwhelmed religious awareness, as creditors consistently offer credit cards, mortgages and loans at extremely high rates of interest to people who are known to be unable to repay the principle, let alone the interest. The global economy has been headed toward its present state for many years, with few preventive measures having been taken against such forms of predatory business. Beginning in the 1960s deregulation of usury began to occur in the United States, and individual states initiated their own individual practices and laws regarding what were deemed usurious and illegal and what was not. In some states, debtors have been known to be charged in excess of 300% interest in extreme cases.
Author Thomas Geoghegan, was interviewed recently on DemocracyNow! regarding his work which recently appeared in Harper’s Magazine entitled “Infinite Debt: How Unlimited Interest Rates Destroyed the Economy.” In this excerpt from the interview, Mr Geoghegan explains in a simplified form how the “real economy,” or manufacturing, was in essence destroyed over time by the financial sector.
“If you’re able to charge 30 percent or, in a payday lender case, 200 or 300 percent, you don’t care so much if the loan —in fact, you actually want the loan not to be repaid. You want people to go into debt. You want to accumulate this interest. And this addicted the financial sector to very, very, very high rates of return compared to what investors were used to getting in the real economy, the manufacturing sector, General Motors, which would give piddling five, six, seven percent returns.
“So the capital in this country began to shift in the financial sector. That’s why the financial sector began to bloat up. That’s why we ended up, by 2006, having a third of all profits going into the banks and the financial firms and not into the real economy.”
If Mr Geoghegan’s “real economy” is based in the manufacturing and sale of physical goods, the financial sector would then be a virtual economy –one whose primary method of trade and profit are loans that, having scant basis in monetary gold or silver, are based upon the trustworthiness (credit) of the financial institution granting the virtual money.
But the hardship endured by honest people struggling to make a variety of monthly payments is not make-believe. The interest (sometimes called late fees) on car payments, business loans, credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and even hospital bills and cell phones is generally billed first and compounded with each failed due date until the full debt could become impossible to repay. The creditor is often able to recover the original debt, even with a decent profit, but the debtor doesn’t always get out of the clear. If not, before the creditor writes off the remaining debt on company taxes, the institution may then sell the remaining balance to a third party collection agency. At this point, the debtor must pay the transferred balance plus any additional collection fees (more interest).
While some loan practices are being reviewed by US lawmakers in favor of the consumer, a range of consumer, community and civil rights groups recently objected to the leading bill in Congress set to deal with the issue of payday loans. Consumers Union, Americans for Fairness in Lending and six other groups say the Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009, would actually protect the “predatory payday loan business model and will stall or stop the significant progress that has been made at the state level to curb usurious lending.” In a letter to members of Congress, the groups state “Although this bill shares the same title as H.R. 2871 in the last Congress, it will have the exact opposite impact on consumers.” The Washington Independent alleges the new bill to be “loophole-ridden” and faults lobbyist influence.
The Center for Responsible Lending says interest rate caps are the only solution to a worsening predatory situation, and will cost taxpayers nothing. “Payday loans carry annual interest rates of around 400 percent. They trap people in debt to the extent that the average borrower has nine payday transactions a year,” the Center reported. “[While] Barack Obama has… proposed a combination of cutting taxes and encouraging spending to aid in economic recovery… predatory lenders are stripping cash from the earnings of working people who fall into this same demographic –at astounding rates.”
This may not bode well for an already struggling US economy.
Filed under: Interfaith, International, May Volume I - 2009, Politics, World | Tags: christian zionism, zionism
(IP) –The Independent’s reporter, Donald MacIntyre, states in his article, “Israeli’s Told to Fight ‘Holy War’ in Gaza,” “Many Israeli troops had the sense of fighting a “religious war” against Gentiles during the 22-day offensive in Gaza, according to an Israeli soldier. The soldier testified that the “clear” message of literature distributed to troops by the rabbinate was: “We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.” Reuters, the Jerusalem Post, the UK Times, Haaretz, and the BBC noted similar reports about the espousing of a holy war against the Muslim and Christian Arabs of Palestine.
Even with the new Benjamin Netanyahu administration, elected after the strikes against Gaza began, a historian of Israeli expansionism, Rev Dr Stephen R Sizer, wrote that Israel is being steered “very definitely to the Right and away from an integrated society and peace with the Palestinians.” He further noted, “Barack Obama is going to have his work cut out to keep the Two State solution alive.”
Far from moving towards a peaceful solution, Israeli authorities are planning to “evacuate and demolish 1,700 homes in East Jerusalem during the current year,” the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah told Arab News. Arab News also reported the head of the Islamic Higher Committee in Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikremah Sabri’s, elaboration on the new demolition project: “More than 5,500 Israeli housing units were under construction in occupied Jerusalem and 73,000 in the West Bank in order to accommodate more than one million” settlers.
The debate on the legality of such projects spilled into the global arena after millions worldwide protested the bombing of Gaza earlier this year. Reporting on the suppression of the local media giving voice to such protests, Ma’an News stated that a woman and journalist were among those beaten by Israeli troops during a press conference held by the parents of critically wounded American peace activist Tristan Anderson. “Mr. Anderson had an Israeli tear-gas canister shot at his head in Ni’lin … his skull shattered and several surgeries have left him semi-conscious in a Tel Aviv hospital. His parents arrived shortly after Tristan was hospitalized,” wrote Ma’an News. The raid, allegedly ordered by Israeli Minister of Internal Security Avi Ditchter, came early in the media event and prevented Anderson’s parents from addressing the crowd. This is the second case of an American peace activist suffering at the hands of the colonists to have been widely publicized. The first was Rachel Corrie who was bulldozed in 2003 while using a bulwark in front of a Palestinian home in an attempt to stop its destruction.
In February, Israeli media shocked millions of Muslims and Christians by satirizing the miracles of Jesus (the Second to Last Messenger of Islam), the chastity of his Virgin mother Mary and also trying to belittle the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). According to the BBC, a Vatican statement said “the show had ridiculed Mary and Jesus ‘with blasphemous words and images’ that amounted to a ‘vulgar and offensive act of intolerance.’” The comedy hour came “to teach a lesson” to a Christian religious figure who had made the mistake of denying the Holocaust. Jerusalem Christians were also prevented by Israeli authorities this year from commemorating their traditional Easter rites.
This begs the question whether there is room in a ‘holy war’ against Christians and Muslims for Christ? Christians who support Zionism say, ‘Yes.’ Christian Zionists adhere to the belief that Jesus (peace be upon him) will not return to the Earth until Armageddon takes place, which in turn occurs after the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel, which includes a new Temple in Jerusalem at the site of the Holy Sanctuary (Haram Sharif) right under the golden Dome of the Rock, which is one of the three most holy sites in Islam.
However, the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel has more to do with awaiting a Messiah foretold in the Torah. According to Christianity and Islam, that Messiah appeared in the form of Jesus Christ, who was widely rejected at that time and even now, which is why Christians who do not support Zionism adamantly say, ‘No,’ to a war between any of the major religions.
Rev Sizer writes in his book Zion’s Christian Soldiers: “The problem with all this speculation about a future Temple in Jerusalem is simply this – from a Christian perspective – it is heresy. There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament about the need for another Temple in Jerusalem – just the reverse…” Sizer concludes: “How tragic that, while the good news of Jesus is intended to bring peace and reconciliation with God and healing between nations, some Christians are fueling religious hatred, and are bent on inciting an apocalyptic war.”
Such a war would pit Christians and Muslims –who share their common values upon the doctrine of Jesus– against each other.
Sources: Stephen Sizer.org, Ma’an News, Arab News, BBC.
President Barack Hussein Obama signed the landmark Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act at a Washington DC elementary school, joined by Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Members of Congress, former President Clinton, former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, and an audience of nonprofit leaders and national service volunteers.
“The broad bipartisan support for this legislation, and its remarkably swift journey through Congress, reflect the growing national consensus that service is a powerful response to the economic and social challenges facing America today,” said Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Board Chair, Alan Solomont.
The Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the CNCS, a federal agency created in 1993. The Corporation engages four million Americans in result-driven service each year, including 75,000 AmeriCorps members, which the new bill plans to increase to 250,000 positions over the next eight years.
The legislation comes at a time of growing social need caused by the economic downturn and a corresponding “compassion surge” of Americans wanting to help those left vulnerable by its impact. The Corporation reported that AmeriCorps received 17,038 online applications this spring, nearly triple the 6,770 received last year this time. In the past five months, the agency received 48,520 online applications. Many volunteer centers and nonprofit groups are also reporting a recent increase in volunteers.
Filed under: Front Page News, Interfaith, May Volume I - 2009, National, Uncategorized
Last month, President Barack Obama announced additional members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, including Dalia Mogahed, the executive director for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington, DC. The President’s advisory council is composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.
While Mrs Moghahed is the first American Muslim appointed to the task, it is expected that others will follow. The advisory council currently has 17 members.
“This is wonderful. The Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships represent a great deal of compassion, understanding and tolerance for the American people,” says Muhammad Ahmad, a Latin American Muslim and Sufi. “Hopefully this will open the door to understand Islam more here.” While Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West, the majority of Muslims in America are converts (and their descendents) of indigenous roots – mixed Native American and African American ancestry. Whereas according to Arab American historian Nabeel Abraham, the majority of Arabs in the United States are Christian.
Sources: The Development of Arab-American Identity (Univ. Mich. Press 1994), WhiteHouse.gov
Filed under: Interfaith, May Volume I - 2009, National, Religion, Science, World | Tags: H1N1
US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has announced the United States federal government declaration of a public health emergency due to the swine flu outbreak. Secretary Napolitano asserts the declaration is part of a standard operating procedure, which was also done for the 2009 presidential inauguration and for flooding. The influenza strain “is obviously a cause for concern … but it is not a cause for alarm,” President Obama has noted.
Health and Religion.
Knowledge is coming to the forefront that people who work with swine, especially those with intense exposures, are at increased risk of infection with the influenza virus if the animals carry the strain that is also able to infect humans. It is believed to be spread between humans through coughing or sneezing of infected people and touching something with the virus on it and then touching their own nose or mouth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also declared that swine flu cannot be spread by pork products, since the virus is not transmitted if it has been cooked “to an internal temperature of 160°F” as this process “kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.”
Nevertheless, Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy books all prohibit the consumption of pork, which is a staple in the Southern Unites States and south of the border as well, although the majority of residents in these areas are widely known to be religious:
Old Testament: “ As for any beast that is a splitter of the hoof but is not a former of the cleft and not a chewer of the cud, they are unclean for you. Everyone touching them will be unclean.” –Leviticus 11:26
Holy Qur’an: “Forbidden to you for (food) are: dead meat, blood and the flesh of the swine and that which hath been invoked the name other than Allah.” –Holy Qur’an 5:4
It is also worthy of note that Jesus (peace be upon him) has been recorded as stating in the New Testament: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill them.” –Matthew 5:17. However, this is disputed by followers of Paul, who exclude themselves from the law based upon his teachings.
Filed under: Business/Economy, Front Page News, Interfaith, International, May Volume I - 2009, World | Tags: Islamic Finance
The Vatican recently claimed banks should look at the ethical rules of Islamic finance to restore confidence amongst their clients during this time of global economic crisis.
“The ethical principles on which Islamic finance is based may bring banks closer to their clients and to the true spirit which should mark every financial service,” the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said.
Author Loretta Napoleoni and Abaxbank Spa fixed income strategist, Claudia Segre, say in the article that “Western banks could use tools such as the Islamic bonds, known as sukuk, as collateral.” Sukuk may be used to fund the “car industry or the next Olympic Games in London,” they said. They also said that profit share, gained from sukuk, may be an alternative to interest. They underlined that sukuk system could help automotive sector and support investments in the area of infrastructure. The Islamic sukuk system is similar to bonds of the western system; however, money is invested in concrete projects and profit share is distributed to clients instead of interest earned.
L’Osservatore Romano’s editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, said that “the great religions have always had a common attention to the human dimension of the economy,” Corriere della Sera reported.
Source: Brussels Journal.
Staff Writer Jamaal A. Waahid contributed to this report.
By Nafisah Begum
Islamic Post Staff Writer
As people of the Binghamton, NY, area move forward out of unexpected and engulfing grief, the result of the April 3 massacre of 14 victims with numerous injured, the Islamic Post recalls how the wider community has been brought closer together, sharing triumph then tragedy.
BINGHAMTON —On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, days before tragic shooting at the American Civic Center brought the community together in mourning, Muslims and Christians came together at the West Presbyterian Church for the Second Annual Milad-un-Nabi Parade and Festival, celebrating the auspicious births of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad son of Abdullah and the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Pure (God’s peace be upon them). Hosting the event was the United Muslim Christian Forum (UMCF), an organization founded by His Eminence, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani Hashmi, to remind the children of Abraham of their duties to each other and to all of mankind.
UMCF representatives returned to light candles with pastors from the Broome County Council of Churches, Muslims of the Americas, local government officials, University professors, and devotees of peace to support each other in grief, as only days before the community had celebrated, in joy, the auspicious births of two sons of Abraham.
The UMCF message was, and is, that the religions of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad and the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, the Chaste (May God’s peace be upon them) are two faces of a single reality: worship of One God combined with the love of one’s neighbor. There was much to share on both occasions. (See, “Candlelight Vigil,” on A3)
The United Muslim Christian Forum, sponsored by the Muslims of the Americas, was a successful event, as evidenced by standing room only attendance. The church was packed with hundreds of the faithful hoping to bridge the gap between the children of Abraham by not focusing on what makes them different, but the commonality of each and the mutual love for the Almighty Creator, His Prophets, and the messages they brought, such as – ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Historically, Muslims and Christians have been incited to violent clashes that have left each side reeling from the effects, eventually falling under the foot of persecution for exercising their beliefs. But even this has not stopped the children of Abraham from uniting in God’s Will as One.
The children of Abraham continue to celebrate their love and devotion for the Creator, trying their best to secure entrance into the Almighty’s Heaven. This quest of love makes them the enemy of him (Satan), whose final home will be everlasting darkness.
The event began with a program at the West Presbyterian Church, as approved by its board, in order to “foster inter- religious dialogue, understanding and tolerance,” said Pastor Andrew Stehlik, who stated later in his opening acknowledgements: “It is marvelous to see this sanctuary so full with the Children of God.” He then proceeded to read several verses from the Bible depicting the Oneness, Mercy and Forgiveness of the Almighty.
Even before the program began, one participant described the charge of excitement, “Though I couldn’t see them, I felt the eyes of the world on this moment,” said Aisha Muqit who drove over seven hundred miles to attend the event. An unidentified Christian attendee gasped with excitement stating, “To God be the Glory!” as he took in the pews packed with Muslims observing the utmost of etiquette in the church and exhibiting an overflowing love for The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary (peace be upon him).
The program commenced with benedictions by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Mrs. Laila Rashid, who recited Surah Al Fatihah (“The Opening”), from Holy Qu’ran, in which mankind implores the Almighty to ‘show us the straight way, the path of which Thou has favored, not the path of those who have been led astray.’
The National Anthem, passionately performed by the young Muslim lady’s group, Daughters of Peace, nearly brought tears to onlookers. UMCF Public Relations Representative, Muhammad Hasib A. Haqq, welcomed attendees, speakers and special guests..
Program speakers included the aforementioned Pastor Andrew Stehlik of West Presbyterian Church, to whom the UMCF remains grateful for the hosting of the event; Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, Chairman Muslims of the Americas; Father Tim Taugher of St. Catherine of Siena; the Honorable Khadijah Smith, Deputy Chairperson of the Muslims of the Americas; Dr. Bashir Abdul-Wadud of the American Muslim Medical Relief Team; Dr. Diane O’Heron of Broome Community College, a second year attendee and speaker; Dr. Jawairiyya Abdallah-Shahid of the Abdul Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences; and special guest, the Mayor of Binghamton, Matthew T. Ryan.
Matthew T. Ryan, Mayor of Binghamton
Special guest, Mayor Matthew T. Ryan of Binghamton, NY, stated how happy he was to attend such an august gathering where the focus was love of the Almighty Creator. He acknowledged that this time last year he received many “hate-filled emails” about the event, and that this year was no exception, recalling how he decided to personally speak to a gentleman calling all the way from Oklahoma, questioning his reasons for being involved in such an occasion. The Mayor explained to him the honor to live in a place where all its citizens can live in harmony and not be separated by the prejudices that exist around the world. Unfortunately, this harmony would be disrupted days later when a lone gunman killed thirteen people in Binghamton’s American Civic Association center, promptly returning many of the parade’s attendees to show support to families in grief and help to console a city of many faiths. Later in the program, Mayor Ryan would do the honor of unveiling the new sign to grace the future office of the United Muslim Christian Forum.
Other excerpts from the program’s speakers below attest to the theme of finding common ground and uniting under the banner of One Almighty God in peace.
The Honorable Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, Chairman of Muslims of the Americas
The Honorable Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, began with benedictions and a special thanks to Pastor Andrew and his congregation for allowing this gathering to be held at their church: “I bear witness that there is no God, but One God who created Adam with His own Hands and blew in him His spirit as He did Jesus son of Mary; and placed upon his head the crown of viceroy-hood and created man to serve Him.” He further stated, “We have no doubt that Almighty God is watching us, Jesus son of Mary (peace be upon him) is watching us, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is watching us. We declare that we love Jesus Son of Mary (peace be upon him) and we follow his way. We must come to one common ground…we were one, and must become one again.”
Before the Honorable Khalifah concluded, he conveyed a declaration before those present in the church and to all Christians and Muslims at large: “I must convey to you a declaration and clarification, which must for all times remove prejudices and misunderstandings amongst both communities. Which is, we love and adore Jesus Son of Mary! Even those at the helm of affairs in Christianity may not realize that the fact of the Trinity is that Jesus is a manifestation of God’s attribute “Kun Faya Kun” (“Be and it is Done!”). The Holy Ghost is a manifestation of God’s glory –meaning, thereby, they are two beings who merge in One and only One God. Jesus is the Spirit of God and that is why he could revive the dead and Gabriel, the Holy Ghost, is a manifestation of God’s will. These both are manifestations of One God. We don’t wish to make controversy. We are your Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Father Tim Taugher, St. Catherine of Siena
Father Tim Taugher expounded on the theme of unity saying, “Common ground has been woven in the words already spoken by those who have come up before me; we must continue to establish dialogue.” He reiterated the commonality between Muslims, Christians, and Jews and stressed love, solidarity, and compassion for all of the children of Abraham. He continued, “There is a book that I recommend that when given the time you read, it is called The History of God, by K. Armstrong, which looks through different religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism; and creates a sense of compassion, that we are rooted together from the same foundation.”
Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid, Abdul Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences
Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid, founding member of the Abdul Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences, said, “In the realm of Sufis, Jesus stands as a role model of a great Sufi master. The Sufi doctrine demands that all those who wish to attain proximity to the Almighty Creator and annihilation and subsistence in Him must not pay any attention to the temptation of the world and worldly pursuits, nor be lured by the promise of bliss and gardens of paradise. Above all, the Sufi master teaches, as Jesus taught, that no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born again. This is what we are taught by our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), mentioned as the ‘Comforter’- and ‘Ahmad’ (one worthy to be praised) in the Torah. To separate Jesus from Islam is a gross misunderstanding due to lack of knowledge.” She further confirmed, “Testimony regarding the authenticity and truthfulness of his (Jesus’) mission was professed by Muhammad (peace be upon him). In conjunction with Holy Qur’an, he teaches that Jesus and his blessed mother Mary were free from all of the slanderous and false accusations brought against them.”
Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid continued: “At this time, I would like to bring to your attention another of the worlds’ greatest Sufi masters, Sheikh Akbar, Ibn Arabi. It was Sheikh Ibn Arabi who introduced the philosophy that man is not all he appears to be and that the real man lies hidden within the human like a tree in the stage of a seed or the bird in the form of an egg. His emphasis was on the true potential of human beings and the path one should tread to become a perfect human being.
Fusus al-Hikam was Sheikh Ibn Arabi’s last major opus and is considered his most famous work. It was translated with commentary and many professors including some from Binghamton University commented on this book. This demonstrates that the quest for knowledge is present. The desire to identify the self with God is there. Sufis are leading the way. All those who love Muhammad (peace be upon him) also love Jesus Son of Mary.
“The Vice Chancellor was at our Sufic Research Institute in Pakistan when contacted the him about difficulties I was having. I was in the hospital preparing to give birth to my son. After medical inducement and several hours of labor, he had not been born. The Vice Chancellor recited over the phone into my ear. After recitation, my son was immediately born. The verse has been translated from Hebrew to Arabic and from Arabic to English: ‘Hannah gave birth to Mary, and Mary gave birth to Jesus! Oh baby, come out by the command of Allah, the Commanding God.’ I myself am a witness to the mercy of the Sufic Sciences and, in addition, there are many others in the audience who can testify to this being the case. Sufis are the saviors of mankind.”
Dr. Diane O’Heron, Professor, Broome Community College
As a repeat attendee, Dr. Diane O’Heron, professor at Broome Community College, expressed how last year’s event sparked her desire to know more about The Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad ibn Abdullah (peace and blessings be upon him). Dr. O’Heron began her speech with the greeting shared by over a billion Muslims worldwide: “Asalaamu Alaikum.”
She continued, “I hope, as a Christian, to denounce the fear, hate, and ignorance that would have me to deny who you are to me. My faith and love of God empowers me to call you family, people for whose well-being I am responsible, and to whose faith my faith is tied. As Muslims you have always known me as your sister. The Holy Qur’an makes that relationship clear. I, on the other hand, have just begun to understand the profound possibilities and responsibilities of sharing my spiritual destiny with you. Today, I ask all Christians to learn about these possibilities with me. To start by learning what beliefs and experiences bind Christians and Muslims together. In doing so, I believe that we will come to a deeper understanding of the love of God, The Almighty, the One who erases all differences by calling each of us His sons and daughters. Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet whose life has brought us together today. And thanks be to God for making it possible for me to see you for who you truly are in God’s eyes, my teachers, my family, my loved ones.”
Dr. O’Heron also told the story of how, in history, the Muslims suffered persecution at the hands of the Qur’aish polytheists and how refuge was taken in Abyssinia under the rule of the Christian King Negus, who was known for his fairness and respect to all people and who ultimately protected the Muslims against persecution. She concluded: “Our differences are real. No one here denies them. But what we are called to do as believers is to honor the example of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, and men like the Negus by recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in faith. God commands us to try and see one another with His eyes, to see that all of us share a connection to Him, the Almighty, the One who erases all differences by claiming each of us as His own.”
A roar of pleasure, then a hush, fell over the crowd as the magnitude of the event became evident.
Dr. Bashir Abdul-Wadud, American Muslim Medical Relief Team
Dr. Bashir Abdul-Wadud of the American Muslim Medical Relief Team confirmed that the United Muslim Christian Forum would coordinate commemoration of the birth of Jesus Son of Mary on the calendar date of his birth and expressed the need to open an office to cultivate further dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
Concluding the program portion of the event, the Honorable Khadijah Smith, Deputy Chairman of Muslims of the Americas, presented gifts to speakers and special guests, on behalf of the Vice Chancellor of the Muslims of the Americas, His Eminence, El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani. Daughters of Peace performed an awe-inspiring hymn, “Quest for Peace,” followed by the parade procession where participants walked from West Presbyterian Church to the Binghamton Courthouse, Muslims and Christians side by side.
By Asma A. Adl
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Elementary schools’ populations are nearing Latino/Hispanic majority in nine of the nation’s largest cities according to a study by the Thomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California. The Thomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) is a non-profit independent institution founded in 1985 that specializes in key issues affecting the Latino community; issues such as education, political participation, access to health care, economic well being, mass media as well as immigration. The institute is affiliated with the School of Policy Planning and Development at the University of Southern California in L.A. and also has an office at Columbia University in N.Y.
The percentage increase is high in large cities such as Los Angles and Dallas. Hispanic first graders are the highest, as quoted by TRPI; “three out of four first graders in the school district are Latino.” TRPI states as well, “In 2020 this demographic wave of Latino first graders will graduate high school and enter collegiate education or the labor market.” The president of TRPI and a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California, Harry Pachon, stated, “The future is now in terms of challenges presented to school districts across the nation by this influx of Latino youth.” He also stated that a large percentage of these students are U.S citizens by birth and paradoxically our public schools are in the position of teaching English to native born American children.
The Census Bureau states that Hispanics are also becoming more prevalent on college campuses as well. Students comprised 12% of full time college students (both graduate and undergraduate) in 2007, an increase from 10% in 2006, according to Bureau tables recently released. Hispanics also comprise 15% of the nation’s total population. In 2007 students in grades 1-12 made up 64% of the people three and older enrolled in school. The TRPI research compiled this spring by from Hispanic public school enrollment revealed the following information:
Columbia Professor Rodolfo de la Garza and vice president of research at the TRPI observed, “This is a profound demographic change, which provides a challenge for American education, just as European immigrants created a new foundation for New York through their ambition to excel and succeed. Latinos, if provided support and respect, will be in a position to strengthen our cities and our nation.”
Sources: US Census Bureau, Thomas Rivera Policy Institute.In the following major US states Hispanic enrollment rose significantly in the following grade (Gr.) levels:
1st Gr. 6th Gr. 12th Gr.
New York 40.6% 39.3% 34.9%
Los Angeles 74.5% 74.1% 65.1%
Chicago 45.1% 41.1% 35.2%
Houston 63.1% 59.8% 52.1%
Philadelphia 17.8% 18.2% 14.3%
Phoenix 43.9% 42.1% 37.0%
San Antonio 89.4% 89.8% 86.5%
San Diego 45.8% 45.4% 35.1%
Dallas 68.6% 65.3% 55.0%
San Jose 53.6% 49.3% 47.5%
(Data Sources: New York Dept. of Education Research and Policy Support Group; California Dept. of Education; Chicago Public School Office of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability; Texas Education Agency; Philadelphia School District Office of Accountability; Arizona Dept. of Education Research and Evaluation Section; Texas Education Agency.)
(IP) –The Dominican Republic Customs Director, Miguel Cocco, is urging actions to increase Dominican regional exports, saying the DR has been the big loser in regional trade, as reported by DR1. “For every US$10 the country exports to Central America, it imports US$90 from those countries. And for every US$18 exported to the Caribbean, Dominicans import US$82,” he was reported to have said at a trade export summit.
According to Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, the island nation entered 2009 with a strong economy after small increases in remittances and tourist arrivals. “GDP grew 5.3 percent last year, slightly higher than the average for Latin America, he added. Remittances reached $3.1 billion, a 2.1 percent growth from 2007, while the number of tourist arrivals –nearly 4 million– grew 7 percent and generated $4.2 billion in revenue,” Dominican Today reported.
In commenting on the global crisis, Dominican Today reported the president as saying: “The Dominican Republic has been affected by the accumulation of adversities and calamities that extend across the planet as if it were a modern version of the Seven Plagues of Egypt.”
Dominican Today further reports the country is set to rely on an estimated $1.8 billion in loans from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and others to pay for projects related to education, health and energy, as noted by President Fernandez in his annual Independence Day address earlier this year.
Sources: DR1, Dominican Today
(IP) –At the recent Summit of the Americas, Caricom (Caribbean Community) Chairman, Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize, referred to financial services in the Caribbean as important “growth engines,” in response to the tax haven controversy that followed the G20 economic summit last month. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which claims to work “with its 30 member countries and with others to develop sound policy frameworks for the governance of the world economy,” issued a report at the conclusion of the G20 conference outlining the progress of traditional tax havens towards transparency. The move was agreed upon by all attendees. While four of the countries were slow to comply with new regulations being initiated by the OECD –which would include sanctions for those not in agreement– eventually all alleged tax havens, including those nations in the Caribbean and others which are not a part of the G20, were put on a grey list to be monitored, and all sides claimed victory.
The US Congress however, is going forward with a bill that seeks to prevent US tax dollars from hiding in foreign banks in the first place. The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act introduces “new enforcement tools,” according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Carl Levin [Democrat-Michigan]. “They include new legal presumptions to overcome offshore secrecy barriers, special measures to combat persons who impede U.S. tax enforcement, treatment of offshore corporations as domestic corporations when controlled by U.S. persons, elimination of the offshore dividend tax loophole, greater disclosure of offshore transactions, and more,” Mr Levin announced in a statement.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Levin, recently held two days of hearings and released a report that “broke through the wall of secrecy that normally surrounds banks located in tax haven jurisdictions.”
Regarding the tax haven investigation, Senator Levin seems to have started with Switzerland, but the investigation will not end there. The Subcommittee presented seven case histories of U.S. persons who had secretly stashed millions of dollars in accounts at LGT Bank, a private bank owned by the Liechtenstein royal family in Switzerland. “These case histories unfolded like spy novels, with secret meetings, hidden funds, shell corporations, and complex offshore transactions spanning the globe from the United States to Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, Australia, and Hong Kong,” Levin states. He continues: “A former LGT employee, now in hiding for disclosing LGT client information, provided videotaped testimony during the hearing describing a long list of secrecy tricks and deceptive practices used by LGT to conceal client assets. They included using code names for LGT clients; requiring bankers to use outside pay phones to call clients to prevent those calls from being traced back to the bank; establishing offshore shell corporations which clients could use to route money into and out of their LGT accounts without incriminating wire transfers; and creating elaborate offshore structures involving foundations, trusts, and corporations to conceal client ownership of assets. In addition, four U.S. persons asserted their Fifth Amendment rights at the hearing and declined to answer questions about their LGT accounts.”
The Tax Justice Network, an international non-profit organization dedicated to fighting tax evasion, has estimated that wealthy individuals worldwide have stashed $11.5 trillion of their assets in offshore tax havens. Two experts, Joseph Guttentag and Professor Reuven Avi-Yonah, have estimated that U.S. individuals are using offshore tax schemes to avoid payment of $40 to $70 billion in taxes each year. Mr Levin is supported in his efforts by President Barack Obama, whose proposed budget is counting on the recovery of said billions of offshore tax dollars to assist in stabilizing the economy over time (Please see US government revenue chart on A6).
The US is becoming increasingly aggressive in the effort to shut down tax havens, and this even before the OECD agreements made after the G20 summit earlier this month. USA Today reported that the Swiss Bank UBS closed more than 14,000 accounts owned by US citizens following a court settlement over accusations it assisted its clients with tax evasion. Yet, the Swiss government has made it clear that by adopting the OECD Model Tax Convention, whereby Switzerland will henceforward share information “with other countries in individual cases where a specific and justified request has been made,” bank secrecy will not be put to rest. Pierre Mirabaud, chairman of the Swiss Bankers Association in Geneva accused the G20, of which Switzerland is not a member, of hypocrisy and hoped that Switzerland woud be treated as fairly as those tax havens which are territories of G20 nations, specifically Britain. Mr Mirabaud told the Bloomberg news agency: “I would only believe Mr. Brown [British Prime Minister Gordon Brown] is serious about addressing the question of transparency in offshore banking if he forces the real beneficial owners of any trust to be identified in all jurisdictions.”
But the US Department of Justice did just that, having served UBS almost a year ago with a “John Doe summons,” seeking the names of 19,000 U.S. clients with Swiss accounts hidden from the IRS. UBS said at the Subcommittee hearing in July that it was ready to cooperate. However, virtually none of the information requested by the John Doe summons has been turned over, primarily because the Swiss Government has taken the position that turning over this client account information would violate Swiss secrecy laws. In the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS agreed to contest the summons in court, but if it lost, to turn over the information to the United States or risk resumption of the criminal prosecution against the bank. The Department of Justice has asked the U.S. court that approved the summons to enforce it, and a trial to resolve the issue is now scheduled for July 2009, “one year after the initial request for the information,” according to Senator Levin. “The fact that the United States is having such a difficult time getting the client names, despite catching UBS red-handed and obtaining its admission of wrongdoing, shows how tough the offshore tax evasion problem is.”
Senator Levin also cites the surprisingly widespread use of tax havens by corporations with household names such as Microsoft, which was reported by the Government Accountability Office to have eight subsidiaries in tax haven countries: “In January 2009, Senator [Byron] Dorgan and I released a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) which shows that out of the 100 largest U.S. publicly traded corporations, 83 have subsidiaries in tax havens. Of the 100 largest federal contractors, 63 have tax haven subsidiaries. Using data from their corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, GAO listed the number of tax haven subsidiaries for each of these corporations. GAO determined, for example, that Morgan Stanley has 273 tax haven subsidiaries, while Citigroup has 427, with 90 in the Cayman Islands alone. News Corp. has 152, while Procter and Gamble has 83, Pfizer has 80, Oracle has 77, and Marathon Oil has 76. My Subcommittee is currently engaged in an effort to understand why so many of these corporations have so many tax haven affiliates. To do that we are going to have to battle secrecy laws in 50 different jurisdictions.”
Senator Levin seems up for the task.
By Sabeerah Abdul Majied
Islamic Post Staff Writer
More than 70 world leaders participated in the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad from April 17-19, 2009. It was the first time this prestigious event has been held in the Caribbean and in a CARICOM member state. The Summit is the only forum where the 34 democratically elected Heads of State and Governments of the Western Hemisphere meet to share their vision for the development of the hemisphere. The leaders deliberated on matters related to the political, economic, social, and security challenges confronting the region. Prime Minister Manning noted in an address to parliament that the summit has implications for, “the lives of some 2.8 billion people living in the Americas and the Commonwealth.”
Critics have raised issue with the tremendous cost to the tiny Republic –$2b according to Trinidad’s Newsday– for hosting the event. However the Prime Minister believes that it is a progressive vision which could yield development, progress and greater regional integration.
Preparation for the summit progressed with the readying of official venues such as the Hyatt Regency Trinidad and the Diplomatic Centre for the event. Further, two cruise ships anchored in the Port of Spain Harbor provided additional accommodation for delegates and other international participants. National security was upgraded to meet the standard required for hosting US President Barak Obama and other heads of state. Signs of preparation were most visible at the Piarco International Airport which accommodated the largest number of non- commercial aircrafts ever to land on its runway.
The theme of the Summit, “Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability” focused discussions on issues related to the global economic situation, environmental management, social protection and poverty eradication. Education, public security systems and entrepreneurship was also discussed. The collective responses and agreements will inform yet another conference- the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which Trinidad will also host from November 27-29, 2009.
In 1994 the leaders of the Western Hemisphere met for the first summit in Miami on the initiative of President Clinton. Since then a 2nd summit was held in Chile (1998). This was followed by the 3rd summit in Canada (2001) and the 4th in Argentina (2005). The summits have provided a forum for sharing experiences and developing solutions to problems that affect the people of the Americas.
Filed under: Front Page News, March Volume 2009, National | Tags: Afghanistan, Clinton, Sharia
Since the beginning of the new administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met with fourteen prominent Afghan women judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. The women came to Washington to participate in a training program arranged by the State Department’s Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan.
In Washington, the Afghan women participated in intensive legal seminars and consultations with senior officials, and explored current topics in Afghan and American legal systems: legal decision-making and mediation, domestic violence, family and mental health, and narcotics law.
President Obama, in his first foreign policy announcement, made clear to Afghan citizens, “We are committed to supporting your efforts to bring security and stability to your country.” Most agree the Afghan justice system needs improvement through education in jurisprudence and professional development. As it stands now, the State Department alleges Afghan judges and lawyers to base their work mainly on tribal codes.
Since the inception of Islam, women have been encouraged to pursue legal careers, a highly respected field. One of the first jurists in Islam was Syeda Aisha, the wife of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad, may the peace of Allah be upon him and his family. People came regularly to seek her legal advice. Today’s Muslims owe one third of Islamic law, known as Sharia, to this most intelligent and blessed lady. Sharia is a highly developed legal system in which modern democracy found much of its roots. During the Islamic caliphate, the main centers of secular learning and debate were in Muslim countries where people of the three major religions lived cohesively prior to the Crusades.