May 23, 2005


Karina Bland, Arizona Republic
May. 22, 2005

At 15, Mae Innabi learned a harsh lesson in tolerance when a boy at school called her a "terrorist" and put her head through a window.

Innabi, a Phoenix resident, is Arab-American, born in the United States and the oldest of three children of immigrants from Jordan.

Now 17, she graduates Monday from Thunderbird High School in Phoenix a year early. She hurried through high school by going to summer and night school and taking math, English, world politics and Arabic at nearby community colleges.

The lessons she learned in tolerance were tougher, brought into her life by the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. Then an eighth-grader, Innabi would tell people she was Hispanic or Italian. She has been cursed and spit on by people who knew she was Arab-American.

In November, Innabi was taking a night class at Cortez High School in Phoenix. Some kids gave her a hard time, calling her a "terrorist." One night, a boy choked her and then pushed her into the window, her head shattering the glass. She suffered a minor concussion: "I'm pretty hardheaded."

Her mother wouldn't let her go back to that class, so Innabi finished her course work in the office. But she refused to run away.

At Thunderbird High last year, she started an anti-discrimination group called the Change, based on Mohandas K. Gandhi's words: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

She and 30 other students raised money to buy lesson plans about different cultures.

Innabi became a beacon for students who felt discrimination: "I think it was easier to come to me because I was their age." She would stand by them while they reported what happened.

Now, Innabi is working to create a Phoenix chapter of the national Anti-Arab-American Discrimination Committee. She has plans for a program to send Arab-American teenagers into schools to talk about their culture.

What Innabi didn't do was learn to hate the people who tormented her: "If I retaliate against them, it's just more reason for people to hate me."

Innabi will attend Arizona State University West this fall.

May 22, 2005

Guantánamo Comes to Define U.S. to Muslims

Another example in my near-daily embarrassment of my country. Excerpts from a NY Times article:

For many Muslims, Guantánamo stands as a confirmation of the low regard in which they believe the United States holds them. For many non-Muslims, regardless of their feelings toward the United States, it has emerged as a symbol of American hypocrisy.


The Bush administration's response to the Newsweek article - a general condemnation of prison abuses, coupled with an attack on the magazine - apparently did little to allay the concerns of many Muslims. Then on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a report detailing the many complaints from detainees at Guantánamo about desecrations of the Koran between early 2002 and mid-2003.

In India, a secular country by law whose people and government are growing increasingly close to the United States, a cartoon appeared in Midday, an afternoon tabloid, on Friday showing a panic-stricken Uncle Sam flushing copies of Newsweek magazine down a toilet.

Newsweek Flushed!

To the cartoonist, Hemant Morparia, it appeared as though the Bush administration's answer to the problem was to bury the truth. [This is exactly the impression that I have been given over the past week.]

"People suspect American intentions," Mr. Morparia, a Mumbai-based radiologist who doubles as a cartoonist, said. "It has nothing to do with being Muslim."


In Europe, accusations of abuse at Guantánamo, as much as the war in Iraq, have become a symbol of what many see as America's dangerous drift away from the ideals that made it a moral beacon in the post-World War II era. There is a persistent and uneasy sense that the United States fundamentally changed after September 11, and not for the better.

"The simple truth is that America's leaders have constructed at Guantánamo Bay a legal monster," the French daily, Le Monde, said in a January editorial.


On many Arab streets, there was as much conspiracy seen in the retraction of the Newsweek story as in the story itself.

"People already expect the U.S. to deny it, because it already has no credibility in the region," said Mustafa al-Ani, director of the Security and Terrorism Studies Program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "So the initial story will have an impact, and the response simply will not."

Or as a Jordanian pharmacist, Farouk Shoubaki, said of the original report, "It is something the Americans would do."

As Mr. Shoubaki's remark reflects, Guantánamo offers disconcerting testimony that for many Muslims, the America they used to admire has sunk to the level of their own repressive governments.

Najam Sethi, editor of The Daily Times, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan, said the Guantánamo accusations were seen in his country as "further proof" of hypocrisy and anti-Islamic sentiment in the government of the United States. To many, he said, it was taken "as evidence of how America and the West makes the war against terrorism synonymous with the war against Islam."


In Britain, Guantánamo has entered the political lexicon along with Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad as an emblem of American injustice and abuse. During the London marathon in April this year, David Nicholl, a neurologist, ran the race in an orange jumpsuit to protest the detention of five former British residents at Guantánamo.

"We are all against terrorism but we are not obliged to close our eyes to the excesses of our allies," Chris Mullin, a former British Foreign Office minister told Parliament on Wednesday.

In India, one human rights advocate who routinely takes the Indian military to task for its alleged abuses against insurgents in Kashmir and the northeast, said the United States stance on things like torture and interrogation of suspects at Guantánamo signaled what he called "a human rights disaster" for everyone.

On Friday afternoon in an Islamabad bookshop, Maheen Asif, 33, leafed through a women's magazine, and paused for only a moment when asked for her impression of Guantánamo Bay.

"Torture," she said, as her daughters, 8 and 5, scampered through the stalls. "The first word that comes to my mind is 'torture' - a place where Americans lock up and torture Muslims in the name of terrorism."

May 18, 2005

Suicide Attack on Muslim Holy Site Foiled, says Israel

And here's a little bit of good news, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald:

Israeli police say they have arrested and released a group of ultra-right wing Jewish fundamentalists who were planning to trigger an ethnic bloodbath by attacking the holiest Muslim site in Jerusalem.


News of the alleged plot to attack the Dome of the Rock was made public on Monday after a gagging order was lifted. Authorities said they had arrested three men from an ultra-Orthodox Hassidic sect who had planned to buy a shoulder-fire missile and fire it at the dome, the third holiest site in Islam. They had talked of then attacking the police with hand grenades before committing suicide.


The Government said the three were released because there was no evidence they had taken any steps to carry out the attack.


The Israeli security agency Shin Bet has warned repeatedly in recent months of plots among right-wing Jews to attack the site in the hope of sparking anarchy, which would derail the plan of the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, for "disengagement" from Gaza.

Suicide Attacks are Haram, Clerics Decree

This in from the Daily Times of Pakistan:

LAHORE: Fifty-eight clerics belonging to different schools of thought on Tuesday gave a unanimous ‘fatwa’ (decree) according to which considering suicide attacks a kind of jihad was ‘haram’ (forbidden) and disallowed in Islam.

Mufti Muneebur Rehman, Pakistan Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman, told a press conference on Tuesday that the group of clerics had also said a man or a woman would not be considered Muslim if they took part in a suicide attack thinking he or she had God’s blessings.

Seven senior clerics from different parts of the country were also at the conference.

Muneebur Rehman also said planting bombs, attacking mosques or other places of worship or even public places were also haram in Islam. He said killing human beings had nothing to do with Islam and dispelled the impression that religious organisations trained their students to carry out such activities. He said no religious institutions could give such training to its students.

Clerics also said struggling for freedom within the ambit of international law was justified.

Allama Muhammad Hussain Akbar, Allama Ubaidullah Ashrafi, Qari Muhammad Hanif Jallundary, Maulana Abdul Malik Abdul Mustafa Hazarvi, Muhammad Rafique Hasni and Mufti Muhammad Khan Qadri were also at the clerical meeting.

This meeting was the result of Minister of State for Religious Affairs Aamir Liaqat Hussain’s continuous efforts to build consensus between the clerics of Pakistan on the subject.

May 16, 2005

Be Muslim - But Only in Moderation

"Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: 'The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.' Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah." (2:120)

2:135 "They say: 'Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).' Say thou: 'Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.'" (2:135)

Be Muslim - But Only in Moderation
By: Yasmin Mogahed

In his first 2004 presidential debate, Senator John Kerry began the night in the flavor-of-the-day. Answering his first question, Kerry explained that America needed to isolate the "radical Islamic Muslims."

"I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by ... beginning to isolate the radical Islamic Muslims, not have them isolate the United States of America."

At first, the statement sounded redundant-even uneducated. A Muslim is, by definition, a follower of Islam, and is therefore, by definition, "Islamic." Saying "Islamic Muslims" was a lot like saying "American Americans."

So was Kerry just being repetitive? Or was his statement perhaps more telling that even he realized? Are all Muslims "Islamic"? Well, the truth is - no. Not the good ones, at least.

More and more the underlying assumption seems to be that Islam is the problem. If Islam, as a faith, is in essence radical, the less "Islamic" something is the better. And thus a 'moderate Muslim' - the much coveted title - is only moderately Muslim and therefore only moderately bad. Saying this would be like telling someone to only be 'moderately black' so as not to be too violent.

Conversely, a Muslim who is too "Islamic" is then by definition "radical" - a "radical Islamic Muslim" - and must be dealt with (isolated).

In fact, Mona Mayfield understood these rules well when she defended her husband - wrongfully accused of participating in the Spain bombing.

"We have a Bible in the house. He's not a fundamentalist - he thought it was something different and very unique," Mayfield told the associated press of her husband's conversion to Islam.

To prove his innocence, Mayfield tried to downplay her husband's commitment to Islam. She even felt the need to justify his conversion - as if that were his crime.

Mosque administrator Shahriar Ahmed took a similar approach to defend Mayfield. "He was seen as a moderate," Ahmed told reporters. "Mayfield showed up for the Friday ritual of shedding his shoes, washing his bare feet and sitting on the carpets to hear services. He did not, as some devout Muslims do, pray five times a day at the mosque."

The implication here is that Brandon Mayfield's guilt or innocence was in some way related to how many times he prayed at the mosque. Ahmed even went on to assert, "He was on the less religious side if anything."

These 'less religious' icons of what an 'acceptable' Muslim should look like can be found all over the media. Irshad Manji, media entrepreneur and author of "The Trouble with Islam," is one of the most celebrated of these icons. Manji is widely published and has appeared in all the top media outlets. She even received Oprah's Chutzpah Award for "gustiness."

Although Manji refers to herself as a "Muslim refusenik", the media refers to her as the model of a "practicing Muslim". Daniel Pipes, a board member of the United States Institute of Peace, calls her a "courageous, moderate, modern Muslim." But interestingly, Manji's ideas have less to do with Islam than Pipes' ideas have to do with peace. A Washington Post article describes Manji's epiphany about prayer-the cornerstone of the Islamic faith:

"Instead, she said, she began praying on her own. After washing her feet, arms and face, she would sit on a velvet rug and turn toward Mecca. Eventually, she stopped this as well, because she did not want to fall 'into mindless submission and habitual submissiveness.'"

Manji is welcome to her opinion about this practice of 1.5 billion people worldwide. She is also welcome to abandon any and all of these practices. But Manji is not simply depicted as an insignificant woman who decided not to pray. Her personal decision to abandon central tenants of her faith - so long as that faith is Islam - is portrayed as a fight for freedom. A fight against tyranny. She is 'courageous' and 'gutsy', a model for other not-too-Islamic Muslims to follow.

Making this the model is like asking someone not to be 'too black' or 'too Jewish' as if these were in essence bad or violent and anyone who struggled only to be 'moderately black' or 'moderately Jewish' was a freedom fighter.

For example, Manji told the Washington Post, "The violence is going to happen, then why not risk it happening for the sake of freedom?"

Yes. Freedom is good. Manji may have said it better. Kerry may have said it subtler. But a business management professor at California's Imperial Valley College said it truer: "The only way to end Islamic terrorism is to eliminate the Islamic religion."

But regardless of how you say it, one thing is for sure: when it comes to Islam these days - less is definitely more.

Yasmin Mogahed received a B.S. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. She is currently a graduate student in Journalism/Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and working as a free lance writer.

May 11, 2005

King Tut

How King Tut may have looked, after three teams of scientists (American, French and Egyptian) examined hundreds of CT scans of Tut's head and torso.

"The teams essentially agreed on the proportions of the skull, the basic shape of the face and the size and setting of the eyes. They differed on the shape of the nose and ears, which have not held up well. The American and French versions showed a weak chin, while the Egyptians gave Tut a stronger one."


"They concluded, for example, that Tut's elongated skull was a normal anthropological variation, not a result of disease or congenital abnormality. They noted his thin face and pronounced overbite - buck teeth. Egyptologists said overbites ran in his family, like the Hapsburg lip of more recent royal history.

"Tut also had large lips, a receding chin and a small cleft in the roof of his mouth. The examiners said the cleft palette did not appear to have affected his external expression in any way.

"All in all, the science team said, Tut appeared to have been in good health until he died. Judging from the bones, he was well-fed and there were no signs of malnutrition or disease in childhood. His teeth, except for an impacted wisdom tooth, were in excellent condition. He was slightly built and probably stood 5½ feet tall."

Interestingly, the theory that Tut was murdered appears to be going to its own grave:

"On a recent visit to the University of Pennsylvania, however, Dr. Hawass said the scientists who analyzed the CT images found no apparent evidence of foul play. They said the damage to the cranium was apparently caused when the mummy's discoverers pried the burial mask from the head.

"'No one hit Tut on the back of the head,' Dr. Hawass said, though he conceded that he could have been poisoned. But to establish that would require other lines of analysis. He also speculated that the broken leg that Tut is known to have suffered days before he died could have become infected and contributed to his death."

May 9, 2005

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?

Nicholas Kristof
You are Nicholas D. Kristof! You enjoy travelling,
going as far as China, Africa, Alaska, and
Central America for a good story. You use a lot
of quotes and references in your stories. You
tackle tough issues like AIDS and religion,
which makes you controversial among Christians.
You're a good man, Nicholas D. Kristof.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

This was amusing. And the interesting thing is, I found the link on Kristof's blog (he also turns out to be Kristof ;) ).

I also like reading the columns of Friedman, Krugman, and Dowd as well. (I occasionally read Bob Herbert, but never read Safire or Brooks.)

Anyhoo, take the quiz! :)

May 2, 2005

Silence Perpetuates Violence

The following is an e-mail I recently received from the Muslim American Society. A very interesting portrait into the so-called "tolerance" of American society (multiple acts of vandalism, a police force that sits on its hands), and this in a blue state!

Alhamdulillah that I don't live in Revere as this poor family does!

(BOSTON) - When his car was vandalized for the fourth time, Lesley University security supervisor Sgt. Mohamed Kenawy could not tolerate this type of bigotry any more. So he kept his son and two daughters, ages 6, 10 and 12, from going to school and took them, with his wife, directly to the Revere Mayor's office, declaring, "If you can't guarantee our safety, we are going to live here in your office."

Sgt. Kenawy, his family and neighbors, had been the victims of hate crimes in their neighborhood for nearly five months, and it was time for it to come to an end.

In October of 2004, Sgt. Kenawy's wife and another neighbor's wife, both veiled, were sitting outside their homes in Revere when a couple of white youths shouted at them, "Go back to your f***ing country!"

Unbelievably, a few days later, the neighbor's wife was again victimized as her car was blocked by another vehicle, forcing her to sit, petrified and helpless, while a youth stood at her driver's side window shouting profanities at her. But this time, before the perpetrator's car could pull away the victim was able to get the license plate number of the vehicle. However, it wasn't long before long another verbal abuse incident occurred, and the victim was again able to obtain a license plate number. With the newly submitted license plate numbers, Sgt. Kenawy was at last relieved to learn that the Revere police would finally open an investigation.

However, the victims of these hate crimes didn't breathe easy for long. On November 2004, a neighbor's wife awoke to find that the family car had been savagely vandalized. The damage was so extensive that the insurance carrier categorized it as a total loss.

After the November incident, the media was finally alerted and a report on the vandalized vehicle was aired on Fox News. Despite the media attention, the investigation seemed to hit a dead end as Revere Police reported they were unable to track down the alleged perpetrators from the license plate numbers provided, stating that the numbers seemed to have been written down incorrectly on both incidents.

Unfortunately, Sgt. Kenawy would soon learn that the vandalization and harassment that he and his neighbors had been suffering through was not yet over. On January 8, 2005, Sgt. Kenawy found the rear driver's side window of his 1997 Dodge Caravan completely shattered, causing $400 in damage.

On January 11, 2005, one day before Sgt. Kenawy was scheduled to leave on a trip to perform Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina), and just after the repair work to his Caravan had been completed, the same window was once again broken out.

Needless to say, it was a very stressful time for Sgt. Kenawy to be leaving his family. He explained all the necessary precautions his wife should take in his absence, and as they parted he left her with the words, "May Allah be with you." It was with the heaviest of hearts that Sgt. Kenawy left for Makkah, but he tried not to let it show.

Sgt. Kenawy's fears for the safety of his family and personal property were affirmed on January 22, 2005, when he received word that his vehicle had been vandalized yet again. This time the damage to his vehicle was so extensive, including four windows and the windshield being completely broken out, that the damage came to approximately $9,000. Needless to say, the news of his family being victimized in his absence filled Sgt. Kenawy with even deeper anxiety.

Returning from his trip in early February, Sgt. Kenawy went straight to the Revere Police and Mayor's offices. He told officers at the police department, "If I pay you taxes to defend me and you tell me 'We don't know what to do', then give me your guns and I'll handle it." Sgt. Kenawy further addressed the Mayor, asking, "Do you want us to leave the country like they do, or are you going to do something about it?!"

At a loss for what else he could do to protect his family and property, Sgt. Kenawy also sought help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in addition to contacting MAS Freedom Foundation - Boston, Public Affairs Coordinator Hamza Pelletier.

Sgt. Kenawy states that FBI agent Maureen Robinson was dispatched to investigate the incidents. Revere Police subsequently promised to place a surveillance camera, but didn't follow through.

Freedom Foundation's Pelletier contacted Revere Police Capt. Dennis Collyer, of the Criminal Investigation Division, in an attempt to persuasively reinforce that more needed to be done to resolve the crimes being committed, stating, "This is intolerable, not just for the Muslim community but for any community member. You're not doing anything to prevent this, you're waiting for something to happen; are you waiting for someone to get hurt?"

And yet again Sgt. Kenawy's vehicle was vandalized for the fourth time on March 11, 2005, as the rear driver's side window shattered with a rock.

Kenawy commented, "I take this as a message that this harassment will not stop."

Fuming, Sgt. Kenawy kept his kids from going to school and took his whole family to the Mayor's office, telling the Mayor that he and his family planned to live there. He also told the Mayor, "My children have questions. I want you to answer my little girl's questions for me. She's asking, why are people doing this to us?" He added, "What are you waiting for?"

Revere police finally assigned an officer to place a surveillance camera that is now recording the parked car 24 hours a day. There have been no further incidents to date. Asked if the installation of the surveillance camera satisfactorily resolved the issue, Sgt. Kenawy, replied, "I will never be satisfied until these criminals are punished by whatever the law decides." He added, "My sleep is disturbed. I wake up at night repeatedly to check up on the car."

Pelletier commented, "Silence perpetuates violence. Unless we advocate for the rights we deserve, we will continue to be treated as second-class citizens. With the support of the community, MAS Freedom Foundation Boston will be that voice."