Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Saudi-American running for US office

A middle-aged schoolteacher living in southern California, Ferial Al Masry, is waging an uphill election campaign to become the first Saudi-born American to hold elective office in the United States. From ABC News, "Person of the Week": "Masry is deeply involved, like many Americans, in national issues. She is against the war in Iraq, even though she's running in a district that favors it. Her son Omar is an Army sergeant who just returned home after serving in Iraq for a year and a half...She was born in Mecca, in western Saudi Arabia, which was the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad. She is one of seven children. Her mother never learned to read or write; in her day, women were not permitted an education. But she sent her girls to be educated in Egypt. In Saudi Arabia, her success has not gone unnoticed. "I was the first woman ever to be on the cover of a Saudi magazine without a headscarf," she said. Masry would like to be an inspiration to Saudis, as well as Americans. "I think a lot of people are watching, especially women," she said. "It gives them hope and courage to ask for their rights." Even with all of her energy and optimism, Masry is a long-shot for November. Her district usually votes Republican. " I was listening to her story on National Public Radio this morning, and a local newspaper endorsed Bush for president & several other Republican candidates but endorsed Al Masry's candidacy too. Check out other Arab-American candidates at the Arab American Institute (AAI) website. Many of them tend to be Christian Arabs who have been a part of American history for a while, like Ralph Nader. Personally, I am really happy but can't wait for the day when a Muslim in Hijab (headcover) runs for something even more ambitious like the US Congress or Senate - to prove to the world that even behind the veil, we can do it. Also check out AAI's Voter Guide: the most comprehensive guide available to where the presidential candidates stand on civil liberties, Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and immigration. The most interesting are the the responses of Bush and Kerry to AAI's candidate questionnaire.

Speaking of religion, a new book is out by an author Craig Winn called Prophet of Doom:
Islam's Terrorist Dogma in Muhammed's Own Words. One thing is clear that the author has not studied Islam in great depth, the life of the Holy Prophet, his exemplary life and has taken many of his teachings and verses from the Muslim scripture, out of context to conclude: "The depiction of the prophet by the most revered Muslim sources reveals behavior that is immoral, criminal, and violent. The five oldest and most trusted Islamic sources don't portray Muhammad as a great and godly man. They confirm that he was a thief, liar, assassin, mass murderer, terrorist, warmonger, and an unrestrained sexual pervert engaged in pedophilia, incest, and rape. He authorized deception, assassinations, torture, slavery, and genocide. He was a pirate, not a prophet. According to the Hadith and the Qur'an, Muhammad and his henchmen plundered their way to power and prosperity. And by putting the Qur'an in chronological order and correlating it with the context of Muhammad's life, we find that Allah mirrored his prophet's character. Muhammad's god condoned immoral and criminal behavior. Allah boasts about being a terrorist. He claims to have deceived men, to have stolen their property, to have enslaved women and children, to having committed acts of murder, genocide, and sadistic tortures. " Mr. Winn, a businessman, who according to's own editorial review knew nothing about Islam prior to 9/11, reveals his lack of knowledge and poor scholarship in his fictitious writing. Revered leaders of all times including Gandhi have talked highly of Prophet Mohamed- sign this petition to protest this inaccurate reflection of the Holy Prophet Muhammed and an attempt to incite hatred towards Muslims.

I would highly recommend all of you to read this interview from Asia Source on Mahmood Mamdani, a third generation East African of Indian origin, [who] discusses the arguments in his most recent book, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror: "To understand terrorism, we need to go beyond self-defense, beyond the violence of liberation movements, beyond the violence of anti-colonial struggles and liberation movements. To understand non-state terror today, we need to understand the historical relationship between state terrorism and non-state terrorism. The suicide bomber, however, has been widely understood in the western media as a throwback to pre-modernity, either as adult irrationality or as a response of adolescents coerced by patriarchal authority. I think this explanation may be too easy and too self-serving. The reality is more likely the opposite; the suicide bomber is more likely born of a youth revolt than of patriarchal authority. The suicide bomber comes out of the history of the Intifadah. The first Intifadah in Palestine was coterminous with the Soweto uprising in South Africa. Both were testimony to youth revolts on two fronts: against both external authority - such as the apartheid or the Zionist order - and the internal authority of the generation of their parents, a generation they saw as having capitulated to external authority by accepting the conditions of apartheid and occupation as normal. It is not very different from American youth during the civil rights and the anti-war movement of the 1960s. This is how I recall Bob Dylan's ode to the youth of the '60s: "Come O Mothers and Fathers of the land Get out of the way if you can't lend a hand Your sons and daughters are beyond your command For the times they are a-changing"...when Bush speaks of "good" Muslims and "bad" Muslims, what he means by "good" Muslims is really pro-American Muslims and by "bad" Muslims he means anti-American Muslims. Once you recognize that, then it is no longer puzzling why good Muslims are becoming bad Muslims at such a rapid rate...This is connected to my claim that political identities are not reducible to cultural identities. Political Islam, especially radical political Islam, and even more so, the terrorist wing in radical political Islam, did not emerge from conservative, religious currents, but on the contrary, from a secular intelligentsia. In other words, its preoccupation is this-worldly, it is about power in this world. To take only the most obvious example: I am not aware of anyone who thinks of bin Laden as a theologian; he is a political strategist. My real discomfort with using the two interchangeably - political Islam and Islamic fundamentalism - is that "fundamentalism" is a cultural phenomenon and I want to zero-in on a political phenomenon...Until Ayatollah Khomeini created a state-wide clerical authority in Iran, there was no such institutionalized religious hierarchy in Islam and it still does not exist elsewhere. Without the existence of an institutionalized religious hierarchy parallel to a state hierarchy, the question of the proper relation between two domains of power, that of the organized church and the organized state, a central question in Western secularism, has been a non-question in Islam...[In Iraq, Ayatollah] Sistani's is a secular, religious perspective. His view is that Shi'a clerics are scholars; they should be the conscience of society, not the wielders of state power. So when political Islam develops - unlike political Christianity - it is not the result of the movement of religious intellectuals into a secular domain but rather the reverse move, that of secular intellectuals into the religious domain."

In the news from
BBC: "The Knesset [Israeli Parliament] voted 67-45 in favour of the proposal, with seven abstentions. Mr Sharon had to rely on the support of the main opposition Labour party. Tuesday's move marked the first time the Israeli government had voted on the principle of removing settlers from occupied Palestinian land. The BBC's Barbara Plett in Jerusalem says the prime minister will now have to either heal the rifts within Likud or change his coalition government in order to carry out the plan. Under the disengagement plan, Israel will withdraw all its settlers - and the troops protecting them - but will maintain control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace. " This was one of the reasons why the peace accords between the two parties in 200 failed. "Four West Bank settlements are also to be evacuated. The proposed evacuations are to be carried out in phases - and each phase will require approval with a cabinet vote. But a leading Palestinian negotiator said the Israelis were "negotiating with themselves". "We've been watching [them] discussing our future, the future of our children, the future of the Palestinians, with one factor - us - being absent." I haven't come across more detailed analysis on this move yet, but from previous readings, the concern is that Sharon's action is merely as smokescreen to allow him to build more permanent Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Another interesting move by a political leader came from Pakistan's
Parvez Musharraf on the disputed territory of Kashmir: "President Pervez Musharraf made an appeal for new thinking to end the two countries' dispute over the divided territory by peaceful means. Among the options the Pakistani leader suggested were joint rule over the territory or its re-division. He also said Pakistan's traditional demand for a referendum was impractical while India's bid to create a permanent border between the two parts of Kashmir was unacceptable. An alliance of six Islamic parties, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), called the plan a "betrayal of the Kashmir cause". "It's a U-turn, a roll-back of Pakistan's policy on Kashmir since independence," MMA deputy leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed told AFP news agency. "Whatever the ideas, he should have put them forward in parliament." BBC News Online's Sanjoy Majumder, in Delhi, says Indian officials believe President Musharraf likes to score political points in public but is unyielding in his negotiations in private...In the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat said he was disappointed..."We believe in a plebiscite, the one which was promised to us by both Pakistan and India," he said, referring to a 1948 UN Security Council resolution calling for a referendum which was accepted by both states. "Now, after five decades, they are talking about disintegration of Kashmir into six, seven parts." In the Indian part of Kashmir, the leader of a hardline faction of the separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said his supporters stood by their demand for self-determination. However, the leader of a moderate faction of Hurriyat welcomed President Musharraf's proposals. Abdul Gani Bhat said they would be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris alike, and could usher in lasting peace and an era of prosperity." BBC News Online looks at possible solutions for Kashmir. Click on the maps.