Archive for May, 2010

Capitalism: A Love Story

May 23, 2010

Bismillah. A massive “thank you” to the UK’s Channel 4 for screening Michael Moore’s superb 2009 film, “Capitalism: A Love Story” tonight. A must-watch, much like John Pilger’s “The War on Democracy.”

The main message: let’s rescue US democracy from Wall St. & greedy bankers.

There were shocking examples as well as inspiring stories:

* Judges & private prison CEOs making money from locking up kids for minor misdemeanours.

* Pilots paid so little that they resort to waitressing & food stamps. Hence the “Pennies for Pilots” charity collections on some US flights.

* Walmart and other corporations making millions from taking out life insurance policies on employees, who do not even know about these. The financiers call such people “Dead Peasants”; see http://www.deadpeasants.biz.

* The Troidy family in Miami whose home of over 20 years was foreclosed (repossessed). With local community support, they moved back in, defying the police and bank who had to back down.

* A sheriff who halted all future foreclosures (repossessions) of houses in his county, saying that no more working-class families should lose their homes.

* The Chicago factory-workers who staged a sit-in after being fired without pay. The company gave in after massive support from the public, including President Obama (Wall St gave his campaign a lot of money when they realised he was going to win).

* The courageous Congressmen who opposed the $700 bn bailout of the banks in 2008, arguing that Bush used fear to intimidate their colleagues into passing the motion, just as he did with the illegal Iraq war.

* Michael Moore attempting a citizen’s arrest of bank CEOs & putting “Crime Scene – Do Not Enter” yellow tape around Wall St. banks and those “bull and bear” sculptures in protest at the bailout fraud. Then with a megaphone asking the CEOs to come out to be arrested. He then says something like, “I’m getting old & tired of doing this by myself. Please join me” – via http://www.michaelmoore.com

* Footage of Roosevelt’s speech to the US during WW2 where he proposed a Second Bill of Rights, including the right of every citizen to a decent home, job, wage, education & healthcare. He died soon after and 65 years on, Americans still don’t have those rights. Ironically, many of his team helped to write constitutions for European countries & Japan, where such rights are widespread. The opponents of such ideas in the US describe them as “dangerous socialism,” one of the many labels put on Obama now.

Such rights are also very Islamic. As my grandfather wrote in his “Way of the Prophet” (p. 218 under Hadith 374),

“An Islamic government is responsible for all the basic necessities of people who are unable to support themselves. The basic necessities are: (1) food, (2) clothing, (3) accommodation, (4) healthcare and (5) education.

If the citizens of any state are deprived of these basic necessities, the government cannot be regarded as Islamic in the true sense.”

* The film ends with a wonderful, moving song by Woody Guthrie entitled “Jesus Christ.” The lovely lyrics include lines like:

Jesus said to the rich: “Give your wealth to the poor!”
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

If Jesus was to preach today as he did in the past,
They would lay Jesus Christ in his grave.

(The Koran rejects the story of the crucifixion of Christ, but this song’s powerful appeal for social justice is very Islamic.)

More quotes from the film:

* A leaked memo from top bankers admitted that the US was now no longer a democracy but a plutonomy, ie rule by wealthy corporations.

* Several priests described capitalism (or its current state in the US) as “evil.”

* The richest 1% of US households now have more wealth than the “bottom” 95% put together. But the latter have 95% of the vote, something the rich elite fear.

* “I truly believe that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies” – Thomas Jefferson, 1816.

It was Jefferson vs. The Bankers in one of the US Presidential Elections. Jefferson won, narrowly, despite all the dirty tricks used against him. I recommend “The Creature From Jekyll Island” by Edward Griffin for a fascinating, readable history of this period, the US Central Banks, the Federal Reserve, etc. Note that Griffin is right-wing whilst Moore is on the left. Griffin also criticises the international banking system for diverting US taxpayers’ money to help “international socialism” in Europe & Asia!

A final note: modern capitalism’s biggest problem is its foundation of riba (usury, exploitation, etc.). A key Koranic teaching is that usury is fundamentally opposed to charity. A clear illustration of this is that surplus wealth and profit is reduced by 2.5% per year under the Islamic charitable rules of zakat, with the money going to the poor and needy. Under a usurious system, the exact opposite happens: such money magically grows due to interest rates. If you trace it back, this increase comes ultimately from exploitation of the poor and indebted.

The net effects are:

Charity – wealth transfer from rich to poor
Usury – wealth transfer from poor to rich

May Allah give us the courage & wisdom to replace our current usurious system with a charity-based model of the free market and free enterprise.

Advertisements

Cordoba House near Ground Zero: a message from ASMA

May 22, 2010

As Salaamu Alaykum.

You may have been following the recent media blitz surrounding the Cordoba House, a joint project of ASMA and Cordoba Initiative. A few months ago SoHo Properties Inc. acquired a 4-story building with a vision of creating a community center with recreational facilities, classrooms, performing arts theatre, and programming geared towards the local New York community.

Cordoba House was seen as a groundbreaking effort towards building an unique Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, New York City. It was to be a bricks-and-mortar space to not only promote a thriving and diverse Muslim community but also provide new opportunities for interfaith harmony between Muslims and non-Muslims.

On May 5, Daisy Khan and Imam Feisal presented the vision and concept to Community Board 1, a committee of local stakeholders. The 12-member board welcomed the project and unanimously approved it by passing a resolution in favor of it.

Next morning, the press incorrectly reported the cultural center as a “13 story mosque near ground zero”. Blogs and social media outlets have claimed that the project is a step toward the “Islamization of America” and a “slap in the face of 9-11 families”. Some groups have launched hate campaigns and plan to hold a protest rally on June 6. Rarely does ASMA receive hate calls but we have received our share of it in the past few days. In addition, the story has taken a life of its own on blogs, twitter and other social networking sites. Here are links to some of the media stories (both positive and negative):

http://www.tribecatrib.com/news/2010/may/603_cb1-committee-hails-plans-for-a-mosque-two-blocks-from-world-trade-center-site.html

http://www.nypost.com/f/print/news/national/mosque_madness_at_ground_zero_OQ34EB0MWS0lXuAnQau5uL

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/14/plan-build-mosque-near-ground-zero-riles-families-victims/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joshua-stanton/muslim-cultural-center-gr_b_572767.html

On May 18, in response to the media frenzy, we called an emergency meeting with our interfaith partners who have thrown their full support behind us. They are writing letters and also asking other faith leaders to come forward in this moment of difficulty. Twenty institutional supporters have signed up so far.

On May 20, Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, held a press conference in front of the building to defend the center and to push back against the comments of Mark Williams, a Tea Party leader. So far, this is the most accurate report of this project:

http://www.dnainfo.com/20100520/manhattan/politicians-rally-against-tea-party-bashing-of-world-trade-center-mosque.

Daisy Khan has asked that I make a special request to you to support ASMA, Cordoba Initiative and the project at this critical moment. These are the ways you can help:

1. Weigh in on this issue by writing opinion pieces, blogging, tweeting etc. A good example is Kamran Pasha’s eloquent editorial on Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kamran-pasha/the-mosque-by-ground-zero_b_578146.html?view=print.

2. Write a support letter on your organization’s letterhead for the project and send it to us.

3. Send a letter to Scott Stringer’s office thanking them for their support.

4. Send our sample letter to your local Muslim or interfaith leaders for their endorsement. Cordoba House has hit national and international news and by endorsing this project faith leaders will become a part of the rebuilding of lower Manhattan.

5. Think about individuals nationally who might be willing to lead a fundraising campaign for this project. There will be naming opportunities and other ways to get involved with the center.

Warmly,
Rushda

Rushda Majeed
Director, MLT
American Society for Muslim Advancement
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 248
New York, NY 10115

212.870.2552 x 2

http://www.asmasociety.org

“Derision of the West is misguided”

May 19, 2010

‘Derision of West misguided’ By SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS
May 17, 2010 23:48 Updated: May 17, 2010 23:48

US more in alignment with Islamic values than many Muslim states: Al-Qarni

ALKHOBAR: A popular Saudi author and religious scholar has raised some questions about governmental and societal practices across the Arab world and asserts that the United States is more in alignment with many Islamic values than many countries represented as Muslim states.

Aaidh ibn Abdullah Al-Qarni, whose self-help book “Don’t Be Sad” sells briskly both in English and Arabic, made the remarks in two recent columns published in Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News. In the columns, Al-Qarni compared a Saudi woman’s experience after being beaten by an abusive husband in the United States with what often happens — or doesn’t happen — in her native land. In the second column, Al-Qarni explored the reasons so many Muslims move to the US and find both greater opportunity and more tolerance that they could expect in their homelands. The thought-provoking articles have prompted many discussions at coffee shops and dinner tables.

“The US deals with its subjects through systems that look like they were based on Islamic teachings while Muslims fail to implement such systems,” Al-Qarni wrote in his column about domestic violence, which focused on a family that moved to the US while the husband was working on a university degree. Physically and verbally abused, the wife appealed to his family and her family to intervene but to no avail. “In fact she was rejected, insulted and threatened by them,” Al-Qarni wrote of the family members back home. “Having reached a dead end, the wife decided to put a stop to the physical and psychological pain she and her children were suffering; she contacted the police and told them about her husband.” He then described the response of several police squads visiting the residence and getting the story from both spouses and the children before deducing the man indeed was beating his wife. The husband was arrested and the wife and children moved to a hotel at the state’s expense and under police protection. Later, the wife was given financial assistance and an American attorney represented her for no charge. Authorities found her an appropriate job, escorted her children to school and made the husband agree not to come near any of them before the court hearing on the matter, at which time he was convicted of domestic violence. The wife was awarded custody of the children.

“Now, after listening to the story, let us ask how many women are beaten, insulted and hurt without anybody coming to their aid? I am aware of many terrifying stories of the worst kind of abuse and oppression that women experience day and night,” Al-Qarni wrote. “I fear that after people read this story, many women in the Arab world would want to go to the US. I believe that there should be a secret police force whose task is to rescue women who are being assaulted and suffering abuse. Any husband carrying out such abuse should share the same fate as the Saudi student in the US mentioned in the story above.”

Al-Qarni wrote it reminded him of a classic figure in Islam. “Over 14 centuries ago, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, defended an abused woman when he went to her husband’s house with his sword and rescued the woman and taught her husband a lesson, but in accordance with the principles of Shariah,” he wrote. He continued: “I remember that some colleagues and I toured 21 American states, and whenever we saw the accuracy and excellence of the traffic system, and witnessed people’s commitment to environment-protection laws, and the way daily affairs are managed, we thought of the words we read in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Even some of the Muslim professors there once said to us: ‘We swear it is as if the Americans took it from our religion word for word, while we ignore these great texts.’”

In the column about Arabs fleeing their homelands and traveling to the West, Al-Qarni notes that greater opportunities exist there than in many Arab nations.

“Some of them have fled from repression, whipping, torture, gagging, confiscation of freedom, with the traces of torture still on their backs and chests. Others have gone to look for a source of living after being stricken by poverty, stung by hunger and destroyed by unemployment and idleness. Others have gone to seek knowledge, leaving behind their countries where universities are ranked last in the list of the universities of the world,” he wrote.

Al-Qarni related the story of a Libyan man who fled his own country and found happiness and a good life in the US. “We were amazed. Amazingly enough, here is a man who fled his homeland after being terribly harassed, tortured, and maltreated there and came to a state that we are insulting day and night, and that some of us call the ‘Great Satan,’ a country that our preachers are cursing and wishing it bad,” Al-Qarni wrote. “Then, this poor Muslim man who was driven out of his country, tortured in his homeland, becomes rich, having a home, a farm and a job and enjoying a good life full happiness in an American state.”

Al-Qarni questions why the West is demonized when it provides so many opportunities to Muslims and is far more tolerant of Muslim sensitivities than many Muslim countries are to people of differing faiths. “Why don’t we Arabs think about our tragedies and disasters, and admit that many of our states have discarded justice, confiscated liberties, taken over rights and erased the freedom of expression? This is at a time when, in the West, they discuss their affairs calmly, solve their crises with dialogue and govern their subjects with justice,” he wrote. He suggests the Arab world needs to take a long look at itself. “In our Shariah, we read about order, justice, good character, calls for peace and human rights, respect for others, avoiding hurting other peoples’ feelings, showing interest in the environment, seeking knowledge, encouraging work and production, and fighting poverty, ignorance, disease, and injustice. We notice that they are observing all this in the West whereas we find that many Arabs are only paying lip service to it in their bitter reality.”

Al-Qarni said there was much to be learned from the countries of the West. “Please, let us stop cursing and insulting them and wishing them bad, and let us preoccupy ourselves with reforming ourselves, improving our level, promoting our universities, cleaning our environment, building our land, and rectifying our mistakes.”

(http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article54754.ece)

Hope not hate

May 6, 2010

Bismillah. A forwarded message:

We’ve got hours left until the polls close – so forgive me for being a bit blunt: I need you to come to Barking & Dagenham today to help stop the BNP.

Any spare time you can give can make the difference. An hour, two hours – we’ll take it. We need you.

Sign up right now to let me know I can count on you this evening:

HOPE not Hate HQ
50-52 New Road
Dagenham, Essex RM9 6YS
http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/electiondaypush

The situation in Barking & Dagenham is worsening. Turnout is heavy in those polling districts where we know the BNP have a lot of support. Unless we turn out our vote the BNP could win control of the council, and even elect a Nazi like Nick Griffin to parliament.

We can’t let it happen. We just can’t.That’s why we’ll be knocking on doors and handing out leaflets tonight – right up until the polls close at 10pm. We turn out the anti-BNP vote and the BNP cannot win. It’s that simple.

We’ve got to make sure every last one of the ballots cast this evening is a vote for hope, not hate.

Join us, please:

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/electiondaypush

Thank you,
Nick Lowles

P.S. I sent this video around last night – but I wanted to make sure you had a chance to see it. Yesterday, Bob Bailey, a BNP candidate, attacked a young man on the streets of Barking. You can make sure that he doesn’t get elected today – volunteer now.

UK General Election

May 5, 2010

Bismillah. VOTE LIB-DEMS, unless there is a very good alternative in your area. There are many considerations in deciding who to vote for. The overriding one is that we need to break the two-party stranglehold on our UK politics.