Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iraqi Refugees Turn to the Sex Trade in Syria

MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.

But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.

Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.

As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.

“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.
Read on at: NY Times

Monday, May 28, 2007


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "You should remember the reality that brings an end to all worldly joys and pleasures, namely, death."

Fiqh-as-Sunnah, Volume 4, Number 13

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Diamonds and Pearls

"If memory serves me correctly, I was wearing a little white tank top and a short black skirt. I had been raised Orthodox Muslim, so I had never before worn such revealing clothing while in my father's presence. When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father's suite.

As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day. My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget.

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, 'Hana, everything that Allah made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You've got to work hard to get to them.'

He looked at me with serious eyes. 'Your body is sacred. You're far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.'"

Source: "More Than A Hero:
Muhammad Ali's Life Lessons Through His Daughter's Eyes."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


American talk show queen accepts Elie Wiesel proposal to come to [apartheid] Israel, says she sympathizes with [apartheid] Israelis' suffering.

Oprah Winfrey will be arriving in [apartheid] Israel for a solidarity visit in the near future, the queen of American talk shows announced Monday during an event at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

In the event, Winfrey was honored by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity for her contribution to promoting humanitarian issues.

Read on at: YNet

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Boycott [Apartheid] Israel – Don’t Play another “Sun City!”

An open letter to the Rolling Stones regarding their planned gig in [Apartheid] Israel:

Dear Rolling Stones,

The Palestinian arts community received in disbelief media reports of your upcoming performance in Israel, at a time when Israel continues unabated with its colonial and apartheid designs to further dispossess, oppress, and ultimately ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland. If the news is accurate, and we sincerely hope it is not, we strongly urge you to cancel your plans to perform in Israel until the time comes when it ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and respects fundamental human rights as well as the relevant precepts of international law concerning Palestinian rights to freedom, self-determination and equality.

Performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa during the apartheid era. We all remember how leading Rolling Stones musicians played a prominent role in enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 1980’s, and participated in recording the timeless song, Sun City, which had a singular influence on raising public awareness about apartheid and its injustices. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard, and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils have repeatedly declared, Israel has created a worse system of apartheid than anything that ever existed in South Africa.

Indeed, Israel’s policies throughout its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory, which have surpassed their South African counterparts, include house demolitions; Jews-only colonies and roads; uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees; indiscriminate killings of civilians, particularly children; incessant theft of land and water resources; denying freedom of movement to millions under occupation, cutting up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans, some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks. Sixty years since the Nakba, Israel’s planned campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, and 40 years into its military occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territory, Israel has consistently and relentlessly violated basic human rights and relevant precepts of international law with utter impunity. Moreover, Israel’s war of aggression against Lebanon last year caused more than one thousand civilian deaths, not to mention massive destruction to infrastructure and decimation of entire residential neighbourhoods.

The resounding failure of the international community to date in ending Israel’s occupation, collective punishment, and other forms of oppression was what prompted Palestinians to appeal to international civil society to bear its moral responsibility to put an end to injustice, just as it did against apartheid South Africa. To this end, Palestinian civil society has almost unanimously called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law and recognizes the fundamental human rights of the people of Palestine. A specific call for cultural boycott of Israel was issued last year, garnering wide support. Among the many groups and institutions that have heeded the Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel are the Church of England; the US Presbyterian Church; a group of top British architects; the British National Union of Journalists in the UK; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario; Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger; and Palme d’Or winner director Ken Loach. Is it too much, then, to expect conscientious artists like the Rolling Stones to similarly uphold the values of freedom, equality and justice for all by supporting the growing boycott against Israel?

We appeal to your moral principles and your record of standing up for human rights and human dignity. If the reports are true, we sincerely hope that you shall cancel this ill-conceived and particularly harmful concert in Israel. If they are not true, we urge you to issue a statement to clarify where you stand on this issue of principle.


Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of [Apartheid] Israel

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good Riddance

Is it OK that I'm happy about today's news?
Everybody always wants to talk about those who preach hate under the guise of Islam - well good riddance to Falwell who did the same exact thing with Christianity.

Television Evangelist Falwell Dies at 73
The Rev. Jerry Falwell was stricken at his campus office and died Tuesday after a career in which the evangelist used the power of television to transform the religious right into a mighty force in American politics. He was 73.
. . .
Driven into politics by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established the right to an abortion, Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979. One of the conservative lobbying group's greatest triumphs came just a year later, when Ronald Reagan was elected president.

Falwell credited the Moral Majority with getting millions of conservative voters registered, aiding in Reagan's victory and giving Republicans control of the Senate.

"I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved," he said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.
. . .
The 1980s marked the religious conservative movement's high-water mark. In more recent years, Falwell had become a problematic figure for the GOP. His remarks a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, essentially blaming feminists, gays and liberals for bringing on the terrorist attacks drew a rebuke from the White House, and he apologized.
. . .
In 1999, he told an evangelical conference that the Antichrist was a male Jew who was probably already alive. Falwell later apologized for the remark but not for holding the belief. A month later, his National Liberty Journal warned parents that Tinky Winky, the children's TV character, was a gay role model and morally damaging to children.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Make A Safe Bet - Buyout the UC Fee Increase & Fund Academic Prep.

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

Gambling with the future of California is a high stakes game! Please Make a Safe Bet for Higher Education - buy out the 7-10% UC fee increase and restore Academic Preparation funding to $33 million for the 2007-2008 academic year.

UC students fully understand the difficult decisions you are charged with making during this budget cycle and urge you to continue to make higher education a priority. Students who complete a college education will contribute $3 to California's economy for every $1 the state spends on their education. Higher education is a great investment in the future of our state.

If the Governor's proposed fee increase takes effect, UC fees will have increased nearly 100% in only six short years - making it impossible for students and families to plan for a college education.

Thanking you in advance,

Zahra Billoo
1250 N Bellflower Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90840

Make your voice heard! Take action now!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

For the Record

I find inspiration in
the legacies of the global Islamic movement
as well as the Civil Rights movement.
I advocate a notion of a Muslim student community
that is deeply religious, educated,
multi-ethnic, fiqh-balanced,
gender balanced, non-sectarian,
activist, service oriented and shura based!

Is that really too much to ask?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Wage Law No Longer Living

Judge rules in favor of LAX-area hotels
By Kerry Cavanaugh

The Los Angeles City Council lost its legal showdown with the business community on Friday, when a judge struck down its effort to impose a living-wage ordinance on hotels near LAX.
. . .
The ruling marked a major setback for the council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who worked with the city's powerful unions to craft the controversial living-wage ordinance.

"The judge's decision is shocking to me, and I expect the city attorney to appeal," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who helped push for the law.
. . .
Los Angeles has had a living-wage requirement for more than a decade, but it had been applied only to firms doing business directly with the city.

In expanding it to the hotels, the council argued that the facilities benefit from their proximity to Los Angeles International Airport and its city-funded improvements, and so they could be required to pay higher wages.

The expanded living-wage law, first adopted in November, required 13 hotels along Century Boulevard to increase workers' hourly pay to $9.39 with health insurance, or to $10.64 without health benefits.

But hotels and business groups vigorously fought back, saying the city has no right to set wages for private-sector workers.

They also worried that the law could set a precedent and lead to similar ordinances being expanded to other industries.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce teamed up with hotels and spent $800,000 to gather more than 103,000 signatures to put the ordinance on the May ballot with the hope that voters would overturn the law.
. . .
Read the whole story at: LA Daily News
AND if you want to read about the struggle from the people actually living/fighting it: Coalition for a New Century

I think the saddest part about all of this is that I'm not even sure "$9.39 with health insurance, or . . . $10.64 without health benefits" deserves to be called a living wage.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Israel's 'Modesty Buses' Draw Fire

This is great; and they call Apartheid Israel the only democracy
in the Middle East? These buses are Saudi Arabia status!

By Katya Adler
BBC News, Jerusalem

The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem. I was in the bustling orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Sharim and the bus stop was extremely crowded.

When the Number 40 bus arrived, the most curious thing happened. Husbands left heavily pregnant wives or spouses struggling with prams and pushchairs to fend for themselves as they and all other male passengers got on at the front of the bus.

Women moved towards the rear door to get on at the back.

When on the bus, I tried to buck the system, moving my way towards the driver but was pushed back towards the other women.

These are what orthodox Jews call "modesty buses".

The separation system operates on 30 public bus routes across Israel.

The authorities here say the arrangement is voluntary, but in practice, as I found out, there is not much choice involved.

'Abuse and threats'

Naomi Ragen is one of a group of women now taking the separation bus system to court. She is an orthodox Jew herself.

"I wasn't trying to start a revolution, all I wanted to do was get home," she tells me.

"I was in downtown Jerusalem and I saw a bus going straight to my neighbourhood and I got on and sat down, in a single seat behind the driver.

"It was a completely empty bus, and all of a sudden, some men started getting on, ultra-orthodox men. They told me I was not allowed to sit there, I had to go to the back of the bus."

Not only is the segregation system discriminatory, says Ms Ragen, but it can also be dangerous, she says, for those like her who ignore it.

"I said to him look, if you bring me a code of Jewish law and show me where it's written that I have to sit at the back of the bus I'll move.

"And he tried to gain support from the rest of the passengers and I underwent a half-hour of pure hell - abuse, humiliation, threats, even physical intimidation."

'Positive discrimination'

Supporters of the separation system say the buses involved serve mainly religious Jewish neighbourhoods - but not exclusively.

Many passengers are not happy. You will hear complaints at bus stops all over town.

One man told me that if some people wanted segregation buses they should pay a private company to provide them.

Another told me that in a society that is democratic and where the buses are subsidised by the government, a minority's concerns should not override those of the majority.

But Shlomo Rosenstein disagrees. He is a city councillor in Jerusalem where a large proportion of Israel's segregation lines operate.

"This really is about positive discrimination, in women's favour. Our religion says there should be no public contact between men and women, this modesty barrier must not be broken."

Uphill struggle

Opponents of the separation buses face an uphill struggle. Orthodox Jewish leaders are a powerful minority in Israel.

Naomi Ragen says the buses are just part of a wider menacing pattern of behaviour towards women in parts of the orthodox Jewish community.

"They've already cancelled higher education in the ultra-orthodox world for women. They have packed the religious courts with ultra-orthodox judges.

"In some places there are separate sides of the street women have to walk on."

She says that there are signs all over some religious neighbourhoods demanding that women dress modestly.

"They throw paint and bleach at women who aren't dressed modestly and if we don't draw a line in the sand here with this seat on a bus, then I don't know what this country and this religion is going to look like in 20 years," Ms Ragen said.

Petitioners like Naomi Ragen have asked Israel's High Court to either ban the segregation buses altogether or to force bus companies to provide parallel bus routes for passengers wanting to sit where they like.

Check out the reader commentary at BBC News.