Archive for December, 2009

News and Analysis (12/19-20/09)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

“It is like a cake that everyone wants a piece of … With all our problems — security, the economy, corruption — the gap between the people and the government is growing every day”:

An estimated 850,00 Iranians will be affected when Tehran’s research facility runs out of nuclear fuel, which could happen as early as spring 2010:

The suspect has retracted his confession, claiming that police tortured him into admitting his role in the attack and that he came to Mumbai as a tourist and was arrested 20 days before the siege began:

Will religious nationalists rebel now that they confront the contradictions inherent in the politicization of religion?

Although both sides still lay claims to the well, the conflict shows signs of deescalation:

The man Khomeini wanted to succeed him, father of the reform movement, who “accused the country’s ruling Islamic establishment of imposing dictatorship in the name of Islam” has passed away:

Gareth Power explains how the U.S. obsession with Iran gives undeserved beaks to North Korea:

My Lunch with Mahmoud

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Immediately after the recent 2009 Iranian elections, I wrote an open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, emphasizing the importance of seriously addressing the charges of fraud. You can imagine, then how pleased I was to receive an invitation to have lunch with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his visit to the U.N. with the full knowledge of my gracious hosts that I intended to raise the same subject.

There were about three dozen others at the luncheon, many American Muslim leaders, some of whom had their own delicate issues to raise in a friendly and constructive manner. The opportunity to speak frankly to him is a plus at a time when his regime is under severe fire at home and abroad but, unfortunately, the format denied an opportunity for the back and forth exchange that a serious discussion of the vital issues involving Iran today.

CAIR’s Nihad Awad strongly advised the Iranian President to release the three American hikers who crossed into Iran illegally. Three months later, they are still in detention with the threat of trial over their heads. Ahmadinejad dismissed this suggestion, insisting that illegal entry is a crime to be dealt with by the judicial system. Had we been permitted follow-ups, perhaps we could have pointed out that heads of state often intervene in such situations for the benefit of good international relations and that in any case the issue would make a good topic of conversation for him to have with Barack Obama if he wishes to fulfill his standing offer to openly discuss any aspect of world affairs with the American president in front of the press.

Imam Abdul Malik Johari informed the President that American Muslims accept the reality of the Holocaust, notwithstanding any doubts about the precise numbers. He advised the President that Holocaust denial simply feeds Islamophobia. Ahmadinejad insisted that his position on the Holocaust has been misrepresented and urged us to view his interview with Charlie Rose on the matter. He admitted that he was not around in the 1940s, so he could not speak conclusively on that question, but he emphasized that he is around now and can see what Israel is doing before the eyes of the world using, he claimed, the exceptionalism of the Holocaust as its excuse.

I asked him to separate the question as to who won the Iranian elections from the question of whether any fraud took place.  I pointed out the importance of fighting fraud in the Qur’an, in the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and in the writings of Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). I urged him to have an independent body investigate charges of election fraud. He insisted that the possibility of fraud in the Iranian elections is nonexistent. He argued that the critics have produced no evidence of any fraud. Again I wished we could have been allowed follow-ups as I desperately wished to point out to him how hard it is to gather evidence when you are detained by your own government.

To his credit Mr. Ahmadinejad expressed his sensitivity to constrictions of the format and professed his intention to offer American Muslims an opportunity to meet with him in Iran in a more conversational setting—assuming the American government would allow any of us to attend.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (12/18/09)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Despite Obama’s executive order prohibiting torture, CIA agents allegedly collaborated in the torture of Hamas officials…

… Meanwhile Haaretz reports that “Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community”:

A diplomatic breakthrough could help facilitate the release of some 97 Yemeni detainees cleared for release …

… while in the face of criticism, the Yemeni government has stepped up their attacks on Al Qaeda, reportedly killing 34 suspects:

Muslims believe the FBI regards them as “objects of suspicion” rather than allies  united against terrorism:

An integral part of US military success in Iraq, former  interpreters are being denied the insurance benefits promised to them:

News and Analysis (12/17/09)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Although immunity for nearly 6,000 politicians has been revoked, Zardari still has presidential immunity, but his opponents plan to challenge his eligibility as a candidate for the presidency:

Despite lax standards and very lenient rules for domestic spying, the DHS still managed to violate the law in investigation the Nation of Islam:

As Khamenei vows to defend Gaza in the event of another Israeli attack…

… Iran chooses to demonstrate the extent of it’s military capabilities:

The latest sign that Afghanistan’s troubles are working to destabilize the entire region:

Over Hamas’s objections to “Abbas’s refusal to release detainees and to enable Palestinian elections to be held in mid-2010,” the PLO central committee grants Abbas an indefinite extension:

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad explains his pessimism:

News and Analysis (11/16/09)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have agreed to form a central bank and a single currency, with no indication that they will adopt sound currency like the gold-backed (or oil-backed) dinar instead of the troubled Western fiat currency model:

As Zardari continues to challenge the idea that US priorities are also Pakistani priorities …

… Pakistani military efforts in South Waziristan have only forced the relocation of Taliban strongholds without impacting their ability to strike:

“[T]he government is still arguing that the detainees have no constitutional rights beyond habeas rights because they are offshore… If the men are brought to the US, the government will no longer have that argument, and it will be possible for the detainees to raise a wider set of constitutional claims.”

Detained Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi says, “Presidential and parliamentary elections must be held after reconciliation and in the context of a complete national agreement” …

… as Fatah continues to operate without effective leadership:

“Eighty percent of Yemen’s oil comes from the south but where does the money go? It goes to Sanaa…. The people of the south have not benefited from any of this wealth and now it is running out”:

News and Analysis (12/15/09)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Competing governments, along with differences in birthrates, refugee population, cultural and religious attitudes, and prosperity all contribute to the growing distinction between Gaza and the West Bank

“[P]ublic silence and private anger” is Pakistani reaction to US suggestions that would threaten their plans to stabilize relations with Afghanistan after the US withdrawal:

A positive sign for the closing of Guantanamo:

Livni was forced to cancel a trip to England under the fear arrest for her part in Israel’s war on Gaza:

In anticipation that orthodox beliefs would interfere with soldiers ability to carry out orders:

With Iranian demands that the US release several Iranian prisoners, analysts believe the trial of the Americans will be used as a bargaining chip:

A former prosecutor anticipates US officials would likely resort to a “conspiracy” prosecution and offer one of the men a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against the others:

News and Analysis (12/14/09)

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Lured by unfulfilled incentives by Afghanistan’s central government, many insurgents simply return to the Taliban as the only means of supporting their families:

One government ironically bails out another in the name of “market principles”:

The US military now insist on expanding drone attacks despised by Pakistanis into a major city of 850,000 residents:

The Israeli cabinet has decided to list some Jewish settlements as “national priority zones” entitling the communities built on land taken from Palestinians to millions of dollars of extra state funding…

… Meanwhile, the real freeze is on Palestinian construction with up to 95% of Palestinian applications for building permits denied:

“The veil has become a clichéd symbol for what the West perceives as Muslim oppression, tyranny, and zealotry – all of which have little to do with the real reasons why Muslim women veil”:

News and Analysis (12/12-13/09)

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Israeli human rights groups allege investigations into increasing attacks on Palestinians by Jewish settlers are inadequate; “We will burn you all” is scrawled on a mosque wall …

… Meanwhile, Israel cites manpower problems to delay the Court-ordered dismantling of illegal outposts needed to sustain the settlement freeze:

The opposition claims the photo was a fabrication intended to further justify the Revolutionary Guard’s crackdown on the opposition:

Some aid groups will turn down grants with militarizing strings attached:

War for oil? No “American American-based oil companies ,,, came away with a development deal,” and only Exxon/Mobile and and Occidental are part of any winning consortium bid:

Radicalization of American Muslims is impeded by the fact that “the community itself does not really provide them with shelter” — Fawaz Gerges:

Unless Egypt can step up its economic reforms, investors disillusioned with Dubai may turn to Abu Dhabi:

My First Mentor Has Passed Away

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I do not generally address personal matters in this blog, but the passing of my first mentor deserves a memorial here, for without her nurture and inspiration I cannot imagine that the Minaret of Freedom Institute would exist today.

My mother, Qudsia (Holazada) Ahmad died at her home on Dec. 2, 2009. She was born on Aug. 5, 1921 in Jerusalem, to an assistant to the Ottoman Governor of Palestine and his Arab wife. She was named after the the city of her mother’s side of the family. (“Qudsia” is the feminine form of “al-Quds,” the Holy one.) She was a graduate of the Women’s College of Jerusalem. She became an educator and the first woman radio broadcaster in Jerusalem.

In 1947 she married Hassan Ahmad, a Palestinian-American merchant.  My father picked her as his bride because she combined the culture of his beloved homeland with an education and independence that could survive the hardships of transplantation to the strange land to which he would take her. Initially, she did not want to move to America, but the massacre at Dier Yasin in 1948 changed her mind, and pregnant with me, she and he booked passage to America and they moved to the house in northeastern Pennsylvania in which she raised her four sons and remained to end of her life.

My mother was a devout Muslim, but there was no Muslim community in the region at that time, so she became active with the local YWCA, an example of interfaith activism a half century before the tragedy of 9/11 forced other immigrant Muslims to reach out to their neighbors. She was a popular with young women who found in her the open-minded yet morally-grounded confidante with which her sons had been blessed. She could make people understand her point of view without making them feel badly about themselves.

She also lectured at schools and churches about her Palestinian homeland and her Muslim religion. In this she had a style that was engaging without being compromising. My father was a courageous man, but he could not match my mother’s fearlessness when it came to the Palestinian issue. In 1967 she wrote a letter to NBC’s “Today” show protesting their one-sided coverage of the Six-Day War. A producer phoned her and said that they had been unable to find anyone willing to articulate the Arab view and they welcomed her to come to New York to be on the program. Fearful of having his business victimized by retaliation by suppliers of merchandise, my father insisted she decline.

My mother still spoke at schools and churches about Islam and about Palestine. Her passing has made me realize more keenly than ever before how much the work I do with the Minaret of Freedom Institute is a continuation of the work she did trying to enlighten, reconcile and empower. To her memory, I rededicate my efforts.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (12/11/09)

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Even after conceding three deaths in custody, Iranian officials “have done their utmost to ensure that accounts of rape are discredited and not circulated”:

Security analyst says arrests “suggest that Pakistani law enforcement has stepped up its anti-militancy efforts, even against groups such as Jaish-i-Muhammad that once enjoyed state support”:

Blackwater personnel played central roles in “snatch and grab” operations in Iraqi from 204 to 2006:

Political scientist says the concession signals fear of taking responsibility that has Netanyahu “putting the responsibility on the people,” perhaps allowing him to “make a peace agreement more easily … because ultimately it’s not him who will decide, it’s the people”:

Iraqi politicians remained divided as they blame each other for the recent outbreak of violence:

“‘The innocent and oppressed people will be the victims of American air and ground attacks,'” — group statement to Afghan and U.S. reporters:

With an escalating war in Afghanistan and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stagnant, Arabs question the legitimacy of Obama’s Nobel prize: