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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs/Civic Activism’ Category

Effective last Monday, France’s ban on publicly wearing niqab went into full effect, with violators liable to fines of 216 dollars. The legislation was met with a protest Monday morning, as several women stood in front of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral donning niqab’s. The protest, at least from what I can gather, appeared small in scope and was swiftly brought to a halt as French police detained two women for taking part in what was designated an “unauthorized protest.” Reports continued to be released Tuesday that more people had taken to the streets in protest, with a number of women donning niqab’s in solidarity.
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As with most catastrophes, the moment coverage of it begins to wane, so too does our concern for the affected.  For Muslims, this ubiquitous dynamic can only be described as endemic of a much larger problem facing society, that being the manner in which the media informs our opinions, and in doing so, shapes our lives.

One such event that captivated most of the world not too long ago was the Haitian earthquake of 2010.  Roughly a quarter of a million people were killed, and reports are now coming out that relief efforts, equipped with literally billions of dollars flowing in from across the globe, have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Hatian people.  Today, hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain in relief encampments with little progress on the reconstruction front.  Toppled homes, buildings, and infrastructure remain as they were in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.  Such despondency is not only tragic, but downright criminal.

I cant honestly claim to continuously spend my days contemplating about the plights being suffered by those less fortunate, and more times than not, my attention is dictated by the media coverage as well, so its difficult for me to play sanctimonious.  But I figure the least I can do is help raise awareness, and in that vein, I’ve linked two articles below as well as a link to Islamic Reliefs website for donating to Haiti.  May Allah guide us to what pleases Him and allow us to live lives in His obedience.  Ameen.

By Alice Speri Alice Speri – Tue Jan 11, 6:46 pm ET
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – For more than six weeks last fall, a brand new obstetrics hospital remained empty and closed, its Ikea furniture still wrapped in plastic, a reminder of how far Port-au-Prince had to go to recover from the Haiti earthquake.

Meanwhile across the street, a camp with 1,500 families had no access to medical care beyond occasional visits by the Haitian Red Cross. The hospital, commissioned by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has since partially opened.

But questions remain about why the project in the neighborhood of Delmas 33 was delayed by the government, a symbol of the bureaucracy that has stood in the way of many of the projects run by the more than 900 NGOs that descended on Haiti after last January’s earthquake, which killed 230,000 people and left 2 million homeless.  Continue reading here….

Article 2:

One year after a devastating earthquake toppled homes and killed roughly 250,000 people in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country is still reeling from the devastation.

As Reuters reports, despite billions of dollars of donations and aid pledges from some of the world’s most powerful leaders, a 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping presence and an army of relief workers, the debris that clogs much of the city and a million homeless people living in tents are blunt testimony to the unfinished recovery task. Meanwhile, the nation’s cholera epidemic, which began this past fall, continues to run rampant. Continue reading here…. 

Islamic Relief work continues in Haiti

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For years, the harms associated with cigarette smoking have been well known, and over time, society has responded with measures intended to dissuade cigarette smoking and inoculate the general public from its corrosive effects.  It began with restrictions on marketing cigarettes to teens, then included restrictions on the types of advertising mediums tobacco companies were allowed to utilize, and over time has come to include substantial taxation on a single pack of cigarettes and surgeon general warnings on cigarette packs.  More recently, the FDA has been considering the addition of ‘shock photos’– graphic images depicting the damages of smoking to further discourage cigarette smoking.
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By Ulf Laessing Ulf Laessing – Thu Nov 18, 6:17 am ETMECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters Life!) – Saudi Arabia’s religious police keep such a low profile during the haj, it’s hard to imagine that you are in Islam’s holiest city.

The kingdom, where Islam first emerged around 1,400 years ago, applies a strict form of Sunni Islamic sharia law that imposes gender segregation, forces shops to close during prayer times and prohibits women from driving.

But in Mecca, the enforcement of many of these rules is relaxed during the haj, a duty for every able-bodied Muslim. And with the government investing billion of dollars in recent years to make pilgrimage safer and more comfortable, many pilgrims end up going home as goodwill ambassadors for the country.

“We have to thank Saudi Arabia for their services. It’s getting better and better every year,” said Ritha Naji, a U.S. pilgrim performing a “stoning of the devil” rite that has been the scene of numerous deadly crushes in recent years.

The Grand Mosque, home to the Kaaba shrine which Muslims around the world turn to in prayer every day, is the only place in the desert kingdom where women and men can pray together.
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Earlier today at lunch, a coworker and I were discussing the recent hooplah surrounding TSA’s invasive airport security.  During the discussion, we both agreed that the current model is unsustainable.  Although you might be able to convince the majority of people that body scanning is a necessary evil, there will remain a sizable portion of the population that refuses to subject themselves to the equivalent of a digital strip search or being groped by a security guard.  It was then that my coworker suggested looking at Israel as a model for airport security; I was oblivious to Israel’s airport security approach and didnt want to prejudge their approach based on my own misgivings with their domestic policies towards Palestinians, so I inquired as to what it was that made their approach worthy of being emulated.  He then explained that when someone checks in to a flight in an Israeli airport, they get asked a series of basic questions.  Depending on how an individual responds, along with their behavior throughout the questions, a person will either be permitted to proceed to their gate, or kept for further questioning/screening.
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Earlier this week I opined on the Juan Williams firing, stating that though it wasnt fair, NPR had the right to do so, and that the mainstream media is full with many such instances of columnists, pundits, and commentators being terminated as a result of expressing politically incorrect statements.

Today, I’m going to twist the question a little and attempt to address the following: how should the Muslim Community have responded to Juan Williams in the immediate aftermath of the comments?

Firstly, there is a large portion of the Muslim Community that feels perturbed at the many double standards apparent in the media.  This sentiment is best depicted on www.whatiftheyweremuslim.com, a site that chronicles other individuals committing acts which, if done by Muslims, would likely have resulted in some level of hysteria.  As a result of this disposition, civil rights organizations have formulated an approach for responding to instances of Islamophobia: send out a mass email, request constituents to bombard said organization/individual with demands for apology, and hope for said organization/individual to acquiesce to stated demands.  In many instances, the process works like clockwork.  In others, it does not.

In my humble opinion, this was one instance in which the aforementioned approach was unwarranted.  Juan Willaims statements may- and indeed were- bigoted, but Williams is no Robert Spencer.  He’s not even Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin.  He’s a liberal commentator, with a track record of speaking to the issues of civil rights and black leadership.  Saying that he gets worried when boarding a plane and seeing someone with Muslim garb on was extremely ignorant.  No argument there.  But I dont believe it was insidious, I dont believe his intent was to castigate Muslims everywhere, and I dont believe it should have been met with the level of repudiation it was, particularly by Muslim Civil Rights organizations.

In doing so, we create enemies.  I said earlier that Williams is no Rush Limbaugh.  Rush Limbaugh has a history of making inflammatory statements against groups, and Williams does not.  But in inflating the controversy, we run the risk of turning him into a Limbaugh.  Jon Stewart, for instance, has gone to bat for Muslim causes a number of times, as have Keith Olbermann and others.  If Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh both came on the air and made the same statements Williams did, I’d be calling for Limbaugh to get fired, whereas for Stewart, I believe simply getting a Muslim leader on the phone with him would do a lot towards changing his mind.  Even if it didnt change his mind entirely, he’d still be advocating for Muslim rights in the future, and in doing so we’d retain an ally in an age where there are far too few people in the media willing to ally themselves with Muslim causes.

Williams is now a full time commentator on Fox News.  I suspect that his rhetoric against Muslims will get increasingly hostile as time goes on, and I can only hope that after this entire episode is over, he’s able to maintain some level of objectivity when it comes to addressing the many issues which involve Muslims in some way, shape, or form.

As a final note, in the spirit of fairness, I will say that I’m not sure how much Muslim civil rights organizations factored into NPR’s decision.  It appears that the firing was the result of a long standing dissatisfaction with Williams and his relationship with Fox News, and not the result of consultation from CAIR/MPAC or anyone else.  My assessment still holds, as I’m sure a nuanced press release from Muslim organizations would have made firing Williams more precarious for NPR, to say the least.  And Allah Knows Best.

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