Tuesday, July 28, 2009

IBNE SAFI: July 26, 1928 to July 26, 1980 Special Tribute Week

Ibne Safi has for decades been the favourite fiction writer for millions of Urdu and other South Asian readers. Unbelievably, he wrote about 244 masterpieces which many consider the gems of Urdu literature. So strong was Ibne Safi's impact that his novels were translated into several regional languages as well as Urdu.

Safi started writing at a young age - including poetry. His earliest poetry was on "Khumriat" (about the use and affects of alcohol). He went on to prove most original in creating novels which weave together many themes in an attractive popular genre. His imaginary worlds took readers by storm through many decades and still do.

His characters were as well-known and popular among his readers as legendary fictional characters like Sherlock Homes - or more so. Besides their native countries, the main characters of both Jasoosi Duniya and Imran Series have had adventures around the world - England, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Pacific Islands, Zanzibar, South Africa, the United States of America and various other places.

Remarkably, Ibne Safi never left the Indian Subcontinent - yet the detailed descriptions he provided of the diverse localities have proven to be surprisingly accurate. Ibne Safi also created fictitious settings for his stories - names of places which since his writing can be found all over Pakistan and Indian cities and permamently in readers' own imaginations.

Technologies the author described in his novels have proven actual with the passage of time including a concept of a robot and Laser beam. Some find that there are also indications of insights and keys for the future within these novels.

"I don't know Urdu but have knowledge of detective novels of the Subcontinent. There is only one original writer - Ibn-e-Safi." Agatha Christie was reported to say when she stayed at Karachi airport for half hour for her transit flight.

Badar Munir wrote in an essay on Ibne Safi that he (Badar) used to recite the books of Ibne Safi to a 90 year old lady who was very fond of Safi's books. The lady was none other but the mother of the founder of Bangladesh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman.

Perhaps one of most lasting legacies can be found "On Page 113 of "Raa'ee Ka Parbat" with these words: "Don't worry about what people think of you, always keep an eye on what you are!"

The composite above is FULLY due to information found in the following tributes and links:

Sunday - 26th July Metro-1 aired an hour long program about Ibne Safi. A short 2 min promo was aired all day on Metro-1. Here's the youtube link for it:


Aaj TV news segment ran in all top-of-the-hour bulletins. The link for the complete segment is:


PS Other items in the media...

The Article in Dawn "Books & Authors" Section 26 July, 2009

The Article in Business Recorder Weekend Magazine 25th July 2009

ARY News, AAJ News, Express News have been airing segments about Ibne Safi during news transmissions...

And perhaps you will want to visit the Ibne Safi website here

To see an earlier oneheartforpeace item on Ibne Safi GO here

Let's all learn Urdu and beg for English translations!

Most of all, please remember Ibne Safi and his family in your prayers during this week of special memories as well as the people of Pakistan.

Stopping the Torture Business in Our Hometowns

from this URL: here Council of Europe: Ireland, stop US torture flights

Reposting a condensed version of "An Interview With Christina Cowger of North Carolina Stop Torture" - from Dissident Voice dot org February 1, 2007 (Although this item is several years old - the progress in our states to end torture and torture renditions is as slow as a Soap Opera...Therefore - there's a lot of current relevance here although if you are a journalist you will of course benefit from updates.)

INTERVIEWER: ...As most readers know, this program involves kidnapping, detaining and transporting individuals considered the enemy to prisons around the world where they are then tortured and kept incommunicado for months and years...What follows is the transcript of an email interview with Raleigh, NC resident and long-time peace and justice activist Christina Cowger, who serves as the group's coordinator.

Q: ...How long have you been around?...

Christina Cowger: North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NC STN) began work in the fall of 2005. That was when activists from St. Louis brought the issue of extraordinary rendition to our attention...

Without Aero Contractors and similar CIA front companies, rendition literally wouldn't "get off the ground." Aero uses publicly funded airport facilities in North Carolina as a launching pad to help the CIA kidnap and torture people in various parts of the world. Once we realized this, we couldn't ignore it. NC STN is a grassroots coalition of educators, peace and human rights activists, people of faith, students, and working people. We're not particularly affiliated with any church or other group. Active in our ranks are people from the ACLU, Amnesty International, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Catholic Worker movement, CodePink, the Green Party, the North Carolina Council of Churches, Peace Action, Quaker House, Unitarian Universalist congregations, and various other faith groups.

We started in the Triangle area, and have built (many other)connections...

Q: What compelled your group to take on the issue of torture in Guantanamo and other prisons around the world set up for that purpose?

CC: The story of Khaled El-Masri...To paraphrase journalist Mark Danner, even if it could be shown that torture was effective, it's immoral...Further, CIA-sponsored torture fuels the hatred of people all over the world for the U.S. and its allies, which increases instability and makes everyone less safe. What's wrong with rendition is not just that most of the victims are tortured, although that's bad enough. Rendition means "disappearing" people and detaining them indefinitely, outside the rule of law.

Q: Can you provide the readers with an outline of how you understand the renditions process to work?

CC: Briefly, since 9/11 the rendition program was transformed into a large-scale campaign to detain and interrogate those targeted in the U.S. "war on terror" -- clandestinely and outside U.S. and international law. Stephen Grey's book Ghost Plane provides a meticulously documented account of rendition and its antecedents under Clinton.

A typical rendition begins with an...executive jet taking off from (an) Airport...serviced and piloted by a crew from Aero Contractors (or another contractor with) a long history with the CIA. The plane might stop near Washington, D.C., to take on a CIA "snatch" team. The next stop would be in Europe to refuel, and then on to a city in Europe or the Middle East, where the CIA team kidnaps the suspect directly, or accepts custody...from local police agents. Dressed and masked in black, the CIA team beats, strips, searches, and binds the prisoner, drugs him with an anal suppository, and then flies him with Aero Contractors' help to a foreign jail.

Many of these detainees have been thrown into notorious jails... where conditions are inhumane and torture is brutal....there is no due process, no habeas corpus, no communication with family for months and even years.

Q: To your knowledge, is the United States still involved in renditions and torture?

CC: President Bush claimed in his September 6, 2006, speech that the "black sites" had been emptied, and their inmates rendered to Guantanamo. As Stephen Grey points out, this begs the question of what happened to the hundreds of detainees who entered the rendition system and remain missing.

The Military Commissions Act, passed by a gutless Congress before the 2006 fall elections, gave Bush a significant victory. Under the MCA, if you are declared an enemy combatant, you lose your habeas corpus rights. This is true whether or not you are a U.S. citizen, although it will no doubt be applied mainly to non-citizens. Given this victory, we guess that Bush and the CIA feel emboldened to continue the extraordinary rendition program. Of course, it is difficult to confirm this directly. (this blogger's note - this is continuing as well under Obama.)

Q: What is the role of private business in this process? Who pays them? What role does the CIA play, if any? The reason I ask that is because this all reminds me of the Air America saga in Vietnam and Laos and Southern Air Transport in Nicaragua -- both front corporations for the CIA.

CC: In fact, Aero Contractors was founded by a former chief pilot of Air America, Jim Rhyne, in the late 1970s. According to Stephen Grey in Ghost Plane (p 125-126), Aero pilots have flown "both declared and undeclared missions for the drug war in Colombia, helped supply the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, and had taken weapons and food to the UNITA rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, in Angola."

(CC mentions a much larger network which includes Premier Executive Transport Services in Dedham, MA; Devon Holding and Leasing; and a variety of other company names.)

...As Grey explains, the point of having these civilian fronts is "to have a 'cutout' -- a trail that would lead an investigator to a brass plate by a lawyer's office entrance, but no farther."

In Portland, Oregon, a retired political science professor named Michael Munk has challenged one of these fronts, Bayard Foreign Marketing. At his urging, the Oregon Bar Association is investigating...

I should mention that, in addition to shell companies, other better-known companies also profit from rendition. For example, Boeing has a subsidiary called Jeppesen International Trip Planning that plans the rendition flights for the CIA. Activists in San Jose, where Jeppesen is headquartered, have been protesting: Act Against Torture and South Bay Mobilization -- tel: (408)998-8504.

Q: What can you tell us about the attempt by some North Carolina state legislators to get that state's Bureau of Investigation to investigate...? What caused these legislators to take an interest in this issue?

CC: In addition to generating media coverage to help expose Aero and rendition, we went to North Carolina's Governor Mike Easley (D) early on. We met with his Chief of Staff and provided extensive background information. One of our main points was that North Carolina taxpayers are in essence hosting a "torture taxi." In addition to its corporate HQ at the Johnston County Airport, Aero is also a tenant at the Global TransPark (GTP) in Kinston, where it houses a Boeing 737 tied to many rendition flights. The GTP is a publicly supported economic development project.

Governor Easley put the matter to an old friend and legal advisor, Andy Vanore, who told us he advised the Governor to do exactly nothing. Mr. Vanore's reasoning was, literally, that President Bush and North Carolina's Republican Senators all said the U.S. does not torture. Sure enough, Governor Easley took Mr. Vanore's advice, and did nothing.

(left out large section here where CC carefully chronicles how other top officials "did nothing" as well.)

(CC continuing) We expect that more leaders of our state's political, religious, and legal communities will become concerned and speak out against North Carolina hosting a "torture taxi."

Q: What is (the contractor's) suspected role? How did people discover this role? What kind of charges can be brought against them should the investigation find anything?

CC: ...to maintain and equip the planes, and supply the pilots and flight crews for the rendition flights. Their role was uncovered by journalists using information from planespotters -- people who hang out near airports with binoculars, writing down planes' tail numbers, and then publish this information on the Web.

(CC here also lists how other information is found out.)

Steven Edelstein, an attorney familiar with the Aero case, has pointed out that, under North Carolina law, an agreement to commit an unlawful act is a conspiracy. If a person who is part of the agreement flies a plane or orders another to fly a plane within the jurisdiction of the State of North Carolina, then that person may be guilty of a conspiracy to commit a felony or a misdemeanor. It is not necessary that the unlawful act (e.g., the kidnapping) take place within the State of North Carolina.

The unlawful crimes are numerous. First-degree kidnapping, felonious restraint, and false imprisonment are a few of the substantive offenses. In addition, there are a myriad of assault violations.

North Carolina law also requires anyone in charge of a state agency, such as the Global TransPark where Aero maintains a hangar in Kinston, to report possible criminal violations to the State Bureau of Investigation.

Q: What do you hope to see as the outcome of this action against Aero?

CC: ... Aero(and other contractors are) only one piece of an extensive torture network that includes many private contractors and perhaps portions of our military apparatus. It's probably not an accident that Aero is located so close to Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, NC. We are in the process of researching other Carolina torture connections, and plan to issue a report this year.

Our task is really to arouse widespread public opposition to extra-legal and abusive treatment of prisoners, including torture. We are just part of a broader national movement to rein in rendition. As a movement, we need to uproot the torture network, and build support for human rights at home and abroad.

Local efforts to expose and shut down the front companies...would be helped by hearings in the U.S. House and Senate... We need to ensure that such hearings occur, that they are extensive and public, and that the private contractor issue is fully aired. We encourage everyone to contact the Judiciary Committee office, phone 202-224-7703) and (concerned legislators.)...

CC: The web addresses for Bay Area anti-Jeppesen activists are given above. To support anti-Bayard efforts in the Portland, Oregon, area, email us at stoptortureflights@riseup.net and we can put you in touch. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is a national organization, and their activists are also working specifically on the CIA front called Premier Executive Transport Services in Dedham, MA (See BORDC dot org)...

CC: North Carolina Stop Torture Now has a website. No matter where you live, you can add your voice to the call for North Carolina authorities to investigate.

Planes which have allegedly been used for Torture Renditions here

500 balloons launched from Ramallah in honor of child prisoners

July 28, 2009 Electronic Intifada

500 balloons launched from Ramallah in honor of child prisoners

Ramallah – Ma’an – Balloons representing the nearly 350 minors being kept in Israeli prisons were released during a demonstration in Ramallah on Tuesday

Each carried the name of a current or former child prisoner detained by Israeli forces.

The 500 green, red, black and white balloons were released from the Al-Manara circle in the center of Ramallah in a protest organized by the families of prisoners.

Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of the detained minors held pictures of their loved ones. One mother, Um Muhammad, said she had not seen her son for more than two years because Israeli security refused her permission to travel and visit the detention facility.

Another mother, Umm Ibrahim, said she had been able to visit her son, but found the experience horrifying, “We are insulted and humiliated by Israeli soldiers and inspectors during visits to prison, and sometimes they deny us access arbitrarily,” she said.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our truest poems and inner-visions show "The Way"

"...'Tis from the poet's Sinai that Beauty's beams arise...

Sea and land are hidden within the poet's water and clay

A hundred new worlds are concealed in the poet-heart.

Ere tulips blossomed in the poet-brain
there was heard no note of joy or grief.

...amidst who's darkness is the Fountain of Life:
All things that exist are made more living by the poet's tears...

The poet invites the whole world to this table...

Another poet's mirror who shows beauty as ugliness...
Who's kiss robs the rose of freshness,
Who takes from the nightingale the joy of flying...
Who's magic says that death is life...
Who plunges thee in a sea of thought...
Who's garden is a mirage...
Who's beauty has no dealings with truth...
Our fire was quenched by such breath...

Where is the love whose fire is extinct,
A love that was born in the Holy Place and died in the house of idols?
Oh if thou hast the coin of poesy in thy purse,
Rub it on the touchstone of Life!

Clear-seeing thought shows the way to action,
As the lightning-flash precedes the thunder...

Thou has gathered roses from the garden of Persia
And seen the springtide of India and Iran:

Now taste a little of the heat of the desert...

Build a nest on the high mountains,

A nest embosomed in lightning and thunder...
That thou mayst be fit for Life's battle,
That thy body and soul may burn in Life's fire!"

sunset of rakaposhi

Excerpted from -The Secrets of the Self- by Muhammad Iqbal on the true nature of poetry (some small liberty to lend gender and the poet universal)

"...love (for the "other") is rooted in the 'deep river' of faith:

It may twist and turn, fall back on itself and start again, stumble over an infinite series of hindering rocks, but at last the river must answer the call to the sea."
Howard Thurman, American Mystic

Another type of "poet" is the clear-seeker of the True Self's state:

"The first serving of any punishing wish or act towards another always goes to the one who dishes it out!"

From "The Secret Teaching of the Ages"

It is impossible to change the relationship that you have with the world around you without changing the relationship that you have in yourself, with yourself. Before you can become the kind of human being who never again hurts another -- either in thought or deed -- you must change the relationship you have with yourself.

This is the secret teaching of the ages. Inside of it, we learn about the necessity for a new kind of mind. We learn about the possibility of a world within ourselves that is presently guarded...we have yet to scale the depths of our own ignorance.

We refuse to understand the pain that our own ignorance causes. We refuse to recognize that it's impossible for us to have the pain we have with other people without ourselves being a participant in it...we refuse the beautiful lessons that life brings to us, and instead of going through the transformation they are intended to produce for us, we become individuals who simply wrap ourselves deeper and deeper in the same nature that is the source of our suffering.

The new mind begins to discover that the reason that it continues to be a prisoner is because it continues to live from a prisoner mentality...

There is freedom in realizing -- seeing the truth of the fact -- that whatever is holding you captive right now has no right to do so. None! The split second that you see you're a captive of your own mind, you have the freedom to challenge it with the new understanding that belongs to your new, true mind -- a mind that can't be made a prisoner of anything.

Refuse to carry forward with you one more day any thought that tells you there is someone to be punished for the way you feel...(including yourself! - added by Connie)

-- Guy Finley

Excerpted from Secrets of Being Unstoppable, "Freedom to Forgive: The Power to Put the Past Behind You"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yusef Cha'ban: Palestinian prisoner released in Lebanon

Yusef Cha'ban following his release

© Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH)

Originally posted 15 July 2009
A Palestinian imprisoned for 15 years for a murder he has always denied committing was released on Monday after being granted a presidential pardon.

Yusef Cha'ban, a Palestinian refugee resident in Lebanon, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Justice Council in 1994 after he was convicted in connection with the killing of a Jordanian diplomat, Na'ib Omran al-Ma'aita, in Beirut.

At his trial, he alleged that he was tortured in detention and protested his innocence. He remained in prison even after a Jordanian court concluded in 2002 that others were responsible and convicted them of the diplomat's murder.

Under Lebanese law, the verdicts of the Justice Council are not subject to appeal and cannot be revoked, with the result that miscarriages of justice cannot be readily rectified.

Yusuf Cha'ban was released after Lebanese President Michel Suleiman granted him a special pardon in recognition of the gross miscarriage of justice in his case.

It is not clear why President Suleiman's predecessors had failed to take such action. In June 2007, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Yusuf Cha'aban's continuing detention to be arbitrary and called for the Lebanese authorities to remedy the matter.

Yusuf Cha'aban received a warm welcome when he returned to his home in Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in south Beirut following his release. A crowd gathered to meet him, women threw rice and flowers in celebration and some men carried Yusuf Cha'ban on their shoulders.

"I will not leave him for a minute; he's my new friend," Hanin, his teenage daughter who grew up visiting her father behind bars, told reporters gathering to cover his release.

Amnesty International has greatly welcomed Yusuf Cha'ban's release. As long ago as December 2007, the organization urged the Lebanese authorities to carry out an urgent, independent review of his case.

Amnesty International also continues to call for reform or abolition of the Justice Council, which fails to satisfy international fair trial standards. It is widely perceived to be influenced by political considerations, its hearings are frequently subject to lengthy delays that undermine the right to fair trial, and there is no right of appeal against its verdicts, even in death penalty cases.

A former teacher in Pakistan - Afghanistan's bravest woman brings her message to UK

Feb.19, 2007

Joya addresses students in a girl's school in Farah. (photo above)
Found at Wikipedia

AFP/GETTY IMAGES - Malalai Joya talking to journalists in Kabul in photo below:

"Grief, the universal leveller, was something she has always understood."

A deeply compassionate individual, she is as ruthless in her condemnation of Western "whitewash" as she is of the unpunished "war criminals" who sit in the Afghan parliament. "It is a shame that so much of Afghanistan's reality has been kept veiled by a Western media consensus in support of the 'good war'," she says.

Five assassination attempts have failed to silence a woman determined to defend Afghans from warlords, drug lords, the Taliban and foreign interference including NATO

By Glyn Strong

UPDATE: Find article(s) published in The Independent recently and others here

Also see updates at Malalai Joya's website malalaijoya.com here

It is a year since I last saw Malalai Joya. She was at Stansted airport preparing to return to Afghanistan: a tiny figure clutching a large holdall and a gold-coloured trophy. It was the Anna Politkovskaya Award for human rights campaigning and Ms Joya was the second recipient. Some might say the trophy brings with it a curse. It was created in memory of the Russian journalist gunned down outside her Moscow apartment in 2006. The first recipient, Natalya Estimerova, was murdered last week in the Chechen capital. As Ms Estimerova passed on the trophy to her in 2008, her message was blunt: "Malalai, be brave."

Having survived five assassination attempts, if there is one thing the Afghan woman is, it is brave. Her story is inextricably linked to the recent history of her country. Through her own determination she has become part of its legend; first as a teacher in the refugee camps of Pakistan, then as an activist covertly running schools for girls in Herat during the Taliban years. Politicised beyond her years she was elected to the Afghan parliament in 2005 as its youngest member.

Today she lands in Britain. She has a new book to promote, Raising My Voice, but she is also here to deliver an unequivocal – and uncomfortable – message that Nato troops are not wanted in her country. "Afghans are more than just a handful of warlords, Taliban, drug lords and lackeys," she says. "I have a country full of people who know what I know and believe what I believe; that we Afghans can govern ourselves without foreign interference."

From her first controversial speech in the National Assembly in 2003, at the age of 23, to the day she was suspended from parliament for allegedly insulting other MPs, Ms Joya has never been one to mince her words. Her message is unlikely to be well received by Gordon Brown or Barack Obama.

When I first met her in Kabul two years ago, the rendezvous followed several changes of vehicle as well as body, camera and baggage searches. Her life had already been threatened so burqas and bodyguards were de rigeur for even the shortest journey.

We were together one day when news broke that three British soldiers had been killed in Helmand. Ms Joya didn't want Nato troops in her country, but she expressed sorrow for the parents and families who, like so many Afghans, had lost loved ones. Grief, the universal leveller, was something she has always understood. As the "Wootton Bassett effect" reminds Britons of how much the war in Afghanistan is costing in human terms, she says: "There can never be lasting peace if the lives of Afghans are not valued as much as the lives of Western soldiers. Every death is a tragedy, but too often the Afghan victims of this war are merely nameless 'collateral damage' reported in the media as having been killed by 'mistake'."

The Ministry of Defence publishes a rolling toll of service casualties – a grim reminder of the daily cost of the war. A man who has earned Ms Joya's heartfelt gratitude for trying to honour Afghanistan's anonymous dead in the same way is Professor Marc Herold who has established a memorial website for her countrymen. It makes sobering reading. "Civilian killings are entering into thousands whereas the Taliban death toll might not even reach hundreds,"Ms Joya says.

As the British media goes into overdrive about helicopter numbers, boots on the ground and exit strategies, she cuts to the quick. Her assessment of the past seven years is seen in purely human terms. "Along with the terror from the sky, there is terror in the ground. The fields and roadsides of Afghanistan are still riddled with unexploded landmines from as far back as the Soviet occupation – like the kind that cost my father his leg."

She kept diaries throughout her adolescence but she was initially resistant to the idea of writing a book. A quiet, self-effacing character, she dedicates her biography to women and children, the invisible casualties of conflict and oppression to whom she has given a voice in recent years: "The Bashiras, Rahellas, Bibi Guls, Pukhtanas and all my oppressed people whose sighs, tears and sorrows nobody sees."

Ms Joya is sceptical of the surge in the south of her country. "Helmand is not the whole of Afghanistan. Even if they annihilate Taliban there, they should not call it a success because Taliban are logistically and militarily stabilised in hundreds of other parts of Afghanistan ... and growing stronger as each day dawns."

She has often been accused of identifying problems but not offering solutions (the assumption being that if US and British troops pulled out, Afghanistan would descend into chaos, a bloody free-for-all). But she is unrelenting: "The current situation is already quite catastrophic, it cannot get any worse. The Taliban have taken over many districts and are nourished as each hour mounts."

"But it is the responsibility of our own people to fight for their rights, to achieve values like democracy and women's rights, human rights in our country. It's a prolonged struggle, it's a risky struggle full of hardships and challenges, but I trust in my people."

One of the most widely-cited advantages of Nato's intervention has been improved conditions for Afghan women. Ms Joya disagrees. "Just as the US air strikes have not brought security to Afghans, nor has the occupation brought security to Afghan women. The reality is quite the opposite. The now infamous 'Family Law' is but the tip of the iceberg of the women's rights catastrophe in our occupied country. The whole system, and especially the judiciary, is infected with the virus of fundamentalism and so, in Afghanistan, men who commit crimes against women do so with impunity."

Ms Joya is now 31 and married; she has the hopes and dreams of any young woman but her commitment to her cause is absolute. A deeply compassionate individual, she is as ruthless in her condemnation of Western "whitewash" as she is of the unpunished "war criminals" who sit in the Afghan parliament. "It is a shame that so much of Afghanistan's reality has been kept veiled by a Western media consensus in support of the 'good war'," she says.

Next month's elections offer little hope of change, she believes, and will be tainted by vote-rigging. "It is clear that the future president is already chosen in Washington. As in the proverb of our people 'Same donkey but with a new saddle!'"

So is she not tempted to return to politics, or even contest the presidency, as many have urged her to? Her answer is suitably gnomic. "I love my people and of course, if they wish, I will do that but let's see what's in the future."

In her own words: 'I'm not afraid of an early death'

"I am forced to live like a fugitive in my own country. A trusted uncle heads my detail of bodyguards and we move to different houses every night to stay a step ahead of my enemies. To hide my identity, I travel under the cover of the burqa, which to me is a symbol of oppression, like a shroud for the living. Even during the dark days of the Taliban, I could at least go outside under the burqa to teach girls in secret. But today I don't feel safe under it, even with armed guards to escort me. My visitors are searched for weapons and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs... I know that because I refuse to compromise my opposition to the warlords and fundamentalists... then I may join... the long list of Afghans who have died for freedom. But you cannot compromise the truth. And I am not afraid of an early death if it advances the course of justice."

(This last part above is an extract from Malalai Joya's book Raising My Voice)

The Night Counter: If you only had 1,001 nights to live

by Alia Yunis here

This announcement just came on a regular Palestinian email I get...

Magic Carpet Ride - Book just out which helps to bridge cultures Meet ALIA YUNIS, author of the book just out: The Night Counter or read it anyway...

If you happen to see this in time and are in US Pasadena or LA area: Discussion and book signing, Sunday, July 19 1:00 p.m. Wild Girls Book Group. Books Inc. and 4 p.m., at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 East Colorado Boulevard, between North El Molino and South Oak Knoll Avenues (626-449-5320 or vromansbookstore dot com) Pasadena (Better call either/both to be sure. July 19, 2009 1:00 p.m. Wild Girls Book Group. Location: Books Inc. ...

Little pigs and lost siblings make for decent bedtime story fodder.

But the life and times of Fatima Abdullah, the madcap matriarch of Alia Yunis’s charming debut, The Night Counter, is even better.

When the 82-year-old woman divorces her husband of more than 30 years, she leaves Detroit to live with her grandson, a struggling actor in L.A. Upon her arrival, fabled Arabian Nights immortal Scheherazade swoops in for the first of what turns out to be nightly visits, leading Fatima to believe she has 1,001 nights to live.

With nine days left, Fatima’s desperate to check the last things off her list: write her funeral instructions, marry off her grandson (P.S. he’s gay), and determine who from her dysfunctional (and disinterested) brood is worthy of her home in Lebanon.

As the four generations of stories and secrets magically unravel across America and the Middle East, you’ll be drawn deeper into the family’s touching, comical tale at every turn.

You can count on it.

Available online at amazon.com or at your local bookstore.

Also be sure to see Alia's other recommended books (she includes one of my top ten favorite writers and poets - Naomi Shihab Nye A Palestinian-American : here

Friday, July 17, 2009

New York Imam and Jewish Blogger Spread Good Will

Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place

The article I feature below while from January fits well with my recent them. The entire site Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place is refreshingly bold - holding dialogue with "the other" in such high esteem. I am so encouraged yet the full article referred to expresses that the writer's Jewish community at large is not at all of one mind on this effort of good will at their own loss.

See the interesting, moving and sometimes funny illustrations and the surprising books this blogger reads - which really help smash some stereotypes some Muslims may have of Jewish disregard. There are not oft heard viewpoints here which give me plenty of glad goosebumps and much hope for peace!

Also find recently here: BREAKING THE SILENCE: Gaza War Soldiers’ Testimonies (part 1 & 2) with VIDEOS just the last few days - You may want to click HOME to work back from current items) Tikun Olam: Make the World a Better Place - here

N.Y. Imam Committed to Muslim-Jewish Dialogue

One of the constant themes repeated ad nauseum by right-wing Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes, Alan Dershowitz and their supporters is that Muslims are uniformly extremists filled with hate. There are no “Muslim moderates.” No imams denounce terror. They all support Al Qaeda, etc. etc.

Walter Ruby in Jewish Week brings yet further evidence of the utter falsity of such claims. He writes about the new interim Imam of New York City’s largest and most influential mosque, the Islamic Cultural Center, the Indonesian-born Mohammed Shamsi Ali. The interview with him is wide-ranging, candid and impressive:

[He] declared in a dialogue with Rabbi Schneier at the New York Synagogue earlier this month that it “cannot be accepted to deny the existence of Israel” or to deny the Holocaust. Appearing last week at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Imam Ali delivered a special sermon during Mincha services in which he urged Jews and Muslims to revisit “problematic” passages in the Koran and Torah. Those passages buttress bellicose stances against other religions by understanding them as having been written in earlier times, and not necessarily relevant to today’s world.

Imam Ali also urged his listeners to “look beyond what is presented in the media” about Jewish-Muslim relations in order to create “real connections” based on trust and affection. “Once you get to know Muslims,” he said, “you will ask them, ‘Are you really the people I see portrayed [negatively] on Fox News?’”

Key Muslim leaders in New York praise the Indonesian-born Ali as a charismatic and compassionate leader whose embrace of interfaith dialogue represents “mainstream” opinion within the Muslim community.

It is sad, but somehow reassuring that those in both the Muslim and Jewish communities who reach out to the other side are rebuffed by their respective extremist right fringes...

...Imam Ali believes that American Jews and Muslims should build a relationship “that is more influenced by religious commonalities than by political differences. We cannot deny the emotional impact of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, yet we need to ensure that our relationship is not determined only by that.” He added, “We also should remember that there have been bright times in our relationship as well, such as the cooperation between Muslims and Jews in Andalusia during the Middle Ages.”

I’m pleased that Jewish academic institutions like the Jewish Theological Seminary and HUC-JIR have hosted talks with him and are reaching out to him...

...the Jewish communal group is missing out on an important opportunity to engage local Muslims in dialogue and debate about issues that divide and link us. Events in the Middle East are too bloody and too catastrophic to miss such possibilities when they arise. To the Ruskays of the Jewish world I say (paraphrasing Hillel): if you will not be for peace, who will be for it? If you are only for yourself, what are you? If not now, when?

American Muslim praying at an American Mosque

SEE the full article and the equally interesting comments here

See the many and various blogs recommended by the Jewish blogger - including here

And watch the better Jewish Lobby in the US at work - here

And see some excelling recent Palestinian journalism from this former Professor - Daoud Kuttab's blog: here

And Abraham's Vision here

And I'm looking forward to the World Music offered here - maybe we'll meet at this site someday? Be sure to read and add to the comments.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

(Addition) - Muslim-Jewish Dialogue toward Peace (Interview)

Rabbi Burton Visotzky: “A great deal” shared by Jews, Muslims.

(ADDITION at end)

Jewish-Muslim Dialogue:

The Risks And Rewards (Recent Interview)
By Steve Lipman

Rabbi Burton Visotzky, professor of Midrash and interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, was on foreign but familiar ground recently. A veteran of interfaith discussions with Muslims around the world, he was among three rabbis — the others were Jack Moline of Alexandria, Va., and Gerald Serotta of Chevy Chase. Md. — who took part in a panel discussion at the Islamic Society of North America’s 46th convention in Washington, D.C. Their topic: Muslim-Jewish Dialogue: Building a Peaceful Society Here and Abroad.” Some 30,000 Muslims attended the gathering.

Q: Many members of the Jewish community would consider “Jewish-Muslim dialogue” an oxymoron. Why don’t you?

A: Any and all interreligious dialogue is, by definition, with an “other.” This means there will always be a divergence of viewpoints and motives. In Jewish-Muslim dialogue we unfortunately are starting from a relative low point in the historic relationship between the two communities. Yet Islam and Judaism share a great deal in common — in our minority status in the U.S., in our approaches to food and prayer, in our devotion to Scripture and study, in our monotheism, and in our dedication to help the needy of our communities.

Q: What are the limits of Jewish-Muslim dialogue?

A: The limits are the extent to which either of us may be convinced by the narrative of the other. Still, virtually all Jews and Muslims of good will want the same thing for both Israel and Palestine — peace in the region and an opportunity for our children to grow in an environment free of hate.

Q: What’s the upside for the Jewish community of such dialogue, and the downside?

A: The upside is better relationships with our Muslim neighbors in the U.S. and the formation of potential alliances for neighborhood and other religious issues. Internationally, there is potential for confidence building measures that will help Israel live at peace with her Muslim neighbors and citizens.

The downside is hard to imagine — perhaps there are some who imagine that we might be deceived by those with whom we engage — but that is a form of conspiracy thinking that we in the Jewish community abhor when it is applied to us, so I can not embrace it.

Q: You and a few other rabbis were among 30,000 Muslims at the Islamic Society Convention. Daniel in the lion’s den?

A: I wandered through the “Bazaar” at the convention, viewing the wide range of books, clothes, toys and food for sale. I was wearing a yarmulke, as well as a nametag identifying me as a rabbi, which obviously made me stand out. The universal reaction, without exception, was “Salaam Aleikum.” Most added, “We are honored you have joined us here, thank you.”

Q: The convention took place shortly after the aborted attack — by members of the Islamic community — on two Riverdale synagogues. Was that mentioned at the convention; was it condemned?

A: Yes, it was mentioned. ISNA condemned the attack the day it was revealed. They have gone on record repeatedly condemning all forms of terrorism. They are friends we can count on.

Interview found in Jewish Week dot com

ADDITION - placed here Thursday may be useful in that mention is made of some really crucial areas of the world - including contradictions between stated US goals and ongoing military actions IN PAKISTAN, etc. There are also some other notes of interest to all who want peace and dialogue with the "other" - including with women...

Muslim-initiated Interfaith Dialogue - Vienna, July 16, 2009The two of us (Rabbis Phyllis Berman & Arthur Waskow) are writing from Vienna, after several days of meetings of the Follow-up Committee for the Madrid World Interfaith Dialogue held a year ago. Both meetings were sponsored by the Muslim World League and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, especially in his religious capacity as Protector of the Two Sacred Places.The follow-up committee - made up of 45 people invited from among the 300 or so who were at Madrid - was asked to focus on joint action going forward. This meeting took some major steps forward as compared with Madrid; still continued one important disappointing aspect of Madrid; and ended with a shock. READ the rest -
here & See COMMENTS...
Here's the only schedule easily found for the mentioned conference - listed as a tentative one - here

See Pictures and Bios of Speakers, etc. here

Also note various Press Releases here

A recent press release: Religious Leaders Press President Obama on Torture: here Be sure to see other Press Releases as well.

Another effort for Muslim-Jewish Dialogue in LA, California USA using Compassionate Listening here (Be sure to click on "Who We Are")

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeing Iran as One Timeless Entity ( with Marzieh's blogpost )

Iranian Election - Picture is by Bahman Sadeghi from JameJamOnline

A 'Creature" Named Iran! by Marzieh

Taking Iran as an organism, I would have to say that Iran is somewhat a mythical creature for it’s not just ONE creature on its own but rather made up of some.

In its outer layer alone one can describe it as being two distinctively different creatures. When observed from afar it can be either a monster or something as opposing as a fairy, all depending on your perspective. If you are all friend determined on seeing nothing but goodness then the fairy will appear to you and if you are all foe then the monster becomes very much visible.

But if you are willing to take a closer look with the eyes of a critical observer then the appearance changes altogether. For upon a closer inspection you will notice that Iran is neither of these alone, but a mixture. On the one hand it claims to have left much evil behind and be on the road to glory and harmony. Yet, on the other hand it encounters so many evils on its path so as to make the onlooker unsure of the road it is to take next. There is a human side to it as well as a monstrous one and so the most important thing is to decide on the side which would prevail in the end. But it is no easy matter to simply fix on one or the other. If the evils which it encounters on its way are seen as a consequence of its actions and decisions, then doom is inevitable for surely the “monster” is leading the way to self-destruction. But what if the hardships and the trouble are taken to be as natural phenomena it should face on its way to power, glory and victory? Will that not help to consider this yet unknown creature with more sympathy than it is now awarded?

And therefore, on observing the ambiguity with which it is connected, you are likely to see the uncertainty of its current state such that it will leave you with a feeling of indecision as to a complete determination of its full nature.

From Marzieh's blogpost Saturday, June 13, 2009 Find the original here

Concluding Notes from Connie - oneheartforpeace blogger

Efforts toward peace between Iran and the West:

Recently I attended a presentation by a US peacemaker priest from the order of St. Francis. He said that when he went with a group of peacemakers to Iran some months back Iranians told of the candles lit all over Iran right after 911 in peace-loving empathy for Americans. The photo he showed was a candle representing these with beautiful persian art decorating the base of these lights of peace. I remembered something a Pakistani scholar said about how America could have "had it all for love" if only other choices had been made after that tragic event.

When I picture Iran with my limited inner vision - the one symbol which comes up for me continually is "Mirrors" and next is "Gardens" ...These and so many other positive and rich "living metaphors" emerge when many of us in the West read with our inner vision - looking for connections and beautiful additions from or about the Persian culture. So when I happened across a recent notice of the following literary award - I was quite pleased - just as some other lovers of Persian poetry here may be as well.

And by the way - how about the following for echoing Marzieh's poetic vision?

"...in Persian literature symbols exist in a single cosmos and are split from a luminous charter" quote from literary report below.

The Jalal award winning author on his newest work "Cosmos Mirrors"

A few excerpts from "Literary symbols as split from a luminous charter"

"Hosein Ali Ghobadi", the first Jalal award winner in literary criticism category, says "Cosmic Mirrors" is the continuation of "Mirror's Faith".

Ghobadi believes that this book which is about the symbolic net of Shams sonnets...He said: "while working on Mirror's Faith I realized Iranian symbols are not merely single stars that decline...Some of these origins turn into archetypes and are the source of some metaphors and also some myths...'I believe there is no other literary work that is filled with more poetic impression than Rumi's sonnets. In my opinion this book is the most poetic book of all.' For the original and full article here

Illustration by Marianne Goldin.

Updated July 21st: DRONES, NATO and Other "Methods" in "War on Terror" Questioned

ADDED items:
No Let-Up in US Drone War in Pakistan

UN Reports Record Humanitarian Aid Shortfall here

Pakistan has been critical of US use of drones

In this post: QUESTIONING US METHODS in the "War on Terror":

***Op-Ed by Jeremy Scahill on Drones in Pakistan with related news articles
***Discussion of CIA's Hidden Agendas in Time magazine
***Analysis: "More Friends - More War" - a Cato submission on more plans for NATO.
***Bill of Rights Defense Committee's latest gathering of related items

'Unmanned Bombs Away' by Jeremy Scahill (has written extensively on Black Water and for The Nation Magazine)

Wall Street Journal Loves Obama's Drone War Vs. Pakistan:
The Wall Street Journal's editors attack unembedded journalists who report the Pakistani deaths. Instead, they say, we should all just shut up and listen to U.S. intelligence agencies.

"Excerpt": The Wall Street Journal is officially in love with President Obama's undeclared air war inside of Pakistan's borders. In an unsigned editorial, the paper enthusiastically endorses Obama's use of predator drones to bomb areas throughout Pakistan. The WSJ editors praise the administration, saying "to its credit, [the White House] has stepped up the use of Predators." The editors declare: "When Pakistan's government can exercise sovereignty over all its territory, there will be no need for Predator strikes. In the meantime, unmanned bombs away."

Read the rest of the article - go to Common Dreams dot Org

Alleged Facts from Pakistan/US - Reuters on Drone activity in Pakistan here

Latest US Drone Strike in South Waziristan Brings Weeklong Toll Over 100

A US drone fired two missiles at a suspected militant compound in South Waziristan today, killing at least eight and wounding an unknown number of others. The attack was the latest in a string of US strikes on the restive Pakistani agency which have killed over 100 in the past seven days.

These articles above and the ones below (WITH COMMENTS)are not unrelated. There is ongoing outrage over the use of drones - and for Time.com - which often leans center - to put the following discussion out is a bit unusual (is it not)?

The CIA: What Was It Up To? - Swampland - TIME.com

Another "center-leaning" analyst and source - "More Friends - More War" (Discussion of NATO as folly by US expert of Foreign Affairs) here

Bill of Rights/Constitution and the "War on Terror" SEE Latest News - find the items below at bordc dot org here

Jul 13, 2009, Scott Shane, New York Times, Obama Faces a New Look to Push Back

Jul 13, 2009, Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, Clamor Grows Over CIA Secrets

Jul 13, 2009, Andy Worthington, Antiwar.com, Former Insider Shatters Credibility of Military Commissions

Jul 13, 2009, Daphne Eviatar, Washington Independent, One Need Look No Further Than John Yoo for Evidence of Executive Lawbreaking

Jul 13, 2009, Jake Tapper, ABC News, President Obama Orders National Security Team to Review 2001 Afghanistan Massacre

Jul 12, 2009, Scott Shane, New York Times, Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of CIA Project

Jul 12, 2009, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, The Holder Trial Balloon: Abu Ghraib Redux

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Special Prosecutor for US? Peace/Justice updates & actions

What actions toward justice lead as well to peace?

Breakthroughs, actions, updates from July 11th continuing through the week beginning July 12-13th.

ASK HOLDER to Appoint a Special Prosecutor

Here's a new item added as Update: here

According to news reports over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder is considering whether to appoint a special prosecutor for torture. Now is the moment for everyone to phone and Email him asking him to do so. (Not only from US citizens but why not some emails from the international community for peace at large?)


Phone 202-514-2001
The peace movement is determined and united. It's time to put October 5, October 17, and March 19 on our calendars. Here's why: here

From July 11-13th and ONGOING - WHAT's "hot" now on the US justice scene:
See all the activity the last few days on FRONT PAGE news at NYTimes, LA Times, Newsweek, Al Jazeera and other international news sources, The Nation Magazine, Bill of Rights Defense Committee News, Democracy Now!, Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com, digby's blog (Hullabaloo), After Downing Street, Senator Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein (at last?) See more congress-folk listed here soon with URLS)

VARIOUS OTHERS (if you have time - these will take more than a quick skim.)
Visit Andy Worthington (comments at his site are unusually interesting), Cage Prisoners, Common Dreams, Truth Out and of course see Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU, Amnesty, The Guardian (especially this story: Binyam Mohamed launches legal fight to stop US destroying torture - guardian dot co dot uk, Reprieve and I'm expecting a great OP Ed from Prof. Marjorie Cohn - President of the National Lawyers' Guild any day now here and from lawyer Candace Gorman with her Gitmo blog. And don't forget Noam Chomsky - including his Op Ed last May on The Torture Memos. Don't fail to scroll through COMMENTS on many of these sites for some startling leads and perspectives.

There are so many Peace Actions available now. RIGHT NOW, US leaders and citizens can do much toward ending all US wars of occupation and other destructive aggressions. We can be more constitutionally faithful. We can participate in vigils, protests and other peace-gatherings whenever we have the opportunity to do so peacefully and without violence to ourselves or others.

FROM JUST FOREIGN POLICY: US Should Stay Out of Iran Dispute - Appearing to meddle in Iran's internal affairs would be counterproductive to the interests of Iranian protesters and to the future of U.S.-Iran relations. Thank President Obama for his smart response and urge him to continue his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically

DRONE activity - submitting this for sake of the debate (I don't agree with some articles points that the use of drones could legally be outside war crimes. At the same time - some media suggestions are for more accountability - for public discussions regarding their use and presidential justification - rather than nearly complete secrecy may be better than the current practices. See article: "Fresh drone attacks in Pakistan reignite debate‎" - 5 days ago See both Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor. Also see Comments at Dawn newspaper, Pakistan.
I am among those who believe we must voice STRONG ongoing objection to use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere and to encourage more support for the displaced. See the work of Kathy Kelly with Center for Creative Nonviolence with their theme: "Down the Drones or Reap the Whirlwind"...

Ajmal of Swat Valley with other displaced experiencing kindness of strangers.

[08-Jul-2009] Ajmal's family was forced to flee from their village when fighting between government forces and militants engulfed the upper reaches of Pakistan's Swat Valley in mid-June. The young boy traveled to safety with 24 women and children from his extended family, including a severely disabled uncle and a little girl who had to be carried.

Please don't forget Gaza and Palestine/Israel in their hour of need. See Electronic Intifada and BitterLemons. (and be sure also to see Iraq news via Iraqis)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saving the Constitution - Ending Torture - Mending Bridges

This blogpost here at oneheartforpeace is an UPDATE about efforts toward a renewal of the rule of law, an end to torture and a plea that we care about our bridges with rest of the world.

The Great Barbara Jordan

“My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.” The Late Barbara Jordan

Excerpt from article below:
"It is essential that those responsible for torture be held to account. This is not about “policy differences.” It is about crimes. More important still, it’s about holding fast to our Constitution and enforcing accountability in the executive branch." Ray McGovern (NOTICE that he is INVITING BUSH to be present when he talks in Dallas,Texas Thursday! here

EVENT NOTICE: Ray McGovern will speak and answer questions concerning key constitutional issues on Thursday evening, July 9 at the Dallas Peace Center. He served as an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost thirty years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He now works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. For Information on McGovern's Talk in Texas - July 9th Go here

Scroll down for McGovern's new Op Ed
DR Aafia Siddiqui: NOTE the Ongoing Concerns - Women and Children in Detention - Rule of Law - Relationship with Pakistan and rest of the world:

There are recent urgent concerns which need to be addressed as far as the treatment of detainees in Bagram and elsewhere. Merely closing down Guantanamo is not eliminating these concerns which raise years of abuse under US jurisdiction.

Not least among these is the concern that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui - regardless of any alleged crimes - has not been considered by law innocent until proof of guilt. Nor has she received any reasonably humane treatment over time until now where she's currently held in a New York Detention Center.

I have been following the posts and archives on this case and am continually startled by this quote on the upper right hand side of this blogsite

"US was the only foreign country whose representative attended the birth of Pakistan on August 15, 1947. The Case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui appears as an epitome of entangled issues which seem to threaten this proverbial alliance, and hence also prospects of peace in the region. This blog is about saving a bridge."

Recently this Pakistan Scholar who cares deeply about the rule of law in his nation as well as the US and elsewhere stated the following: "As a nation founded by one of the finest barristers, it shall always be our special mandate to remind the world about the importance of law:

"Last year on July 6, a British journalist broke the news that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three minor children had been in the illegal secret custody of US authorities in Afghanistan for five years, and that Aafia had been subjected to rape and torture all this while. Exactly on the same date a year later, Judge Berman has now conducted a hearing in a New York court where instead of being heard as a victim, Aafia is being tried as an accused." Read more here Be sure to see Khurram Shafique's Archives and other links as well at this same site - look especially for his startling analytical article: "Don't Blame the Victim".

Blogpost on July 6th events from young observant of recent hearing: here

You can find other posts related to Dr. Siddiqui by going to cageprisoners dot com and putting Aafia in the site's search.

For those who would merely take the time to read Pakistan news and Arabic human rights concerns - especially since the US is seeking cooperation in the "war on terror" particularly with Pakistan - we would be wise to see how denial on the lack of rule of law and humane treatment in Dr. Siddiqui's case is not in anyone's best interest.
Ray McGovern Co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) digs out the real "smoking gun" of torture, USA

From Consortium News here You may need to go to consortiumnews dot com archives if you found this item after July 8, 2009

Is Texas Harboring Torture Decider?
By Ray McGovern
July 7, 2009

Editor’s Note: Prior to giving some talks in Texas, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern offered the following op-ed to the Dallas Morning News and the Fort-Worth Star Telegram. Both newspapers in George W. Bush’s home state turned it down:

Seldom does a crime scene have so clear a smoking gun. A two-page presidential memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, leaves no room for uncertainty regarding the “decider” on torture. His broad-stroke signature made torture official policy.

This should come as no surprise. You see, the Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum has been posted on the Web since June 22, 2004, when then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales mistakenly released it, along with other White House memoranda.

The title seemed innocent enough – “Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees” – but in the body of the memo President George W. Bush authorized his senior aides to withhold Geneva Convention protections from suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

Like Shakespeare, the media seem harshest on the lawyers, including Texans Gonzales and William J. Haynes II (Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s lawyer), who later outdid themselves trying to make torture legal.

What gets lost in the woodwork is this: Banal as their ex-post-facto “justification” for torture was, the lawyers were not the deciders.

After the decider-in-chief, the key decision makers were the eight addressees of the Feb. 7 memorandum: Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House chief of staff Andrew Card, CIA Director George Tenet, National Security aide Condoleezza Rice, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers.

During the Q & A after a recent Myers talk in Washington, I asked him what he did after he had read the President’s memo on ignoring Geneva. The tone of his non-answer was this: If the President wanted to dismiss Geneva, what was a mere Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to do?

In his memoir, Eyes on the Horizon, he tries to blame the lawyers: “By relying so heavily on just the lawyers, the President did not get the broader advice on these matters that he needed.”

Myers and the other seven addressees might these days be called derivative deciders — or, more simply, accomplices. There is not a shred of evidence that any of the Gang of Eight gave the slightest consideration to resigning, rather than carry out the President’s decision.

They elected to “just follow orders,” a defense dismissed out of hand at the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal on war crimes. Together with the lawyer-advisers, the derivative deciders provide abundant proof that the “banality of evil” did not die with Adolf Eichmann and other functionaries of the Third Reich.

But the buck stops — actually, in this case, it began — with President Bush. Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Carl Levin and John McCain on Dec. 11, 2008, released the executive summary of a report, approved by the full committee without dissent, concluding that Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum “opened the door to considering aggressive techniques.”

Here is Conclusion Number One of the Senate committee report: “Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions…were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.”

It is essential that those responsible for torture be held to account...
READ the rest here

For an UPDATED review of NC leadership against torture go to earlier post near end of JUNE archives here

Monday, July 6, 2009

Where are Ears to Hear?

Lessons for the US from Pakistan's Literature and from First Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who said in an address May 16, 1950 at USA's University of California at Berkeley: "We hold our freedom dear as you do and we love peace..."

Excerpt about Ibne Safi: "The depth and variety of allusions in his 240 books was greater than any other writer in Urdu except Iqbal – and just like Iqbal, his works seem to be becoming more relevant with the passage of time...In (one) story, people are “disappearing” from Shikral and transported to a far-off island where they are being kept in cages."

IBNE SAFI (1928-1980) Posted Monday July 6, 2009 By Khurram Shafique The Republic of Rumi blogpost here

Ibne Safi is unique among fiction-writers of Urdu. He was equally popular in India and Pakistan (in India his books were also available in Hindi editions with the names of Muslim protagonists Faridi and Imran changed to Vinod and Rajesh).

This was quite an achievement if we remember that unlike some other writers of that time, Safi's purpose was to inspire patriotism (he wasn’t indifferent to religion, sovereignty, national identity and foreign policy, all of which were disputed between Pakistan and India who went on war more than once). That Safi was able to infuse patriotism on both sides of a war-torn border is remarkable (despite the promotional powers of Eon Productions, James Bond could never become acceptable for “political others” behind Iron Curtain).

Safi’s readers included intellectuals, cabdrivers, presidents and prime ministers (PM Nazimuddin and President Ayub Khan are said to be among his readers while Indian politician and later PM Lal Bahadur Shashtri presided over the launch of one of his books). Many who couldn’t read would listen to these stories being read out while the depth and variety of allusions in his 240 books was greater than any other writer in Urdu except Iqbal – and just like Iqbal, his works seem to be becoming more relevant with the passage of time.

In 1975, he wrote a series of novels about Shikral, a fictitious region based on FATA. In the story, people are “disappearing” from Shikral and transported to a far-off island where they are being kept in cages. “A battle of mind is fought alone,” says the hero Ali Imran. “One doesn’t need an army for that.” Can you see the relevance?
See also a much earlier essay on Ibne Safi: "Literature for thrill seekers literati" By Khurram Shafique (The Review - Daily Dawn 10 July 1997) Essays - English and Urdu here
From the Truman archives - Photos here were taken at the time of the following speech

US President Harry Truman with First PM of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan May 1950.

Posted Sunday July 5, 2009 By Khurram Shafique The Republic of Rumi

A Message to America

With feelings, I send this message from my leader as my personal note of felicitation to American friends on the 4th of July. (Khurram Shafique):

I believe that your people earnestly desire peace. We, who have just begun to live, can hardly wish for annihilation to overtake us when we have not yet taken our first few breaths. What can we do to maintain peace in the world beyond keeping our own house in order? It seems to us in the East that only those who can make war can primarily maintain peace. If they are in earnest about it, is their way not clear?

When we find strong and powerful nations boldly defying aggression, we are heartened by their stand but we ask ourselves two questions:

* Firstly, is aggression to be defied only where we dislike the aggressor or is aggression to be defied in all its forms, big and small, and wherever it may appear? If the first, we will be doing no honor to democracy or justice or freedom but to the principle of biological survival. If the second, we will be serving the cause of freedom everywhere and giving hope to new nations.
* Secondly, is defiance, however stimulating it may be, enough? Are there not vast fields for constructive effort by which alone can enduring peace be built up?

Yours is a great country with enormous resources of wealth, experience and technical skill. We, who believe in individual initiative, effort and enterprise do not believe that the era of private ownership is over. But we do believe that we have entered upon an era when capital should come out of its shell and move in the spheres of international social objectives and move on from exploitation to production.

Your country fought for its own independence once. You have been great exponents and the jealous guardians of freedom. Words from your Declaration of Independence and your constitution have inspired men in far-off lands. You have shown to the world what human effort can do for human welfare. You have no colonies and I believe no territorial ambitions. Has not your history therefore equipped you more than most nations to be among the leading architects of the enlightened internationalism of the future?

We Asiatics in general and Pakistan in particular are waiting to see what your answer will be. We do not know what you will say but should you decide that construction is the best way to defy destruction, you will find the people of Pakistan amongst your staunchest friends.

I have spoken to you with great candor and from the depth of my heart for we are a simple and frank people as you are; we hold our freedom dear as you do and we love peace, if possible, even more than you do.

First PM of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan,
University of California, Berkeley, on May 16, 1950.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Islamic Reflection for 4th of July 2009

First on justice:

Oh you who believe, maintain just witness for Allah, and do not allow your enmity toward any group of people prevent you from acting equitably. That is the closest thing to piety. Take care of your duty to Allah for He is well aware of your actions. (5:8)

Oh you who believe, maintain justice and bear truthful witness for Allah's sake, though your witness be against yourself, your parents or your near of kin...do not follow your vain desires so that you do not establish equity. If you deviate from what is right, Allah is aware of your actions. (4:135)

Say: my Lord has commanded the establishment of justice, so maintain it in every place of worship, and call upon Him, being sincere in all of your life transactions. As He brought you forth (into creation) so He will return you. (7:29)

Allah, His angels, and those possessed of knowledge bear witness that there is no God but He, maintaining steadfastly what is just. There is no God but He, the Mighty, the Wise. (3:18)

Then peace:

O you who believe! If you must fight in Allah's way, make investigation, and do not say to anyone who offers you peace: You are not a believer. Do you seek goods of this world's life! But with Allah there are abundant rewards; you too were such before, then Allah conferred a benefit on you; therefore make investigation; surely Allah is aware of what you do. (4:94)

Allah guides all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leads them out of darkness, by His will, into the light, guiding them to a path that is straight. (5:16)

When those who believe in Our communications come to you, say: Peace be on you, your Lord has ordained mercy on Himself, (so) that if any one of you does evil in ignorance, then turns after that and acts aright, then He is Forgiving, Merciful. (6:54)

If they incline to peace, then you incline to it, and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (8:61)

Allah invites to the abode of peace and guides whom He pleases to the right path. (10:25)

And finally a supplication from Imam Zayn ul-Abideen

Oh my Lord,

leave us not without Your defense,

strip us not of Your protection,

and protect us from places of destruction,

for we are under Your watchful eye.

I ask You by those who You have singled out,

your angels and the righteous among your created beings,

to assign us a protector through whom

you will deliver us from destruction,

turn aside from us affliction,

and hide from us the occurrence of great calamities.

Send down upon us a portion of Your tranquility,

and embrace us with the lights of love for You.

Provide haven for us in Your strength,

and gather us under the wings of Your protection, through the grace of Your mercy and compassion,

Oh Most Merciful of those who grant mercy.

(This reflection was offered by The Coalition for Peace with Justice)

Just a few notes:

The supplication is from one of the greatest sages of Islam, the great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali ibn Husayn Zayn ul-Abideen.

The Prayer Vigil for Middle East Peace is held in some NC - USA congregations on the 4th of every month. This monthly service is a part of a national movement initiated by Churches for Middle East Peace committed to the principles of a just peace and to solidarity with Christians, Muslims and Jews. In July, the day for Prayer Vigil falls (interestingly) on an American national holiday. Nothing could be more fitting than to note the Holy Writ of the Qur'ran and our Muslim friends' prayer for peace on this particular day.

This reflection just "happened" to be scheduled at this time when there is US celebration for independence - yet sadly the phrase "bombs bursting in air" from the US national song which is often sung on such celebrations doesn't evoke joy to so many and worries more of us year by year. Those words connote drones and other weapons of steel and chemicals delivered by members of one family to other members of our ONE family in other places. How can this be?

In my town - as we have done now for several years - a few of us will hold lanterns as the sky gets dark and as people hurry to the large annual FIREWORKS display at the college. There near the courthouse corner we will hold two long signs in red, white and blue which say "PEACE WORKS". I plan to pass out the supplication above and make a special prayer for the protection and healing of Pakistan and for wise strength for both it's well-known and quiet leaders and writers at this time. (Connie)

A few notes from The Coalition for Peace with Justice (who wish particularly to direct the supplication above toward peace with justice in Israel-Palestine):

Islam is literally translated as "surrender" or "submission". A Muslim, ideally, is one who surrenders him/herself to the will of God, known in the Quran, Islamic literature and even pre-Islamic literature as "Allah". The word "islam" is connected to the word "salam" which means peace. When Muslims greet each other they say: "As-salamu alaykum (Peace be upon you)".

The original intent of Islam, as it issued forth from the Prophet Muhammad, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, was to provide a spiritual lifestyle and practices to connect the earthly nature of men and women to the higher, divine nature within them. Islam views mankind as moving forward to its pinnacle of spiritual evolution toward the ultimate individual and social attributes of justice and peace. Both of these attributes are regarded as Divine Attributes.

The belief of Islam is that all other prophetically inspired spiritual disciplines such as Judaism, Christianity, and others came forth for the same purpose: to lead mankind from the darkness of the lower qualities of the ego-self to the higher attributes of the soul, and ultimately to the light of the Divine Presence which resides in every heart.

If you - the READER - have any notes to add in this spirit of peace today, please do so in the Comments section below. If you have any difficulty posting your comment, please send your Comment to me Connie - newlease7@yahoo.com - with the same title of this post in the Subject Heading: Islamic Reflection of 4th of July. Perhaps several of you would suggest visual items which could be posted in keeping with this reflection?