September 2008

Lucie Wood Saunders, 1928-2008

One of AMEWS’ earliest members and warmest supporters, Lucie Wood Saunders, passed away on July 26, 2008. Lucie received her PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1959. Her dissertation research was on parallel cousin marriage in Arab families. She carried out research in Egypt, at the invitation of Laila el Hamamsy, Director of American University of Cairo’s Social Research Center, starting in 1961 and into the 1980’s in the Egyptian Delta village, Tafahna el-Ashraf. She worked with Sohair Mehanna of the SRC, authoring many articles with her on Tafahna el-Ashraf. Lucie was among the first Anthropologsits to write on issues of gender in the Delta villages. Her research inspected family and gender relations, the local zar cults, women and development issues around small businesses such as poultry, and medical anthropology. Her early work focused more on psychological issues and her later work more on economic issues. (more…)

The potential meltdown of Wall Street has brought the economy front and center as “the” issue in the closing days of the election cycle. Even Friday’s debate, originally planned to focus on foreign policy, started out on the state of the economy and looming bail-out plan in congress. But Iraq is not about to disappear from the news. If the only measure of progress in Iraq is the raw number of U.S. casualties, then the “surge” be praised, but keep passing the ammunition. Darfur is also out of the daily news cycle these days, but the killing there has hardly abated. Afghanistan does make the headlines, in part because U.S. casualties are rising dramatically this year.

So five years and counting after the shock-and-awe sweep through Iraq and the May Day announcement of “Mission Accomplished” by George W. Bush, the mission continues and the death toll keeps rising. Here is yesterday’s count from al-Jazeera:

Deadly car bombs rock Baghdad (more…)

Last night Senators Obama and McCain squared off for the first debate, setting off a feeding frenzy among surrogate spinmeisters around the mediasphere. It was the Old Man and the Sea Change. So who won? Who landed the most blows? Who survived? If this had been a heavyweight bout, there would have been a decision ringside with judges who could tell real blows from low blows. The pandering of pundits only goes round and round with no “real” winner. The only way political debates ever matter is at the polls on election day. Of course, John McCain’s campaign knew ahead of time that he won. Even before McCain agreed at the last minute to honor his commitment to the independent debate commission and the American people (not to mention Ole Miss), his campaign (apparently not in suspension, just in free fall) put up an ad Friday morning on the Wall Street Journal that claimed McCain as the winner.

You could say it was a draw, although not with much blood loss. But there were a number of strategic errors and tactical mistakes. (more…)

[As reported in an earlier post, the Islamophobic pseudo-documentary ‘Obsession’ has recently been sent out in key states on behalf of the Palin/McCain/Lieberman campaign. Now there is a website devoted to debunking the film’s prejudicial claims and slanted propaganda. This is called Obsession with Hate, a project of the “Hate Hurts America” campaign. See the website for details, but here is an excerpt…]

What is ‘Obsession’?

Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West is a 2005 anti-Muslim propaganda film put together by controversial anti-Muslim figures to further the perceived divide between Western and Muslim audiences. 28 million copies of the DVD were recently distributed by a mysteriously-funded entity by the name of the Clarion Fund with the help of 70 US newspapers in a curious and unprecedented campaign. This large distribution, particularly given it was targeted to swing states in the current elections cycle, piqued the interest of many, especially civil rights watchdogs.

Why is ‘Obsession’ a hate film, can we deny that radical violent Muslims exist?

The OIC does not speak for Muslims

by Tarek Fatah, Muslim Canadian Congress, UN Geneva

I speak to you as a Muslim who was born in Pakistan and lived there for 30 years and moved to Saudi Arabia where I worked for 10 years. Since 1987 I have called Canada my home. As an author, journalist and Muslim activist, I have seen the role and agenda of both the soft and hardcore jihadis unfold before my eyes and across the Muslim world.

I approach the issue of freedom of speech and freedom of expression embodied in the 1948 UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights as defending a treasured right that few of my co-religionists can dream off, let alone cherish or possess. We are over a billion strong, but almost all of us live under varying forms and degrees of dictatorship and oppression. Barring a few exceptions such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, and very recently Pakistan, Muslims live under the tyranny of rulers like those of Iran and Saudi Arabia who have used the religion of Islam as a tool to secure absolute power, and to trample all over the human rights of their citizens.

Barely a day goes by without news of gross violations of human rights of Muslims living in so-called Islamic countries. Whether it is honour killings of sisters and mothers or the harassment of gays and calls for their death; whether it is imprisonment of political opponents or attacks on minorities, we Muslims who live in the West are constantly reminded of the rights we enjoy under secular parliamentary democracies as individual human beings. (more…)

Are Suicide Operations Losing their Mass Appeal?

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, Asharq Alawsat, Tuesday 23 September 2008

Why are Suicide operations no longer a cause for admiration and awe among those that are usually indignant?

The answer is that the same propaganda weapon that the Al-Qaeda organization used has turned against it. The Al-Qaeda used to promote their explosive-laden heroes as they read their last will and testament and smiled to the cameras. After their operations multiplied, the pictures of these victims – children, women, and elderly – became popular on every road on which their vehicles passed and exploded. Without the need for a survey, we can say that only a few continue to support suicide-operations, I mean among the Muslims in whose name these operations and used and justified.

The figures shown in the latest scientific study confirm the results of previous surveys. They show a continuous and consistent drop in all the Muslim countries with the exception of Egypt where, according to the study, support for such operations rose 5% over last year. (more…)

Examples of the Islamophobic hate campaign against Senator Obama

[Webshaykh’s Note: The following op ed column by Nicholas Kristof should set off alarm bells in all concerned citizens, especially Muslims. The ugly Janus of racial prejudice and religious bigotry is on full display. I invite comments on what we as concerned citizens and scholars can do to combat this Islamophobic hate, which will not go away after the election, no matter who wins. To paraphrase a wise saying, the only thing needed for such Islamophobic evil to prevail is for the rest of us to do nothing. I invite all who read this to send me comments on how best to counteract this hate. If you know of good resources online or in publications, please let me know.]

The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, The New York Times, September 20, 2008
Here’s a sad monument to the sleaziness of this presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters “know” that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be.

In short, the political campaign to transform Mr. Obama into a Muslim is succeeding. The real loser as that happens isn’t just Mr. Obama, but our entire political process.

A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr. Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 percent in June and 10 percent in March.

More ominously, a rising share — now 16 percent — say they aren’t sure about his religion because they’ve heard “different things” about it. (more…)

Flagg Miller, an assistant professor of at UC Davis, translated and analyzed about 20 tapes of Osama bin Laden. Photography by HECTOR AMEZCUA

UC Davis researcher delves into the mind of bin Laden

By Bobby Caina Calvan, The Sacramento Bee, Thursday, September 11, 2008

For five years, a University of California, Davis, researcher has been replaying hundreds of hours of audiocassettes that, he says, yield deeper – and more complex – insights into the intellectual development of Osama bin Laden.

A collection of 1,500 audiocassettes was carted away from bin Laden’s compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2001 and provides a glimpse into bin Laden’s rise leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Certainly, few would dare humanize the man the United States calls its most wanted, who seven years after the country’s deadliest terrorist attacks is still being sought dead or alive.

On the seventh anniversary of the attacks, the most brazen ever carried out anywhere in the world, bin Laden still looms large on the American psyche, its politics and public life. (more…)

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