Category Archives: News and Current Affairs

Bigots, Misogynists and War-Mongerers Abound

Giuliani anti Palestinian state

The leading Republican presidential candidate in the US, Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani has long been a critic of the idea of a Palestinian state

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has said he is not in favour of the creation of a Palestinian state, contradicting current US policy.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6950829.stm

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Thompson: Roe ‘bad law and bad medicine’

Watch Thompson discuss his views on gay marriage and Roe v. Wade.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Likely Republican White House hopeful Fred Thompson told CNN Friday that he would push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and would work to overturn Roe v. Wade if elected president.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/

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 Obama says he might send troops to Pakistan

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would possibly send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists, an attempt to show strength when his chief rival has described his foreign policy skills as naive.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20070536/

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Random Reading

  A nice bit of positive I read the other day on NPR

🙂

Young Imam Serves as Islam’s Face to Community 

 

Sheikh Rashid Lamptey at Dar Al Noor David Kidd for NPR   
Sheikh Rashid Lamptey, the new imam at Dar Al Noor, says, “Muslims have to be careful, because they have a picture that is not nicely painted of them.”
Sheikh Rashid Lamptey Leads Services David Kidd for NPR    
Sheikh Rashid Lamptey speaks with congregants at Dar Al Noor mosque in Manassas, Va.
Sheikh Rashid Lamptey Leads Congregents at Dar Al Noor David Kidd for NPR
Sheikh Rashid Lamptey leads congregants at Dar Al Noor. The imam’s duties begin with 5 a.m. prayers and end when Lamptey drags himself home, often after midnight.

 

 August 6, 2007 · The day is sunny and hot, the hamburgers are on the grill, the kids are jumping on the moon bounce and about 400 people are milling around the brand new Dar Al Noor mosque in Manassas, Va.

Neighbors and members of the congregation are here — even Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is coming. James Dade, a non-Muslim who lives nearby, is manning the grill. As he hands a burger to a Muslim friend, he turns and gives this assessment of his new neighbors.

“They’re very friendly, very helpful, very community-oriented,” he says, noting that his best friend attends Dar Al Noor. “If there were more Christians like my friend, we wouldn’t have any problems in this world.”

It is a happy appraisal on this happy Sunday afternoon in July — the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new mosque. Sheikh Rashid Lamptey, the new imam, can barely contain his excitement as he waits for the governor to arrive.

Lamptey is serving a growing mosque in one of America’s fastest-rising religions — with more than 2 million faithful to date. The imam plays a dual role: He’s the face of Islam to his congregation and to Americans who might be wary of Muslims.

“Look!” says Lamptey, who is slim with dark skin, in contrast to his white robes and a perpetual grin on his face. “Everyone is here: the politicians, the security men, the people who protect us. We have their trust, they have our trust. This is what we want to establish — the trust, so we can work together towards a more peaceful community.”

A few moments later, the imam introduces Kaine. The governor greets the crowd in Arabic, eliciting applause from his Muslim onlookers, then speaks about America as the bastion of religious freedom.

“We like the way he is,” Lamptey remarks, satisfied. “He is an outreach person — reaching out and bridging the gap, building bridges and getting closer to us. That is what we want. We want to be included.”

A Cool Reception

But drive a half-mile and the reception is chillier. People outside of the Safeway grocery store in Manassas are not clear what goes on at the mosque down the road. One person asked if they sacrifice cows. (The answer is no.) Seventeen-year-old Amanda Weeks said all she knows is what she learned in high school.

“I know that the men and women are separated when they pray,” she said. “And they take off their shoes and they wash before they go in. That’s about it.”

Others were a bit more suspicious.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s the Muslims who are the terrorists,” said nearby resident Johnny Wilson. “But they do some things that cause some concerns for me.”

Such as? A 10-second pause ensued while he considered the question.

“You know, off the top of my tongue I can’t name any,” he said, laughing, “but they do some things that cause some concerns.”

Brianna Altman, who works for local government, has more specifics. She worries that Muslims present a peaceful front to the outside, but may have a political or religious agenda.

“And after 9/11 — and we had over 20 people in this community who lost their lives that day — it makes you think,” she said. “It’s very difficult. It takes a leap of faith, really, to believe that they are here peacefully.”

Imam Sheikh Lamptey has his work cut out for him, and he knows it.

“Muslims have to be careful, because they have a picture that is not nicely painted of them,” he said in his office one muggy July day, as a ceiling fan whirred on high speed. He wore a blue prayer cap, a navy suit and a royal blue shirt that billowed a bit over his slim frame.

Hearing the Call to Service

Lamptey was born in Ghana, the fifth of eight children. Ghana is predominately Christian, but Lamptey’s father was an imam, a very religious man. The kids were less devout.

“Growing up, the kids prayed when it was time to pray, but we didn’t care so much about it,” he recalled. He paused. “Until I had this epiphany about doing something about my religion.”

When he was 16, Lamptey “did something” — in the form of intense investigation. He says he started with the premise that all religions were equal, “a clean sheet,” as he put it. He studied Christianity, Judaism and Islam. After many years of studying the sacred texts of each faith, Lamptey came to believe that religions were at root the same, and he eventually settled on the faith of his childhood.

Lamptey won a scholarship to university in Sudan. He earned two masters’ degrees, in Arabic and Islamic studies, which qualified him to become an imam. But Lamptey had no intention of doing so. He became fluent in Chinese and moved to Beijing to teach at a university. And that’s where he was when he was called to be a spiritual leader — not by God, but by his friends in Ghana.

“I received letters from Ghana saying, ‘Look, you went and studied. Now you need to come back home and help the people,'” he recalled. “So I immediately packed my stuff and went back home.”

Coming to America

Soon, Lamptey was appointed Ghana’s deputy national imam, becoming the No. 2 cleric in Ghana. He was 23. He served a large mosque and appeared frequently on national television and radio. It was on radio that he caught the attention of a Fulbright scholar from Connecticut named Jerusha, a young woman who had converted to Islam.

“She used to give me a ride to the radio programs,” he said. “She would say, ‘I’ll come and pick you up and give you a ride, because I like to hear you speak on the programs.'” He smiled at the memory. “That’s where we got acquainted with each other.”

Eventually, Jerusha returned to the United States. She left a gaping hole in Lamptey’s heart — and in the practice of his faith. In Islam, he says, duty to God is only half of the religion.

“The other half is duty to your spouse, because in that half, that is where you get tested a lot,” he observed. “And so I decided this is the time for me to go into marriage. And I looked around and I realized, well, she sounded very religious, and at the same time, very attractive. So I said, ‘OK, let me settle down with this beautiful lady.'”

The imam visited Jerusha’s family in the fall of 2002, courtesy of the U.S. government, which had invited young foreign imams to tour the United States. On that trip, Lamptey traveled to New York to see the wreckage of the Twin Towers himself. He could scarcely believe what had been done in the name of his faith.

“I stood at Ground Zero, camera in hand,” he recalled, his voice going deadly quiet with anger. “I tried to find a reason for people to do that. No reason appeared. I tried my very best. I couldn’t find one simple reason that says we can throw a bomb or put an airplane into a building. I felt the melancholy, the weight of it, and I said, the time has come for us to stop using religion for ulterior motives, and teach people what religion stands for.”

Bridging Cultural and Gender Divides

Now Lamptey has his chance — as the new imam at Dar Al Noor. And while Lamptey must always contend with hovering suspicions about Islam from the outside, he spends most of his time tending to the spiritual needs of his own congregants. When he arrived in the United States, he found himself smack in the center of a debate on how half of his congregants should be treated.

“This may sound controversial to a lot of people,” he said, “but that is the fact that men and women can pray in the same room. Though the women are delayed behind the men, they should be in the same setting. The women should not be taken far away and hidden from the public. Because that was not what the prophet did. And it’s more of a cultural issue than a religious issue.”

At noon prayers one day, when Lamptey told the women to move forward and participate in the service, visitors in the room looked around, surprised, before moving forward. Lamptey said in Dar Al Noor, it would be an outrage to treat women with little respect. Many of them sold jewelry and other valuables to raise money for the $14 million mosque.

“After the women did all this, I do not believe we can relegate them to the footnote.”

Spiritual Counselor and More

The imam’s duties range from spiritual guide to resident psychologist, sorting through the never-ending details of his people’s lives. The work begins with 5 a.m. prayers and ends when Lamptey drags himself home, often after midnight. In between prayers, he teaches the Koran and youth class. He preaches at funerals and weddings. He counsels parents and children, couples in love and those in distress.

“It’s a very huge responsibility to be an imam,” he said. “Being an imam, you are exposed to everything in a community. You hear stories from families. Secret deals. Things that you don’t expect to hear on people’s private issues.”

Almost as he uttered these words, Lamptey glanced out his door to see a woman and her mother outside his office. They had been waiting for two hours. He rushed out and ushered them in.

The woman, Sophia, had been abandoned by the man she married in Pakistan — a situation fairly common to U.S. imams, as most of their congregants are first-generation immigrants. Sophia wanted the imam to sign her divorce papers, to give the divorce religious as well as legal legitimacy. Lamptey granted her request and then looked at her across the desk.

“To tell you the truth, this is a blessing in disguise,” he said gently. “At least he has not stained your life. He has just run away like a chicken.” She laughed. “And tomorrow you’ll find a real man, and you’ll be happy then. You’ll forget about this man.”

Insha Allah, she said softly. “God willing.”

Lamptey promised to find a match for Sophia — indeed, he is compiling a computer database of eligible singles. He told her he will help her reshape her future. It’s the same message he is delivering to his congregation as they negotiate their spiritual lives in a post-Sept. 11 America.

“It is up to us Muslims to put our religion out there and make it very transparent for people to see,” he said, “and understand that this religion is not about bombing, it’s not about killing, it’s not about marrying 70 women in heaven, as I heard somebody say. It’s about accountability; it’s about sincerity; it’s about forgiveness; it’s about love.”

Lamptey rose to leave. It was time for evening prayer — a reminder for the imam that, even in a new country, he can take comfort in the ancient rhythms of faith.

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Attack on Wiesel

160_ap_wiesel_070209.jpg  Nobel Peace prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel listens to a question from the media during a press conference, March 17, 2005, in
Washington. (AP Photo / Haraz Ghanbari)

Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel attacked in hotelUpdated Fri. Feb. 9 2007 11:03 PM ETAssociated PressSAN FRANCISCO — Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel was dragged from an elevator and roughed up, possibly by a Holocaust denier, during a peace conference at a San Francisco hotel last week, police said Friday. According to San Francisco Police Sgt. Neville Gittens, a man approached Wiesel, the author of “Night,” a memoir chronicling his time in a concentration camp, in an elevator and requested an interview with the author on the evening of Feb. 1 at the Argent Hotel. When Wiesel consented to talk in the hotel’s lobby, the man insisted it be done in a hotel room and dragged the 78-year-old off the elevator on the sixth floor, Gittens said. The assailant fled after Wiesel began to scream, and Wiesel went to the lobby and called police. Gittens said police are investigating the incident as a crime. Wiesel could not be immediately reached for comment at Boston University, where he teaches, or through his institute in New York. A posting on a virulent anti-Semitic website Tuesday by a person identifying himself as Eric Hunt claimed responsibility. “I had planned to bring Wiesel to my hotel room, where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, ‘Night,’ is almost entirely fictitious,” Hunt wrote on the site. The poster also said “I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks” and had hoped to get “Wiesel into my custody, with a cornered Wiesel finally forced to state the truth on videotape.” Gittens said investigators were aware of the posting and declined to comment further on the investigation.

The anti-Semitic website was disabled late Friday. It is registered to Andrew Winkler in North Sydney, Australia.

http://www.ctv.com/  ——————————————–I read his book Night last year.  I had never heard of him before I came across his book in Chapters.   I was flipping through it and was enthralled by his manner of writing.  It was mesmerising to me.   I couldn’t put the book down, so I bought it and read it late into the night.   I have recommended it to many people as a compelling look at one person’s experience with hell on earth.  In the book Wiesel writes about losing his faith  as the horror of the Jewish Holocaust grew around him – it really struck me…

There is still so much hate in the world – it never ceases to amaze me …this capacity of ours to hate each other so unreasonably.

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Racism, Arrogance And A Washed Up Career Make A Nasty Combo

Say it ain’t  so Michael!

I finally saw the tape everyone is on about  of Michael Richards spewing racist garbage at some guys who were heckling him during one of his performances.

There are mixed reactions to the whole thing- some people are horrified and pissed and disgusted –  common reactions you usually have to something like this.

Others see it as ridiculous and funny to see washed up Richards lose his cool and expose himself like that.

I’m not sure what I think.  And I wonder why I am not apalled and furious like I feel I should be?  I was surprised at what an ass he was, but I mean a lot of comedians say some pretty bigoted, disgusting things – I think he just stripped it of its veneer. 

Personally I don’t like going to comedy clubs because they always look for some poor sap from the audience to pick on and I’m always terrified that it will be me 🙂   There are some comedians who make a living calling out people based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc…  Sometimes I think it’s funny, (usually not) if it’s not me they are picking on and if they don’t cross the line.  But then that line is subjective right…?  I mean I find Borat to be offensive to any sense of good taste the good Lord gave us, but some see him as a freakin social commentator…whatever.

Watching the tape the one thing that stood out for me was  his overwhelming  arrogance.  I mean it was palpable…arrogance like that is usually reserved for dictators or sociopaths.

I think that was what was mostly at play here.  I don’t think it was so much that he hates black people as he hates all people …he came off a being one of those very arrogant, self absorbed people, who drink too much and blame everyone else for why their lives suck. There is definitley some sort of pathology there – more than just racism. 

He lashed out because he felt entitled and hit below the belt because he didn’t care.    His apology was weird – The Rage…Katrina…he’s fiery, passionate, confronting his anger and guys…he tried to ju-jitsu his rage!!!   Seriously …crazy for days.  His therapist bills are going waaaay up!    I wonder if Jerry Seinfeld defended Mel Gibson? 

Regardless he’s a loser who will probably drink himself or snort himself to death…What I found most interesting was the reaction of the crowd.  People got up and started leaving….not saying anything but just making the choice to not participate in his sham of a routine.

For every asshole there are two people who keep hope alive that one day we will be beyond all this.

Watching Seinfeld will never be the same after this.

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Big Brother are us

This is so interesting – Hasan Elahi has taken an offensive measure by deciding to track himself and inform the FBI of his every move after being held and questioned by them some time ago.  He also posts much of what we consider to be private information on line.  I guess he figured he’s put it all out there and be done with the fear of being detained and questioned every time he made a move.  It’s sad that we have come to this…who would have thought Geroge Orwell knew what he was talking about.

There is a link that brings you to his site where you can see where he is right now.

http://elahi.rutgers.edu/track/

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Peace and Tribulation

Peace and Tranquility to all !

I have been a little out of commission for the a while.  Ramadan, work, school, it is all very overwhelming at times.  I find myself not being able to do anything at 100% which is frustrating.  I’m behind in my schoolwork, I haven’t been doing as much ibadah as I anticipated and my co-workers are feeling the sting of my my coffee-less state in the mornings.   True, I have managed to do more this Ramadan than last.  Tarawih at the mosque is an uplifting experience and I have been trying to read more Quran.  We decided to turn the tv off for the month and the result is a lot of tranquility at home – plenty of time for reflection and connecting with people.  As well I have had to temper my crankiness when I stop to take a look at the world around me and how many people have suffered when I have not.

I’ve been keeping up with world news through the internet and find myself horrified every day with some new tale of personal tragedy that occurs.  Is there any other news to report besides the tide of horror that we humans are inflicting on one another?  Tonight the tale is of a young family brutally torn apart when the father killed his four children and assaulted their mother.  A Somali family, parents estranged, children all under the age of 8yrs. and in one day lives forever altered.  I’ve stopped asking what drives some people to commit the acts they do.   Have we really descended into such a souless, dying state as people?  The heart can never be deciphered, easy answers cannot be found in a medical textbook so where do we look?  Imam Zaid wrote a beautiful piece on the passing of his Shaykh.  In it he says he asked him for advice in dealing with the tribulations we face here in the West and the Shaykh’s reponse was “Frequent recitation of the Qur’an, and abundant Salawat on the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him”.  What better month than to make this a lifetime habit?

The one story that has captured my mind is the tragedy of the Amish people in the US.  The revolting nature of the crimes committed against innocent people is almost more than the mind can conceive of.  But what strikes me more than anything is the incredible grace of the Amish people.  The forgiveness and the patience they have shown is incredible.  I read about their funeral rights with a sense of recognition – in Islam too we are simple…quick burials, prayer, plain wooden coffins and a hope to meet again in Paradise.  The grandfather of one of the victims insisted that a monetary fund be set up for the killer’s family as well as the Amish families.  He recognized the fact that they too are victims in this whole ordeal.  Three children who will grow up with the knowledge that their father was a madman.  As Muslims we should recogize beauty everywhere we turn and there is true beauty in the actions of the Amish community.  To be sure they most likely have their issues as do most communities, but we should learn from their humility, their patience and their firm trust in God that His will was done and they remain His servants still.  You come across of course the odd Muslim voice who sees none of this and states with all the arrogance in the world that “they should accept Allah and His messenger” of they want to be truly saved.  It leaves me wondering at the tunnel vision of this person – truth is truth–patience is patience — trust in God is trust in God.  That is all we should acknowledge.  Allah is Justice, and He is Mercy … He weighs the hearts of people, we do not.  And of this I am certain; if by His Rahma and Forgiveness we ever get to Paradise, those children will be there to greet us.

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