Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nowhere to run for those trapped in Gaza

Israel insists that its actions are targeted against Hamas militants. Yet how can they claim to be launching surgical strikes against militants when they have dropped more than 100 tons of bombs? How is it even possible to think that a large number of civilians will not be killed, maimed? How do you continue the attacks when there is overwhelming evidence of so many civilians dying, so many severely injured?

How can you say you are engaging in a military operation against Hamas militants when you have already punished the entire civilian population through months of crippling economic blockade?

The Gazans do not have a single jet fighter. They do not have a single tank. They do not have kiloton bombs. And now they have literally nowhere to run.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Revenge is not Self Defense

The Israeli offensive, Operation Cast Lead, in Gaza has caused the death of nearly 300 people and over 600 are injured, the bloodiest attack in modern Gaza's history. More than 100 tons of bombs were unloaded on Gaza. Civilians comprise a significant majority of the fatalities and injuries. The Red Cross reports that the hospitals in Gaza are overrun with the injured and dead. I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life and condemn the air strikes which Israel claims were launched in self defense against the rocket attacks of Hamas militants.

The term self defense hardly applies to the military operation taking place in Gaza. When you engage in self defense, you attack only the persons attacking you. When you attack entire neighborhoods, when you kill innocent women and children, you are no longer engaging in self defense, you are taking revenge.

The problem with revenge is that it is all consuming, blinding and follows a logic incomprehensible to all except those smitten with the desire for it. Revenge is an evil which has plagued the Middle East on both the Palestinian and Israeli side of the borders.

In such circumstances, one would hope that the international community could provide the perspective needed to broker peace, to show both sides that it is possible to douse the emotional firehouses of incendiary speech and actions. The United Nations, the European Union and even Russia have taken some responsibility in this respect by condemning the Israeli attacks. French President Sarkozy, in particular, spoke out against the "disproportionate use of force" by Israel.

While that is encouraging, it is disappointing to see that the Bush administration and Britain remain quietly, albeit staunchly, supportive of Israel's military strikes. An interesting perspective on the Bush administration's approach to Israeli policy is offered by M.J. Rosenberg in his TPMCafe blog post, "Obama needs to speak out on Gaza":

Naturally the Bush administration has no problem with this. We "shock and awed" Iraq. Now Israel is doing it to the most densely populated spot on earth.

It is not like Israel wasn't provoked. It was. Hamas's suicidal addiction to bombing innocents borders on the insane. But Israel is far from innocent. It wanted no violence from Gaza but it also maintained a blockade on Gaza that turned it into hell on earth.

Who do I blame other than Hamas and the Israelis? The Bush administration. It forced the election that brought Hamas to power against the strong urgings of the Palestinians and the Israelis. It insisted on democratic elections and then, when it didn't like the result, authorized Israel to do whatever it could to destroy the victors.

This war belongs to Bush, perhaps his Presidency's last violent legacy.

Barack Obama starts fresh. He needs to make clear where he stands. Is American policy just going to be the same as under Bush, i.e whatever Israel does is fine. Or is he going to tell both sides what he expects them to do, starting with an end to violence, terror, and blockade. Enough is enough. It's time for the honest broker to step in. That is Obama. His credibility is at stake, along with all those innocent kids under bombardment.

While I am not as confident as Rosenberg that Obama is the honest broker the Middle East has been waiting for, I do hope and pray for peace in the Middle East.

Other Articles Worth Reading:
Gaza: Silence is Not an Option by Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur
Israel is Addicted to Violence by Sean Rayment
Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored by Robert Fisk
Has Israel Revived Hamas? by Daoud Kuttab

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell endorses Obama!

Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president today on Meet the Press and made an important point about the discrimination towards Muslim Americans, here are his words:

Well, the correct answer is, he [Obama] is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards—Purple Heart, Bronze Star—showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.

I was really impressed by General Powell's candor and honesty on this subject and it is great to hear someone of his stature speak so highly of the contributions Muslim Americans make to this country every day. Wow!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Queen of Rock

Ella (aka Norzila Aminuddin) is the Queen of Rock in Malaysia...sing along...

Duke hires first Muslim chaplain

Duke will be joining a very small group of universities across the country-including Georgetown University, Princeton University and Yale University-that have full-time imams.

When he begins work July 1, Antepli will be taking on a number of tasks that include religious leadership, counseling and faith-based work.

He will not, however, be limited to mentoring only the Muslim community. Antepli will also teach courses in the Fall, and he said he expects to reach out to all students and promote collaboration between the Muslim community and other groups.

"One of the things I love most about Duke, which attracted me to this University, is its diversity," he said. "My ministry will tap into the diversity here at Duke, not just the Muslim community."

Monday, May 19, 2008

From Mayfair to Mecca

Mayfair socialite, aristocrat, owner of an estate in the Scottish highlands, accomplished deerstalker and angler, not to mention mother and gardener, Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1867-1963) was probably unique in being also a Muslim and Arabic-speaker. Unusually, she claimed to have been a Muslim all her life and there is no evidence of a moment of conversion.

In 1933, at the age of 65, this redoubtable Anglo-Scot became the first British-born Muslim woman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet the story of her life and her contribution to the literature of the hajj have been inexplicably overlooked until now. Nor has she been studied from the point of view of what her life has to say about Islam among the British.
Read the rest of the article by William Facey at the Guardian Online.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Le Trio Joubran

Le Trio Joubran is a band of brothers that play the oud, a classic stringed instrument that is nearly 4000 years old...story from All Things Considered...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Minaret in Chicago Skyline

One of the coolest thing about Chicago is the architecture of all the different skyscrapers. Here is a shot I took of the Wrigley Building, featuring its famous white terra-cotta exterior, proudly signaling the beginning of the Magnificent Mile.

What you may not know, is that the Wrigley Building was inspired by the "Giralda," a famous bell tower that is part of the Cathedral of Seville in Spain. Interestingly, the Giralda was originally a minaret for a mosque upon which the Cathedral of Seville is built. The mosque was built around 1184 and the minaret was the tallest tower in the world at the time (source Wikipedia).

While the Wrigley Building added some flourishes from Renaissance architecture, it still looks quite like a minaret in the middle of the city, calling one and all to the wonders of Chicago...

Friday, May 16, 2008

NPR Interview on Khalil Gibran International Academy

In an earlier post, "Ambassadors of Peace and Hope," I talked about the controversy surrounding Khalil Gibran International Academy, a public high school in New York and I posted a link to the NY Times article and an interview of the founding principal, Debbie Almontaser by Democracy Now.

NPR had a 30-minute story yesterday on the school, "English-Arabic Public School Faces Harsh Critics," featuring Debbie Almontaser which is worth checking out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Moroccan Design

I came across an interesting blog called, "Moroccan Design," that features the art, architecture and culture of Morocco. One of the posts on the blog referenced a documentary called, "When the Moors Ruled in Europe" which offers a fascinating account of how Islam became an indigenous religion, and way of life, in Western Europe.

The scientific advances, the beauty of the architecture, the gardens were all simply breath taking. The discussion of how the Alhambra was designed alone makes watching the documentary worthwhile.

The history of Muslim Spain is rarely remembered today, largely due to the Spanish Inquisition, a nearly 400-year campaign of terror against Muslims and Jews marked by executions, forced conversions, expulsion and the literal burning of thousands and thousands of books including the famed libraries of Cordoba.

This documentary helps address the historical imbalance and features amazing footage of the remaining vestiges of a once-remarkable civilization. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ambassadors of Peace and Hope

As an American Muslim, I am daily confronted by the fact that many of my fellow Americans are uneasy about my faith. This unease is not limited to the uneducated and uncultured; I have seen flickers of apprehension even on the faces of very well-educated friends and colleagues.

In the wake of the tragedy of 9/11 and the overwhelmingly negative media portrayal of Muslims, American or otherwise, I can't say I find this too surprising. But what does surprise me is the unwillingness of the same people to confront their unease by learning about Islam and its message.

Debbie Almontaser tried to tackle this unease head on by founding a public school in New York that teaches Arabic as a second language, with the intention of creating students who would be "ambassadors of peace and hope."

New York City already has public schools that follow this model, including the Amistad Language School, which specializes in Spanish, and the Shuang Wen School, which specializes in Chinese language and culture.

Ms. Almontaser and the local American Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities came together and, as a result, Khalil Gibran International Academy was born. Like all New York City public schools, the school's curriculum was strictly secular, even the school's namesake was an Arab Christian, not a Muslim.

But some local New Yorkers, blinded by bigotry, and led by Daniel Pipes, felt the school would become a center of Islamic extremism and started a disinformation campaign using what can only be called yellow journalism, to fuel fear and misunderstanding, the very things the school was founded to dispel.

Amid all the confusion and controversy, Ms. Almontaser was forced to resign and, without her leadership, the school has floundered towards failure rather than success. It was only recently that more balanced coverage, by the New York Times, allowed for the real story to come out.

I strongly recommend everyone read the article by Andrea Elliott and watch the interview of Debbie Almontaser by Democracy Now. Hopefully, it will go a little way towards making us all a little more comfortable.

Also worth reading, Gershom Gorenberg's post "Daniel Pipes vs Religious Tolerance"

Thanks to Tareq for sending me the NY Times article.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race

An excerpt from Barack Obama's speech on race:

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

I'm glad he finally addressed race, the whole speech is worth a read (link above)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Things that should end...

1. The Verizon, "Can you hear me now?" campaign...really, do we need to see commercials in which the Verizon guy is pretending to be pregnant in a cab? It's time to retire the Verizon guy and his network cronies...

2. Do we really need Peter from "Family Guy" to tell us to eat at Subway? Peter is a fictional morbidly obese fat guy...is that really the kind of spokesman Subway needs? I thought you guys were the healthy fast food place? I can't believe I'm saying this - bring back Jared!

3. Wendy's commercials. All of them. I'm tired of the fake red wigs with the pigtails. And what is up with using Abe Lincoln in commercials - he was also prominently featured in the Remeron sleep aid commercials. The guy saved the Union, ended slavery and now he's just a pill and burger pusher? Boo!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Life is like wrestling a gorilla

So we had a crazy busy day on Tuesday, got a lot of consults, including one patient who's been in the hospital since December. It was 8:30pm and I was exhausted, my brain hurt, my stomach was rumbling and I was not looking forward to the next day because I knew I'd have to come in pretty early. As I was driving back to my place, I was reminded of a quote that one of the attending physicians told me is posted in the transplant clinic office:

Life is like wrestling a gorilla - you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla stops.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

His lips are moving

We were seeing a patient today on the consult service, a good-natured fellow whose brother was in the room. The patient, unfortunately, has metastatic cancer but was in good spirits despite his prognosis. After making some small talk, his brother said, "well doc, it's always been easy to tell when my brother's lying - just look for when his lips are moving."

We all broke out in laughter...it was nice to see such a well-knit family in the face of such a difficult circumstance. I hope we are able to provide our patient with the best quality of life in his remaining days...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Physicians and Execution

The New England Journal of Medicine published an important editorial today, voicing its opposition to the involvement of physicians in state executions. I totally agree with the editorial, I don't think it is the role of physicians to facilitate death, whether it is in the setting of capital punishment or assisted suicide (admittedly, a separate issue). The Journal states:
Physicians and other health care providers should not be involved in capital punishment, even in an advisory capacity. A profession dedicated to healing the sick has no place in the process of execution.
The editorial was issued in response to the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case Baze v. Rees about the constitutionality of lethal injection. I am not, in theory, opposed to capital punishment for certain crimes, but I do have a problem with the way it is practiced, because I think there are racial and economic factors that allow injustice to creep too easily into the system.

It will be interesting to see how the Court rules on this important issue.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Girl Scouts - American Muslim style

Scouting helps Muslims feel closer to American society

By Neil MacFarquhar | New York Times News Service
January 2, 2008
Scouting is a way of celebrating being American without being any less Muslim, Hakeem said.

Celebrating Rumi, Islam's Poet of Peace

Celebrating Rumi, Islam's poet of peace
The Sufi mystic's message of love still reverberates on the 800th anniversary of his birth.
By Nicole Itano | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the January 2, 2008 edition

In his own lifetime, Rumi attracted a wide following outside his own sect of Sufi Islam, with his message of universal love and tolerance. At his funeral, according to his biographer Mohamed el-Fers, a Greek monk said: "Mevlana was like bread. Nobody can keep himself away from needing bread. Have you ever seen a hungry man who refused to eat bread?"

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Brother Ali

Brother Ali: Even for a Muslim albino rapper, he stood out

2007 was the year of his audaciously autobiographical album "The Undisputed Truth"

Star Tribune
Last update: December 28, 2007 - 3:55 PM

Mosque Designs

An interesting article in the LA Times, discussing the architectural designs of mosques in America and England. He references a lot of architects and I've posted links to some of their works. In doing so, I came across a site called ArchNet, which features Islamic architecture around the world.

Zlatko Ugljen - White Mosque in Bosnia
Paolo Portoghesi (co-designed with Sami Mousawi) - Mosque of Rome
Ali Mangera - Abbey Mills Mosque (new architects have since been commissioned)
Islamic Society Boston Cultural Center Picture 2