Sen. Lieberman and the DHS Deportation Hearing for Mosab Hassan Yousef
As a Member of the Board of Directors of Former Muslims United (FMU), I sent a letter to Sen. Lieberman’s Washington office Chief of Staff, Ms. Clarine Nardi Riddle, concerning pending US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) deportation hearing for Mosab Hassan Yousef, author of Son of Hamas. This Kafkaesque DHS/ICE proceeding is scheduled for June 30th in San Diego, California. Yesterday, my NER colleague Rebecca Bynum posted Youssef’s blog piece “Homeland In-security” as background to this bizarre bureaucratic episode at DHS. Despite the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Ms. Riddle responded that her office would check on this matter.
Independently, Ms. Sarah Stern, President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) in Washington, DC sent a personal note to a Member of Senator Lieberman’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC). EMET is honoring Yousef with its Rays of Light in the Darkness Award on June 23rd at a Capitol Hill dinner that also recognizes efforts of several Senators and Congressmen. Among the honorees is Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a colleague of Sen. Lieberman. Additionally, a fellow FMU board member, Amil Imani, will be speaking at the EMET event. Imani was the subject of an interview in the January edition of the NER.
Fellow FMU board members, Dr. Wafa Sultan and Nonie Darwish, have a previously scheduled meeting on June 2nd with former US immigration judge and Pepperdine Law School Professor Bruce Einhorn who runs a clinical practice program on asylum. Doubtless, Yousef’s predicament will be high on the agenda for that session.
In an exchange of emails, Stern of EMET noted the absurdity of the DHS/ICE deportation hearing and the resolve that many of us have to achieve justice and freedom for Yousef in America.
This is absolute insanity. I am in a position to help Mosab and will do absolutely everything in my power to do so. We are living in a Kafkaesque world...Sending him home would be sentencing him to certain death.
Others have responded in a similar manner to our call to contend with the injustice of this DHS/ICE deportation hearing and seek political asylum for Yousef in America. The question before us is why is DHS/ICE proceeding with this matter? This despite the FBI advising DHS/ICE that Yousef is not a threat to our national security and suggesting dropping the case. Let us see what Senator Lieberman’s HSGAC and other Members of Congress can do to resolve this matter in Yousef’s favor. We should also wait for suggestions from legal expert Einhorn as to how best to proceed at the upcoming June 30th hearing
Below is the text of my letter to Senator Lieberman Washington Chief of Staff, Ms. Riddle:
May 30, 2010
Ms. Clarine Nardi Riddle
Chief of Staff - Washington office
US Senator Joseph l. Lieberman (I-CT)
Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: DHS immigration Hearing for Mosab Hassan Yousef
File: No. A 088 271 051 June 30, 2010 San Diego, California
Doubtless the Senator and you have read of the amazing exploits of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the author of Son of Hamas, who worked undercover with Israel's Security Service (Shin Bet) to foil terrorist and suicide bombings in Israel and the West Bank that saved Israeli, Palestinian and American lives. Mr. Yousef is to be honored with a Ray of Light in Darkness Award for his bravery at the annual Capitol Hill dinner of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) on June 23, 2010. Among others to be honored that evening is a colleague of the Senator’s, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
However, I was astonished to read a blog post -see attached - from Mr. Youssef that he is the subject of a Department of Homeland Security immigration hearing regarding his possible deportation - see DHS File No. A 088 271 051 - on the grounds of being a threat here in America. This despite the fact that the FBI has advised DHS that he is not a threat and to drop the case.
We at Former Muslims United (FMU) are asking that the Senator request information from the DHS regarding Mr. Youssef's immigration proceedings and vet him with the FBI to verify the facts in the matter. Should that investigation verify Mr. Youssef's status, we would trust that the Senator and his colleagues on the US Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (USSHSGAC) might further investigate the matter with a view towards resolving Mr. Youssef's request for political asylum in this Country.
For further information on the status of the DHS Immigration Hearing, the Senator’s HSGAC staff should contact:
Kerri Calcador, Esq.
US Dept. of Homeland Security
Immigration and Custom Enforcement
880 Front Street, Suite 224
San Diego, California 92101
Many thanks to the Senator all that he does for the security of Americans.
Jerome B. Gordon
Member of the Board
Former Muslims United
New English Review
Attachment – SonofHamas blog, May 22, 2010 –Homeland In-Security
In a May 24, 2010 editorial in the London daily Al-Hayat, the paper's editor-in-chief, Ghassan Charbel, wrote that the Americans came to Iraq without understanding the nature of this country and region. They thought, he says, that they could topple Saddam's regime and rebuild Iraq like they rebuilt Japan and Germany, establishing an attractive democracy that would tempt the neighboring countries to emulate the Iraqi model. However, they failed to understand that the peoples of the Middle East "'are made up of different races, sects and denominations, which drag behind them a history of clashes, fear, and attempts to eradicate and exterminate one another, and that our real identity – like our loyalties – is either smaller or greater than the area of the countries we inhabit."
Charbel adds that the failure in Iraq is not only American, since the Iraqis also took part in the "carnival of despoliation."
Following are excerpts from an English translation of the article published in Al-Hayat:
"The Americans Came to Iraq from Another Planet"
"The Americans came to Iraq from another planet. They missed the fact that this part of the world was living in a different historical period. They had a deluded [notion] that they could perform a deep surgical procedure on the region by removing Saddam Hussein's regime.
"The Iraqi politician smiles. Experience shows that the Americans were wrong in interpreting [the] people's demands and feelings. They believed that toppling Saddam Hussein would allow them to rebuild Iraq as they did Germany and Japan. They forgot about the different circumstances, the degree of economic and social development and the religious and cultural differences.
"In their faraway offices, the planners [dreamt] a naïve dream. They believed that democracy was the only dream of the people in the region, and that the mere fact of opening the Iraqi window would encourage the Iranians and Arabs to take to the streets in emulation of the Iraqi model."
The Americans "Did Not Understand that Our Real Homelands Are Our Sects and Regions"
"They did not know that we are made up of different races, sects, and denominations, which drag behind them a history of clashes, fear and attempts to eradicate and exterminate one another, and that our real identity – like our loyalties – is either smaller or greater than the area of the countries we inhabit. They did not understand that our real homelands are our sects and the regions [inhabited by people like ourselves].
"I listened to officials, politicians, and intellectuals, who all agreed that the U.S. role in Iraq has become secondary, that the invasion succeeded at toppling Saddam Hussein's regime but failed to build an attractive democratic model that would entice the region's inhabitants to embrace democracy and change and live in pluralism and rule of law. And then [they added that] the Americans were not a charity organization to begin with."
"The Talk about the U.S.'s Failure Sometimes Aims to Cover Up the Failure of the Iraqis Themselves"
"Those visiting Iraq also hear bitter confessions from politicians and intellectuals. The talk about the U.S.'s failure sometimes aims to cover up the failure of the Iraqis themselves, their failure to seize the opportunity and to quickly unite around a state with [proper] institutions and rule of law.
"One politician places the Iraqis themselves on the list of those who have despoiled Iraq. He speaks of the horrors of the violence on the streets, and of the looting of ministries and institutions. This politician denounces the foreign parties that despoiled Iraq and continue to do so, but he considers the catastrophe to lie in the Iraqi forces' contribution to the drawn-out carnival of despoliation.
"The future of Iraq is uncertain, as many admit. One also hears that Iraq used to be a player and has become a playground, used to be a country and has become an arena, that the dream of a strong Iraq [standing] once again at the Eastern gates of the Arab World is a dream that can no longer be fulfilled, and that restoring the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran-Turkey triangle will take a long time – aside from the fact that the return of a strong Iraq seems impossible due to [Iraq's] structure and the changes it has suffered."
Comments on my brief Tennessean op-ed continue to come in. Most are supportive and all have been cordial with one notable exception by Amin Salman at the Tennessean website. This one is interesting.
Your article in the 28 May Tennessean would be more accurate if you replaced “Islam” with “Saudi Arabia”.
Some of the examples you cite are not limited to Islam. You have built a narrative. Similar narratives can be built for other groups, and I suggest trying on some examples below.
I am a moderate Muslim, patriotic American and have lived in Tennessee for 35 years, with roots in Bangladesh and upbringing in present-day Pakistan. Being familiar with both US and Islamic ways, it is very unfortunate how I see both sides keep talking past each other, loaded with stereotypes. I have visited all 50 states and have a deep admiration for the United States. I am not prepared to be a caricature of a stereotype. Your descriptions are correct but incomplete, and selective.
1.Islam is intolerant and discriminatory. Not untrue, but similar narrative can be built about Hindu intolerance towards the hundreds of millions Schedule castes or Dalits in their own religion; the Hindu refugees in Nashville today who fled Bhutan because of oppression by the Buddhists. Yes the Buddhists. PBS Channel 8 profiled them recently under “Our Neighbors” series. The ethnic cleansing of Cherokees that is the Trail of Tears. Mistreatment of minorities is not unique to Muslim countries is my point.
Point taken, but the subject at hand was Islam. If there were Hindus or Buddhists flying airplanes into buildings, plotting to kill civilians at every turn, and in general spreading ideas inimical to the fabric of our culture, then we would be discussing Hinduism or Buddhism. As it is, we are discussing Islam.
2.Second-class citizenship for woman. Yes shamefully much in Islam. But read Ellen Goodman’s article from ten years ago on seating arrangement at Sen. Joe Lieberman’s orthodox synagogue in Washington and you will be unable to distinguish it from that of a mosque. Not right, but not uniquely Islamic. Woman’s suffrage is less than 100 years old in the US. But Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), Khaleda Zai and Sheikh Hasina(Bangladesh), Megawati Sukanoputri (Indonesia) and Tansu Ciller (Turkey) were all elected woman prime ministers or presidents in Muslim majority countries in the past 25 years. These four countries account for probably 700 million Muslims. The narrative is not as one-dimensional as your article suggests.
Unfortunately, the overall status of women, despite your notable exceptions above, seems quite hopeless under Islam. I really don't see any way for improvement for Muslim women. I think the notion of female equality is essential to modern civilization and am appalled to see polygamy, FGM and other methods of female oppression spreading in this country. Women have fought long and hard for our rights and won't easily see them undermined.
3.I went to Catholic missionary school in Pakistan (St Francis Grammar); My wife went to similar school in Bangladesh (Holy Cross School). Those countries were Islamic then as they are now. The new ideology of intolerance is a political expression and recent fundamentalist interpretation, not a religious tenet.
I think the opposite case could also be made: that the loosening of Islamic strictness as was the case 50 years ago, before the great oil bananza gave wealth and power to Muslims who before were very poor, was the anomaly. Obviously the strength of Islam as ebbed and flowed over the centuries, but I don't think fundamentalism is a recent invention. You are correct, Islamic fundmentalism is certainly on the rise now, though.
4.I have heard about tremendous barriers to gain Israeli citizenship for Arab spouses of Isreali citizens of Arab origin.The right-wing Israeli political parties (Sha party, etc.) openly call for expulsion of Arabs from Israel proper (I am not even talking of the occupied territories). The late Meir Kahane of the now-banned Kach party called Arabs dogs and spit across a fence. Is that ugly? Yes. Is that sanctioned by Judaism? No.
Again, I think this is beside the point. We're talking about Islam in America.
5.And it is not just Christians who cannot take up permanent residence or buy property in Saudi Arabia. Muslims , at least those from South Asia, cannot either even if they lived and worked in the country their whole lives.
Thank you for that information. I did not know that.
Thank You. The strength of this country is to be able to express one’s opinion in the open.
Thank you, Mr. Mohyuddin, I couldn't agree more. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to discuss these things with you.
With one lawmaker citing President Lincoln's respect for the rule of law, the Massachusetts Senate passed a far-reaching crackdown this afternoon on illegal immigrants and those who would hire them, going further, senators said, than any immigration bill proposed over the past five years.
In a surprising turn of events, the legislation replaced a narrower bill that was passed Wednesday over the objections of Republicans.
The measure, which passed on a 28-10 vote as an amendment to the budget, would bar the state from doing business with any company found to break federal laws barring illegal immigrant hiring. It would also toughen penalties for creating or using fake identification documents, and explicitly deny in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.
The amendment would also require the state’s public health insurance program to verify residency through the Department of Homeland Security, and would require the state to give legal residents priority for subsidized housing.
The amendment will now be part of negotiations with the House as part of the entire state budget.
Supporters, especially Republicans, struck patriotic notes and spoke of the sanctity of the law as they spoke on the Senate floor.
“It was President Lincoln -- and I’m going to paraphrase here -- who suggested that respect for the law should be preached from every pulpit taught by every mother to every child,” said Senator Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican...
THE home secretary, Theresa May, is facing a stiff test of the Conservative party’s claims to oppose radical Islam after her officials chose to allow a misogynist Muslim preacher into Britain.
Zakir Naik, an Indian televangelist described as a “hate-monger” by moderate Muslims and one Tory MP, says western women make themselves “more susceptible to rape” by wearing revealing clothing.
Naik, who proselytises on Peace TV, a satellite television channel, is reported to have called for the execution of Muslims who change their faith, described Americans as “pigs” and said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”.
In a recent lecture, he said he was “with” Osama Bin Laden over the attacks on “terrorist America”, adding that the 9/11 hijackings were an inside job by President George W BushIn opposition, David Cameron and other senior Tories led criticism of the Labour government for allowing radical preachers into Britain to stir up hatred on lecture tours. While in opposition, Cameron also campaigned to get Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian radical, banned from Britain.
Cameron and May now face a political test over Naik, whose inflammatory comments have led some moderate Muslims to call him a “truth-twister”.
One well-placed insider said: “Zakir Naik is a nasty man who makes al-Qaradawi look like a participant at a teddy bears’ picnic. He shouldn’t be allowed into the country to stir up hatred.”
The Home Office indicated that it was not planning to ban Naik, however.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The coordinated attack on two mosques that killed more than 80 members of a minority Muslim sect in Lahore was carried out by six men affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, the police said Saturday.
The militants traveled from the town of Miram Shah in North Waziristan, a center for the Pakistani Taliban, and arrived in Lahore on May 21, a week before the attack on Friday, according to the spokesman for the police in Punjab Province, Akram Naeem Bharoka. The men, ages 17 to 28, scouted the two mosques belonging to the Ahmadi sect with the help of local assistants, he said.
The Taliban, who are Sunni Muslim, have increasingly focused on attacking minority Muslim groups.The assault on the two mosques also wounded more than 100 people and was one of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan in recent years.
Some of the survivors of the attack, who had been held hostage for more than three hours while the gunmen rampaged through one mosque near the central rail station, criticized the slow response of the police to calls for help. Some of the worshipers trapped in both mosques called the police on their cellphones almost immediately when they heard the sound of gunfire, they said.
The Ahmadis were declared a non-Muslim minority in 1974 when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto agreed to the law under pressure from the Sunni majority.
The police spokesman said two of the six attackers had fled and had not been found. Two others died, and two were arrested, he said.
During their weeklong preparations, the men stayed in Raiwind, the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat (we can have them out of Dewsbury, Newham, Camberley and elesewhere - soon as you like please), a Muslim missionary group often described by terrorism experts as the antechamber of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The men had also taken shelter at the Ibrahim Mosque, a center of the Tablighi Jamaat in central Lahore, said Mr. Bharoka, the police spokesman.
One of the arrested men trained in North Waziristan, and originally came from a village in southern Punjab known to have a concentration of sectarian militant groups.
For many veterans the memory of the carnage that was Dunkirk have long been difficult ones. Operation Dynamo, as it was known, was not, after all, a heroic triumph. Instead it was a daring rescue operation that saved the cream of the British Expeditionary Force and their Belgian and French allies from certain slaughter as they were forced back by Hitler's army.
Mr Kay was typical of his generation. He joined up at just 15 in 1936 and within three days of the outbreak of war he was posted to France. At 20, serving with the Royal Artillery, he and his comrades were trapped on the Dunkirk beaches.
"I vividly remember the ferocity of the fighting and the terrible smell of the burning buildings," he says. We were forced into retreat after fighting on the Albert Canal in Belgium. Our guns were spiked and we fell back to Dunkirk."
As a volunteer stretcher-bearer, George zigzagged his way across the beach dozens of times ferrying injured men to the makeshift flotilla of 900 naval and civilian craft – the latter known as the Little Ships – that had sailed across the Channel to rescue the hundreds of thousands described by Mr Churchill as "the whole root and core and brain of the British Army that were stranded and so nearly wiped out or captured".
Yesterday Mr Kay recalled seeing the flotilla arrive.
"Those 700 little ships – trawlers, fishing boats, merchant marine boats, even lifeboats – were a marvellous sight that day," he said.
Yesterday some 50 of the Little Ships were back in Dunkirk to commemorate the anniversary.
I don't know if this Little Ship was with them. The Queen Boudicea was a Thames boat at the time. Now she takes trippers (of which I was one such last October) up and down the canal from the British Waterways Museum in Gloucester. And I wasn't the only person to photograph her brass plaque declaring her to be a veteran of "Dunkirk 1940" I'm afraid you will have to follow the link to my Flickr page; I don't have access to any picture editing tools at the moment.
Dumbledore's Army sent me this poem by Edward Shanks
The Other Little Boats
A pause came in the fighting and England held her breath
For the battle was not ended and the ending might be death.
Then out they came, the little boats, from all the Channel shores
Free men were these who set the sails and laboured at the oars.
From Itchenor and Shoreham, from Deal and Winchelsea,
They put out into the Channel to keep their country free
Not of Dunkirk this story, but of boatmen long ago,
When our Queen was Gloriana and King Philip was our foe
And galleons rode the Narrow Sea, and Effingham and Drake
Were out of shot and powder, with all England still at stake.
They got the shot and powder, they charged the guns again,
The guns that guarded England from the galleons of Spain,
And the men who helped them to do it, helped them still to hold the sea.
Men from Itchenor and Shoreham, men from Deal and Winchelsea,
Looked out happily from Heaven and cheered to see the work
Of their grandsons' grandsons' grandsons on the beaches of Dunkirk.
I suspect that like HMS Victory the ships will be with us longer, to be a memorial to the men.
This evidence contradicts remarks by Syrian strongman Bashar Assad during a Charlie Rose interview aired Thursday night on PBS. Witness Assad’s comments about “peace with Israel” and dismissal of the Hizbullah Scud missile threat:
"If we have peace and we're sure that we are going to have our land back then surely Israel will live normally, like any other country in this region," said Assad.
The Syrian president also dismissed claims that his country supplied Hizbullah with long-range Scud missiles, stating that it was an "anecdotal story [told by] Israel."
Assad has questionable credibility. Therefore, why should the Obama administration have any trust in Syrian auspices to secure peace in neighboring Lebanon and with Israel? Israel has just conducted its fourth annual civil defense drill. This drill was a demonstration of Israel’s national resolve to defend itself.
The Assad regime made additional billions illegally by smuggling oil from neighboring Iraq at below world market prices despite UN sanctions against the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. All done while selling its own oil at world market prices in the E.U. and lying about it to Western leaders, like former Bush Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
Before I reached the chapter in Rubin’s book about father Hafiz, who died in 2000 succeeded by son Bashar Al-Assad, I mused to myself this is all too familiar. It’s a real, rather than fictionalized, version of “The Godfather” Don Corleone and his son and successor Michael Corleone, and siblings and relatives wiped out for crossing the ‘capo da capo tutti’. Rubin perfects that analogy with revelations about favored elder son Basil’s fateful crash into a concrete abutment near Damascus airport, the cultivation of young Bashar who succeeded Hafiz, the three decade long Ba’thist dictator and air force general, and the forced exile of ‘uncle Rifaat’, Hafiz’s younger brother and thug who tried to seize the reins of power when Hafiz suffered a heart attack in 1983. Twice exiled in 1984 and finally in 1998, his properties were seized in 1999 and warned that he would be tried if he came back to Syria.
As Rubin puts it, “substitute Alawites for Sicilians” and voila!
Another example was the ‘mysterious’ suicide in October 2005 of the Syrian ‘supremo’ in control of Lebanon, the late Syrian Interior Minister and long term intelligence chief, Ghazi Kanaan. He was purportedly too heavily involved with the assassination of late Lebanese PM Rifak Hariri and was interviewed by UN Security Council investigators. Hariri, a billionaire construction mogul, was ironically a beneficiary of the reconstruction of civil war torn Lebanon playing along with the Al-Assad economic stranglehold on his home country. Twice PM, Hariri came to the realization that Syria should be forced out of Lebanon. But he paid the ultimate price for crossing the Al-Assads on a free trade deal.
While, Bashar was viewed initially as an internet surfing ‘soul mate’ by neighboring King Abdullah, II of Jordan, that veil was quickly lifted , and Bashar revealed himself as someone who would ruthlessly and recklessly pursue the family and Syria’s objectives of enriching themselves and exporting destabilization through terrorist proxies. Terrorist proxies were harbored in Damascus, neighboring Lebanon and in Gaza. Proxies like Hizbullah under Shia icon Sheik Nasrallah, the personal representative of Ayatollah Khamanei of Iran, who perpetrated last summer’s clash with Israel that cost Lebanon $10 billion in damages and thousands of casualties.
The other overarching observation threading through the Rubin volume is the remarkable blunder by Western political leaders in not recognizing the malevolent intransigence of the Al-Assad ‘mafia’. Witness the Assads destabilizing through terrorism by sending proxies to murder dozens of politicians, diplomats, journalists and PMs in Lebanon and Jordan. Thus, they stifled and frustrated any hopes for a ‘global’ solution in the Middle East. Clearly the Assads want a greater Syria that includes Lebanon, Palestine-meaning Israel, and Jordan as an inheritance from the last Caliphate –the Ottoman Empire. Then there are the Hezbollah terrorist bombings of American Marines, French paras, kidnapping, torture and murders of US CIA and Marine UNIFIL officers, and al Qaeda insurgent attacks across the border against U.S. forces in Iraq resulting in thousands of deaths. I would also put in the same ‘terrorism by proxy’ category the Hezbollah ‘hits’ against Panamanian Jews on a commuter plane, the Israeli Embassy, and the AMIA Jewish communal center in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994. These are indicative of the Syrian junior partnership with Iran.
Take any story at Yahoo! news, dear reader, say this one. Try to comment, using the word "Islam". Your comment will immediately appear with '@#$%' replacing the word 'Islam'. The name of any other religion will appear as normal: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Bahai'ism, Buddhism, and Hare Krishna all are displayed as typed. Only one religion in the world cannot be mentioned by name.
Then watch and be amazed, within an hour or two, as your entire comment with the offensive '@#$%' word is completely deleted.
Please compare and contrast with the blood-curdling, rank antisemitism allowed in the comments of the articles at the same news site mentioned here.
I have worn many hats in 32 years—Muslim, Christian, son of Hamas, Prisoner 823, spy, traitor, USAID administrator, businessman, best-selling author.
Now I am Homeland Security File# A 088 271 051.
And, according to these “highly trained” civil servants, I am a threat to America’s national security and must be deported.
On June 30, at 8 a.m., I have a hearing before Immigration Judge Rico J. Bartolomei at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration Court in San Diego.
But I am not worried about this. I am outraged! My only concern is about a security system that is so primitive and naive that it endangers the lives of countless Americans. Honestly, Judge Bartolomei’s verdict really does not matter. If he rules to deport me, I will appeal. And Homeland Security has assured me that, if he rules in my favor, they will appeal. And this insane merry-go-round can go on like that for decades.
My concern is not about being deported. It is that I am being forced to stand and defend myself as a terrorist! This is ridiculous. And as long as this case is in the courts, I cannot leave the United States. If I do, I will never be able to return. For what? For risking my life fighting terrorism in the Middle East for ten years? For saving the lives of Israelis, Palestinians and Americans?
I should never be put through this in the first place. It’s crazy.
Don’t think that I am writing this post to get you to feel sorry for me or even to write your congressman or senator on my behalf. I believe that God is using this situation to expose the weaknesses of Homeland Security and to put pressure on it to make changes that can save lives and preserve freedom. But first, you need to understand everything that led up to File# A 088 271 051.
It began when I arrived in America January 2, 2007. I walked into the airport like anyone else on a tourist visa. Seven months later, I went to the Homeland Security office, knocked on their door and told them, “Hey, guys, I am the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, my father is involved in a terrorist organization, and I would like political asylum in your country.”
They were shocked. They didn’t expect it. I told them, hey, you didn’t discover me. You didn’t catch me. I came to you and told you who I am to wake you up. I wanted them to see that they have huge gaps in their security and their understanding of terrorism and make changes before it’s too late.
I filed an application for political asylum. Not surprisingly, on February 23, 2009, they told me that I was “barred from a grant of asylum because there were reasonable grounds for believing [I] was a danger to the security of the United States and because [I] engaged in terrorist activity.”
More hearings followed. When they demanded evidence to support my claim that I was not a terrorist or a security threat, I filed a draft of my book, Son of Hamas. Surely this would make everything perfectly clear. They would discover that I was an intelligence agent, not a terrorist. That I tracked down terrorists and put them in prison. That I was an asset, not a threat.
But they didn’t get it.
Recently, I received a document in which Homeland Security senior attorney Kerri Calcador claimed that, “In the book, the respondent discusses his extensive involvement with Hamas in great detail. For example, in one portion of the book, a member of Shin Bet shows the respondent a list of suspects implicated in a March 2001 suicide bombing and asks the respondent whether he knows the individuals. The respondent indicates that he does know five of the people on the list and states that he previously drove them to safe houses.”
On page 5, Ms. Calcador concluded that, “At a bare minimum, evidence of the respondent’s transport of Hamas members to safe houses—discussed above in the Statement of the Case as but one example of the respondent’s involvement with Hamas—indicates that the respondent provided material support to a [Tier I] terrorist organization.
Is she kidding? Either Homeland Security’s chief attorney has zero reading comprehension, or else she intentionally took the passage out of context. And I am not sure which is worse.
Even a child reading the book can see that, during that time, I was working as a secret agent for the Shin Bet (Israeli’s internal security service, comparable to our FBI). My job required me to do anything I could to be involved with my father’s activities. So when he asked me to go with him to pick up these guys when they were released from the Palestinian Authority prison, I went.
First of all, no one—not me, not my father, not even Israel—knew at the time that these men were involved with suicide bombings. With all of its assets, the Shin Bet did not put the pieces together for three more years.
Second, I was the one who connected these men with the bombing at the Hebrew University cafeteria in July 2002. And Homeland Security would do well to remember that there were five American citizens among the dead. Apparently the agency needs also to be reminded that I was the one who located the terrorists and led to their arrest or death.
Did the American government launch a special investigation to find their killers? No. Even the Israeli government had no idea who or where they were. I am not boasting, but the record is clear that I was pivotal to bringing them all to justice. And Homeland Security today tells me “thank you” by trying to deport me!
Yes, while working for Israeli intelligence, I posed as a terrorist. Yes, I carried a gun. Yes, I was in terrorist meetings with Yassir Arafat, my father and other Hamas leaders. It was part of my job. And I passed on to the Shin Bet all the information I gathered during those meetings and saved the lives of many people—including many Americans.
Maybe Homeland Security only read a few chapters of my book. If they would have bothered to read all 251 pages, they would know that I also worked with 40 Americans on the USAID water project in the West Bank for five years. Who took care of their security? Who warned them not to come to Ramallah if there was going to be an Israeli military incursion or if there would be shooting? Who protected their offices? I wasn’t being paid to do that. I did it because of a Christian morality that taught me to love, not hate. I protected my manager. I protected everybody. Nobody hurt them.
Is this the behavior of someone who is a threat to Americans?
If Homeland Security cannot tell the difference between a terrorist and a man who spent his life fighting terrorism, how can they protect their own people? Why is Homeland Security wasting its time investigating a former Israeli intelligence operative, instead of looking for the real terrorists out there? Is it personal? Racial? Political? Or just stupidity?
I don’t doubt that they are embarrassed, and they should be. Maybe they feel a little insecure because someone with my background got into this country and moved around for seven months, and they were clueless.
One thing I have learned, they are definitely arrogant, acting as though they are something special and know everything there is to know about fighting terrorism.
The FBI, on the other hand, has a much better understanding of terrorism and recognizes me as a valuable asset. They told Homeland Security that I am not a threat and advised them to drop the case. But Homeland Security shut its eyes and stopped up its ears and told the FBI, “You have nothing to do with this. It is our job.”
They worry me, and they should worry the American people. If Homeland Security cannot understand a simple story like mine, how can they be trusted with bigger issues? They seem to know only how to blindly follow rules and procedures. But to work intelligence, you have to be very creative. You have to accept exceptions. You need to be able to think beyond facts and circumstances.
Homeland Security has absolutely no idea of the dangers that lie ahead. For nearly 30 years, I watched from the inside as Hamas dug its claws deeper and deeper into Israel. They started awkwardly, clumsily, but they got good at it. And al-Qaeda is becoming more like Hamas.
The strategy of Hamas has always been to bleed Israel. A slow bleeding war to destroy Israel in the long term. They don’t have nuclear bombs, so they send a suicide bomber here, another one there. And over the years, they severely damaged the economy and gave Israel a bad reputation all over the world.
Al-Qaeda started with huge attacks like September 11. But bin Laden has learned from Hamas’s war against Israel how to bleed its enemy. Al-Qaeda understands how effective the Hamas strategy will be on American soil.
Americans have never experienced anything like this. This country is not ready. Try to imagine attacks by suicide bombers and car bombers, attacks on schools, in shopping malls, in the gridlock of rush-hour traffic, week after week, month after month, year after year, here and there, in big cities and rural towns. No one feels safe anywhere. There seems to be no reason behind the attacks, no pattern. Everyone is a target. Men, women, children, office buildings, private homes, town halls, schools and hospitals. The government is powerless to stop them. Every car and truck you see is suspect. Every suitcase and package is suspect. Someone standing in line in a bank points to a briefcase on the floor and asks the person in front of him, “Is this yours?”
“No,” the man says, wide-eyed.
Seconds later, the bank is empty.
I was born and raised in this kind of environment. More than that, I was on the inside of both sides. I am not asking Homeland Security or anybody else for a job or a salary. I am asking them to be humble and listen, so they can learn.
Exposing terrorist secrets and warning the world in my first book cost me everything. I am a traitor to my people, disowned by my family, a man without a country. And now the country I came to for sanctuary is turning its back.
Kerri Calcador warned in Homeland Security’s pre-hearing statement that, when I appear at my hearing in June, “the respondent bears the burden of proving his eligibility for relief.” In other words, I am guilty unless I can prove to their satisfaction that I am not a threat to U.S. security. And Homeland Security has been embarrassed. They want me out. They don’t want to change. But there are too many lives at stake to worry about the personal sensitivities of the civil servants at Homeland Security.
That’s why I am asking you to share this blog post with as many people as you can.
Write letters to:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
880 Front Street, Suite 224
San Diego, California 92101
or call her at 619.557.5578.
And if you live in the San Diego area, come to my hearing at 8 a.m. on June 30 and see for yourself Homeland Security in action.
Independent Candidate Tim Cahill Criticizes Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick for ?. . . . playing politics with terrorism.?
Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), a Boston-based interfaith human rights group, released a video today depicting Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick receiving a check on May 22nd from the radical Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) for $50,000. The proceeds of the ISBCC grant accepted by Governor Patrick would be used to fund “cultural awareness training“ for local law enforcement agencies through the Office of State Attorney General (AG) Martha Coakley. AG Coakley was the failed Democratic candidate in the January, 2010 US Senate special election won by Republican Scott Brown. The ISBCC as we have previously posted has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood front, the Muslim American Society, exemplified by the extreme views of its Imam Abdullah Faaruuq and board of trustees.
Tim Cahill, Massachusetts State Treasurer and Independent candidate in the November gubernatorial contest criticized Governor Patrick for this action. Cahill, in turn, was promptly criticized by Muslim community leaders of the ISBCC at an interfaith gathering, today. Note this from a New England Cable Network (NECN) report , “Muslim Community Condemns remarks by Tim Cahill”:
Bilal Kaleem, Islamic Society of Boston: "His remarks were anti-democratic, anti-American, divisive and wounding. "
And those remarks were by Tim Cahill, Mass. State Treasurer and Independent candidate for Governor.
An interfaith gathering at Boston's Islamic Cultural Center and mosque Friday condemned him -- and his words.
Kaleem: "They effectively blame the entire Muslim community for not speaking out against terror, and in fact, for harboring terror”.
Tim Cahill: "I'm not bigoted. I'm not racist”.
A school groundbreaking Friday gave Cahill ground to defend himself.
But he's standing by his statement Thursday that Governor Deval Patrick's meeting last weekend with one thousand Muslim leaders was, in Cahill's words, "political correctness run amok."
He accused the governor of "pandering to special interest groups with talk of 'cultural awareness training' for law enforcement.... Governor Patrick should stop playing politics with terrorism," he said.
Depicted in the APT video are convicted terror suspects with close affiliations to the ISBCC and, its leaders. The APT news release notes:
YouTube video shows Governor Patrick embracing the radical leadership of the Muslim American Society (MAS), including an Imam who told followers they must "pick up the gun and the sword" in the context of the arrests of local Islamic extremist Aafia Siddiqui “lady Al Qaeda” and terror suspect Tarek Mehanna.
Watch the APT video: “Who is the Governor of Massachusetts embracing and Why?”
Dr. Charles Jacobs, APT president, said the video highlights Governor Patrick's visit last Saturday to the MAS controversial Saudi-funded Roxbury mega-mosque and cultural center.
Jacobs said, "The Governor's embrace of Imam Faaruuq is especially egregious, given that the Imam recently urged congregants to "pick up the sword and the gun" in the context of supporting local Muslims recently arrested on terror-related charges.
"And it is especially troubling that the office of the MA Attorney General Martha Coakley," Dr. Jacobs continued, "accepted a $50K grant from Imam Faaruuq and the MAS to fund the training of Massachusetts law enforcement agencies, training which will likely be conceived and conducted by radicals." The Governor also agreed to comply with a list of "commitments" that MAS leaders requested of him. "These requests," said Jacobs, "which seek to privilege the Muslim community, may open the way for Sharia finance in Massachusetts, and may also encourage the dissemination of radical Islamic propaganda in state agencies and the public schools."
"We cannot let false accusations of racism and Islamophobia intimidate our leadership into failing to secure our community," Jacobs said, "We are puzzled as to why the Governor embraces the radicals and their agenda instead of reaching out to truly moderate Muslim leaders in the Boston area."
Governor Patrick please consider the concerns of all the citizens of the Commonwealth and:
1. Stop embracing radicals
2. Give back the money
3. Reach out to truly moderate Muslims
4. Don't let political correctness compromise our security.
I'm getting quite a few comments in my personal inbox on my editorial in today's Tennessean. They are running seven to one in favor. On the Tennessean's website there are three in favor and three off topic or non-committal. The single one against reads as follows:
I don't know where to begin... As I read your opinion column in today's Tennessean I was struck by the fact that you seem to be endorsing a retaliatory form of religious persecution in this country in response to religious intolerance in other countries.
Denying various religious organizations the right to build houses of worship based upon the governmental or societal norms of other nations is an absurdly reactionary concept. Our nation was founded on the premise of freedom, and the first immigrants to these shores came to escape religious persecution in other lands. To suddenly impose a policy forbidding the construction of mosques, synagogues, temples, or churches based upon the treatment of persecuted religious faiths in other countries is absolutely contrary to our nation's principles and values.
I am actually quite sympathetic to this point of view, but if we place no limits on tolerating the intolerant, we will soon find ourselves among the not-tolerated. I agree tolerance is a worthy virtue, but it should not be placed above justice. We do an injustice both to the majority and to other minorities when we tolerate the unjust teaching and practice of a single minority.
I find your attitudes as expressed in that article every bit as abhorrent as the religious abuses you so eloquently point to for justification. We are the beacon for the oppressed of the world precisely because we DON'T restrict religious freedom in this country, despite whatever abuses might be the norm in other nations.
So does this mean you see no difference between terror attacks, massacres, church burnings (often with the congregants still inside), kidnapping and killing of priests, rapes, pogroms, mass expulsions or even the daily humiliations non-Muslims face in Muslim lands with my modest suggestion to restrict the further building of mosques in order to help stop those very things?
You point to Iraq's dwindling Christian population as "a stark illustration of American impotence in the face of Islam." Here's a news flash, Ms. Bynum: it's not American policy or responsibility to promote Christianity or any other religion in Iraq. While we might find the religious persecution of Christians morally reprehensible in Iraq, Iran, or China, it is first and foremost a human rights issue and not a benchmark of America's foreign policy failures.
I also think it shows a very shallow understanding of the cultural basis for democracy to think that those "purple thumbed elections," as Hugh Fitzgerald would say, would automatically guarantee the rights of minorities, or even that political legitimacy would suddenly be found in the will of the people, rather than the will of Allah in a Muslim country.
We might agree completely on the dangers of Islamic teachings that promote violence or hatred. We probably wouldn't have much difference of opinion on the absurdity of a religious policy that requires jihad in response to cartoon depictions of Muhammad. But we will never agree that the way to express our disapproval is through a moratorium against the construction of mosques in America.
I welcome any response to these criticisms, and will forego a "letter to the editor" response to your op-ed piece.
Thanks for your time,
What are your alternatives? If we agree there is a problem, then we should all work to find a solution. We need all the creative thinking we can find.
East Bay father joins military as tribute to slain son
A story that engenders a complex blend of rage, frustration, sympathy, compassion, and admiration. By Hannah Dreier for the Contra Costa Times:
DISCOVERY BAY — The way Kevin Graves sees it, he's walking in his son's footsteps.
Four years after his only child was killed while serving in Iraq, the 53-year-old has turned honoring his son's sacrifice into a full-time job. He speaks at rallies, attends memorials, advocates for special license plates for parents of fallen soldiers and crisscrosses the country visiting "surrogate children" who served with his son in Iraq.
Most recently, Graves joined the State Military Reserve out of a sense of obligation to finish what Joey started.
Sitting in a townhouse brimming with camouflage rucksacks, American flags and framed military metals, Graves proudly points out that he was inducted as a specialist, his 21-year-old son's rank when he died, and will wear the same uniform.
"I feel that he wasn't able to fulfill his term in the military, and I'm carrying his sword for him," Graves said. "I would give anything to be boots on the ground where my son gave his life in Iraq."
Too old to qualify for the regular Army, Graves joined the Military Reserve, where he will work with national guardsmen as a chaplain's assistant one weekend a month and one week a year. He hopes it will help him stay connected with his son, whom he raised as a single father.
"For nine years, we did everything together," Graves said. "If there was a dinner or something, Joey was my date."
Graves led Joey's youth group and coached his sports teams.
But when the 17-year-old enlisted, Graves had to accept a more limited role in his son's world. For security reasons, Joey could say little of what he did in Iraq.
"It wasn't until he gave his life that my life became completely intertwined with the military," Graves said.
A leather-bound photo album on Graves' coffee table tells Joey's story. In the snapshots, a smiling blond child morphs into a more serious, dark-haired teenager. Sun-drenched images of a waving uniformed soldier abruptly lead to funeral scenes.
The latter half of the album finds the elder Graves at memorials, military parades and pro-troop rallies on the National Mall in Washington.
After Joey's death, Graves helped lead a campaign for a special license plate for families who have lost loved ones in military conflicts. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized the creation of the Gold Star Family License Plate in 2008.
Despite his near-frenetic activity — Graves is also president of Discovery Bay's governing board — he often says he thinks his work on Earth is finished.
"I just want to see my son again," he said.
Maintaining a strong relationship with a handful of soldiers who served alongside his son helps him cope.
Sgt. Shannon Garcia first met Graves at Joey's funeral.
"We met because of terrible circumstances," she said, "but it was a miracle in disguise. He took me under his wing, and I took him under mine."
Her children now call him grandfather.
Graves was a guest at Garcia's wedding in Texas, and flew to South Carolina to surprise her at her graduation from drill sergeant school. Graves said being with Joey's comrades helps him identify with a part of his son he never knew.
"He knew Joey as a son," Garcia said, "but he never knew Specialist Graves."
Graves recently completed the rigorous physical training required of reservists, who may be called upon to respond to wildfires and other natural disasters.
His service role will be to distribute literature, chat with soldiers and arrange for them to speak with their chaplains. Garcia said she believes that Graves' loss will help him empathize with soldiers and speak their language, and his chaplain agrees.
"He has a real heart for soldiers," said Chaplain Marc Unger, of the 1-143 Field Artillery Battalion of the California National Guard. "That is clear, and that is what I need in an assistant."
Graves moves constantly when he talks, sitting, standing, fiddling with a black memorial bracelet, sipping an energy drink, letting his cat — Joey — in and out, but a weariness pools beneath the constant activity.
He said he cries for his son every day. Sometimes he feels that Joey is gone forever, but at other moments he expects his son to walk through the door. For now, Graves is trying his best to honor his son's life and come to terms with his death.
"I don't know what's up in heaven," Graves said, "but if Joey is watching, I'm firmly certain that he would be proud of everything I'm doing."
The Ahmadis are given a lesson on the tenets of mainstream Islam. By Babar Dogar and Nahal Toosi for AP:
Suspected Islamist militants attacked two mosques packed with hundreds of worshippers from a minority sect in eastern Pakistan on Friday, holding hostages and battling police, officials and witnesses said. Some 80 people died, and dozens were wounded in the worst attack ever against the Ahmadi sect.
The assaults in Lahore were carried out by at least seven men, including three suicide bombers, officials said. Two attackers were captured. At one point, a gunman fired bullets from atop a minaret.
Again, note the willingness by mainstream Muslims to violently attack mosques belonging to a different sect of Islam. Note the willingness by mainstream Muslims to use mosques (and specifically minarets) as bases from which to attack.
Ahmadis are reviled as heretics by mainstream Muslims for their belief that their sect's founder was a savior foretold by the Quran, Islam's holy book. The group has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by radical Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, but never before in such a large and coordinated fashion.
Several kilometers away at Garhi Shahu, the standoff lasted around four hours.
TV footage showed an attacker atop a minaret of the mosque at one point in the siege, firing an assault rifle and throwing hand grenades. Outside, police traded bullets with the gunmen, an Associated Press reporter saw.
Luqman Ahmad, 36, was sitting and waiting for prayers to start when he heard gunshots and then an explosion. He quickly lay down and closed his eyes.
"It was like a war going on around me. The cries I heard sent chills down my spine," Ahmad said. "I kept on praying that may God save me from this hell."
After police commandos announced the attackers had died, he stood to see bodies and blood everywhere.
"I cannot understand what logic these terrorists have by attacking worshippers, and harmless people like us," he said.
Ahmadis, while preferring non-violent methods of spreading Islam, are still Muslims in my book; they rely on the Qur'an and the ahadith for spiritual guidance. They consider themselves to be Muslims. So, are they so unaware of the words of the Qur'an, are they so uninformed about the words and deeds of Mohammad, that they are surprised by mainstream Sunnis acting in this way? How many times have the Sunnis given them the Qur'anic verses detailing the heresy of their views, and the penalty for that heresy? I assume the Ahmadis have read the Qur'an at some point, and yet they continue to follow the teachings contained within. What will it take for Ahmadis to reject Islam itself for the violence it not only justifies, but that it mandates?
Muslim leaders have accused Ahmadis of defying the basic tenet of Islam that says Mohammed was the final prophet, but Ahmadis argue their leader was the savior rather than a prophet.
Under pressure from hard-liners, the Pakistani government in the 1970s declared the Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority. They are prohibited from calling themselves Muslims or engaging in Muslim practices such as reciting Islamic prayers.
BY Alison Gendar DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Thursday, May 27th 2010, 4:00 AM A Brooklyn-born computer whiz was accused Wednesday of forming a "mini terror cell" loyal to Al Qaeda chiefs in Yemen and ordered locked up until his trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said Wesem El-Hanafi flew to Yemen in 2008 to meet with Al Qaeda officials. They covered him with a hood, and took him to a safehouse where he swore allegiance. His first acts were to explain how they could encrypt their Internet communications, Cronan said. He returned to New York where he "basically formed his own mini terror cell." El-Hanafi regularly sent cash to the terrorists, bought seven Casio watches that could be used in bombs, and chatted with cell members about yearning to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, officials
said. Defense lawyer JaneAnne Murray said El-Hanafi, 34, is a hard-working computer programmer who didn't run when he was flagged on a no-fly list this year.
This account of his eight months in Damascus was written specially for Point of No Return, by young student of Arabic from Denver, Colorado (thanks to del):
"Most young American Jews that I know have chosen to visit or live in Israel at some point in their lives, not only as a way of familiarizing themselves with Eretz Yisrael or Judaism, but as an introduction to the broader Middle East. I too just finished living in the region for eight months, although my country of choice was not Israel, it was Syria.
"This was a shocking choice for family and friends. Even my Arabic professor, who is an Armenian Christian from Syria, gravely warned me to never mention my religion or any prior travel to Israel, let alone his name in case the secret police are watching me. His admonitions were not at all surprising given his recollections of growing up in Aleppo and on class trips with his school to watch the authorities hang Jews.
"My experiences in Syria, as well as my travel throughout Lebanon, Jordan, and Kurdish Iraq, ranged from the absurdly predictable to the wonderfully unexpected and surprising. My first observation upon arriving in Damascus was how Palestinian flags almost outnumber Syrian flags across the country. At the government subsidized Arabic language center, uncritically profiled by the New York Times, there is a map in every classroom of Palestine (without Israel, although Tel-Abeeb is on the map), some making dubious land claims to Lebanon and Turkey as well, while many teachers teach propaganda to students from all over the world. This can range from learning Palestinian resistance songs to learning about IDF 'massacres' and teaching the students about their perspectives on Zionism. This is done while extolling the Arab armies for their superior ethics in battle, which Judaism does not have, according to my teacher, and their "meticulous" distinctions between Jew, Israeli and Zionist.
"This last point was like a bad joke: the three terms are indistinguishable in everyday conversation, usually preceded or followed by an expletive. As an American I was confronted by eager Syrians wanting to educate me against the Jews/AIPAC/Israel/Zionists who are controlling America. My German friends were often greeted by shop-owners with a Heil Hitler while expressing their love for the Third Reich.
"What was most shocking to me was that even the most westernized and independent thinkers I met were obsessed with conspiracy theories. Many are convinced that 9/11 was carried out by the US or Jews; that the US caused the earthquake in Haiti in order to occupy it for its resources (which ones I do not know); that Israel caused the earthquake in order to send in medical teams to steal organs or to distract the world from Gaza; that the Mossad downed Ethiopian Airlines 737 leaving from Beirut; that the Department of Defense or Mossad created H1N1 while investing in pharmaceuticals to profit off of the sick; the list goes on.
"The front pages of Syria's largest newspapers, state-controlled of course, always had a story inciting hate against Israel, whether there was actual news to report on or not. I remember the day that the Hurva Synagogue was re-dedicated in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, a day dubbed by the Syrian press as a "day of rage," portraying the re-dedication as one more step to destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Nowhere was it ever mentioned that the synagogue was twice destroyed in over 200 years by Arabs and that it was in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. My Arabic tutor, brilliant and politically savvy, yet a very traditional Sunni, was the most outraged out of anyone I had met. He spent an entire lesson, two-and-a-half hours, lecturing me on the Torah and the Talmud, which he claimed to have read, and outlined the Elders' of Zion plot to control the world and dominate the Arabs. In one sentence he both denied the Holocaust and affirmed it in order to use it to compare Palestinian suffering.
"It is ironic that while most Syrians think that the US is controlled by Jews and that we are more than 2.5% of the population, they never imagine that the Americans they meet might be Jewish. The Arab world is full of Jews like myself learning Arabic-- by chance my American room-mate was Jewish. I am sure our two Syrian room-mates, one Shia and one Sunni, had no idea who they were living with. Occasionally I would venture to challenge someone's anti-semitic beliefs. I tried pointing out how the Jews had suffered in Syria, or would direct the conversation to why there are no more Jews, and where they might be. I was always met with blank stares, a confused look that did not understand why I was not agreeing with them. After all, any good person's moral compass in the Arab world has Palestine as the epitome of Good, and Israel/Jews as the epitome of Evil. No one I spoke to cared what the fate was of Syrian Jewry.
"Against this backdrop of hatred and indoctrination were the good people, those whom I could tell I was Jewish and had been to Israel. They were, more often than not, minorities who felt threatened by the government or the majority Sunni population. They were Armenians, Christians, Muslim Kurds, seculars and homosexuals--this last minority group officially does not exist in Syria.
"I had some very close Kurdish friends who strongly identified with Israel, even the settler movement which I do not identify with, and despised the Syrian state. During Eid Al-Nourouz, a large holiday celebrated by Kurds, Syrian police officers gunned down a Kurdish crowd in Raqa, killing two and sending 40 to the hospital where they were detained and kept away from the public. This did not make news in Syria or the West, but on the same day Israel had killed two infiltrators from Gaza, making international headlines. What surprised me the most was how appallingly the Syrian government treated the Kurds - with what I would consider murder, torture and ethnic cleansing. One example of their oppression is the prohibition against instructing and writing the Kurdish language and promoting Kurdish culture. In many parts of Kurdish Syria, Arabs are forcibly moved into Kurdish towns and the towns are then given an Arabic name. One girl who was 1/4 Turkish, 1/4 Kurdish and 1/2 Arab loved listening to Israeli heavy metal music because it was the only music she could find that blended eastern and western tonalities successfully.
"I remember very well two Kurdish girls who told me shortly after meeting me their love for Jews and People of the Book. I looked at them oddly, asking, "how do you know this if you have not met any Jews? " Apparently, they knew Muslim families descended from Jews in Saudi Arabia and they were good people. One of them told me how she dreamed of traveling just to meet Jews. They were of course ecstatic to find out my religion, and I was more than happy to make genuine friends.
"In America I was always impressed by the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Dr. Imad Mustapha, an eloquent speaker, a sharp debater and one who has always pressed for peace. But I quickly learned that land for peace is not what Syria wants. What Syria says in English to the West is not what it says in Arabic to its own people. Syria's interest in peace is belied by its actions.
"I have no regrets whatsoever about choosing Syria as my country of residence for continuing my Arabic studies. Syria has a remarkable history predating the regime, the people are among the most hospitable in the entire world (unfortunately this does not translate into policy), Damascus has, in my opinion, the best Arabic dialect, and the country is incredibly inexpensive. There are good people to be found, and I am sure that if I told more of my friends that I am Jewish there would not have been too much of a problem. But fear of the government is what rules the country and I had to avoid too many risks. Let's just say that now I am happy to be among good friends in Jerusalem."
Victorian upper house MP Peter Kavanagh wants Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) barred from the country. Islam is touring Australia for the first time in 36 years (and it is intended that he will perform at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on 26th June)
Kavanagh, from the Democratic Labor Party, told Parliament that Islam had supported a fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie over his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
'Although Yusuf now denies supporting attempts to murder Salman Rushdie, he is on record at the time for stating that he wanted to see Mr Rushdie himself burn - not just an effigy of him - and he would like to have reported Mr Rushdie's whereabouts to those who were trying to murder him,' Mr Kavanagh said.
He said the folk singer had since used copyright to remove 'statements by Mr Rushdie that Yusuf wanted him dead' from the internet.
Mr Kavanagh called on Immigration Minister Chris Evans to deny Islam a visa 'unless he publicly and categorically states that he does not and will not support the murder of any person for the expression of views, no matter how offensive'.
Islam has repeatedly denied supporting the fatwa, saying his comments were only a reference to blasphemy being a capital offence according to the Koran.
Last year a Berlin court ruled that the 16-year-old Muslim could pray in a private room at his school. Now a higher Berlin court has overturned that judgement, saying the prayers could disturb school peace.
A Muslim high school student will no longer be allowed to pray on school property, following a ruling by the higher administrative court of Berlin. The judgement is the latest step on a legal odyssey that began when the 16-year-old was asked to stop praying in the school hallways in 2007. He was the first student in Germany to demand the right to conduct his prayers at school.
In making the judgment the court was overturning an earlier verdict by a lower court, which had allowed the pupil to perform his midday prayers in a private room at his school in Berlin's working-class district of Wedding.
On Thursday, the higher court ruled that one pupil's rights could not be put before the good of the group as a whole. It argued that in a school with students of various religious beliefs, neutrality was required to ensure a proper learning environment.
The conflict began when, in November 2007, the school's headmistress forbade the student from praying in the hallways during intervals between classes. The student objected, saying he had to pray at school because prayer times were pre-prescribed by his religious beliefs.
... the Berlin city government's education authority appealed against that judgment,(of a lower court, giving the boy right to prayer space and time) citing the principal of state neutrality when it came to issues of religion. It also argued that, considering the many different religious denominations that students belonged to, the school peace would be disturbed.
On Thursday the higher administrative court upheld those objections. The court ruled that a restriction of religious freedom at school was justified in this case in order to protect other constitutional freedoms:
"This is a good day for Berlin schools," the school headmistress Brigitte Burchhardt told German news agency, DPA.
This, however, is not the end of the dispute. Thursday's ruling is now likely to be appealed at a higher court, Germany's Federal Administrative Court.
Deutsche Welle had some interesting information yesterday ahead of the decision.
The school's principal, Brigitte Burchardt, told Deutschlandfunk radio that the requirement to have a prayer room had damaged the school's ability to operate peacefully as well as its religious neutrality.
"We have all major and minor religions, as well as people who are not members of any religion, and all worldviews in our school. You have to understand that," Burchardt said. "And in addition, I have to protect the interests of those that say they don't want to be confronted with this. A school is a public space, and perhaps also for some Muslims, a protected space."
Burchardt said that tensions between girls who wear headscarves and those who don't had intensified over the ruling, with arguments breaking out over who was the better Muslim.
The Berlin City Council's Education Department has also made it clear that it doubts Yunus M.'s religious conviction. In a background conversation with reporters, it said the Diesterweg High School's prayer room has only been used five times in the past six months. had some interesting information yesterday ahead of the ruling.
Stock markets around the world have been sent crashing today following the news that Bono’s back surgery will keep him out of action for up to six weeks. ‘Everyone knows that Bono tells virtually every government in the world what to do’ explained the BBC’s Robert Peston. ‘If he’s out of action no-one will have a clue what they should be doing. The entire global economy could go to rack and ruin.’
Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that Tuesday’s Queen’s speech was almost cancelled following the news. ‘Fortunately we’d sought Bono’s opinion on most of the proposed bills already, and Bob Geldof was available for a bit of last minute fine-tuning’.
However, Barack Obama wasn’t so fortunate, as the flustered US President struggled to answer questions about how the US would be responding to North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship. ‘I don’t bloody know! Haven’t you heard – Bono’s in hospital!’ he shouted at journalists before hurling his ‘What Would Bono Do?’ wristband at the crowd and storming out of the press conference in tears.
As the crisis deepens reports have begun to emerge of desperate world leaders including Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Fabio Capello and The Pope being turned away from the Munich hospital where Bono is being treated. ‘I only wanted a few minutes with Him to ask how we can regain public trust after the paedophilia scandal’ grumbled a disconsolate Pontiff.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel even had to be forcibly ejected from the hospital having been found at Bono’s bedside demanding advice about the EU’s bail-out of the Greek economy. Further protests are now expected on the streets of Athens later today as a result following Merkel’s admission that she is now in two minds about the recovery package. ‘I might have to ask Sarkozy and Berlusconi for their opinions now’ she admitted.
However, a temporary solution the the global crisis may soon be found, as former X Factor winner Shane Ward declared himself available. ‘I’m not doing much at the moment’ he said.
These local battles over mosque construction underscore the need for a national debate on the impact Islam is having on America, including Muslim immigration rates and the building of mosques in particular.
For their part, Muslims seem to view Judeo-Christian values and culture as a threat to Islam, which is why there are no Jews, much less synagogues, remaining in places like Saudi Arabia. Christians are not allowed to take up permanent residency there, much less to build churches or to worship freely. The oppression of the Copts in Egypt and Christians and Jews in Iran is well known. Baghdad which, as late as the 1930s boasted a large Jewish population, now harbors perhaps a dozen or so old Jewish men who are too frail to leave. Iraq’s ancient Christian population is rapidly declining, driven out by the Muslim majority there, a stark illustration of American impotence in the face of Islam. Less well known are persecutions of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Buddhists in Thailand, Christians in Indonesia, Christians and animists across Africa from Sudan to Nigeria, and the list goes on.
Most Americans, however, do not view Islam, intolerant as it is, as a real threat to our values and believe we should demonstrate the virtue of tolerance at all costs, otherwise we will have lost the values we are trying to defend. However, tolerating the intolerant is a one-way street towards intolerance, and so we have to debate the issue openly. When is it wise for tolerance to be temporarily suspended?
Pressure to reform
If we are going to influence the Muslim world at all, we have to use what pressure we can reasonably bring to bear. So until such time as Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Jain, Hindu and Buddhist temples are allowed to be built freely in Muslim lands, other faiths are free to proselytize, Muslims are completely free to leave Islam without fear of retaliation and Christians, Jews, Hindus and all non-Muslims face no more persecution at the hands of Muslims, no more mosques should be built in America, as a matter both of fairness and in order to pressure Muslim countries to reform.
Then there is the further question of what is being taught in the mosques. In Nashville, one of our most prominent educators on Islam, Professor Awadh A. Binhazim, president of Olive Tree Education and who regularly teaches courses on Islam at Vanderbilt University, stated before a Vanderbilt audience in 2006 concerning the Muhammad cartoon controversy, “Islam is not something to ridicule” and “all Muslims” view the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad as a “provocation.” He also stated that 99.9 percent of Muslims feel deeply offended by the cartoons even if they have not responded violently and that they do not share the value of freedom of speech as it is recognized in this country. It is clear Islam carries a deep scriptural animus towards Jews and that women are not considered the equal of men, certainly a benchmark of modern civilization.
So we must ask ourselves, do we want to aid and abet the spread of these ideas by allowing the unhindered building of mosques in America?
Rebecca Bynum, who lives in Nashville, is publisher and managing editor of the New English Review. Her e-mail address is www.newenglishreview.org.
Countdown to IDF Confrontation with the International Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla
The Jerusalem Postreports that the IDF is prepared to dispatch Naval Commandos to possibly intercept the International Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla (“Flotilla”) of nine vessels carrying 10,000 tons of alleged humanitarian supplies and more than 750 activists, journalists and diplomats. The flotilla includes the Rachel Corrie that departed Dundalk, Ireland on May 14th and the M.S. Mavi Marmaris from Istanbul, Turkey which departed on May 22nd. It is on course to reach the Gaza coast on Saturday, May 29th, unless it turns around when ordered by the Israeli Navy. The vessels, passengers and cargos, if commandeered, would be directed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, for identity and health screenings and possible bomb detection. Diplomats on board the vessels in the Flotilla would be handled by the Foreign Ministry; Journalists by the Government Press Office. Other passengers and crew would be asked to leave Israel and if they refuse could be arrested and handed over for possible detention.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) in Herzilya, Israel has a definitive background report on the Flotilla organizers, their connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, chairman of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel. The ITIC report also identifies Turkish sponsors and Hamas plans to offload cargoes as the Flotilla approaches the Gaza coast- see ”The Aid Flotilla for the Gaza Strip –Updatehere.
Jerusalem Post notes:
Top IDF officers said on Thursday that the navy will not “take any chances” if and when it boards the ships, and will immediately inspect them for explosives, including using bomb-sniffing dogs from the IDF’s Oketz K9 Unit.
The navy plans to board the ships if they refuse to turn around. The ships will receive a number of warnings from the navy as they begin to make their approach to the Gaza Strip, starting from a distance of about 65 kilometers. If the ships are commandeered, they will be sailed to the Ashdod Port, where the government has set up tents to hold the activists.
The activists will be taken into the tents for identification and medical attention, and asked to leave the country voluntarily. If they refuse, they will be arrested and transferred to the custody of the Prisons Service and the Interior Ministry.
Foreign Ministry officials will be present to handle the diplomats who are on board the ships, while representatives of the Government Press Office will be responsible for the journalists.
“We are on a humanitarian and solidarity action. We intend to continue it until we reach our goal and will not be stopped,” flotilla organizer Dror Feiler said.
Feiler, 68, a musician who lives in Stockholm and has renounced his Israeli citizenship, said he brought a saxophone with him and would greet Israeli sailors boarding his boat with music “from the time when Jews didn’t have armies and police to harass freedom fighters, when Jews were victims, and were standing at the forefront of the fight for the dignity of people.”
IDF sources said the military was planning on not having to use any force during the operation but was prepared for any scenario that could develop, including the possibility that the ships have been rigged with explosives by terrorists.
“Until we are on board, we will not know for sure who and what are on the ships,” a senior officer said.
The operation will involve thousands of IDF and security personnel, including a number of elite units, trained in non-lethal crowd dispersion tactics that will be used, if needed, when boarding the vessels.
Late Thursday evening, Cypriot officials assured Israel that Cyprus would not let the flotilla anchor near its shores, sail in its territorial waters or use its ports.
From discussions with sources in Columbus, Ohio, this evening, including her friend Pastor Jamal Juvanjee, Rifqa Bary survived four hours of outpatient surgery followed by two hours of post recovery today. She will still face chemotherapy to address whatever post-operative cancer treatment is required following delivery of pathology reports.
Nonetheless, she wished to relay her thanks to those who expressed thoughts of concerns and prayers for her survival. Ms. Bary has shown remarkable pluck, grit and determination in pursuit of her liberty when she reaches her majority, under circumstances that are most daunting. She has apparently returned to her foster home following this surgical procedure.