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Iraq

Remembrance Day 2011 …

Friday 11 – 11 – 11 …

Every year we stop to reflect on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour and this the 11th year.

Today we take some time to reflect on the sacrifice that many men made to keep Canada and other countries free. We thank them for their service and we offer our prayers to them and their families.

We also call to mind all those men and women who fight today in theatres overseas, in Iraq, Afghanistan and all other far flung places. We pray for their safety and for their safe return.

Let us remember with pride our veterans of past and recent wars. Let their contribution to a better world never be forgotten.

We Remember …

And we thank you.


Reconciliation Islam, Democracy, and the West Pt. 2

We continue on our journey through historical Islam and we are going to look at a number of thoughts in this section of the text, as it covers 50 pages to the end of Chapter 2. We begin tonight’s lesson with the 5 Pillars of Islam. Muslims believe that there are Five Pillars of Islam, which are the fundamental principles that make up the most basic requirements for life as a Muslim:

  1. Shahada (“Witness”) This is the declaration that all Muslims must make: “I testify that there is no god but one God, and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.”
  2. Salat (“Prayers”) All Muslims must pray five times daily, facing Mecca.
  3. Zakat (“Almsgiving”) Muslims must give a certain percentage of their yearly income to the poor and needy.
  4. Sawm (“Fasting”) During the holy month of Ramadan, all Muslims must fast every day from sunrise to sunset.
  5. Hajj (“Pilgrimage”) A pilgrimage to Mecca, the location of the holiest place in Islam, must be performed by every Muslim, if possible, once in his or her lifetime.

Our writer makes certain statements in this text that she believes will bring together the fighting factions of Islam to a peaceful resolution. Stated here: “It is my firm belief that until Muslims revert to the traditional interpretation of Islam – in which “you shall have your religion, and I shall have mine” is respected and adhered to – the factional strife within Muslim countries will continue. Indeed, until quranic tolerance is reestablished, the key Muslim countries of pakistan and Iraq will not only continue to weaken them but will continue to threaten to spread inflexible and extremist interpretations elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Those who teach the killing of adherents of other sects or religions are damaging Muslim societies as well as threatening non-Muslim societies.

On Seeking Knowledge:

The Prophet remarked on the importance of seeking knowledge throughout life: “Seek knowledge by even going to China, for seeking knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim.” The Prophet placed the utmost importance on seeking knowledge, instructing humans to go to extraordinary lengths to gain not just religious knowledge but all knowledge.

The Past:

The past is used too frequently to define modern Muslims, especially when evaluating their receptivity to democracy. We don’t define Judaism by the brutality of the conquest of the tribes of Canaan or by the pain and suffering of the plagues on Egypt. We don’t define Christianity by the barbarism of the Dark Ages or by the persecution of the Inquisition.

When analysts look at the receptivity of modern Muslim communities to democracy, they too often look to Islamic texts and interpretations, as well as to the kind of social structure of the first community of Muslims. This construct, labeled “Muslim exceptionalism,” is based on the view that the norms of the Muslim community of the past must necessarily define the Muslim community of the present. It assumes that Muslim thought and Muslim society have not evolved, adapted, or changed over time. Some feel that “the character of Muslim societies has been determined by a specific and remote period in their past during which the social and political order that continues to guide them was established.

The scholar is referring to Prophet Mohammad’s early community of Muslims in seventh-century Arabia. This theory is predicated on the bizarre belief that they strength of the past continues to hold on to the psyche of Muslim society, blocking progress in political and other fields, including human rights and technological and economic development.

Morals and Beliefs:

The Qu’ran provides broad beliefs and morals by which to live. The specifics were left to be interpreted in light of the proper historical context. “The text is silent. We have to hear its voice. In order to hear, we need presuppositions. In order to have presuppositions, we need the knowledge of the age. In order to have the knowledge of the age, we have to surrender to change.

Equally important to the context of interpretation of the Qu’ran is who interprets it. Some Muslims, especially those belonging to theocratic regimes, try to assert that only a select few can interpret the Qu’ran. This is not the case. Interpretation of the Qu’ran is not limited to any one person or committee. The Qu’ran did not establish a specific institution or group of leaders as its sole interpreters. Any Muslim is free to interpret the Qu’ran. All Muslims are guaranteed the right to interpret the Qu’ran (ijtihad) Thus even the approach to interpretation of the Qu’ran is embedded with democratic values.

Indeed, Muslims are told that each person is accountable for his or her individual behavior. No relative, teacher, or other can intervene for a Muslim of the Day of Judgment.

Interpretation:

Every interpretation needs to be based on the context in which it is undertaken. In the modern world, modern interpretations need to be made while respecting the underlying principles of the Qu’ran. The Qu’ran, while the word of God, is a text that is historically rooted in the time of its revelation. There is no explicit mention of democracy in the Qu’ran because it was not a word used in the seventh-century Arabia. However, the principles of consultation and consensus among the people, which are found in the Qu’ran, are the bases of democracy. Moreover, the principles of equality, justice, and law, which are the underlying foundations of democracy, are repeatedly stressed in the Qu’ran.

Our author continues with her beliefs as she states:

For Muslims like me, who believe in democracy, Islam is about consent and people’s participation. Islam and democracy are compatible. Radwan Masmoudi agrees that contemporary interpretations need to continue to be made; he asserts that it is better than “the doors of ijtihad – closed for some 500 years – be reopened.”

Even the conservative Pakistani Islamist leader Khurshid Ahmad conceded that “God has revealed only broad principles and has endowed man with the freedom to apply them in every age in the way suited to the spirit and conditions of that age. It is through ijtihad that people of every age try to implement and apply divine guidance to the problems of their times.”

We are moving into more current events and places in this portion of the reading and I reiterate the following text because it is important for Westerners and others to understand what is bubbling just beneath the surface and why there is wide spread war around the globe.

Continuing:

Islam proclaims that the earth belongs to “Khalq e Khuda,” the people of God. We are all God’s creatures. The earth is given to us in trust by God. We the people are the agents of God in this world. We are to govern the earth as a sacred trust and as trustees of the responsibility to pass it on the future generations. The right to declare who is a “good Muslim” and who is a “bad Muslim” is a right that belongs only to God.

Those who say that we on earth must determine who is a good Muslim and who is a bad Muslim are in many ways responsible for the political legacy of murder, mayhem, sectarian warfare, and oppression of women and minorities we see in the Muslim world. These extremists are destroying the Muslim world by pitting Muslim against Muslim.

Militancy:

The militants seethe with anger, but their anger is always tied to their political agenda.

  1. First they were angry and the West had abandoned three million Afghan refugees and stopped all assistance to them after the Soviets left Afghanistan.
  2. Second, they are angry that their offer to the government of Pakistan to send one hundred battle hardened mujahideen to help in the Kashmir uprising on 1989 was rejected.
  3. Third, they wanted King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to turn to the “battle hardened mujahideen” to protect Saudi Arabia after Iraqi president Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. He refused.
  4. Fourth, they went off to fight in Bosnia when the region was engulfed in war (from 1993 to 1996, I lobbied President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister John Major, and other European leaders to intervene to bring the conflict to an end.)
  5. Fifth, they tried to exploit the Chechen nationalist movement.
  6. Sixth, with the fall of my government they turned their attention to Kashmir and tried to take over the nationalist Kashmiri movement from 1997 onward.

Muslim extremists systematically targeted historical nationalist movements to gain credibility and launch themselves into the Muslim heartland with a view to piggybacking off nationalist movements to advance their agenda. However, most Muslims were suspicious and not welcoming of their extreme interpretation of Islam. Thus is was only in Afghanistan, already softened by years of resistance by Afghan mujahideen, that Muslim extremists were able to establish the Taliban dictatorship.

Driven out of Afghanistan after the September 2001 attacks on the United States, they returned to Pakistan, where the journey had begun with General Zia-ul-Haq in 1980.

After the United States invaded Iraq, these same extremists turned their attention to that country. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi went off to fight in Iraq. Presumably others did, too. Again they used religious propaganda to kill, maim, and effectively divide one of the richest Muslim countries, Iraq, into a land of carnage and bloodshed.

Sunnis and Shias, who had lived peacefully side by side for centuries, began to kill each other, and Iraq began to fall apart. It is quite easy (and typical) for Muslim Extremists to blame the Americans for the sectarian civil war that rages in Iraq today, when actually it is a long standing tension between Muslim communities that has been exacerbated and militarized to create chaos under which extremists thrive.

Iraq is not the only goal of the extremists. Pakistan too is in great danger. Pro-Taliban forces have taken over tribal areas of Pakistan. They occupy the Swat Valley. They have been ceded Waziristan by the Musharraf regime. They are moving into the settled areas of Pakistan. Their apparent next goal is the cities of my country, including our capital, Islamabad. They thrive on dictatorship; they thrive on terror; they provoke chaos to exploit chaos.

I (Bhutto) returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, with the goal of moving my country from dictatorship to democracy. I hoped that this transition could take place during the scheduled elections of 2008. I feared that otherwise the extremists would march towards Islamabad. Islamabad is near the town of Kahuta, where Pakistan’s nuclear program is being carried out.

It is my fear that unless extremism is eliminated, the people of Pakistan could find themselves in a contrived conflict deliberately triggered by militants (or other “Islamists”) who now threaten to take over Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

Having a large Muslim nation fall into chaos would be catastrophic. My people could end up being bombed, their homes destroyed, and their children orphaned simply because a dictator has focused all his attention all off the nations resources on containing democrats instead of containing extremists, and then has used the crisis that he has created to justify the same policies that caused the crisis. It may sound convoluted, but there is certainly method to madness.

And in closing this discussion:

Islam was sent a message of liberation. The challenge for modern-day Muslims is to rescue this message from the fanatics, the bigots, and the forces of dictatorship. It is to give Muslims back the freedom God ordained for humankind to live in peace, in justice, in equality, in a system that is answerable to the people on this earth accepting that is it God who will judge us on the Day of Judgment.

It is by accepting that temporal and spiritual accountability are two separate issues that we can provide peace, tranquility, and opportunity. There are two judgments: the judgment of God’s creatures in this world through a democratic system and the judgment by God when we leave this world.

The extremists and militants who seek to hijack Islam aim to make their own judgments. In their failure lies the future of all Muslims and the reconciliation of Islam to the West.


Baghdad Burning … (Is Safe)

god-warriors-islam-2-mohammad-ali-mosque-cairo-egypt.jpg

Baghdad Burning… 

Leaving Home…


Two months ago, the suitcases were packed. My lone, large suitcase sat in my bedroom for nearly six weeks, so full of clothes and personal items, that it took me, E. and our six year old neighbor to zip it closed.

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

I packed and unpacked it four times. Each time I unpacked it, I swore I’d eliminate some of the items that were not absolutely necessary. Each time I packed it again, I would add more ‘stuff’ than the time before. E. finally came in a month and a half later and insisted we zip up the bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to update its contents constantly.

The decision that we would each take one suitcase was made by my father. He took one look at the box of assorted memories we were beginning to prepare and it was final: Four large identical suitcases were purchased- one for each member of the family and a fifth smaller one was dug out of a closet for the documentation we’d collectively need- graduation certificates, personal identification papers, etc.

We waited… and waited… and waited. It was decided we would leave mid to late June- examinations would be over and as we were planning to leave with my aunt and her two children- that was the time considered most convenient for all involved. The day we finally appointed as THE DAY, we woke up to an explosion not 2 km away and a curfew. The trip was postponed a week. The night before we were scheduled to travel, the driver who owned the GMC that would take us to the border excused himself from the trip- his brother had been killed in a shooting. Once again, it was postponed.

There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?

It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

We didn’t sleep the night before we had to leave because there seemed to be so many little things to do… It helped that there was no electricity at all- the area generator wasn’t working and ‘national electricity’ was hopeless. There just wasn’t time to sleep.

The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk- the one I’d used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we’d gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away- but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over- the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away.

I knew then as I know now that these were all just items- people are so much more important. Still, a house is like a museum in that it tells a certain history. You look at a cup or stuffed toy and a chapter of memories opens up before your very eyes. It suddenly hit me that I wanted to leave so much less than I thought I did.

Six AM finally came. The GMC waited outside while we gathered the necessities- a thermos of hot tea, biscuits, juice, olives (olives?!) which my dad insisted we take with us in the car, etc. My aunt and uncle watched us sorrowfully. There’s no other word to describe it. It was the same look I got in my eyes when I watched other relatives and friends prepare to leave. It was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, tinged with anger. Why did the good people have to go?

I cried as we left- in spite of promises not to. The aunt cried… the uncle cried. My parents tried to be stoic but there were tears in their voices as they said their goodbyes. The worst part is saying goodbye and wondering if you’re ever going to see these people again. My uncle tightened the shawl I’d thrown over my hair and advised me firmly to ‘keep it on until you get to the border’. The aunt rushed out behind us as the car pulled out of the garage and dumped a bowl of water on the ground, which is a tradition- its to wish the travelers a safe return… eventually.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

Syria is the only country, other than Jordan, that was allowing people in without a visa. The Jordanians are being horrible with refugees. Families risk being turned back at the Jordanian border, or denied entry at Amman Airport. It’s too high a risk for most families.

We waited for hours, in spite of the fact that the driver we were with had ‘connections’, which meant he’d been to Syria and back so many times, he knew all the right people to bribe for a safe passage through the borders. I sat nervously at the border. The tears had stopped about an hour after we’d left Baghdad. Just seeing the dirty streets, the ruins of buildings and houses, the smoke-filled horizon all helped me realize how fortunate I was to have a chance for something safer.

By the time we were out of Baghdad, my heart was no longer aching as it had been while we were still leaving it. The cars around us on the border were making me nervous. I hated being in the middle of so many possibly explosive vehicles. A part of me wanted to study the faces of the people around me, mostly families, and the other part of me, the one that’s been trained to stay out of trouble the last four years, told me to keep my eyes to myself- it was almost over.

It was finally our turn. I sat stiffly in the car and waited as money passed hands; our passports were looked over and finally stamped. We were ushered along and the driver smiled with satisfaction, “It’s been an easy trip, Alhamdulillah,” he said cheerfully.

As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?


God's Warriors Part 2 – Islam

god-warriors-islam-2-mohammad-ali-mosque-cairo-egypt.jpg

Tonight’s offering comes via CNN’s presentation of God’s Warriors, Part 2 and the discussion of Islam, with Christiane Amanpour. Tonight’s presentation was truly eye opening. My area of study is not Islam, so I will share with you my observances from the documentary and tell you about my experience in my own community.

I have nothing against my Muslim community. I have never had issues with the Muslim community here in Montreal – let’s state that from the outset. I have no issues with the living of Muslim life and the practice of Islam as a religion. In fact, I have once written that Islam is truly a remarkable religious tradition because One Must LIVE Islam every day, every moment and every minute. You must observe the laws of the Qu’ ran and you must be a good Muslim and you must pray five times a day. Muslim life is very labor intensive but it is a way of life for millions of people around the world. Hence, I do not intend to make issue with the Muslim community.

If you learn anything about Islam, it is unlike Judaism and Christianity in its practice and requirements. Something I think Christians take for granted for Christianity is a one day a week observance. Unless of course you are a die hard Bible Thumping, Arrogant, Homosexual Hating, Abortion Abhorring, Judgmental 24/7 Evangelical Christian, I am sure you won’t be putting in hours of religious observance as a Muslim person does daily.

Many Muslims, like many people around the world, they “abhor violence.” it is said that militant Islamic violence is but a symptom of a greater problem. That this violence stems from the rage and anger of Muslims around the world.

“That for the extremist, it is an “Us versus Them mentality, that Christians and Jews are expendable.”

The split between the Shia and Sunni Muslim populations fuels the fire that burns in the Middle East and within Muslim countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. We know as fact today that in Iraq, ethnic cleansing of occurring. The split between Shia and Sunni Muslims is a raging problem, and the split between the two factions occurred when Imam Husayn was martyred: from Wikipedia

The Day of Ashura (عاشوراء transliteration: ‘Āshūrā’, Ashura, Ashoura, and other spellings) is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram but not the Islamic month.

This day is well-known because of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala in the year 61 AH (AD 680). Furthermore Sunni Muslims believe that Moses fasted on that day to express gratitude to God for liberation of Israelites from Egypt. According to Sunni Muslim tradition, Muhammad fasted on this day and asked other people to fast.[1][2]

The word ashura means simply tenth in Arabic; hence the name of the remembrance, literally translated, means “the tenth day”. Islamic scholars, however, give various explanations as to why it is thus called.

god-warriors-islam-1.jpg

“It is also said that the conflict between the Christians and the Muslims will not end until one annihilates the other.”

It is with inflammatory statements like this one that gets the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. It is words like these that remind me that my world has changed. I am no longer insulated from World Issues in Montreal. I know who all of my neighbors are. I have Muslim friends and Muslim teachers. I for one, don’t want to see the world come to a conflict of annihilistic proportions.

For the extremist like Bin Laden and his followers and all those Muslims who fight against the infidel [insert here the U.S.] that the presence of American soldiers on Muslim holy ground is a “Sacrilege.”

Pictured above, Egypt. The beating heart of the Arab – Muslim world. What happens in Egypt trickles down to all the Muslim states in the Middle East. In a country that is oppressed and under rule – “Religion is the antidote to the secular government.” Islam is the cure for the secular government. It is the one thing that the people turn to. It is the energy that fuels the Muslim man and woman.

For the Fundamentalist Muslim, the “Secular state is one without moral purpose.”

Here once again, is another phrase that gets me uppity. I don’t think that I live a life without moral purpose, even if I am a homosexual and that is taboo is Muslim society. But I also understand the “why” behind the moral view of the West, where materialism and arrogance is something that they see from the West. Our lives are so different from those who are Muslim. These broad sweeping statements of conditional extremes would get any society up in arms about just how far the West is going to allow Islam and Muslim people to grow to a number that might facilitate the growth of Islam in a Western location.

Statistically, Islam is the fastest growing religion around the world, spread across the face of the earth. Islam, we know is a peaceful religion, save for the factions that are hell bent on creating chaos, destruction and death in massive proportions. The Iranian expectation of the coming of the Messiah is an apparent fact. The Iranian president is on a holy mission, so he thinks.

We have Iran, and the belief of the hidden Imam. Who is said to be kept alive by God and is hiding like the sun on a cloudy day. The Iranian president has also called for the destruction of Israel so that a Muslim state can be built on that land. I have my reservations about fanatical – Islamic speak and propaganda. Anyone who calls for the destruction of Israel is not someone who I’d support or give any credence to. Speak like this is terrifying and just plain insensitive and fanatical. And we should be wary of anyone who calls for the destruction of Israel. The world should be paying attention to this as they are today.

The Shiite belief that the hidden Imam will return and all will follow him:

“When the hidden Imam comes, Christians and Jews will be told to follow him and if they do not there will be problems. Then Jesus will be asked to come down and mediate and force us all to convert.”

Do we need to fear Islam as a religion? No, I do not think so. Do we need to fear Islamic religious extremism, Yes of course we do. We need to consider where we fit in the dynamic religious universe. Where do we fit on the scale of religious belief? And what can we do to change the hearts of the disenfranchised and those who are fed up with the West’s incursion into/onto Muslim land?

This is where I state my case against the Iraq war. The Mission has not been accomplished and millions of people have been killed, displaced and affected by a Western nation that went to war based on flawed intelligence and wrong ideas. I have never supported the war. Yet I support many of the Muslim writers who have shown us what this war has done to their lives as well the lives of so many others. The arrogance of the United States has put them in this situation, and now they are paying the price for occupation. I can understand why the Muslim world is so at odds with the West. They brought this on themselves. And the world watches this war continue and genocide is occurring as we speak in many places, but especially in Iraq.

And the world does nothing!! Are we responsible stewards of the people of the earth? The longer this continues the more death will occur, until someone comes along and says “ENOUGH!”

There are Iraqi bloggers on my sidebar, go read them. I know the truth about the killing of innocents, the sectarian violence and the ethnic cleansing going on inside the war that rages still.

“There are populations of God Warriors all over the world who see the world through a religious prism and they believe that modern society is trampling on their beliefs.”

What can we do to stop this trend of violence and hatred? Like I said last night the three monotheistic religions of the world are warring with their own and each other, and there is plenty of land to go around. There is always a solution if ENLIGHTENED” political leaders would rise up and come to the table and negotiate a peaceful coexistent settlement.

Fundamental Islam tells us there are no solutions – that there is no negotiating. They they will conquer the infidel and change the face of the earth, the Caliphate must be installed and the world must bow and fall under the authority of Islamic rule and Sharia Law.

The killing needs to stop – and stop today! Or the world is headed for total collapse and do we want that to happen? Where do we draw the line in the sand and limit Muslim encroachment on all that the West respects as tradition and dogma?

Canada the True North standing free welcomes all, but even in Montreal we have issues of convenient accommodation for different religions. Canada is a very religious country, Quebec is very French – Catholic [Christian] yet people of all faiths live within our borders. We will not back down from our sovereign status and we will not bow to religious extremism. I will not bow to religious extremism be that Islam, or Christianity…

Tomorrow night will prove to be very exciting, because I will be writing on my major, Christianity. So look forward to that… I am sharpening my pen!!!


God’s Warriors Part 2 – Islam

god-warriors-islam-2-mohammad-ali-mosque-cairo-egypt.jpg

Tonight’s offering comes via CNN’s presentation of God’s Warriors, Part 2 and the discussion of Islam, with Christiane Amanpour. Tonight’s presentation was truly eye opening. My area of study is not Islam, so I will share with you my observances from the documentary and tell you about my experience in my own community.

I have nothing against my Muslim community. I have never had issues with the Muslim community here in Montreal – let’s state that from the outset. I have no issues with the living of Muslim life and the practice of Islam as a religion. In fact, I have once written that Islam is truly a remarkable religious tradition because One Must LIVE Islam every day, every moment and every minute. You must observe the laws of the Qu’ ran and you must be a good Muslim and you must pray five times a day. Muslim life is very labor intensive but it is a way of life for millions of people around the world. Hence, I do not intend to make issue with the Muslim community.

If you learn anything about Islam, it is unlike Judaism and Christianity in its practice and requirements. Something I think Christians take for granted for Christianity is a one day a week observance. Unless of course you are a die hard Bible Thumping, Arrogant, Homosexual Hating, Abortion Abhorring, Judgmental 24/7 Evangelical Christian, I am sure you won’t be putting in hours of religious observance as a Muslim person does daily.

Many Muslims, like many people around the world, they “abhor violence.” it is said that militant Islamic violence is but a symptom of a greater problem. That this violence stems from the rage and anger of Muslims around the world.

“That for the extremist, it is an “Us versus Them mentality, that Christians and Jews are expendable.”

The split between the Shia and Sunni Muslim populations fuels the fire that burns in the Middle East and within Muslim countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. We know as fact today that in Iraq, ethnic cleansing of occurring. The split between Shia and Sunni Muslims is a raging problem, and the split between the two factions occurred when Imam Husayn was martyred: from Wikipedia

The Day of Ashura (عاشوراء transliteration: ‘Āshūrā’, Ashura, Ashoura, and other spellings) is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram but not the Islamic month.

This day is well-known because of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala in the year 61 AH (AD 680). Furthermore Sunni Muslims believe that Moses fasted on that day to express gratitude to God for liberation of Israelites from Egypt. According to Sunni Muslim tradition, Muhammad fasted on this day and asked other people to fast.[1][2]

The word ashura means simply tenth in Arabic; hence the name of the remembrance, literally translated, means “the tenth day”. Islamic scholars, however, give various explanations as to why it is thus called.

god-warriors-islam-1.jpg

“It is also said that the conflict between the Christians and the Muslims will not end until one annihilates the other.”

It is with inflammatory statements like this one that gets the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. It is words like these that remind me that my world has changed. I am no longer insulated from World Issues in Montreal. I know who all of my neighbors are. I have Muslim friends and Muslim teachers. I for one, don’t want to see the world come to a conflict of annihilistic proportions.

For the extremist like Bin Laden and his followers and all those Muslims who fight against the infidel [insert here the U.S.] that the presence of American soldiers on Muslim holy ground is a “Sacrilege.”

Pictured above, Egypt. The beating heart of the Arab – Muslim world. What happens in Egypt trickles down to all the Muslim states in the Middle East. In a country that is oppressed and under rule – “Religion is the antidote to the secular government.” Islam is the cure for the secular government. It is the one thing that the people turn to. It is the energy that fuels the Muslim man and woman.

For the Fundamentalist Muslim, the “Secular state is one without moral purpose.”

Here once again, is another phrase that gets me uppity. I don’t think that I live a life without moral purpose, even if I am a homosexual and that is taboo is Muslim society. But I also understand the “why” behind the moral view of the West, where materialism and arrogance is something that they see from the West. Our lives are so different from those who are Muslim. These broad sweeping statements of conditional extremes would get any society up in arms about just how far the West is going to allow Islam and Muslim people to grow to a number that might facilitate the growth of Islam in a Western location.

Statistically, Islam is the fastest growing religion around the world, spread across the face of the earth. Islam, we know is a peaceful religion, save for the factions that are hell bent on creating chaos, destruction and death in massive proportions. The Iranian expectation of the coming of the Messiah is an apparent fact. The Iranian president is on a holy mission, so he thinks.

We have Iran, and the belief of the hidden Imam. Who is said to be kept alive by God and is hiding like the sun on a cloudy day. The Iranian president has also called for the destruction of Israel so that a Muslim state can be built on that land. I have my reservations about fanatical – Islamic speak and propaganda. Anyone who calls for the destruction of Israel is not someone who I’d support or give any credence to. Speak like this is terrifying and just plain insensitive and fanatical. And we should be wary of anyone who calls for the destruction of Israel. The world should be paying attention to this as they are today.

The Shiite belief that the hidden Imam will return and all will follow him:

“When the hidden Imam comes, Christians and Jews will be told to follow him and if they do not there will be problems. Then Jesus will be asked to come down and mediate and force us all to convert.”

Do we need to fear Islam as a religion? No, I do not think so. Do we need to fear Islamic religious extremism, Yes of course we do. We need to consider where we fit in the dynamic religious universe. Where do we fit on the scale of religious belief? And what can we do to change the hearts of the disenfranchised and those who are fed up with the West’s incursion into/onto Muslim land?

This is where I state my case against the Iraq war. The Mission has not been accomplished and millions of people have been killed, displaced and affected by a Western nation that went to war based on flawed intelligence and wrong ideas. I have never supported the war. Yet I support many of the Muslim writers who have shown us what this war has done to their lives as well the lives of so many others. The arrogance of the United States has put them in this situation, and now they are paying the price for occupation. I can understand why the Muslim world is so at odds with the West. They brought this on themselves. And the world watches this war continue and genocide is occurring as we speak in many places, but especially in Iraq.

And the world does nothing!! Are we responsible stewards of the people of the earth? The longer this continues the more death will occur, until someone comes along and says “ENOUGH!”

There are Iraqi bloggers on my sidebar, go read them. I know the truth about the killing of innocents, the sectarian violence and the ethnic cleansing going on inside the war that rages still.

“There are populations of God Warriors all over the world who see the world through a religious prism and they believe that modern society is trampling on their beliefs.”

What can we do to stop this trend of violence and hatred? Like I said last night the three monotheistic religions of the world are warring with their own and each other, and there is plenty of land to go around. There is always a solution if ENLIGHTENED” political leaders would rise up and come to the table and negotiate a peaceful coexistent settlement.

Fundamental Islam tells us there are no solutions – that there is no negotiating. They they will conquer the infidel and change the face of the earth, the Caliphate must be installed and the world must bow and fall under the authority of Islamic rule and Sharia Law.

The killing needs to stop – and stop today! Or the world is headed for total collapse and do we want that to happen? Where do we draw the line in the sand and limit Muslim encroachment on all that the West respects as tradition and dogma?

Canada the True North standing free welcomes all, but even in Montreal we have issues of convenient accommodation for different religions. Canada is a very religious country, Quebec is very French – Catholic [Christian] yet people of all faiths live within our borders. We will not back down from our sovereign status and we will not bow to religious extremism. I will not bow to religious extremism be that Islam, or Christianity…

Tomorrow night will prove to be very exciting, because I will be writing on my major, Christianity. So look forward to that… I am sharpening my pen!!!


Italy probe unearths huge Iraq arms deal

By CHARLES J. HANLEY and ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writers 

PERUGIA, Italy – In a hidden corner of Rome‘s busy Fiumicino Airport, police dug quietly through a traveler’s checked baggage, looking for smuggled drugs. What they found instead was a catalog of weapons, a clue to something bigger.

Their discovery led anti-Mafia investigators down a monthslong trail of telephone and e-mail intercepts, into the midst of a huge black-market transaction, as Iraqi and Italian partners haggled over shipping more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into the bloodbath of Iraq.

As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command — a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.

Why these officials resorted to “black” channels and where the weapons were headed is unclear.

The purchase would merely have been the most spectacular example of how Iraq has become a magnet for arms traffickers and a place of vanishing weapons stockpiles and uncontrolled gun markets since the 2003 U.S. invasion and the onset of civil war.

Some guns the U.S. bought for Iraq’s police and army are unaccounted for, possibly fallen into the hands of insurgents or sectarian militias. Meanwhile, the planned replacement of the army’s AK-47s with U.S.-made M-16s may throw more assault rifles onto the black market. And the weapons free-for-all apparently is spilling over borders: Turkey and Iran complain U.S.-supplied guns are flowing from Iraq to anti-government militants on their soil.

Iraqi middlemen in the Italian deal, in intercepted e-mails, claimed the arrangement had official American approval. A U.S. spokesman in Baghdad denied that.

“Iraqi officials did not make MNSTC-I aware that they were making purchases,” Lt. Col. Daniel Williams of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), which oversees arming and training of the Iraqi police and army, told the AP.

Operation Parabellum, the investigation led by Dario Razzi, anti-Mafia prosecutor in this central Italian city, began in 2005 as a routine investigation into drug trafficking by organized-crime figures, branched out into an inquiry into arms dealing with Libya, and then widened to Iraq.

Court documents obtained by the AP show that Razzi’s break came early last year when police monitoring one of the drug suspects covertly opened his luggage as he left on a flight to Libya. Instead of the expected drugs, they found helmets, bulletproof vests and the weapons catalog.

Tapping telephones, monitoring e-mails, Razzi’s investigators followed the trail to a group of Italian businessmen, otherwise unrelated to the drug probe, who were working to sell arms to Libya and, by late 2006, to Iraq as well, through offshore companies they set up in Malta and Cyprus.

Four Italians have been arrested and are awaiting court indictment for allegedly creating a criminal association and alleged arms trafficking — trading in weapons without a government license. A fifth Italian is being sought in Africa. In addition, 13 other Italians were arrested on drug charges.

In the documents, Razzi describes it as “strange” that the U.S.-supported Iraqi government would seek such weapons via the black market.

Investigators say the prospect of an Iraq deal was raised last November, when an Iraqi-owned trading firm e-mailed Massimo Bettinotti, 39, owner of the Malta-based MIR Ltd., about whether MIR could supply 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 machine guns “to the Iraqi Interior Ministry,” adding that “this deal is approved by America and Iraq.”

The go-between — the Al-Handal General Trading Co. in Dubai — apparently had communicated with Bettinotti earlier about buying night visors and had been told MIR could also procure weapons.

Al-Handal has figured in questionable dealings before, having been identified by U.S. investigators three years ago as a “front company” in Iraq’s Oil-for-Food scandal.

The Interior Ministry’s need at that point for such a massive weapons shipment is unclear. The U.S. training command had already reported it would arm all Interior Ministry police by the end of 2006 through its own three-year-old program, which as of July 26 has bought 701,000 weapons for the Iraqi army and police with $237 million in U.S. government funds.

Negotiations on the deal progressed quickly in e-mail exchanges between the Italians and Iraqi middlemen of the al-Handal company and its parent al-Thuraya Group. But at times the discussion turned murky and nervous.

The Iraqis alternately indicated the Interior Ministry or “security ministries” would be the end users. At one point, a worried Bettinotti e-mailed, “We prefer to speak about this deal face to face and not by e-mail.”

The Italians sent several offers of various types and quantities of rifles, with photos included. The negotiating focused on the source of the weapons: The Iraqi middlemen said their buyer insisted they be Russian-made, but the Italians wanted to sell AK-47s made in China, where they had better contacts.

“We are in a hurry with this deal,” an impatient Waleed Noori al-Handal, Jordan-based general manager of the Iraqi firm, wrote the Italians on Nov. 13 in one of the e-mails seen by AP.

He added, in apparent allusion to the shipment’s clandestine nature, “You mustn’t worry if it’s a problem to import these goods directly into Iraq. We can bring the product to another country and then transfer it to Iraq.”

By December, the Italians, having found a Bulgarian broker, were offering Russian-made goods: 50,000 AKM rifles, an improved version of the AK-47; 50,000 AKMS rifles, the same gun with folding stock; and 5,000 PKM machine guns.

The Iraqis quibbled over the asking price, $39.7 million, but seemed satisfied. The Italians were set for a $6.6 million profit, the court documents show, and were already discussing air transport for the weapons. At this point prosecutor Razzi acted, seeking an arrest warrant from a Perugia court.

“The negotiation with Iraq is developing very quickly,” he wrote the judge.

On Feb. 12, in seven locations across Italy, police arrested the 17 men, including the four alleged arms traffickers: Bettinotti; Gianluca Squarzolo, 39, the man whose luggage had yielded the original clue; Ermete Moretti, 55, and Serafino Rossi, 64. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

The at-large fifth man, Vittorio Dordi, 42, was believed to be in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he apparently is involved in the diamond trade. Italian authorities were seeking information on him from the African country.

In the parallel Libya case, the Italians allegedly paid two Libyan Defense Ministry officials about $500,000 in kickbacks to speed that transaction for Chinese-made assault rifles. It isn’t known whether such bribes were a factor in the Iraq deal. No Libyans or Iraqis are known to have been detained in connection with the cases.

Al-Handal’s operations have caught investigators’ notice before. In 1996-2003, the company was involved as a broker in the kickback scandal known as Oil for Food, the CIA says.

In that program, Iraq under U.N. economic sanctions bought food and other necessities with U.N.-supervised oil revenues. Foreign companies, often through intermediaries, surreptitiously kicked back payments to officials of Saddam Hussein‘s Iraqi government in exchange for such supply contracts.

Those Iraqi middlemen also engaged in “misrepresenting the origin or final destination of goods,” said the 2004 report of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group, which investigated both Iraq’s defunct advanced weapons programs and Oil for Food.

That report also alleged that during this period Al-Handal General Trading, from its bases in Dubai and Jordan, secretly moved unspecified “equipment” into Iraq that was forbidden by the U.N. sanctions.

Reached at his office in Amman, Jordan, Waleed Noori al-Handal denied the family firm had done anything wrong in the Italian arms case.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” he told the AP.

Citing the names of “friends” in top U.S. military ranks in Iraq, al-Handal said his company has fulfilled scores of supply and service contracts for the U.S. occupation. Asked why he claimed U.S. approval for the abortive Italian weapons purchase, he said he had a document from the U.S. Army “that says, ‘We allow al-Thuraya Group to do all kinds of business.'”

In Baghdad, the Interior Ministry wouldn’t discuss the AK-47 transaction on the record. But a senior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity, acknowledged it had sought the weapons through al-Handal.

Asked about the irregular channels used, he said the ministry “doesn’t ask the supplier how these weapons are obtained.”

Although this official refused to discuss details, he said “most” of the 105,000 weapons were meant for police in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. That statement raised questions, however, since Pentagon reports list only 161,000 trained police across all 18 of Iraq’s provinces, and say the ministry has been issued 169,280 AK-47s, 167,789 pistols and 16,398 machine guns for them and 28,000 border police.

A July 26 Pentagon report said 20,847 other AK-47s purchased for the Interior Ministry have not yet been delivered. Iraqi officials complain that the U.S. supply of equipment, from bullets to uniforms, has been slow.

A Pentagon report in June may have touched on another possible destination for weapons obtained via secretive channels, noting that “militia infiltration of local police remains a significant problem.” Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq’s civil war have long been known to find cover and weapons within the Interior Ministry.

In fact, in a further sign of poor controls on the flow of arms into Iraq, a July 31 audit report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said the U.S. command’s books don’t contain records on 190,000 AK-47s and other weapons, more than half those issued in 2004-2005 to Iraqi forces. This makes it difficult to trace weapons that may be passed on to militias or insurgents.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has described the Interior Ministry’s accounting of police equipment as unreliable.

Here in Italy, Razzi expressed puzzlement at the Iraqi officials’ circumvention of U.S. supply routes.

“It seems strange that a pro-Western government, supported by the U.S. Army and other NATO countries on its own territory, would seek Russian or Chinese weapons through questionable channels,” the anti-Mafia prosecutor wrote in seeking the arrest warrant that short-circuited the complex deal.