Archive for the ‘History’Category

What the World can Learn from the Grandson of the Prophet

by Salma Hooshmand

Millions of Muslims around the world gather annually to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.  Hussain and his family were massacred on the plains of Karbala, modern-day Iraq, in the year 680 AD.  Mourning ceremonies vary from culture to culture.  They often include reenactments of the events leading to and including the final battle on the day of Ashura, recitations of song and poetry, and episodes of self-flagellation.  This last ritual ranges from a light, rhythmic beating of chests in unison, to, in extreme cases, the practice of incurring self-inflicted wounds.  The personality of Hussain is often obscured by these loud and highly ritualized ceremonies; actually, his story is a simple one with a universal message.

The tragedy of Hussain’s martyrdom is magnified by the sheer inequality of numbers.  In the manner of David and Goliath, Hussain was grossly outnumbered.  The aggressor, Yazid, had recently inherited the caliphate from his father.  He felt threatened by Hussain’s popularity and blood ties to the origins of Islam, and vowed to acquire either Hussain’s allegiance or his life.  In simple terms, Yazid was a bully, and Hussain stood up to him.  In the days leading up to the final battle, Yazid sent a force of 4000 troops to corner and surround Hussain’s caravan of 72 in the middle of the desert.  There, Yazid’s representatives attempted to extract Hussain’s endorsement with false promises, bribes, and threats; but Hussain stood his ground.  Soon, threats became acts of aggression and violence.  Access to the river was blocked on the day of Ashura, and Hussain and his family were left thirsty under the scorching desert sun.  Still Hussain did not give in; Yazid’s policies were oppressive and unjust, and Hussain would not join him.  A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi states, “I learned from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”  Indeed, the millions who continue to honor Hussain across centuries consider his quiet dignity and his refusal to capitulate to corruption a noble triumph, not a defeat.

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12 2011

The Price of Dignity in Libya

As the Anglo-American French coalition sustains its “humanitarian” military assault on Libya with a fiery downpour of missiles and CIA operatives alongside British special forces, and MI6 intelligence officers continue to work in Libya, “as part of a shadow force of Westerners” the mainstream body of activists residing in the United States of America have raised the Libyan flag in solidarity with calls for air strikes against Libya.

They (who is they?) continued to gleefully cheer even as missiles landed, greeting Libyan soil with 2,000-pound bombs dropped from American B-2s and therein possibly tainting the earth with depleted uranium. Emotive contentions used pre-Iraq invasion are now being recycled unashamedly in support of military intervention in Libya; the arguments, some stirring and others bitterly sensational, have overwhelmed conventional media outlets and social networks. Those bold enough to publicly admonish the so-called “humanitarian intervention” have been shamelessly branded Gaddafi apologists and supporters of genocide. Mouse-click couch warriors have more or less attempted to wipe out even the slightest cross-examination of the military tactics being used in Libya. This despite the lack of an endgame being provided by the Western Coalition engaging in warfare, and irregardless of the White House candidly having expressed ignorance in respect to the Libyan rebels and who they are.

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04 2011

Is Libya any different from Iraq and Afghanistan?

It’s a question that’s come up ever since President Obama decided to take military action in the current conflict in Libya.

I personally think so. Is it just because I’m an Obama supporter? Part of me suspects that may be it. “War” from the mouths of Democrats may just be more palatable. I was one of those people in the ‘90s who was happy when Bill Clinton took action in the Balkans and Somalia. I may not have been as supportive if it was George W. Bush making those same calls.

However, I do think that Libya is a different situation. I don’t see it as just a “third war” that America is now involved in.

Iraq and Afghanistan were a different process. It was a reaction to a direct conflict with America. The concepts are somewhat similar: We’re going into a Muslim-majority country to help exert Democratic rule. But, Libya is more organic. This dissidence is coming from its own people. They’re the ones who want to overthrow their ruler. This manifesto isn’t coming at them from an outside source.

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04 2011

Intro to Genocide

UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day- Jan. 27th 2011
The UN Resolution was created: “to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide”

What is Genocide? Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide from the root words genos (greek for family, tribe or race) and –cide (Latin for killing), wrote in 1944:

“While society sought protection against individual crimes, or rather crimes directed against individuals, there has been no serious endeavor hitherto to prevent and punish the murder and destruction of millions. Apparently, there was not even an adequate name for such a phenomenon. Referring to the Nazi butchery in the present war, Winston Churchill said in his broadcast of August, 1941, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”

Lemkin’s work led to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as
…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

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01 2011

The Trail of Tears

Map of United States Indian Removal, 1830-1835

by Sadegh Tavakoli and Hossein Sohrevardi

“The Trail of Tears,” the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their ancestral lands east of the Mississippi to the Indian Territories in present day Oklahoma, is remembered as one of the darkest chapters in American history. Although this incident is most closely associated with the Cherokee, it has also come to more general refer to a period of history of forced expulsion of Southeastern and Northeastern Native American tribes after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. To better understand what lead up specifically, to the death of 4,000 Cherokee Indians in the winter of1838-9 one must look at the dynamics and historical interaction between European (and later white American) with the Native Americans.

The history of Native Americans during the “founding” and development of America is the oldest and darkest stain upon this country. The Europeans discovery of America and the subsequent colonization of this continent came at the expense of millions of natives in this land. From its very inception, the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492 and the enslavement of native islanders for presentation before Queen Isabella of Spain foreshadowed the centuries of violence and injustice to come. There are scattered incidents of peaceful, positive coexistence such as the famed “First Thanksgiving,” although some of the reports about that incident seem to be exaggerated. Unfortunately, injustice against Native Americans has been a recurring theme throughout American history, one that is being redressed even today as can be seen by a recent court settlement between the US government and three hundred thousand Native Americans.

Prior to the American Revolution, the British Proclamation of 1763 prevented colonial expansion east of the Appalachian Mountains and angered colonists. As the American colonies matured into the United States of America, the rewards of Democracy, the government of the people, by the people, for the people as Abraham Lincoln made public in his Gettysburg Address exactly 100 years after the Proclamation, ironically did not improve the conditions of those people who were most entitled to the land, the Native Americans. The early 1800s saw the rapid expansion of the US either through the direct purchase of lands or through treaties and forced removal. Read the rest of this entry →



11 2010


Har jagah mere chamakne se ujla hojai

Average Destruction of 2005 Earthquake in Kashmir

October 8th marks the anniversary for the massive earthquake that jarred Kashmir and left more than more than 80,000 dead, mostly children in their schools.  Dead before they had really ever had a chance to live.

When I went to Kashmir several months later to try to do my part, I was overcome by the injustice of what had happened. But, I left with some semblance of hope — hope in the beauty of the people I had met there; hope in the children who I had played with, who had taught me so much; hope in the future; hope in Pakistan.

Kashmir: Teaching in Tent

Now, five years later, I struggle to look at Pakistan without despair. Since then, a cyclone devastated Baluchistan, fighting destroyed Swat, conflict has torn apart the frontier and bombs at the hands of Muslims have ripped apart the very heart and soul of a once great nation. If the country was not tattered enough, August brought forth one of the great plagues: floods. Floods that have literally drowned a nation. Floods that have

BBC: Extent of Flooding

wiped out crops — wiped out next year’s food for a nation of 180 million people. Floods that have destroyed homes, destroyed houses, destroyed roads and bridges. Floods that have destroyed lives. Floods that have been so cruel as to have killed children; children who are pure, who are innocent, who haven’t even had a chance to live yet. Floods that have washed up mud, but have also washed off dirt from the problems of poverty, that have brought to light the injustice and inequity of the past 60 years. Floods that have left children more vulnerable, more hurt, more victimized than ever before.

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10 2010

Islam in America I: The American Indian

After proper analysis, we realize that the theory of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” is based on false assumptions and preconceived notions that pander to those that seek deliberate confrontation. The theory or idea is further exploited in mainstream media coverage in current domestic and foreign affairs. It transforms itself as a tool to demean and degrade Muslims and Islam. On the contrary, a thorough analysis of the history of America in relation to Islam and Muslims totally debunks this idea.

Trying to undermine the historical narrative of Islam and Muslims in this country will only lead to further confusion, animosity, and fear of the “other”. We must ask ourselves, is Islamic culture really a separate entity from American culture, a culture of multiplicity? The idea that Muslims are foreign to America is a bogus idea promoted mostly by orientalists that are set on degrading Islam and Muslims as a monolithic population that originated and stayed in the East up until recently. Nevertheless, as we are living in the “information age” this idea is naturally fading away.

These series of posts will look at how Muslims and Islam influenced the American narrative from the Native American era to recent times. We will look at different periods of times, social movements, and essentially how Muslims played a major role in shaping the America we live in today. This is not to deny that there were other distinct cultures that influenced native and recent American culture, but to claim that Muslims were totally alien to America is either a deceptive or a misinformed belief, hopefully the latter.

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09 2010

The War on Logic

Recently the author of the “LSAT Blog” posted an entry in regard to the controversy surrounding Park51 in New York City. In it he used the arguments put forth by the opponents of the construction of Park51 near ground zero as a teaching tool for identifying logical fallacies. In reading this lesson, it struck me just how useful teaching formal logic to all American citizens (and not just attorneys) would be. While many wars have been fought over the past decade, one that is rarely discussed is the war being waged on logic.

With the advent of the Internet, social media and cell phones, information is more readily available today than any other time in human history. Due to this, our society has the potential to reach greater intellectual heights than ever before. However, that status will never be reached unless we are able to distinguish the truth from what simply looks like the truth. Without possessing the requisite analytical tools to distinguish between the two, namely, knowledge of formal logic, we do not stand a chance. Due to the variety of perspectives in society, a real understanding of logic, whether through formal education or a google search, is perhaps the most necessary tool for a 21st century citizen to posses.
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09 2010

Fighting Islamophobia

As much talk there is about Islamophobia nowadays, I think hatred toward Muslims is a classic case of “The Other.” Whatever you call it, Muslims are misunderstood and misrepresented.

The latest issue regarding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” may not be a case of wanting to vilify Muslims. In some ways, I think it’s just finding someone to lash out against. Muslims just happen to fit the category in this moment in time.

The most distressing part of the discussion hasn’t been that people are angry or don’t want the mosque. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, and the issue brings out a lot of emotion in people.

No, the most troubling has been the insistence that ALL Muslims are a certain way, no matter the proof to the contrary.

Sure, there are Muslims who would like nothing more than to see the destruction of America. And there are those who will go to extremes to reach that end. But there are the rest of us – the majority of us, I would argue – that have the exact opposite views. Sure, we hear a lot about Islam as a “religion of peace,” but those words start sounding hollow after a while.

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08 2010