Age of Jahiliyah

A blog of wide and varied interest, including Islam, Muslims, Poetry, Art and much more.

Archive for the day “April 19, 2011”

Villifying Islam Will Not Make Nation Safer

From the Sacramento Bee

By Benjamin B. Wagner
Special to The Bee

Published: Saturday, Apr. 16, 2011

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack approaches, those of us in law enforcement know all too well that al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations continue to target the United States. While some of their attacks – like the attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day – originate overseas, foreign-based terrorists increasingly seek to recruit and radicalize individuals here in the United States.

Al-Qaida has made no secret of its intention to use Americans to launch attacks inside the United States. Anwar al-Awlaki and others like him around the world are actively encouraging Americans to take up arms against their neighbors, often using the Internet to identify, radicalize and recruit individuals in our own communities.

We have seen the results of this effort at Fort Hood, Texas, in New York’s Times Square and elsewhere. Preventing these attacks is the highest priority for our nation’s law enforcement organizations.

Reasonable minds can differ about the best approach to this threat. Some, however, have resorted to portraying American Muslim communities – or the Islamic faith itself – as a threat to our country.

While it is true that we must repel attempts by foreign terrorists to radicalize young American Muslims, vilifying Islam will not make America safer. Indeed, suggesting that most American Muslims are less loyal than their countrymen is not only inaccurate and irresponsible, it adds an air of legitimacy to violent extremism of another kind: directed not by American Muslims, but at them.

Look at events around the country in the past year. In New York City, a taxi passenger stabbed a cab driver after learning that he was a Muslim. In Tennessee, an arsonist burned a mosque to the ground. And in Texas two months ago, a man pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges after setting fire to a playground attached to a mosque.

It happens in this region too. Last month the FBI announced the arrest of a Madera man, now being prosecuted by my office, who allegedly vandalized a mosque and posted signs in that community containing warnings and threats about Muslims in America.

Although Sikhs are not Muslims, they are often mistaken for Muslims and can also be the targets of violence. Two men who assaulted a Sikh taxi driver in West Sacramento while shouting anti-Middle Eastern epithets pleaded guilty in state court last month.

Stigmatizing Muslim communities not only contradicts our nation’s commitment to religious freedom, it makes it easier, not harder, for al-Qaida to radicalize Americans. A key tenet of al-Qaida’s militant propaganda is that America and Islam are at war.

This is not true. Practitioners of every faith are guaranteed the right to worship freely in the United States. And while al-Qaida poses as the defender of Islam and of Muslims, its attacks have killed many more Muslims than non-Muslims. Acts of violence and hostility against American Muslims obscure this fact and seem to corroborate the myth that America is at war with Islam. This false narrative bolsters al-Qaida’s efforts to radicalize Americans.

Instead, we must recognize American Muslim communities as part of the solution to the problem of radicalization. Al-Qaida does not radicalize communities; it radicalizes individuals. Many in American Muslim communities have spoken out against violent extremism, have played a key role in alerting law enforcement to potential threats and are serving as vital counterweights to extremist groups that seek to influence impressionable young men.

In an effort to improve communication, collaboration and trust between American Muslims and federal law enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice has been working to promote greater engagement with those in American Muslim communities. For the better part of a year, I have been part of a group of U.S. attorneys around the country who’ve been working to forge cooperative bonds with Muslim communities in our districts.

During this time, I have spoken with members of the Muslim community in a variety of settings and listened to their concerns about national security and criminal justice issues, civil rights and other matters.

In these meetings, I have heard them express the same concerns that other members of our community have: They want safe streets, good schools and fair treatment. The men and women I have spoken to are parents, teachers, wage earners and civic leaders contributing to the safety and well-being of their communities. The values that tie us together as Americans – faith in equal opportunity, and in religious and political freedom – are far more significant than the cultural and religious traditions that set us apart from our neighbors.

Violent extremism of all kinds feeds on anger, misunderstanding and alienation. Law enforcement alone cannot eradicate these root causes of terrorism and hate crimes. Each of us should do all that we can to forge lasting relationships with our Muslim neighbors and join them in affirming that they too are a welcome part of this diverse society that contains many faiths, languages and ethnicities.

A united front is the best defense for all Americans, regardless of their faith, against acts of violent extremism of all types.

Article – An Increase in Anti-Muslim Bias

So… I was just reading about the increase in anti Muslim bias and it got me to to thinking about the shooting in Elk Grove.

The Sacramento County coroner said Gurmej Atwal, 78, died Friday afternoon. He had been on life support measures since the shooting in the area of E. Stockton Boulevard and Geneva Pointe Drive on March 4. Atwal’s friend and walking buddy, Surinder Singh, 65, was also gunned down and died at the scene, kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it? Lets hope this kind of thing doesn’t spread to Placer County. I have an idea,since Easter Sunday is coming up why don’t all you good Christians say a little prayer for you’re Muslim and Sikh brothers, lets ‘work together to end hate crimes and show a little tolerance for a change.

Testimony of J. Richard Cohen President, Southern Poverty Law Center Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate March 29, 2011

My name is Richard Cohen. I am the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. In addition to handling civil rights cases, we monitor the activities of hate groups, anti government militias and other extremists in the United States through our Intelligence Project. We also work to reduce prejudice and bigotry among the nation’s youth by providing educators across the country with free anti-bias resources through our Teaching Tolerance project.

Anti-Muslim bigotry – and the hate crime it inspires – is a serious problem in our country. Hate crimes spike during periods of controversy involving Muslims. We are once again seeing this phenomenon. To stem this rising tide, our political leaders must speak out forcefully against it. And in our schools, teachers must combat this prejudice by fostering understanding of Islamic culture.

The first spike in anti-Muslim hate crime followed the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, Department of Justice statistics showed a 1,600 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crime incidents in the United States – 481 incidents reported to the FBI, compared to 28 reported a year before. Because of limitations in the collection of data, these numbers vastly understate the problem; more than half of all hate crimes are never reported to police and many others are incorrectly categorized. An extensive 2005 Department of Justice study concluded that the real level of hate crime is between 20 and 30 times higher than the FBI statistics suggest.

The FBI has not released statistics for 2010 or 2011, but our own compilation of news reports suggest that anti-Muslim incidents are again on the rise. We have compiled news reports on 156 anti-Muslim incidents since the terrorist attacks. Fifty-one of those incidents – approximately one-third – occurred within one year of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But since May 2010 – when a controversy erupted over the opening of an Islamic cultural center near the site of the World Trade Center attacks – we have documented 29 anti-Muslim incidents. That means nearly one-fifth of the incidents spanning 10 years occurred within one 10-month period.

In 2010, Muslims have been harassed, threatened, attacked and stabbed. For example, in August a taxi driver was slashed in the neck and face after his fare discovered he was Muslim. That same month, a piece of construction equipment was set afire and gasoline poured over other pieces of equipment at the future site of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. These attacks touch more than their victims. They tear at the fabric of our society and instill fear in entire communities.

The toxic atmosphere has also entered our schools, manifesting itself in the harassment of Muslim students and teachers as well as in attempts to limit how the history and culture of Islam is taught. Our Teaching Tolerance program, which reaches 400,000 teachers across the country, has seen the effects. This past October, four high school students in Staten Island, New York, were charged with a hate crime after spending more than a year bullying a Muslim classmate, occasionally beating him and calling him a terrorist. A teacher in Arizona contacted us after an angry caller complained that she had invited a representative from the Islamic Speakers Bureau to speak to students about Islam. There are other incidents:

• Sikhs in Queens, New York, have complained about harassment and bullying of their children in schools. Sikh boys are often threatened with having their turbans pulled off, in addition to being called “terrorists.”

• In Cambridge, Massachusetts, when a store burned down, Muslim high school students were asked by classmates if they bombed the store.

• In St. Cloud, Minnesota, Somali refugees have experienced a spate of incidents. In March 2010, for example, a high school student created a short-lived Facebook group called “I hate the Somalians at Tech High.”

Educators also must contend with organizations such as the American Textbook Council, which has criticized textbooks and complained that textbooks don’t highlight “Islamic challenges to global security.” In September 2010, the Texas Board of Education approved a resolution that would require its textbooks to pass an American Textbook Council litmus test and not cast Islam in a favorable light.

A Pennsylvania educator told us that a history program had come under attack by several parents because they believed the text was “advocating a positive ‘indoctrination’ of Islam.” This type of scrutiny makes teachers extremely wary of teaching about Islam at all, thus perpetuating the fear and myths that are percolating throughout society and creating this anti-Muslim atmosphere.

We must examine what is helping to fuel this toxic atmosphere. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a number of anti-Muslim hate groups operating in the United States. They portray Muslims as fundamentally alien and attribute to its followers an inherent set of negative traits. Muslims are depicted as irrational, intolerant and violent, and their faith is frequently depicted as sanctioning pedophilia, marital rape and child marriage.

These groups also typically hold conspiratorial views regarding the inherent danger to America posed by its Muslim-American community. Muslims are depicted as a fifth column intent on undermining and eventually replacing American democracy and Western civilization with Islamic despotism. Anti-Muslim hate groups allege that Muslims are trying to subvert the rule of law by imposing on Americans their own Islamic legal system, Shariah law. They also broadly defame Islam, which they tend to treat as a monolithic and evil religion. These groups generally hold that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.

One of the most prominent anti-Muslim hate groups is Stop Islamization of America, the New York City-based group run by Pam Geller and Robert Spencer. It was instrumental in creating national anger over the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Geller has written that the 9/11 terrorists practiced “pure Islam, original Islam”; described Islam as “the most anti-Semitic, genocidal ideology in the world”; and said Shariah law was taking over the United States. She has said the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan would be a “triumphal” monument built on “occupied land.” She has called President Obama “a third worlder and a coward” who is anxious to “appease his Islamic overlords” and “wants jihad to win”; and more.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the effects of such vitriol on the public. The Pew Research Center found that nearly one-fifth of Americans (18 percent) believed President Obama was a Muslim in August 2010 – up from 11 percent in March 2009, prior to the controversy over the supposed “Ground Zero mosque.” In addition, 43 percent of all Americans said they didn’t know what Obama’s religion is, despite his profession of Christianity.

Another indicator of the hysteria sweeping the country is the introduction of bills in numerous state legislatures to ban the use of Islamic Shariah law in our courts. These bills are based on a completely unfounded fear.  They are little more than political stunts designed to pander to the country’s growing anti-Muslim sentiment. The real danger is that the fear-mongering associated with these bills will add fuel to the anti-Muslim fire that is brewing.

Political leadership and education is key to tamping down this anti-Muslim xenophobia. Following 9/11, President George W. Bush delivered a series of speeches in which he said Muslims and Arabs were not our enemies. He also appeared publicly with imams and other Muslim leaders. At least in part because of his leadership, anti-Muslim hate crimes decreased in 2002 by about 67 percent – a remarkable drop. The lesson, of course, is that it matters what leaders say in the public square.

Teachers can also play a key role. They must be allowed to offer the facts about Islam and dispel the fear and myths about the Muslim community that is allowing this current hostility to grow. School districts should not be cowed into allowing their social studies classes to reflect the fear and prejudices that have gained traction in some communities.

Today’s political leaders have an important role in speaking out against anti-Muslim hate and bigotry. They must follow the example set by President Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and remind the American public we are not at war with Muslims. At the same time, the government must ensure that hate crimes are vigorously prosecuted so that the Muslim community knows the government is on their side.

Engineering the End: How Planning for Loss Helped a Family Through It

From CNN

By Mike Mikula, Special to CNN
April 18, 2011 — Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)

The author and his father in their earliest days together.

(CNN) — Shortly before midnight on July 23, my father died in my arms.

He was in his bedroom, with two of his four sons and his wife of 44 years. His odometer stopped just shy of 92: a great life and a good death. He had always considered himself lucky.

Five days earlier, Emil Mikula made his wife, Peggy, breakfast before they went to Sunday Mass. Typical for him, he tended to some yard work after that. Later that afternoon, he experienced a pain in his gut so intense he went to the hospital. He would never stand on his feet again.

He’d been diagnosed with colorectal cancer 10 months earlier, and doctors were prepared to operate on him to remove the tumor. Now, surgery was the only way to repair the intestinal rupture that was killing him.

In both cases, Dad was adamant: “Do not cut me.” He was unwilling to take the considerable chance of stroking out on the table and spending the rest of his life incapacitated and unaware.

“I want to go home.” His voice was stern and strong. “I want hospice, and I don’t want to be in pain anymore.”

Calls were made, and soon a hospital bed was waiting in his home in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Emil Mikula, with his brood at Christmas 2008.
Emil Mikula, with his brood at Christmas 2008.

Stunned, but not surprised, I was there the next day with my three brothers, Kevin, Matt and Patrick. I thought we’d gathered to say goodbye, to have one last whatever it was with Dad.

Standing over his failing body, I was thankful that I didn’t need to say goodbye. Thankful that I had always hugged him like I might never see him again. Glad I had seldom let him rush me off the phone.

My mind struggled to process the scene. All around him were stark reminders that the indignities of illness are unmoved by a life of good works: tidy stacks of medical supplies, various medicines and the notebooks chronicling their dispensing, never-to-be finished books and crossword puzzles, the smells of sickness.

When I was a child, Dad was a folk hero — the smartest and strongest man in the world. Now he clung to a chrome bedrail. I broke down. He stirred as I failed miserably at composing myself. He smiled. “Hi Mike.”

That night I read an e-mail from my friend Jeff, himself a veteran of the final march. “Pay attention,” he wrote. “Something important is happening.”

Even Martha Stewart might think my mother goes overboard with her planning. She is a retired schoolteacher, registered nurse and decades-long hospice volunteer. In choosing doctors, hospitals and treatments, she had always been a fierce advocate for Dad’s health. Now she became a fierce advocate for his death.

To her, Dad’s death, though heartbreaking, was as natural as it was inevitable. She knew the greater medical community often views death as defeat. She also had seen hospice patients die at home with the pain aggressively managed, not in a hospital with unmanaged expectations.

Emil Mikula graduated from flight school in 1942.
Emil Mikula graduated from flight school in 1942.

Being both painfully pragmatic and senior citizens, Mom and Dad made their wishes known. They wrote them down and spoke with us. They acted as their own death panel. But it was more abstract than creepy.

Dad had played golf five days a week, regularly shooting his age since his mid-seventies. I call my mom a “shark” because she never stops moving.

In the fall of 2009, however, months of intestinal discomfort led to the colorectal cancer diagnosis. Dad opted for mild chemotherapy. The surgical risks were unacceptable, but he wasn’t conceding any putts yet.

The chemo slowed him down a few ticks. He retained his fine white hair and good looks, but he was smaller and less steady.

In early 2010, he stopped playing golf. He quit, not because he felt bad, but because he wasn’t playing “worth a damn.” There isn’t a person alive who knew my dad when he didn’t play golf. Now he stopped. And, for the first time, I’d allowed that he was going to die someday.

Someday became the Sunday Kevin called with news of Dad’s hospitalization. He’d gone in before, but this one felt different.

Things moved quickly. I’m a professional, with understanding employers and a flexible schedule. I have a reliable partner in my wife, Sarah. Though struggling with her own grief, she and her mother took on our household and children.

My brothers were similarly fortunate, so we were all together. I wondered what death is like for those without such economic and domestic stability. Is it yet another measure of class distinction? Or is it a unifier — we all do what we must when we must?

Dad was conscious and cognizant, so there was never a doubt or dispute about his wishes. But because we were prepared, I am certain we would have pursued the same course had he been incapacitated.

Within minutes of our arrival, Mom handed us a hospice pamphlet that might as well have been called, “So You’ve Decided to Leave Your Physical Body.”

We mocked it, but we read it. It explained step by step how the body’s systems shut down as death approaches, why Dad would take no food and little water — they often cause pain and delay the inevitable. Additional hours and days would not equal additional life. They equaled more pain.

I’d watched my wife bear and deliver our two sons and marveled at the body, a perfect machine. Now I saw parallels. Sarah’s body began changing after conception, its true mission activated as if she had just seen the queen of diamonds. My father’s body was changing, too.

Astronauts don’t just yank the keys out of the space shuttle when the mission concludes. Various systems come off line in a particular order.

Dad’s organ functions slowed. He slept more, interacted less. He was barely in our world.

One afternoon the four of us struggled to change his bedding. We soon cracked ourselves up at the inability of our big brains and strong arms to perform this seemingly simple task. Dad griped. “Is this some kind of f—ing joke?” We got it together. He still wielded power.

After four days, we were ground down raw. I missed my children more than I could have ever imagined.

Friday afternoon I took Kevin to a pub. Kevin drinks less than a six-pack a year, but he said that was the best beer he’d ever had. Just getting away was productive and energizing. We would soon need all that.

Those familiar with hospice know that the employees who come into your home are the closest thing to angels. “Myrtle the Redneck” bathed Dad and worked the room. Nurse Nancy delicately examined Dad and, just as delicately, the rest of us.

On an outing with his first grandson, Donovan, in 2008.
On an outing with his first grandson, Donovan, in 2008.

That Friday, Nancy noted the signs of approaching death. Dad’s extremities were discolored and his breathing had changed. Which term is more unnerving, “death rattle” or “terminal respiration?”

His abdomen was distending and he had been more restless. The infection intensified. Nancy upped his morphine and we braced ourselves for a long night.

There was little communication with Dad now, but his eyes still sparkled for my mom. They looked at each other and cried. She told him it was OK to let go.

Matt and I took the late shift. Kevin slept and Pat returned to his family less than two miles away. Mom slept next to Dad’s hospital bed.

Dad’s attacks were coming about once an hour. He writhed and moaned. Morphine sulfite quickly calmed him.

The later it got, the briefer the respite from attack. Around 11p.m., he writhed so violently he nearly launched his failing body over the bedrails.

We rushed into the room. I held him, calming and securing his body. Matt readied the morphine. I thought to myself, how much more of this can he endure? How much should he endure?

BAM! Another attack. My left arm held him close, my right hand on his heart. It was failing. I locked on his fading eyes. The less his heart beat the more mine did. I whispered, “Go Dad. Go.” He went.

This man who’d held me as I came into the world faded in my arms on his way out. I held this great man, everything he’d done, everything he was, everything he was to me, as he breathed his last. And I never felt smaller.

As Dad would say, the week was not all “skittles and beer.” Our emotions sometimes ruled us. There was stress and anger, hurt and despair, laughter and boredom. We struggled. Stiff drinks were taken.

The next day, I returned to my family in Atlanta. The August 2 New Yorker was waiting for me. If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that coincidences are as much a part of the process as baked hams, and sure enough, there was Dr. Atul Gawande’s article, “Letting Go.” Gawande wrote that our medical and cultural approaches to terminal illnesses make the experience my family just had the exception. Agony and hospitals are all too often the norm.

Some doctors indulge themselves and their patients into thinking that over an endless timeline, with unlimited finances, humanity’s losing streak against death can be snapped. But every gambler knows the house always wins.

Lots of luck went into my Dad’s “good death,” but luck favors the prepared.

Shaykh Mahmud Minshawi Recites Surah al-Nahl and Qisar Surahs

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Shaykh Mahmud Siddiq Minshawi Recites Surahs Naml and Naziat – 2 Hour Video

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Islamic Anasheed: Rashid Ghulam Sings Alumni Dhikr Allah

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Shaykh Mahmud Minshawi Recites Surahs Fath, Hujjurat, and more

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Islamic Anasheed: Rashid Ghulam Sings Ya Imam al-Rusuli

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Shaykh Rageb Mustafa Ghalwash Recites Surah Burooj and al-Shams in Iran

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