November 25, 2005

double standards...yet again

It's been "standard" US policy to advocate civil society institutions as a basis for the promotion of democracy, especially in regions such as the Middle East. This includes, of course, free and open media sources. Governments shouldn't intimidate journalists, shouldn't censor sensitive news and information for any reason.

Now, some people might be surprised that the US keeps criticizing al-Jazeera, the independent Arabic language 24 hour satellite news channel...why would they criticize a channel that is generally independently run without any state influence? One that allows for Arabs to finally voice their opinions and debate sensitive and controversial social, political, and religious issues? Isn't this what open dialogue and democracy should be about? free media? civil society? Well, you would think so. But no. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Jazeera has been known as a "mouthpiece for terrorists" at Bush, Inc. because they broadcast the tapes from OBL and other terrorists. They call suicide bombings in Palestine "martyrdom operations" and they call the US presence in Iraq "occupation of Iraq". As if such criticism isn't enough and as if this doesn't already sound hypocritical on the part of the US government and the Bush administration, now THIS is revealed in the British press.

Now, let me just say that even though I know a lot of crap happens in politics, and especially at times of war, I cannot even begin to FATHOM that a *president* would even CONSIDER such an action. At first, I thought this must be some tabloid crap. Apparently, it isn't and al-Jazeera is demanding a full investigation.

Another serious blow to US credibility in the Arab world, courtesy of...

Bush, Inc.


November 24, 2005

Israeli occuation = barrier to education (among other things)

Not only does the IDF prevent farmers from getting to their land, laborers from getting to their jobs, families from seeing each other, it also hinders and in many cases prevents students from getting to their schools and universities as well as teachers and professors from reaching their students. The IDF continuously intimidates and threatens students who need to cross checkpoints. Not to mention the
Apartheid Wall which is also a major obstacle to education.

picture is worth a thousand words.

The continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a serious violation of the human rights of students as it is
an obstacle in their pursuit of knowledge.


reform ?

how? how do we fix what is wrong with the middle east in general in light of what happened in Jordan? democracy? yes, that's the obvious solution. but how? baby steps of reform? there are so many issues and many more questions...but really, the government needs a major overhaul.
it's interesting that the int'l media and the jordanian govt keep playing on this idea that jordanian was such a hub of tranquility and peace. yes, it was, on the surface. jordanians are some of the highest taxed citizens in the world. over the past decade or so, FDI has poured into the country, the king's privatization programs have been underway, and the war on iraq brought millions (literally) to help with things such as border protection and training troops. but there was money allocated for non-military programs. for economic and social programs. where did it go? there's not accountability. the average jordanian hasn't seen changes. i go there every summer. the potholes are still there. the towns are beat up. the people are unemplyed. there is hunger. the only changes i see are in amman. more foreigners, many more. more malls for them and posh hotels for them. it's really easy to figure it out. take a stroll in mecca mall... u will find that nobody is carrying a shopping bag, seriously, nobody can afford anything in there, except the foreigners. jordanians go there to hang out. nothing wrong with that, but don't tell me, look amman is booming, business is flourishing. it's not flourishing because of jordanians. they're not gaining anything.

what KILLS me though, is that they still defend the king, and they have reached a level of hopelessness and carelessness that i have not seen before. we complain about the long lines in govt offices, the corruption, the bad schools, etc...tell someone to go talk about it to an elected official, they will laugh in your face.
sometimes i feel like i expect too much from them, telling them to go talk to public officials, hey, jordan ain't america you know. u can't knock on the congressman's office and tell him what's bothering you. but still, there should be an impetus for change, not just accepting the status quo, a crappy one that is.

i don't know what to say. i was watching jordanian tv this morning, announcements about the new government, bla bla bla... what does it all mean really? some old guy "resigned" and some new old guy was appointed in his place. they follow the same rules, face the same limitations, and work under the same rules for the past god knows how many years.
i will try not to judge this new initiative by the king, so we'll see what happens.
it's hard not to be cynical, but i want to see the impact of such "reforms" on the average jordanian. that's what's needed for people to really feel a change. not just 'official' announcements and decrees on tv.
we're in the 21st century, people can see now what goes on outside their borders. they don't need state television anymore.

we need serious reform.


November 23, 2005

11/9 in Amman...what do we do?

The events are not on the front pages anymore...the wedding doesn't make headlines in the evening news. But the reality of the situation still exists. Bombs still go off in crowded police lines in Iraq, and who knows where it will be next...
When I first heard about the bombings in Amman, I was really surprised. Unlike in other places, like Bali or Sharm el-Sheikh where there were previous similar events, Jordan has been very quiet, despite the fact that it's surrounded by the worst current conflicts in the ME and two of the most oppressive regimes. Israel/Palestine and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Syria. And now Syria has some "drama" too. Stupid to think that something like this wasn't about to happen, really.

When it happens to your country, though, it's different. Even for me, and I'm not an apologetic person when it comes to targeting civilians; I've been angered by all the previous random terrorist attacks and never believed they were justified. But it was in Jordan, my uncle works close to one of the hotels. It could've been my cousin or friend... It didn't hit me as hard as 9/11 since I live 20 mins away from the Pentagon, but it hit me hard. I'm human, and we all tend to relate more to "our people" whether it's in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, cultural group, age group, etc.

Let me break down the feelings...

Anger: at the perpetrators mainly. at the government for failing to protect its citizens. at those individuals, many from my own country, who gave excuses for previous terrorist attacks.

Sadness: for the victims. for the state of our world. for the lack of peace and security in almost every corner of the universe. whether from terrorism, hunger, occupation, unemployment, disease, homelessness....

Frustration: because the perpetrators kept getting away. the real bad guys kept lurking somewhere in the background. this was not relieved that much after the would-be bomber was caught. we don't know what she told the police, if they have any evidence to catch zarqawi, what they will do to her, etc.

Cynicism: at the protests that occurred in the streets of Jordan. Not that I don't agree with their condemnation of terrorism and Zarqawi...but because this strong reaction was not seen when similar attacks took place in the region and elsewhere.

But then again, did Americans really give a damn about terrorist attacks before 9/11? Did the majority of the population know about or care to give a damn about the atrocities committed (directly and indirectly, overtly and covertly) by the US government and other allies of the US? Since when did we care about Afghan women and their oppression by the Taliban?

I immediately came the realization that from the horrors of the attacks, something good may emerge. Maybe Jordanians, and other Muslims and Arabs, will begin to realize that there are some terrorists who are blinded by their ideology of ignorance. The last person I want to sound like is Bush or one of his henchmen. I don't want to say, "we told you so. terrorism is blind. you should always condemn it. they hated you because of your freedoms" or some BS like that.

BUt really, we need to do some serious self-reflection. Where did this Zarqawi come from? and OBL? and his followers? and the 9/11 hijackers? How were they brainwashed and convinced? Did their leaders use Islam to justify their actions, and if so, how could a sane person fall for that?

I seriously believe that we as Muslims need to take a closer look at our communities, we need to stay blaming others, and we need to take the initiative to solve our own problems. Muslims are not infalliable, nor will they ever be. And just because there may be some bad apples in the bunch doesn't mean we can't weed them out. The key component is US, WE, not THEM. We need to take care of our own internal issues. If we have individuals who interpret the Quran without much knowledge of it, who have their own agendas, who have personal interests, who may think that they are all-knowing about Islam, then we need to question them. How are they reaching our children? Why are they pushing their extremist ideas on to them? Why is it that we can't be responsible for what our teens listen to, who they interact with, who preaches to them? Parents need to be more active. I want a grassroots kind of change. I don't want the Jordanian police to be spying in mosques and kicking out 'controversial' imams. I don't want the US to be providing help with intelligence to the Jordanian government. This will not end terrorism. It will not end Islamic fanaticism. We need to bring the change from with in.

No, I"m not calling for an 'Islamic revival' or 'revolution'. What I'm taking about is something that is so simple that it can't even be called revolutionary. We need to think.
Think about what we are told, question what we are taught. Not for the sake of questioning, but for the sake of not blindly following.

It's so hard to say what I think. We can't just accept the authority that tells us what Islam is. Each of us has been endowned by God with the necessary brain power to rationally interpret the Quran which is the source of laws and human regulations within Islam. Yes, we need some help. We need to read books to tell us the context of verses. To elaborate on them. Of course. I'm not rejecting or condemning the Islamic scholars who dedicated their lives to the study of religious texts. However, we need to not just follow one individual blindly. I read an interpretation, I should realize that it's simply that, an interpretation. A human being's interpretation. There are other human beings who interpret, and even though I can't read all of them, I shouldn't just take one for granted. I should make more of a personal effort to understand the Quran, the religion that tells me not to kill and murder and terrorize. It's my responsibility. I will be held accountable. And when I do something against it, I will be held for that, not the "imam who told me."

Some people will say, don't question, it's haraaaaam. Wrong. First of all, saying this is haram and that is not, that's a problem within itself. Questioning for the hell of it, for wasting a person's time and energy, that's messed up. I say don't question, but reflect on what you hear, what you read. Make an effort to find out for yourself what it means. But also use the knowledge of those who have studied these texts for ages. Use both.

Use common sense. Indiscriminate murder doesn't make sense. Whether it's committed by an individual, an organization, or a state. Wrong is wrong.
Murder is wrong.
Oppression is wrong.

MY hope is that Jordanians learn from this event. Learn not to blindly follow religious or political authority. Protesting and cussing out Zarqawi ain't gonna solve it. Loving the king and waving his picture ain't gonna solve it. It takes individual committment and community involvement. We need to bring back the essence of Islam, peace.

Wassalamu Alaikum (peace be with you).

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no more months

no more month long intervals between my blogs, seriously, i need to straighten up. i've been wanting to comment on a lot of things, so i will just do so in a bundle today. here goes...