Islamic Theology in Indonesia, was infected by USA?

This article from Washington Post. About Islamic Theology that is infected by American?

By Andrew Higgins

In the early 1980s, Nasir Tamara, a young Indonesian scholar, needed
money to fund a study of Islam and politics. He went to the Jakarta
office of the U.S.-based Ford Foundation to ask for help. He left
empty-handed. The United States, he was told, was “not interested in
getting into Islam.”

The rebuff came from President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, a U.S.
anthropologist who lived in Indonesia for more than a decade. Dunham,
who died in 1995, focused on issues of economic development, not matters
of faith and politics, sensitive subjects in a country then ruled by a
secular-minded autocrat.

“It was not fashionable to ‘do Islam’ back then,” Tamara recalled.

Today, Indonesia is a democracy and the role of Islam is one of the most
important issues facing U.S. policy in a country with many more Muslims
than Egypt, Syria, Jordan and all the Arab countries of the Persian
Gulf combined. What kind of Islam prevails here is critical to U.S.
interests across the wider Muslim world.

“This is a fight for ideas, a fight for what kind of future Indonesia
wants,” said Walter North, Jakarta mission chief for the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), who knew Dunham while she was here
in the 1980s.

It is also a fight that raises a tricky question: Should Americans stand
apart from Islam’s internal struggles around the world or jump in and
try to bolster Muslims who are in sync with American views?

A close look at U.S. interactions with Muslim groups in Indonesia —
Obama’s boyhood home for four years — shows how, since the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks, rival strategies have played out, often with consequences
very different from what Washington intended.

In the debate over how best to influence the country’s religious
direction, some champion intervention, most notably a private
organization from North Carolina that has waded deep into Indonesia’s
theological struggles. But, in the main, U.S. thinking has moved back
toward what it was in Dunham’s day: stay out of Islam.

A change in public mood

In many ways, Indonesia — a nation of 240 million people scattered
across 17,000 islands — is moving in America’s direction. It has
flirted with Saudi-style dogmatism on its fringes. But while
increasingly pious, it shows few signs of dumping what, since Islam
arrived here in the 14th century, has generally been an eclectic and
flexible brand of the faith.

Terrorism, which many Indonesians previously considered an American-made
myth, now stirs general revulsion. When a key suspect in July suicide
bombings in Jakarta was killed recently in a shootout with a
U.S.-trained police unit, his native village, appalled by his violent
activities, refused to take the body for burial.

A band of Islamic moral vigilantes this month forced a Japanese porn
star to call off a trip to Jakarta. But the group no longer storms bars,
nightclubs and hotels as it did regularly a few years ago, at the
height of a U.S. drive to promote “moderate” Islam. Aceh, a particularly
devout Indonesian region and a big recipient of U.S. aid after a 2004
tsunami, recently introduced a bylaw that mandates the stoning to death
of adulterers, but few expect the penalty to be carried out. Aceh’s
governor, who has an American adviser paid for by USAID, opposes
stoning.

Public fury at the United States over the Iraq war has faded, a trend
accelerated by the departure of President George W. Bush and the
election of Obama. In 2003, the first year of the war, 15 percent of
Indonesians surveyed by the Pew Research Center had a favorable view of
the United States — compared with 75 percent before Bush took office.
America’s favorability rating is now 63 percent.

There are many reasons for the change of mood: an economy that is
growing fast despite the global slump; increasing political stability
rooted in elections that are generally free and fair; moves by President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a U.S.-trained former general who won
reelection by a landslide in July, to co-opt Islamic political parties.

Another reason, said Masdar Mas’udi, a senior cleric at Nahdlatul Ulama,
Indonesia’s — and the world’s — largest Islamic organization, is that
the United States has backed away from overt intrusions into religious
matters. A foe of hard-line Muslims who has worked closely with
Americans, Mas’udi said he now believes that U.S. intervention in
theological quarrels often provides radicals with “a sparring partner”
that strengthens them. These days, instead of tinkering with religious
doctrine, a pet project focuses on providing organic rice seeds to poor
Muslim farmers.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington deployed
money and rhetoric in a big push to bolster “moderate” Muslims against
what Bush called the “real and profound ideology” of “Islamo-fascism. ”
Obama, promising a “new beginning between America and Muslims around the
world,” has avoided dividing Muslims into competing theological camps.
He has denounced “violent extremists” but, in a June speech in Cairo,
stated that “Islam is not part of the problem.”

North, the USAID mission chief, said the best way to help “champions of
an enlightened perspective win the day” is to avoid theology and help
Indonesia “address some of the problems here, such as poverty and
corruption.” Trying to groom Muslim leaders America likes, he said,
won’t help.

Rethinking post-9/11 tack

This is a sharp retreat from the approach taken right after the Sept. 11
attacks, when a raft of U.S.-funded programs sought to amplify the
voice of “moderates.” Hundreds of Indonesian clerics went through
U.S.-sponsored courses that taught a reform-minded reading of the Koran.
A handbook for preachers, published with U.S. money, offered tips on
what to preach. One American-funded Muslim group even tried to script
Friday prayer sermons.

Such initiatives mimicked a strategy adopted during the Cold War, when,
to counter communist ideology, the United States funded a host of
cultural, educational and other groups in tune with America’s goals.
Even some of the key actors were the same. The Asia Foundation, founded
with covert U.S. funding in the 1950s to combat communism, took the lead
in battling noxious strands of Islam in Indonesia as part of a
USAID-financed program called Islam and Civil Society. The program began
before the Sept. 11 attacks but ramped up its activities after.

“We wanted to challenge hard-line ideas head-on,” recalled Ulil Abshar
Abdalla, an Indonesian expert in Islamic theology who, with Asia
Foundation funding, set up the Liberal Islam Network in 2001. The
network launched a weekly radio program that questioned literal
interpretations of sacred texts with respect to women, homosexuals and
basic doctrine. It bought airtime on national television for a video
that presented Islam as a faith of “many colors” and distributed
leaflets promoting liberal theology in mosques.

Feted by Americans as a model moderate, Abdalla was flown to Washington
in 2002 to meet officials at the State Department and the Pentagon,
including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the then-deputy secretary of defense and a
former U.S. ambassador to Jakarta. But efforts to transplant Cold War
tactics into the Islamic world started to go very wrong.
More-conservative Muslims never liked what they viewed as American
meddling in theology. Their unease over U.S. motives escalated sharply
with the start of the Iraq war and spread to a wider constituency. Iraq
“destroyed everything,” said Abdalla, who started getting death threats.

Indonesia’s council of clerics, enraged by what it saw as a U.S.
campaign to reshape Islam, issued a fatwa denouncing “secularism,
pluralism and liberalism.”

The Asia Foundation pulled its funding for Abdalla’s network and began
to rethink its strategy. It still works with Muslim groups but avoids
sensitive theological issues, focusing instead on training to monitor
budgets, battle corruption and lobby on behalf of the poor. “The
foundation came to believe that it was more effective for intra-Islamic
debates to take place without the involvement of international
organizations, ” said Robin Bush, head of the foundation’s Jakarta
office.

Abdalla, meanwhile, left Indonesia and moved to Boston to study.

One U.S. group jumps in

While the Asia Foundation and others dived for cover, one American
outfit jumped into the theological fray with gusto. In December 2003, C.
Holland Taylor, a former telecommunications executive from
Winston-Salem, N.C., set up a combative outfit called LibForAll
Foundation to “promote the culture of liberty and tolerance.”

Taylor, who speaks Indonesian, won some big-name supporters, including
Indonesia’s former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, a prominent but ailing
cleric, and a popular Indonesian pop star, who released a hit song that
vowed, “No to the warriors of jihad! Yes to the warriors of love.”
Taylor took Wahid to Washington, where they met Wolfowitz, Vice
President Richard B. Cheney and others. He recruited a reform-minded
Koran scholar from Egypt to help promote a “renaissance of Islamic
pluralism, tolerance and critical thinking.”

Funding came from wealthy Americans, including heirs of the Hanes
underwear fortune, and several European organizations. Taylor, in a
recent interview in Jakarta, declined to identify his biggest American
donor. He said he has repeatedly asked the U.S. government for money but
has received only $50,000, a grant from a State Department
counterterrorism unit.

“You can’t win a war with that,” said Taylor, who is working on a
26-part TV documentary that aims to debunk hard-line Islamic doctrine.
“People in Washington would prefer to think that if we do nothing we
will be okay: just cut off the heads of terrorists and everything will
be fine.”

As the atmosphere has grown less hostile, Abdalla, the much-reviled
American favorite, returned this year to Jakarta. He hasn’t changed his
liberal take on Islam but now avoids topics that fire up his foes. “I’ve
changed. The environment has changed,” he said. “We now realize the
radical groups are not as dominant as we thought in the beginning.”

Tired of being branded a fringe American stooge, he plans to run in an
election next year for leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama, a pillar of
Indonesia’s traditional religious establishment. He doesn’t stand much
of a chance but wants to “engage with the mainstream instead of the
periphery.” His Liberal Islam Network doesn’t get U.S. money anymore,
skirts touchy topics on its radio show and no longer hands out leaflets
in mosques.

“Religion is too sensitive. We shouldn’t get involved,” said Kay
Ikranagara, a close American friend of Obama’s late mother who works in
Jakarta for a small USAID-funded scholarship program. Ikranagara worries
about Islam’s growing influence on daily life in the country, but she’s
wary of outsiders who want to press Indonesians on matters of faith.

“We just get in a lot of trouble trying to do that,” she said.

http://www.washingt onpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/ article/2009/ 10/24/AR20091024 02279.html

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Bibles with ‘Allah’ are Confiscated

 http://www.latimes. com/news/ nationworld/ world/la- fg-briefs30- 2009oct30, 0,7232083. story

 
October 30, 2009
 
MALAYSIA

Bibles with ‘Allah’ are confiscated

Malaysian authorities have confiscated more than 15,000 Bibles because they referred to “God” as “Allah,” a translation that has been banned in this Muslim-majority country, Christian church officials said.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said authorities seized a consignment of 10,000 copies sent from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Kuching, in Sarawak state, on Sept. 11 because the Indonesian-language Bibles contained the word “Allah.”

An additional 5,100 Bibles, also imported from Indonesia, were seized in March, said an official from the Bible Society of Malaysia.

A Home Ministry official said he was not aware of the seizures.

Church officials say “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam but is an Arabic word that predates Islam.

West Java: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

West Java.: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

http://www.charisma mag.com/index. php/news/ 23489-indonesia- church-wins- legal-battle- to-worship- in-building

Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in
their building in Depok City, West Java.

Depok Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail on March 27 had revoked the building
permit for a multipurpose building and house of worship for Gereja
Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church following protests by
Muslims. A court in Bandung on Sept. 17 rescinded the order that
revoked the church building permit, paving the way for congregants to
resume worship there.

Head Judge A. Syaifullah read the decision of the three-judge panel,
which found the mayor’s reasoning for canceling the building permit
inadequate. The mayor had said that most people living near the church
objected to its building in Jalan Pesanggrahan IV, Cinere Area of
Depok City.

“These objections by the local residents should have been raised when
the building permit was going through the approval process, not
protesting afterwards,” said Syaifullah.

Syaifullah added that the mayor also should have taken the views of
church members into consideration.

“In this case, the revocation of the building permit was based upon
the objections of one group in the community without considering those
from the church,” he said.

Construction of the church building had begun in 1998, shortly after
the permit was issued, but halted soon afterward due to a lack of
funds.
When the project began anew in 2007, members of a Muslim group from
the Cinere Area of Depok City and neighboring villages damaged the
boundary hedge and posted protest banners on the walls of the
building. Most of the protestors were not local residents.

The court determined that lawyers for the church successfully
demonstrated that church leaders had followed all Depok City
procedures for the building permit. Betty Sitompul, vice-chair of the
HKBP church building committee, stated that the church court win was a
victory for all Christians.

“We won because we had followed all the procedures and had completed
all the required documents,” she said.

In early June the church had filed suit against the mayor’s action in
a provincial court in Bandung, with church lawyer Junimart Girsang
arguing that the mayor’s revocation of the permit was wrong.

Girsang said that the court had finally sided with justice for all Indonesians.

“The judges made the right decision and had no choice, because all of
the papers for the permit were done properly,” he said.

The church had been meeting in a naval facility located about five
kilometers (nearly three miles) from the church building since the
permit was revoked, causing great inconvenience for church members,
many of whom did not have their own transportation.

In South Sumatra Province, another HKBP church outside the provincial
capital city of Palembang is trying to overcome objections by Muslim
protestors in order to complete construction of its building in Plaju.

Church leaders acknowledge they had not finished the application
process for a permit before beginning construction. They said they
went forward because after they applied to the mayor of Palembang, he
told them to talk with the governor of South Sumatra. After talking
with Gov. Alex Noerdin and securing his approval on Feb. 10, church
leaders began construction on a donated plot of 1,500 square meters
only to face a demonstration by members of several Muslim
organizations on June 27.

The South Sumatra Muslim Forum (FUI Sumsel) organized the
demonstration. Carrying a copy of a mayoral decree dated May 2009
ordering a halt to construction, the protestors gathered outside the
building site, listened to speeches and then destroyed a bridge
leading to it before demanding that the government ban the building
project.

Applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in
Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in
private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities. Such gatherings
leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups
such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), in recent
years responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches.

———— –

6 Steps to Enjoying Your True Wealth by Bo Sanchez

How to Be More Emotionally Present to Your Family No Matter How Busy You Are
 
6 Steps to Enjoying Your True Wealth
By Bo Sanchez
     We  were going to Hong Kong that day. I was going to preach for three days but had two extra days to be with my family. Picture us at the airport:  My  wife  carrying  our  baby in her arms, my eldest son bouncing about  like  a rabbit and announcing to the whole world, “I’m going to Hong Kong  Disneyland!”  And  the  poor  skinny  father? Straining to push eight massive  bags  on  a wobbly cart with a stubborn right wheel. (I’ve noticed that these deranged carts supernaturally end up with me wherever I go.)

     That was when we heard the crying.

     Correction.  Not  crying.  But  spine-chilling,  lung-busting screaming.  Two kids were holding onto their mother. They were separated by four-foot  tall  steel  bars. But to those distraught children, those steel bars  represented two years of being without their mother – the contract of a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

     Four small arms clutching, grabbing, not letting go.
    
     The  whole  world  heard  their pleading scream, “Mommy, please don’t go! Please don’t go!” I’ll never forget the mother’s pained, tortured face  –  as  though  a  knife  was  ripping through her body. My wife cried openly. I wept inside and held onto my kids more closely.

      That was two days ago. Yesterday, the story continued…

      Those Small Arms Continue to Reach Out Yesterday was Sunday.

      And I walked around Central.

      If you don’t know Hong Kong, Central is where thousands upon thousands of Filipina Domestic Helpers congregate. They sit on sidewalks. They sit on overpasses. They sit by storefronts.

       I walked passed one woman who was reading a handwritten letter.

       The handwriting was obviously a child’s penmanship.

       I walked passed another listening to a little cassette player – not to listen to music – but to a voice of a kid telling stories.

       But  what  broke  my heart was the news given to me by Shirley, the  head  of  one  organization  that  tries  to  help  them get financial education.  I  was  shocked  by  what she said. “Brother Bo, out of our 700 members who are married, 80% is already separated from their husbands.”

       Families aren’t designed for prolonged separation.

       They’re not just made for that.

       We’re supposed to spend time together.

              6 Steps to Spending More Time with Your Family No Matter How Busy You Are

      “Bo, why are you telling me this? I’m not in Hong Kong. I’m living with my family under one roof.”

        Listen. Yes, you’re not in Hong Kong.

        But if you don’t have time for your family – and your heart is not focused on them – you might as well be in another country.

        You could be physically present – but are you emotionally present as well?

        Let me share with you six important steps you could take to become more emotionally present with them…
Step #1: Be Close.

     I’m still in Hong Kong as I write this piece.

     It’s  five in the morning as I type this article in bed. And my little family is literally around me because we’re all sleeping on one bed. Yes, we’ve become one mass jumble of intertwined humanity – our limbs, legs and  arms  crisscrossing  each  other.  And that’s when I realize – gosh, I don’t know how blessed I am.

     Why?

     Here I am with my family. I feel their skin. I smell their scents. We’re so close, I feel their breath.

     And yet I’m surrounded by 148,000 domestic helpers here in Hong Kong that have been away from their families for months, for years, for decades.

     And for those who’ve separated – forever.

     Let me say it again: We don’t know how blessed we are.

     We complain that our families are nutty. But we don’t understand how blessed we are to have them close enough to experience their nuttiness. We complain about our petty quarrels, our cold wars, our dysfunctionality.

      But whose family isn’t dysfunctional?

      I’ve  talked  to  some  people here in Hong Kong who would give anything  to  be  with  their  families  again  –  even for just one day of nuttiness.  The first step is to be more emotionally present to your family is to actually be physically present to them. Be close!

      You  need  to know how precious your family is – and treat them that  way.  You need to see them as your true wealth – that nothing is more precious than your relationships.
Step #2: Be Deliberate.

     Because you need to protect this treasure or they get stolen from you.  No matter how busy I am, I schedule a weekly romantic date with my spouse.
     Yes, I actually write it down in my appointment book and treat it like a meeting with the President of the Philippines. These weekly nights are blocked off for the entire year. Nothing can touch it, except some dire emergency.

     Why?  Because if my marriage fails, everything else stands to fail as well: My  ministry,  my businesses, my soul… So it is an emergency that I bring her out every week.

     I also schedule a weekly date with my kids.

      I believe parents need to do these one-on-one dates with each of their kids. Unless of course you’ve got 18 children and may need to bring them out by two’s or three’s.

     Sometimes my son and I just walk around the village and talk.

     It doesn’t have to be big. But swapping stories and opening our hearts to one another on a consistent basis is already very big to them. It means they matter to you – that you value them – and you’ll see their self-esteem grow.
Step #3: Be Expressive.

     I tell my wife “I love you” seven times a day.

     I hug my kids countless of times a day.

     At  night,  I  tell  my kids, “I’m so proud you’re my son. I’m so proud I’m your  Daddy.  You’re  a  genius.  You’re a loving boy. You’re an incredibly gifted young man…”

     This is true. I have met 40-year olds who long to hear these words from their parents – “I’m proud of you,” and feel an empty space – like a gaping wound in their souls because their parents have never told them this.

     Don’t do that to your kids.

     And before I forget: Praise your kids seven times a day.

     And praise your spouse seven times a day.

     I’m not kidding. It will revolutionize your marriage.

     If I say, “Criticize your spouse seven times a day,” I bet you’d say, “Kaunti naman. I do that already.” But that’s the problem. We don’t realize that when we criticize our spouses, we actually destroy our marriage bit by bit – not just our spouses.

     But when you praise and honor your spouse – you build up your marriage.

     It can be very simple stuff:
        Ang sarap ng luto mo ngayon, Hon.
        I thank God He gave you to me.
        You’re so hardworking.
        I love it when I see you play with the kids.
        You know how to make me happy.
        Ganda mo ngayon.

     Keep on doing this and you’ll see changes in your life and your marriage you thought were not possible.

     Let me say it again: Praise your spouse – and your children – seven times a day.

  Step #4: Be Deep.

      Your weekly dates shouldn’t just be watching movies, eating out and going home.

      Talk deep.

      Talk about your feelings.

      Enter into each other’s worlds. Dive into each other’s dreams, hurts, desires, worries, hopes and burdens.

       When you open yourself up to your spouse or your child, there are more chances for the other person to open up to you.

Step #5: Be Simple

     Yesterday afternoon, I preached to 700 people in Hong Kong.

      I usually give my talks for 45 minutes. That’s been my trademark. But yesterday, I gave a solid two-hour talk. Vein-popping, heart-pounding, passion-driven talk – because I had a burden in my heart.

      Because I preached on Financial Literacy.

      I challenged them, “Raise your financial I.Q.!”

      I  scolded  them, “When you left the Philippines, you told your kids,  ‘Anak, two years of separation lang ‘to. After two years, Mommy will have  saved enough and will go home and we’ll be together again.’ But after two  years,  you  go  home and you haven’t saved. Because you repainted the house.  Because there’s a new TV set in the living room and a new gas range in the kitchen. Because the kids have new designer rubber shoes.

      I taught them how to live simply and ruthlessly save 20% of their income.

      Because unless they do this, they will be forever trapped in Hong Kong.

      Look at your life.

      Are you living simply?

      Are you saving 20% of your income?

Step #6: Be Financially Intelligent

     I also taught them where to invest.

     I told them, “It’s not enough to just save. You need to know where to put your money. Because savings accounts at 1% and time deposits at 5% won’t do. Inflation – which is at 7% – will simply eat them up.”

     So I taught them about mutual funds and other investment vehicles, including the ability to sell something and get into business.

     Here’s the truth: The more you know about money, the less time you need to make money. So the more time you have for your family.

     Actually, a time should come when you don’t need to make money. Instead, you let money make money. And that requires financial intelligence.

     Read. Attend seminars. Look for mentors.

     Go Home.

     After giving my talk, I took a deep breath and told my audience in Hong Kong, “When you follow these principles and have saved enough – please go home. Please go home to your children.”

     I made a lot of people cry that day.

     I’m telling you the same thing.

     Oh yes, you may be living with your family in one house, but it’s possible that your heart is so far away from your spouse and kids – and they are far away from you as well.

      You need to let your heart go home.
 
      Go home my friend.
      Your heart belongs there.

Letter from an Israeli Jail

http://english. pravda.ru/ world/americas/ 08-07-2009/ 108016-letterisr aelijail- 0

08.07.2009

Letter from an Israeli Jail

This is Cynthia McKinney and I’m speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies – and even crayons for children, I had a suitcase full of crayons for children. While we were on our way to Gaza the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around.

The Israelis high-jacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

At the outbreak of Israel’s Operation ‘Cast Lead’ [in December 2008], I boarded a Free Gaza boat with one day’s notice and tried, as the US representative in a multi-national delegation, to deliver 3 tons of medical supplies to an already besieged and ravaged Gaza.

During Operation Cast Lead, U.S.-supplied F-16’s rained hellfire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full scale outright genocide. U.S.-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons, and cluster bombs – new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel’s onslaught that Gaza had become Israel’s veritable weapons testing laboratory, people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.

The world saw Israel’s despicable violence thanks to al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international water … It’s a miracle that I’m even here to write about my second encounter with the Israeli military, again a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military.

The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime … I am now known as Israeli prisoner number 88794. How can I be in prison for collecting crayons to kids?

Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else’s children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza’s children have crayons then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.

I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza’s children could color & paint, that Gaza’s wounded could be healed, and that Gaza’s bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.

But I’ve learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it’s incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream … like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better … The once proud, never colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.

My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn’t cheap. Many of them represent their family’s best collective efforts for self-fulfilment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel only after they arrived Israel told them “there is no UN in Israel.”

The police here have license to pick them up & suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world’s first Jews and Christian. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.

The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped in Ramle’s detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for 6 months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change, and ‘yes we can’ were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfilment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.

It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel’s marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.

We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to do so. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the U.S. have a lot to atone for, for what they’ve done to others around the world.

What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people’s children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I’m experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I’m lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?

Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] what are you willing to do?

Let’s change the world together & reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity. I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes. I appeal to the United State’s Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel country report in its annual human rights report. I appeal once again to President Obama to go to Gaza: send your special envoy, George Mitchell there, and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.

I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine, and to the women I’ve met at Ramle. This is Cynthia McKinney, July 2nd 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794

Moslem in China: The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009
12:36 Mecca time, 09:36 GMT
 
FOCUS: CHINA  
 
Uighurs blame ‘ethnic hatred’
 
 By Dinah Gardner in Beijing  
The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]
 

The riots that rocked the city of Urumqi in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are the area’s worst for more than a decade. 

In the 1990s, Uighur insurgent groups staged several deadly bomb attacks across the region; in 2008, attacks on police and government targets in Xinjiang ended with more than two dozen deaths.

What makes these riots different, however, is the high number of causalities. Exile groups say violence erupted after police moved in on Sunday to break up a peaceful demonstration protesting against the killing of two Uighur migrant workers in southern China last month.

Many Uighurs – the Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority of the region – and overseas scholars say the recent violence is rooted in deep-seated and long-standing resentment between the Uighur people and the Han Chinese majority, who account for 92 per cent of the population.

Andrew James Nathan, a political science professor at Columbia University in the US, says deteriorating relations between the Uighur and the Han are to blame for the latest riots.

“I don’t know what triggered this specific event, but the underlying tension that broke out in this as well as previous events reflects the alienation of the Uighur residents from the kind of rule imposed by Beijing, which is insufficiently respectful of their culture, religion, identity, and interests,” he says.

Ethnic tensions persist

From her exile in the US, Kadeer denied any involvement in the unrest in Xinjiang [AFP] 

The government, though, is clear about who is to blame – outside forces, in particular Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the US-based World Uighur Congress (WUC).

“The unrest was a pre-emptive, organised, [and a] violent crime. It was instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country,” a government spokesperson said.

Kadeer, a former political prisoner in China who now runs the WUC as a Uighur rights organisation, rejects the accusations.

“I did not organise any protests or call on the people to demonstrate, ” she says.

A young Uighur man, who has been living in Beijing for the past five years, agreed to an interview on the condition that he remain anonymous, saying he feared repercussions from the authorities.

He says Kadeer and the WUC could not have been behind the violence.

“Ever since I was born until now there has been this problem between Uighur and Han,” he says.

“Han people don’t treat us or our culture with any respect, and the key thing is that there are more and more Han coming to live in Xinjiang. And that means us Uighur people are losing our culture and we have less freedoms.”

Relations are so bad, he says, that Han taxi drivers will not even pick him up on the streets of Urumqi.

Uighur children, he says, are barred from learning their own language in schools – from middle school onward studies are solely in Chinese.

“They don’t allow us to teach our children about Islam in schools. They are not allowed to study religion until they are at least 18.”

“They have taken away our language and our culture. Han people treat us like dirt.”

Outside forces

Tensions had been reaching boiling point in the past week or so after the deaths of the two Uighur migrant workers. They were killed in a fight in a toy factory in Guangdong province following a rumour that six Uighur men had raped two Han Chinese women.

While Chinese media is acknowledging the link between the Urumqi riots and the tragic killings in Guangdong, it is insisting that outside forces used the incident “in the name of revenge” to “sow the seeds of racial and religious hatred in Xinjiang”.

Al Jazeera approached several Chinese scholars for comment on the riots in Xinjiang but they declined to be interviewed, saying they do not have permission to discuss the issue with journalists.

The killings were definitely the spark for this latest violence, says Dru Gladney, a professor of anthropology and Xinjiang specialist at Pomona College in California.

“I think it is connected [with the Guangdong killings] at least that’s what I’ve been told by Uighurs I have spoken to,” Gladney says, adding that this time because the violence took place in Urumqi it is likely the protest is rooted in anger at Han treatment rather than any religious-based fight for independence.

“I think it was significant that it took place in Urumqi because Uighurs there only make up about 10 per cent of the population,” he explains by phone.

“Most protests have historically been outside Urumqi, in rural areas in the south or in Yili in the north … There are more worker solidarity issues [in Urumqi] – a lot of the Uighur intellectuals and more secular nationalist Uighurs are based in urban areas like Urumqi whereas more religious activists are in the countryside and places like Kashgar.”

Blaming insurgent groups

Beijing says the insurgent groups are fighting for independence and may be connected to al-Qaeda, but for the average Uighur, independence seems an unattainable dream.

The young Uighur man in Beijing says his people are powerless and it is useless pursuing notions of independence.

“China has caught and suppressed our culture and religion. They have destroyed our history and our ancient buildings in Kashgar. And now it’s all gone.”

Meanwhile, in Urumqi, the city is under lock-down, according to western media. Curfews have been imposed and mobile phone and Internet links cut, much as authorities crushed anti-government riots in Tibet last year.

Despite the crackdown, the chances are, say scholars, that this is not the end of it.

“Protests in Xinjiang have been increasing slowly for many years and I think the prospect is that they will continue to occur, both this year and in future years,” says Nathan.

Anniversary celebrations

Some analysts hope the level of violence will convince Beijing to heal rifts with the Uighur

The government is particularly on edge this year because of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.

While officially, the government insists this problem is caused by exile separatists and local “outlaws”, Gladney is hopeful that the scale of the violence will convince Beijing that the solution lies less in an authoritarian approach and more in trying to heal the rifts between the ethnic groups.

“I think some of us are hoping that it may cause them to rethink their strike hard tactics that they’ve used up until now, but certainly not until things settle down,” he says. “Clearly with this level of [violence] it should cause them to really rethink that.”

How do the local people see an eventual solution to the ethnic strife?

The Uighur man strokes his beard and laughs nervously.

“I don’t know how to solve this problem,” he says. “I wish I was in Xinjiang now but I’m not there. I feel helpless.”

 
 Source: Al Jazeera

Watching Obama Morph Into Dick Cheney

Watching Obama Morph Into Dick Cheney

By Paul Craig Roberts

May 21, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — – America has lost her soul, and so has her president.

A despairing country elected a president who promised change. Americans arrived from every state to witness in bitter cold Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. The mall was packed in a way that it has never been for any other president.
The people’s good will toward Obama and the expectations they had for him were sufficient for Obama to end the gratuitous wars and enact major reforms. But Obama has deserted the people for the interests. He is relying on his non-threatening demeanor and rhetoric to convince the people that change is underway.
The change that we are witnessing is in Obama, not in policies. Obama is morphing into Dick Cheney.
Obama has not been in office four months and already a book could be written about his broken promises.
Obama said he would close the torture prison, Guantanamo, and abolish the kangaroo courts known as military tribunals. But now he says he is going to reform the tribunals and continue the process, but without confessions obtained with torture. Getting behind Obama’s validation of the Bush/Cheney policy, House Democrats pulled the budget funding that was to be used for closing Guantanamo.
The policy of kidnapping people (usually on the basis of disinformation supplied by their enemies) and whisking them off to Third World prisons to be interrogated is to be continued. Again, Obama has substituted a “reform” for his promise to abolish an illegal policy. Rendition, Obama says, has also been reformed and will no longer involve torture. How would anyone know? Is Obama going to assign a U.S. government agent to watch over the treatment given to disappeared people by Third World thugs? Given the proclivity of American police to brutalize U.S. citizens, nothing can save the victims of rendition from torture.
Obama has defended the Bush/Cheney warrantless wiretapping program run by the National Security Agency and broadened the government’s legal argument that “sovereign immunity” protects government officials from prosecution and civil suits when they violate U.S. law and constitutional protections of citizens. Obama’s Justice Department has taken up the defense of Donald Rumsfeld against a case brought by detainees whose rights Rumsfeld violated.
In a signing statement this month, Obama abandoned his promise to protect whistleblowers who give information of executive branch illegality to Congress.
Obama is making even more expansive claims of executive power than Bush. As Bruce Fein puts it: “In principle, President Obama is maintaining that victims of constitutional wrongdoing by the U.S. government should be denied a remedy in order to prevent the American people and the world at large from learning of the lawlessness perpetrated in the name of national security and exacting political and legal accountability. ”
Obama, in other words, is committed to covering up the Bush regime’s crimes and to ensuring that his own regime can continue to operate in the same illegal and unconstitutional ways.
Obama is fighting the release of the latest batch of horrific torture photos that have come to light. Obama claims that release of the photos would anger insurgents and cause them to kill our troops. That, of course, is nonsense. Those resisting occupation of their land by U.S. troops and NATO mercenaries are already dedicated to killing our troops, and they know that Americans torture whomever they capture. Obama is fighting the release of the photos because he knows the barbaric image that the photos present of the U.S. military will undermine the public’s support for the wars that enrich the military/security complex, appease the Israel Lobby, and repay the campaign contributions that elect the U.S. government.
As for bringing the troops home from Iraq, this promise, too, has been reformed. To the consternation of his supporters, Obama is leaving 50,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The others are being sent to Afghanistan and to Pakistan, where on Obama’s watch war has broken out big time with already one million refugees from the indiscriminate bombing of civilians.
Meanwhile, war with Iran remains a possibility, and at Washington’s insistence, NATO is conducting war games on former Soviet territory, thus laying the groundwork for future enrichment of the U.S. military/security complex. The steeply rising U.S. unemployment rate will provide the needed troops for Obama’s expanding wars.
Obama can give a great speech without mangling the language. He can smile and make people believe his rhetoric. The world, or much of it, seems to be content with the soft words that now drape Dick Cheney’s policies in pursuit of executive supremacy and U.S. hegemony.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review.