Archive for January, 2008

Human Rights Watch Annual Report

An article in today’s Guardian titled “Human rights group condemns western hypocrisy”, summarizes the major points of this year’s Human Rights Watch report on the state of human rights around the world. The article mainly highlights the “Western hypocrisy” of supporting tyrants and despots whenever they are of strategic and economic importance. This list includes, but is not limited to, Musharraf of Pakistan, Mubarak of Egypt, as well as Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Nigerian rulers.

Another point of criticism in the report is the new trend of exporting terror suspects to countries with less than perfect human rights records, where they are then tortured for information. This criticism was aimed mainly at the UK since it was one of the first countries to do this.

On a similar note, the report was highly critical of the Israeli policy of “collective punishment” on the people of Gaza. This came in the form of harsh economic sanctions that deprived the residents of Gaza of basic needs such as electricity, gas, and foods.

“Rarely has democracy been so acclaimed yet so breached, so promoted yet so disrespected, so important yet so disappointing,” HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in an introduction to the 569-page document. …”It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the ‘victor’ is a strategic or commercial ally. …If, unlike human rights law, ‘the road to democracy’ permits locking up political opponents, dismissing independent judges, and silencing the independent press, it is easy to see why tyrants the world over are tempted to believe that they, too, might be eligible.”

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Britney Spears may convert to Islam

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First, I apologize for posting such a ridiculous news item, but this has been rumored for a while so this had to be posted eventually. British paparrazi boss, Adnan Ghalib has been courting Britney for a bit now and there’s talk of marriage already. Britney has been quoted as saying “I love him…we’re taking care of each other. he’s the only one who understands me. Its serious.” Although principles of Islam, such as modesty and chastity, were not exhibited by Spears in the past, perhaps things will change should she step onto the rightly guided path. Maybe not.

Her potential lover, Mr. Ghalib, a notorious paparazzi boss, isn’t much of an example of Islam. He recently tried to sell nude photos of Britney to British tabloids and was disowned by his Muslim family because of “outrageous antics.”

Nevertheless, if this rumor becomes a reality, my hit song “Let Me Know the Prayer Time,” (which was premiered and retired on one memorable night to a sell out crowd at the Binghamton University MSA Banquet a few years ago) may actually have a place on her next CD. Imagine that.

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What is up with the popo

The NYT reported earlier that a couple from Queens, NY, were accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and forcing her into prostitution. The couple, Zalika Brown and detective Wayne Taylor of the NYPD, ran a prostitution ring that involved several women who would hit and kick the young girl because she wasn’t bringing in enough money.

Police brutality is nothing new. Beating up minorities, wrongful deaths, and the planting of evidence is something we hear about all the time. But this is a new low in the history of American law enforcement. It also begs the all too relevant question: If civilian law enforcement agents can behave this way, why are we shocked when we hear about Abu Ghraib and Haditha?

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Sympathy for Gaza

gaza3.jpgOn Sunday, January 27th, after scoring a goal during Egypt’s victory over Sudan, Egpytian midfielder Mohamed Aboutreika revealed the shirt he had been wearing which bore the slogan “Sympathy for Gaza” in Arabic and English.  While the fact that the US has still neglected to cover any of the hardships in Gaza, much less this fantastic display of solidarity is an issue by itself, there is another unfortunate consequence that I wish to focus on. It appears that Mr. Aboutreika was reprimanded (and given a yellow card for you soccer hooligans) for expressing a political slogan on the soccer field. First off, since when is sympathizing with a people who are being starved and murdered considered political?  It was humanitarian. “Feed the hungry,” “Help the homeless,” and “Stop killing children” are all humanitarian slogans I think we can all agree on. FUCK ISRAEL. Now that’s a political slogan (which, coincidentally, I’m sure we can all agree on as well, if you’d pardon my langauge). Secondly, I distinctly remember a Ghanaen player pulling out an Israeli flag and cheering during the last World Cup. Nothing happened to him, and that was in front of a larger, international audience.  Kudos to Mr. Aboutreika, and shame to the Confederation of African Football for its obvious double standard.

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Seven years of bad luck

Old superstition says that if someone breaks a mirror, then they are destined for seven long years of bad luck. In retrospect, it seems that Bush took a baseball bat and went on a mirror-bashing rampage seven years ago because his presidency has seen nothing but bad luck — not just for him but for the rest of the world.

Rigged elections, September 11th, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, Katrina, a failed Middle East road map, failure to reform social security and immigration, Republican sex scandals, Karl Rove’s resignation, both Senate and House lost to Democrats, a failing economy, and the list of blunders highlighted in last night’s State of the Union goes on.

There was no talk of legacy , no ambitious plans put forth. What I saw was a man doing damage control and desperately trying to salvage the reputation of his party for his successor. Is it too late for Republicans? How long before they recover?

For the first question, the answer is clearly NO. There is a long ways before November and with enough campaigning it is not difficult to convince the American voter that religion, abortion, and gay marriage are more urgent matters than the economy, foreign policy, and healthcare. If you don’t believe me, just look at the campaigns, both Republican and Democrat, taking place in America’s bible belt. There is almost no mention of the issues that may propel Democrats to the lead, but instead we are seeing church appearances by all candidates trying to prove they believe in God.

Last I checked, God also wants us to take care of our neighbors, restore peace and justice on Earth, take care of the sick and elderly, and conserve our natural resources for our children.

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Hamas’ Gaza Strip

The Palestinian residents of Gaza may have suffered more than the ones in the West Bank throughout the last two years. The Hamas-controlled government in Gaza may be sanctioned by much of the world and is labeled “Hostile” by Israel, while Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority of the West Bank has been invited to conferences and praised by the West. But the recent act of suffocation by Israel towards the Gaza Strip, and the border-breakout into Egypt forged by Hamas that followed, brought fresh new feelings in Gaza that Mr. Abbas’ PA has lacked. Gazans for the first time in a really long time tasted a bit a freedom and felt a sense a hope.

Both supporters and non-supporters of the militant-Islamic group in Gaza have been thanking Hamas for its brave audacious act of strength under a tremendous suffocation. After Hamas’ men brought down the border walls, Gazans flooded into Egypt to purchase basic necessities like medical supplies, food, and fuel to bring back to the sanctioned Gaza Strip. All while Israel was attempting to continue its “punishment” on the Gazans.

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As over a hundred thousand Palestinians of Gaza charged past the border with Egypt in the last few days, Hamas officials made sure to position themselves along the border to bring order and grab control of the situation it has created for the suffering Palestinians. Hamas is now patrolling the border alongside Egyptian policemen on both sides of the porous border.

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A day after the border was breached, Egypt attempted to reseal it and trap the Palestinians back into what they know as “the largest prison in the world.” However, Hamas became defiant again. Using a bulldozer this time, Hamas’ men brought down another section of the border wall and the Palestinians began to flood into Egypt for the second time.

The persistence of Hamas does not stop there. An article in The Australian titled, “‘Breakout into Israel’ ahead” on 26 June 2008, sites a senior Hamas official warning that “the next breakout from Gaza Strip could be into Israel, with 500,000 Palestinians attempting to marching towards the towns and villages from which they or their parents fled or were expelled 60 years ago.” Although this may seem a bit too hopeful for the organization that has vowed to bring down the Zionist state, their continuous success in the past two years have also come for a shock to many.

In 2006, Hamas’ victory of the Palestinian parliament came as a surprise, as well as its swift takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. However, what is most shocking is its strength to continue its mission and not compromise their platform under the most extreme conditions.

Hamas may be sanctioned by much of the world while the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority has diplomatic relations with the West, but Hamas owns the hearts and minds of its own people; something Mr. Abbas has yet to figure out for himself.

 

-Ehab Z

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‘I told Gazans to come and eat’

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced that he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt because they were starving. Speaking at the Cairo International Book fair, Mubarak told reporters that when Palestinians began breaking through the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah by force, he told his men to let them in to buy food before escorting them out.”

Gee thanks, Mubarak. It just took a few dynamite sticks and tens of thousands of desperate Palestinians to force their way through your border. It’s not much of a gesture when your brothers have to break down your door first.

Yet again, why Arab leaders are an offensive joke. It was the people alone who made the decision to seize their rights and break out of their prison. I don’t know what Arabs and Muslims are so afraid of. Their leaders have much more to fear from them, and this is one example of why. Mubarak was forced to accept what was happening or else answer to a very angry Arab street. I wish I could see more of that collective determination throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

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