About Me

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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reward for Calif. arsonist now at $500K

The smoke of the fires in Cabazon has filled my neighborhood.
4 firefighters lost their lives and one is in grave condition. My heart goes to their respective families and loved ones. What a loss and pain.

Investigators have determined the fire to be an arson.
I pray that they catch this arsonist and punish him to the full extent of the law for his total disregard to people's safety.

Hate Email of the Week

Every day, I receive dozens of emails expressing support and friendship or hatred and threats. I thought it might be good to share some of them with you. I am not sure why though. May be it will give you an idea of the kind of people I have to deal with, the good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

Here is a hate email:

From: reneekatz
Wednesday, October 25, 2006 10:22 AM
To: Jakob Kobi
Subject: FW: Boycott
the New Muslim USPS stamp

They are blowing up Christians everywhere and we are going to honor their {MUSLIM} holiday with a postal stamp.

and our GOVERNMENT expects us to buy and use them on our cards that celebrate the birth of JESUS, whom the MUSLIMS hate and want to rid the world of all who believe in Him.

Remember what this stamp looks like and do not BUY them.

How ironic is this??!! They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp, but don't dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?

The USPS already issues stamps commemorating the Christian holiday of Christmas (with both religious and festive themes) and the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah as well as Kwanzaa.
I guess to some, American Muslims are not equal citizens!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

US Ambassador to Iraq lives in LaLa Land

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad must not venture outside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad to listen to Iraqis stating that their lives are worse now than before the invasion. (Which is a sad statement considering that that life was under the dictatorship of Saddam)

The Ambassador said that Iraqis are better off now than before the invasion because they now have cell phones and satellite dishes. Oh my God!

He are excerpts from the AP article:

Envoy says not all is bad in Iraq
By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad insisted Tuesday that things are not all bad in Iraq, citing the growing number of satellite dishes on rooftops and consumers with cell phones as signs of economic progress.

"Economically, I see an Iraq every day that I do not think the American people know about — where cell phones and satellite dishes, once forbidden, are now common, where economic reform takes place on a regular basis, where agricultural production is rising dramatically, and where the overall economy and the consumer sector is growing," the American envoy told a Baghdad news conference.

Some Iraqis saw things differently.

"We'd prefer he take those back and return just 10 percent of our prewar life," said Mohammed Ibrahim, a 50-year-old government employee from Baghdad. "Saying things like that shows the Americans' contempt for us Iraqis."

Analogies between conditions in Iraq now and life before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq are common among Iraqis, angered over what they see as the failure of successive Iraqi governments and their American backers to provide security, services or jobs.

Khalilzad spoke at one of the lowest points in America's involvement in Iraq.

An average of more than 40 Iraqis are being killed every day in October, according to an Associated Press count that is based on AP reporting and considered a minimum. The violence has forced nearly 1 million Iraqis to flee abroad since 2003 and as many as 300,000 more have become refugees in their own country because of sectarian killings...

Amrah al-Badawi, a Shiite lawmaker and a member of parliament's economic committee, chuckled when told of Khalilzad's comments.

"Iraqis longed for mobile phones and satellite television, but their availability now are of little relevance to the economy," she said. "What we need is economic ventures, and these are not going to happen with security the way it is."...

For Alaa Makki of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's largest Sunni party: "We ended up with a worse-than-before dictatorship. We now have slaughter, kidnapping and disenfranchisement."

Don't know about you, but I don't like where this course is taking us to!

I am tired of hearing this administration telling us that we need to stay the course in Iraq. What if this course leads to an abyss? How many more Iraqis have to die before the Bush administration and its naive supporters realize that our policy in Iraq has completely failed? How many American soldiers have to lose their lives for this immoral and illegal war? How many parents, Iraqis and Americans, have to lose their children in Iraq before we change this deadly course.

It is time to change direction. I actually think it is time we change the incompetent drivers too!

Vote on November 7th because if you don't, you should not complain.

Watch this short and powerful BBC video to find out why we will never win in Iraq and why a large majority of Iraqis still perceive us as an occupation and want us out of Iraq.

Video: GuardianFilms and BBC Newsnight present ...

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Latest on Tan Nguyen's Campaign

Today, I received an email from Fr. Wilfredo Benitez-Rivera who has previously contributed a nice poem to this blog. In his email, he offered an update on Tan Nguyen. Here is the update:

Dear Friends:

Here's a shot I took this morning which pretty much sums up the situation for Tan Nguyen. Sometimes my photographic eye is a prophetic eye.
In Gospel Justice,
Padre Wilfredo+

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Muslims Call on Tan Nguyen to Pull Out of Race

47th District Candidate Sent Offensive Mailers to Muslims and Latinos

(ANAHEIM, 10/20/06) – The Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today called on the 47th Congressional District Candidate Tan Nguyen to apologize to the voters of the district and withdraw from the race.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush and leaders from the Latino, Vietnamese and other communities attended a press conference today, speaking out against Nguyen’s possibly illegal actions and affirming the commitment of the 47th District residents to stay united and not let attempts at spawning fear and intimidation tear the community apart.
SEE: Agents Search GOP Candidate’s Campaign Office

At the press conference, Ayloush stated:

“We are a nation of immigrants, and immigrants have built America and made significant contributions to strengthening our country. It is not acceptable for any political candidate to score cheap political gains and points at the expense of immigrants and Muslims by intimidation or scare tactics.

Mr. Tan Nguyen has continued his immoral and un-American politics of spreading fear against the Muslim and immigrant communities. We reject actions that seek to divide Americans along religious and racial lines. We reject any attempt to intimidate Americans from exercising their democratic right to vote and participate in the affairs of their country.

We call on Mr. Tan Nguyen to pull out of the Congressional race, and apologize to all the people of our district for the pain and fear he has caused. We join our voice with those of Republican leaders calling on Mr. Tan Nguyen to withdraw from this race. He has caused enough division, fear and intimidation.”

Nguyen’s campaign has been linked with letters circulating in the Latino community, warning people in Spanish, “You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time…”

Earlier in his campaign, Nguyen had also angered Muslims with his offensive and inflammatory use of a photograph of a Middle Eastern terrorist to link the hot-button issues of terrorism and illegal immigration.

Ayloush added, “I invite Mr. Tan Nguyen to take time to visit with diverse people of the 47th District and learn about their challenges, their dreams and their hopes. All people are one. All people are the same. They all love their country, and they strive to take care of their families, whether they are Caucasian, Vietnamese, Latino, Muslims, Jews, or Christians.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

BABY GIRL AYLOUSH IS BORN. We need your help with the name

Today, my wife Arwa, my kids and I were blessed with a beautiful Ramadan gift from God. Our fourth child was born. Both mother and baby are healthy, Alhamdulillah (praises be to God)

I want to thank all of you who had been calling and emailing to offer your prayers and congratulations. I am currently spending the night at the hospital with Arwa and the baby.

Meanwhile, I need your help. We decided on a name, but we can't seem to agree on the spelling.

We need your help.
We decided to name her Safiyya after the name of the wife of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Our other girls are named after two other wives, Aisha and Marya. Our son is named Omar, after the great companion of the Prophet. In case you missed the pattern, Aisha was Muslim, Marya was Christian, and Safiyya was Jewish when the Prophet married them. Indeed a gesture of respect taught to us by the Prophet.

Here is where we need your help. We are debating how to spell Safiyya's name. Please pick one one of the following options and send us your suggestion by email to: ayloush@usa.net

1. Safiyya
2. Safiya
3. Sophia
4. Sofia

We are counting on you.
Feel free to forward it to others to solicit their suggestion. We have to choose the name by Thursday.

Thank you in advance.

Updated on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Thank you. We received dozens of suggestions from friends and family, mostly recommending the name Safiyya because it is original and it best allows for our preferred pronounciation. So we went ahead with Safiyya.
Thank you all again for your prayers and good wishes. My family and I are very grateful.

May Allah/God bless you all and your families.
I will be posting a few of the many good wishes we received from many of you who could not post it on the blog because they did not have a blog account. (What are you waiting for?)

Friday, October 13, 2006

It is humbling to be popular

At a recent press conference, a reporter jokingly asked me how I felt now that there is a group called CAIR Watch. I replied that I felt privileged.

I am not sure that our organization is worthy of such attention, but I guess fringe right-wing groups think otherwise (or may be they are running out of people to hate). So I decided to find out what this group is "watching". It turned out that the website is a compilation of news items from the CAIR email messages in which CAIR is mentioned (I guess that such mention annoys them big time) and the posting of false accusations against CAIR and its members.

I will not waste time responding to this childish website since anyone can visit CAIR's website and learn about its mission, work and what respected leaders say about it.

One item that amused me most was a posting by a weirdo (he seems more like deranged, if you ask for my opinion) called Airhead, I mean Whitehead, in which he laments the fact that I was invited to the FBI's Citizens Academy. He read about it on my blog and lost his marbles over it (actually I am not sure if this was caused earlier in his childhood due to being dropped on his head). I have to admit that I felt really humbled to be that popular. It is not always that one gets to upset bigots. Don't get me wrong, I know bigots are usually upset by default, but this time, Whitehead must have lost some sleep over this.

For that, I am very honored and humbled. Thank you Mr. Airhead.

Meanwhile, I advise you to get a life and spend less time hating others. It is more fun to be at peace with yourself and with others.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Smartest Comment on the Danish Cartoons

Gary Trudeau, creator of the 'Doonesbury' comic strip, says cartoonists should draw the line when it comes to offending people. In an interview published in the Santa Barbara Independent:

Q. What did you make of the Danish cartoon mess? I understand that you said you would never play with the image of Allah. But did you feel you should have done so out of a sense of professional solidarity, or to make a statement about freedom of speech?

A. What exactly would that statement be? That we can say whatever we want in the West? Everyone already knows that. So then the question becomes, should we say whatever we want? That, to me, is the crux. Do you hurt people just because you can? Because you feel they shouldn’t be deeply hurt, does that mean they aren’t? Should the New York Times run vicious caricatures of blacks and Jews just to show the First Amendment in action? At some point, common sense and sensitivity have to be brought to bear.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Can a Muslim run for office in America?

I obviously think that every America should be able to run for office, regardless of their race or religion. But it seems not everyone thinks this way.
Read below:


GOP Leader Says Anaheim Council Candidate Backs Extremist Groups Syrian-born Bill Dalati focuses on America's enemies, Web note says. Dalati says his faith and heritage are being questioned.
By Dave McKibben
Times Staff Writer

October 9, 2006

A state Republican party leader has roiled a sleepy Anaheim City Council race with allegations that an Arab American candidate is anti-American and supports extremist groups.

The accusations against Bill Dalati, an insurance agent who was born in Syria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1987, surfaced last week in a letter from former state Republican Party chairman Shawn Steel and on various websites. On the OC Blog, a politically conservative website, the headline atop the letter opposing Dalati's candidacy read "Something Scary in Anaheim."

Steel, the state GOP leader from 2001 to 2003, said he wrote the letter to alert fellow conservatives that Dalati — a moderate Republican — could be a "Manchurian candidate."

"He looks good on the outside, but the guy could be an extremist," Steel said Friday. "Is his primary concern to fix the potholes and improve the city, or does he really have an agenda here to support extremist organizations and cloak them with respectability?"

In the letter, Steel questioned Dalati's connections to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, later calling CAIR a "pretty radical, nasty group." He also cited Dalati's involvement with an Anaheim rally protesting the Israel-Lebanon conflict, and his endorsement of Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney of Georgia, a Democrat.

Dalati, who came to the U.S. in 1984 and has been an Anaheim resident for 12 years, said he was frustrated and angered by the letter.

"I need to be out on the campaign trail, not worrying about all this negative stereotyping,"
Dalati said. "People should look at the issues, not where I came from. Everybody came from somewhere. It's clear that my faith and my heritage are the reason they don't want me around."

Dalati, a 41-year-old Muslim, doesn't deny that he supports CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights group in the country and largely viewed as a mainstream organization. Local Republican law enforcement officials such as Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca have attended the local chapter's fundraisers.

Hussam Ayloush, director of CAIR's Southern California chapter, in Anaheim, said Steel had a history of making "Islamaphobic" comments.

"The people of Anaheim would appreciate it if outsiders with personal political agendas would keep their divisive political views away from the city," said Ayloush, who a few years ago filed a defamation suit against Steel that was later dismissed. "For Muslims to witness what is happening in this campaign, it only makes us realize what it must have been like for Catholics, Jews and African Americans to run for office."

Dalati also defended his association with the rally protesting the Israel-Lebanon conflict.

"I'm not against Jews or Christians," he said. "I don't support Hezbollah. I just don't believe wars solve any issues; love does."

Dalati said he donated money to McKinney because of her stance against the Iraq war. In the 2000 presidential election, Dalati said he supported President Bush and convinced many fellow Arab Americans to vote with him. Dalati said he did not endorse Bush in 2004.

"I support the president in so many ways, but not on this issue," he said. "I don't believe in war.
I don't believe in the killing of innocent people. I believe in justice and dialogue."

Steel's letter, written to local Republican leaders, was posted on the OC Blog by former state Sen. John Lewis (R-Orange), who is a consultant for one of Dalati's opponents, Councilman Bob Hernandez. Five others, including incumbent Richard Chavez, are also in the running for two council seats, which are elected citywide.

Hernandez said he had nothing to do with Steel's letter or its posting, but didn't distance himself from its sentiment. He said he was particularly offended by Dalati's connection to McKinney, whom he called "rabidly left-leaning."

"This has nothing to do with ethnicity, religion or the way you think politically," Hernandez said. "It has to do with judgment and who the people want to represent them. [Dalati] does not represent the mainstream thinking in Anaheim."

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, a former Assembly speaker and a Republican, said he didn't believe the attack on Dalati was warranted.

"I don't see the substantiation to the aggressive charges made against Mr. Dalati," he said. "It's kind of sad to see them. In my dealings with him, he's been nothing more than a businessman in our community."

Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who has endorsed Dalati, said he was the victim of an "underhanded and bigoted" attack.

"Those who attack him for his heritage and his faith misrepresent who he is and what he has done," said Galloway, a Democrat.

Dalati, who has also been endorsed by Anaheim Councilman Richard Chavez, a Democrat, has invested $200,000 of his own money in the council race. In addition to his insurance business, Dalati remodels and sells run-down houses in town.

Although he has never run for council, Dalati is well known in the community of 350,000, having served on the city's culture and heritage commission and hosting his own television talk show on a local cable channel.

Dalati, part of a large Arab and Muslim population in Anaheim, said he ran for council in part to be a role model for his community.

"I wanted to give them hope and empower them," he said. "We love this country, we would die for this country. It's given us more than our country. We want to make it better."

An Apology from a Bush Voter

By Doug McIntyre
Conservative Host
Talk Radio 790 KABC

(Ayloush comment: I do have my personal disagreement on some of what Doug said, but overall, I think it is a courageous and principled move)

There’s nothing harder in public life than admitting you’re wrong. By the way, admitting you’re wrong can be even tougher in private life. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bill Clinton or Charlie Sheen. But when you go out on the limb in public, it’s out there where everyone can see it, or in my case, hear it.

So, I’m saying today, I was wrong to have voted for George W. Bush. In historic terms, I believe George W. Bush is the worst two-term President in the history of the country. Worse than Grant. I also believe a case can be made that he’s the worst President, period.

In 2000, I was a McCain guy. I wasn’t sure about the Texas Governor. He had name recognition and a lot of money behind him, but other than that? What? Still, I was sick of all the Clinton shenanigans and the thought of President Gore was… unthinkable. So, GWB became my guy.

For the first few months he was just flubbing along like most new Presidents, no great shakes, but no disasters either. He cut taxes and I like tax cuts.

Then September 11th happened. September 11th changed everything for me, like it did for so many of you. After September 11th, all the intramural idiocy of American politics stopped being funny. We had been attacked by a vicious and determined enemy and it was time for all of us to row in the same direction.

And we did for the blink of an eye. I believed the President when he said we were going to hunt down Bin Laden and all those responsible for the 9-11 murders. I believed President Bush when he said we would go after the terrorists and the nations that harbored them.

I supported the President when he sent our troops into Afghanistan, after all, that’s where the Taliban was, that’s where al-Qaida trained the killers, that’s where Bin Laden was.

And I cheered when we quickly toppled the Taliban government, but winced when we let Bin Laden escape from Tora-Bora.

Then, the talk turned to Iraq and I winced again.

I thought the connection to 9-11 was sketchy at best. But Colin Powell impressed me at the UN, and Tony Blair was in, and after all, he was a Clinton guy, not a Bush guy, so I thought the case had to be strong. I was worried though, because I had read the Wolfowitz paper, “The Project for the New American Century.” It’s been around since ‘92, and it raised alarm bells because it was based on a theory, “Democratizing the Middle East” and I prefer pragmatism over theory. I was worried because Iraq was being justified on a radical new basis, “pre-emptive war.” Any time we do something without historical precedent I get nervous.

But the President shifted the argument to WMDs and the urgent threat of Iraq getting atomic weapons. The debate turned to Saddam passing nukes on to terror groups. After 9-11, the risk was too great. As the President said, “The next smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud.” At least that’s what I thought at the time.

I grew up in New York and watched them build the World Trade Center. I worked with a guy, Frank O’Brien, who put the elevators in both towers. I lost a very close friend on September 11th. 103 floor, tower one, Cantor Fitzgerald. Tim Coughlin was his name. If we had to take out Iraq to make sure something like that, or worse, never happened again, so be it. I knew the consequences. We have a soldier in our house. None of this was theoretical in my house.

But in the months and years since shock and awe I have been shocked repeatedly by a consistent litany of excuses, alibis, double-talk, inaccuracies, bogus predictions, and flat out lies. I have watched as the President and his administration changed the goals, redefined the reasons for going into Iraq, and fumbled the good will of the world and the focus necessary to catch the real killers of September 11th.

I have watched the President say the commanders on the ground will make the battlefield decisions, and the war won’t be run from Washington. Yet, politics has consistently determined what the troops can and can’t do on the ground and any commander who did not go along with the administration was sacked, and in some cases, maligned.

I watched and tried to justify the looting in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. I watched and tried to justify the dismantling of the entire Iraqi army. I tired to explain the complexities of building a functional new Iraqi army. I urged patience when no WMDs were found. Then the Vice President told us we were in the “waning days of the insurgency.” And I started wincing again. The President says we have to stay the course but what if it’s the wrong course?

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.

Most historians believe it takes 30-50 years before we get a reasonably accurate take on a President’s place in history. So, maybe 50 years from now Iraq will be a peaceful member of the brotherhood of nations and George W. Bush will be celebrated as a visionary genius.

But we don’t live fifty years in the future. We live now. We have to make public policy decisions now. We have to live with the consequences of the votes we cast and the leaders we chose now.

After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I’ve reached the conclusion he’s either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.

Presidential failures. James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding-— the competition is fierce for the worst of the worst. Still, the damage this President has done is enormous. It will take decades to undo, and that’s assuming we do everything right from now on. His mistakes have global implications, while the other failed Presidents mostly authored domestic embarrassments.

And speaking of domestic embarrassments, let’s talk for a minute about President Bush’s domestic record. Yes, he cut taxes. But tax cuts combined with reckless spending and borrowing is criminal mismanagement of the public’s money. We’re drunk at the mall with our great grandchildren’s credit cards. Whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?

Bush created a giant new entitlement, the prescription drug plan. He lied to his own party to get it passed. He lied to the country about its true cost. It was written by and for the pharmaceutical industry. It helps nobody except the multinationals that lobbied for it. So much for smaller government. In fact, virtually every tentacle of government has grown exponentially under Bush. Unless, of course, it was an agency to look after the public interest, or environmental protection, and/or worker’s rights.

I’ve talked so often about the border issue, I won’t bore you with a rehash. It’s enough to say this President has been a catastrophe for the wages of working people; he’s debased the work ethic itself. “Jobs Americans won’t do!” He doesn’t believe in the sovereign borders of the country he’s sworn to protect and defend. And his devotion to cheap labor for his corporate benefactors, along with his worship of multinational trade deals, makes an utter mockery of homeland security in a post 9-11 world. The President’s January 7th, 2004 speech on immigration, his first trial balloon on his guest worker scheme, was a deal breaker for me. I couldn’t and didn’t vote for him in 2004. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms-- this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any American’s lifetime.

You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the White Sox, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.

None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. Again, historically speaking, its times like these when America needs a vibrant opposition to check the power of a run-amuck majority party. It requires it. It doesn’t work without one. Like the high and low tides keep the oceans alive, a healthy, positive opposition offers a path back to the center where all healthy societies live.

Tragically, the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything. In fairness, I don’t believe a Democrat president would have gone into Iraq. Unfortunately, I don’t know if President Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. And that’s one of the many problems with the Democrats.

The two party system has always been clumsy and imperfect, but it has only collapsed once, in the 1850s, and the result was civil war.

I believe, as I have said countless times, the two party system is on the brink of a second collapse. It’s currently running on spin, anger, revenge, and pots and pots and pots of money.

We’re being governed by paper-mache patriots; brightly painted red, white and blue, but hollow to the core. Both parties have mastered the cynical arts of media manipulation and fund raising. They’ve learned the lessons of Watergate and burn the tapes. They have learned to divide the nation for their own gain. They have demonstrated the willingness to exploit any tragedy for personal advantage. The contempt they have for the American people is without parallel.

This is painful to say, and I’m sure for many of you, painful to read. But it’s impossible to heal the country until we’re willing to acknowledge the truth no matter how painful. We have to wean ourselves off sugar coated partisan lies.

With a belated tip of the cap to Ralph Nader, the system is broken, so broken, it’s almost inevitable it pukes up the Al Gores and George W. Bushes. Where are the Trumans and the Eisenhowers? Where are the men and women of vision and accomplishment? Why do we have to settle for recycled hacks and malleable ciphers? Greatness is always rare, but is basic competence and simple honesty too much to ask?

It may be decades before we have the full picture of how paranoid and contemptuous this administration has been. And I am open to the possibility that I’m all wet about everything I’ve just said. But I’m putting it out there, because I have to call it as I see it, and this is how I see it today. I don’t say any of this lightly. I’ve thought about this for months and months. But eventually, the weight of evidence takes on a gravitational force of its own.

I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don’t believe the Democrats are offering an alternative. That means we’re on our own to save this magnificent country. The United States of America is a gift to the world, but it has been badly abused and it’s rightful owners, We the People, had better step up to the plate and reclaim it before the damage becomes irreparable.

So, accept my apology for allowing partisanship to blind me to an obvious truth; our President is incapable of the tasks he is charged with. I almost feel sorry for him. He is clearly in over his head. Yet, he doesn’t generate the sympathy Warren Harding earned. Harding, a spectacular mediocrity, had the self-knowledge to tell any and all he shouldn’t be President. George W. Bush continues to act the part, but at this point whose buying the act?

Does this make me a waffler? A flip-flopper? Maybe, although I prefer to call it realism. And, for those of you who never supported Bush, its also fair to accuse me of kicking Bush while he’s down. After all, you were kicking him while he was up.

You were right, I was wrong.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Video: Broadening the Scope of the Pope

I know that the Pope's comments are behind us, but I thought that this commentary was one of the most comprehensive to deal with the whole issue. I suggest that you watch it.

Video: Broadening the Scope of the Pope
by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Me, Arab. You, wholesome American fearing for your life

Me, Arab. You, wholesome American fearing for your life
Saturday, October 07, 2006

By Moustafa Ayad
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Close to where the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette flies its American flag, I was questioned by an FBI agent.

Moustafa Ayad is a Post-Gazette staff writer (mayad@post-gazette.com).

If it had eluded my consciousness before, it was clear at that
moment: This was my new American reality.

Me, Arab.

You, wholesome American fearing for your life.

But if it has come down to whether this country stays safe or whether I become the scapegoat for all the racist and xenophobic feelings that grow day by day in this country -- I choose the latter. Freedom, after all, is not free. Right, Mr. President?

The 100 or so Iraqis dying on an average day in Iraq know this. The American families missing and fearing for the lives of 150,000 brothers, husbands, fathers, sisters, wives and mothers fighting in Asia and the Middle East are learning the lesson, too.

So, in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his minions, which has gone nowhere for years, it is only right that we investigate every Arab living between the Atlantic and Pacific. In the pursuit of a security blanket for God-fearing Americans, it is only right that some of us feel the chill where democracy pokes its feet out.

Outside, on that overcast day when FBI Special Agent Frankie Canady questioned me about an alleged threat I made to a Texas constable from my work telephone, my mind briefly drifted and I wondered if this was how the hunt for terrorists in America is really being conducted.

Could a Moustafa, Mohammed or Ahmed going about normal life at any moment get sucked into a parallel universe where he becomes a cohort of Osama bin Laden bent on violence against the Westerners and Zionists who control the world, where he waits anxiously to find the al-Qaida decoder ring in his next box of Mujahedeen Marshmallow Cereal?

My ring has yet to arrive, probably because it takes so long to ship things from that cave in Pakistan. But I still have my Muslim Brotherhood calendar of burka-clad women posing with rocket-powered grenades.

Agent Canady questioned me for about 15 minutes beneath the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sign that stares out onto the Boulevard of the Allies.

It was conducted with all of the informality of a passing conversation about the weather, but the transcript would read more like a witness being grilled before the Senate's Intelligence Committee.

"Did you leave a threatening message for a Houston constable?" the agent asked.

"What?" was my reply.

Inside my head, my mother appeared and, in her soothing Egyptian accent, said, "Now, Moustafa, what you say in response to this question will mean a lot."

My own thought was, "How do I answer this man? Anything I say could be used against me in a court of law, right, Adam-12?"

I mustered this actual reply, "Of course I didn't. That's crazy."

In the abyss of my brain, a little me popped up and kicked the back of my cerebellum and said, "Crazy??!!!?? You used the word 'Crazy?'
Are you completely oblivious to what can happen to you if this informal little chat leads back to headquarters?"

The little me inside my head then donned a black hood.

"Sir, why would I leave a threatening message for a constable? A member of the law enforcement community?" I asked, sort of laughing.

Little me: "This is not funny, buddy. Laughing only likens you to the Unabomber. Do you have a manifesto? You are going to be water-boarded and beat with fists wrapped in T-shirts that read, "These Colors Don't Run."

"An agent in Texas was informed by a constable that he received a threatening message and it was traced back to your phone number here," Agent Canady told me, pointing to the Post-Gazette building.

Little me: "TRACED??? They are tracing your phone calls, man. Did they hear you tell your mother about that rash?"

I then went into a lengthy explanation, which probably made it sound like I was guilty, about how I had been working on an obituary involving a gentleman and a dog killed in a home invasion in Texas who may have had ties to McKeesport. I left several messages for constables in the Houston area and even talked to one constable's wife, leaving a number and my name.

Wait , I left my name . . .

A name like Moustafa doesn't fit comfortably on the back of a baseball jersey. Moustafa Grover Washington was not one of the co-signers of the Declaration of Independence. The name Moustafa usually turns up on a basketball court or in a cell at Gitmo.

Sorry, there are no names in Gitmo. Moustafa might be rendered there as prisoner 98764.

Even so, an unfamiliar name left on an answering machine somewhere, even south of the Mason-Dixon line, would not seem to be cause for a federal investigation.

But in Texas, land of executions and black gold, simply saying the name Moustafa apparently constitutes the missing link between now and the next terrorist attack.

It is almost as if Arabs have never been a part of the American dream. As if my mother didn't work two jobs when we first came to the United States. As if my father wasn't born in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I speak Arabic with an American accent. Yet my name, in and of itself, has now become a threat.

What should I do?

Change it, as my mother suggested?

No, said the little me inside my head: Embrace it. Answer all of the FBI's questions fully, without a trace of hostility. Throw in a joke.

Because everything can and will be used against you in the land of milk and honey.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hearts Melt Quickly

A Message from
Rev. Ellen Debenport,
Senior Minister

Hearts Melt Quickly

Someone had to ask the question. I was in a roomful of women in a Muslim mosque. We had been invited to learn more about Islam, and beautiful women in veils were explaining the practice of Ramadan as the sun set on another day of fasting. We had only a few minutes left before prayer time. I had to ask:

What is the deal with women in Islam? I have fought so hard in my lifetime for equality. This is America! How can Muslim women submit to men?

I didn’t use those exact words, of course, but they knew exactly what I was thinking. The hostess answered, then various Muslim women took me aside during the rest of the evening to add their two cents. “You’re the one who asked the question about equality…” they began. They seemed grateful for a chance to explain.

Women and men are equal in the eyes of God, they said, but human beings have different roles on the earth. Several of the women claimed they have the better deal. A man is expected to support a family entirely, while for a woman, a paying job is optional, and she may or may not contribute her wages to the household. Women are educated equally and may be doctors, lawyers, whatever they choose. Women also have the special blessing of giving birth, and responsibility for the children is theirs. Family is key. They are tending the future by caring for the children.

Wearing head scarves is optional, they said; women are not being kept under wraps. They value their modesty and don’t want to be judged by their appearance “like some Hollywood celebrity”, one woman told me. They are patterning themselves after the Virgin Mary, who is portrayed in art as demure and modest and was certainly blessed in the eyes of God

I was fascinated. This was the iftar or fast-breaking meal that is celebrated after the sun sets each day during the month of Ramadan. Muslims do not eat or drink all day and make a special effort to avoid impatience or harsh words. Like Lent in the Christian tradition, Ramadan is not so much about physical denial but “has been prescribed for you … so that you may become Al-Muttaqun (God-conscious)”, says the Koran.

The Islamic Association of Collin County in Plano invited about 100 guests to what I gradually realized was a brilliant PR blitz. They want as many people as possible to know who Muslims truly are. The female guests were mostly schoolteachers whose classrooms include Muslim children. The association also has established a speakers bureau to send Muslim representatives to schools, law enforcement, churches and corporations.

They believe the best way to establish harmony is simply to let people know them. We were warmly welcomed and well fed, given books and DVDs about Islam, and offered answers to any question. I left feeling honored, appreciated and warm toward Muslims.

Of course, I knew Islam is not a religion of terror. But driving home, I recognized other ignorance and assumptions I’d been holding. My view of Muslim women came largely from what I’d seen of the Taliban in Afghanistan, an aberration that confused tyranny with religious principles. One short evening with a few Muslims shifted my outlook forever. Is it really as simple as getting to know each other?

I had the same experience with gays years ago. Any judgment or uneasiness disappeared as soon as I started working with a few gay people who were willing to let me know them. They answered my questions, explained life from their point of view, and quickly became just part of the gang.

It happens everywhere. Blacks and whites have gotten to know each other better in desegregated schools and workplaces. Global travel has taught us that most people are pretty much alike. They laugh, they cry, they love their children, they eat together as a sign of friendship. Pockets of intolerance still exist, of course, as do ancient and violent grudges. But the Muslims in Plano are making a concerted effort to overcome evil with good.

Peace happens when we let ourselves be known. Most human hearts melt quickly when one pair of eyes meets another. We are unlikely to bomb people we’ve met. We are less likely to judge another group once we’ve eaten their food and celebrated their holidays together. Our responsibility is not just to open our minds to people who are different from ourselves, but to open ourselves to people who are different in our minds.

One of the women hosting the Ramadan iftar confessed to me at the end of the evening that she and her brother had talked about me while they prepared some of the food together. He had seen “Rev. Ellen Debenport” on the guest list and insisted, “A woman can’t be a reverend!”

His sister answered, “I’m pretty sure Ellen is a woman’s name.”

“No, a woman can’t be a reverend!”

“Well, maybe in some churches, she can.”

Yes, she can, I told her. I guess we all learned something about each other that night.

Speaking of Fascism, a less criticized one!

While some in our country like to talk about "Islamofascism", they remain silent over another radical phenomenon. Watch this video and see for yourself. And no, this was not taken at some Al-Qaeda training camp for children!


It is clear that extremism comes in all shapes and colors. As a Muslim, I do not hold Christians nor Christianity responsible for such radicalism. Extremism is an unfortunate human phenomenon that strikes all religions and ideologies. Most Christians, Jews, Muslims, and indeed most people, are good, fair, and peace-loving. Unfortunately, it is the small exception that tends to get the attention.

All people of faiths who believe in human dignity and mutual respect should work together to isolate all forms of extremism and its root causes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Poem: Shadows in the Light

After reading the sermon by Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl, a friend and an inspiring local leader, Fr. Wilfredo Benitez-Rivera, commented about how touched he was by the honesty of the rabbi. He sent me a poem that he wrote and which he describes as: "On the surface it may not inspire hope, but I believe that it is in realizing the corruption Rabbi Greenburg speaks about, that we begin to filter the darkness out of the light."

I say that it is very inspiring when the children of Abraham aknowledge the need to build bridges and learn about each other. We don't have to agree on everything, but we certainly have to respect and humanize each other.

Shadows in the Light
By: The Rev. Wilfredo Benitez-Rivera

There are shadows in the light,Deep dark horrendous shadows Taking refuge in the light,Hiding in the brightness of the light.

There are shadows in the light, Disfigured atrocious shadows Camouflaged in the brightness of the light,Hiding in the language of deliverance.

There are shadows in the light, Disfigured sinister evil shadowsParading as divine revelation, They deceive and destroythey are like a crypt of rotting corpsesKilled in violent rage and holy wars.

There are shadows in the lightDevouring all that is in their path Screaming in rage the name of Allah,Screaming in rage the name of God, Screaming in rage the name of Christ.

There are shadows in the light,Hiding in the holy places, The mosques, the synagogues, the churchesDevouring with an endless violent insatiable appetite The lost children of Abraham.

There are shadows in the light!

© Wilfredo Benitez-Rivera, 2006(714) 537-0604

Sunday, October 01, 2006

An excellent Rosh Hashanah sermon

Honoring Differences

September 23, 2006
Morning of Rosh Hashanah
By: Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl

Once again, I am most grateful to Rabbi Block for inviting me to occupy the pulpit and to deliver the sermon on this morning of Rosh Hashanah. As many of you are well aware, preparing sermons for the High Holy Days is a formidable, anxiety-producing task for rabbis. Hours are spent in formulating the thoughts and crafting the words which will be delivered to the largest crowds of congregants that assemble during the year. Yet, we rabbis often wonder about the actual effectiveness of our sermonic efforts.

One of my colleagues tells a story about Joe and Moe, two Jewish friends, from two different synagogues. One day they got together to compare notes after the High Holy Days. Joe asks Moe: “So how were services in your synagogue?” Moe answers: “Beautiful, inspiring! The cantor was breath-taking. The choir was awesome.” Joe continues: “So what did the rabbi talk about?” Moe answers: “The rabbi talked about thirty minutes.”

So on this 41st Rosh Hashanah on which I will deliver my sermon, I will aim to speak much fewer than thirty minutes. Nonetheless, I hope that the message I am about to convey will not only reach not your mind but will also touch your heart and your soul, as I feel so passionate about this issue.

This morning, I want to talk about the two sons of Abraham and about Judaism and Islam, the two religions derived from them. We just read the story of the Binding of Isaac in our Torah portion. In Orthodox and Conservative synagogues, which observe two days of Rosh Hashanah, this is actually the reading for tomorrow, their second day of the holiday.

This morning, in those synagogues, they read the previous chapter centering on Ishmael, Abraham’s other son. In subsequent years, Isaac became a patriarch of Judaism, while Ishmael became the father of Islam. In the last five years, since 9/11, the Muslims, who are the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s older son, have been vilified. They have become the butts of vicious defamation and prejudice.

Now I am aware and grateful that Americans no longer are willing to tolerate bigotry. Though prejudice may still lurk in some hearts, it is now unfashionable to express it openly. The “N” word is now strictly taboo. So are anti-Semitic sentiments, like those which Mel Gibson recently shouted in his drunkenness. Individuals and organizations that persist in their bigotry risk losing not only money but also prestige and clout.

Yet there is one painful exception to all that I have just said. Many otherwise well meaning and intelligent Americans who consider themselves free of prejudice do not hesitate to defame Islam. They have accused Islam of fomenting violence. They have labeled every Muslim a terrorist. Even prominent religious leaders are now spreading obscenities about the faith of Islam and seem to be getting away with it.

Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist, Billy Graham, repeatedly charges that the Muslim religion is “wicked, violent, and not of the same God.” He argues that the Koran sanctions hating and killing people who are not Muslim. Similar poisonous words about Islam also hurl forth from the mouths of other prominent evangelists, both locally and nationally.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI ignited a world-wide fire storm of protest, after delivering a speech in his native Germany. In it, he quoted a Byzantine Christian emperor from the 14th century, who accused Islam of being “evil and inhuman.”

Sadly, few outside the Muslim community have condemned the ranting of these church leaders. Anti-Muslim bigotry seems to be our last remaining legitimate prejudice. We need to ask if Islam deserves this defamation.

A year after 9/11, Lynn, and I, together with several family members, visited Ground Zero in New York. There at that tragic site, we painfully contemplated the devastation which the 19 terrorists wreaked on September 11, 2001. We are well aware that all 19 were Muslims.

They hoped to enter Paradise by destroying these tall edifices of Western capitalism and the men and women who occupied them. They also succeeding in striking fear into the hearts of all of us who always thought that life here in the United States was safe and secure.

Furthermore, we are aware that all the homicide bombers of scores of innocent men, women, and children in Israel are Muslim. So are those sick minds of Hezbollah who shot lethal rockets into Israel. They sincerely believe that their heinous actions represent the will of Allah. Should we therefore not conclude from these facts that the Muslim faith is grossly hateful and evil? Absolutely not!

We can not always judge a noble religion by its ignoble practitioners, just as we can not judge a Beethoven symphony by a fifth-rate orchestra that plays it. The Beethoven symphony remains a classic of musical artistry, in spite of the inferior instrumentalists who attempt to interpret it. Terrorists are, in actuality, counterfeit representatives of Islam. They represent a distorted Islam.

Now I realize that few, if any, Muslims have openly disapproved of these atrocities. [My note: This is not accurate. All leading scholars and organizations have strongly and unequivocally spoken against such atrocities. An online petition representing over 650,000 Muslims condemned such atrocities and extremism] I can only try to explain their hesitancy to do so, not defend it. Possibly they fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones still living in Arab countries, should they speak out. Few are willing to become another Salman Rushdie, the Muslim writer. His critical comments about his Muslim faith community brought on death threats and even a fatwa calling for his assassination.

Yet I have worked closely with many very fine, reputable Muslim leaders, like Imam Omar Shakir, here in our own community. I have listened to the loving, inclusive words of Imam Feisel Rauf and other noble adherents of the Muslim faith every summer at Chautauqua Institution in New York. These men and women deplore violence. They labor for a world of Now I realize that few, if any, Muslims have openly disapproved of these atrocitiesharmony and peace. They are the Muslims who represent an authentic Islam.

Lynn and I have good Muslim friend, whose name is Mohammed, living in London. Two years ago, he flew from London to Toronto and then drove to Chautauqua to deliver a major address. As he approached the U.S.-Canadian border near Buffalo, United States security officials detained and harassed him for eight hours. They ignored the fact that he had presented full documentation of his Chautauqua invitation.

During these eight hours, he asked permission to go to the bathroom, which the officials denied him. As a result, he wet himself. When Lynn asked him: “Weren’t you furious at the callousness of the security guards?” He replied: “No, I wasn’t angry at all. I just felt bad that the system had so dehumanized these border officials.” When I heard his response I thought: “What nobility of spirit! What an exemplary representative of the best of Islam!”

Rabbi Irving Greenberg once advised that it doesn’t matter which movement in Judaism you belong to, as long as you are ashamed of it. Let me extend that to a broader context. Every one of the three major world religious communities, whether Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, contains elements which should cause shame, because of hostility against other religious groups. These are the corruptions of the true spirit of each of these three major world religions.

Let me cite one or two examples in each category. The Roman Catholic community certainly should not be proud of John of Capistrano. This Church leader came to Krakow, Poland, to speak hatred and incite pogroms against the Jews. Yet he was canonized as a saint of the Church. In fact, one of the four missions here in San Antonio is named in John of Capistrano’s memory.

Protestants also should recoil from the vile sentiments of Martin Luther. Luther wrote a pamphlet he called, On Jews and Their Lies. In it, he told his readers: “Know, Christians, that next to the devil, you have no enemy, more cruel, more venomous, and more violent than a true Jew.” Fortunately, both the national and the international Lutheran church bodies have officially denounced Luther’s anti-Semitic spewings.

Closer to us in time are the scores of Christian clergymen in Nazi Germany who were staunch supporters and advocates for Hitler. And what about those Christians who call themselves pro-life, but commit murder at abortion clinics?

Certainly we Jews are not exempt from misguided religious zeal and bigotry. We need to be ashamed of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who claimed to be a religious Jew. Yet this fanatical physician, a graduate of a reputable Brooklyn yeshivah, over a decade ago, massacred almost two dozen innocent Muslim worshippers. They were praying at the sacred site in Hebron, where our Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are buried.

We also can not be proud of Yigal Amir, who, in the name of the distorted Judaism he embraced, assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Amir considered Rabin’s willingness to trade land for peace to be a mortal sin. Like the radical Muslim terrorists, Amir used religious texts to justify murder.

Therefore we should realize Islamic leaders do not have a monopoly on hatred of the other. We all bear some of this stain. The plague is on all of our houses.

And what about the charges that the Koran foments violence and hatred against non-believers? One Muslim writer commented that there is enough in the Koran for people of extreme tendencies to find their way to a global holy war. Then he added that there is also enough there for people of a different mindset to find a path to enlightenment and peace. If you look hard enough, you can find evidence of hostility to outsiders in all of our Scriptures. But you can also find many sublime and uplifting passages.

For example, in our Hebrew Bible, in Deuteronomy 7, God orders the Israelites, upon entering the Promised Land, to wipe out every man, woman and children among the seven pagan nations. Yet our same Hebrew Bible teaches us to treat the stranger kindly and lovingly and to look forward to the day when God’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples.

The New Testament contains scores of anti-Jewish verses. One of them speaks of Jews as a brood of vipers and mentions a synagogue of Satan. Yet, other passages, like the Sermon on the Mount, emphasize love and caring. Similarly, Islamic scholars do acknowledge the darker side of the Koran. Yet its central message is absolutely peace loving and positive.

Why then does this prejudice persist? Perhaps because we human beings often feel fearful, insecure and inadequate. We are afraid that we are not enough. Therefore, in order to feel important, we are driven to put down someone else or some other group. Prejudice gives us false security. It is a destructive solution to our own fearfulness and low-self esteem.

We Jews, like all people, need to recognize and battle this tendency to resort to prejudice. In particular, we should sensitize ourselves to the rampant bigotry against the Muslims. the other family of our forefather Abraham.

Why? First of all, we Jews owe a debt of gratitude to the Muslims. Let us remember that one of the most creative and fertile periods of Jewish life took place in Spain and other lands where Muslims held sway. The Golden Age of Jewish poetry, philosophy, and literature flourished under Muslim sovereignty.

In addition, it is in our own interest as Jews to fight this anti-Islamic menace. Bigotry against any group is not only morally reprehensible. It is also bad for Jews. Hatred spreads like a malignancy beyond its original target. Who can assure us that those preachers who defame Islam will not eventually begin to malign Judaism and other religions as well? Indeed, bigotry knows no boundaries.

But most important, it is grossly reprehensible for us as Jews to be prejudiced against any people. We need to avoid something as seemingly innocent and fun as sending e-mails contrasting the large numbers of Jewish Nobel Prize winners with the tiny numbers of Muslim Noble Prize winners. If we want to boast about our Jewish intellectual giants, let us not do so at the expense of another religious group.

We who have been the targets of hatred, persecution, harassment and mass murder for over 4000 years intimately know the agony and humiliation of the victim. We who have taught the world to love our neighbor and to regard every human being as a child of God can not allow ourselves to harbor even a shred of bias against any religious community.

Our task then, as members of the family of Abraham, as we begin this New Year, is to fight this anti-Muslim sentiment, whether in others or in ourselves. Let us pledge to educate those Jews and others who defame Muslims and the faith of Islam. And let God be the ultimate Judge of which religions are correct and not allow fallible human beings to rob God of that prerogative.


[I certainly add my Amen to it too!]