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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Need for Common Code of Ethics

From the recent Interfaith Conference in Madrid.

Excerpts from speech by
Nihad Awad
National Executive Director
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Washington, D.C.

As growing worldwide trends show an increase in immoral behaviors, it becomes increasingly urgent for leaders of faith communities to talk seriously about issues of morality and ethics. Ideally, these discussions will lead to the creation and adoption of a universal moral code to help curb these disturbing trends.

Obviously differences in cultural, religious and social values would make such a code difficult to formulate, but a common definition of morality and ethics might allow people of different faiths to cooperate more productively.

It is difficult to create a common definition of morality because every society, culture and religion in the world today differs in its interpretation of the word. But the fact is that today’s global society is on the verge of losing its moral strength and social fabric.

Morality is most commonly interpreted as a complex system of general principles and particular judgments based on cultural, religious and philosophical concepts and beliefs. Cultures and groups regulate and generalize these concepts, thus regulating behavior.

The state of morality in the world today is difficult to judge accurately due to the vast amount of information that would have to be collected and analyzed for a comprehensive analysis.

The interpretation of morality and ethics varies from one society to another, but there are basic universal values. For example, the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – is present in the teachings of nearly every major faith. It is incorporated into the teachings of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism.

The majority of every society, irrespective of that society’s religious traditions or philosophies, agrees that certain values, such as honesty and respect for human life, are essential for the survival of the social system. These universal values can be found in the Ten Commandments, the Bible, the Quran, and have been present in the laws of almost of every society since the creation of Hammurabi’s first code of law. Although there are many universally accepted moral values, each culture and faith differs on specific social norms...

Illicit drug use
For instance, illicit drug use is a global problem. But the deadly phenomenon of illegal drugs has been addressed effectively by the international community and there is much good news to report with the bad. One hundred eighty countries cooperate with the international drug control system that has been gradually developed over the last 100 years. Because of this system, new recreational drugs, however numerous, are not allowed to spread in the free market. This drug control effort, begun a century ago to confront the opium crisis, has evolved into a body of international law since the United Nations became involved in 1946.

Less than 5 percent of the world population uses drugs (if alcohol is excluded from the definition), and problem users are limited to less than 1 percent.

Areas ripe for increased global cooperation are: creating more resources in the public health arena to prevent people from taking drugs, treating those who are already dependent and reducing the negative social consequences from drug use. This public health effort cannot overlook that over 25 percent of adults worldwide used tobacco, an addictive drug with huge costs to both individuals and the societies of the users. The intimate links between drug money, organized crime, corruption, and national security also call out for even better cooperation between nations.6

Human trafficking
For example, the modern slave trade is a growing industry. According to US government estimates, more than 45,000 women and children are imported annually to the United States, the premier destination for trafficked victims. It is estimated that there are at least 30 million victims of slavery in the world today. The UNODC Global Programe against trafficking in human beings recognizes and assists countries in combating this crime. In 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

Another example of moral decay is the growing popularity and social acceptability of gambling. Gambling is a long-established form of recreation in most societies. Statistics show the magnitude of this phenomenon in a number of societies.

In this segment, the United States is focused on as an example of this growing problem. What is unique about the current gambling situation in the United States is the speed with which it has gone from an undercurrent in American society to a high-profile, socially accepted activity.

The gambling industry has grown 10-fold in the US since 1975. Thirty-seven states now have lotteries. Fifteen million people display some sign of gambling addiction. Two-thirds of the adult population placed a bet last year. There are now approximately 260 casinos on Indian reservations (in 31 states and with $6.7 billion in revenue). The gambling industry has utilized modern technology such as the Internet to boost profits. Internet gambling has nearly doubled every year since 1997 – in 2001 it exceeded $2 billion. The Internet boasts 110 sports-related gambling sites. According to the American Psychological Association, the Internet could be as addictive as alcohol, drugs and gambling...

Pornography is considered immoral from the Islamic religious perspective, and Islamic societies have maintained a social code of ethics that promotes and encourages modesty. Social and official strictures limit the open distribution of pornographic publications. In other societies, the viewing of pornography may be considered a freedom to be exercised at one’s personal discretion and this type of material is widely available. One cannot overlook the spread of satellite channels and digital media, which have brought access to pornography to the Muslim world. This industry has claimed many victims among the most vulnerable and defenseless: children and trafficked women. The statistical information below shows both the magnitude of the pornography industry and its economic power.

Internet Pornography Statistics
Pornographic websites: 4.2 million (12% of total websites). Porn pages: 420 million. Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million (25% of total search engine requests). Daily porn emails: 2.5 billion (8% of total emails). Internet users who view porn: 42.7%. Received unwanted exposure to sexual material:34%. Average daily porn emails/user 4.5 per Internet user. Monthly porn downloads (Peer-to-peer) 1.5 billion (35% of all downloads). Daily Gnutella “child porn” requests 116,000. Websites offering illegal child porn 100,000. Sexual solicitations of youth made in chat rooms 89%. Youths who received sexual solicitation 1 in 7 (down from 2003 stat of 1 in 3) Worldwide visitors to porn web sites 72 million visitors to pornography monthly. Internet porn sales $4.9 billion...

An issue linked directly and indirectly with pornography is prostitution. It shares the feature of victimizing the defenseless and weak in societies around the world. Half of prostitutes are controlled by human traffickers. It is largely a hidden problem, occurring as it does behind closed doors. While 85-90 percent of those arrested are street prostitutes, streetwalkers account for only 20 percent of prostitutes. In other words, the majority of prostitution occurs discreetly and may be “invisible” to many. Prostitutes also account for 90 percent of arrests, their clients for only 10 percent – meaning that the customers, without whom there would be no sex trade, access prostitution with little fear of legal consequences.

One of the most egregious and immoral assaults on individuals and societies is rape. Across all cultures and religions, it is one of the most underreported crimes. Even in the US, known globally for its liberal attitudes about sex, more than half of rapes go unreported according to the US Department of Justice. This crime affects children as well as adult women. In fact, children are often targeted because of their greater vulnerability. And the negative effects of rape on individuals and societies are profound.

Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression; six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol; 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide. 12 In 2008, an historic resolution by the UN Security Council classified rape as a weapon of war.
The facts cited above comprise only a glimpse into today’s moral and ethical challenges. The global community has to come to terms and agree on a minimum common denominator of universal moral values and ethics that protects the fabric of global society.
Continuous interfaith dialogue and continuous joint initiatives promoting mutual understanding will lead to improved communication, more effective cooperation and an increase in tangible results in dealing with these important issues.

The support that religious and opinion leaders from various societies and backgrounds offer for global initiatives can help institutions like the United Nations andindividual governments tremendously in facing these challenges and implementing prevention measures.

A common definition of morality could also allow countries to cooperate with each other more easily and would make the work of international organizations much easier.

A universal code of morality would allow the international community to do what international religious bodies and figures, irrespective of their background and prominence, could not. It would allow the global community to counter the deterioration of basic human values by promoting universal values while combating the destruction of society.

A universal standard of morality would ideally apply to everyone, regardless of race or class. It would consist of voluntary societal guidelines, with the Golden Rule at its heart.

For example, lying, stealing, cheating, physically or verbally abusing others, murder, and not destroying the environment on which all life depends, would all be on the “Do No Harm” list. Not all of these guidelines could be enforced through a legal code. It is impossible to place specific restrictions on things such as lying, without invading peoples’ privacy and violating their human and civil rights. It is equally impossible to force others to do good. One cannot force humans to be kind to each other, to respect all life, or to be generous. Individuals would adhere to these principles without being forced to by law, but instead simply for their own good and for the greater good of all.

The potential for interfaith cooperation in promoting moral values is limitless. Post-9/11 developments have greatly accelerated the motivation of mainstream religious groups to work together, making the task easier.

Muslims worldwide can play a positive and cooperative role in this multicultural setting, helping to expand on the common ground with Christians and Jews. These three monotheistic religions share many values, scriptures and legal similarities. The Muslim world and Middle East, though sometimes politically and economically unstable, provide a good example of social stability and public morality. At the core of society is the family, and strong family values are at the heart of Muslim Society and the Islamic religion. This creates a sturdy, wholesome foundation on which to build a healthy society.

A recent BBC story about a Bedouin family supports this observation. It stated that “the trend across the Middle East is for continued close family ties among the old and the young. Religion and widespread traditional social values make it likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.”

On its website, the Jordanian Department of Statistics describes the family as “the basic social unit for the individual because it represents the source of protection, food, shelter, income, reputation and honor.” This emphasis on the family is part of the Islamic religion, which is a reason it is so ingrained in Middle Eastern and Muslim societies. Respect for fellow humans, particularly parents and elders, is very important in Islam, and this helps to keep both the nuclear and extended families together.

The world’s current state of morality is not ideal, but it is not beyond redemption. If interfaith dialogue is established and faith communities cooperate to raise moral standards, improvements can be made.

Positive peer pressure is a powerful tool that can be utilized to raise these standards.
Muslims, Christians and Jews combined make up more than half of the world population. All three of these religions share the same basic moral guidelines, and if the devotees of each religion were to follow its teachings, they could become a powerful moral force for the rest of the world.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Israeli 'shooting video' of unarmed Palestinian civilian causes outrage

It is shamefully important to note that our American tax money funds Israel's ongoing atrocities and apartheid practices against the Palestinians.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First Guantanamo Bay Video Released - Omar Khadr Interrogation

Omar Khadr: The interrogation

Omar Khadr: The interrogation
Video captures righteous indignation
Colin Freeze and Omar El Akkad


Globe and Mail Update

July 15, 2008 at 8:04 AM EDT

Before the rage, the resignation and the tears, came the trust. Teenaged prisoner Omar Khadr seemed sure that his countrymen from Canada had come to Cuba to help him and spoke freely when they asked questions.

On the second day, the reality almost visibly dawned on his face. Agents had asked about his links to al-Qaeda, about his friends and family in Afghanistan, about whether he really thought dozens of black-eyed virgins awaited him in janna, or paradise.

The teenager realized the obvious. The Canadian agents weren't there to help. They were there to mine him for information. So he wept. He denied everything. He pulled at his hair and pulled down his orange prisoner's suit. He showed his war wounds, which nearly killed him during a battle with U.S. soldiers six months earlier.

From behind the flaps of a ventilation shaft, a hidden camera caught all the rage and righteous indignation of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen raised by fundamentalist parents in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The 16-year-old al-Qaeda suspect and Guantanamo Bay detainee was facing allegations that he murdered a U.S. soldier.

After a series of Canadian court orders, remarkable footage of federal agents questioning Mr. Khadr was released Tuesday morning - starting with an eight-minute highlight reel released at 5 a.m., and a full seven hours of footage to come later in the afternoon.

The largest portion of the eight-minute segment shows a sobbing Mr. Khadr with his head buried in his hands, repeatedly moaning "help me, help me."

The grainy footage marks the first video of a Guantanamo Bay interrogation. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service prefers to describe the meetings as "interviews".

Mr. Khadr sits in one small room for the first half of the released footage. There is little in the first room other than a desk and vents in the walls. In another room, he sits on a small couch. The rooms are similar to rooms currently in the Guantanamo prison camps. Reporters were given a tour of such a room earlier this year. The military uses the word "reservation" to refer to prisoners' meetings with interrogators — the rooms are where the "reservations" take place.

During the meetings, Mr. Khadr wears an orange jumpsuit — at the time, the orange uniforms were synonymous with all Guantanamo prisoners. Today, the orange uniform is reserved for the most unco-operative prisoners. Mr. Khadr today wears the white uniform of the most compliant prisoners.

Mr. Khadr's mood varies from dejected to hopeless for much of the released footage. At one point he lifts his shirt over his head to show extensive wounds he suffered during the 2002 Afghan firefight where he was captured.

"You say this is healthy?" he tells his interrogator. "I can't move my arm."

His interrogator, whose face is obscured by a black circle as per government security rules, is not sympathetic.

"You look like you're doing well to me," he replies. "I'm not a doctor but I think you're getting good medical care."

In another part of the footage, Mr. Khadr says "I lost my eyes. I lost my feet," referring to his injuries.

"No, you still have your eyes, and your feet are still at the ends of your legs," his interrogator replies.

Mr. Khadr's mood appears to have gotten significantly worse between one set of interviews and the next, something that causes his interrogator much frustration.

The interrogator tells Mr. Khadr that he understands the situation is stressful, but by using a strategy of non-co-operation he isn't helping himself.

At one point, the interrogator talks to Mr. Khadr about the detained Canadian's wish to go home. The interrogator says he can't help Mr. Khadr with that, but suggests Mr. Khadr help him stay in Guantanamo.

"The weather's nice [in Guantanamo]," the interrogator says. "No snow."

The joke falls flat.

The footage is part of more than seven hours that was released by the government to Mr. Khadr's lawyers. The rest of the footage is expected to be released later Tuesday.

"The videos do not show Omar Khadr being tortured or mistreated during the interrogations," Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Nathan Whitling, said in a press release accompanying the video. "As documents released last week show, Guantanamo Bay authorities manipulated Omar's environment outside the interrogation room before Canadian interrogations to induce co-operation within the interrogation room."

Documents made public last week show that Mr. Khadr was subjected to weeks of sleep deprivation by U.S. military officials before being interviewed by Canadian officials, and that the Canadians were aware of the sleep deprivation.

Mr. Khadr was sent to Guantanamo after being captured in Afghanistan in 2002. The footage, compiled from three days of interviews taped six months after his capture, is being released by his defence team. Edmonton lawyers Mr. Whitling and Dennis Edney, who fought a successful legal battle for the DVDs to be disclosed, now hope to shame Canadian politicians into lobbying Washington for the repatriation of the now-21-year-old, still jailed, but not convicted after six years.

The video will allow the public its first glimpse of an interview undertaken inside the U.S. military jail for terrorism suspects that operates on leased land in Cuba. It is also the first footage ever shown of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in action during its 24-year history.

Three CSIS agents were sent down to question Mr. Khadr, not to lend any sympathy to him. Their mission was to gather information that might safeguard national security. Visuals of the agents' faces and audio of certain questions are edited out for security reasons.

A Department of Foreign Affairs official was along for the interviews, and had a role split between gathering intelligence and ascertaining the prisoner's well being. DFAIT's Jim Gould later wrote a briefing note stating he had met a "screwed up young man" whose trust had been abused by just about everyone who had ever been responsible for him.

Ottawa has been bracing for the video's release for weeks. Various government agencies have been coordinating their talking points in response to the footage – while both the government and Mr. Khadr's defence lawyers agree that the footage does not show Mr. Khadr being tortured or mistreated, both have a keen interest in the Canadian public's response to the video.

Mr. Khadr's defence team released the eight-minute "highlight reel" shortly before 6 a.m. Ottawa time Tuesday – in time for most morning news shows. Canadian news web sites quickly carried copies of the video.

Ottawa, too, is paying attention. When a reporter called CSIS's media line early Tuesday morning, news coverage of the Khadr tape could be heard from televisions in the background.

The rest of the world is also watching. Within hours of the video's release, news stories began to surface around the planet, including on the front pages of The New York Times and BBC web sites.

When a Democracy deems it necessary to torture a 16-year old kid

Videos show Khadr crying in detention 16-year-old also pulling hair, covering face, shedding prison tunic

Steven Edwards
Canwest News Service

Monday, July 14, 2008


NEW YORK - A 16-year-old Omar Khadr is seen pulling at his hair, covering his face and shedding his tunic in stills taken from videotapes of Canadian officials interrogating the Toronto-born terror suspect in Guantanamo Bay.

They are significant because they are the first publicly released photographs of Khadr, now 21, since his capture by U.S. forces following a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002.

The public will also get its first opportunity to view excerpts of the videotapes when Khadr's lawyers place a 10-minute sequence on a website that is yet to be determined.

Khadr is seen in the photographs wearing an orange tunic, which U.S. authorities in Guantanamo have long made detainees they consider unco-operative wear.

He is also reported to be crying on several occasions.

The lawyers plan to release DVDs of the full seven hours of interrogations at a news conference Tuesday in Edmonton, where the offices of the Canadian members of Khadr's legal team are located.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently ordered the federal government to release the tapes and a series of related documents to the lawyers, who had launched successive actions to obtain the formerly confidential files.

Khadr's Pentagon-assigned military lawyer may use the tapes as part of the Canadian's defence. Khadr is scheduled to be tried before a U.S. military commission in early October on five war crimes charges, including the murder of a US soldier in a grenade attack during the 2002 firefight.

Notes U.S. officials wrote of the interrogations are included in some of the accompanying documents that were released by the lawyers separately last week.

The interrogations took place over four days from Feb. 13, 2003, at the U.S. naval base in Cuba following Khadr's transfer from detention in Afghanistan the previous October.

Sitting in a folding chair on the first day, Khadr ate a burger and drank a soda, according to one report, whose author said he could not hear what was being said.

Khadr "mumbled and had his head down" on the second day, the author said. The detainee also would "not look at his interviewers."

The author said when the Canadian officials asked Khadr why his demeanour had changed, he replied: "Promise you'll protect me from the Americans."

Khadr also said he had been tortured while detained in Afghanistan, the U.S. official wrote, and said everything he had told the Canadians the previous day "was a lie."

The Canadians asked Khadr if he'd spoken with anyone the previous night, and Khadr "denied anyone coached him," the U.S. official says. "He covered his eyes and began to cry heavily."

The U.S. official describes how Khadr removed his shirt, saying it was to show wounds on his back and shoulder. Khadr was shot and suffered shrapnel wounds during the firefight in Afghanistan.

"Khadr put his head back in his hands and cried heavily," said the official.

Khadr sat on a couch on the third day, the official writes. "He declined food that was offered to him."

The official said the Canadians asked Khadr about members of his family, among them his father, whom the U.S. has accused of being chief financier to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Khadr's father was killed in an anti-terrorist raid in Pakistan in 2003.

On the fourth day the official says the Canadian interrogators "began to get more confrontational with Khadr, who "denied killing anyone."

"Khadr began to cry and was crying when the interrogators left," the official says.