Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Third Perspective: A Brief Discussion Regarding The Muslim Ban.

A Third Perspective: A Brief Discussion Regarding The Muslim Ban.

            Right and left wing media have been going back and forth in regards to the executive order limiting if not completely banning immigration from nations with predominantly large Muslim populations.  The perspectives being shared in the pubic square are diametrically opposed to one another. We have the “Let Them In” camp and the “Keep Them Out Camp” and both utilize emotions to push their perspectives. The “Let Them In” camp espouses values that have been a reoccurring theme among people who ascribe to an idealistic viewpoint of American history. This camp favors refuge for the millions of people who have been displaced from their home and their argument is simple, we are America the beacon of hope for all of humanity we can’t turn them away.  The “Let Them In” camp brings forth their arguments from a place of love and hope for humanity. Their opponents in the  “Keep Them Out Camp” espouse other values whose worth should not be diminished just because you personally oppose them. This camp cares about the safety and security of their own personal lives and the lives of their nation and its many citizens. Their arguments are logical, even if you think they are misguided. Why would you let in refugees from nations whose populace views you as hostile and who could potentially be infiltrators sent in by enemy groups? Yet this group like the “Let Them In” camp utilizes emotions to push their perspective, whereas the latter uses love and hope, this group focuses on fear and paranoia.  Both these perspectives though ignore a third perspective that is far more necessary to address then either of these.

            In the United States there are about 3.3 million Muslims according to a recent estimate. Since the tragic September 11th attacks in 2001 this nation has been at war with itself. Do we associate all Muslims with the radicals who are responsible for that tragic attack or do we just focus on the radicals, who by the way are difficult to separate from the general population in some cases.  As more and more attacks happened on American soil the Federal government under both Bush and Obama actively tried to discourage the American public and the American media apparatus from associating Radicals with your average run of the mill Muslim. Both of those leaders understood that while yes America was currently at war with small groups of Muslims they were not at war with Islam. The War on Terror is a complicated hot mess, but both Bush and Obama stated several times that one thing is certain; radicalism was the target not Islam. Yet ISIS the current radical threat and Al Qaeda the former king of the castle both heavily recruit using the notion that it is the Crusader Americans vs. the Muslims. Their narrative is different from Obama’s and Bushes, they do believe and want their viewers to believe that America is at war with Islam. They use this talking point to pick up soldiers and support from wealthy Gulf Sheiks and sadly they use this strategy to target Muslims living in western nations. By convincing a Muslim In a western nation that the country they reside in hates Muslims and Islam you can have an easy soldier that will do your bidding for you. Bush and Obama understood this. Which brings me to my main point, the third perspective. The two camps mentioned above both have valid points, but both miss the big point. The ban will not end terrorism, and its language will in fact aid the methods of ISIS and bring them more Muslims on silver platter. My fear is that this shortsighted attempt securing America will cause more damage in the long run. I hope I am wrong, but the chances of some of those 3.3 million Muslims living in America radicalizing just increased thanks to a group of leaders who may not understand the situation or just simply do not care.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Marriage for an Ex-Muslim.

For me a traditional Arab marriage has always been an enigma to me since I grew up in the West where dating is the norm. You have someone from your family or network of friends help find you a suitable list of candidates, you eventually either court them with the approval of both sets of parents for a short period of time generally up to a year and then boom your married forever. Even before my apostasy, I found it very difficult for me to view this model as an acceptable way to find a spouse. For one thing, the courting session from observing my slew of cousins and friends has ranged from a month to a year, in my opinion that is not a substantial amount of time to actually get to know someone on a deep psychological and physical level, which again in my opinion only can lead to some problems down the road.

This problem is only exacerbated if you are an Ex-Muslim. Now for some Ex-Muslims they have either come out to their parents and things are cool, or things are very rough and it does not matter what they do now so why not marry whoever they want. Marriage, though still not a walk in the park, it probably is a little less complicated then it is for Ex-Muslims living in the closet, like myself.  

Here is the conundrum I face and I will assume many like me face. I am in the closet about my apostasy and intend to remain in the closet because I highly value the relationship I have with my parents, and extended family. Overall, I have concluded that by staying in the closet I get the best of both worlds, I live my life of apostasy (I don't live at home) and I get to still keep a strong relationship with my parents by simply not telling them about my life choices. This is where marriage becomes an issue. Before I go on I will acknowledge that I have heard and understand the arguments of you must do what you want to be happy, your parents don’t live your life, blah, blah, blah. Those arguments are all valid, they make perfect logical sense but at the end of the day it comes down to me being selfish and wanting to maintain a strong relationship with my parents and enjoy my apostasy at the same time.  

In the current situation that I have placed myself in, I find it difficult to find someone that my family will accept and at the same time, I will be happy with in marriage. The difficulty comes with finding a spouse in the first place. Speaking from an Arab perspective finding someone in general of my own ethnic background or close to it (Southeast Asian, Persian, Turkish) is difficult in the west when the number of available candidates are limited due to population size. Once you even find someone it is incredibly difficult to even interact with them since we are conditioned to avoid the opposite sex, so dating becomes a delicate waltz of discretion and backroom dealing. If you are unlucky like myself and cannot even find a way to meet candidates from your ethnic group in the wild then you have to resort to family and friends and that in itself is a whole other situation.

At the end of the day, is it even worth all of this trouble? I have no idea how this will end up developing, but I do not think I am alone in this sticky situation so to all of you Ex-Muslims out there still trying to keep close strong relationships with your families, good luck and I hope you are successful! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Illusion of Israel's Democracy Part 1

            Illusions are excellent tricks magicians use to captivate an audience, heck a good magician might even make a few kids actually believe magic is real. Sadly magic isn't real or I would be zooming around on a broom right now, and illusions no matter how good they are fade away and all that is left is a cold hard reality.  Israeli supporters in the United States and various other Western Democracies have the people captivated by an illusion they have been casting for decades now. The illusion is that Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy that shares important values and morals with the United States and it's cohort of other Western Democracies. Israel is a democracy there is no argument there, but is it a liberal democracy that shares the views of America?  Short answer no. Long answer no, Israel does not represent a liberal democracy it actually practices what Oren Yiftachel calls an "ethnocracy" or an ethnic Democracy. Israel consistently demonstrates why it does not belong in the same league as the other western democracies, but instead belongs in the Minor-league of the other developing democracies of the Middle East; Tunisia and Turkey.  Israel's consistent discrimination towards ethnic minorities (not just the Arabs), it's growing censorship of free speech, and its ongoing State of Emergency law make Israel less like America and more like Iran.

                In a perfect liberal democracy ethnic minorities and the majority all share in the fruits that the nation bares. Ethnic minorities are allowed to participate in the social, economic and political world with no restrictions and the country hums along perfectly. Well we all know that there is no such thing as perfect, just ask the United States we literally pushed whole tribal civilizations off their lands and established our own nation, enslaved millions of Africans and discriminated against Eastern and southern Europeans just because they looked different then western (Anglo) Europeans. No one who considers themselves intelligent goes around claiming America was a perfect democracy during that era, so why do we do it about Israel? American mainstream media (the big three CNN, MSNBC, and FOX) all claim numerous times that Israel and America share the same values and morals. Unless America still holds on to its values from the 18th and 19th century I do not think the values of Israel and America of the 21st century really jive. For example, let us look at how Israel treats its ethnic minorities, and no not just the Arabs.

                Since the beginning of the 21st century, Israel has seen an influx of African migrants who have fled conflict in Sudan and Eritrea to come to what they believed was a liberal democracy promising work and freedom. They were wrong. Since the arrival of these migrants who Israelis call "infiltrators"they have faced nothing but discrimination from both the Israeli government and the citizens of Israel themselves. The migrants can be jailed for a full year no questions asked, have faced several attacks on their businesses and their person by Israeli riots reminiscent of a Kristallnacht, and are continuously being shipped back to their home countries where conflict still rages. These types of race riots and government policies are not in line with America's 21st century core values; instead, they align more with the Jim Crow era of the American democracy, not a period I wish upon anyone.

             African migrants are not alone when it comes to discrimination, other Jews as face a hard time in the democracy that is Israel. I am speaking of the Ashkenazi (majority) and Sephardic Jews that live in Israel together. In 2009, not 1959 but 2009 Israel finally ended its decade's long education segregation of these two Jewish groups. Finally, the Israeli government said that both groups have equal access to the same educational facilities. This went untouched in American mainstream media and all throughout the years Americans were told Israel is a liberal democracy just like us, when in fact specific Jews were not allowed to associate with the Jewish majority due to fear of tainting the pure children as several Ashkenazi Jews put it in an article published by Haaretz.
Those comments are not the type of comments the American people associate with in the 21st century nor is it the type of comments that should be found in liberal democracies.

            Finally, we all know its coming; the Israeli Arab minority in Israel has of course suffered the longest under the supposedly democratic Israel. Israelis have held Israeli Arabs in a state of distrust, and honestly, who can blame Israel, Israeli Arabs tend to identify more with their Palestinian kin then they do with Israel on most cases. With that being said the fact is Israel can't be called a liberal democracy while it discriminates willingly against a large Arab minority, yet somehow the American mainstream trio flaunt Israel as a the golden child of Democracy. This deliberate sidestepping of the discrimination faced by the Israeli Arab minority is all meant to help cast the illusion of Israel's Liberal Democracy.  Israeli citizens and government offices continuously participate in the discrimination against Israeli Arabs from land seizures to economic exclusion. Israel does give the Arab minority the right to vote and hold office, but that is overshadowed by the practice of isolation conducted by Israeli society and government. These terrible human rights violations alone should convince you that Israel is not a liberal democracy, but if you are still on the fence, I have more coming next week!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where is the Bravery?

What does it take to be considered brave? Does it have to involve running into a burning building in order to save a basket full of kitties? Is it the act of joining the military in order to defend your community? Though both of those acts are extraordinarily brave, we all don’t have to be a soldier or a cat saving master to be considered brave.

We live in a time when it seems that American bravery is all but dead. From our high ranking political leaders to our run of the mill average joe citizens all you see is cowardliness.

Politically our national leaders here in the 21st century are very mundane and more likely to be a shill for a high profile interest group then they are to be champions of the people. The two examples that come to mind is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and NSA controversy occurring right now..

When it comes to Palestine and Israel our national leaders are all vehemently pro-Israel. That is not the problem though. As Zack Beauchamp explains in his article on Why the US has the most pro-Israel foreign policy in the world, American politicians support Israel for a various number of reasons. On rare occasions American politicians actually stand against Israel. The problem lies not in the support for Israel, but in the support for Israel when Israel is obviously doing something wrong. The recent events which are going on in Gaza, under the name of “Operation Protective Edge” are some of the most blatant acts of war crimes in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to date. Over 1,000 human beings have been killed on the Palestinian side and around 50 humans have been killed on the Israeli side. Israel has targeted areas around schools and even hit schools themselves during this conflict under the bogus excuse of weapons being near the school. Yet these actions are actively endorsed by the American government with little protest. For example the Senate voted Unanimously to support Israel in its recent campaign and America is the only UN nation to vote no to an Israeli war crime investigation. So where is the bravery? Will no one stand up in congress and declare Israel equally responsible in the bloodshed, will anyone even stand up and question Americas role in the killing of people who have done us no wrong? Sadly it does not seem like any American politician is brave enough to risk their political career for the right thing. When you have millions of dollars being spent by pro-Israeli lobbies on organizing votes and campaigns against anyone who dares to stand up to Israel, it is no wonder that American politicians are meek and weak against Israel.

Foreign policy will always be messy, and sometimes it is hard to be brave when thousands of people are being killed (sarcasm), but what isn’t hard is domestic policy or at least it shouldn’t be. The United States has recently been exposed to be no better than the former Soviets and their massive internal spying system. The NSA has been in the news a lot more thanks to Snowden and it really exposes our government to be the biggest group of cowards there has ever existed. Now before I continue with my rant I will say this, having an external intelligence gathering agency that is actively working to  acquire the upper hand on our foreign competitors is acceptable. The problem occurs when you turn that system inward. What that portrays to me is that you now fear your citizenry, the same people whose support our government needs in order to maintain the republic, the same citizens who benefit from living in a secure free America are now the targets of our spy agencies. A brave politician would dismantle the domestic spying components because they would trust the people the same way the people trust them.

They say that government is like a pendulum, eventually it will swing in the other direction and create a whole new era. Well at the moment the pendulum is swinging in a direction that is filled with cowards rather than actual leaders who are willing to do unpopular things for the good of the community.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

World Unity

The world around us seems to be falling apart. Global conflict is imminent it seems. In the Middle East you have a slew of disastrous time bombs waiting to go off. The Syrian Civil War is a playground for Iran and her allies VS Saudi Arabia and her allies, Iraq is in the throes of another Civil War with a radical Islamic Group ripping the country apart in it’s quest for Caliphate, Israel is continuously attacking Gaza and Palestine with weapons that out match anything the Arab population of that territory could ever bring to arms, Ukraine and Russia are at  each others throats in what can only be called a proxy war by Russia using armed rebels to take over the country, the countries of Latin and Central America are in a chaotic struggle between civil society and warlord rule which is starting to impact the United States in negative ways and that is just the stuff I have been keeping up with. It truly seems to me and to many people out there that “shit is going down.”

All this violence that is going on now is only stifling our development as a species. We have progressed so much it would be a shame if it stopped now due to large scale global conflict that decimates the human population. Human societies though seem to be the most counterproductive on the planet. Unlike our animal shareholders on this planet we have a sense of self awareness that allows us to understand this one basic concept, we are all the same person. It sounds naive and very “hippie” to say it but people in China have similar concerns as people in America as do men and women living in Gaza to men and women living in Israel. Even though people living in some parts of the world have it harder (Gaza compared to America) we are all still connected by our humanity. From our basics needs like food/water, shelter, companionship, economic livelihood (regardless of what economic system you use) to the desire we all have to see our children grow and prosper in a world much more kinder and peaceful then ours today.

Yet even though we have these shared desires we are still separated due to our own creations. The two largest that I see that stand in the way of global unification is uncompromising faith (Radical Religion) and the nation state system.

Religion is a very tricky topic to cover because honestly I do not want to ban religion or destroy religion. In fact I hope to one day live in a world where man can worship how he or she deems fit without fear of attack for their "misplaced" faith. Yet no one can deny that religion plays a role in division. Even though the Christian and Islamic faiths both call on unity, compassion, and love their more radical adherents (more so muslims in the modern era then christians) tend to see things differently. Many radicals, again more Muslims then Christians due to the era we live in, use religion as a way to divide and conquer, for evidence of this just simply look to Iraq and Syria were we have shites, sunnis, and christians at each others throats. In the United States and Europe Christian citizens of these countries (not all but some) view Muslims with suspicion and even hate, while Muslims return the favor by viewing their new host countries as Kuffar (non-believers) and inferior, creating a sense of fragmentation rather then unity.

The concept of the nation state has also hindered our progress in the modern era. Now you have a system in which nations only tend to look out for themselves and ignore the rest of the people on this earth unless it can benefit them in a strategic or economic way. For example the United States, Russia, and the European nations all have some of the most advanced military, economic, and social systems on this planet yet their energies and resources are spent on non-cooperation with the other. Imagine if instead of the Cold War after WWII we have a unified Europe with Russia allied with them, instead of spending billions to out power the other we could have spent billions on global education, healthcare, and dare I say it even space travel to beyond the moon and stars. The levels of advancement we reached with atomic weapons could have been used in energy creation and solutions to problems such as global pollution or drug addiction.

Instead we continue to do the same thing over and over, kill, compete, and satisfy only the self, while making sure the other struggles to do the same. We only see the differences, I hear it all the time on the news and online. When we look at other people we point out their flaws and how they are different from us, we never look at them and say hey they have the same needs and hopes as I do.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Foreign Militaries More Important then American Highways

Over the past few months, Democrats and Republicans have been battling it out in the Senate and the House over domestic spending bills such as ones for our ailing infrastructure and the immigration crisis we are having on our border with Mexico. On both issues, we are hearing Republicans cry over too much spending by the Federal Government, and the Democrats crying foul on how all the Republican solutions are too short term to really do any good. Both sides when it comes to domestic spending are so far apart they cannot even see each other anymore.

                Yet there is one area of spending that brings these two rival parties together, foreign aid to our dear Middle Eastern Allies (the big three Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia take up the most). Let us take a look at the most recent example, Israel. Israel is currently in the middle of a conflict with its neighbor Gaza who just happens to not like Israel's existing thing its doing.  Israel recently asked the United States for a little extra cash to help it defend itself against a 3rd rate power. Israel asked an additional $225 Million to be added to the  $621.6 Million already promised in early June in a military spending bill[i]. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously on the bill, even though part of the money went into foreign hands. [ii]

                This type of spending is common in the United States Congress and it is not just Israel that benefits from this type of spending. Saudi Arabia sees huge donations to their war chests as well. Just this past year Saudi Arabia was included in a $10 Billion dollar deal for military aid.[iii]

                While countries like Saudi Arabia, which doesn't let women drive or travel long distances without a male guardian, and Israel who continuously violates Geneva War Conventions receive millions and billions of dollars worth of American aid, we peons of America AKA the citizens of this country are constantly ignored and left with nothing more then a dysfunctional government that can't even agree on whether or not they should fix the highways!

[i] (


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Keys For Success in the Middle East: Representation

            When one looks at governments in the Middle East one thing is glaringly obvious, there are many authoritarian regimes out there. With the exception of Turkey, Israel, and to some extent Iran free elections are a rarity, social freedoms are appalling, and the ability to progress economically and through the classes is almost non-existent. On the one hand, you have Secular states that run on military might and cater to religious conservatives by "applying" Islam into the constitution. The second alternative you see in most Middle Eastern countries again is the religious nation, like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations that proclaim the rule of Islam and nothing else. Both these scenarios bring nothing but misery to the majority of the people living under them. So what is the solution to this chaotic mess? Many would argue that you need a purely secular state with God stripped from the constitution the likes of those nations found in Western Europe and North America. Others would make the claim that the Arab-Muslim world in particular needs to move more towards an Islamic Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet, the likes of which this world has not seen since well the Prophet and his followers. I would argue that neither is plausible due to the complexity of Middle Eastern Arab society. A purely secular nation will ostracize religious conservatives and a purely Islamic Caliphate will do the same to religious minorities (Islamic and non-Islamic) and non-believers alike.  Before any of you, start beating the drums of war and claim that under a purely Islamic Caliphate religious minorities will be protected, I understand, and acknowledge that during the Islamic Caliphates throughout history this was observed. At the same time though the majority of the Caliphates, Sultanates, and other Islamic dynasties that practiced Islamic law were run by the military generals who did not practice any form of representative government. Therefore, I personally believe the best solution to the problem with government in the Arab-Muslim-Middle East is a fusion of these two practices. 

            What will this fusion look like? I have a rough outline in my mind that I will share now so it may be dissected, analyzed, and I hope improved upon. First, let me begin by stating that the government I have in mind for the Arab-Muslim Middle East is heavily influenced by Western styles of representative government with a dabble of Islamic influence thrown in. This government which I will call for the time being as the Representative Caliphate will resemble the United States system more than others. 

            In a representative Caliphate, you have four key ideas: Representation, Balance, Centralization and finally Separation. I will begin with Representation only and will follow up with subsequent posts regarding the other key ideas.

            Representation is very self-explanatory. For any nation, hoping to progress and modernize it must give its people a voice. In the Arab world, especially the people lack a voice. Representation is based on who has the most money and the most power in the nation. In most countries, the representation is just a façade and in others, they do not even pretend to have representation. How would representation look in this government? The Western world and the Islamic faith give us two beautiful examples of how representation should look. First, let us look at the western example of the United States, which is comprised of several small republics. The United States utilizes a Bicameral Congress, which has equal representation by states (the senate) and proportional representation based off state population (the house). Such a system is easily producible in the Arab-Muslim-Middle East. The Quran speaks of Shura in three places and in Islamic history; it is known that the"Rightly Guided" Caliphs used Shura. Shura is the consultation of those who will be affected by decisions being made. When a nation makes decisions, the people (citizens) will be affected, making it necessary to consult them. Since it is logistically impossible to consulate every citizen, having representatives for groups of citizens is the most efficient way to organize consultation.  The Shura Council as I am dubbing it can be modeled off the United States Congress. An upper Shura can represent equally while the lower Shura can represent based on population. 

            What is the power of the Shura Council? For the time being the powers of the council are simplistic and based entirely off the of the United States Congress. The power to levy taxes (Jizya), the power to write and pass legislation, the power to declare war and approve treaties and so on. Again this portion of this fictional government is not yet complete it is still in the planning stages. 

            Who qualifies to be a citizen that gets representation and who qualifies to be the
representative? This question is easy, yet it will cause the most problems. Everyone who has citizenship in this fictional Arab-Muslim Nation regardless of sex, orientation, ethnicity and religion or lack thereof has the right to be represented and anyone meeting a certain age requirement has the right to represent. Many conservative Muslims out there will be against women and religious minorities being able to run for political office. To them I say this, are they not a part of the nation? If they are citizens then they have a right to choose those who they wish to represent them and that means allowing members of that group to be able to run for political office. It is a simple logical fact that in order to have a fully represented population you have to represent all the diverse groups in that population. This means Arabs, non-Arabs, Muslims, non-Muslims, men and women all have the right to be represented and represent.

            Why does representation matter? In an area of the world as diverse as the Arab-Middle East, you need to give the people a voice if you are to have an effective government. As we can, all see from observing past and present authoritarian regimes a lack of political voice for the people leads to terrible government policies. These policies range from the endless spending done on the military while neglecting the educational system to the excessive life styles of many top officials while the rest of the country goes hungry.  With representation the people can send messages via elections, they can send people to the Shura council that will actually support legislation that benefits the people and not just the ruling regime. With representation, the government will actually need to depend on the people for the power and not just assume it has the power. 

            In conclusion, representation in the form of the Shura Council and based off of the United States congress can lead to better political participation by ordinary citizens, which in turn can lead to better government policies. Next week I will discuss Balance and Centralization in terms of an elected Caliphate and an Islamic Judiciary.