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 fa├žade 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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Islam's Plurality: How it Hinders Government.

Person A: "Islam and government do not work well together, look at the failed experiments in the Middle East." 

Person B: "You can't count those countries they aren't following Islam correctly, if only they would follow Islam the way it is supposed to be followed you would see how great Islam can be for a government!"

            That conversation or a similar variation of it has been hashed out hundreds if not thousands of times between Muslims and all other groups of peoples (including other Muslims). What is the problem with this conversation some of you might ask, Person B is 100% correct, we can't judge Islam and government based off of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the other usual suspects in the Middle East. Au contraire my dear reader we can judge Islam and its affiliation with government based off of these countries because countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and so on are products of Islam in some shape or form! 
            My argument is that due to the plurality of Islam and its lack of centralized authority we should not expect to see a successful modern Muslim nation the likes of which many Muslims want to see or claim could be seen if Islam was just followed properly. For the record I understand that Turkey is a Muslim majority nation, but it is (for the time being) a secular state. With that being said let us continue down the path of Muslim plurality and its hindrance of Islamic government. 
            According to various sources, the Muslim population hovers near the 1 Billion persons mark. As most people know, the Middle East is home to many Muslims as is south and central Asia. Of these billion or so Muslims, you have various religious sects, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Alvei, Ismali, and this is not counting the various different sects that exist on a local or regional levels. Aside from sects, you have yourself different schools or branches of Islam that again differ based on your sect. For example, Sunnis have the Hanbali School and Shia's have the Twelver branch. This all seems very complicated I am sure so here take a look at this chart to see a visual of the picture I am trying to paint.

Do you see the level of complexity found in Islam? This does not bode well for any type of government. Let me explain. What makes a government run properly? Laws. The United States runs (or at least used to run) on a set of written laws (rules and regulations) created by man. These laws govern how the government, states, and citizens are supposed to interact with one another. The Quran also prescribes some rules and regulations for the interaction between men, but there is a small little problem. The Quran is supposedly God's written word, which is the same God who burns people who commit sin by disobeying his laws; therefore people who believe in an afterlife REALLY, REALLY stake their future on following laws ordained by God.  How is this a problem? Well the problem lies in the simple fact that God's word is uncompromisable. Now whether you are religious or not, it is true in Islam that God has the final say, and that God's words cannot be altered. Here is how this creates a problem for a Muslim government. 
            What school will run your country? Which interpretation of Islam will you take as your source of law? These are all important questions because now you are choosing which laws are the true laws of God and which are heretical. For example in Saudi Arabia which embraces a strict interpretation of the  Hanbali Sunni school you have rules that makes life for Shia's and other Muslim minority religious groups quite difficult. Many in Saudi Arabia's ruling religious elite view Shia, Sufis and other Sunnis who do not prescribe to their way of thinking as religious heretics who are not part of the Umaah. This makes running an effective government very difficult since a good portion of your population is discriminated against and deemed as not a member of your community. How are you supposed to grow as a nation when you exclude members of your community based on their religious beliefs?
Person B:  "Reform!! Reform!! We need to Reform Islam!!"
            Wow person B is chalked full of great ideas aren't they? No, they are not. Reforming Islam is simply out of the question for many Muslim because they believe the gates of Ijithad have closed many centuries ago and that all current understandings of Islam and its laws are as good as they are going to get. Therefore reforming Islam is seen as changing God's word. In a Muslim nation, the rules you get are the rules you are stuck with. You can't change the fact that Muslim women can't hold the highest seat in the land because that would be changing God's word. You cannot reform the fact that Shias are sometimes excluded from political and social participation because that would be changing the word of God. This inability to change and reform Islam and its laws hinders the ability to form a strong and effective Muslim government, the one our Person B wants to see emerge. 
Person B: "Hmm but the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) managed to do it!?! If we just go back to the way he did things we can surely create a powerful Muslim nation."
            Person B is partially correct. According to most sources, Muhammad did manage to unite a diverse group of Arabs who ranged in their religious belief under the flag of Islam and managed to conquer all of Arabia before the time of his death. The error many Muslims make is that even if we go to the ways of the prophet it will still fail because you need a prophet. During the time of Muhammad, he was the only source of Islamic interpretation. You want to know what a sura means, go ask Muhammad. You want a ruling on something you do not understand and think might be haram, go ask Muhammad. He was/is the perfect Muslim, nay the perfect Human being. He had a one on one connection with God and was judge, jury and executioner of God's laws. Without a prophet, you can attempt to do things the way he did, but I bet my bottom dollar many people will argue over whether the prophet actually condones an action or not, resulting in the same situation we have above. 
            Without a central authority figure that can deem something Halal or Haram, Muslims are left to their own devices, which as we saw above results in various religious interpretations. 
            The only solution for the Muslim Middle East is to somehow find a way to utilize man made governments that allow you to amend and reform, like the constitution of America for instance and still keep their Muslim faith a part of it. If they cannot figure that out then we can all sit here and watch one failed Islamic nation after another rise and fall through the annals of history.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Skepticism Towards Government Conspiracies

            For the record, this is not an expert's opinion. I am but a simple amateur making an observation about certain "political" beliefs regarding the American government that I find common in a few circles.  Again, for the record, I do not believe that the United States government is the perfect apple on the tree either, I know for a fact the U.S. government has and continues to participate in covert illicit, corrupt, and horrendous activities, both against its own people and those who fall under their sway.

            The argument I am trying to make is in regards to the conspiracy theories that surround the United States government, in particular the ones that follow the simple narrative that whenever something bad happens the U.S. government is the one behind it. Alternatively, replace the "U.S. Government" with the term New World Order, Stone Masons, Globalists, Zionists, etc, and you have the same narrative. For example in recent news the Sandy Hook school shooting has conjured up many beliefs that the U.S. was behind the attack in order to come up with an excuse to take "our" guns, or the most famous one of all 9-11 was carried out by the government in order to "insert theory here." I personally do not buy into the notion that the government is secretly behind all the incidents that occur and that a systematic takeover is occurring. What I do believe in is coincidence, pure luck of the draw, human emotions, and ultimately economic reasoning. All these incidents are too complex to narrow down to a single motive such as the government wanting to take all our guns away or the government blew up the towers to invade Iraq or set up a military state in the US. By doing that, we are ignoring the real, complex and very important issues that led to these horrible incidents
            For example in the Sandy Hook case, by wasting time and automatically chalking it up as a government conspiracy you have officially stopped looking for serious solutions to the problem. Issues like the lack of mental health care or the simple failure of mental health care is an issue necessary of exploration. In addition, issues like the state of the American family in which moms and dads are raising children in single parent homes that lack proper financial and emotional resources. Or, exploring issues such as the impact of violence on young children and the ease of access to violent material. Again, these are all issues that can be explored, but the conspiracy theorist has already pinned down the main problem, the government, all other issues are ignored and thus the problem continues.

            The example with 9-11 again portrays how serious issues are ignored and the conspiracy thrives. By believing, the government is behind the attacks we are choosing to ignore the social, political and economic reasoning behind the attacks. We are brushing aside the years of US domination of Muslim majority countries in which either we supported regimes (such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, etc) in harassing their citizenry or we ourselves have personally harassed their citizenry through either sanctions or violent attacks (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Etc.) That is not the only issue being ignored. Muslim Majority countries are a hive for Muslim extremism due to a promotion of the conservative elements of Islam and lack of education. These conditions along with constant exposure to negative contact with the West breed Islamic terrorist who use religion to promote their cause and sway the uneducated.

            By using the Government, New World Order, or what have you as the scapegoat every time an incident occurs you are not doing anything but deluding yourself and ignoring the real problems that require your attention.

            Again I do not believe our government is perfect, far from it, I know we do some shady stuff. We have overthrown dictators and installed puppets, we have a drug war going on but the only thing it does is line pockets. However, I strongly believe that these incidents are happening due to cause and effect rules, rather than systematic governments take over.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Arab Mistake & The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

This recent escalation of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians (Hamas Faction) has got me thinking about how this whole problem could have been solved in a much more peaceful way. Now quickly let has recap the origins of the conflict.

             Issues between Palestinians and Jews living in the Palestinian territory began to occur during the late 19th century with the rise of Zionism and Arab Nationalism. Both these philosophies claimed to represent the freedom their people desired. The Zionist a freedom from persecution in a new land and for the Arabs, self rule away from the Ottomans. The territory was largely an Arab-Muslim majority with a minority group consisting of Arab-Christians, Arab-Shia and Jews. With Zionism encouraging immigration to Palestine and Arab Nationalism encouraging establishing a majority Arab nation, the two sides were destined to collide at one point or another.

            Violence began when Jewish immigrants arrived in droves into the country. As more and more Jews arrived, they would purchase land from wealthy Arab owners and replace the Palestinian workers with Jewish workers who could not afford to buy their own farm so they would work on someone else's.[1] This caused a feeling of displacement in some Arab-Palestinians. Coupled with a threat to their national identity the Palestinians chose to respond to these encroachments with violence. This meant to scare away settlers, but in response to this violence, the Jewish population organized its own fighting force known as the Haganah. From this point on the Arab and Jewish populations of this region have been in bitter conflict, with factions and whole nations rising on both sides in an unrelenting struggle in which no one truly wins and everyone loses. The biggest defeat and easily the largest mistake made by the Arab Nationalists was to attack Israel on the day it declared itself independent.

            Now I do not claim the Arab Nationalist are the ones that started the conflict nor did the Zionist movement. The demographic situation in Palestine coupled with an unrelenting Jewish zeal that only wanted Palestine and no other country and an uncompromising, stubborn Arab population that turned down any negotiation attempt was perfect for this type of territorial conflict. Therefore, both sides can share some responsibilities for the continuation of the violence. With that being said, I repeat: The biggest mistake was to attack Israel instead of recognize it. By attacking Israel in 1948, Arabs across the region committed themselves and the Israelis to half a century of chaos. The war in 1948 and the subsequent Arab defeat allowed Israel to establish its borders and presence in the Middle East as well as doom the Arabs in a cycle of revenge. As the years went on the Arabs invested money in their military and tried a number of times to defeat the Israelis, such as in 1967, 1973, and the terrorist campaigns starting in the 1980's and continuing on into the present day. All this has led to a shrinking of Palestinian territory, military defeat or stalemates and finally plenty of atrocities and despair on both sides.

            Some of you are probably wondering how the Arab-Israeli conflict could have been solved peacefully if only the Arabs would have recognized Israel and not have attacked it. If Arab nations had been able to accept Israel, it would have opened up the doors to a solution possibly sooner in the century and in a much more peaceful and just manner. How? Well the Arabs having accepted Israel could focus on providing their Palestinians Kin the resources they needed to establish a state alongside Israel such as schools, hospitals, and basic infrastructure.  Aside from aiding the Palestinians, the Arab states could have begun to invest in their educational systems, modernizing their countries and establishing political and economic relationships with countries like the United States. These investments would have led to a much different Middle Eastern situation. With an educated population and stable modern economy the Arab world would not be the hot bed of terror and conflict it is today. Instead of the resort to violence to achieve its goals, this union of Arab states or league of Arab states or whatever you want to call it would be able to use its political and economic influence to lobby the United States the same way Israel does with APAIC. APAIC'S ability to persuade both Republican and Democratic politicians with the promises of finances and votes really plays a key role in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. Instead of having politicians that only represent the interests of Israel; you would have an organization garnering support for Palestinians on the other side, in theory creating a much more balanced American involvement in Palestine. Sadly, the Arabs did not choose this route, instead they chose violence and the lobby groups now present in the United States are fractured and focus on self-interest rather than unified efforts at helping the Palestinians. Instead of learning from this endless violence, they continue to fight and have now Islamized the situation in order to garner greater Islamic support from around the world. In response, the religious right in Israel is moving in on making Israel a much more Jewish state, turning this in into a religious conflict. Out of this conflict, we also get the terrorist conflict of the 20th and 21st century. Seeing as how America favors Israel more than Palestine, several Anti-American terror groups and nations emerged promising to bring the war to America. A series of hijackings and attacks led up to the 9-11 attacks that pit America directly in conflict with the fringe of the Arab/Muslim world.  So in theory if the Arabs would have accepted Israel and concentrated on developing a Palestinian state, internal improvements such as education and by modernizing the country the Arabs could have secured a free and much more acceptable Palestine with little to no violence (again depending on things play out).

            Due to the current movements in the Arab world dubbed the Arab Spring nations like Tunisia and Egypt have moved toward a much more representative version of government. Yes they elected "Islamist" to rule over them, but guess what? It was a democratically run election and both Egypt and Tunisia have a long way to go before they reach the levels of democracy found in the West, but they are on the right path. With that being said these two nations alongside an aggressive Turkey and a wealthy Qatar can hopefully push the Arab world and the greater Islamic world toward a much more civilized way to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Again this will all take time!  

            This is just an un-researched theory and not to be taken as fact. If anyone has another alternative theory or something to prove me wrong or help me understand please email me with it or leave it as a message!   

[1] Quigley John B. (2006) The Case For Palestine Pg. 6

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Conservative Norms & Living In Western Society

        To all my Muslim Brothers and Sisters of that special breed I share your plight! To be born in the West is to be born into conflict. Not with a "them" or a "they" but with yourself. Picture it; our parents left their retched homeland due to political, economic and social instability, in search of hope and prosperity. With them to England, America, France, Norway, etc, etc they bring a desire to learn, work hard and raise their families. Some even begin to participate in the new countries political and economic aspects and rise to prestige. Yet a problem occurs upon this journey. These new faces also bring their old culture, a way of doing things that is out dated in this new land. Though the good majority keeps a strict separation between their old habits and their new home, it still has its victims. The children, it is always the children. We first generation Muslims are born into a situation that no one can leave unscathed. We are born to families who have a particular set of conservative norms, while at the same time we are born into a society that generally has very socially liberal norms. Some of these norms in the west might not be universal, but they are common in many places across the US and Europe such as free education for males and females, intermixing of the sexes, science and reason over faith, dating, sex outside of marriage, open homosexuality, freedom of speech regarding anything including the sacred, etc, etc, this list can go on forever. This mixing of cultures creates a conflict within the new generation of Muslim youth born into this situation.

            What is the conflict you may be wondering? It is an internal conflict that Muslim youth experience when growing up with two different cultures competing for their attention. As stated above, Muslim youth grow up with a home culture and a public culture that are not fully compatible. Therefore, as the Muslim child grows and develops he/she begins to see the differences stack up. At school or work they are able to mix with the sexes, in fact it might be necessary to collaborate with the opposite sex to be able to complete a task. At home, they are discouraged, in some cases more aggressively than others too not mix with the opposite sex, to even refuse contact in any way with the opposite sex. Now having these two opposite norms rubbing against one another conflict is sure to arise. A young Muslim with any common sense will be able to see how he/she simply cannot go through life without communicating with the opposite sex. In fact, some Muslim youth might even go the extra mile and deduce that they can't go throughout life without developing any sexual or emotional feelings toward the opposite sex. These Muslims reach a completely new conflict. They want to pursue these sexual and emotional desires, but they are told at home that these desires are immoral, "haram" and forbidden. However, at school, on the media, etc young Muslims see that it in fact it is considered normal to date, have sex, and fall in love with members of the opposite sex. Yet by being told repeatedly that it is wrong, they feel conflicted, even guilty when they try to pursue these desires. This leads to a lot of inner turmoil, "do I pursue these desires to make myself happy or do I refuse my emotional and sexual needs in order to follow the norms my family has brought with them from a culture that seems incompatible with their new home".  This is just one small example, there are obviously more such as the following conflict that arose in the life of a member of a social media network. This young Muslim female faced a conflict much more serious then say, a desire to have a sexual or emotional relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

The anecdotal story told on that social media site speaks volumes in regards to how some young Muslims are impacted by this conflict.    

            What are the negative aspects of this conflict? Some young Muslims become "lost" in the sense of they do not identify with their home culture any more, but they lack enough social, physical, emotional, and mental development to be able deal with this situation in a positive way. For example, they begin, sometimes at a young age (16-20) to experiment with narcotics, alcohol, sex, and intermixing not with just the opposite sex, but with uncivilized individuals. This early start with these items can sometimes lead to early trouble such as legal issues, a disinterest in education, and a lack of planning for the future. These young Muslims thus have a good chance of becoming "lost" and never really amounting to anything, simply because they could not properly handle the conflicts within them and they lacked any support from family or friends. Another aspect is a complete denial of the norms of the society that they live in. For example females and males will shun the Western norms, practice the hijab, isolate themselves from the opposite sex, practice strict Islamic/cultural norms and live their life according to the rules set down by their parents home culture. This is not a bad thing per say as long as keep these norms in private and continue to function as proper members of society as best they could, but in some circumstances these individuals become too conservative in the sense that they attempt to push their values upon others or place judgment and ridicule those who live differently. Some of these conservative develop a sense of superiority when they compare themselves to non-Muslims of the community and even when they compare themselves to less pious Muslims in their community. Another aspect of this conflict is a liberal or progressive path in which they adapt to some aspects of the society that they live in such as drinking (socially), intermixing of the sexes (stops short of dating possibly) and continue to follow other parts of the religion, I.E. cherry picking what they want from the faith. This path is usually done in secret and they do not in some cases share their drinking or other still frowned upon activities with their family. These progressives or liberals adapt the religion to fit their situation. Finally, another aspect is to simply leave the faith, become an apostate and live your life the way you desire without having to justify your actions by cherry picking from the faith. These are all just scenarios, there are other possibilities that I have not covered, or experienced.

            My solution to these conflicts is simple when looking at it, but very hard in practice. It is simply to reject the home culture. Say goodbye to the norms of your household and adapt the norms of the society you were born and grew up in. Why you ask? Simple, if one does not abandon the conservative norms of your home culture and adapt to the norms of the society you are living in then you will have a difficult time. How can you expect to go throughout life not talking to the opposite sex? How can you exceed academically when you are forbidden to do it on your own terms? How can a young girl who has a tremendous athletic ability develop her talent if she is forbidden to do so? The answer is clear we must abandon the conservative norms of the home culture. How to do this with the least amount of negative damage is the trick, and sadly, I do not know how. All I know is that the conservative culture of our home life is not compatible with the liberal/progressive norms of the society we all reside in.

            Is it possible to live your life adhering to the conservative norms? Yes, but it is not ideal nor is it simple. My only message to you regardless of whether you choose to embrace the progressive side or simply leave the faith in general is to stay strong my friends. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Planned Parenthood A Sound Investment

            Planned Parenthood, America's leader in abortion, wait what? Yes, Planned Parenthood is America's leader in abortion and they must be stopped or else our entire civilization will collapse and we will all be under the rule of Islamist terrorist that force us to abort our babies!
            Ok so that is obviously very hyperbolic, and I do not think anyone is really that deranged….well maybe someone is, but that is a different topic for a different day. Planned Parenthood or PPH is an organization that has been targeted by the political right, religious groups, and other advocates of the pro-life brigade. The claim by these groups is simple: Since PPH performs abortions we as Americans must vote in representatives who will cut funding. The funding these pro-lifers are talking about is a total of $363.2 Million![1] Holy moley that is a lot of money going to abortions!! This is truly outrageous, and though I myself have no qualms with abortion, I still find it insulting that my fellow Americans, who happen to be pro-life advocates have to see their hard earned money go to something they truly do not support!  Wait, you are telling me that PPH does not use public money to fund abortions? So the claims made by these groups are false? We should invest in PPH? The answer to all those questions is a solid YES and we are about to find out why!

            PPH is an organization that according to them "Works to improve women's health and safety, prevent unintended pregnancies, and advance the right and ability of individuals and families to make informed and responsible choices."[2] What a bunch of cold-hearted bastards! The services that PPH provides for women include, but are not limited to:  birth control, diabetes screening, cholesterol screening, general women's health and yes abortions.[3] Now a third of PPH's funding does come from the federal and state level, but there is this really interesting thing called a law that prevents them from using any of it on abortions. PPH's federal funding comes from a program called Title X, which deals with family planning and preventive care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, "By law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning."[4] Meaning that if PPH assigns abortion as a family planning method it will loses its Title X money, and in theory render it useless as an organization. So all of PPH's abortions (3% of their total services)[5] are paid for by other means, either the participant, private donors or whoever, bottom line is our tax money does not go to abortions, therefore it makes no sense to defund the organization on the principle of our taxes are being use to fund abortions.

            Nevertheless, why should we pay for anything PPH does? Should the government take a vested interest in the health of the female population? Very good questions and here is an answer I am sure you will agree with. As a nation, we make investments on a daily basis. We invest in our military to make sure that our economic and military interests abroad are met, we invest in our education (sort of) in order to stay competitive and we need to invest in our health so we can stay productive. PPH plays a vital role in urban communities where many middle and lower class women live and work, and sadly are not insured for the most part. Some of these women might also be single mothers for one reason or another and cannot afford to pay for doctors visits. PPH provides a cheap and very safe alternative to expensive hospitals and doctors' offices. PPH provides services to help maintain a working woman's health, allowing her to continue working and contributing to society and her family, rather than getting sick and missing work. In addition, PPH allows women access to the pill a contraceptive that can help reduce the chances of pregnancy.

            Whether you want to admit it or not people have sex, and they have sex married or not, and I am sorry but no amount of church or Jesus is going to stop that. So rather than preaching abstinence and all that archaic madness, access to birth control will give women the power to stop unwanted pregnancies.  "But I don't want to fund birth control it goes against my religious beliefs!" Well I am sorry to say this, but sometimes we have to make compromise and give for the greater good. Birth control can play a crucial role in our society. Like I stated earlier, people are going to have sex and sometimes men are not going to be responsible enough to use a condom, therefore the chances of pregnancy are greater. This leads to several single moms who have to quit school, abandon their dreams and settle down to raise their child, sometimes alone and relaying on government benefits to make ends meet. To avoid this and keep more women on the path towards success and off the dependency on government benefits, it is imperative they have access to birth control and other medical necessities so they and they alone can control what happens to them. An investment such as this will not only benefit women in the short run, it will also benefit the nation as a whole in the long run when we have less women entering the realm of poverty and more entering the middle class.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Creation: The Islamic Republic of Iran

            From the immortal kings of Persia who did battle with the Greeks and Romans to the conquest of the Persian Empire by Islamic forces, Iran or as some call it Persia has been at the forefront of history for some time now. In the 21st century Iran or as it prefers to be called now a days, The Islamic Republic of Iran is again at the forefront of history. The Islamic Republic is a strange hybrid of theocracy and republican style government and plays a crucial role in the Middle East. Aside from being a large oil producer, it is also a large financial supporter of renowned terrorist groups that lurk in the Middle East including, but not limited to HAMAS of Gaza and Hezbollah of Lebanon[1]. To make matters worse the Iranian government has begun to enrich uranium in what they say will be purely for peaceful purposes, but what American and Israeli officials fear will be used to build the dreaded nuclear bomb. The scary part is that America and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, meaning that there is no one on one talks' going on to quell the situation. This is where a lack of understanding on the average American’s part comes into play. On the 24/7, news networks and in the daily newspapers American’s are constantly reminded of the threat Iran poses (it is a valid threat) and how the Iranian government is mistrustful of Americans. American’s are exposed to several instances in which their fellow citizens are arrested in Iran and accused of being spies[2], and constantly see statements released by Iranian government officials stating that America is responsible for such and such event.[3] Aside from pushing the modern day issues Iran and America have the media constantly pushes the historical issues as well by constantly reminding Americans that in 1979 the Islamic Republic of Iran was born and one of its first actions was to sack the American embassy and hold its employees hostage for 444 days.  It is no wonder that a slight majority, 58%, of American’s support any military action against Iran.[4]

            Nevertheless, why is Iran like this? Why is it suspicious of all American’s? Why, does the Iranian government have such an anti-Western stance? Did the Iranians in 1979 attack Americans due to their (the Iranians) barbaric nature? Does it have to do with the fact that Iran is a theocratic republic that hinders freedom, while we the United States are democratic, civilized, and enlightened?  No. The reason for this hate and suspicion that Iran harbors for America is not due to any hatred for American freedoms and values. The answer lies in our historical relationship with Iran, come let us go on a trip!

             Let us take a step back, the time period we are going to look at is the 1950’s. After World War II the United States emerged a democratic super power, Iran stayed as a constitutional monarchy led by a man named the Shah. A tyrant at best, he did not embody the democratic freedoms America values so dearly, yet this man and his tyrannical regime were closely allied with the United States for one reason and one reason only, oil! Iran was home to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, now known as BP.[5] This massive oil company, controlled by the British, allowed the British and the American’s to power their war machines during and after WWII. The downside was that the Iranian people were not receiving a fair share of the profits, yet the Shah and his associates were reaping the benefits of this relationship. This did not play out so well with the Iranians. In 1951 a Prime Minster by the name of Mossadegh, was popularly elected by the people of Iran. Along with a supportive parliament, Mossadegh and the Iranians were able to oust the Shah and his associates relatively peacefully and nationalize the Anglo-Persian oil company. This nationalization meant that Iran will begin to reap the profits of the oil company and Britain will miss its most prized Middle Eastern possession.[6]

            Democracy had won out. In 1951 Iran had popularly elected a prime minster, their Islamic and non-Islamic heritage were both secure and new much brighter age was on the rise. Come 1953 after 28 months of a democratically elected government the United States along with Great Britain decided the Iranians were going back to the tyrannical monarchy of the Shah. With the Shah in power, the Anglos had an ally that would bend to their whim, with a democratically elected government the Anglos would have to (gasp) work things out diplomatically! Operation Ajax as it was called was organized by the CIA and used to overthrow Mossadegh, reinstate the Shah and secure American interests in the region.[7] During this military coup the United States did what the United States is always accused of doing, it paid people to support the Shah and stage protests and riots for his return to power.[8] The coup was a success, Mossadegh and his POPULARLY elected government were ousted and the Shah returned to power for 26 more years. Unfortunately, for the people of Iran who did not support the Shah, he returned vigorously. Now he generating even more support from  the United States so he would not lose his power grip. With his increased American funds, the Shah would beef-up his security crack down and ensured that anyone who stood up to him was put down relatively quickly.[9]
            We arrive at 1979 and the hostage crisis involving Americans and young Iranian Islamists at the American embassy. For 444 days, men and women of the American embassy were held hostage during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that toppled the Shah (for the second time) and installed an Islamic Republic. This time instead of a democratically run government we see the emergence of a theocracy run by Ayatollahs’ and hardliner Islamists. This new government was and still is vehemently anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western overall. American’s exposed to Iran now a days’ only see a crazy backwards society that is run by a right-wing religious party. This is somewhat true, a right wing religious group controls Iran, but when looking at the big picture we see that Iran did not become this anti-Western, religious theocracy on its own. It had help along the way. 26 years of American-backed Shah tyranny helped fuel the hatred toward the US. The fact that the American government interfered with internal Iranian politics before means they will do it again in the eyes of those who control Iran today. So any anti-government protest or event is a sign of American interference, making life for those who want to see Iran run democratically very difficult. Any American organization cannot be trusted due to what they might do. The memories of the 1953 Coup that America funded and participated in is still fresh in the minds of the Iranian leaders that run the country today. America severed ties with the people of Iran in 1953 when they backed the tyrant over democracy setting the stage for radical Islamists to fight against the Shah and push for a religious government. Now in 2012 we are dealing with a product of that decision, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its geopolitical ambitions.


[6] U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran by Mark J. Gasiorowski (Cornell University Press: 1991) p. 59. ISBN 978-0-8014-2412-0
[7] Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.xiv
[8] Zulaika, Joseba (2009). Terrorism: the self-fulfilling prophecy. University of Chicago Press. p. 139.
[9] Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley and Sons, 2003.