Monday, July 27, 2009

Prisoners of a Special Kind

Not much is known about the new federal prisons that house primarily Muslims and political activists, that are called Communications Management Units (CMUs), except that they are located in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois.

Although the US government refuses to disclose the list of prisoners to the public, inmates include Enaam Arnaout, founder of Islamic charity Benevolence International Foundation, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, physician and founder of Iraqi charity Help the Needy, Ghassan Elashi, founder of Holy Land Foundation and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Randall Royer, Muslim civil rights activist, Yassin Aref, Imam and Kurdish refugee, Sabri Benkahla, an American who was abducted the day before his wedding while studying in Saudi Arabia, and John Walker Lindh, an American convert to Islam who was captured in Afghanistan, plus some non-Muslim political activists. Most of these prisoners were falsely accused of terrorist offenses and then imprisoned for lesser charges but given sentences meant for serious terrorism-related crimes.

Carmen Hernandez, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said, “The primary problem with the opening of (the CMU) is that no one knows the criteria used to send the person imprisoned to that unit.”

What the prisoners have in common is that they were well disciplined, studious, and often religious compared to those in the general prison population, they maintain strong commitments to various causes, and for some reason the government wants to keep them separate, to restrict their communication with the outside world.

Prison officials claim, “By concentrating resources in this fashion, it will greatly enhance the agency’s capabilities for language translation, content analysis and intelligence sharing.”

Attorney Paul Hetznecker stated, “These Communication Management Units are an expansion of a continued war on dissent in this country... of using that word “terrorism” to push a political agenda and to really dominate and to control—attempt to control these social movements.”

Andy Stepanian, an animal rights activist who is the first to be released from a CMU, called it “a prison within the actual prison.” He said that the prisoners “are not there because they harmed anyone. They’re not there because they approach anything that most reasonable people would consider even close to being terrorism.”

He further stated, “From what I observed, about 70 per cent of the men that were there were Muslim and had questionable cases that were labeled as either extremist or terrorist cases. But when I grew to meet them, I realised that the cases were, in fact, very different. What it appears to be is that they don’t want people that are either considered to be fundamentalist in Islam or more devout than your average American in Islam to be circulating amidst the regular prison populace in the Bureau of Prisons. Whatever their objective in doing so, I mean, that would have to come from the Bureau of Prisons. But one can surmise it’s because they don’t want the spread of Islam in the prisons or that they’re trying to silence communications from these individuals, because perhaps their cases are in question themselves, and they don’t want to allow them access to the media.”

He concluded, “At the end of this prison sentence, I’ll look back on the fact that I had a tremendous opportunity to meet people from different cultures, to be exposed to the Islamic world and understand that it’s not something 
to be feared, it’s not something to 
be vilified.”

Daniel McGowan, a non-Muslim political activist in “Little Guantamo” wrote: “The most painful aspect of this unit, to me, is how the CMU restricts my contact with the world beyond these walls. It is difficult for those who have not known prison to understand what a lifeline contact with our family and friends is to us. It is our link to the world - and our future (for those of us who are fortunate enough to have release dates).”

The US houses 2.3 million domestic prisoners. Conditions are far worse in some of the other prisons. Within the CMU, Muslim prisoners are at least safe from violence.

However, the discrimination against prisoners at CMUs, in addition to the severe limitations on visits, phone calls and letters, includes a lack of access to vocational training and paying jobs that are available to other prisoners. More than half of the men face deportation after their release, and the difficulty in obtaining law books makes it difficult to prepare for an immigration hearing.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed lawsuits on behalf of several prisoners challenging the CMUs’ “violation of federal laws requiring public scrutiny” as well as the prison’s restrictions on Islamic group prayer. This legal struggle must be supported by increased activism on the outside to demand the release of the innocent either falsely convicted or 
intimidated into pleading guilty to bogus charges.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Of Conspiracies and Plots

Many blame Ashcroft, Cheney, and Bush for ongoing campaigns against activists, politicians and organizations that try to help Arabs and Muslims.

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, a long time Palestinian rights advocate, told supporters that he believes former US Attorney General John Ashcroft personally orchestrated a sting operation to remove him from office. As in previous cases, strategic “media update sessions” put the media into a predatory frenzy before the accused even went to trial. Media accusations often do not even coincide with the actual charges.

Riad Hamad, founder of Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund in Texas, believed George Bush was after him. When Hamad died mysteriously and violently after a vicious media campaign libeling him as a terrorism supporter, police and FBI refused to investigate. Clearly, there was a conspiracy involving media and law enforcement. Yet for Bush personally to take such an interest in local politics is probably beyond plausibility.

This pattern of political persecutions from Turner to Chas Freeman can be best understood with a bottom-up approach.

As Jewish wealth, power, and influence have increased so has its ability to punish those offending the organized Jewish community in some way. While the Jewish power elite seems to enjoy legal immunity, Americans and US residents targeted by these powerful political economic oligarchs suffer media and governmental abuse. This is particularly true in the Boston area, which is now a major command and control center for transnational Jewish politics and Zionist lobbying.

Not only do many such organizations that long ago should have lost 501(c)(3) tax deductible status continue to incite racism effectively with US government subsidization, but financial predation has to be truly awesome before discussion of their financial wrongdoing becomes even slightly possible, and to this day a Boston-area fraudster like longtime Madoff-associate Robert Jaffe has yet to face criminal charges.

Americans should wonder whether the studious obliviousness of US Attorney to federal criminal violations, including all the ongoing bribery of US public officials with trips to Israel, indicates that Zionist power has trumped Constitutional loyalty.

Although the pattern of abuse of power extends well beyond the Boston area, much if not most of Zionist social, political, economic, and academic misbehavior links back to the Boston-area Jewish community or educational institutions where young Jews often first hook up with vast corrupt Jewish social networks. As a major American and world education center, Boston provides the most efficient and excellent means for the Jewish power elite to influence the USA and the world. No one should be surprised US Senator from Israel Joseph Lieberman and Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse are co-in-laws.

Although the presence of extremist Zionists like Rahm Emanuel or Dennis Ross near the president is disturbing, lower rank staffers like Treasury Department official Stuart Levey or pro-Israel propagandist Matthew Levitt are far more threatening to US democracy. While serving the government, Boston-bred Levitt constructed a vast terrorist conspiracy out of paranoid Zionist fantasies trying to explain the refusal of Muslims to acknowledge that it was just to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.

In Levitt's delusions, to which other lesser ranking government officials like Daniel Pipes and Rachel Ehrenfeld contributed, Islamic finance and Islamic charity serve as a many-headed hydra of evil. Through vast numbers of meetings and internal dissemination of documents Levitt and Levey spread Zionist doctrine throughout government bureaucracy until practically every official from Ashcroft down could on cue reflexively repeat the whole litany of the sins that Levitt had fabricated about each charity or financial entity that was targeted for demonization.

Roots of the conspiracy involving Pipes, Levitt, and Levey lead back to the Boston area, where the Israel Lobby is deeply embedded in the region's educational institutions.

Aafia Siddique, who was a graduate student in cognitive neuroscience at Boston area Brandeis University, was demonized as a terrorist to punish her Muslim activism at the Jewish institution. The case constructed against Siddiqui has the flavor of psychotic paranoia so common in Matthew Levitt’s anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic fantasies.

During the Bush administration Levitt, who manipulated the US government into putting a lot of good people in jail, was a close associate of both Ashcroft and Levey, who continues in the Obama administration as an American Jewish Committee covert operative.

Understanding the centrality of Boston Jewish power in the USA requires a critical look at The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Professors Mearsheimer and Walt incorrectly claim the Israel Lobby is just another lobby even though the Israel Lobby is really the public face of an international criminal web, which has rendered the USA a dependent intimidated client state within the Zionist imperial system.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Breastfeeding rates still low despite global education

Despite widespread awareness of the importance of breastfeeding to the human child, mothers in developed countries demonstrate low rates of compliance with global recommendations. Nursing past six months is the exception rather than the rule. Bottle-feeding infants has become normal. Exclusive and extensive breastfeeding has become a pastime primarily for the rich with some interesting exceptions. Nordic countries exhibit the overall highest European breastfeeding rate with England ranking lowest. UAE ruling class mothers exclusively breastfeed the longest among Arabs while Iraq suffers the lowest breastfeeding rates. US Whites and Native Americans are most likely to breastfeed while Blacks and Hispanics are the least likely.

Class plays a large role in decision to breastfeed, for far fewer women belonging to the routine and manual labor socio-economic group nurse beyond six weeks than is typical of professional women and full time mothers. Yet, religion and philosophy also affect women’s decision to breastfeed. In Singapore non-Malay Muslim women are 6.7 times more likely to breastfeed than Buddhist women although Malays have the lowest rate. Urban babies receive half the breast milk of rural babies. The youngest mothers tend to supplement with bottles from birth.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF work hard to promote breastfeeding worldwide, but their success is undermined by factors such as free infant formula distribution, hospital practices and lack of personal support. Breastfeeding is a learned skill requiring effort and focus. Good intentions are not always enough to establish lactation. “Baby-friendly hospital” initiatives in many countries have significantly increased breastfeeding but rates are still well below optimum health guidelines.

Almost all new mothers attempt breastfeeding but few continue for the recommended period. According to UNICEF the early introduction of bottle-feeding and complementary food leads to premature weaning, which is the primary cause of malnutrition in children under age two worldwide.

Many women give up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding out of a sense of powerless over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child, but they lost their chance. Hospitals fail to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. Most new mothers receive free samples of formula because of multi-million dollar deals between hospitals and pharmaceutical companies and come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Coaxing a newborn child to breastfeed after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice can be a big struggle. Success may be impossible without the aid of a midwife or lactation counselor because unfortunately even the older generation of mothers lack sufficient knowledge.

When newborns reject the breast, mothers typically try for a while, then give up and supply a bottle. This teaches the baby that refusing to nurse will be rewarded. Parents must exercise “tough love” by declining to give the baby a bottle even if it takes several hours or even days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, do give him water with a cup or medicine dropper, but introducing a bottle creates “nipple confusion” which is disastrous for the mother-child relationship).

Some women give up on breastfeeding because the husband insists. This tragedy reveals a stripping away at women’s postnatal rights and sets a dangerous precedent. Nursing a baby is an exhausting and time-consuming job requiring family help, encouragement, and support especially from the father to enable mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible particularly during the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Many women manage to make it through those hardest days in the beginning and then stop breastfeeding after a few weeks out of fear of insufficient milk supply. These mothers need to increase their consumption of calories and to get adequate rest. Under no circumstances should they give their baby a bottle because this will only decrease the supply of breastmilk. Sometimes it is actually the doctor’s advice to start feeding their babies solids before 6 months that leads to premature weaning. A mother needs to weigh the fun of spoon-feeding her infant against the risk of premature rejection of the breast.

Thus bottle-feeding rates remain high despite awareness that breastmilk alone contains all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones and immune factors that a baby needs.

“Encouraging exclusive breastfeeding has to become a high priority in all sectors of society,” said Dr. Mahendra Sheth, UNICEF Regional Health and Nutrition Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months followed by complementary feeding between 6-9 months with continued breastfeeding through the first year could save an estimated 1.5 million lives annually.

Women receiving adequate advice can often prolong nursing even after returning to work outside the home. Premature infants particularly need breast milk for the best odds in life.

Pregnant women should read books on how to breastfeed and understand fully the necessary commitment to avoid making a tragic mistake to be remembered with regret.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.