Monday, October 24, 2011

US Persecution of Muslims Continues

Yet another “library terrorist” is being prosecuted in Boston. The Feds zeroed in on Tariq Mehanna, pointing to English translations of ancient Arabic Islamic texts on his website, aimed at new Muslims. The authorities said the pharmacist had conspired to attack civilians at a shopping mall, American soldiers abroad and two members of the executive branch of the federal government. The conspiracy occurred from 2001 to 2008, the acting United States attorney, Michael K. Loucks, said.

Mehanna comes from Sudbury, Massachussetts, an affluent suburb. He became acquainted with Daniel Maldonado, a Muslim convert who was arrested in Somalia, through his local mosque. According to the details from the Boston Globe, Tariq Mehanna was arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI in December 2006 regarding the whereabouts and activities of Daniel Maldonado. Mehanna is said to have spoken on the phone to Maldonado back in 2006 and then lied about doing so to the FBI which was investigating Maldonado for the “crime” of going to Somalia and receiving “terrorist training”.

Maldonado is said to have traveled to Africa where he joined up with the popular Islamic Courts Union and received military training and planned to fight with them against US backed warlords. He never even got a chance to fight as he contracted malaria. During this time his wife also contracted malaria, and by the grace of God some strangers brought his children back to Massachusetts in a tragic drama of epic proportions. Maldonado's terrified children watched their mother die in a vehicle attempting to flee the war-torn country. Meanwhile, they await the release of their father from a CMU prison.

Mehanna was accused of many alarming things, but his only confirmed action was to travel to Yemen for religious study, and some other travel on the African continent. The FBI asked Mehanna to become an informant. When he refused, his troubles began. He accepted a job in Saudi Arabia as a pharmacist, and was arrested while trying to board the airplane. Agents from the NYPD traveled to Boston in an attempt to entrap him but Mehanna refused to partake in the “terrorist act” he was presented with. He has not been charged with any act of terrorism.

Tariq is described by those who know him well as humble, reserved, warm, compassionate, intelligent, charismatic, well-read, and dedicated. He has spent time delivering Friday sermons and directing youth study circles, speaking out against injustice and advocating for Muslim prisoners, teaching grade school students and helping those in need. Tarek is described as a man who is always giving.

“I have known him to be one of the most gracious, kind, caring, thoughtful, and respectable people I have ever known... I have seen him go above and beyond what most others would do to help others in need,” writes Ahmad AlFarsi in Tariq's defense.

Mehanna has since been detained in pre-trial solitary confinement at Plymouth County Correction Facility in 23-hour isolation and denied bail twice. He now awaits trial, facing charges of “false statements,” “conspiracy" and "material support for terrorism” and a life sentence if wrongfully convicted. The trial has been set to begin next week. Supporters plan a protest march to the courthouse on Thursday.

Mehanna wrote in a letter to his supporters: “I cannot speak in detail about the charges and accusations against me, but suffice to say that nobody who truly knows me would for a second believe the utter lies and sensationalist garbage that has been peddled around in the media since my arrest. I am not the first person the government has played this game with, and I certainly won't be the last. Regardless, that's OK because, 'Indeed, Allah defends those who believe...' And the Prophets themselves were targets of slander and lies by their opponents. So, who am I to be spared?”

While in prison, Mehanna has done his best to keep a positive attitude and to support fellow prisoners, while keeping his prayers. “No matter how bad things may be going for a given person, there is always someone worse off. There is always that one person you meet who gives you a reality check that reminds you that even though you are in prison going through hardship, etc., there are still things that you can take for granted.” He was referring to the unconditional support of his mother and family.

As usual the typical Zionist lobbyists including the David Project aka “Citizens for Peace and Tolerance,” who are connected with long-discredited Steve Emerson, seem to be complicit in a conspiracy against the Constitutional rights of this individual. Pro-Israel lobbyists are connecting Mehanna to the Roxbury Mosque, which was not his regular prayer venue, in an attempt to smear the local Muslim community in the press. It would be wise for those defending Mehanna to uncover the conspiracy between extremist Zionist groups like the David Project and the FBI in targeting this individual through a well-coordinated legal and media campaign. Until they are stopped, unlawful prosecutions will continue.

In a letter to supporters, Mehanna wrote about something a fellow prisoner said:

“'When I was free, I saw your story on TV. However, it meant nothing to me, because I never thought it could happen to me. So, I did nothing for you. Now that I am in prison and it has happened to me, there are people who heard about my story and will think nothing of it, thinking it will never happen to them. Once it happens to them, others will think nothing of it and do nothing, etc...' So, if you feel that you can just sit back and read about all these cases and do nothing to repel this injustice and that it can never happen to you, think again.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

Occupy Boston Confronts Police

“The people united will never be defeated,” chanted the Occupy Boston protesters who had expanded their peaceful encampment beyond the original campsite to accommodateadditional participants. Veterans for Peace took a front line position as protesters were arrested.

From the beginning, protesters had worked tirelessly to maintain a positive working relationship with city officials. Actions by the Boston Police Department represent a sudden shift away from that dialogue.

“We have a purpose. It’s called the Constitution,” chanted the crowd as police removed campers from the park and trampled the veterans’ flags into the mud. The given reasonfor forcibly removing the protesters at 1:30am was a newly planted flower garden, but the police trampled these flowers in their zeal to curb public enthusiasm for Occupy Boston.

“The whole world is watching”repeated the protesters, with the same hope that has accompanied the Palestinian or Lebanese populations as they have been repelled by“the authorities,” awaiting some kind of angelic or global intervention.

“This is what democracy looks like”was the final word of the crowd as the protesters were arrested.

Official postings from the Occupy Boston newsfeed read:

“As Occupy Boston has grown, the initial area of the occupation has become overcrowded with tents and people. The original encampment is in Dewey Square Park, the southernmost end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the ribbon of parks created when Boston’s expressway was put underground by the Big Dig. In a spontaneous, autonomous action,a large number of occupiers moved into the next section of the Greenway… A subsequent proposal to officially ratify the expanded presence was adopted by consensus at a General Assembly held in the new space.”

“Boston police arrested 141 people during recent Occupy Boston demonstrations. The early morning arrests were made for trespassing and unlawful assembly. After almost 15 hours in custody, finally all of the peaceful demonstrators the Boston Police Department arrested have been released as of 6:00pm October 11th. Occupy Boston has many eye witness accounts and video evidence of police misconduct.”

Protesters have continued holding a daily “General Assembly” for making group decisions. Occupy Boston ratified a statement of solidarity with indigenous peoples at the Saturday October 8thGeneral Assembly, “recognizing that ‘we are guests upon stolen indigenous land.’” Boston thus became the first city in the broader“Occupation movement” to clearly declare its solidarity with indigenous peoples. This is important for all Americans who have been supporting freedom for Palestine.

“United American Indians of New England (UAINE) supports Occupy/Decolonize Boston and the Occupy/Decolonize Wall Street movement generally. We are deeply moved and encouraged that Occupy/Decolonize Boston, as one of its very first actions, issued a memorandum in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.

“We have been the victims of corporate greed for centuries. If you seek to reimagine a new society free of corporate greed, then we would ask that you learn all you can about the past that has carried us to this place.

“We fully support the right of the Occupy/Decolonize Boston encampment to expand from Dewey Square to other parks and open spaces in the city,without the necessity of permits and without fear of police reprisals.”

Occupy Boston has maintained that it will non-violently resist any attempt to end the protest before achieving the change they seek. The protesters have not yet united on any clear aim for their protest other than insisting on their right to continue to protest.

Those of us watching from the sidelines can only speculate as to what importance these protests might have on America’s present and future,or how this relates to struggles in other parts of the world. Without doubt, the emotional enthusiasm of these protesters is real, even raw. Even if we don’t quite understand their goals, a visit to one’s local protest site is sure to invigorate the apathetic. First generation Americans should take note of their personal responsibility to defend US democracy in action.

Shays Rebellion of 1786-87 in Western Massachusetts, was the first populist uprising after the American Revolution. Daniel Shays organized poor farmers from the Connecticut River Valley to shut down the courts that were sending them to debtors prison on behalf of big Boston banks. Many of the farmers were veterans who had trudged home from the Revolution “with not a single month’s pay”in their pockets. Shays and his followers have always been viewed as a small group of poor farmers and debtors who closed the courts as a protest of local civil authority.

To quote Howard Zinn: “The American colonists, having fought and won the war for independence from England, faced the question of what kind of government to establish. In 1786, three years after the treaty of peace was signed, there was a rebellion of farmers in western Massachusetts, led by Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolutionary war. The uprising was crushed, but it put a scare into those leaders who were to become our Founding Fathers.”

After Shays Rebellion, General Henry Knox warned his former commander, George Washington, about the rebels: “They see the weakness of government; they feel at once their own poverty, compared to the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former. Their creed is that the property of the U.S. has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore should be the common property of all.”

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for 1787 was called to deal with this problem, to set up “big government,” to protect the interests of merchants, slave-holders, and landowners.
The conflict between the original purpose of the Constitution,which was to protect landowners, and the current interpretations protecting the rights of individuals, remains at a standstill. Meanwhile, “We the People” continue to voice general grievances.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Gaining momentum

Since the end of September, hundreds of protesters under the banner “Occupy Boston” have set up camp in downtown Boston, Massachusetts to support the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York. Their demands are varied, but seem to be focused on unemployment, rising food prices, and the unfairness of billions of dollars of tax money being spent on useless wars and bank bailouts while the American dream of home ownership and “a chicken in every pot” steadily dies, as ordinary citizens lose their financial security.

Tents have filled up a public park while crowds chant slogans such as “Tax the Rich,” hold up hand made signs and fill the air with music and drumming. Celebrities have come to perform, and the homeless have been receiving free food and clothing. Compared to the scene in New York, Occupy Boston is enjoying a festive atmosphere despite the chilly weather, free of tension without any hint of police brutality.

Various people drop by with donations of money, food, blankets and kind words, while the number of campers continues to grow.

The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino and the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick have decided that there will be no arrests of protesters and have in fact stated publicly that they support the right of citizens to express their opinions. The protesters have been told they are free to camp out as long as they choose. Media criticism has focused on the cost upon taxpayers to pick up the garbage and provide the tent city with electricity. It is highly probable that the City of Boston has decided to avoid the bad press that comes along with police violence against angry mobs. It is also much cheaper to provide these very basic services to the protesters than to arrest and detain them and then pay for all of them to go to trial and provide them all with court-appointed lawyers. Furthermore, there might be some quiet agreement with the slogan “Tax the Rich” among many in the leadership, for this is one of the principles upon which the State of Massachusetts operates, as the only state in the US that provides free health insurance to the lower middle class.

Massachusetts is already well-known as the US state which takes the best care of its poorer citizens out of its wealthy tax base, providing government-subsidised child care starting from the age of one month, after school and summer programmes for teens, nearly free sports programmes, food and cash aid and reduced housing prices for the poor. Yet it is still not enough for everyone to feel secure. The working middle class is hardest hit by the economy since they do not qualify for most of these programmes and often go into debt trying to provide for their families due to medical bills, childcare or the high price of gasoline. Occupy Boston is not your usual group of punks and hippies with nothing else to do but complain. The movement has been joined by college students, nurses, pilots, and other workers. As I drove on the highway today past the electrical workers’ union I saw a fancy electrical sign reading “We the People Occupy Boston.”

America’s largest labour union, the AFL-CIO with 11 million members has backed the growing movement, stating: “The Wall Street banks and the largest corporations refuse to pay their fair share of taxes while our infrastructure crumbles. They sit on record profits while the rest of the country suffers, and they still refuse to put people back to work.” The Boston Herald reports that many of the elderly are showing their support. A retired 71-year-old gentleman, who ran his own corporate headhunting firm, visited the tent village yesterday afternoon to advise the young people to focus on making clearer demands. “I’d like to see the group more focused on applying pressure to specific areas,” he stated.

Personally I agree. It makes no sense using so much personal energy to speak out against such a vague term as “Corporate Greed” without actually naming names of bankers or lobbyists who should go to jail, for example, or demanding some specific reforms of the process of electing public officials.

It is a bizarre situation, where banks and financial corporations have opened their doors to the hundreds of anti-bank anti-corporation protesters to let them use the toilet. The unrest seems to be good for local capitalism, since all these people have to eat.

One of America’s leading pro-Israel advocates Rabbi Michael Lerner has been actively recruiting Jews to participate in the protests — perhaps to steer the conversation away from cutting US aid to Israel, which would be an obvious way to quickly make more money available to the masses of disgruntled Americans.

Even more contradictory are the conflicting views of the people involved. Right-wing Libertarian protesters demand an end to the credit-based economy and want to return to the Gold Standard, while the Leftists and Liberals simply want to steer more borrowed government money into improving and expanding welfare programmes. But most are in agreement that jobs are more important than foreign wars and that the government needs to focus more on its citizens not the demands of corporate lobbyists.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer

Friday, October 07, 2011

Dealing with Hypocrites

In this world, there are many people who do not speak the truth. Even more alarming, there are people who speak in half-truths, using linguistic details to mislead, while not technically lying. Just as the Disbelievers read the Quran looking for corruption within it, certain people make agreements in bad faith, seeking loopholes. Like the Quranic description of Satan, this person makes a promise, but then when you ask him about it, he claims he never promised that thing! Such people can make us want to beat our heads against the wall.

The Prophet (s) said: “Most of man’s mistakes and sins are committed by his tongue, and the worst sin is to lie!”

How can we navigate ourselves safely in a world where things are often not as they are explained? One thing we must do is give less space in our minds to the hypocrites. “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head,” as the saying goes. It is important to let go of the fantasy that we can control others. All we can do is control how we react to them, and make sure we don’t fall into their trap.

“Because hypocrisy stinks in the nostrils one is likely to rate it as a more powerful agent for destruction than it is.” wrote Rebecca West in 1928.

Promise-breakers generally have a pattern of behavior. At a certain point, nobody believes what they say. The Quran states in Surat al-Nur:

And of mankind, there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day’’ while in fact they do not believe. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!

There are some people who are outwardly religious, but you still cannot trust them because they have developed an internal dialogue that justifies their transgressions against other people. A terrible example I can give is an outwardly devout Muslim man who married three wives without clearly explaining his marital status to his brides. When I asked him why he did not inform his third wife of his other two wives, his reply was, “She did not ask!”

In light of this admission I feel obliged to advise those seeking to enter into a marriage with anyone to do three things:

1. Ask questions! Never trust someone blindly or withhold questions in fear of offending.

2. Talk to people who know this person and ask very specific questions about their past.

3. Ask for the person’s credit report

In this day and age where we arrange marriages with near strangers from other parts of the world, it important to check out anyone we plan to marry. A credit report will tell you a lot about a person, in particular: does this person honor his or her agreements? If a bank would not loan money to this person, it would be wise for you not to invest too much trust in this person.

On the authority of Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, the Prophet (s) said: “There are four traits which, whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.”

Nobody is perfect. Some innocent people break promises just because they have personal weaknesses, not because they were intending to deceive. A friend of mine who was going to Germany asked me what I wanted as a gift so I asked her to bring me some marzipan. She faithfully bought the marzipan, but during the journey could not control her sweet tooth and ate it all! I was disappointed of course but I did not hate her for this because she did the honorable thing: She admitted she had made the promise, admitted she broke the promise, and felt genuinely sorry.

There is a huge difference between this and those who purposely trick people, who backbite, cheat, or bluff their way through life, and when you confront them they become hostile to avoid further discussion. One woman found out shortly after marriage that her fiance had lied about his ethnic background, his financial status, and even his source of livelihood! When she asked him why, he said, “If I had told you the truth, you would not have married me.”

A true liar lies in order to seek personal gain. It is not just a reflexive action like that of a teenager whose father asked her, “Have you been smoking?” Real hypocrites actually enjoy torturing truthful people with confusion, considering themselves above others.

Imam Ali stated about the hypocrites: “They are jealous of other people’s prosperity, interested in other people’s misery and are a source of hopelessness and stress.”

I have learned as I have grown older to trust others less and myself more. I have learned that my body never lies. If a certain person causes me to have headaches and stomachaches, or causes my heart rate to increase, that person is probably unhealthy for me as company. I should even refrain from arguing with such a person because they only respond with lies to my attempts to appeal to their higher self.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

Monday, October 03, 2011

How to avoid some pitfalls in marriage

How to avoid some pitfalls in marriage
Karin Friedemann

Recently I was talking to my old friend Lily from Wayne State and she mentioned to me that she and her boyfriend were breaking up. In hearing her story, I was so impressed by how US law protected her as a non-married woman. In their final argument, her now ex took her cell phone from her and smashed it, then he took her laptop and smashed it. When she called the police, he was immediately arrested and put in jail, charged with two counts of destruction of private property. He was facing ten years in prison. She took pity on him and dropped the charges on the condition that he leave the country. She was the owner of the house where they both lived, so earlier on, when he had started becoming violent with her, the police simply removed him from her house like an unwelcome guest.

What if they had been married co-owners of the house? It would be upon the wife to prove to the police that her husband had been intimidating or hurting her. If she was hysterical and he was acting calm, or if he claimed that she was the one attacking him, the police might even side with him. Unless she was gushing blood, the police probably wouldn't do much of anything. At best, they might offer to give the wife a ride to a women's shelter, whereupon she would give up her practical use of the house if she didn't return to her husband. That is so frightening.

My other friend Anya's husband never beat her but he did have a habit of using her credit card without her permission, running up thousands of dollars in debt and promising to pay her back someday. She was stuck with all his credit card charges in the divorce as it was considered “marital debt.” Her lawyer told her that legally, she was responsible for having married the guy and therefore could not demand repayment. In fact, she could be held responsible for paying half of all his debts, even though she was a destitute housewife!

Essentially, Anya was taken for over $10,000 by her man and because he was her husband he got away with it. But Lily's boyfriend faced ten years in prison for putting her out of less than $1000. In fact, the computer company took pity on her situation and replaced her computer for free! Even a year after Anya paid $15,000 to divorce her husband, he's still living in the house that she was forced out of, whose mortgage is in her name and she cannot get him to move out because he is co-owner.

So what's the answer? Don't get married? Legally, a man is required to pay child support whether he was married legally to the mother or not. The only practical reasons that I can think of to get legally married is for immigration purposes, because the cost of marriage far outweighs the personal cost of health insurance or any savings due to jointly filed taxes for most individuals.

A lot of Muslims actually do choose to skip the civil marriage document and have a religious marriage instead. Given the reality of the inadequacy of married women's rights in this country, how can Muslim women protect themselves using Shariah when they get married, especially with the many examples of abuse of Shariah in some countries?

One Islamic law that works well for women in the west is that the wife's money is kept separate. She is free to contribute to the household, but her husband is not free to access her money or her accounts. I would take that a step further and advise married couples never, ever to co-sign on a loan.

For her dowry, the bride can require her husband to buy her a house and put it entirely in her name. But be wise: a divorced housewife doesn't necessarily want to be stuck with suddenly having to pay a mortgage. Think this through in advance. Some Muslim brides ask for a car. Either of these purchases would give a future abused wife the practical and legal power to physically separate herself from her husband while minimizing court battles. In the event of a happy marriage, there is no harm done.

A very important thing no bride to be should overlook is the power of the prenuptial agreement. If it were my daughter, the one thing I would definitely want included would be the right of the wife to initiate divorce for any reason just like a man. Islam gives this right to women if they would ask for it. Marriage is ideally a mutual agreement based on the free will of both parties. There should be no coercion involved. Both parties should want to be together. No woman should be put in the position of having to “prove” that her husband is impotent or that he has a mental illness he refuses to get help for.

If a couple has signed a prenuptial agreement, that contract can be enforced under US law. Not because it is Shariah but because it is a legally binding contract. Unfortunately, a married woman in the US has to separate from her husband before she can take him to court for support as she should be able to under Shariah law (in theory) while remaining with him. It would be interesting to find out if an Islamically married woman has ever forced her husband to pay the dowry he promised her using any western legal system. If anyone has any examples please let me know, I would be fascinated.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. Please feel free to comment at