Knee-jerk reaction to Sydney Hostage Crisis –

Western media reported what happened as expected. Muslims are their targets of choice.

Saying an Islamic gunman took hostages in a Sydney cafe. A black and white flag with Arabic writing like those used by the Islamic State (IS) terrorists reportedly visible. Raising fears of radicalized Islamic militants running wild, home-grown or of Middle East origin.

Planning other attacks. Australia is on high alert. Mindless of a flag unrelated to the IS, or its message saying: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is his messenger.” Hardly a call to violence. Urging widespread terror attacks.
Islam teaches love. Not hate. Peace. Not violence. Charity. Not selfishness. Tolerance. Not terrorism. Its five pillars include profession of faith. Prayer five times daily. Fasting during Ramadan. Charity. Performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime for those able to afford it.

No matter. Muslims are stereotypically portrayed as dangerous gun-toting terrorists. Hate messages repeat regularly. Fear stoked.

Imperial wars target Muslim countries. Western homeland ones are vilified. Persecuted for their faith, ethnicity. At times, prominence. Activism. Charity.

Relentlessly targeted. Hunted down. Rounded up. Held in detention. Treated like common criminals. Held on secret evidence. Convicted on bogus charges. Given long prison sentences. Without just cause.

Australia like America and much of Europe. A police Martin Place operation began. In Sydney’s central business district. Including heavily-armed SWAT teams.

People advised to avoid the area. Trains and buses halted. Roads blocked. Surrounding streets sealed off. Helicopters overflew Sydney.

A portion of its central business district on lockdown. Affecting its New South Wales Parliament. Reserve Bank. Opera house. Law courts. State library.

Sydney Harbor Bridge traffic halted. A Martin Place bomb threat reported. Reports said Australian authorities focused on cracking down on radicalized Islamists.

Scare headlines included the Washington Post claiming “Australia’s jihadist problem is much bigger than Sydney’s hostage crisis.”

Things lasted 16 hours. Gunman called a self-styled sheikh. Things ended when heavily armed police stormed the downtown cafe Tuesday pre-dawn.

Live television showed what happened. Reported intense gunfire. At least two deaths followed. Including the gunman.

At 2:45AM, Sydney police twittered: “Sydney siege is over. More details to follow.”

Prior to its ending, reports said at least six hostages escaped. The hostage-taker identified as Man Haron Monis.

A mid-50s Iranian man. Allegedly calling himself Sheikh Haron. Australian media reporting his lawyer saying he acted alone.

According to Australian national broadsheet The Age, he was free on bail. Involving two separate criminal cases.

Charged with being an accessory before and after the fact. In the murder of his former wife – Noleen Hayson Pal. Reportedly stabbed. Her apartment set ablaze.

Also charged with sexually assaulting a woman in western Sydney in 2002.

Police claimed he self-styled himself a spiritual healer. Conducted business openly. On Station Street at Wentworthville.

In 2013, he pled guilty to 12 charges. Related to sending so-called poison-pen letters. To families of Australian servicemen. Killed overseas. In NATO war theaters.

A web site reportedly connected to him includes US and Australia condemnations. For military action against Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sydney Muslim community leader, Jamal Rifi, was quoted saying, “Everything he stands for is wrong.” His actions have nothing to do with Islam.

He’s never been associated with any mainstream mosque, and he is not associated with any of our religious leaders whatsoever. He is self-proclaimed.s Monis’ family well. Not him personally. He’s not a sheikh, he said. His dress is traditional. Including a beard. Common everywhere. Including in Western countries.

Media reports say it’s unclear if had accomplices. Australia remained transfixed for hours. So did many other parts of the world. Featuring what happened. Ignoring other news.

Australia’s right-wing Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, went on national television. From Canberra. Australia’s capital. Before things ended.

Saying “an armed person claiming political motivation” is involved. It’s “profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage. This is obviously a deeply disturbing incident.

   “But all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner.”

Earlier Abbott convened a cabinet security meeting. Considering how to respond to what happened. Almost as though Australia was invaded. Or faced an imminent major threat.

Lindt Cafe’s Lindt Sprungli CEO Stephen Loane at first thought a holdup was in progress. Maybe gone awry. When he arrived on site, he realized otherwise.

Throughout the siege, television coverage was non-stop. Nearby buildings were evacuated. Including Washington’s consulate. A block away.

People nearby remaining inside were told stay away from windows.

Islamophobia grips Australia. Fear-mongering persists. Without just cause. It bears repeating. Like in America. Much of Europe. Israel.

Dozens of Australian Muslim men had their passports revoked. On suspicion of planning to join Islamic State terrorists. In Syria or Iraq. Despite no credible evidence proving it.

Early Monday, Federal Police arrested a 25-year-old man. From suburban Sydney. On suspicion of financing terrorism. Authorities called him unconnected to hostage siege conditions.

Islamic Council of Victoria general manager, Nail Aykan, expressed concern about “repercussions for prejudice-motivated crime. We don’t want a domino effect in wider society,” he said.

University of Wollongong terrorism researcher Professor Adam Dolnik called what happened either “a lone wolf sympathetic to the issues of the Islamic State and the goal of jihad more generally” or a case of “psychopathology in search of a cause.”
Australia is home to around half a million Muslims. Half or more in Sydney. Many fleeing 1970s/80s  Lebanese violence.

Ordinary people. Some prosperous. Assimilating well. With community members. People of other faiths.

Imagine a different scenario. If an average-looking Anglo-Saxon white male committed the same act. In Australia. A European country.

Especially America. Militarized police terrorize people of color. Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies Professor Peter Kraska estimates around 50,000 annual nationwide SWAT raids. Around 137 daily.

Not in Middle American white communities. Or downtown business districts. In cases similar to what happened in Sydney.

If an average-looking Anglo-Saxon white male suspect was involved. Media coverage would be local. If any. Not non-stop. Blocking out other news.

Obama wouldn’t go on national television. Commenting like Tony Abbott. Or convene his national security team. Or dispatch National Guard forces.

Most people if asked wouldn’t know what happened. Wouldn’t care. No connection to radicalized terrorists would be cited.

Or imminent threats. No scare headlines. Or downtown lockdowns. Or community ones.

Calm would return. Life would go on normally. Polar opposite if a Muslim was involved. An entire community would share blame.

Vilifying people for their faith would continue. More justification for America’s war on terror. Scapegoating Muslims for their faith.

Federal, state and local authorities take full advantage. Expect the worst of things to continue.

Expect Sydney’s hostage siege to affect Muslims in America adversely. Rogue states operate this way.

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Exchange Muslim Students Celebrate Xmas

CAIRO – Observing Christmas for the first time in America, Muslim exchange students in Wisconsin will share their friends the festivities, embracing the Christmas traditions along with their colleagues.

“I enjoy the lights and decorations for Christmas,” Khadhra Barira, 21, a Muslim student from Tunisia, told Wausau Daily Herald on Friday, December 19.

“And I received my first Christmas present. And I gave one, too.”

The veiled Muslim student, Barira, who is an exchange students at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County, will be experiencing Christmas celebrations in the US for the first time.

Barira along with her Tunisian Muslim colleague at the exchange program, Samer Boubaker, travelled on Friday to Toledo, Ohio, to celebrate Christmas with friends and Boubaker’s father.

“Of course, we saw it in the movies,” said Boubaker, 20, who is from the city of Monastir, a tourist destination on the North African country’s east coast.

“And we know the religious significance. … Jesus is a highly respected figure in Islam, too.”

The Tunisian students, who miss their country, stressed that participating in Christmas events and traditions doesn’t conflict with own beliefs.

Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.

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Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.

In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called “Isa”. He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).

“I see it as this cultural experience that brings people together. … You can definitely feel that people love it,” Boubaker said.

“It’s Christmas! You need to celebrate.”

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PERSPECTIVE: Knowledge beyond the narrow construct

THE Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and the American University of Sharjah launched the Muslim-Science.Com Task Force on Teaching of Science in the Islamic World in May this year. The initiative is funded partly by John Templeton Foundation and the Science Education Task Force, with the partnership of MIGHT, the Islamic World Academy of Sciences and Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

The aim is “to jump start dialogue, discourse and debate on critical issues and big questions at the intersection of science and religion within the Islamic world”. While Muslim-Science.Com is an online platform and portal dedicated to the revival of science and scientific culture within the Islamic World, the task force met for the first time in Kuala Lumpur for a face-to-face interaction over two days. The first day was a closed-door session for task force members, while the second was designed to be more consultative, opened to other interested parties, including members of the academe. On the second day, Professor Bruce Alberts, the former editor-in-chief of science, President Barack Obama’s science envoy to the Islamic world, and a recent recipient of the US National Medal of Science, gave a keynote address.

Muslim-Science.Com founding editor and publisher Dr Athar Osman said: “There is simply no conversation or discourse on some of the most critical aspects of science and society within the Islamic world.

“Without addressing these in a critical manner, we will continue to approach science in a piecemeal fashion without really making our mark on its development or fully benefiting from this activity.”

That said, the issues surrounding science in the Islamic world — or science from the Islamic perspective, including its own worldview culture of learning and larger aspiration — is not an entirely new phenomenon. Islam has its claim to fame in advancing science as a repository of knowledge, long before it was reduced to a “technical” discipline called “modern science”. Muslims then tend to be polymaths, which literally means “having learned much”.

The lexicon explanation is “a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems”. Psychologist Seymour Epstein describes it as someone with the brain of scientists and the sensibilities of poets. In other words, (s)he has the positive features of both thinking styles and does not have their negative features because they are kept under control by the other thinking style.

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519 CE) quickly comes to mind, but not personalities before him such as Al-Kindi (c. 801–873 CE), for example.

This is because is the latter is kept under the cloak of the so-called Dark Ages and therefore “modern science” takes no notice of him. Yet Al-Kindi is noted for his hundreds of original and innovative treatises on a variety of subjects ranging from metaphysics, ethics, logic and psychology, medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy and astrology to optics, and further afield to more practical topics such as perfumes, swords, jewels, glass, dyes, zoology, tides, mirrors, meteorology and earthquakes. He is comparable to Da Vinci but in a very different way.

The world of knowledge is rapidly converging and the rigidly defined “modern sciences” are giving way to the “transdisciplinarity” in the search for more lasting global solutions. The teaching of science is also going beyond the oft-quoted acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), not just in the Islamic world but also the balanced world of knowledge between for instance the old and new, traditional and modern, indigenous and contemporary, West and East, North and South, centre and periphery, and naqli and aqli.

From the Islamic viewpoint, it is about achieving the right balance of mizan as the new narrative moving forward. This is indeed the world that is ahead of us if there is to be hope for a new future for all humanity to live in peace.

And knowledge, beyond the current narrow construct, is no more than a means to this noble end.

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Four Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to Afghanistan

Four Afghan detainees were transferred from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense said Saturday, the first transfer of prisoners to the Middle Eastern country since 2009.

The prisoners released were Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir, according to the Pentagon. The Guantanamo Review Task Force reviewed the case and unanimously approved the transfer of the detainees, and Congress was notified of the move. “These guys, at worst, could be described as low level but that’s even a stretch,” a senior administration official told NBC News. The detainees left Guantanamo Friday morning and landed in Afghanistan later in the day, according to the official. 

Currently 132 people remain imprisoned at Guantanamo – 64 are approved for transfer, while 68 are not. Many of the prison’s inmates have not been charged with a crime. More detainees are set to be transferred in the coming weeks, the official said. 

Saturday’s detainee transfer comes just days after the U.S. moved to normalize diplomatic relationships with Cuba, where Guantanamo is located. The U.S. has also accelerated the pace with which it has transferred Gitmo prisoners. Six prisoners were sent to Uruguay earlier this month. And late last month, five more detainees were released, according to the Defense Department. 

“The United States is grateful to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the Pentagon said in a statement Saturday.

President Obama pledged early in his time in office to close the prison at Guantanamo, but despite recent progress, the White House has made little headway on the issue. Still, the administration is reportedly considering moves to sidestep Congress and ultimately disband the facility.

“This repatriation reflects the Defense Department’s continued commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo in a responsible manner,” Paul Lewis, the Pentagon’s special envoy for the closure of Guantanamo, said in a statement Saturday. 

The movement of the four detainees comes less than two weeks after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report exposing the brutal interrogation tactics used by the CIA on detained terror suspects. “It is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Intelligence Committee chair, said in an introduction to the report.

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Kurds make gains on ISIS in Iraq

by Agencies
Source: MWC News

Kurdish troops in northern Iraq

By: Agencies

Source: MWC News

Kurdish forces backed by US-led warplanes have recaptured a large area in Iraq near the Syrian border in an offensive against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a top US commander has said.

More than 50 air strikes in recent days by coalition aircraft “have resulted in allowing those [Kurdish] forces to manoeuvre and regain approximately 100 square kilometres of ground” near Sinjar, Lieutenant General James Terry, head of the US-led campaign against the ISIL group, told reporters on Thursday.

Kurdish peshmerga forces said earlier that they had captured several villages and were rolling back the ISIL fighters around Sinjar in the country’s northwest.

The capture of Sinjar by ISIL fighters in early August and the plight of the mostly Yazidi minority population there was cited by President Barack Obama as one of the reasons for the US military intervention.

The US and allied aircraft have carried out 1,361 raids against the ISIL group since bombing began on August 8, Terry said.

The advance of the ISIL fighters had been halted and the group was having difficulty moving and communicating as a result of the air campaign, he said.

“I think we’ve made significant progress in halting that progress [by ISIL],” Terry said.

More than a thousand American troops are expected to move into Iraq in a few weeks to train local forces on top of about 1,700 already stationed in the beleaguered country.

However, Terry said it would take at least three years to build the capabilities of the Iraqi military.

He said the challenge is to get Iraqi units trained and back into the fight so they can plan operations to regain contested areas.

The Iraqi army wants to launch a counter-offensive to retake Mosul – northern Iraq’s largest city – likely aided by the US support and coordination.

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Explosive ‘I’ll ride with you’ hashtag based on a hoax

Ben Shapiro at Truth Revolt notes another liberal “lies are fine, as long as they start a conversation” moment, this time in Australia.

As the story went, in the aftermath of the Muslim terror attack in Sydney, former political candidate and now university lecturer Rachel Jacobs (pictured) saw a woman sitting next to her on a train, taking off her headscarf.  The sight so moved Jacobs that she, knowing nothing about the woman, tearfully embraced her and declared, “Put it back on, I’ll walk with you.”  Per Jacobs, “[s]he started to cry and hugged me for about a minute, then walked off alone.”

All this from a post on Jacobs’s Facebook, which inspired the successful #IllRideWithYou hashtag campaign for people terrified at the prospect of a terrorist attack reflecting badly on Islam or Muslims.  “By 6pm [on Monday] it had been mentioned 90,000 times and was trending worldwide, with countless news outlets mentioning it as a bright spark of hope in a tragic day.”

It turns out that the Jacobs’s actions in her story were a complete fabrication (though her sanctimony was not):

Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised [sic]. She wasn’t sitting next to me. She was a bit away, towards the other end of the carriage. Like most people she had been looking at her phone, then slowly started to unpin her scarf.

Tears sprang to my eyes and I was struck by feelings of anger, sadness and bitterness. It was in this mindset that I punched the first status update into my phone, hoping my friends would take a moment to think about the victims of the siege who were not in the cafe.

Imagine what the actual victims of the actual attack must think to read that second paragraph.

The idea that this woman is choking back tears at the injustice of a situation concocted entirely in her own head says a lot about her state of mind.  So does this: “At a time of heightened emotions, a misplaced word or phrase could cause offence, requiring numerous explanations and reassurances.”  And this (emphasis added): “It will be tempting to search for answers in politics or beliefs, sheltering in the irrational fear that more madness is to come.”  And this: “I’d rather deliver a message to racists, bigots and anyone who dares to derive a message of hate from this tragedy – it is you who are unwelcome here. Your values have no place in civilised [sic] society, and if you spread intolerance, there’s an avalanche of kindness ready to take you down.”

This sort of “ends justify the means” narrative-forming is par for the course in liberal thought.  What exactly constitutes “intolerance” is not defined, nor are the criteria to make one a “racist” (since when is Islam a race?) or “bigots.”  All one can know is that in the wake of a Muslim terror attack, everybody had better offer his car or his personal space to someone taking off a headscarf – as Jacobs herself says, “[s]he might not even be Muslim or she could have just been warm!”  Because treating people a certain way because they kinda-sorta look Muslim (maybe?) is bigoted only when someone other than Rachel Jacobs is doing it.

The takeaway: egocentric lies are perfectly fine, as long as they effect the liar’s desired result.  The true surprise here may be that Jacobs fessed up at all.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker‘s deputy editor.  Contact him at, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.

Images via the Joel Carrett/AAP and the Brisbane Times.

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Clouds Over Charities for Refugees in Islamic Countries

The world has 50 million displaced people, and refugees have little choice but to depend on other countries and their citizens for generosity. Faith-based charities are often among the first to respond to humanitarian crises, notes the UN Refugee Agency, and Islamic faith-based charities are active in Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – lead host nations for refugees. Fundraising by Muslim charities could be compromised as governments try to block financing mechanisms for extremist groups like the Islamic State, including jihadists posing as charitable groups. Governments, however, don’t agree on which groups should be banned. The UAE placed Britain’s largest Muslim charity, one that works closely with governments and the United Nations, on a list of banned groups. Aid groups engaging in discrimination, waste or criminal activity erode donor confidence. Unfounded accusations can ruin reputations and discourage generosity, too. – YaleGlobal

The murder and mayhem of Islamic State and other terrorists ruin the lives of those who must flee in more ways than one. The conflict poses danger and uncertainty for aid groups operating in the region, and fundraising is compromised as governments strive to put a stranglehold on resources diverted to extremists.

Amid a flurry of cross-border donations and grants to help the victims, governments want to prevent funding, particularly public monies or tax-exempt donations, landing into the hands of extremists. Attacks on Muslim charities as a whole are counterproductive and threaten fundraising capability among Muslims, identified as the most generous religious group in the United Kingdom, warned Stephen Bubb, executive director of ACEVO, a UK charity leaders network, in a letter to The Times and testimony to the Parliament’s Joint Committee on the Draft Protection of Charities Bill.

“Ironically, such groups are our best opportunity to create a common sense of belonging and purpose that prevents radicalisation and extremism,” Bubb wrote.

Governments are encouraging greater transparency on charitable missions and improved training for banks and transfer agents after more than 25 nations – including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Iraq as well as the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom – met in Bahrain in early November for a Conference on Combating the Financing of Terrorism.

Suspicions have run high since the 9/11 attacks in 2001 about charities serving as fronts for collecting or laundering money for terrorist groups. A staff report for the US National Commission on Terrorist Attacks suggested that Al Qaeda funding, about $30 million per year, was largely diversions from Islamic charities and facilitators who collected money from “both witting and unwitting donors, primarily in the Gulf region.”


Yet faith-based charitable organizations are often among the first to respond to humanitarian crises, notes the UN Refugee Agency. At the start of 2014, the world had more than 50 million forcibly displaced people. Lead host nations for refugees are Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey where Islamic faith-based charities are on the frontlines. Faith-based groups have vast networks, notes the agency, and they “often remain long after international attention has faded, and funding has declined.” In October, the UN Relief and Works Agency – responsible for 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, whose core activities largely rely on donations – praised a coalition of five international Muslim charities for relief efforts in Gaza and a $500,000 donation. 

The string of military successes for Islamic State extremists, suspected of receiving external financial backing, has prompted renewed crackdown on financing mechanisms for extremist groups as countries tighten regulations, compile lists of banned groups and try to clear donor confusion. Charities banned in one nation still operate in others. New groups select names similar to those of established groups. Organizers can quickly re-register new names. 

Internally displaced Syrian people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Internally displaced Syrian people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the conference in November, the United Arab Emirates banned more than 80 groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, but also civic groups and charities like Islamic Relief UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Muslim American Society – though the three are not banned in their home countries.The United States bans groups with similar Islamic Relief names in Indonesia, Philippines and Sudan.

Some groups go beyond required compliance. The UK government advised donors concerned about the Gaza conflict this year to donate through registered charities and the official Disasters Emergency Committee, including Islamic Relief Worldwide. After the Israeli Defense Minister claimed the charity passed funds to Hamas, Islamic Relief Worldwide filed an incident report with UK authorities and began its own investigation. The UN Refugee Agency praises Islamic Relief Worldwide in its booklet on faith-based organizations.


Trends and rumors hurt legitimate charities that provide humanitarian relief, said Sharif Aly, advocacy counsel with Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, an independent affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide. Islamic Relief USA works in about 35 countries, often in partnership with the UN and other diverse faith-based groups.

So far, prosecutions of faith-based charities are relatively few. France shut down the Pearl of Hope charity in Paris and charged two leaders with using deliveries of aid to funnel funds to jihadist groups in Syria. The Charity Commission, the independent regulator in Britain and Wales, opened investigations against at least seven groups, reports the Telegraph.  Auditors refused to approve one account after donations increased exponentially and the groups could not produce adequate records on distributions in Syria. Other groups were linked to young men who left Britain allegedly to fight for the Islamic State.

The Charity Commission announced plans to invest £8 million in technology to profile, monitor charities to identify abuse, mismanagement or risks.

Governments confront formidable challenges in tracking funding to developing nations. New charities emerge with new disasters.  Giving is often an impulsive, emotional response to news reports of disasters and hardship.

Donors also expect funds to go directly for blankets, food, healthcare, education and programs and many check sites like Charity Navigator to avoid high overhead costs. Mercy-USA for Aid and Development, not a faith-based group, with field offices and programs in Syria, Somalia and Gaza, reports low overhead costs, less than 5 percent. Costs of working in conflict zones are built into budgets, and the group is accustomed to working in dangerous areas, for example, providing food and other care for 1,000 families in Aleppo for two years along with winterization packages that include blankets.


“We rely on field staff to make the call on security,” said Kari Ansari, spokeswoman, who said the group has no problems with government tracking. “If an area is not safe, we pull out, for the safety of recipients and staff.” Many local field staff cannot afford to flee to another country and insist on carrying out relief efforts. Mercy-USA lost one aid worker in a bombing last year.

Of total financial flows moving from developed to developing countries, private philanthropy and remittances far exceed government aid, reports the Hudson Institute.

International nongovernmental or civil society organizations have increased tenfold since 1990 with more than 66,000 in 2012 with growing influence. For example, involvement in projects financed by theWorld Bank increased from 21 percent in 1990 to 82 percent in fiscal year 2012. Of more than 3,000 NGOs with consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, 320 are characterized as religious, suggests a study in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance: More than half are identified as Christian,16 percent as Muslim.

Charitable giving is obligatory for Muslims with zakat one of the five basic pillars of Islam. Followers are expected to donate about 2.5 percent of their total wealth – not just wages – held for at least one lunar year to assist the poor, debtors, travelers and other causes. Some Islamic charities offer online calculators to guide donors on valuing savings and property.

Governments and charities alike repeatedly urge donors to review projects and charity track records before giving. The US Treasury Department  suggests that charities monitor employees, grantees with audits and sometimes even background checks .

Aid groups engaging in proselytization, discrimination, waste or criminal activity erode donor confidence. Slightest hints of wrongdoing or unfounded accusations damage reputations of aid groups and the organizations that rely on them, including the United Nations. 

Refugees depend on generosity. The World Food Programme put out an emergency appeal for funding in early December, warning that food aid for 1.7 million Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt would be slashed. More than $80 million was raised in one week.

The UN anticipates 27 percent more funding is needed for humanitarian aid in its 2015 budget over 2014, with the bulk of that to be spent in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan. Reduced aid could transform humanitarian emergencies into security crises. 

Susan Froetschel, with YaleGlobal Online since 2005, is the author of five novels. Fear of Beauty won the youth literature award from the Middle East Outreach Council. Allure of Deceit is about an Afghan village’s dismay over being considered a recipient for charitable aid. 

Republished with permission from YaleGlobal Online. Read the Original.

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Cincinnati Muslims grieve for Peshawar kids

Amna Ahmed is a Pakistani-American mother of two young children and a member of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati who resides in Mason.

The tragic event in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which a group of Taliban stormed a school and gunned down 141 people – 132 of them children – on Dec. 16 has shaken everyone in the Pakistani-American community and the Islamic community as a whole.

This heartbreaking and vengeful action in retaliation for Pakistani army air strikes against the Taliban cannot be justified in the name of religion, and yet the madness continues. Feeling compelled to be voices for the innocent, voiceless children, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati held a prayer and candlelight vigil Thursday for the Peshawar schoolchildren as well as for the kids affected in recent conflicts in Syria, Gaza and far too many other places.

The program was organized under the leadership of the center’s Muslim Mothers Against Violence, Cincinnati Muslim Professionals and the International Academy of Cincinnati. Shabana Shakir-Ahmed, Islamic Center tours and talks chair, and Shakila Ahmad, president of the Islamic Center, were supported by community members including Arsalan Ahmed, Zenu Tyeb, Saba Chughtai, Humaira Aslam, Amna Ahmed, Pakeeza Ferhan, Talat Rizvi and Nazim Fazlani.

The program was also attended by nearly 300 people, including our interfaith partners from Mother of Mercy, Hebrew Union College/American Jewish Archives, Sikh Gurdwara, American Jewish Committee, Hindu Temple and a diverse Muslim-American community.

The evening started with the prayers led by Imam Abdelghader, religious leader at the center, in the mosque. Dr. Ashraf Traboulsi passionately spoke of the devastation of children across the globe and our obligation to them. Dr. Saba Chughtai, a psychiatrist, spoke about coming together in the wake of the Peshawar tragedy, creating awareness that this heinous act has nothing to do with the Islamic religion, and supporting those affected by this tragedy. We all have to do our part to make our voices heard by world leaders to urge them to root out such acts of terrorism, Chughtai said. Teenager Eman Asghar shared her thoughts on the school deaths, saying she related to the boys killed because they were in her age group.

Before concluding, Islamic Center President Ahmad emphasized the power of diverse faiths and ethnicities standing up for one another and asked the audience to stand together as candles were lit. The imam recited a universal prayer for those killed. The program concluded with Muslims and diverse faiths building bridges over tea and cookies.

Surely, the Peshawar attack has people around the world condemning it. All world leaders have shown their support to the people of Pakistan, but it will take time for everyone to recover from this shock and resume work against such extremism.

We can’t imagine the pain for those families who lost their children, as there is no pain greater than that of losing your child. We believe in the power of prayer but also must take action so that these inhumane acts stop and no parent must do the unthinkable and bury a child.

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Gun nuts’ vile Muslim test: Why open carry activists don’t want to extend the right …

Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

Over Easy by Mimi Pond
When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond’s friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other’s beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There’s an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

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Muslims Discovered Mercedes!

Although 64 different Quran verses instruct Muslims to follow the path of “modesty,” Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez has other ideas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan argues that the American continent was discovered by Muslim sailors some 300 years before Christopher Columbus – and that Muslims had even built a mosque atop a hill near the Cuban shore. Science and Technology (Science!) Minister Fikri Işık claims that Muslim scientists working around 1,200 years ago (some 700-800 years before Galileo Galilei) were the first to determine that the Earth is a sphere. These are all controversial theories. But the luxury car Mercedes is discovered by Muslims every day, most recently by the top Turkish clergy.

Professor Mehmet Görmez, the president of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), is the inventor of the theory that Christians should celebrate when Muslims (Ottomans) capture Christian lands, as this is a merry event and they are lucky because their hearts and minds will be “conquered” by Islam. All the same, when non-Muslims take back the lands they lost to Muslims this amounts to the sinful act of “occupation.”

According to this theory, Professor Görmez should be feeling sorry for the Viennese, because in 1683 they lost the chance of pure happiness of having their minds and hearts conquered. It’s never too late; the Viennese are smart people. But apparently, 2014 is no good time for the Muslim conquest of Christian lands by the force of the sword; but luckily sophisticated methods exist in the times of Turkish science. Professor Görmez may have given up on Vienna, but he sure knows how to conquer and win hearts and minds in Bavaria – where the Germans build Mercedes cars for the world’s richest.

A couple of weeks ago, Hürriyet ran a story that claimed a foundation run by Diyanet had decided to purchase a top class Merdeces S500, with a nice price tag of $400,000, to drive around Professor Görmez. Diyanet vehemently denied this absurd claim. No, it said, the money was not paid from the foundation’s money but was paid from Diyanet’s own budget; and the price was “lower.” Curiously, Diyanet was too shy to disclose “how much lower.” Hürriyet’s bad reporting had been unmasked. The money came from Diyanet’s budget, not from a foundation it runs. So, the story was merely “slander.”

Worse, Hürriyet‘s slander had been so smartly timed that the story ran on the page only a few days after news reports said Pope Francis, during his visit to Turkey, had insisted to be driven in a $20,000 Renault Clio. Diyanet thinks that the two stories combined were put on the page in order to “manipulate public perceptions.” What Diyanet’s long denial statement did not say was that “a Mercedes S500 for Professor Görmez was not, is not being or would ever be purchased from whatsoever fund or source.”

If, Professor Görmez must have reasoned, the president of the country deserves to spend nearly $800 million on his new presidential palace and private jet, this modest administrative leader of Turkey’s more than 70 million Muslims should deserve a chauffeur-driven S500 which even comes at a price “lower than $400,000.” He could have applied an alternative logic to justify the fancy S500.

Diyanet’s 2015 budget is 1.4 times bigger than that of the Interior Ministry; 2.7 times bigger than that of the Foreign Ministry; 5.1 times bigger than that of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT); 6.1 percent bigger than that of the Prime Ministry (to which it reports); 12.1 percent bigger than that of the Health Ministry; 19.7 percent bigger than that of the EU Ministry (most understandable of all); and 35.4 percent bigger than that of the Court of Appeals. Since all of those ministers, the head of the MİT, and the president of the Supreme Court are being driven in cars equally fancy as an S500, why should Turkey’s top Muslim cleric not go for one too? Right? Right.

Unless, of course, Professor Görmez was the administrative (if not spiritual) leader of more than 70 million national adherents of a religion whose holy book instructs its worshippers – in 64 different verses – to follow the path of “modesty.”

Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Related Topics:  Turkey and Turks  |  Burak Bekdil

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