Articles of Interest, April 3rd, 2008

Sister remembers ‘horrible moment’ King was killed

Story Highlights

  • King’s sister was sewing an Easter dress when she saw TV report he was shot
  • Farris: Memory of Memphis “not a pleasant one … It’s one that I cannot erase”
  • She remembers her brother loved playing pool, doing jitterbug and telling jokes
  • Despite loss of loved ones, Farris says “God never puts on us what we can’t bear”

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Christine King Farris was sewing an Easter dress for her daughter in their Atlanta home one rainy April evening when the nightly news was interrupted by a special report.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It was a horrible moment,” Christine King Farris says of the night her brother Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot.The newscaster announced that Farris’ younger brother, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., had been shot in Memphis, Tennessee. Another update came minutes later: King was in critical condition.

“It was a horrible moment,” Farris says of that night in 1968. “I tried to call my sister-in-law; the lines were busy. I tried to call my parents; the lines were busy. I couldn’t get anybody.”

While boarding a plane for Memphis, Farris learned her brother was dead. It was the beginning of a string of family tragedies. Her only surviving sibling, her younger brother, A.D., drowned the next summer. Her mother, Alberta, was shot dead five years later while playing the “Lord’s Prayer” on an organ in church on Sunday morning.

Farris raises her hands in bewilderment when she contemplates the losses.

“I think of the things that I’ve faced in my life and sometimes I question how I’m still here,” Farris, 80, says in her office at Spelman College, surrounded by photographs of her famous brother and other civil rights leaders she once knew.

“I’m the lone survivor in my family,” says Farris.

This year, the civil rights community will gather in Memphis on April 4 to mark the 40th anniversary of King’s assassination, yet Farris will not join them. She is talking publicly about the death of her younger brother for the first time, but a return to Memphis is not part of her agenda.

“I can’t go,” she says. “I’ve not been there since the time we went to gather my brother. My memory of Memphis is not a pleasant one. It’s one that I cannot erase.”



By CHARLES HURT, Bureau Chief

April 3, 2008 —

WASHINGTON – While lobbying for his endorsement, Hillary Rodham Clinton flatly told New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that Barack Obama could not win the presidency if he got the Democratic nomination.

“He cannot win, Bill. He cannot win,” she said, according to a report by ABC News.

Despite her appeal, Richardson ultimately endorsed Obama – which sent Bill Clinton into a purple rage last weekend during a private meeting with California superdelegates.

“Five times to my face [Richardson] said that he would never do that,” the former president thundered.

Obama tops $40 million in March

The Obama campaign announced Thursday morning that more than 442,000 contributors gave his campaign more than $40 million in March.That is less than the record $55 million Obama raised in February, but it’s roughly twice what Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is estimated to have raised in March. She plans to release her totals later this month.The campaign, which did not release an exact total, said more than 218,000 donors contributed to the campaign for the first time, and the average contribution was $96.Campaign manager David Plouffe said: “Sen. Obama has always said that this campaign would rise or fall on the willingness of the American people to become partners in an effort to change our politics and start a new chapter in our history. … Today we’re seeing the American people’s extraordinary desire to change Washington, as tens of thousands of new contributors joined the more than a million Americans who have already taken ownership of this campaign for change. Many of our contributors are volunteering for the campaign, making our campaign the largest grass-roots army in recent political history.”The campaign’s figures:Total raised in March: More than $40 millionContributors in March: More than 442,000

First-time contributors in March: More than 218,000

Average contribution: $96

Total contributors to date: More than 1,276,000

Why the Democratic race could end in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. — The end could be near.

Or the endgame, at least, of a surprisingly drawn-out Democratic presidential contest. Four months and 42 states after the opening Iowa caucuses, the primary in North Carolina on May 6 now looms as a pivotal final showdown between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama starts with a double-digit lead in polls here, a state where 2,400 free tickets to his rally at the War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro last week were gone within three hours of the announcement he would appear. But Clinton has appeal in the Tar Heel State, too, and is competing hard. The day after Obama’s rally, she drew 1,000 supporters to the gym at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville for a town hall meeting.

“I really believe May 6 has the potential to be everything,” says Joe Trippi, a strategist for the presidential bids of former North Carolina senator John Edwards this year and Howard Dean in 2004. “Every day you see increased pressure on Hillary Clinton about why she’s staying in, and if she could win in North Carolina it would shut down that kind of talk and open up the possibility she could get there” to the nomination.

“But if he wins in North Carolina,” Trippi says of Obama, “I think you’re going to see things close up very quickly. You’ll see a lot of superdelegates line up behind him.”

Chinese Spy ‘Slept’ In U.S. for 2 Decades

Prosecutors called Chi Mak the “perfect sleeper agent,” though he hardly looked the part. For two decades, the bespectacled Chinese-born engineer lived quietly with his wife in a Los Angeles suburb, buying a house and holding a steady job with a U.S. defense contractor, which rewarded him with promotions and a security clearance. Colleagues remembered him as a hard worker who often took paperwork home at night.

Eventually, Mak’s job gave him access to sensitive plans for Navy ships, submarines and weapons. These he secretly copied and sent via courier to China — fulfilling a mission that U.S. officials say he had been planning since the 1970s.

Mak was sentenced last week to 24 1/2 years in prison by a federal judge who described the lengthy term as a warning to China not to “send agents here to steal America’s military secrets.” But it may already be too late: According to U.S. intelligence and Justice Department officials, the Mak case represents only a small facet of an intelligence-gathering operation that has long been in place and is growing in size and sophistication.

The Chinese government, in an enterprise that one senior official likened to an “intellectual vacuum cleaner,” has deployed a diverse network of professional spies, students, scientists and others to systematically collect U.S. know-how, the officials said. Some are trained in modern electronic techniques for snooping on wireless computer transactions. Others, such as Mak, are technical experts who have been in place for years and have blended into their communities.

“Chi Mak acknowledged that he had been placed in the United States more than 20 years earlier, in order to burrow into the defense-industrial establishment to steal secrets,” Joel Brenner, the head of counterintelligence for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in an interview. “It speaks of deep patience,” he said, and is part of a pattern.

Judge admits mistake in kicking whites out of court

Story Highlights

  • Judge Marvin Arrington regrets decision to remove white lawyers from court
  • Arrington says he wanted to talk to black defendants, urging them to get lives together
  • Arrington plans to open court to everyone Thursday, deliver same speech

(CNN) — An Atlanta, Georgia, judge who ordered white lawyers out of his courtroom so he could lecture African-American defendants called that decision a “mistake” Tuesday night.


Judge Marvin Arrington says he is fed up with the defendants he keeps seeing in his courtroom.

“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” Judge Marvin Arrington told CNN. “Because my sheriff said to me, ‘Judge, that message should be given to everybody’ — ‘Don’t violate the law, make something out of yourself, go to school, find a role model, somebody that will help you advance your life.'”

Arrington, who is African-American, is a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes the city of Atlanta.

He said he got fed up seeing a parade of young black defendants shuffle into his courtroom and decided to address them one day last week — out of the earshot of white lawyers.

“I came out and saw the defendants, and it was about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans,” Arrington told CNN affiliate WSB-TV of Atlanta, “and at some point in time, I excused some lawyers — most of them white — and said to the young people in here, ‘What in the world are you doing with your lives?'”

The judge thought his message would make a greater impact if he delivered it to a black-only audience, he said. Video Watch judge talk about decision to lecture black defendants »

“I didn’t want them to think I was talking down to them; trying to embarrass them or insult them; be derogatory toward them, and I was just saying, ‘Please get yourself together,'” Arrington said.

In his Tuesday night appearance on CNN, Arrington told Anderson Cooper that that seeing the same faces walk in and out of his courtroom year after year takes its toll.

“I ask them all the the time, ‘What progress are we making with you?’ And sometime they cannot answer,” he said.

He said he would open his court doors to everyone on Thursday and “I am going to give the same identical speech: ‘You’ve got to do better.'”


From NBC/NJ’s Matthew Berger
PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Teresa Heinz Kerry joined Michelle Obama at a rally at Carnegie Mellon University today, saying she hoped the state would support Obama the way it had voted for both of her husbands.

“Pennsylvania voted for both of these good men,” she said, referring to the late John Heinz, a former Republican senator in the state, and Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate. “And this election, I hope Pennsylvania will join me in casting a ballot for another great and good man, Sen. Barack Obama.”


It was Heinz Kerry’s first event on Obama’s behalf; her husband endorsed him before the South Carolina primary. The rally was also Michelle Obama’s first campaign stop in Pennsylvania.

With Obama now leading in the national polls, Michelle Obama said she has seen how the bar for her husband has been consistently raised this year, and how he has met each of the challenges.

“The irony is that’s what’s going on for regular folks in this country,” she said. “The truth of the American experience today for many regular folks is that folks are trying to reach a bar that just keeps moving.”

But, Obama said she still believes her husband is the underdog in the race.

“We are gonna need Pennsylvania,” she said. “Because in this ever-shifting, moving bar, Barack Obama will always be the underdog. No matter how much money he raises, no matter how many wins he pulls together, no matter how many delegates he accumulates; he is still the underdog. It’s the way it works.”

Obama spoke to a group of about 600 people, a wide mix of students and community members. She was joined on the rope line after the event by Heinz Kerry, who earlier hosted her at a private luncheon.


Per NBC’s Tom Winter, Gov. Jon Corzine, a Clinton superdelegate, just said on CNBC’s Squawk Box that he reserves the right to change his vote from Hillary Clinton if she doesn’t have the popular vote. He stopped short of saying that he definitely would change his vote if she lost the popular vote and he did strongly emphasize that Sen. Clinton would win the popular vote in the end.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, another Clinton super, has said similar things regarding the popular vote.

Democrats: The fix is on

Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean has a plan that will produce a nominee before his party’s convention in August, avoiding what he fears could be a “really ugly and nasty” fiasco.

Democratic leaders have begun complaining he has bungled the party’s nominating process and alienated voters because of his failure to engineer a political compromise in the DNC’s ill-advised decision to strip Florida and Michigan of all its delegates. But Mr. Dean, whose polls show the party’s internecine warfare is hurting its chances in November, has been talking to party bigwigs about a deal and now says the delegations will be seated before the nominating roll of the states is called.The conventional wisdom says the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will go all the way to the convention. But Mr. Dean wants it over well before that, and possibly before the last of the 10 remaining primaries are completed in June. And it is likely that will happen.

No benefit in drinking eight glasses of water a day, scientists say

The idea that drinking eight glasses of water a day is good for your health has been dismissed as a myth.

  • Middle-age MOTs ‘will double statin prescriptions’
  • A daily cup of coffee may halt Alzheimer’s
  • Scientists say there is no evidence drinking large amounts of water is beneficial for the average healthy person, and do not even know how this widely held belief came about.

      No benefit in drinking eight glasses of water a day,  scientists say
    Myth: Healthy people do not need eight 8oz glasses of water a day

    Specialists in kidney conditions in America reviewed research on claims eight 8oz glasses of water help flush toxins from the body, preventing weight gain and improving skin tone.

    Dr Dan Negoianu and Dr Stanley Goldfarb, of the Renal, Electrolyte and Hypertension Division at the University of Pennsylvania, said no single study indicated average healthy people needed to drink this amount of water – a total of 3.3 pints – each day.

    “Indeed, it is unclear where this recommendation came from,” they say in a review in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

    The researchers did find some evidence that individuals in hot, dry climates, as well as athletes, need to increase the amount of water they drink. Studies have also shown that drinking lots of water helps the body to clear salt and urea.

    But no studies have found any benefit to the organs of increased water intake.

    Drs Negoianu and Goldfarb also investigated the theory that drinking more water makes you feel full and curbs appetite.

    Sex takes 3 to 13 minutes, study says

    Story Highlights

    • Survey of sex therapists seeks optimal amount of time for intercourse
    • Time doesn’t count foreplay; 1 to 2 minutes rated too short
    • 2005 study found median time for sexual intercourse was 7.3 minutes
    • Researcher hopes to ease minds of those who think they “should last forever”

    NEW YORK (AP) — Maybe men had it right all along: It doesn’t take long to satisfy a woman in bed.

    It’s difficult for men of all ages to make sexual intercourse last much longer, a psychologist says.

    A survey of sex therapists concluded the optimal amount of time for sexual intercourse was 3 to 13 minutes. The findings, to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, strike at the notion that endurance is the key to a great sex life.

    If that sounds like good news to you, don’t cheer too loudly. The time does not count foreplay, and the therapists did rate sexual intercourse that lasts from 1 to 2 minutes as “too short.”

    Researcher Eric Corty said he hoped to ease the minds of those who believe “more of something good is better, and if you really want to satisfy your partner, you should last forever.”

    The questions were not gender-specific, said Corty. But he said prior research has shown men and women want foreplay and sexual intercourse to last longer.

    Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, cited a four-week study of 1,500 couples in 2005 that found the median time for sexual intercourse was 7.3 minutes. (Women in the study were armed with stopwatches.)

    Bush Biopic…Drinking, Father, Faith & Newspapers


    The film will show much of Bush’s White House decisions as a result of his obsession to measure himself against his father. (Reuters)

    CAIRO — A party-going passion, an alcohol problem, an early troubled father-son relation, a return to Christianity and a fixation to attack Iraq for revenge are the defining aspects of George W. Bush’s life journey according to an upcoming biopic by Oscar-wining director Oliver Stone, the Guardian reported on Thursday, April 3.The film, entitled “W” and begins filming this month, follows the early years of Bush at Yale University when he was known as a party-hard guy.

    It follows Bush’s drink-sodden misbehavior at Yale including one incident when he drinks vodka mixed with orange juice out of a trash can at the university’s dorm.

    Stone, an outspoken critic of Bush’s policies and the Iraq war, says the film will show the physiological struggle that haunted Bush through much of his adult life.

    It will trace his transition from a troubled alcoholic to a man who believes God has personally chose him to be president.

    Once scene shows Bush talking to evangelist Billy Graham, the family’s friend and religious counselor, in the midst of his drinking and marital troubles in the 1980s.

    “There’s this darkness that follows me,” he tells Graham, considered the father of American evangelism.

    Shortly afterward, Bush becomes a teetotaler and declares himself as a “born-again Christian”.

    In reality, Bush has been invoking religion in his addresses since being first elected to the White House in 2000.

    “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did,” he said in a 2005 speech.

    Values Bond US Muslims, Mormons & Newspapers


    Gilliland (left), a Mormon, listens as Hathout, a Muslim, talks about the holy Qur’an. (LA Times Photo)

    CAIRO — Shared moral and social values and a common experience of being isolated from the mainstream America are bringing Muslims and Mormons closer.“We have a very close and friendly relationship,” Keith Atkinson, West Coast spokesman of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, told Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, April 2.

    Nationwide, Mormons and Muslims are building ever-closer relations with educational and social programs that bring the two communities together.

    The LDS helped the Islamic Society of Orange County’s Al-Rahman Mosque in Garden Grove develop its library with a $15,000 donation.

    Brigham Young University in Utah, the church’s major institution of higher learning, features one of the world’s best programs for translating classic Islamic works from Arabic to English.

    The program has impressed Muslims.

    “It shows they have a keen interest in the Muslim world,” says Levent Akbarut, a member of the Islamic Congregation of La Ca?ada-Flintridge.

    Like any other branch of Christianity, Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ, but has substantial differences in belief to the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches.

    According to them, Mormon is the name of the prophet who compiled the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon.

    Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is another scriptural witness of Jesus Christ that is comparable to the Bible, which they also believe to be the word of God.

    There are some 5.8 million Mormons in the US today, part of over 12 million members world-wide.

    The United States is home to some six to seven million Muslims.

    Shared Values

    Muslim-Mormon ties are based on a set of shared moral and social values.

    “A Mormon living in an Islamic society would be very comfortable,” says Steve Young, a member of the LDS Church.

    “When I go to a Mormon church I feel at ease,” agrees Haitham Bundakji, former chairman of the Islamic Society of Southern California’s Orange County.

    “When I heard the president [of LDS] speak a few years ago, if I’d closed my eyes I’d have thought he was an imam,” he added.

    Just like in Islam, the LDS church’s teachings emphasize commitment to conservative and family values.

    Both Islam and Mormonism strongly tend toward chastity and virtue while allowing polygamy.

    Armand Mauss, a Mormon and professor emeritus of sociology at Washington State University specializing in religious movements, says that unlike mainstream Christians and Jews, Islam and Mormonism make certain “demands for religious conformity on their members.”

    Both ask followers to observe dietary laws, such as a prohibition against alcohol, he notes.

    Iraq Numbers Tell a Grimmer Story

    Five Years After “Liberation”

    By Mohamed Elmasry



    Contrary to US president George Bush’s claims, the influx of 30,000 more American troops didn’t quell the bloodshed.

    It is sad these days to meet Iraqi academics and political leaders a full five years after the March 2003 American-led invasion and occupation of their country.

    One cannot help being touched in heart and mind by their stories about witnessing death, destruction and despair on a scale unprecedented since the Middle Ages. Recently, I was one of those listeners moved by what they shared of their experiences.

    When I admitted regretfully that I did not visit Iraq prior to the 2003 occupation (although I had traveled to its neighbor states), my Iraqi colleagues commented that if I had visited their homeland then, and gone back to see it now, I would be shocked at the low state of public security, the high death rates and the general malaise that accompany the widespread destruction and misery of any prolonged war-zone.

    US Out, Iraq Better Off

    All the Iraqi expatriates or exiles with whom I spoke emphasized that Washington’s repeated assertion that civil war will break out as soon as American and coalition troops leave is a big propaganda lie. They were unanimous in their belief that Iraq’s own political authorities are capable of peacefully resolving their differences and that nothing would do more for national reconciliation than for the entire country to be free of America’s “liberation” forces.

    In fact, the prevailing informed opinion of Iraqis both inside and outside their country is that the presence of occupation forces is the greatest single factor contributing to the incitement and proliferation of factional and sectarian violence. More than 80 percent of Iraqis want the occupation to end, sooner rather than later; they are tired of seeing their country divided and shattered under an ineffectual puppet government. Among the remaining 20 percent are politicians exploiting the American occupation to enlarge their own wealth and power.These conclusions are not merely anecdotal; they have been confirmed by experts such as Karen de Young in the Washington Post, when she recently reported on a focus group study done in Iraq and released in December 2007.

    This survey, she wrote, “provides very strong evidence” that national reconciliation is possible and anticipated, contrary to what’s being claimed

    It was found that a sense of “optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis” from all over the country and all walks of life. This discovery of “shared beliefs” among Iraqis throughout the country is “good news, according to a military analysis of the results.”

    Numbers Don’t Lie

    But here is the shocking contrast of some other numbers that America is trying to ignore.

    More than one million Iraqis have been killed over the past five years, a large number of them civilians, especially women, children, the elderly and the ill. The British polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, estimates the Iraqi death toll to be even greater, at 1.3 million.

    The Iraqi expatriates or exiles with whom I spoke were unanimous in their belief that nothing would do more for national reconciliation than for the entire country to be free of America’s “liberation” forces.

    Today in Iraq there are more than one million widows, most of them under 30 years of age, and a staggering five million orphans. Of these, 1.6 million are under 12. All of these millions are destitute and many are homeless as well.

    An increasing number support themselves and their families through prostitution, according to beleaguered Iraqi humanitarian aid organizations, whose meager resources cannot begin to address the scope of need.The drop-out rate among school children is at an all-time high of 33 percent.

    Urgently needed social services, such as mental health and therapeutic counseling for school-aged children — some of whom have lost all members of their immediate families — is almost non-existent.

    Even further marginalized beyond the reach of most relief resources are the estimated three million Iraqis with special physical and mental needs; many of them require constant medical care and are not receiving it.

    Contrary to US president George Bush’s claim that an influx of 30,000 more American troops last year quelled bloodshed, preventable deaths from all causes are in fact rising in Iraq. Deaths rose again sharply in February and early March of this year. New figures from the Iraqi government also indicate that civilian casualties in February 2008 were 33 percent higher than in January.

    Internal and external displacement is another under-appreciated crisis that has ravaged Iraq over the past five years under occupation. More than150,000 Iraqis languish in American military prisons, or in those of the puppet Iraqi government. Many of these prisoners are women and children, aged eight to 14.

    Three million civilians have left their homes in and near conflict zones and moved to remoter parts of the country in hopes of greater safety. Another four million have become destitute refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.

    Their numbers have overwhelmed the aid resources of both countries, resulting in one of the worst — and most under-reported — humanitarian disasters of recent history.

    Unemployment has reached a staggering levels and there is a crisis in skilled services resulting from the deaths of some 400 professionals, including doctors, nurses, professors, and teachers. As a result, medical facilities are almost non-functional and no sustained care or treatment can be given to people with serious conditions, or illnesses such as cancer. Electricity available for only a few hours every day, and only 25 percent of schools and universities are even minimally functional.

    “Floating on a Sea of Oil”

    Not surprisingly, Iraqis believe that the U.S. is financing its $3 trillion war against them by looting their oil.

    Food staples, when available (and often, they are not) are distributed through monthly ration cards, while at the same time, Iraq’s oil resources are being robbed — literally from under the nation’s feet — by American interests who are providing no fiscal accountability to anyone. Not surprisingly, Iraqis believe that the U.S. is financing its $3 trillion war against them by looting their oil.

    Ironically, they can no longer afford to use their country’s only economic resource — consumer prices for gasoline and other kinds of petroleum-derived fuels have gone up by an incredible 2000 percent since the American invasion, while other services (when you can get them) have risen 100 to 150 per cent above pre-occupation levels.

    The fear and resentment of Iraqis are borne out by comments from Paul Wolfowitz who when Deputy Secretary of Defense stated that much of the war’s cost could be covered by Iraqi oil revenues, since the country is after all, floating on “a sea of oil.”

    Furthermore, Wolfowitz told a Congressional hearing: “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong.” His statement did not address the human cost to America — 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 60,000 wounded — and much less the disproportionally greater loss of Iraqi lives and livelihoods.

    American journalist Nir Rosen, who has witnessed death, destruction, and misery in Iraq over the past five years, wrote in The Death of Iraq (an article appearing in Current History): “The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century.”

    My Iraqi friends sadly agree.

    An Islamic renaissance

    The time has come for the Muslims to realize the importance of the true Quranic teachings which stress education, knowledge, research ..
    Audio An Islamic renaissance

    By: Mohammed Rafi
    Dawn* –

    The Islamic Renaissance is a relatively new social phenomenon which is of immense importance to the future of the Muslim civilization, and which presumably has some serious implications for the whole world.

    The great intellectual and cultural movements of the West like the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century and the Romantic Movement of the Nineteenth Century could not have been possible without Europe’s contact with Islamic thought. Today, the Muslims of the world need a revival of true Islamic values ordained in the Quran.

    Even though some Muslim scholars do not like the idea of associating the term ‘Renaissance’ with Islam, yet it has been an exciting theme of discussion at various Islamic fora during the last three decades.

    The term is generally used in the sense of a general awakening that has been taking place among the Muslims since the middle of the nineteenth century under the influence of some fresh thinking and activism.

    It is a process of moderernization of the Muslim world with an Islamic orientation to design the scheme of modernization by conforming to Islamic norms. Even though a heavy emphasis on intellectual, political, economic and technological development in common in both, the European Renaissance and the Islamic Renaissance, the two are significantly different in their orientations.

    There are three undercurrents that together constitute the mainstream of the Islamic Revivalist movement: reformism, Intellectualism and activism. apparently the three undercurrents maintain their separate identity, but because of he commonality of goals, they reinforce and strengthen one another.

    The term reformism refers to forces involved in the reform of the Muslim society through the improvement of the performance of the social institutions such as the family, Masjid, school etc.

    The term activism refers to political awakening, seeking transformation of the existing Muslim societies into truly Islamic societies. An intellectual movement, seeking promotion of Islamic thought and Islamic outlook of life through advancement of knowledge in all modern fields of physical and social sciences is called Islamic intellectualism or Islamization of knowledge.

    This should not be confused with the religious oligarchy’s total stress on rituals alone. After five centuries of sleep and gloom and repression, the dawn of light and learning, of life and joy came to Europe in the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries.

    The European Renaissance’s love of the human, the natural and the sensual; its individualism, self-expression and self-assertion, its religious skepticism and free-thinking, its love of power and pelf, fame and earthly glory, discovery and exploration was clearly against the Christian norms of the Middle Ages which were characterized by its stress on poverty, chastity and obedience.

    For the last thousand years or so the clergy has not permitted freedom of thought and belief. It appears that we are still living in the European Medieval Age where the common man had no right to think and express freely. The conventional Friday sermon that no one understands is an example of the retrogressive Muslim society.

    In order to understand the true meaning of the Islamic revivalist movement, we need to examine it in its true historical perspective. Historically the reform movement was started by Imam Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) when he found that Muslim scholarship, swayed by the ideas and thoughts of the early Greek philosophers had caused too much confusion in matters of faith and ideology.

    The suggested the course of Sufism as a damage control strategy. Later on Ibn-e-Khaldun tried to clear the intellectual mess by presenting the basic principles and percepts of Islamic philosophy in a clear and simple way.

    Ghazali’s mystical approach initially worked well and it became an important institution in spreading the message of Islam in many Asian countries, but over a period of four centuries, the system became corrupted and a source of many new problems.

    In India, Sheikh Ahmed Sarhindi (1563-1624) known as the Mujaddid of the Second Millennium assumed the big responsibility of bringing spiritual, intellectual and social reform at a time when Islamic civilization was being absorbed in the Hindu culture through the deliberate attempts of Akbar and his misguided advisors. He also tried to put Sufism on the right path.

    Shah Waliullah (1703-1763) felt the need to bring the Muslims closer to the teachings of the Quran, the book of guidance in Arabic which very few Indians understood. He translated the Quran into Persian and had to face the wrath of many ignorant Muslims for this.

    Even Persian was understood by a very few Muslims, ultimately Shah Waliullah’s son Shah Abdul Qadir translated the Quran into Urdu.

    In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Muslim forces and the Eastern Roman Empire known as the Byzantine Empire came to a final end. The Christian west, leaving Muslims to enjoy their land and victory, turned out to sea.

    In 1492 Columbus discovered America and in 1498, Vasco-da-Gama reached India by a new sea route. The European explorers found large reservoirs of silver and gold in the American continent. They colonized many countries in American, Asian and African continents and made huge profits by trading in goods.

    Gradually Muslims lost almost all sea trade to the Europeans and were subjugated and subdued in many parts of the world. The Turkish forces gave a tough resistance to the advancement of the Europeans in the Muslim lands, but circumstances were not in their favour.

    The lack of an intellectual base was the main hurdle in any kind of industrialization. By the mid eighteenth century the Islamic civilization was in a state of intellectual confusion, political chaos and economic stagnation.

    It appeared as if the Islamic civilization had come closer to extinction. However, it did not happen. In the mid nineteenth century some noble souls came forward to rescue the sinking ship.

    The Sanusi Movement in North Africa, The Wahabi Movement led by Mohammad Ibn Al-Wahab in Saudi Arabia, the Mahdi Movement in Sudan and the Midhat Pasha’s Reform movement in Turkey facilitated the process of awakening among the Muslims.

    The Educationist-reformist Movement led by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in India and the Reformist-Activist Movement of Jamaluddin Afghani had a very significant impact on the process and became the facilitators of the Islamic movements of the 20th Century.

    Mohammad Rashid Ridha, Shaikh Muhammad Abdu and several others aspired to make a change in the Muslim thinking through their efforts to eradicate perversion (Jahiliya) and to liberate the masses from blind imitation. (Taqleed).

    The time has come for the Muslims to realize the importance of the true Quranic teachings which stress education, knowledge, research and a scientific approach to problems. Briffault in his book ‘The Making of Humanity’ says ‘The light from which civilization was once more rekindled did not arise from any embers of greco-Roman culture smoldering amid the ruins of Europe, nor from the living death on the Bosphorus (Byzantine Empire).

    It did not come from the Northern but from the Southern invaders of the Empire, from the Saracens… it was under the influence if the Arabian and Moorish revival of culture, and not in the 15th Century, that the real Renaissance tool place. Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe.’

    The fundamental values practiced in the West such as the dignity of man, rationality, equality, justice, humanism, liberalism, civility etc are definitely closer to the Islamic values than to medieval Christianity.

    Muslims have to reassert Islam’s stress on the respect for human life and justice to one and all without any racial or religious prejudice. Today, more than ever we need a true ‘reconstruction of religious thought in Islam.’

    All the democratic, moral, social, economic and human ideals are already enshrined in the Quran and have been practically shown by the Prophet . Muslims have to realize that there is no compulsion in religion (9:99) and they have to do justice even to people they do not like (5:8).

    The main objective of the much needed Islamic Renaissance should focus on the analysis of all relevant facts and factors, in the broader context of modernization of the contemporary Muslim world.

    Moreover, the purpose of this effort must be a proper assessment and subsequent balanced approach in all matters. There is definitely a shortage of new energy and fresh ideas in most of the existing Islamic movements.

    However, these movements are keeping Muslims alive to their spiritual, moral and social responsibilities and they are a deterrent to anti-Islamic forces trying desperately to secularize the existing Muslim societies in the name of modernization.

    Source: Dawn

    Hamas Accepts State Within 1967 Borders: Meshaal

    RAMALLAH, 3 April 2008 — Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said that his movement supports the united Palestinian position that calls for the establishment of a fully sovereign state within the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, and refugees’ right to return.

    In an interview published yesterday in Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, Meshaal referred to the 2006 prisoners’ document as proof of this. “There is a Palestinian document and in it all organizations say they agree to a state in the 1967 borders.”

    The prisoners’ document, also known as the National Reconciliation Document, was drafted by members of different Palestinian factions held in an Israeli prison, including Fatah and Hamas. It calls for the “establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on all territories occupied in 1967.”

    The Damascus-based leader said the Palestinian position had received a vote of consensus during the national accords of 2006 and that this position is considered acceptable to the Arab world. He called on ordinary Israelis to pressure on their government to stop aggression against the Palestinians in light of this document.

    When asked about claims by Israel and the United States that Hamas is seeking to destroy Israel, Meshaal said his movement has committed itself to a political plan, which it follows, and called on America, Europe and other international entities to conduct themselves in accordance with this political truth, and to judge Hamas based on its political plan, not on what people imagine.

    The Hamas leader also said there had been several Israeli attempts to contact him, but he had turned them down. He explained in the interview that Hamas is interested in a complete ceasefire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but that Israel is willing to agree to such a deal only in the Gaza Strip. He said secret contacts are under way with the Europeans and that the Americans are applying pressure to keep these contacts from broadening.

    Muslims are reaching out. We should reach back

    Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill

    Illustration courtesy Shutterstock Illustration courtesy Shutterstock

    Saudi King Abdullah’s plan for an interfaith conference that would include Jews, announced last week, was the third Muslim gesture in six months aimed toward a Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue.

    The outreach began in October, when 138 Muslim clerics, scholars, and political leaders presented a document called “A Common Word,” which directly addressed Christianity but implicitly addressed Judaism as well. By now, it has more than 240 Muslim signatures from a broad spectrum of Muslim countries, including Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal; clerics from Indonesia, Nigeria, Italy, and Bosnia; and even U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

    Where most Christian groups responded before the year’s end, the Jewish response, mindful of the situation in Israel, was measured and deliberate — as it should be. In early March the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, which represents world Jewry to other world religions, issued a call for Jewish-Muslim dialogue.

    In fact, by the time all participating Jewish organizations were on board and IJCIC’s invitation was publicized, there was a new Muslim statement, “A Call to Peace, Dialogue and Understanding between Muslims and Jews.” It was issued in February through the Centre for Muslim-Jewish Relations at the University of Cambridge, England. “Call to Peace” directly addressed the Jews for academic, theological, and political dialogue.

    Still, the Jewish response has been criticized by some in the community as hasty — an error in assuming that IJCIC was responding to the new statement, rather than responding slowly to the letter from last fall.

    These statements come as the Islamic world seeks to overcome the isolation brought on by the 9/11 attacks, and as the Jewish community is coming to appreciate the impact of five decades of Jewish-Christian dialogue.

    Many Jews are ready to be partners to these dialogues. But it is understandable that Jewish-Muslim dialogue would have its Jewish critics.

    Some Republicans Emerge To Endorse Obama

    WASHINGTON — With an eye to the general election and the Pennsylvania primary, some Republicans who oppose President Bush’s war policy are endorsing Senator Obama.

    Senator Obama speaks at a rally on the Old Main Lawn at Penn State University yesterday in University Park, Penn., during a stop on his six-day bus tour of Pennsylvania.

    Stan Honda/AFP/Getty
    Senator Obama speaks at a rally on the Old Main Lawn at Penn State University yesterday in University Park, Penn., during a stop on his six-day bus tour of Pennsylvania.

    Call them the Obamacans: They are against continuing the Iraq war and reject what they see as Mr. Bush’s unconstitutional buildup of executive power. While the conservative Republican base rejected Senator McCain in the early primaries for his push for bipartisan campaign finance regulation and amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Arizona senator’s hawkish support for the Iraq war has alienated what was once his national constituency, anti-Bush Republicans.

    The Obamacans include a former senator of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee; a former senior Justice Department official under President Reagan and senior legal adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Douglas Kmiec, and a granddaughter of President Eisenhower, Susan Eisenhower.

    The group one day may include Senator Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska, who has co-sponsored Iraq withdrawal legislation with leading Democrats. Asked yesterday on CNN whether he would endorse his party’s presumptive nominee, Mr. Hagel said he would base his support on the candidates’ positions on withdrawing from Iraq.



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