Unity in Unity?

Sen. Hillary Clinton introduces her former Democratic rival at a  rally in Unity, New Hampshire, Friday.

But is it possible?

Think about it: This was one of the most emotional, hotly contested, and just plain exhausting primary cycles. At the center of the election headache were Senator’s Clinton and Obama. Today the pair of “once” bitter rivals will met in Unity, New Hampshire where the two urged Democratic unity amongst party voters and agreed to campaign to ensure Barack Obama is the next President of the United States.

It all sounds great, but will the voters buy it?

I have a hard time believing they will. Particularly Clinton supporters. The polls from the very beginning showed that Clinton supporters would be less likely to vote for Obama if and when he won. However, Obama supporters by the numbers showed by and large that they would support Hillary Clinton if she won.

True to the polls, even at her concession speech there were boo’s from her supporters, vows to take it to the Democratic convention, and even vows to vote for McCain.

Now I’m not saying that there weren’t any contentious Obama supporters that were/are against Hillary Clinton. Heck, I’m one of them. However, my issue has never been political. I have always felt and still do feel that the Clinton’s are great politicians and assets to the party, I just don’t personally like Senator Clinton. This stems from my limited exposure and experience in the Clinton White House so I will leave that alone for now. Either way, I went through my varied blog postings on the subject and to my “surprise” I realized that last year this time I was very open to a Clinton Presidency.

So what happened? I believe what happened to me also happened to many other Americans: The Clinton campaign was ran in such a way that it either completely turned us off from her or reinforced those things we already believed about her. The campaign was very divisive and it seemed like every trick in the book was used to undermine Barack Obama.

The campaign made issues out of non-issues and helped fan the flames of intolerance between groups. Sex, race, and even religion became wedge issues and even though it may not have been intentional, the perception in of itself has created serious issues between the two groups of supporters.

Can they pull it off? Who knows, but the very real challenge will be how can the Clinton campaign convince their supporters that somehow Obama is a good guy now and will the Obama supporters fully trust them. Personally, I believe it’s time to move on and let it go. I don’t know Hillary Clinton personally, but from my personal experiences, I’m not convinced she isn’t who most Military, Secret Service, etc. personnel from that era think she is, But for the sake of the country, I’m willing to let it go and realize that unity is the only way forward. Hillary Clinton is a great politician and an asset to the party. Let’s Hope it all works out.

We will see….

Related Article

Obama: Campaign proved ‘the progress we have made’

Muslims in American Politics?

Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Muslim women at an Obama rally in February. Last week, two Muslim women were not allowed to appear behind the candidate.

This is one of those topics that I frequently visit.  I truly believe that not only should Muslims engage in American politics, but also that we need a transcendent American Muslim agenda that not only incorporates our hopes and desires but also encompasses varied and similar ideals of other groups.  I am truly convinced that by not having an agenda we allow ourselves to have no representation and therefore, no say in our own governance.  When you don’t have a collective voice you allow other groups to define who you are and they are free to undervalue, underestimate, and marginalize you.

We see this very lack of having an agenda ever present in the current election cycle.  As Muslims we have allowed ourselves to be used as a political wedge issue on many fronts.

Just the word “Muslim” or “Islam” has been used as a slur, a political attack method, and a propaganda tool.

Islam has been linked with terrorism, fascism, and many other non-Islamic ideas.  Yet we are powerless as a body to address this.

Our very identity and faith has been used as a weapon against the presumptive Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama.   Once again, we are powerless as a body to address that.

In the formulation of domestic and foreign policy, as tax paying, law abiding, American citizens our concerns are ignored as we are powerless to address them because of the stigma associated with who we are.

This has led to two recent and several longstanding issues in the election cycle.  On almost every front from both parties, interests in foreign policy have not considered our views, nor on domestic policy, this is often justified due to a war on terror, yet “terror” is only associated with Islam.

Barack Obama has had to constantly deny being a Muslim, affiliated with Muslims, etc. so much that it appears that being Muslim is some kind of plague or virus that no one wants to catch.  He has to go through great pains to prove he has a clean bill of health, because the ideal is to be Christian and Muslim is a sickness.

This has led to numerous discussions within and between individual Muslims and Muslim communities as to how we proceed in this election cycle.  On one hand, we have a party that has hostile intentions and actions in Muslim lands whose electorate by and large has been accused of supporting members who have called for our annihilation, destruction of our holy places, and defamed our religion in a myriad of ways.  On the other hand, we have a party that appears to be sympathetic to our cause, with an attractive candidate, yet he acts as if we are a disease he can’t afford to catch.

Look at the recent issue about the two Muslim sisters who were not allowed to stand behind Obama for fear of what it looks like?  Well what does it look like?  God forbid Obama is shown with Muslims!

Now we can look at this two different ways:

1:  It’s an insult because we are Americans too!

2:  It’s political posturing and the nature of the beast.

I humbly believe that it’s both and to many degrees it’s our own fault.  If we came together with a set agenda, voting base, and collective thoughts we would have to worry about either.

WHY?

Well if you had a sustained base with a voting bloc, then both parties would have a vested interest in courting you therefore, they would go out of their way to not insult you and sit with you.  So it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be seen with you but a good thing.

Also, with a level of respect and power that comes from sustained efforts, it would be political suicide to treat said body in a way that diminishes how they view themselves.

Look what happens if you insult Jews or Jewish interests?  The Jewish voting bloc have been extremely wise and have ensured that they can never be undervalued, underestimated, or marginalized.  So much so, that you have to seek out their blessing just to be politically viable.  There is much to learn in this example for many communities, especially Muslims.

If Muslims had similar organization our interests foreign and domestic would be courted and you would never be able to say the things in the media that is said about us.

So what are we to do now?

Well, unfortunately we helped create this beast.  Therefore, there isn’t much we can do this election cycle unless of course we organize really fast.  So we have a big pill we have to swallow.

We have to decide who we want in office in January.  Once we do that we have to roll with the punches to ensure that candidate does in fact get there.  We have to accept that we are the political wedge issue and their will be things done and said that are not right, that we won’t like, and in many ways disrespect who we are, but we have to also realize that due to the nature of politics at this stage that we helped create, anything we do to highlight our fouls will only be used to advance the negative smear against us and will probably hurt more than help.

So how do we get our needs addressed in the interim?  Well we have to organize and in private let the campaigns know that we will hold their feet to the fire if elected.  But you better believe that they will not listen unless we have numbers.

By most accounts there are between 2-6 million Muslims in the US.  I am willing to bet that there are at least 1 million Muslims that can and will be eligible to vote in November.  If we can get those 1 million or more to agree to one agenda and vote in bloc, I’m certain the candidates will listen.

However, if we refuse to get together, it really doesn’t matter who is elected our needs and issues will be ignored or put on the back burner in lieu of other groups who may at times even be diametrically opposed to us.  In this sense, we are our own worse enemies.

Lastly, we have to get involved at the grass roots and develop leadership within our ranks.  No one will know who we are unless we are out there with them.  We need to be at the forefront of every national debate especially if it concerns us.  Peace rallies, Pro-life, Gay Marriage, Immigration, etc.  wherever we fall on the political spectrum we should be there too.  Furthermore, we have to develop viable candidates that we can put forward from our communities that represent not only us, but also their various constituencies.

We have generations of American Muslims at every level of American citizenry.  Veterans, doctors, lawyers, community organizers, etc. we have among our ranks.  There is no reason why we can’t put forward Muslim candidates for both parties.

This topic obviously cannot be contained in one post.  I will be discussing this throughout the year and also tonight on my radio show “The American Muslim” at 9pm ET.  Feel free to contact me through email especially on facebook through my group (s) “The Progressive Muslim Network”, “American Muslims for Change” and “The People of Abraham”.

Peace and Blessings,

Robert Salaam

Related Articles:

Cohen: Why Obama should visit a mosque

Muslims barred from picture at Obama event

Barack Obama: I’m no Muslim

The American Muslim Community’s “Obama” Problem

Muslim Voters Detect a Snub From Obama

The People of Abraham: Why we need to work together

Over a year ago a good friend of mine Rev. Bruce of Tawodi’s Hawk Nest and I came together to discuss what Muslims, Christians, and Jews can do together to bring about peace within and outside our communities.  We were compelled to come together on those things we agree rather than the things we disagree.  What we found out and which should be obvious, is that we agree on more things than we disagree.  One principle agreement was that all of our respective religions look to Abraham (as) as the father of our religions.  As such, if we have a central origin while our paths may vary and disperse in many different directions, if we go backward toward the beginning we find that we all started together.  So why not come together in peace?

The Qur’an states:

41:34 But since good and evil cannot be equal, repel evil with something that is better (41,31)and lo! between whom thyself was enmity may then become as though he had always been close unto thee a true friend!

Basically, as Muslims we are told that if we strive toward good and shun evil even those who we disagree with or are our enemies may become close friends.

So what is the People of Abraham about?

The purpose is to capture the spirit of that Qur’anic verse.  If we can come together in peace using our shared origin we can come together in peace and produce good works together.

We are not saying anyone is right or wrong in matters of theology.  We are not trying to create a new religion.  In fact, we are not even trying to discuss dogma only in the context of how we each use our own beliefs as a catalyst in peace.

We are realists.  We understand that once you strip away our differences what is left are people who desire peace, freedom, and justice.  We want our children to grow up in secure environments, we want to be safe, and we want to live in a better world.

Why not come together with those of similar wants and needs?  If Peace is the ideal, then that means we should be able to respectfully disagree without being disagreeable.  We should be able to live amongst and with one another in respect.  We should be able to understand that no child deserves to grow up in a world were their peace and security in rests on what their religion is.

If we are all the creation and children of God, then that means we all have value.  Abraham (as) was the friend of God and as his children, we should be friends with one another in our combined and shared desire to emulate that example.

We have to realize that peace is better than war, that good is better than evil, and that the peacemakers are the children of God.

We need to work together not just for our sake but the sake of future generations.

Either we come together, or we perish apart.

Sensitive Politics: Are we going too far?

In the news cycle right now we hear about a comment Senator Obama said that was apparently offensive to women and an aid to Senator McCain said about a terrorist attack and the death of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan.

In both of these instances, in fairness to the candidates, we really need to think about the road we are heading toward.

Sources at the Congressional Black Caucus meeting last week said that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a Clinton supporter, expressed the desire that Obama and his campaign would reach out the millions of women still aggrieved about what happened in the campaign and still disappointed that Clinton lost.

According to Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., Obama then said, “However, I need to make a decision in the next few months as to how I manage that since I’m running against John McCain, which takes a lot of time. If women take a moment to realize that on every issue important to women, John McCain is not in their corner, that would help them get over it.”

So now the big issue is those last three words “get over it”. This is what I’m talking about people. Any rational human being can see that Obama was not saying women should get over it. In fact, it was brought up to him that Clinton supporters were having a hard time embracing him and his response was simply that once they see the policy differences that should help them with ease over the pain.

This is the crap that is going on. Those who say they are offended must have an agenda. How can someone look at that entire statement and only see “get over it” boggles the mind. He said what everyone else is saying and what we all know. Compared to John McCain his policies which are typical Democratic party platform ideas are basically the same as Clinton’s if not the same, and once women look at the policy differences they will begin to feel better about supporting Obama even though their candidate lost.

Then we have the “controversy” surrounding Senator McCain:

A top adviser to John McCain Charlie Black, already in the spotlight for his past lobbying work, is quoted in the upcoming July 7 edition of Fortune magazine as saying a terrorist attack “certainly would be a big advantage to him.” Black is also quoted as saying the “unfortunate event” of the assassination of former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 “helped us.”

Where’s the controversy? Come on people, we all know by now that the Republican Party has been running on the strong national defense/foreign policy platform for years. Given the attacks on 9/11 and since then, Americans generally have unease and prefer a leader that has the appearance of being strong and being able to protect them. Which is why war-time Presidents hardly ever if ever loose re-elections. It’s a security factor. This is the facts and on any other given day, Democrats and others not belonging to the GOP would openly comment that these things strengthen Republican chances. The polls show that when Bhutto died it helped both Senator McCain and Clinton because of their perceived strength in possibly dealing with that situation if they were President. In fact, Clinton over and over reminded us of how she knew Bhutto as first lady and pictures of the two were looped for days. No one said a word. These are the facts.

Analysts have also openly commented about the effect of another terrorist attack or peace or disturbance in Iraq and how that would effect the parties and the candidates and on any other day, no one says a word.

But we have allowed ourselves to get so sensitive to these realities and often facts that anything can be used as a political weapon. It’s almost as if bottom feeders are looking for the next headline to make something out of nothing because someone is offended.

We never have the courage to deal with the facts, only feelings. We care more about how a given topic, words, etc. make people feel, versus whether these things were true or not.

I have several questions to clear the matter:

Are the Democratic Parties stances toward women’s issues historically more in favor than the Republicans? If so, does it not make sense that women who support Clinton but not Obama will be more willing to once they see that his policies are the same as Clinton’s?

Did the assassination of Benazir Bhutto giver Senator McCain and Clinton an advantage in the New Hampshire primary?

Do terrorist attacks poll better for Republicans versus Democrats?

The answers to these questions should yield the truth and point out how we are going too far.

Lastly, now we have Don Imus in the news again. Same situation. It’s quite obvious that Imus was being sarcastic and actually making a point that on any other given day, blacks would typically support. But given the delivery, people already jumped the gun and were ready to call for his head.

The question is:

Did Don Imus truly know the color of the football player in question?

Of course he did, as such it should be obvious that he was making a point that because the athlete is black that he is catching unnecessary flak, but maybe it’s just me, judge for yourselves.

My point, let’s all take a deep breath when we hear things and see if we can evaluate the truth of the argument. If it’s true accept it, if it’s not debate it, but don’t go making false claims and creating a stir because you don’t feel good about something.

Referenced Articles:

Sparks Fly at Black Caucus Meeting

McCain disavows aide’s comment about terrorism

Imus says he’s defending, not offending ‘Pacman’ Jones

The Outsider Looking In: My experience at the Ahmaddiyyah Jalsa Salana 2008

alislam.org

I openly wonder if I can still consider myself an outsider at this point? I consider myself a friend of the Ahmaddiyah community first and foremost. I have been friends with members of this community for a little over a year now and as such I have been to a Qur’an conference, an Itjema, and as of this weekend two Jalsa Salana’s, even tonight Insha’Allah I will attend a private dinner with Mirza Masroor Ahmad the current leader and 5th Khalifah of the movement.

I provide this disclaimer upfront to let it be known that my writing will be biased, but biased on the truth of what one can perceive and experience from their own eyes and ears versus that which is readily available as another’s personal opinion which often lacks personal experience.

This past weekend I had the esteemed honor to attend the 60th Jalsa Salana which celebrated the 100th year of Ahmaddiyah Khalifa, highlighted by the first ever visit to America of the current Khalifa.

I was treated and welcomed with dignity and respect as a fellow Muslim among many others who were non-Ahmadiyyah. This weekend was highlighted as a “Muslim Peace Conference” and although it wasn’t without it’s share of controversy, the group’s motto “Love for All, Hatred for None” was exemplified in the presentations, speeches, and in the actions of their members.

One can struggle for weeks to find the correct words to describe the immense joy I felt as I was escorted around the cavernous Pennsylvania conference center. Always being greeted courteously and with a smile reminded me of what I imagined Muslims to be like when I first converted. Without going into every detail let me at least say that I was quite impressed. For all that is said about this group, many have even commented on this blog, I can find no evidence that these brothers and sisters act contrary to the teachings we hold sacred.

It is one thing to have a motto, it is another thing to say that Islam means peace, but it is another thing to fully act on and embrace those very words and ideas and make them manifest for the world to see. I have to admit I wasn’t too concerned with how non-Ahmadiyyah Muslims were treated, I was really observing and questioning the non-Muslims in attendance. There were Mormons, Hindu’s, Shikhs, Christians, all in attendance along with us Sunni, Shia, Sufi, etc. Muslims. To see the expressions on their faces and after speaking with them and listening to how impressed they were, gave me a great sense of pride.

Many of them stated that they had no idea this is what Islam represents, I was even questioned why is it that the non-Muslim world isn’t privy to the peace in Islam, and many more questions like that.

You see brothers and sisters, these non-Muslims were not worried about doctrinal or theological points. These are the things that we so foolishly fight about. The non-Muslim can’t tell a Sunni from a Shia anymore than an Ahmaddiyyah from a non-Ahamadi. What they only saw was that almost 10 thousand people saying they believe in Islam, were being peaceful and teaching peace.

There are a great many lessons we non-Ahmadi’s can learn from this. Where are our peace conferences? Why aren’t we talking about things like freedom of religion, and teaching the highest virtues of Islam which compel us to safeguard all of humanity?

Now I know some have their stones ready, but I humbly submit to you, that is it not better to resolve our differences in peace as we are commanded?

In the press conference I made sure to address a few things with their leaders:

I asked what is the Ahmaddiyyah’s opinion of non-Ahmadi’s? Are we considered Muslims in their eyes?

The response was absolutely. I was reminded of the census in Mecca when the Prophet (saw) was asked how to record who is Muslim and he responded that those who claim to be Muslim are Muslim.

I asked why is their no “intra-faith” between Ahmadi and non-Ahmaddiyah Muslims and was told that everytime they do an interfaith event no one shows up, wants to show up, and never invites them either, but the doors are always open.

There where many questions such as the idea of prophethood and theological points, but my stress in not on our differences in opinion on these matters, but our behavior towards one another.

Over the course of almost three days, all I saw and witnessed was hospitality, generosity, and messages of peace. How can we deny that?

No non-Ahmaddiyyah in attendance and there were hundreds of us from all walks of life can say that we witnessed anything non-Islamic. Unless of course being kind, courteous, and peaceful all the while proclaiming love for Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Allah (swt) are now non-Islamic behaviors.

One of the speakers on Saturday encouraged us to study the fruit and study the tree and come to our own conclusions.

I have to say and I must report that I witnessed 9,500 good fruit sprung forth from the tree of Islam.

I don’t claim to be a scholar, I don’t claim to know all the nuances of the varied Muslim understandings of things. However, I do know that when one bears witness to Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw), enjoins prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage, defends Islam against the false accusations of non-Muslims, and treats others with peace while loudly proclaiming it, I have to say it sure seems Muslim to me.

Sunday’s address by Mirza Masroor Ahmad included the commands to “to rely on God, do good works, seek educational progress”, “to march forward toward betterment”, and he reminded his followers and guests that Islam is in fact the religion of Peace.

It all seems at the very least, like the things Muslims should be enjoining others in right? Not once did I hear any rebuke or commentary against non-Ahmaddiyyah Muslims. Not once was the West, Jews, etc. were condemned. What I heard and witnessed were the words of a meek and humble leader with thousands in attendance preach a message of peace.

So maybe I am wrong. Maybe my lying eyes and ears deceive me. Maybe I can’t tell between who is Muslim and who is not, even though I thought that was Allah’s (swt) job. I guess I just don’t know, or least some of you will claim that.

But then again, I don’t have a problem with Sufi’s, Shia, or others who claim part of the fold. I just respectfully disagree on some points and understandings. What I do know is they are more of a brother and sister to me than those whom we often let speak at our functions and in our Mosques who don’t believe that Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of Allah (swt).

Maybe it’s just me.

In the end, it was a great conference. I truly loved the idea that those who had never experienced Muslims or Islam outside of the mainstream media got to see almost 10K claimants of Islam boldly and loudly declare that Islam is a religion of Peace and Muhammad (saw) is the messenger of Islam.

I pray that one day we who are non-Ahmadi will be willing to focus on what unites and not that which divides. I pray that we all become ambassadors of peace and wage a war of Jihad of the pen. I pray that we remember that their is no compulsion in religion and that Allah (swt) loves not the oppressor. I pray that we have patience in all that we do.

Let us remember that a Muslim is one in whom all his neighbors regardless of belief feel safe and secure. If we are to fully realize that ideal, we must reconsider our behavior, especially against a group that does exactly what we claim to believe.

Like I said, maybe it’s just me.

Resources, Links, and other Commentary about the event:

CAIR-PA Asks Legislature to Reject Religious ‘Litmus Test’

Pa. lawmaker’s anti-Muslim comment derails measure

2008 Jalsa Salana USA Press Release

Muslim leader visits area

Holding firm to their faith In America, Ahmadi Muslims worship freely, but in other parts of the world, they are often persecuted

Pennsylvania Politics: Resolved to Continue Bigotry

Baracknophobia: Was Jon Stewart Right?

On Monday Night’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a parody of the ‘mainstream’ media outlets and their coverage of the multitude of Barack Obama rumors.  It was very funny, but it was also very true.

While Baracknophobia isn’t a clinical or “real” term at this point, what it suggests can be arguably proven given the magnitude of negativity against Obama most of which are based on no facts.

If one was to take a step back and analyze many of these accusations and attempt at ascertaining the motive for them, you would be taken aback by the type of stuff you will come across.

Seldom will you hear criticism against Obama based on policy issues.  More often than not, criticism and commentary are based on “other” things most of them rumor and outright lies.  However, the real question is why do people do it?  Why continue and persist in the making up of rumors to smear Obama?  What is it about Obama that has so many angry?

I believe if it was a real term, it would be Baracknophobia, which I would argue at it’s roots are racism, islamophobia, sexism, and partisanship.

Exit polls already bear witness to the fact that a good chunk of people won’t vote or didn’t vote because of race, others because he is supposedly a Muslim, his wife Michelle, and of course: he’s a Democrat.

All of these reasons are inconsistent with a sane, logical adult, so one has to be able to clinically diagnose such sick people right?

Here it is 2008 and the best many anti-Obama types can come up with it this stuff?

What they are essentially are saying when they are against Obama in this way is:

1:  They don’t like black people (even though he’s half white)

2:  They don’t like Muslims ( I have a theory race plays a part in islamophobia but that’s another post)

3:  They don’t like black women (Of course they are trying to make Michelle the stereotypical “angry black woman)

4:  They don’t like Democrats anyway (I believe that’s a small segment considering there are many Hillary supporters who are vowing to vote for McCain now even though they are supposed to be Democrats)

Either way it’s a sad state of affairs.

Great job Jon Stewart for bringing to light the truth of the failure of the mainstream media.

Articles of Interest, June 17, 2008

Israel carries out regular raids into Gaza to counter Hamas rocket fire

Israel and Hamas ‘agree truce’

Israel and militant group Hamas have agreed on a truce starting this Thursday, a senior Hamas official has told the BBC.

The official said he was confident all militant groups in Gaza would abide by the agreement, brokered by Egypt.

There has been no confirmation of the deal from Israel.

Earlier at least six Palestinians were reportedly killed in Israeli air strikes in southern Gaza. Israel said it had targeted “terror operatives”.

Islamic Jihad said a missile struck a car carrying five of its members near Khan Younis. A sixth man died in a separate strike nearby.

The first stage of the deal reportedly reached between Hamas and Israel envisages a halt to hostilities and a partial reopening Gaza’s borders.

A second stage of the plan would focus on the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and on a deal to reopen the main Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Hamas official Ahmed Yousef told the BBC he hoped that the ceasefire would lead to a further opening of the crossing points from Israel into Gaza, and an increase in the number of supplies.

He said that the aim now was to push ahead talks on a prisoner exchange, as well as a new round of talks in Cairo between the rival Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas.

Al Gore backs Obama for president

Story Highlights

  • In front of thousands of cheering supporters, Gore made his ’08 election debut
  • Gore: America cannot withstand another four years like the previous eight
  • The Nobel Prize winner drew a connection between JFK and Obama
  • Gore’s support carries significant weight, analysts say

(CNN) — Former Vice President Al Gore endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday, urging Americans to reject what he called the Bush administration’s legacy of “incompetence, negligence and failure.”

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In Detroit on Monday, Al Gore endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.

“Americans simply cannot afford to continue the policies of the last eight years for another four,” Gore, the party’s 2000 presidential nominee, told Obama supporters at a rally in Detroit, Michigan.

Perceived as a senior statesman in the Democratic party, Gore brings a certain force to Obama’s campaign, political analysts have said.

Monday marked Gore’s debut in the 2008 election; he had not weighed in while Obama was still battling Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Amid thousands of cheering supporters, Gore began by addressing head-on the criticism that Obama doesn’t have enough experience to lead the nation.

The former vice president turned Nobel Prize winner playfully said he recalled one Republican nominee wondering out loud whether his Democratic rival for president was “naive and inexperienced.”

“And yet another said the United States cannot afford to risk the future of the free world with inexperience and immaturity in the White House,” said Gore. “Who were they talking about? Every single one of those quotes came from the campaign of 1960, when the the Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be president.”

Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee in 1960.

Police: Father believed to have beaten tot

Story Highlights

  • Man beat child behind pickup truck on dark, rural California road
  • Passing motorists tried to stopped beating, called police
  • Police shot and killed Sergio Aguilar, 27
  • Firefighter thought child was dead animal in road

TURLOCK, California (AP) — Police on Monday identified a man who was fatally shot by an officer for allegedly refusing to stop beating a toddler to death along a remote road.

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Sergio Casian Aguilar, 27, was killed by a police officer while he beat a toddler on a California road.

Sergio Casian Aguilar, 27, parked his truck on an unlit road Saturday night, removed a 2-year-old boy from his car seat and proceeded to stomp, kick and punch the boy to death, authorities said. The boy was unrecognizable when he was pronounced dead at Emanuel Medical Center, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said.

Authorities have not released the boy’s name but say they believe he was Aguilar’s son. The Stanislaus County coroner and the California Department of Justice are testing DNA to confirm the relationship.

Several motorists called 911 and tried to stop the beating, authorities said.

Dan Robinson, a local volunteer fire department chief, told The Modesto Bee that at first glance, he thought the child was a dead animal in the road. He said when he realized it was a child, he tried to stop Aguilar. Video Watch why beating stunned police »

He said Aguilar had a “total hollowness in his eyes” and talked calmly of the boy being filled with “demons.”

Witness Lisa Mota told the San Francisco Chronicle that Aguilar told people who tried to stop him that the boy was “trash.”

Newly-found planets make case for ‘crowded universe’

Story Highlights

  • It’s the first time three planets close to Earth’s size are found orbiting a single star
  • Mass of the smallest of the planets is about four times the size of Earth
  • They are much too hot to support life
  • Astronomer: “Planets are out there. They’re all over the place”

WASHINGTON (AP) — European astronomers have found a trio of “super-Earths” closely circling a star that astronomers once figured had nothing orbiting it.

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The discovery may mean the universe is teeming with far more planets than previously thought.

The discovery demonstrates that planets keep popping up in unexpected places around the universe.

The announcement is the first time three planets close to Earth’s size were found orbiting a single star, said Swiss astronomer Didier Queloz.

He was part of the Swiss-French team using the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in the desert in Chile.

The mass of the smallest of the super-Earths is about four times the size of Earth.

That may seem like a lot, but they are quite a bit closer in size and likely composition to Earth than the giants in Earth’s solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

They are much too hot to support life, Queloz said.

Obama calls absent black fathers to task

Story Highlights

  • Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spoke at Chicago church
  • Obama: Some fathers “abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys”
  • Spoke of personal experience growing up without a father
  • Obama urged black parents to demand the best from themselves, their children

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) — Barack Obama celebrated Father’s Day by calling on black fathers, who he said are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” to become active in raising their children.

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Black fathers are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Barack Obama said Sunday.

“They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it,” the Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday at a largely black church in his hometown.

Reminding the congregation of his firsthand experience growing up without a father, Obama said he was lucky to have loving grandparents who helped his mother. He got support, second chances and scholarships that helped him get an education. Obama’s father left when he was 2.

“A lot of children don’t get those chances. There is no margin for error in their lives,” said Obama, an Illinois senator.

“I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls,” added Obama, whose daughters, Sasha and Malia, and his wife, Michelle, watched from the audience.

Obama’s appearance at the Apostolic Church of God was his first address to a church since he ended his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ, where he had worshipped for 20 years, following inflammatory remarks there by his former longtime pastor and others.

Obama frequently emphasized the importance of God in his life and ended the speech by asking the congregation to “Pray for me. Pray for Michelle.”

Obama often speaks about the importance of parental involvement. In Washington, he sponsored legislation to get more child support money to children by offering a tax credit for fathers who pay support, more efficient collection and penalties for fathers who don’t meet their obligations. iReport.com: Is Obama right?

The issue adds to his family values credentials and lets voters see him delivering a stern message to black voters.

“We can’t simply write these problems off to past injustices,” Obama said Sunday. “Those injustices are real. There’s a reason our families are in disrepair … but we can’t keep using that as an excuse.”

Obama urged black parents to demand the best from themselves and their children.

Civic Involvement: An Islamic Imperative

Muslims have to build social and political networks in order to improve the condition of society, argue two leading American scholars

HAMZA YUSUF and ZAID SHAKIR

Improving the world in which we live is an Islamic imperative. God says in the Qur’an, “You are the best of communities brought forth for mankind.” (3:110) Abu Su’ud describes this verse in his commentary: This means the best people for others. This is an unambiguous expression which states that the good [mentioned here] lies in benefit provided to the people. This is also understood from the expression, “brought forth for mankind” -namely, brought forth to benefit them and advance their best interests.[1]

Our Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said, “God will continue to assist the servant, as long as the servant is assisting his brother.”[2] We can thereby understand that divine aid and succor will accrue to this community as long as we are providing the same to fellow members of the human family.

Historical basis for involvement

In today’s socio-political environment, concern and benefit can be understood as civic involvement. The word “civic” is derived from the word “city.” Hence, civic involvement refers to the meaningful ways in which a private citizen is best involved in the life of his or her city. Despite its appearance in a largely agrarian context, if we consider the nature of the dominant means of economic production at the time of its emergence, Islam is best associated with the city. Our Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, is identified with the city. God mentions in the Qur’an, “I swear by this city, and you are a free man of this city.” (90:1-2)

The Prophet’s migration was from Mecca to Medina, from one city to another. Islamic learning and culture is associated with great cities -Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Isfahan, Samarqand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Qayrawan, Fez, Cordova, Seville, Granada, Istanbul, Sarajevo, Zabid, Timbuktu, Delhi, and many others.

It was the involvement of Muslims in the lives of these cities, many of which were established before the arrival of Islam, which defined them in their historical contexts. As Muslims, our involvement in the life of our cities should similarly leave a lasting and positive mark on them. Surely we have much to offer in that regard. It is not without purpose that God has placed us in significant numbers in and around the great metropolises of America. Now is the time for our constructive involvement in the lives of these cities to commence.

Such involvement is especially critical in these times of political transformation and the redefinition of both the role and scope of government here in America. As the two major political parties become increasingly responsive to special interest groups, particularly those associated with big business, large unions, and wealthy individuals, their role as facilitators of democratic and civic involvement is being eroded. This shift in responsiveness is leading to what is referred to as a dealignment of those parties. This dealignment causes private citizens to search for new institutions to serve as their primary means of political involvement, which consequently results in the proliferation of smaller, grassroots civic organizations. The collective weight of these organizations and their facilitation of direct citizen involvement in local politics is viewed by some as the reinventing of American democracy.[3]

Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide ‘renewable petroleum’

Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.

Ending the mess with Motown

Written By: Paul Porter 12 Jun 2008

Ashanti and Motown Records “Gotcha Gram” is another prime example on what is wrong with the music industry. Once again Ashanti and black America has fallen for the black music trick. Just like poor schools, food stamps, incarceration, police brutality and BET, black America has been sucked in to it’s perception. If you watch your local news or get a look at America’s only black network BET you’ll understand the media perception.

After selling millions of records and singing every hook for Ja Rule and a cast of rappers, Ashanti’s star might be fading. A summer single release falls on deaf ears. Then panic sets in and it’s time for another shock and awe gimmick. In comes a Motown marketing exec with a concept that is different from everything Ashanti has done with a promise her sales will flourish. Another big budget video that has no connection to the songs lyrics. You see promoting a series of wrong songs with hellacious videos is the norm not the exception.
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That’s the story hip hop has been selling for well over a decade. If it’s not violent, misogynistic or materialistic the industry is not going for it or BET won’t play it and most of all the 70% white audience of hip hop won’t buy it.

Ashanti’s publicist and Motown tried the disclaimers of it being a parody, or comparisons to SNL or some Oxygen shows. That doesn’t fly in this case, Ashanti’s fan base is young black girls and boys that can’t grasp the logic of a parody or watch SNL or Oprah’s Oxygen. They simply logged on and picked there weapon of choice.

The same old moans for parental guidance, free speech and artistic creativity are missing my point of corporate responsibility. If Imus says something fowl, black, white and of course the mainstream press are quick to react. If BET has a three hour marathon called “Slapping My Hoe’s” nobody say’s a word. It seems like the perception is a reality regarding hip hop’s lower standards.

The thing we don’t see or read about is the systematic machine that profits from hip hop. Television will make you believe that Russell Simmons is the authority, when in fact Simmons has not had a record deal in over ten years.

On Tuesday, CNN’s American Morning jumped at a segment on Ashanti’s “Gotcha Gram” that featured a black reporter commenting on Ashanti’s project. Black artist, black reporter and another black problem.

Anyone in the music business knows the names Cohen, Bronfman, Iovine or Morris. Have you ever witnessed a story regarding hip hop that had one white executive?

It’s time black America stops making excuses because you’re being pimped. The “Gotcha Gram” is shut down after a threat of a NBA Finals protest. The shame is Motown and Ashanti still don’t get it. Negative imagery and foul content in hip hop is king , unless your singing the National Anthem Sunday before the Celtics and Lakers tip off.

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Boondocks vs. BET, Round II

The battle between “The Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder and Black Entertainment Television is about to get a lot more animated.

Two second-season episodes of the biting cartoon series that attack the black-themed network but were never aired, possibly because of corporate pressure, are slated for DVD release today. The pair of shows take aim at BET’s top executives and lampoon what it views as the cable network’s harmful negative imagery and stereotypes that work as a “destructive” force within African-American culture.

The episodes amplify a familiar chord struck by McGruder, who has regularly targeted BET, first in his politically and culturally charged comic strip and subsequently in the TV adaptation on Cartoon Network’s edgy late-night programming block, Adult Swim.

But these particular installments, which like many in the animated series feature violence, foul language and frequent use of the N-word, apparently went too far in mocking BET’s top brass. In “The Hunger Strike,” a main character refuses to eat until BET is off the air and its executives commit hara-kiri.

And in “The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show,” a foul-mouthed black man who hates African-Americans gets a show on BET. When BET executives learned of the shows, they complained to Turner-owned Cartoon Network and Sony Pictures Television, which produces “The Boondocks,” and urged that they be blocked from broadcast, according to sources close to the program who requested anonymity for fear of network reprisal.

At first Cartoon Network resisted, but when legal action was threatened, the episodes, written by McGruder and co-executive producer Rodney Barnes, were yanked, according to sources. Both McGruder and Barnes declined to comment.

Executives at Turner and Viacom-owned BET, however, deny there were any discussions about removing the programs between the two companies. Still, Turner officials would not explain why the two installments were eventually withheld.

Both episodes are highlighted by fierce satirical attacks on two top BET executives, portrayed in thinly disguised caricatures.

Chairman and chief executive Debra L. Lee, who succeeded the network’s founder, Robert Johnson, is shown as Debra Leevil, patterned after “Dr. Evil” in the “Austin Powers” films. Leevil declares in a staff meeting: “Our leader Bob Johnson had a dream, a dream that would accomplish what hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow and malt liquor could not accomplish — the destruction of black people.”

And BET president of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin is depicted as Wedgie Rudlin, a culturally insensitive buffoon coasting on his Ivy League education. The DVD release features stinging commentary from McGruder and Barnes about the episodes, which are uncut. In the introduction, McGruder said he went after BET because network executives, in his view, failed to elevate the network’s standards, something Hudlin had pointedly promised to do when joining the network three years ago.

Barnes added: “You expect white television to present black people in a particular way. The anger comes from black television portraying us in a particular way. That brings out a different sense of frustration, and at the heart of these episodes is that frustration.”

Mentoring a child can make the difference of a lifetime

I grew up in a healthy, wholesome, two-parent household. My parents were the consummate role models. They provided for all my needs.

Too many children, especially black ones, are growing up today without the love and nurturing of a single parent, much less two. The closest thing to a role model they have are the athletes and entertainers they see on television and music videos.

Without guidance and support, they are fighting a losing battle against drug abuse, teen violence and unwed pregnancy.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us can do something to make these children’s lives better. We need more black people, especially black men, to take the time to mentor black youths. In many cases, it only takes an hour a week.

The lack of able and willing black mentors is not limited to Pensacola. It is a nationwide problem that can be easily solved if adults are willing to make the sacrifice.

There is a statewide movement to get every able black person to take children under their wing and help them rise to the heights of fulfillment and success.

Outrage mingled with fear

Community responds after children, 2 and 3, are shot

Talayha and her parents

At the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Tyria Reid and Tim Mable comfort daughter Talayha Mable, one of two toddlers shot in West Baltimore during a gang clash. (Sun photo by Monica Lopossay / June 10, 2008 )

The little girl in the hospital bed put on a brave face.

She said “cheese” when a photographer asked to take her picture yesterday. She tucked into a slice of pizza delivered by a nurse. When asked how she felt, she said, “Fine,” in that guarded, sing-song voice small children use with adults they don’t know.

But whenever Talayha Mable, who will be 4 years old on July 4, moved her right leg, she twisted her face and cried out as pain seared the spot where a bullet had torn through her calf in a drive-by shooting Monday. Close to tears, her mother kissed her forehead and told her to breathe deeply.

“She has a big gash – you can see the bone,” a sleepless Tyria Reid said after stepping outside the hospital room at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. “But she was very brave. She kept telling me after it happened, ‘Mommy, you have to be brave – I’m not crying so you don’t cry.'”

Talayha’s 2-year-old neighbor Steven Cole Jr., who was also injured in the shooting in West Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, was in the same ward, suffering from a bullet wound in the torso. Both children were listed in serious condition but described as stable.

The shootings of a pair of toddlers on a sweltering night in what Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said was a “cowardly” and “indiscriminate” gang-related act brought bursts of anger from residents of the rundown Warwick Apartments complex where the kids live, as well as from neighbors nearby.

The shootings, they said, illustrated the callousness of young criminals who fire randomly on civilians, regardless of their age.

Philadelphia owns up to more of its history of slavery

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Thousands of tourists watched last summer as archaeologists, working in the shadow of Independence Hall, unearthed remnants of the home where George Washington lived with his wife and several slaves.

Now, the city’s best-known Colonial-era church is dramatically bringing to light how slaves worshipped alongside parishioners like Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross.

Historians have long known that slaves attended Christ Church — and were baptized, married and buried there. But it has not been publicized much in Philadelphia, where all men were declared to be created equal.

“I think it’s the right time in our city’s history, it’s the right time in our nation’s history,” said Neil Ronk, a church historian and senior guide. “Maybe it can spark a discussion.”

Or continue one.

The city’s ties to slavery emerged in 2007 as an estimated 250,000 people witnessed the excavation of a slave passageway in the President’s House, where Washington lived while Philadelphia was the nation’s capital.

Then in March, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama gave a stirring speech on race relations at the National Constitution Center, just blocks from Independence Hall and the Christ Church burial ground.

The recent decision by church officials to spotlight the congregation’s slave past was spurred in part by the Episcopal Church’s 2006 Conference, which mandated “a full, faithful and informed” accounting of its history, Ronk said.

Founded in 1695, Christ Church was the first parish of the Church of England in Pennsylvania and the birthplace of the U.S. Episcopal Church. Tours are given daily, but special presentations on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons offer slavery-related narratives.

Actress Diane Johnson portrays “Sarah,” a fictional slave who puts a human face on the grim statistics: In 1760, Philadelphia’s population was 11,000; about 1,100 were black, and nearly 900 of them were slaves.

Black Mormons straddle two worlds on 30th anniversary

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
06/02/2008
Black mormon worship
Marshall, left, and Daniel Sleet keep their place in the hymnal Sunday during sacrament meeting at the Pagedale Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

For the past seven months, Richard Alexander and three other young Mormon missionaries have dressed up in white shirts and dark ties and knocked on doors in the neighborhoods where they live. In Alexander’s mission field — which includes University City, Vinita Park, Hanley Hills, Pagedale and Wellston — the face that greets the white 21-year-old is, more often than not, black. A welcome reception is not unusual. Many of the people he meets, Alexander says, are “open to listening.”

The presence of Mormon missionaries in black neighborhoods is a relatively new development for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a reason for the growing number of African-American Mormons.

The 13-million-member church does not keep statistics according to ethnicity, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is gradually recovering from a self-inflicted wound that many even within the church call racism. That evidence includes congregations popping up in urban areas, more black church leaders, a Grammy-winning Mormon gospel choir led by convert Gladys Knight and a booming presence in Ghana and Nigeria.

On Sunday, the church will celebrate the 30th anniversary of what Mormons believe was a revelation from God that allowed blacks to become fully participating members. It will be the first time the church leadership sponsors a commemoration of the revelation in Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle.

Utah itself — along with Donny and Marie Osmond and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — contributes to a common American perception that “Mormon” is a synonym for “white.”

For that reason, some blacks who are baptized Mormons struggle both inside and outside the church’s walls.

Inside the church, black Mormons say, they often sit in pews next to well-meaning white members who are ignorant of their own church’s racial history. Outside the church, black Mormons say, they are sometimes confronted by family and friends who want to know why they joined “a white church.”

“People think of it almost as a betrayal,” Ron Strawbridge said.

The 36-year-old computer programmer said about five other African-Americans are in the Webster Groves ward, or congregation, where he’s a member. When he first began investigating the church, friends and family told him the church “equals racism,” Strawbridge said. “They think by joining, you’re saying you’re better than them, that they’re not good enough for you.”

Nekisha Rhodes, a 26-year-old single mom and gospel singer from St. Louis, became a member of the church’s Lindell ward just over a year ago.

“Lots of my black friends came to me and said, ‘You know that church says blacks are cursed,'” Rhodes said.

She converted from her Baptist faith after missionaries visited her house and began talking to her about Mormonism. She prayed that she might comprehend her new church’s history and theology.

“I don’t understand it all, but I believe it all,” she said. “I’m comfortable being uncomfortable.”