Showing posts from September, 2010

India in Afghanistan and Beyond: Opportunities and Constraints

India in Afghanistan and Beyond: Opportunities and Constraints
C. Christine Fair, The Century Foundation, 9/28/2010
To download the report, click here

The international community has been ambivalent about India’s profile in Afghanistan. While the Afghan government and its international partners welcome India’s constructive role, many also worry about the negative externalities associated with India’s footprint in the country, particularly with respect to Pakistan, which has long feared Indian encirclement and complains sharply about India’s expanding presence in Afghanistan. In this report, Christine Fair outlines India’s current interests in Afghanistan, how it has sought to achieve its aims, and the consequences of its actions for India, Pakistan, and the international efforts to stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan. She argues that India’s interests in Afghanistan are not only Pakistan-specific but also tied to India’s desire to be seen as an extra- regional power moving toward grea…

Pakistan's Troubles Stem From Misunderstood Past: Ayesha Jalal Interview with NPR

Pakistan's Troubles Stem From Misunderstood Past
NPR, September 30, 2010

STEVE INSKEEP, host: Now, when the flooding came to Pakistan over the summer, Ayesha Jalal was just finishing an extended visit to the country. She's a Pakistani-American historian and her books have pressed a troubled country to rethink its history. She recently returned from teaching university students in the city of Lahore.

As homes were destroyed and bridges were destroyed and levees burst and other buildings and cities and towns were destroyed, did you did you ever get a feeling that you were in a country that was going backwards in time?

Ms. AYESHA JALAL (Pakistani-American Historian): Oh, absolutely. I think these floods have caused a 20 year hit in terms of infrastructural development, whatever they had. So yes, absolutely. One felt one was drowning. I think it'll take a while before Pakistan can muster the sort of money and the courage to rebuild. It'll take a long, long time.


U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
The Pew Forum; POLL September 28, 2010

Executive Summary

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

For complete article, click here
Take the Quiz

Pakistan: The Deep State...

The Deep State and technocrats
By Kamran Shafi, Dawn, 28 Sep, 2010

Anyone seen the list being circulated on the Internet containing the names of the ‘technocrats’ who are being touted as our newest saviours in the “national government” that is to take over after the present dispensation is kicked out? Makes your skin crawl, I’ll tell you.

Most of them have been in the various and varied engineered dictatorial/caretaker/lota so-called governments of which we’ve seen more than our fair share; governments that failed in every which way, made a bigger mess of things every single time that they “rescued” us, and after whose failure and subsequent departure the political leaders thrown out came back into the assemblies with larger majorities than they had when they were shown the door.

So why are these names making it to the lists being “prepared and finalised” when they were such abject failures in their earlier incarnations as ministers and advisers to dictators? It is not as if manna …

Pakistan's cricket-playing revolutionary: David Ignatius in Washington Post

Pakistan's cricket-playing revolutionary
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, September 27, 2010
Islamabad --

Pakistani politics these days is something of a feudal system, dominated by a tired collection of old-line parties and politicians -- with one notable exception: He's a charismatic former cricket star named Imran Khan, who talks like a Pakistani Robbespierre.

"Pakistan is like France before the revolution," he says. "We are at a historical crossroads. We can't go on this way anymore."

Khan makes a lordly revolutionary, presiding over a hilltop estate that overlooks Islamabad. He's still movie-star handsome at 57, and he discusses politics with the fervor of a man who, in addition to being the top cricketer of his generation, took a degree at Oxford in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

Khan formed his political party, the Movement for Justice, in 1996, four years after he retired from cricket. Despite his celebrity, the party has been re…

Obama's Wars: U.S. Options in Afghanistan

Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan
By Bob Woodward, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, September 27, 2010

The first of three articles adapted from "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward.

President Obama was on edge.
For two exhausting months, he had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan. He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were "really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted."

He was looking for choices that would limit U.S. involvement and provide a way out. His top three military advisers were unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end. When his national security team gathered in the White House Situation Room on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009, for its eighth strategy review session, the preside…

Imran Farooq murder linked to rows within MQM party: Guardian

Pakistan: Imran Farooq murder linked to rows within MQM party
Politician may have been about to endorse or join new party set up by General Pervez Musharraf, source claims
Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent, Guardian,  26 September 2010

The Scotland Yard investigation into the murder in London of the leading Pakistani politician Dr Imran Farooq has been told that rows within his own party may have led to his assassination.
Farooq, 50, was stabbed to death earlier this monthduring an attack in which he was also beaten near his home in Edgware, north London. Farooq was a senior figure in Pakistan's MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) party, and was in exile in London at the time of his death. The murder is being investigated by Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism branch because of the political dimension to the killing.

Sources say intelligence suggests his death was linked to rows within the MQM.

Farooq, once prominent in MQM, had taken a back seat. A senior Pakistani source said he may h…

American Muslims Defend the Freedom of Speech

The American Muslim, September 21, 2010

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims …

Mantra of Change in Pakistan

Mantra of change
By Babar Sattar, The News, September 24, 2010
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

Pakistan is in dire straits and its decent into chaos needs to be arrested urgently, we hear. Is the Bangladesh model a solution, as some suggest, with the military cleaning up political stables in a short span of time and paving ground for 'true' democracy? But isn't that what all our dictators set out to do and instead multiplied the country's miseries by becoming part of the problem? And then the army is just not interested in an overt role in politics we are told, partly because it is still recovering from Musharraf and partly because such a role is unconstitutional. So then shouldn't the Supreme Court contrive a mechanism to oust the ruling regime -- the devil incarnate and root-cause to all ills in the land of the pure -- and save the skies from caving in upon Pakistan? And should the Supreme Court be unwilling to engineer regime change? Can't allianc…

'We Do Not Want the Talibanization of Pakistan': Foreign Minister of Pakistan at Asia Society

Qureshi: War on Terror is Pakistan's War
Asia Society, September 24, 2010

NEW YORK, September 24, 2010 - Terrorism affects Pakistan more than any other country and its people have rejected extremism, its Foreign Minister said Friday.

"Pakistan is the greatest victim of terrorism in the world today, although I would never get this message in the US," Shah Mehmood Qureshi told an audience at the Asia Society.

The minister, who was interviewed by Asia Society President Vishakha Desai, was in New York to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings.

“The bottom line is that we do not want the Talibanization of Pakistan, period,” he said, adding that it was in the interests of Pakistan prevent the Talibanization of Afghanistan as well.

“Everything negative that they [the Taliban] could have done, they have done,” he said. “Public opinion has completely changed.”

Last month's flooding, which impacted more than 20 million people in northern Pakistan, has p…

Turkey is Rising

At the U.N., Turkey Asserts Itself in Prominent Ways
By MARK LANDLER, New York Times, September 23, 2010

UNITED NATIONS — If the United Nations General Assembly often serves as a stage for ambitious countries to project a new image, none has grabbed that opportunity this year with as much vigor as Turkey.

In a flurry of speeches and meetings — and one meeting that did not happen — the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, defended his country’s close ties to Iran, proclaimed Turkey’s intention to become a leader in the Muslim world, and spurned an attempt to mend fences with Israel over its deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

Turkey’s muscle-flexing has left the United States uneasy, with administration officials worried that Iran had obtained access to financing for its nuclear program through Turkish banks, and that Turkey’s rift with Israel could complicate American efforts to make peace in the Middle East.

Israeli officials reached out to Turkey to arrange a meeting this …

Egyptian Newspaper Alters Photo To Show Mubarak In Front Of Obama

Egyptian Newspaper Alters Photo To Show Mubarak In Front Of Obama
Huffington Post, September 16, 2010

An Egyptian state newspaper is coming under fire after it was revealed that it altered a photo of President Hosni Mubarak to place him at the front of a group of Middle East leaders meeting President Obama--rather than where he was, at the back of the group.

Earlier this month, Mubarak and the heads of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan met with Obama at the White House to discuss the Israel-Palestine peace process. Afterwards, photographers snapped this image of the group, with Mubarak walking behind the others:
But, as Egyptian blogger Wael Khalil spotted, the state-run Egyptian paper Al Ahram doctored the image to place Mubarak at the head of the group:

For complete story, click here

Jim Wallis on the story behind Pastor Terry Jones's change of heart

Jim Wallis on the story behind Pastor Terry Jones's change of heart
By Jim Wallis, Washington Post, September 19, 2010

It is easy to believe that hostility toward Muslims is on the rise in America. Media coverage of the battle over the proposed Islamic community center in New York, together with the hateful rants of Florida pastor Terry Jones, who threatened to burn Korans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, paints a picture of tension between faiths.

But this narrative of constant conflict doesn't tell the whole story. In my work with religious communities across the country, I have seen interfaith relationships strengthened in recent years, not in spite of 9/11 but because of it. And these connections helped avert a tragic conclusion to the Jones saga last weekend.

Although the media focused on the role that political and military officials, including President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus, played in getting Jones to back down from his plan for a Koran bonfire, t…

Kashmir: The Time Has Come - Steve Coll (New York Review of Books)

Kashmir: The time Has ComeSteve Coll, New York Review of Books, September 2010

Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir
by Arif Jamal
Melville House, 303 pp., $26.95

The Limits of Influence: America’s Role in Kashmir
by Howard B. Schaffer
Brookings Institution Press, 272 pp., $34.95

In late October 2008, on the eve of the election that would elevate him to the White House, Barack Obama made some of the most expansive comments about the Kashmir conflict that have ever come from an American presidential candidate. In an interview with Joe Klein of Time magazine, Obama acknowledged that Kashmir’s disputed territory was “obviously a potential tar pit diplomatically,” and yet, he continued:

For us to devote serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in there, to figure out a plausible approach, and essentially make the argument to the Indians, you guys are on the brink of being an economic superpower—why do you want to keep on messing with this? To make the argument to th…

Law of the Jungle in Pakistan

Brutalised society
Dawn Editorial, 18 Sep, 2010

VIOLENCE is an expected consequence in a society where want and deprivation are the norm. It is not surprising that deteriorating conditions in Pakistan, amongst them spiralling poverty and a worsening security situation, have rendered society brutal to the extreme. It seems that employing violent means comes almost naturally to a citizenry that has witnessed countless atrocities that include mass killings, suicide bombings, lynchings, beheadings and the stringing up of corpses by groups such as the Taliban. While these grim realities can be used as a route to understanding how Pakistanis have become inured to violence, there are many individual cases where the scale of brutality simply beggars belief, and points to the lava that may erupt at any point from the simmering volcano that is Pakistan. One of these was Thursday’s incident in Gujrat, when a man was bludgeoned to death over a minor traffic row. Eyewitnesses say that the victim,…

Afghanistan: It Takes a Village to Raise a School

It Takes a Village to Raise a School
By DANA BURDE, New York Times, September 17, 2010
WHILE Americans are right to be alarmed by the rising numbers of roadside bombs and suicide attacks in Afghanistan, we can’t overlook a more subtle campaign that has been a key element of the Taliban’s strategy for years: disrupting access to schools.

Close to 1,000 schools have been bombed or burned since 2006, and hundreds of teachers and students have been killed. The Taliban, who when they were in power banned education for women, attack girls’ schools disproportionately, and in some southern provinces the proportion of girls attending middle school has dropped to less than 1 percent.

These attacks are made easier when there is a physical school to take aim at. But education is not about four walls and a roof. Many nongovernmental organizations have been promoting schooling without school buildings as the best strategy to increase enrollment quickly in the poorest rural areas of the country.

US drones are pounding Pakistan's North Waziristan. Here's why...

US drones are pounding Pakistan's North Waziristan. Here's why
US drones have stepped up bombing raids to combat new alliances cropping up between disparate militants coming to Pakistan's North Waziristan region.
By Owais Tohid, Christian Science Monitor, September 16, 2010

Karachi, Pakistan —
After a CIA Predator drone fired a missile in the village of Issori in North Waziristan last month, Jamshed Khan and other tribesmen rushed to the mud home that was the target. Mr. Khan recalls that as the tribesmen started to remove bodies, a group of men drove up, offered prayers for the victims, and left.

The tribesmen say the visitors were well known: Some belong to Al Qaeda and some are the followers of powerful leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who once had ties to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main Taliban umbrella group there.

Thousands of TTP militants fled here after last year’s military crackdown in South Waziristan, adding to the already mixed crowd of militants seeking sh…

Why I Came Back to Pakistan? - By Samad Khurram

Why I Came Back
Samad Khurram, The Express Tribune, September 15, 2010

The writer graduated from Harvard University this spring and is now running Khushal Pakistan, an organisation to help the flood victims

“But, why did you come back?” asked our guard as we off-roaded near Golial Bachaband to deliver relief goods to the flood affected people of Thatta district. As a worker of the PPP he was familiar with Harvard, the alma mater of Murtaza Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. “Wasn’t life so much better there?” he asked, and continued “You have an opportunity, go and make your life. Why are you back in Pakistan? Nothing works in Pakistan; everyone is corrupt, incompetent and indifferent.”

I was in the process of replying, “I want to join politics, and do my part…”, when I got interrupted by the MPA from the area sitting in the front seat of his Vigo. “Beta, this is Pakistan” he advised supporting an unwelcoming sneer, “Politics here is dirty. You have no idea how dif…

Kashmir’s Forever War - Basharat Peer

Kashmir’s Forever War
Basharat Peer, Granta 112: Pakistan, Autumn 2010.

On an early December morning in 2009, I was on a flight home to Kashmir. It doesn’t matter how many times I come back, the frequency of arrival never diminishes the joy of homecoming – even when home is the beautiful, troubled, war-torn city of Srinagar. Frozen crusts of snow on mountain peaks brought the first intimation of the valley. Silhouettes of village houses and barren walnut trees appeared amid a sea of fog. On the chilly tarmac, my breath formed rings of smoke.

The sense of siege outside the airport was familiar. Olive-green military trucks with machine guns on their turrets, barbed wire circling the bunkers and check posts. Solemn-faced soldiers in overcoats patrolled with assault rifles at the ready, subdued by the bitter chill of Kashmiri winter. The streets were quiet, the naked rain-washed brick houses lining them seemed shrunken. Men and women walked quietly on the pavements, their pale faces redden…

Political Climate in India Today

The Trickledown Revolution
By Arundhati Roy, Dawn, 13 Sep, 2010

The law locks up the hapless felon
who steals the goose from off the common,
but lets the greater felon loose
who steals the common from the goose.
Anonymous, England, 1821

In the early morning hours of the 2nd of July 2010, in the remote forests of Adilabad, the Andhra Pradesh State Police fired a bullet into the chest of a man called Cherukuri Rajkumar, known to his comrades as Azad. Azad was a member of the Polit Bureau of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and had been nominated by his party as its chief negotiator for the proposed peace talks with the Government of India. Why did the police fire at point-blank range and leave those telltale burn marks, when they could so easily have covered their tracks? Was it a mistake or was it a message?

They killed a second person that morning—Hem Chandra Pandey, a young journalist who was traveling with Azad when he was apprehended. Why did they kill him? Was it to …

The U.S - Pakistan Relations after 9/11 - In the light of newly declassified US documents

"No-Go" Tribal Areas Became Basis for Afghan Insurgency Documents Show

U.S. had "Absolutely No Inclination" to Negotiate with Taliban September 2001; Pakistan Disagreed, Claimed "Real Victory" Only Through Talks; Washington's Immediate 9/11 Demands to Islamabad

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 325
The National Security Archive, The George Washington University, Posted - September 13, 2010

Washington, D.C., September 13, 2010 - Pakistani tribal areas where Osama bin Laden found refuge were momentarily open to the Pakistani Army when "the tribes were overawed by U.S. firepower" after 9/11, but quickly again became "no-go areas" where the Taliban could reorganize and plan their resurgence in Afghanistan, according to previously secret U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive and posted today at

The declassified documents describe th…

Turkish Reform Vote

International backing given to Turkish reform vote
BBC, September 12, 2010

The US President Barack Obama and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle have issued statements commending the vote.

Voters in Turkey gave strong backing to a package of changes to the country's military-era constitution. The changes are aimed at bringing Turkey in line with the European Union, which the government wants to join. With nearly all votes in the referendum counted, about 58% had voted "Yes" to amending the constitution.

Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the result meant the country had "crossed a historic threshold toward advanced democracy and the supremacy of law".

The opposition argues that the governing party, which has its roots in political Islam, is seeking dangerous levels of control over the judiciary.

For complete article, click here

What will the constitutional changes mean for Turkey? - Hurriyet, Turkey
Turkish voters approve amendments in referend…

Thank You Kathleen Parker - "let's all agree to reject hatred" in all its forms and manifestations

Dear Muslims, let's all agree to reject hatred
By Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, September 12, 2010

Dear Muslim World,

I am writing you today as an American citizen who is deeply embarrassed by current events in my country.
First, let me say that I am not representing anyone. I can't claim to speak for anyone but myself, though I am certain that many others feel as I do.

I want to address the current controversy over the proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero and the so-called "pastor" in Florida who had been threatening to burn a Koran.
I'll begin with the easier of the two: Please ignore Pastor Terry Jones. I wish we had. He may live in the United States. He may have a building with a cross on it and call it a church. And he may know 50 or so people who care what he says, but he's nobody. His threat to burn a Koran was a desperate attempt to get attention and nothing more.

Anyone can call himself a pastor, but there's a reason Jones…

The Talibanization of America ?

The Talibanization of America
Viewed from Pakistan, the rise of U.S. Islamophobia looks depressingly familiar.
BY MOSHARRAF ZAIDI, Foreign Policy, September 10, 2010

 One of the lessons from the Quran-burning circus in Florida, whether it ever actually takes place or not, is that the labels we use to make sense of the world are becoming more and more complex. This is bad news. Labels are supposed to simplify life, not make it more complicated. Nine years to the day since al Qaeda attacked New York City, murdered nearly 3,000 people, and changed the world we live in, our labels seem to be leading us down some strange paths.

In Pakistan, "Talibanization" is a label used to describe regressive and parochial conservatism, not just the political ascendancy of Mullah Omar and his extremist disciples. When we use the label "mullah," it is not the same thing as honoring someone by calling him "Father" or "Reverend." Instead, we're most likely referr…

Inside America's Mosques

Inside America's Mosques

From tie-dyed hippies to hard-line radicals, they're not all the same -- and they're not what you think.

By Akbar Ahmed, Foreign Policy, September 9, 2010

The ninth anniversary of 9/11 is almost upon us, and the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States is as fraught as ever. Witness Florida pastor Terry Jones, whose planned "International Burn a Koran Day" held the nation shocked and riveted for weeks until he finally agreed to cancel the event.

In this environment of heightened intolerance, people focus on symbols, and no symbol is more representative of Islam than the mosque. But most outsiders have no idea what actually goes on inside mosques. Some have let their imaginations -- and their mouths -- run wild in depicting these places of worship as nurseries of homegrown terrorist plots against America, as the recent controversy over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York revealed.

But the conve…

Planned Koran Burning Drew International Scorn: NYT

Planned Koran Burning Drew International Scorn
By JACK HEALY and STEVEN ERLANGER, New York Times, September 9, 2010

Before a Florida pastor canceled his plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, the international outcry intensified Thursday, drawing vocal condemnations from world leaders and touching off angry protests in corners of the Muslim world.

Although some protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan rippled with scenes of burning American flags, the outrage in the streets seemed largely isolated. Officials in Muslim countries urged restraint, seeking to head off any violent reactions if the Florida church went ahead with its plans to set fire to several copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks this Saturday.

President Obama joined a litany of high-ranking American officials to condemn the Koran burning, saying that the act, amplified by a global media, would put American troops at risk and fan anger against the United States. Mr. Obama called the pl…

Sectarian Terror in Pakistan

Sectarian Violence Rises Amid Floods in Pakistan
Written by Rafaya Sufi on September 8, 2010, Asia Society

On September 1, 2010, at least 35 Shiite Muslims were killed and 160 others injured in a suicide bombing during a procession in Pakistan's cultural capital, Lahore. Two days later, 55 Shiites were killed at a rally designed to call for solidarity with Palestinians in the western city of Quetta, followed by another suicide bombing at a mosque killing a member of the Ahmadi sect in the northwestern city of Mardan. Bloomberg reported that this series of killings has been the latest rounds of sectarian violence out of Pakistan, taking place over the span of a week carried out by the Pakistani Taliban movement.

When the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq came into power during the 1980s, Sunni hardliners' violence slowly mounted, as they targeted minorities such as Shiites, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and mystical Sufis. In that decade, Zia secretly promoted the growt…

Sami Yusuf's song for Flood Victims in Pakistan

To support flood relief, consider supporting IRC, UNICEF, and HDF

Playing for Peace: South Asian Tennis Dynamic Duo Advances

South Asian Tennis Dynamic Duo Advances

Written by Rafaya Sufi on September 7, 2010 for Asia Society

Sixty-three years since gaining independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have succumbed to three wars, numerous arguments, and several border clashes breaking the countries into ideological

opposites. But none of that has stopped tennis stars Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi of Pakistan and Rohan Bopanna of India from achieving high levels of success in the US Open, currently being held in New York.

Qureshi, a 30-year-old Muslim hailing from Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore, has been playing professionally since 1998. He is the first Muslim player to enter the mixed and men's doubles of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. However, the remarkable thing about Qureshi is not his nationality or religion, but his unlikely partnership with Bopanna.

The doubles pair have been using their friendship, on and off the court, as a call for the resolution of the conflict between their two c…

Cordoba House in New York: Building on Faith - By Feisal Abdul Rauf

Building on Faith
By Feisal Abdul Rauf, New York Times, September 7, 2010

AS my flight approached America last weekend, my mind circled back to the furor that has broken out over plans to build Cordoba House, a community center in Lower Manhattan.I have been away from home for two months, speaking abroad about cooperation among people from different religions. Every day, including the past two weeks spent representing my country on a State Department tour in the Middle East, I have been struck by how the controversy has riveted the attention of Americans, as well as nearly everyone I met in my travels.

We have all been awed by how inflamed and emotional the issue of the proposed community center has become. The level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship.

Many people wondered why I did not speak out more, and sooner, about this project. I felt that it wo…

The Muslims in the Middle!

The Muslims in the Middle
New York Times, August 16, 2010

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S eloquent endorsement on Friday of a planned Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center, followed by his apparent retreat the next day, was just one of many paradoxes at the heart of the increasingly impassioned controversy.

We have seen the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to ending “unjust and unfair discrimination,” seek to discriminate against American Muslims. We have seen Newt Gingrich depict the organization behind the center — the Cordoba Initiative, which is dedicated to “improving Muslim-West relations” and interfaith dialogue — as a “deliberately insulting” and triumphalist force attempting to built a monument to Muslim victory near the site of the twin towers.

For complete article, click here

A Prayer for Laylat al-Qadr

Sattar Edhi is Pakistan's Mother Teresa

Aging philanthropist is Pakistan's Mother Teresa
By CHRIS BRUMMITT, The Associated Press, August 29, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- The aging man in mud-splattered, frayed clothes has barely lowered his body onto the sidewalk when the money starts piling up. Heeding his call for donations for flood victims, Pakistanis of all classes rush to hand over cash to Abdul Sattar Edhi, whose years of dedication to the poor have made him a national icon.

He thanks each donor, some of whom ask to have their photo taken next to him. Four hours later, the crowd remains - and the equivalent of $15,000 is overflowing from a pink basket in front of him.

Edhi has been helping the destitute and sick for more than 60 years, filling the hole left by a state that has largely neglected the welfare of its citizens. Part Mother Teresa, part Gandhi, with a touch of Marx, he is the face of humanitarianism in Pakistan.

Funded by donations from fellow citizens, his 250 centers across the country take in orpha…

Thank you Mr Achim Steiner for donating your $ 70,000 award money (from Tallberg Foundation Prize) for Pakistan Flood Relief

Thank you, Mr Steiner
Taj Khattak, The News, September 7, 2010

A news item which has received scant attention in Pakistan is the donation by Mr Achim Steiner of his entire prize money ($70,000) for the benefit of flood relief victims in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). He is currently the head of the United Nations Environment Programme and was recently awarded a 2010 Tallberg Foundation Prize in Stockholm.

This noble gesture is both significant and praiseworthy since, like the donation of Angelina Jolie, it surpasses the combined personal donations by the two richest sons of the soil; one currently the president, and the other aspiring to be the next prime minister of Pakistan for the third time.

The Tallberg Prize is given to an individual who has consistently applied humanistic, social and ecological values to his/her endeavors. The prize encourages and supports leadership traits and articulation of consistent values, which in all, is the essence of principled pragmatism.

Not long ago, …