31 May 2003

Equality in the Arab World

Women have finally achieved equal rights in the Arab World. Women are now officially allowed to blow themselves up on homicide/suicide missions. Congratulations to all! One of the leading Muslim scholars has issued a ruling permitting women to carry out homicide attacks.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the dean of Islamic Studies at the University of Qatar, has issued this statement in response to the suicide bombing last week in Israel by a Muslim woman. “Women’s participation in the martyrdom operations...is one of the most praised acts of worship. Also, the act is a form of martyrdom for the cause of Allah, and it entitles them, inshallah, to the same reward earned by their male counterparts who also die in the cause of Allah....This obligation reaches the extent that a woman should go out for jihad even without the permission of her husband, and the son without the consent of his parents.” Qaradawi also added that Muslim women can violate Islamic traditions by traveling without a male relative and without having to wear a veil while carrying out an attack if without it she will be able to blow people up more effectively.

Let us analyze this wonderful statement of equality. The issue here is the question about what women will receive in the afterlife. According to this scholar, she will receive what her male counterpart suicide attacker gets. As we know from the Hadith (Islamic tradition) the afterlife caters to male fantasies. So what is it again that the female homicide bomber will get?

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi allows for Islamic tradition to be broken in order for a homicide bombing to go forward. Look at the exceptions to the rule: A woman can go out without a male relative escorting her, and she can remove her veil in order to carry out an attack. Wow, good for her. I wonder if the Sheikh will allow her to even drive a car in order to carry out the attack. Hey, it’s a start. Let us not impede progress.

If this is the beginning of the Equality for Women movement in the Middle East, we should probably look into other issues such as: the right to free speech, the right to marry who the woman wants (not only who the father wants her to marry), the right not to be murdered by a family member to save family honor, the right to have an education, the right not be handled like a piece of property, and maybe just maybe the right to vote (but perhaps we are looking too far ahead).

It is about time that equal rights for women creep into Middle Eastern culture. We need to keep in mind that equal rights for one means death and terror for others, but let us not be spoil sports about all of this. Let us cheer on Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and support him in his struggle for equality. Women homicide bombers are one small step forward for Arab women and one giant leap backward for mankind.

Jerusalem Post, Women May be Terror Suicide Bombers, Muslim Scholar Rules, by Khaled Abu Toameh May 25, 2003

16 May 2003

The Forgotten Refugees - new edition

Now that it seems that the “peace process” is on the road no doubt the issue of the Arab refugees will be back on the negotiating table. But there is another piece to this refugee puzzle that must not be forgotten, and that is the Jewish refugees.

Jews lived in what are now the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa since the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE (BC). When the Muslim Arabs swept through the Middle East and North Africa, Jews were one of the few indigenous peoples that resisted conversion to Islam. As a result, they were reduced to second class citizens, otherwise known as dhimmis. This meant the Jews were tolerated but could never achieve equal status of a Muslim.

Caliph Omar, who succeeded Muhammed, created a set of codes by which a dhimmi had to live. The degradation of Jews under the Charter of Omar depended on the individual ruler. From Time Immemorial, documents some of these actions. In Yemen “life was abject slavery...where one of the Jews’ tasks was to clean city latrines and another was to clear the streets of animal carcasses-without pay, often on their Sabbath.” Albert Memmi, a Tunisian Jewish newspaperman wrote: “What have we been for centuries if not dominated, humiliated, threatened and periodically massacred?”

When dhimmis laws were not being strongly enforced, there were times that Jewish community would flourish. The response to that success would be a wave of harassment or massacre of Jews, instigated by the government or the masses. Once the Jewish community was weak again, they would be temporarily left alone.

This is the backdrop to the tragedy of the forgotten Middle East refugees. In 1948, nearly 900,000 Jews lived in the Middle East and North Africa, some having lived there for 2500 years, such as in Iraq. Today, 99% of these communities no longer exist and less than 8,000 Jews live in the Arab countries of the MidEast and North Africa.

The rise of Arab nationalism in the mid-20th Century led to the destruction of these communities. Hajj Amin al-Husayni, an Arab nationalist leader, and the Mufti of Jerusalem went to Nazi Berlin in 1941 and asked Hitler to “resolve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and the other Arab countries in the same way as the problem was resolved in the Axis countries.” A few years later, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen drove out most of their Jewish citizens through government action and physical attacks. In Iraq, 150,000 Jews were forced to leave their bank accounts and life savings, and only allowed one suitcase. Libyan Jews were allowed to leave with no more than twenty dollars apiece.

In 1947, before the creation of the State of Israel, the Arabs were offered a state of Palestine alongside that of a Jewish State. They refused, declared war on Israel, told the Arabs living in pre-state Israel to leave their home temporarily until Israel was destroyed. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha proclaimed on May 15, 1948, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”

When the Arab states lost the war, two refugee situations were created. The first was the Jewish refugee problem of almost a million people. Israel welcomed them and integrated them into the newly formed State. The second refugee problem was the one of the Arabs who were waiting to go back to their homes after Israel was destroyed. While Israel had taken in the Jews from the Arab countries, these displaced Arabs were placed into refugee camps to be run by the United Nations, paid for by the world.

The Arabs that were told by the Arab commanders to temporarily leave their homes are now being used as a propaganda tool against Israel. These Arabs could have been easily resettled in any Arab country. Zuheir Muhsin, executive member of the PLO wrote in the Dutch daily newspaper, Trouw: “Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel...”

As it stands today, the concept of compensation for the Jews thrown out of their native Arab countries has never made the headlines of any newspaper. They lost what is the equivalent of billions of dollars. It’s time to talk about compensation for these forgotten Middle East refugees.

For more information: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. (www.jimena-justice.org)

Divestment, What a Brilliant Idea!

Is this microphone on? (tap, tap, tap) Obviously not. Student Council passed a resolution last week to push the University to divest from companies doing business in Israel. What a brilliant plan! Like the university hasn’t lost enough money so far. Did someone say “budget cuts” and “program cutting”? I guess Student Council didn’t hear anything like that. And we know that the United States economy is doing so well that we can afford to ask universities and private business to stop doing business in Israel. Why didn’t we think of this before? Because this is a stupid idea, that’s why.

The reason that Student Council passed this divestment resolution was because they felt that the situation in Israel is one of apartheid. Guess who didn’t do their homework? What a funny accusation to make against the only democracy in the Middle East. I didn’t hear a peep of complaint from Student Council about Wayne State’s agreement with Syria.

Syria, as we know, is one of the biggest cocaine distributors in the world as well as number one in the Middle East. Go Syria (hard work pays off)! Let’s forget about those 40,000 men, women and children of the city of Hama that were wiped off the face of the Earth by past president Hafez el-Assad (his son now runs the country) because they disagreed with his politics. Too bad for them, huh. Oh, and let us not forget that Syria is called home by many different terrorist organizations such as Hamas, which perpetrates the murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians, and the al-Qaeda connected Hizbullah. Over the last 30 years, Hizbullah has been busy. Their resume includes the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut murdering 215 American soldiers, as well as the Kohbar towers bombing which murdered another19. Was that a sound of complaint from Student Council? Nope, I was mistaken, someone stepped on the cat’s tail.

Why harp on Syria when we can talk about the entire Middle East? In 1948 when they weren’t able to destroy the reborn Jewish state, they decided instead to kick out the Jews that had been living in the Arab countries minding their own business. Some of those Jews had been living there 2500 years, but never mind. 900,000 Jews were thrown out and billions of dollars of private property was stolen from them. Where did they go? Did they stay in refugee camps paid for by the world and ignored by their brothers in Israel? Did they ask for a right of return to their Arab homelands? No, they did not. These Jews were integrated straight into Israeli society which was less than 10 years old. I wonder how you integrate almost a million people into a society with a less than stable economy in under ten years, but you can do anything if you care about your brothers.

Enough, let’s get back to Israel, and what a terrible place it isn’t. Israel is a democracy. Surprised? Most would have you believe that Arabs are not allowed to vote or participate in the election process. There are several Arab parties included in the Israeli Parliament. I wonder how that happened in an “apartheid” state such as Israel? Actually, there was some controversy in the last Israeli election when two Arab ministers were banned temporarily from running for office. What a terrible thing, how could that happen?

Well it seems that those two ministers, Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara were running around calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. They were what? Ahmed Tibi is both a minister on the Israeli Parliament but also is an advisor to Yasser Arafat who hasn’t lifted a finger to stop Arab attack on Jews. Tibi is also quite vocal in his praise of violence against Jewish Israelis.

Minister Bishara has been even busier than Tibi. He travelled to Syria, went on Syrian television with Bashar Assad (the current president), the head of Hizbullah and praised Hizbullah for all their good work in killing Jews. Wow! I want these guys in my government. And if you were concerned if they were allowed to run for office in the last election don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Of course they were. You are allowed to call for the murder of your fellow citizens and run for a ministerial position. Did someone say something about Arabs not having equal rights in Israel?

The last Student Council obviously needed to have its collective head examined. By condemning Israel and not Syria, they showed themselves ignorant of reality. This new Student Council should take a strong stand behind Israel and repeal the divestment resolution.