Sunday, October 28, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Praying, eating and bowling with the most hated student group at UC Irvine
With a brief red flash, the sun disappears behind the trees at Aldrich Park in the center of the UC Irvine campus as I pray.
“Pray as if this is your last prayer,” instructs a man standing in front.
I place a digital recorder on the ground. A dark-skinned man at my side says, “Follow my lead.” We bow and then lie prostrate on cooling cement. I stand at the end of a row of 30 men, shoulder-to-shoulder. Behind us, another row has nearly the same number of women. All the women wear hijabs, or scarves over their hair and neck. We bow in unison.
The man at the front is named Kareem Elsayed; he’s 21. He leads the prayer with a musical and mournful verse. His cracking voice invokes an abysmal melancholy. I have no idea what he’s saying, but the suras—chapter of the Koran—flow meditatively, centering and calming the Muslim Student Union (MSU) of UCI. Suddenly, familiar words: “Allahu Akhbar.” Followed by several beats of silence. “Allahu Akhbar.”
God is Greatest.
The phrase, in its most reverent use, is a parallel of the Judeo-Christian “Hallelujah” (Praise to God). But the words “Allahu Akhbar,” repeated melodically, strike a cold chord. A simple statement of belief that has become, to many non-Muslims, synonymous with extremism, a jihadist battle cry. Much like the group that now utters it, the phrase has become indelibly linked in many minds with intolerance.
The prayer ends. I dust off, feeling content and serene. I haven’t prayed in months. The Muslim prayer seems as good as any other, I guess.
It’s dusk, and the students begin ambling toward a picnic table near Ring Road, a narrow walking and biking road encircling the park. They are hungry. It is late September, and the holy month of Ramadan is in full swing. The students break their sun-up-to-sundown fasting regimen—no food, water, sex—with a sweet date.
I eat a date, too; it’s good. Elsayed tells me that dates are high in glucose, providing an instant rush of energy and potassium for rehydration. The perfect appetizer for a thirsty, starving Muslim.
The women and the men of the group eat at separate tables. It’s part of tradition, one of the students tells me. Like the conservative dress of the women, eating separately is a way to avoid the distractions of physical attraction so one can focus only on God.
I pile delicious lamb and some kind of spicy rice on a plate and move to a table full of solemn faces. “Mind if I sit down?” I ask with a smile.
They neither object nor invite. They barely look at me, instead staring at their plates. Three thin freshmen and a man in his 40s who looks like an Arab Tony Soprano sit at the table. Not a word is said for several minutes. One of the young men is somewhat sloppily eating with his hands; the rest use plastic cutlery.
“So,” the Soprano look-alike asks me, “how long have you been a Muslim?”
“I’m not a Muslim,” I answer.
He raises his eyebrows and turns his attention back to his food. He seems to regard me suspiciously, not surprising considering the MSU is likely the most hated––and feared––student group at the university.
Monday, October 15, 2007
John Dugard speaks slowly and carefully. He rarely hesitates. But from his measured voice comes a reputation for being outspoken.
Earlier this year, in his role as special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council for the Palestinian Territories, the South African law professor wrote a report for the UN General Assembly in which he compared Israel's actions to those of apartheid South Africa.
Indeed, the word "apartheid" appears 24 times in the 24-page report.
But in his interview with the BBC, Mr Dugard goes further than before.
He has been trenchant in his belief in the past seven years that he has held the UN post that Israel is collectively punishing the Palestinians.
Now, though, he has the international community, and the UN itself, in his sights for complicity.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
On the morning of the 5th of October, 2004, a morning as rudimentarily awful as any lived under a brutal occupation, 13-year-old Iman, wearing her blue and white school uniform and carrying her schoolbag, left her house in Rafah refugee camp to go to school. Iman wandered a few meters away from her usual route to school and ventured into the large security zone surrounding an Israeli military base, which is, as is common, located near Palestinian civilians’ houses and schools. What follows is a gruesome tale of sickeningly cold-blooded murder.
Iman was spotted by the Israeli military base’s watchtower. She was about 100 yards away from the military base when the following conversation took place between a soldier in the watchtower, an army operations room and a certain Captain R, who remains unnamed to this day:
From the watchtower: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward."
From the operations room: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?"
Watchtower: "A girl about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death."
A few minutes later, Iman is shot from one of the army posts
Watchtower: "I think that one of the positions took her out."
Captain R: "I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill ... Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill. Over."
Captain R—along with another soldier—walks towards Iman, and shoots two bullets at point-blank range into her head to “confirm the kill.” He starts to head back to his base, before turning around again and emptying all the bullets from his machine gun into the body of Iman.
Captain R then "clarifies" why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over."
After she was taken to the hospital, doctors counted 17 bullet wounds in Iman’s body, and three in her head, though they were unsure of the exact number since her little body was shattered to the point where one couldn’t accurately count how many bullets had riddled it.
Anywhere in the world, you would expect such a murderer to be tried and to receive a very harsh sentence. Unfortunately, the laws that apply in most of the world do not apply to Palestinian children and their murderers. An Israeli military court, on October 15, 2004, cleared the soldier of any wrongdoing or unethical behavior, declaring that “confirming the kill” is standard procedure.Complete Story
Monday, October 8, 2007
Iran-born German soccer player refuses to play his match in the apartheid state, now thats a modern day hero.
Dejagah, 21, who plays for VfB Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, asked national team managers to allow him to withdraw from Germany's European Championship qualifier against Israel, which is scheduled to be played in Tel Aviv on Friday, the DFB said.