In my daily Googling, I came upon these two commentaries about Senator Barack Obama, his recent visit to the Middle East, and his supposed frontrunner candidate for Muslim liaison. This is not to bang on Senator Obama, but to highlight how difficult it is to find leaders who take human/women's rights seriously.
I've not decided who will get my vote in November, but I have written to Senator Obama about dishonor killings. All I got for my effort was a vague form letter in return. And I've been added to his e-mail list, from which it is damned near impossible to get unsubscribed.
So, What DID Barack Talk About?
By Diana West
July 25, 2008
Now that Barack Obama's photo-op safari through the Middle East is over -- "Look, Obama-nation, I bagged the Western Wall!" -- I find there's still that detail about Jordan's King Abdullah II himself chauffeuring America's Sen. Obama (also himself) to the airport worth lingering over.
There the two men were, alone on the road -- at least, alone on the road in the middle of a full-metal motorcade -- cruising in the king's Mercedes 600 to the candidate's "Change you can believe in" Boeing 757 charter jet. What did they talk about?
Since the traveling press didn't even find out about what was discussed at the preceding dinner at the Jordanian palace, it's unlikely the rest of us will learn much about the even more private drive. Indeed, that same night, Fox's Bonney Kapp describes a mini media revolt after takeoff over two Obama campaign advisers' attempts to brief reporters on the plane about the Abdullah dinner "on background" (meaning not for attribution), which prompted one adviser, a former Clinton administration official, to declare "the briefing had to be on background because in all my years with the White House I never read-out a meeting on the record."
Kapp reports: "Press reminded the adviser that Obama was not the president, nor was this a White House trip."
Did the adviser then say -- "Well, slap my knee. I completely forgot Obama wasn't the president and that this wasn't a White House trip"?
Not exactly. Kapp notes: "The pair left without divulging details."
Oh well. We still have our imagination. On that moonlit drive, maybe Abdullah and Barack compared notes, say, on democracy versus monarchy. Given that the senator from Illinois considers this week abroad to be, as he put it on "Face the Nation," a quest for "substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister al-Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who (sic) I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years," maybe he asked the king for advice on sticking around even after his second term-and-a-half expires. Then again, maybe that's too presumptuous even for a presumptive nominee -- or is that vice versa?
On the whole, it's probably easier to imagine what wasn't said. For example, I seriously doubt Obama piped up from his bucket seat: "My middle name is the same as your father's first name." And here's a substantive question the U.S. senator surely didn't ask the Jordanian monarch: How is it that "honor killing" isn't a serious crime in Jordan, but that the Jordanian court system has brought criminal charges against a dozen European citizens, including Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for their attitudes on Islam as expressed in their own countries?
Somehow, I imagine, "Nice car you have, King," is probably more like it.
Another intriguing opportunity for discussion came (and probably went) when Obama later met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah -- "a Palestinian flag between them and photographs of the late Palestinian leader (sic) Yasir Arafat and of Mr. Abbas himself on the wall behind them," as The New York Times rather luridly put it.
Did Obama, in the ensuing hour of closeted discussion, ever ask: President Abbas, how do you expect to be considered a "peace partner" -- let alone receive hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars -- when, as widely reported in your government-controlled media this month, you just "sent blessings" to the family of Samir Kuntar, the notorious child-murdering terrorist recently released by Israel? And why does Fatah -- supposedly the "moderates" in these parts -- lavish praise on Dalal Mughrabi, whose remains Israel also released? Mughrabi led the worst terror attack in Israel's history (37 dead, including 12 children), but Fatah has exalted her for "the most gloried sacrifice action in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle."
I doubt such questions occurred to Obama. Why should they? The candidate was there to generate campaign pictures. With this PR mission in mind, it didn't make sense, for example, to ask during his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, why, according to a recent and widely publicized Der Spiegel interview, the Iraqi leader's chief concern these days appears to be gaining the legal right "to prosecute offenses or crimes committed by U.S. soldiers against our (Iraq's) population." What's up with that, Nouri -- not enough U.S. blood and treasure spent in Iraq yet? The answering look of apoplexy would surely spoil any campaign photo.
Of course, across the political aisle, the McCain campaign isn't exactly burning with curiosity over such questions, either. Which is precisely our national problem. We need a leader who seeks such status-quo-changing answers.
Lecturing Europe While Accepting the Social Structure of Brutality
By Frank Salvato
July 25, 2008
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote, “The reason we have a democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.” Aside from the glaring error in his declaration that we live in a democracy (the United States is actually a Democratic Republic, not a democracy) his assertion is spot on. In light of the logic in Mr. Brook’s statement, it would seem that the woman slated to be Barack Obama’s “Muslim liaison” is dangerous, especially to women.
While Barack Obama was lecturing tens of thousands of Germans during his “fact-finding tour” – interesting that he declared he was going to the Middle East and Europe to “listen” and ends up pontificating – his campaign created the position of “Muslim Liaison;” a position meant to serve as a conduit between his campaign and the Muslim community. Presumably, this position was created because his campaign realized that their Islamophobia (he has yet to address a Muslim forum or talk at a Mosque) was incredibly hypocritical and served to disenfranchise and discriminate against the American-Muslim community.
The likely candidate for this position is Hiam Nawas, a Jordanian-American who served in a similar capacity for the ill-fated 2004 presidential campaign of aspiring politician Wesley Clark (interestingly, for someone who served in a recent presidential campaign the Internet is stunningly devoid of any substantial biographical information on Ms. Nawas).
One of the things we do know about Ms. Nawas is that she has a fairly nonchalant and cavalier attitude regarding the plight of women in the Islamic culture.
In 2005, Nawas wrote that the Bush Administration should “nuance” its approach toward addressing the cruelty and barbarity women face in the Islamic culture:
"We need to recognize that the social structure in the Muslim world is very different from America's...American women need to understand that what is best for them is not necessarily what is best for Muslim women. Advocacy of women’s rights in the Muslim world must show sensitivity to local political realities."
Anyone who has spent even the smallest amount of time researching the plight of women in Islamic society should be stunned, not only by the depth of Nawas’ appeasement to the totalitarian and despotic attitudes toward women in Islamic society, but for the fact that a presidential candidate would be so callow as to find someone – let alone a woman – possessing Nawas’ attitude acceptable to serve as a liaison to any plurality.
As I outlined in a prior article, Women in Islam: Suffering the Barbary of an Ideology, the treatment of women in Islamic society can only be defined as barbaric. While there are some locations throughout the Muslim World that are making strides toward rectifying this situation – Saudi Arabia is allowing women to drive now – this is overwhelmingly the exception rather than the rule.
It is a verifiable and undeniable fact that women in the fundamentalist Islamic world are relegated to the status of possessions. Women are routinely sold into arranged marriages by their fathers who receive a dowry for the “sale”; the dowry sometimes issued in the form of goats or other forms of livestock. The practice of polygamy is widespread throughout the Middle East. In countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, to name but a few, women are subjected to despotic cultural edicts where “offenses,” ranging from un-Islamic dress to being “in the presence” of an unrelated male, are punished – justified under Sharia Law – by whippings, beatings, stoning and death sentences. Honor killings occur frequently and Islamic society accepts it with no form of recourse, no justice for the victim.
And while Ms. Nawas is readying herself to espouse her indifference to the plight of Muslim women in the name of Barack Obama’s candidacy, she does so intimating that the problem of Islamic cultural inequity toward women is a malady removed from American soil. This notion is a falsehood of the highest order. Honor killings are taking place right here on American soil.
Sarah and Amina Said, 17 and 18 respectively, were murdered by their father Yaser Said in Dallas, Texas, in February of 2008 because he felt Western culture was corrupting the chastity of his daughters. He is currently at large. Law enforcement believes he is being harbored by the Islamic community in North Texas.
In Atlanta, Georgia, Chaudhry Rashad, admitted to strangling his 25-year old daughter, Sandela, saying he killed his daughter as a matter of honor, because he felt her plans for divorce would have disgraced the family.
In Henrietta, New York, Waheed Allah Mohammad stabbed his 19-year old sister, Fauzia, to death because she was going to clubs, wearing immodest clothing and planning to leave her family for a new life in New York City.
A superficial search of the term “honor killing” on the Internet results in 2,440,000 entries, so it is impossible to say that the issue is outside the mainstream.
While the instances of honor killings here in the United States are being prosecuted the fact remains that women are considered and treated as possessions in the Islamic culture, whether here in the US or abroad, to the extent of being murdered. Meanwhile, Ms. Nawas says we need to “show sensitivity to local political realities.” Muslim women are dying, both overseas and on American soil, and Ms. Nawas believes we should “nuance our approach” so as not to offend those maintaining the despotic culture.
As Barack Obama finished his “fact-finding tour” speech (really, who goes on a fact-finding trip and has the audacity to stage a speech for tens of thousands) he proclaimed:
"This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East."
It would seem that Barack Obama’s idea of a “new dawn” for women trapped in the Islamic culture – in light of his pick for liaison to the Muslim community – is one that includes a “nuanced approach” to the brutality the Islamic culture inflicts on women each and every day. I’m sure tossing them that bone will win him votes...cast right before they find themselves in pools of their own blood for having had the audacity to vote; for having had the “audacity of hope.”
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For All Women Foundation