USA ‘Believes in Democracy’

From Bush to Blair western political leaders always lament lack of democracy and freedom in Muslim countries for their woes. What kind of democracy President Bush wants for the Muslims is evident from his latest praise for Musharraf. Bush offered his strongest support to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general “hasn’t crossed the line”…

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Abul Kalam

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From Bush to Blair western political leaders always lament lack of democracy and freedom in Muslim countries for their woes. What kind of democracy President Bush wants for the Muslims is evident from his latest praise for Musharraf. Bush offered his strongest support to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general “hasn’t crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”
Bush remark comes nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. He filled his prisons with political rivals
Congressional Democrats claim that they are standing up to President Bush’s assault on civil liberties – demanding an end to spying on Americans without court supervision.
The full House and the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed major improvements to a deeply flawed measure that the White House pushed through Congress just before the summer recess. The Congress will have to stand firm to enact more needed fixes to that law – and prevent the White House from using the occasion to encroach even further on civil liberties.
The bill tries to close a loophole in the 1978 law on electronic spying that was created by new technology. But Mr. Bush has added provisions that gave legal cover to his decision to spy on Americans’ international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant after 9/11 – and actually expanded his powers.
The House measure contains updates to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It allows the collection of e-mail messages and phone calls between people outside the United States that happen to go through American data hubs. It grants some additional latitude for starting eavesdropping on communications originating or ending in the United States, and then getting court approval afterward. Here are some red lines for this debate:
SUNSET: The law must have two-year expiration date.
COURTS AND WARRANTS: Any new law must include real supervision by the special FISA court. The administration wants to gut the court’s powers, taking away the requirement for advance warrants. It is vital to retain provisions that would make it clear that the government cannot just collect information in bulk. The Senate bill would require a warrant to eavesdrop on an American who is in another country. The White House opposes this provision. It must be retained.
AMNESTY: The telecommunications companies must not get amnesty. Lawsuits against them must be allowed to proceed, in the interest of the rule of law and also to force disclosure of the nature and extent of the lawless eavesdropping that began after Sept. 11, 2001.
Olé! Allah! Some 200,000 Latinos in the United States identify themselves as Muslims. Many Latino communities are in close proximity to Muslim centres, especially in states like Florida, Texas, New York and California. As Latinos learn more about Islam, they become more connected to their Muslim heritage, making their religious transition easier.
Both Latino and Islamic culture share a deep appreciation for religion and family. Alex Robayo, who has been Muslim for over a decade, was drawn to the same values in Islam that he grew up with. “There are a lot of similarities with our culture, with the way our families are.”
Women have historically been drawn to Islam and Latino women are no different. Latino American Dawah Organisation estimates sixty percent of Latino converts are women. Irene Abbasi, a native of Puerto Rico, has been Muslim for more than 30 years.
“When they say Islam deems women as second class citizens, I find that ridiculous,” she said. “In Islam, if you’re in a miserable marriage, you have the option of getting a divorce and getting your rights … right now it’s called a prenuptial. Well, Islam had this in the 13th century.”
An initiative like the LADP mapping project would have implied that the presence of American Muslims is a threat to the greater community. Muslims in the United States feel betrayed and isolated by the rejection of the political establishment of a country they are proud to be a part of. Instead of humiliating them, governmental institutions should foster closer ties with their local Muslim populations. Positive engagement with Muslim Americans will get America much further in combating terrorism than any mapping program might
British Terror law 2000 criminalized normal political activities potentially on the basis of suspected ‘association’. This law was followed by three more in 2001, 2005, 2006; these multiplied extra police powers (e.g. glorification of terrorism, punishment without trial and treatment of ‘suspects’ as guilty, thus bypassing due process. Together these laws have normalized detention without trial under various guises, such as control orders and immigration rules, whereby the accused never see the evidence against them.
A recent prosecution illustrates the vague crime of ‘terrorist’ association. Four university students and a schoolboy from Bradford were jailed for possessing DVDs of radical Imams – officially labelled as material ‘for terrorist purposes’ (The Guardian, 27.07.07). The defendants were charged under the Terrorism Act 2000, which was supposedly aimed at people who hoard detonators and combustible chemicals. Thus a court now considers DVDs to be as dangerous as Semtex. This says much about the way in which security laws are being used against the so-called Islamists.
On Oct. 23, 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives has quietly passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism (read Thought Crime) Prevention Act of 2007 by a landslide vote of 404 to 6. Now it has been referred to the Senate where it awaits scrutiny from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Interestingly, of the fifteen sponsors for this bill, eleven of them are Democrats who won their seat in Nov. 2006 on the promise of restoring civil liberties.
The bill’s vague and open-ended language hides its true intent as to what “violent radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” are? It will be whatever the administration says they are. Violent radicalization is defined as “adopting or promoting an extremist belief system (read Islam) (to facilitate) ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change.”
Homegrown terrorism is used to mean “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily with the United States or any (US) possession to intimidate or coerce the (US) government, the civilian population….or any segment thereof (to further) political or social objectives.”
Along with other repressive laws enacted after 9/11, the new law may be used against any individual or group with unpopular views – those that differ from established state policies. Prosecutors will be able to target believers in Islam, anti-war protesters, even web editors, internet bloggers and radio and TV show hosts and commentators with views the bill calls “terrorist-related propaganda.”
Unfortunately this bill is likely to pass and be signed into law as it purports to be part of the response to 9/11 and the global war on terror. If this legislation becomes law, which is virtually certain, any dissenting anti-government Muslim action or opinion may henceforth be called “violent radicalisation and homegrown terrorism” with stiff penalties for anyone convicted.
This bill now joins the ranks of other repressive post-9/11 laws like Patriot I and II, Military Commissions, Protect America Acts and Presidential Executive Orders pursuant to which the government has engaged in massive surveillance of its own citizens, as well as detentions, extraordinary renditions and torture. Surprisingly, there is a criminal silence in the mainstream media about the bill.
There are nations that torture human beings and then concoct legal sophistries to confuse the world and avoid accountability.