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Not a joke actually. An encounter unfortunately too rare.

As national co-chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives an inter-faith organization dedicated to integrating spirituality and political change, I often speak at unusual events, but this time was different. Complete with television news cameras and NPR, a crowd of several hundred people created a standing-room only crowd as Muslims joined with Christians, Jews, and “spiritual-but-not-religious” NSPers to witness a historic event: the first time a Jew had been invited to speak at the Denver Mosque. I was amazed and quite pleased at the warm and enthusiastic reception I received.

The invitation had provoked a spirited controversy in the mosque. There were some who argued that the invitation proffered to NSP to host me at the mosque should be rescinded. They argued that both Tikkun and I have been strong advocates for the State of Israel, that we reject the notion of a general disinvestment in Israel (though we do support disinvestment in companies like Caterpillar which specifically build equipment to tear down Palestinian homes for the Israeli government), that we reject the call for a “One State Solution” and instead affirm the need for an immediate creation of two states living in peace and mutual cooperation, and that Tikkun still believes that Israel should be a Jewish state (in the sense of giving special priority to Jewish immigration to Israel, though we also have advocated that the Palestinian state should have the same priority for immigration needs of Palestinians).

The other side argued that the Mosque should not be afraid to hear a Jewish perspective, that Tikkun Magazine had been the major source for the renewal of an American Jewish Left in the 1980s and had been a major role in making criticism of Israeli policies toward Palestinians more legitimate inside the Jewish world, had been the major documenter in the US of Israeli human rights abuses, and had provided the only location among the Jewish world for Palestinians to tell their case to the Jewish people without censorship. Moreover, they argued, anyone reading Healing Israel/Palestine (my 2003 book) could see the obvious intent to write a balanced account of the struggle that lacked all the normal chauvinistic nationalist rhetoric that still predominates in major sections of the Jewish world and even in sectors of the Israeli and American “peace movement.” Though these claims were responded to by others at the mosque who pointed out that all these points, while true, only created the platform for Rabbi Lerner to be “the most effective, because seemingly most balanced, supporter of the State of Israel that the Jewish people have in the U.S.”, in the end it was the side who wished to invite me that prevailed.

The article goes on to detail the exchange. Lerner was of course barred from speaking at an ANSWER-sponsored anti-war rally because the organization couldn’t put the agenda of the then-pending war ahead of their sectarian intransigence. Lerner’s crime was to say

“In my view, the organizers of this demonstration have allowed far too many speakers who believe that this war is being done because Israel wants the war, far too few who share my view that this war is not in the best interests of either Israel or of the United States.”

That was interpreted by ANSWER as being “pro-Israel” and therefor rendering Lerner unworthy of participation in their rally (since then I don’t rush to attend ANSWER-sponsored demonstrations as I think they do more harm than good). Fortunately the prevailing elements of the Denver Mosque had more common sense.

And he gets it from the other side as well.

The photo comes from his Tikkun page.

Benazir Bhutto killed at 54.

Addendum: Pakistan in chaos.

Bhutto’s death marked yet another grim chapter in Pakistan’s bloodstained history, 28 years after her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, another ex-prime minister, was hanged by a military dictatorship in the same northern city where she was killed.

Creepy.

Second addendum: Here’s some history and analysis from Aziz Huq at the Nation.

This video was produced by David Horowitz’ group. We’ve discussed him here, and he’s been on my radio show. He’s a former communist (which may account for the Marx quote at the beginning) with a definite right wing agenda. Like any propaganda film, it focuses on the extremes of the situation, often without context. You would be left with the impression that all rape victims under Sharia law are killed for their “dishonor,” but it’s really not the case. These are the extreme incidents, whatever the Koran may say.

Additionally, the images are manipulative. Context is omitted from the narrative, and there are even a few drawings thrown into the mix, including a depiction of a woman shackled and nude. Obviously it’s intended to be symbolic, but when multiple extremely disturbing images are being thrown before your eyes within a short amount of time, the nuance is easily lost and a political veteran like Horowitz should know better. The nude woman image appears at least twice sans explanation.

And frankly, Horowitz’ decision to attribute the violence to Islam generically rather than simply the social and legal systems of the countries involved looks like pandering to bigotry – whether that’s the intention.

But the stoning images and female “circumcision” photos should disturb you, as well as some of the others. And please, before you say it, no, it really doesn’t happen here as well. Certainly not with church and state sanction. And no, I don’t see it as an excuse to bomb Iran.

Oh, and the images are extremely disturbing (the “x-rated” comment at the beginning is rather curious given the point I think they’re trying to make). Don’t watch it around children.

Now we’re seeing the real thing. Yet somehow I doubt it’ll draw the same level of outrage from the usual proponents of the term. Around 500 dissenting leaders have been detained, many of them lawyers and human rights activists. This morning Bhutto said in an NPR interview that she expects to be arrested, although she told ABC that she might enjoy some protection due to her international profile. President Musharraf meanwhile, is comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln.

Scores of paramilitary troops blocked access to the Supreme Court and parliament. Streets in the capital appeared largely calm, with only a handful of demonstrations. But one, attended by 40 people at the Marriott Hotel, was broken up by baton-wielding police.“Shame on you! Go Musharraf go!” the protesters shouted as officers dragged some out of the crowd and forced them to the ground. Eight were taken away in a van.

For us, it represents the fruits of 10 billion in military aid, including the sale of F-17s to Pakistan which would really only be used against the only democracy in the immediate area.

Photo of Abraham Lincoln is from The Atlantic, which has a great discussion of whether he should be considered an ally or adversary.

Thanks to Kevin Hoover’s heads-up in the thread below. Check out the photo and caption on the Eye’s front page.

….

Elsewhere in the issue Jeff Schwartz proposes a program for dealing with grow houses.

Somebody was kind enough to post this link in a thread below.

During the week of October 22-26, 2007, the nation will be rocked by the biggest conservative campus protest ever – Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses. The purpose of this protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat. Nothing could be more politically incorrect than to point this out. But nothing could be more important for American students to hear. In the face of the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted, the academic left has mobilized to create sympathy for the enemy and to fight anyone who rallies Americans to defend themselves. According to the academic left, anyone who links Islamic radicalism to the war on terror is an “Islamophobe.” According to the academic left, the Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are tolerant and free, but because we are “oppressors.”

So I’ve been looking for news clips to see how it’s going on this first day of the celebrations. To my knowledge it’s the first time anybody has tried to organize conservative students on a nation-wide level for demonstrations.

According to CAIR, one of the key speakers is Robert Spencer who advocates driving Muslims out by making their lives miserable. They also claim that a photograph used to promote the events depicting a woman being stoned to death was actually taken from a fictional movie. So now they have a photo of an execution. They could have used the beheading in Saudi Arabia which was in Fahrenheit 911, but for some reason it was “tasteless” and “deliberately provocative” when Moore did it. Wouldn’t be seemly to use the same shot.

This blogger noted a proposed name change for the event.

Barbara Ehrenreich notes the proximity of the festivities to Halloween and draws some parallels.

Michelle Malkin has a few notes. Drudge has nothing on the front page. Horowitz has a calendar of speakers, but no updated news. The link at the top contains a list of all the schools with organized events. HSU isn’t among them.

But I can’t find any stories on events today, not even on Fox News which did cover this demonstration. If anybody has any links please share them and I’ll post them to the front page.

A woman who had an affair will be stoned to death. Her male partner in crime will be whipped.

Tehran, 28 Sept.(AKI) – A court in the Iran’s second largest city, Mashad, has sentenced to death by stoning a mother-of-three for having an extra-marital affair, an Iranian newspaper reported Friday.

The daily Quds said the married woman’s lover had confessed to having had sex with her and that the court sentenced him to 100 lashes.

There are currently eight women in Iranian prisons waiting to be executed by stoning, a practice usually reserved for those found guilty of adultery according to the Islamic republic’s laws.

Earlier this year it was reported that a man had been put to death by stoning, the first person to be executed in this way for several years.

Capital punishment in Iran – after China, the country to carry out the highest number of executions – usually involves death by hanging.

But I shouldn’t point this out. It’s cultural imperialism to impose my values on them. And after all, these laws are really about the liberation of women, in their context. And Pat Robertson is bad too. And it’s all a plot of the environmentalist Zionists who control foreign policy, the media, and canned soup.

Did I leave anything out?

Andy S. brought my attention to this website, Arabs for Israel, dedicated to Arabs and Muslims who support the right if Israel to exist. The principles are as follows:

We are Arabs and Moslems who believe:

  • We can support Israel and still support the Palestinian people. Supporting one does not cancel support for the other.
  • We can support the State of Israel and the Jewish religion and still treasure our Arab and Islamic culture.
  • There are many Jews and Israelis who freely express compassion and support for the Palestinians. We Arabs also express reciprocal compassion and support.
  • The existence of the State of Israel is a fact that we accept.
  • Israel is a legitimate state that is not a threat but an asset in the Middle East.
  • Every major World religion has a center of gravity. Islam has Mecca, and Judaism certainly deserves its presence in Israel and Jerusalem.
  • Diversity is a virtue not only in the USA, but would be beneficial around the world. We support a diverse Middle East with protection for human rights, respect and equality under the law to all minorities, including Jews and Christians.
  • Palestinians have several options but are deprived from exercising them because of their leadership, the Arab League and surrounding Arab and Moslem countries who have other goals besides seeing Palestinians live in harmony with Israel.
  • If Palestinians want democracy they can start practicing it now.
  • It will benefit Arabs to end the boycott of Israel.
  • We can resolve our conflicts using non-violent means. Sending our young people on suicide/homicide missions as a form of Jihad is a distortion of Islam. We can do better.
  • We are appalled by the horrific act of terror against the USA on 9/11/2001.
  • It will be better for Arabs when the Arab media ends the incitement and misinformation that result in Arab street rage and violence. We support the Arab media providing coverage of ways that people of all religions are and can live together in harmony.
  • We are eager to see major reformation in how Islam is taught and channeled to bring out the best in Moslems and contribute to the uplifting of the human spirit and advancement of civilization.
  • We believe in freedom to choose or change one’s Religion.
  • We cherish and acknowledge the beauty and contributions of the Middle East culture, but recognize that the Arab/Moslem world is in desperate need of constructive self-criticism and reform.
  • We seek dialogue with Israel. We invite you to join us on a path of love.

I’ll see what I can find in terms of background on the group later. It probably gets slammed by both sides. I can relate.

Addendum: Here’s a video of a couple of their representatives, one of whom is founder Nonie Darwish.

Second Addendum: Well, the group is pretty one-dimensional. I expected it to be pro-Israel, because, well, that’s in the name of the website. But there’s little nuance in the articles, although this one is kind of interesting. It doesn’t blame the Palestinians, but rather “Arab meddling” for the perpetual crisis, with an interesting perspective on the history.

Still, it’s an interesting political development. Let’s see how they play into other reconciliation efforts.

Third Addendum: I was hoping the organization would be more focused on gestures like this one.

How many of us would continue to protest?

Oh, and some of the protesters were given 6 months to 5 years in prison – for protesting polygamy and demanding equal rights.

But should we mention this development lest we’re accused of slandering Islam to support the “Zionist war?”

Incidentally, I see events like these as evidence against Andy’s pessimism about progress. These women are precisely among the individuals who make change possible – perhaps even more profoundly than these women.

The photo is from the above-linked article.

This week I’ll have Andy Stunich on to discuss Saudi Arabia. We’ll talk about the history, social system, and political structure. We’ll probably touch on current issues, such as the role of Saudi Arabia in the Iraq war, Bin Laden’s family, and the involvement of Saudis in the 911 attacks, but mostly we want to shore up a foundation for future discussions.

Although Andy is more conservative than most listeners on these issues, you may be surprised to find some interesting agreement when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

As always, it will be on 7:00 p.m. Call in at 923-3911 or 1 800-KMUDRAD. We’ll probably start taking calls at the bottom of the hour.

If anybody has any short readings to suggest, I’ll be happy to take a look at them prior to the show. Wikipedia has a nice summary. The map comes from the embassy site. Click on the image to enlarge.

Addendum: Pursuant to request herein, Robert Scheer on the Saudi arms deal.

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