Remaking America | From Poverty to Prosperity

Packed house for the Remaking America event

Last Thursday, I went to the Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity event presented by Tavis Smiley at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium.

Before the event, I found a public parking garage that charged about half the fee of the GW lot. Unfortunately, it was a cash only lot and I was about fifty cents short. Thankfully, the parking attendant said he would make up the difference.

As I approached GW, there was a line stretching around the block with almost 30 minutes before the start time. Some of my ticket-less friends had stayed away fearing they would be turned away as an usher walked up and down the queue stating that only pre-registered ticket holders would be allowed in. I didn’t make it in until nearly 40 minutes later and by then they were no longer checking tickets.

Suze Orman

What followed was an inspiring two and half hours of some of the best American progressive social, political, economic commentary. The audience was refreshingly engaged and frequently erupted into shouts of support and loud applause.

Tavis Smiley moderated the discussion and began with the devastating statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau that when the perennially poor, new poor, and near poor categories are combined together that nearly 1 in 2 Americans or about 150 million people are living in or around the poverty line. Many of the people in the new poor category were until recently among the middle class. Vicki Escarra, the President and CEO of Feeding America, highlighted the reality of food insecurity and that 50 million Americans are hungry each day, many of them not knowing where their next meal will come from.

Barbara Ehrenreich hammered away on the point that for too long poverty has been seen as a character flaw by both those on the right and some on the left. Rather than as a result of low wages, the inability to find work, and the system increasingly being stacked against people trying to get out of poverty.

Dr. Cornell West lamented that while nearly 56% of children live in or near poverty, the poor have been pushed to the margins of society and their plight and concerns are largely invisible on the national stage. West chastised our political leaders beholden to corporate interests and greed to actually lead on the issue of poverty, which he labeled the major moral and spiritual of our time. According to West, poverty is as much an issue of national security as are the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore observed that America has always had a poor working class going back to the legacy of slavery. Certainly, America would not be as rich and prosperous today had it not benefitted from hundreds of years of slavery. Moore continued that financial institutions miscalculated in going after the white middle class through the mortgage crisis. Now, that poverty has an increasingly white face added to that of people of color, we see more grassroots anger and movements like Occupy Wall Street beginning to take shape.

Suze Orman remarked that “there is now a highway into poverty and no longer even a sidewalk out” and that many of the people that call into her show are the former middle class who are now the face of the new poor. They are of all backgrounds and colors and Orman reminded the audience could very well be the person sitting next to you. Continue reading “Remaking America | From Poverty to Prosperity”

Ali Asad Chandia Re-Sentencing Hearing | Justice Delayed for a Third Time

At Dar us Salaam, waiting to carpool to the courthouse on January 28, 2011.

On Friday, a group of concerned Muslims and I began a ritual, which has become all too familiar over the past seven years. We wake up early and meet at a local Muslim school, which serves as the gathering point for carpools or for trips to the metro as we make our way down to the Federal District Courthouse in Alexandria, VA so that we can fill the courtroom before each hearing, usually scheduled to begin at 9am.

Strange how familiar the courthouse is and the newly revitalized section of downtown Alexandria that surrounds it. So many memories. I remember praying outside in the courtyard, as pictured below, while the now finished nearby buildings were still under construction. And of being taunted by the construction workers atop those then unfinished buildings. As I walked into the courthouse, I knew the drill, leave your cell phone in the car (when we first starting coming here seven years ago, courthouse security would take your phone and give you a number so you could retrieve it later on), don’t wear heels, which will set off the walk-through metal detector, if you’re a woman wearing niqab, the full face-veil, come a little early as they might have to find a female guard to view your face, coats and jackets off, and photo ID out and ready for the security screener. On Friday, I handed my driver’s license to an older and very polite gentleman who then tried unsuccessfully to pronounce my last name but said rather joyfully, “Good morning, I remember you!” and indeed, I remember him and his colleagues well, many of the same faces that have been here for each trial over the last seven years.

You can't see us but we're there praying behind the men, years ago, after one hearing.

Tensely, we waited until we were all through security, and then made our way to the elevators, no need to check the courtroom assignments, Judge Claude Hilton is on the 8th floor, Judge Brinkema is on the seventh and so on…Beginning the day’s proceedings was the usual court business of sentencing and something of a novelty, which many of us had not yet witnessed. Two new graduate lawyers were admitted to the bar in a short courtroom ceremony, their colleagues introduced them, their schools, and testified to knowledge of their upright character, and Judge Claude Hilton admitted them. Both men seems relieved and happy. Good luck to them, may their work be filled with the dignity and integrity, which is a credit to their profession.

Then it was Ali Asad Chandia’s turn. He was escorted in by federal marshals and wore a dark green jumpsuit with the words prisoner written in white letters across his upper back. Chandia was convicted in 2006 of providing material support (shipping paintballs, driving an LET official around the DC metro area and allowing him to use his computer) to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Judge Claude Hilton applied a terrorism enhancement at the original sentencing, which increased Chandia’s sentence from what would have normally been around six years to 15 years. However, in order to apply a terrorism enhancement, Judge Hilton is required to demonstrate that Chandia’s actions were intended to “influence a government through intimidation or coercion or to retaliate against a government.” It is on this latter requirement that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has twice ruled for Chandia and against Judge Hilton indicating that the Appeals Court does not believe the use a terrorism enhancement is justified in this case.

On January 28th, 2011, Judge Hilton was clearly hostile to the defense attorney Marvin Miller. Hilton indicated his frustration while rocking back and forth in his chair by saying before Miller began his argument that “this is starting to be a career for me, think I’d hear the same thing I heard the first two times, I’d like to know what will be different.” About proposed revisions to the pre-sentencing report, Hilton said, “I listened to this twice, don’t think any other arguments will benefit me” Continue reading “Ali Asad Chandia Re-Sentencing Hearing | Justice Delayed for a Third Time”

Ingrid Mattson, ISNA, and Hamas?

ingridThe terrorist smears and attempts to discredit reputable Muslim leaders and organizations never ends, it seems that the more distinguished and reputable an organization or Muslim becomes the requisite attacks on their character and dubious links to terrorism soon follow so that questions can be raised to further misinform the public and voices silenced.

Ingrid Mattson, the President of the Islamic Society of North America is scheduled to speak at President-elect Obama’s inaugural prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on Wednesday.

The last time, I tried to visit the Cathedral it was a few minutes before closing time but I might try to attend this function to hear from Dr. Mattson.

IHT: Obama prayer leader from group US linked to Hamas

From the Apple Orchard:

Dr. Ingrid Mattson – Deleted Scenes

Actual Muslim Leaders in the News

ISNA Heading in the Right Direction

Houston Chronicle: North American Muslims elect first female president

“Muslim Apple” on Terrorism Resources?

UPDATE: I deleted that nonsense about my blog being Masaud Khan’s personal website.

It has always fascinated me how people find my blog and so a few days ago as I was scanning the list of link referrals to my blog I noticed one link from the wikipedia-esque Terrorism Resources website entry on Masoud Khan in the “homegrown terrorist database” section.

The entry states that: “This dossier was compiled by WM and MJ. The final editing was done by Crystal Ball. Copyright 2008 TerrorismResources.Org”

I don’t know who WM, MJ, or Crystal Ball are but their entry is skewed and inaccurate. It seems that they make up for their lack of information by making it up as they go along. My blog Muslim Apple is listed as the personal website of Masaud Khan simply because I posted two statements by him and one from his family. The statement he read at the original sentencing hearing, and later, a letter he wrote from prison, and an update from his family on the status of his case.

I thought about creating an account on that site so I could login and try to update and correct the misinformation but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Masaud Khan was sentenced to life plus 65 years and then had the sentence reduced by twenty years to life plus 45 years.

Please remember those caught up in this unjust war on individuals and their families in your prayers.

USA vs. Al-Arian Screening Today!

This Thursday (April 10th) the University of Maryland at College Park Muslim Students Association is hosting a free screening of USA vs. Al-Arian in the Hoff Theatre, Stamp Student Union @ 6 PM.

If you have not already seen the documentary then you should make a point to see this thought-provoking film. When I saw the film, one of Dr. Al-Arian’s sons was at the panel discussion afterward and today one his daughters will be speaking afterward so even though I have class at that time, I will try to go again.

In December 2005, a Tampa jury acquitted Dr. Sami Al-Arian of “terrorism” charges. Two years later he is still in prison because the Bush administration refuses to honor a May 2006 promise to release and deport him. Dr. Al-Arian was due to be released in weeks, but is now on a hunger strike to protest the government’s refusal to honor a plea agreement.

Come find out why.

“USA vs Al-Arian” Screening at University of Maryland
Featuring Guest Speaker: Laila Al-Arian, Journalist and daughter of Dr. Al-Arian.
Please join us on Thursday April 10, 2008
From 6:00pm – 10:00pm in the evening.
The event will take place the Hoff Theater, located within the University of Maryland Stamp Student Union
College Park, MD

Sponsored by: The Muslim Students Association, International Socialist Organization, Feminism Without Borders, Organization of Arab Students, Students for a Democratic Society, and Peace Forum

From the Storehouse:

Free Sami al-Arian Now!

Free Sami Al Arian Now!

The way our government has treated Sami al-Arian, a fellow American citizen is an absolute disgrace. No doubt that we will look back at this period in our history with shame just as we do when remembering the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.  Not much hope from the cast of characters in the current administration but hoping the next administration will apologize to and pardon Dr. Al Arian.

I had the opportunity to watch the documentary film USA vs. Al-Arian in Washington DC last year and highly recommend it to everyone. It’s the sort of film that exposes unpalatable truths about the injustice regularly perpetrated by the government in this pseudo-war-on-terror on innocent individuals and families that no one wants you to see, which is one reason that the film can’t seem to find a distributor in the US.