Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Sep 30, 2010

The Chronic Dilemma of Egypt’s Educational System

In Egypt, it is becoming a yearly phenomenon that the Ministry of Education fails to deliver books on time for students. The lack of books, among other things, has been a problem for the last 25 years, despite parent protests each year against this problem and also against teacher in competency. Many students cannot move from one grade to the next without private tutoring because of this. Accountability in the lower educational system is absent, despite the denials of the Ministry of Education.

It has been reported by ahram (9/21/10) that 66% of school children in Egypt have private tutoring. The survey of the Social Research Center in Egypt revealed that 39% of families who provide private tutoring for their children spend more than half the family’s income and 22.6% of families spend one-third of their income on the tutoring. 18.1% spend one-fourth of their income on tutoring. Furthermore, parents are experiencing an increase in the cost of private tutoring. The cost depends on the subject matter. Science and math cost more than other subjects. Also, the price per sixty-minute session depends on the residential area where the student lives. According to almasry-alyoum (9/24/10) the cost of private tutoring in math and sciences has reached between 50 and 60 Egyptian pounds per hour. In lower income residential areas, the prices are relatively lower, between 25 and 30 Egyptian pounds. If a family has two children attending school, the economic impact on this family would be very difficult to cope with, especially w hen nearly 44% of families in Egypt are living below the poverty index level, according to U.N reports. It seems to me that the public officials, especially teachers, have lost their morals, ethics and sense of responsibility. The progress of any society depends on the quality of education and the scientific research accomplished. During the past 25 years, government officials have ignored education, and that is why the illiteracy rates in Egypt are among the highest, at nearly one-third of the population. Furthermore, the government education budget is only 4.2% of the GDP according to the Egyptian census of 2006. This is a very low allocation and will not be effective in dealing with the massive problems in the Egyptian educational system. During the early 1960s, Egypt was ahead of South Korea in many ways. Due to the implementation of democracy in South Korea at the time, public officials allocated 20% of the government budget to education and scientific research for twenty years. The commitment of the South Korean government to educational reforms has paid off. The tragedy is that what happens to the Egyptian educational system is the opposite of what South Korea’s government has accomplished. Corruption and the absence of accountability are costing the Egyptian public a high price.

Recently, Farouk Gowaida wrote an excellent article on the negative turn of events in the Egyptian educational system since the late 1960s (www.shorouknews.com, 9/27/10). Professor Gowaida noted that the Egyptian educational system at the time was among the best. Schools were clean and the quality of education was high. Egyptian universities' standards were well recognized. That was the prevailing status of Egypt's educational system at the time. Things have changed substantially since then. The Egyptian teacher is no longer viewed as a model teacher. Instead, he or she is viewed as part of the Egyptian financial market. Even the educational requirements reflect a lack of understanding of the changes that have been taking place in the advanced world. Many students are graduating without the knowledge and skills required for employment.

Among other things, the poor quality of the educational system has enhanced the growth of foreign schools that cost parents a high price in tuition. The tuition of some of these schools exceeds 100,000 Egyptian pounds per year. Equate this to the yearly salary of the average factory worker, which fluctuates between 4,000 and 5,000 Egyptian pounds per year.

According to the professor, there are around 57 foreign high schools in Egypt. 32 schools are American, 11 are British, 9 are French, 3 are Canadian, and 2 are German. He continued to say that these schools look like islands, totally separate from Egyptian society. Despite the fact that the Egyptian educational system requires foreign schools to operate according to the Egyptian law, these laws are ignored by the foreign schools. Foreign languages are the main language in many of these schools. Arabic language and Egyptian history and culture are not part of their curriculum.

This is a very dangerous phenomenon in terms of its long-term impact on Egyptian students who are enrolled in these schools. What will the impact of such an educational situation be on future Egyptian generations and society at large?

These schools provide education for some of the children of non-Egyptian nationals who will leave Egyptian to go back where they came form. It is the responsibility of the Egyptian Ministry of Education to hold foreign schools to the same standards required in public schools. Egyptian students should be required to learn Arabic language and be educated on the history and culture of their own society.

Based on my own observations as a frequent academic visitor to Egypt, the changes that have been taking place during the past 4 decades have been moving in the wrong direction. This is reflected in all walks of life and not just in education. Such misdirection is also attributed to the lack of transparency and accountability due to the absence of democratic institutions in Egyptian society. This has led to the widely prevailing corruption in Egyptian society.

Sep 26, 2010

The Middle East - Obama’s Political Dilemma

In his speech at the U.N. (9/24/10), President Obama called on Israel to extend its partial freeze on building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The moratorium is set to expire at the end of September. If the Israelis fail to extend the freeze, the Palestinians are threatening to pull out of the peace discussions.

The trouble with President Obama’s speech is the fact that he failed to state that the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank is illegal and was condemned by the U.N. and the International Court of Justice. Furthermore, the U.N. has issued resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw its forces back to the 1967 boundaries. Israel has defied international law and ignored all U.N. resolutions. This defiance by Israel is attributed to one basic factor: the American umbrella that protects Israel from the passage of any resolutions that will force it to comply with the U.N. The U.S. government has used its veto power more than any other member in the Security Council. It has been estimated this power has been used more than 70 times to protect Israel. For that basic reason the Israel government has been able to implement their Zionist ideology (“greater Israel”). When the Palestinians resist occupation (this resistance is permitted by the Geneva treaty of 1948), they are referred to as terrorists. Even the U.S. government has classified most Palestinians, including Hamas, as terrorists, despite the fact that they were the winners of the Palestinian election of 2006. The American public lacks knowledge about terrorism in the Middle East. Jewish Zionist organizations such as the Irgun, the Sterring Gang and the Hagana introduced terrorism in Palestine when it was under British mandate in the 1930s and 1940s. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed as a result of explosives put in public places such as King David Hotel and in buses and crowded public places*. Professor Benny Morris speculates, “The Arabs may well have learned the value of terrorist bombing from Jews.” (Righteous Victims, p. 147, 201). See also J. Mearsheimer & S. Walt, “Storm Over the Israeli Lobby.”

One of the basic factors behind the U.S.’s foreign policy in the Middle East is the influence of lobbyists in the U.S. Despite the fact that Americans vote and send their representatives to the American Congress, decisions are influenced by lobbyists who are on the pay rolls of big economical, political, ethnic, racial, religious and educational groups. Their financial contribution to members of congress during elections runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars, leading to the fact that the majority of the members of the American Congress are put under the thumbs of lobbyists. Senator Reid put it clearly when he said that the U.S. Congress is the most corrupt in the history of the U.S. The situation has even been recognized by President Obama, who during his campaign promised to curtail the lobbyists’ influence in Washington D.C. It is a well-known fact that the Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the most influential lobbyist group in the U.S.

According to ex-Senator Jim Abourizk, the Pro-Israeli lobby does most of its work without publicity. But every member of Congress and every would-be candidate for Congress comes to quickly understand a basic lesson: the money that is needed to run for office comes with great ease to those who support Israel, provided the candidate makes certain promises in writing to vote favorably on issues considered important to Israel. What drives much of congressional support for Israel is the knowledge that money will be given to one’s opponent if one does not support Israel. This situation led to the defeat of a few members of congress who opposed Israeli policy, such as ex-Senator Charles Percy and Congressman Paul Findley, who explained this in his book They Dared To Speak. Also, former Senator Fritz Holling wrote in an article in the Charleston Daily Post Courier (May 6, 2004) that the role of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most important lobby group in Washington D.C., is determining U.S. policy in the Middle East. “You can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here. I have followed them mostly in the main, but I have also resisted signing certain letters from time to time to give the poor president a chance. I don’t care whether it’s a Republican or Democrat – that all of a sudden AIPAC will tell him exactly what the policy is and Senators and members of Congress out to sign the letters.” He further pointed out that the U.s. has lost its moral authority. There are other members of the Senate and House who spoke of the power of AIPAC’s influence on U.S. foreign policy. The tragedy of this is that AIPAC has succeeded in blending Israel national interest with U.S. national interest and has misled the American public. In reality, Israel puts its national interest ahead of the U.S. national interest. Since its creation, Israel has been biting the hand that feeds it. Between 1948 and 2009, Israel received more than $160 billion of American taxpayers’ money in foreign, economic and military aid. Despite all of that, Israel has been caught spying on the U.S. on several occasions, and some of the vital military information was passed to both Russia and China.

Recently (Sept. 24th, 2010) the press reported that some members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama to release the American Jewish spy J. Pollard from jail, who is serving a life sentence for passing vital military information from the U.S. to Israel. Mr. Pollard’s case is one among several others spying cases. The reaction to such a violation by Israel has been minimal due to the power and influence of AIPAC on the U.S. Congress. Any members who attack Israel are automatically labeled anti-Semitic. For more on this, read Professor Norman Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah. He noted that whenever Israel is criticized for its violation and abuse of human rights, its supporters sound the alarm “new anti-Semitism” is upon us.

For that and other reasons, President Obama has failed to condemn Israel’s abuse of the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

President Obama has lost his courage to stand up for the truth. He has been snubbed by Prime Minister Netanyahu several times and failed to challenge the Israeli prime minister. One of the basic reasons for this, from my point of view, is the position he finds himself in because of the influence of AIPAC on the majority of the members of the American Congress. As a matter of fact, during the past few months, letters were signed by some members of Congress telling the president to stop pressuring and challenging the Israeli government to participate in the peace process. President Obama is in a very awkward position. He was elected with a promise to implement a national reform agenda and foreign policy agenda and for that reason he is trying to avoid a clash with members of his own Democratic party, whose support he needs to pass his national agenda. It is a pity that there is no party discipline in the American political structure. Sometimes, members of one political party desert their own party and join the other, or call themselves independent members of Congress. What matters to many members of Congress is their personal interest to assure their reelection regardless of the cost to American national interest. President Obama, in my judgment, might compromise on his agenda regarding Israel to win the support of at least some of the members of his own political party.

Since lobbyists play a very influential role in shaping the national and foreign policy of the U.S., Arab political leadership, especially in the gulf region, has failed to create their own lobbyists. This is especially true in the oil exporting countries and with financial institutions where they have invested hundreds of billions of dollars. The only lobby that can stand up to the Jewish Zionist lobby AIPAC is the oil business and financial institution lobbyists. In my judgment, the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is in the hands of a half dozen Arab political leaderships and not in the hands of President Obama.
Your comments will be welcomed

*For more information read Joseph Heller’s The Stern Gang: Ideology, Politics and Terror. Also read Haim Levenberg’s Military Preparations about how the Irgun introduced the practice of terrorism by

Sep 21, 2010

The Advocate of Islamophobia

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks has received a very negative reaction from Muslim countries in general and the Arab world in particular. A few days before September 11, Terry Jones decided to not burn the Quran. Nevertheless, the United States has more than its share of bigots and ignorant fanatical people who undermine the first Amendment. IT has been reported that some copycats of the same type as Jones committed a hate crime by burning the Quran in East Lansing, Michigan. Those who committed the act are under investigation by the FBI. Similar acts also took place in other states, such as Kansas and Wyoming. What will be the conclusion of such acts remains to be seen. Terry Jones’ daughter stated publicly that her father “has lost his mind”. However, the impact of such a hate crime caused a great deal of damage to the American National Interest. This has been confirmed by military leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the bigots in the U.S. view Islam not as the faith of 1.5 billion people, but as an evil system of terror, and they view mosques around the U.S. as outposts for terror. This is reflected in the attack and burning of mosques in a number of states across the country.

The accusation by some evangelical leaders that Islam is an evil religion has enhanced Islamophobia in the U.S. Furthermore, some politicians have joined the hate circus and also encourage the anti-Islamic rhetoric. Such a war of hate against has begun to create a backlash of hostility against the American Muslim community in the U.S. This population has been estimated to be between 7 and 9 million people. The proposed construction of the Islamic cultural center in New York City was also used as an excuse to attack Islam and Muslims, despite the fact that the location was two blocks away from Ground Zero. The bigots, hate mongers and some dishonest politicians have manufactured the Islamic cultural center controversy. It is also sad to see how the mass media ignores the fact that it was not only Christians and Jews who died as a result of the attacks, but that more than 60 Muslims died that day. Bin Laden and his criminal attackers didn’t calculate that there were Muslim Americans in the World Trade Center they destroyed. As Michael Moore suggested (N.Y. Times, 9/11/2010), “The site is a sacred graveyard and to be building another monument to commerce on it is sacrilege. Why wasn’t the entire site turned into a memorial peace park? People died there and many of their remains are still strewn about, all these years later.”

Blaming the American Muslim community for the tragedy of 9/11 is unjust. Using this rationality, we should criticize Christianity for the terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma.

As usual, the history of the U.S. reflects that during war or economic hardship, some fascists, extremists and bigots try to undermine American democracy. Since President Obama was elected, public remarks were made by some politicians that the president is Muslim despite the fact that he publicly stated that he is Christian. Nevertheless, a Newsweek poll revealed that 52% of Republicans believe that the president is Muslim. As Colin Powell noted, even if Obama were a Muslim, so what? After all, the Constitution clearly defines the separation of the state and religion. The irony behind all of this is that those ignorant bigots lack the knowledge and understanding that Islam is one of the three basic monotheistic religions. The accusation that Obama is Muslim is not truthful and is racist. Those who spread such rumors do not want to see a black person in the White House. They lack the courage to say it openly. From their point of view, classifying Obama as a Muslim will discredit him.

On the bright side of this controversy, there are many Christian and Jewish leaders who stood up for the American democracy and the freedom of religious beliefs. Also, some prominent writers and activists such as Michael Moore have also voiced their support for religious freedom. Moore started a campaign to raise funds for the construction of the Islamic cultural center (N.Y.T., 9/12/2010). Those who are interested in participating can contact: webguy@michaelmoore.com.

Sep 9, 2010

The First Amendment and the Attempt to Burn the Quran

Recently, the American media, as well as the media in Islamic countries, have been criticizing a statement made by Terry Jones, an evangelical pastor of a church in Florida. Terry Jones declared publicly that on September 11th he will burn the Quran as a sign of protest against Islam. Such a public declaration created a negative response worldwide and in the U.S. as well.

Many high-ranking American officials warned the evangelical leader of the consequences of his actions on the U.S. and American soldiers in particular in Islamic countries. General David Petraus, the military high commander of American forces in Afghanistan, warned that the burning of the Quran will threaten the lives of American soldiers in war zones. High American officials in the State Department, the Justice Department as well as several Christian leaders condemned such an act. Outside the U.S., the Vatican and Al-Azhar warned about the consequences of this evil act intended by Jones.

Despite the outrage at the global level against what Jones intends to do on September 11th, he so far has not been convinced to stop his preposterous act, even when this act will threaten the lives of American soldiers and American interest in general.

Mr. Jones is undermining the First Amendment. I am wondering if Mr. Jones has ever read the content of the First Amendment, which notes the following:

"The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The Amendment prohibits the making of any law "respecting an establishment of religion", impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. (wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). I doubt very much that Mr. Jones has read the content of the First Amendment that he is undermining.

It is sad to say that there are unfortunately groups of people who use their religion for personal gain. This is prevalent especially among some evangelical leaders like Terry Jones, who have been using their misinterpreted Christian beliefs to promote Islamophobia. Similar things unfortunately prevail among some of the followers of Islam, such as bin Laden, who declared war against all Christians and Jews and calls them enemies of Islam. The irony of this is that bin Laden and his al-Qaeda and other few Jihadists do not represent the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. However, they use Islam as a shield to justify their selfish personal and political philosophy. I see no difference between such groups and the ignorant fanatic religious leaders like Terry Jones. I wonder if Mr. Jones is familiar with the teachings of Christ. "Love thy neighbor as you love thyself" or "Turn the other cheek". Mr. Jones, Christianity calls for peace and forgiveness, not violence.

There are also those of the Jewish faith who follow similar patterns of behavior, using Judaism to justify their own personal philosophy of their interpretation of the Torah. Recently, it has been reported that Rabbi Yosef Ovadia, the founder of the ultra-orthodox Shas Party, in his weekly sermon in 2001 called for "the annihilation of Arabs" and said it was "forbidden to be merciful to them". Furthermore, recently he expressed the wish that "all nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas) vanish from our world and may God strike them down with the plague, along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel." (www.bbc.co.uk/news, 9/1/2010).

Furthermore, in another article by Max Blumenthal titled "Terror/How to Kill Goyim"(Outlook Web,9/8/2010),stated that, "Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the author of a new book, "Torat Ha'Melech" or "The King's Torah", he states that non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature" and should be killed in order to 'curb their evil inclinations'. The emphasis in his version of the Torah is how to kill 'Goyim'".

This Rabbi and others in Christianity and Islam use religion for personal gain or popularity and tend to mislead their followers under the banner of religion. Mr. Jones is waiting to hear from God regarding his threat to burn the Quran. I hope he will sober up and wake up from the religious hallucination he is in and save the lives of innocent Americans.

Sep 8, 2010

The Merchant of Death

It has been reported recently that the U.S. government has been reevaluating its federal policy restrictions on the sales of its armaments and the transfer of high military technology and parts to potential buyers outside the U.S.

The proposed new rule is to protect American military technology and at the same time to ease the restriction on sales of military armaments that are not highly technical to enable the military manufacturers to expand their sales. These companies have been instruments behind the proposed revision, which had to be approved by the American Congress. The U.S. government has already been ranked as number one in terms of armament sales, followed by Russia, Britain, and France. (aljazeera.net, 8/30/2010)

Furthermore, it has been reported that “advisors to the Pentagon have pointed out that sales of armaments help the U.S. to finance its own weapons programs at a time of severe budgetary constraints. (Middle East, Aug/Sept. 2010)

The Middle East region, in particular the Gulf States, has been among the biggest buyers of armaments for the past few decades because of its financial ability to do the buying as a result of petro dollars. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent on purchasing armaments on the assumption that it will protect them from their “hostile” neighbor Iran. It has been reported recently that the “Gulf arms spending is set to reach $100 billion during the next two to three years.” (The Middle East, Aug/Sept. 2010). Quoting the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2009, Saudi Arabia alone spent almost $40 billion on its military forces. Another $5-$10 billion was spent by Kuwait and $35 billion by UAE, making the total spending money for the three states equal between $90 and $95 billion.

The free spending by the Gulf states on armaments due to the availability of petro dollars is part of a Western strategy to stiffen back some of the petro dollars to the Western economies. There are other more important challenges facing the Arab world in general, such as the high unemployment among the younger generation, which exceeds 20 million. The World Bank issued a report stating that 100 million new jobs need to be created during the next 15 years to avoid an explosion due to unemployment. One of the most dangerous situations to create in any society is to educate the younger generation and fail to create new jobs. The unemployed will be walking ticking bombs. The armaments bought will not provide protection for the rulers in these Arab states. Any changes in the status quo in any state in the Arab world will have an impact on others. Some of the billions of dollars spent on the global armament industries should be allocated to create employment in the Arab world before it is too late. Recently, it was reported that hundreds of Saudi university graduates have been demonstrating, due to their inability to find employment. (almasry-alyoum.net, 8/30/10).
There are more pressing challenges facing the Arab world, such as water scarcity, the shortage of food production, the deteriorated quality of education and many other pressing problems. Investment in armaments return is limited, while investment in the mentioned areas will bring more benefit return and contribute to stability of the Arab world.

Sep 3, 2010

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Initiative

President B. Obama gave a speech to the nation (8/31/10) announcing the end of the combat mission of American troops in Iraq. He stated that the rest of the troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011. I will only believe this when it is actually implemented. The reason behind my skepticism is attributed to President Obama's weak stands on almost every vital issue that Congress has passed. He went to extremes to appease his opponents, whose aim is to defeat him. The president does not have the courage to stand up to his opponents. Furthermore, in his speech, the president referred to the Middle East and the possibility of a peaceful settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The president hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu, M. Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and President H. Mubarak of Egypt, who attended the opening section of the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives. I am of the opinion that the effort sponsored by President Obama will lead nowhere. First of all, during the last year, the president's recommendation to settle the conflict was totally ignored by the Israeli prime minister. In my judgment, President Obama has been humiliated and snubbed by the Israeli prime minister. The tragedy of the situation is that Israeli politicians in general have never considered that Israel was created by the U.S. Since 1948, the U.S. government has supported Israel with American taxpayers' money: $150 billion in foreign and military aid. Regardless, Israel's national interest always supersedes that of the United States. Part of the Israeli Zionist ideology since the creation of the country has been to slowly and gradually implement its ideology, which is "Greater Israel". Since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Israel has been confiscating Palestinian land and building more than 250 settlements where around 500,000 Jewish settlers are living. Furthermore, Israel has been ethnically cleansing Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem and other places, which led to the destruction of more than 25,000 Palestinians homes. Also, Israel has been using water control policy to provide the minimal water needed for Palestinians, despite the fact that the underground water resources are located in the West Bank. In addition, Israel's approach is always backed up by military support.

At a working dinner at the White House (9/1/2010), President Obama presented himself as the peace mediator by raising hope and saying that direct talk between Netanyahu and Abbas would lead to the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, the president said, "We, the U.S., can't impose a settlement on both parties." In my judgment, that statement will provide Netanyahu with the opportunity to impose his conditions, which I am sure the Palestinians will reject. Nevertheless, Netanyahu presented himself as ready for peace negotiation to win the support of President Obama and convey a message to the rest of the world that Israel will not be an obstacle to peace.

Based on what has taken place since the Madrid Conference in 1991, and more than 20 summits and conferences that took place since then, this will lead nowhere. There will be no peace attained as long as Israel continues to ignore the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. During the last six decades, Israel has been ignoring international law and violating Palestinian Human Rights. Israel has acted as though it is above the law due to protection given to it by the U.S. government. In the end, if the peaceful direct talks, which already started, fail, then a solution has to be imposed by the

Sep 2, 2010

The Islamic Cultural Center Controversy

The proposed construction of the Cordoba Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan has encountered immense opposition from conservatives and bigots. Some conservative Republicans and Democrats have been publicly opposed to the construction of the center near Ground Zero, despite the fact that it is located two blocks away from the 9/11 site. Such behavior on the part of politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who aspire to run for president, as well as Rich Lazio, who is a candidate for New York governor, is not unusual. Deception and misleading the public are characteristics of some politicians who put their own selfish interests ahead of the national interest of the U.S.

These politicians and others provide Osama bin Laden with the rationale he has been using, namely that "the U.S. in particular and the West in general, have been waging war against Islam." Bin Laden's call entices some young Muslims to join his jihad campaign to wage war against the U.S.

Furthermore, the conservative mass media is adding fuel to the fire by presenting Islam as an enemy of Christianity, Judaism and the American way of life. I would say, without a second thought, that the majority of the conservative American groups are politically naive and poorly informed. Throughout history, individuals, organized political groups and states have committed atrocities in the name of religion, whether it is Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda or the atrocity committed by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City have nothing to do with Islam or Christianity. Nevertheless, some politicians use such incidents for personal political gain to persuade the ignorant and bigoted people to oppose the construction of the Islamic Cultural Center.

In an article by Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, 8/21/2010), he warned that conservative groups that oppose the construction of the Islamic center are helping bin Laden, who has been advocating war against the U.S. Mr. Kristof used the crusades as an example of an organized campaign under the banner of Christianity. He noted that, "The crusaders massacred so many men, women and children in parts of Jerusalem that a Christian chronicler, Fulcher of Charters, described an area ankle-deep in blood. While burning Jews alive, the Crusaders sang, "Christ, we adore thee". What Mr. Kristof was referring to a call by Pope Benedict VII, who called on Christian political rulers of Europe to organize a war in the Middle East to save Christ's land. The irony of this was that "Christ's land" was inhabited by members of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Crusades lasted for two hundred years, but at the end those involved were defeated and expelled from the Middle East. The consequences of that war led to the rise of anti-Islamic feelings in the West, which have lasted for more than a thousand years. Political events frequently enhance ethnic and Islamic discrimination, which began to emerge during the Crusades.

Some Christian leaders refer to Islam as a religion of "violence". Islamophobia in Western society has been functioning in cyclical fashion for the last thousand years. It has been used by some politicians and religious leaders to further their own personal agenda. President George W. Bush referred to the Iraqi invasion as a "Crusader's war". He later apologized for misusing that phrase. Senator Reid, the Democratic Speaker of the Senate, stated publicly that he opposed construction of the mosque at the proposed location, while Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would like to start an investigation into who is providing financial support for the mosque. The biggest disappointment is President Obama retracting from his original support of the construction of the mosque by saying that he never specified where the mosque should be built, only that those building it had the right to do so. President Obama's policy during the past two years reflects that he does not have the courage to keep the promises he made to those who supported him. "Yes we can" - what a big joke! The political slogan should be changed to "No, we cannot".

It is fortunate that, from a secular-legal point of view, the American Constitution protects individual religious beliefs and practices. However, it is a tragic thing that many conservatives and bigots are ignorant of the content of the constitution. There is still hope that some members of the American Congress have the moral courage to stand up for the real values and freedom guaranteed by the American Constitution to U.S. citizens.

Congressman Ron Paul's official stand is reflected in his statement on the controversy. The fact that so much attention has been given to the mosque debate raises the questions of "why" and "whom is it driven by?" Ron Paul's opinion is that it comes from the neo-Conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it. "They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support of the ill-conceived preventative wars."

*R.Paul "To Sunshine Patriots: Stop your Demagogue About the N.Y.C. Mosque" (RonPaul.com).