The World United Against Latest ISIS Killings

Moaz al-Kasasbeh

In 2014 ISIS started beheading people and posting videos of the executions online. Wiki lists the following:

75 Syrian soldiers; Khaled Sharrouf posted a photo online of his 7 year old son holding the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier; James Foley, an American freelance journalist; Ali al-Sayyed, a Lebanese Army Seargant; Steven Sotloff, an Israeli American journalist; David Haines, a British humanitarian aid worker; Abbas Medlej, a Lebanese Army soldier; Kurdish soldier, as yet unidentified; 15 family members, of local police officers in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan; Hervé Gourdel, a French mountaineering guide; Kobane and eastern Syria beheadings, two male and three female Kurdish fighters, four Syrian Arab rebels and a male Kurdish civilian; Alan Henning, a British humanitarian aid worker; Raad al-Azzawi, a TV Salaheddin cameraman from the village of Samra, and others; 3 unidentified men in Baiji, Iraq; Peter Kassig, an American worker; 18 Syrian soldiers, unidentified; Alleged beheading of 100 foreign fighters, unidentified, who tried to desert from Raqqa; Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Gotō, Japanese journalists; Hujam Surchi, a Peshmerga officer.

These executions have received wide media coverage prompted outrage and condemnation from the international community and from the governments of the victims’ countries. May all of them rest in peace. It’s hard to imagine what their last years, months, days, minutes, were like, or how their families and friends suffered and are still suffering. But the Arab or Muslim world as a whole didn’t unite in condemnation of the killings. Just as the West, let’s not forget, didn’t unite in condemnation of Bush’s invasion of Iraq for spurious reasons. Mind you, nor did the Arab world. And round and round it goes.

On Dec. 21 2014 ISIS militants captured Jordanian fighter pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh (the photo is of a vigil held for him). Shortly afterwards the Jordanian government threatened dire consequences if the militants harmed the pilot. The militants’ response, in February 2015, was to put Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh in a cage and burn him alive.

How do you get your head around that? He was by all accounts a beautiful man. May he rest in peace. May his family and friends somehow, somewhere, find solace.

And, wonderful to behold, the entire Arab world is up in arms. Even the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt agree with each other for once and the head of the Cairo Al Azhar institute, a university founded in 970, said the militants should be “killed, or crucified, or their hands and legs cut off.” Saudi Arabia’s response was to suspend their airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, allegedly out of fear of retribution, and demand that the American-led coalition against ISIS, of which they are a member, improve its search and rescue operations in Syria.

But I can’t help asking myself, and I don’t mean to demean the importance of Moaz’s death, where has the Arab/Muslim world been up to this point?

The principle of taking somebody’s life because you feel like it and the inhumanity and brutality of a ‘simple’ beheading or of suicide bombings hasn’t elicited a unified response and it seems that the objection to this latest killing is that ISIS militants burned a man alive and Islam prohibits death by fire as too extreme of a measure. Well, being beheaded is an extreme measure to the victim and to his family. Brutality is brutality, whatever form it takes. I’m grateful that the Muslim world is speaking out but what happens when the next beheading occurs? Will everybody go silent again?

Public executions are carried out in accordance with Sharia law in Saudi Arabia, the only caveat being that the audience is not allowed to video the execution. The crimes for which beheading is acceptable are murder, rape, false prophecy, blasphemy, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery.

Murder, rape, blasphemy and apostasy are on a par, the last being that you realize you have a mind of your own and decide to change your religion.

Other countries governed by Sharia law where public beheading is legal are Iran, Yemen, and Qatar.

Does the fact that Sharia law promotes beheadings have anything to do with why as a whole the Muslim world has united in horror at only the latest ISIS killing? I don’t know. My first thought on reading the headlines today was ‘this is good; the West gets to see that most Muslims are anti-violence and are as outraged as we are at this horrific murder.’

I still believe that. But I also believe that just as in the West we have to look at that within our culture from which emerges violent mass murder of innocents and even of children and promotes or forgives violence done to citizens of other countries, so must the Muslim world look at whether there is something in Islam which allows for the kind of violence that has escalated to the point of a man being burned alive.


Occupy Wall Street – Human Rights Abuses in the Middle East and the US

I love the US for so many things, mostly for its creative prowess and the capacity to think big, dream big.  For me in many ways it has been the land of the free and the home of the brave.  It has such a reputation for preserving freedom of speech and for honoring human rights; for the fact that a person can work hard and get ahead, for the success of capitalism.

There’s a kind of entitlement underpinning all of that and it’s a beautiful thing.  But it has a permissive element and that’s the bit that’s got out of control amongst the powerful, as it always does.  And now everything that’s great about the US is being overshadowed by lawlessness, greed, megalomania and total absence of accountability masquerading as healthy, responsible  capitalism.

In some countries, abuse of human rights and the despots who perpetrate those abuses, are obvious, easy to identify.  It’s not been quite so easy in the US, where capitalism seduces and public opinion is easily swayed by media and charismatic politicians who are very good at misrepresenting truth and playing on the fear that dominates conservatives.  Politicians who have an agenda to preserve the corrupt status quo.

It’s not just the US, it’s the whole West, it’s a kind of “civilized” abuse of human rights.  But it’s a slippery slope from that into the kind we’ve seen in the Middle East.  Bruce Horst shared a short film uploaded by Corey Ogilvie on Oct. 10 2011 that illustrates this beautifully.  It’s the stuff that documentary films receive awards for.

It shows Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton speaking passionately, at different times, of the various unconscionable abuses of human rights and encroachments on freedom in the Middle East, and calling on the Egyptian and Iranian governments to abide by their international obligations and respect the rights of their respective peoples.  These clips fade into scenes of human rights abuses that are happening, not in the Middle East, but in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Over and over again Clinton and Obama speak about the right to freedom of speech and protest and the right to preserving human dignity – and then we see people being beaten and unjustly arrested in the US for acting on these rights.  The juxtaposition is shocking.  Then scenes of human rights abuses in the US in the form of police aggression are alternated with those in the Middle East which are much more violent and life threatening.

It’s no use believing “civilized” countries won’t descend to the animal level of human rights abuses we’ve seen in the Middle East.  It’s an inevitable progression and it’s already happening.  Hard to get my head around the fact that people are being beaten and arrested for protesting – in America??

Click this link to watch the short film on video

Occupy Wall Street – the US Version of the Egyptian Revolution?

You can’t keep a good thing down.  Nobody ever has been able to, especially when the good thing is people’s independence of spirit and lust for recognition of their rights.  Not so long ago Egypt set the world on fire.  Well it set my heart on fire, that’s for sure.

Up till then revolutions had always been about violence and an upsurge of frustration and anger.  I think most of the world has come to see rebellion as having to be a violent thing because it only seems to happen when people have been so abused for so long that their pent-up rage just explodes.

Not in Egypt though.  I had hoped it would be an example for everybody else in the world to see – there’s such huge power in numbers that violence doesn’t have to be used.  Those numbers have to be engaged somehow but I thought that with social media it would be a breeze.  It hasn’t happened, though.

Which means those Egyptians are really something else.   But maybe the Occupy Wall Street movement is the US version of the Egyptian Revolution.  It started at grass roots, just ordinary people gathering because they’d had enough of abuse of power.  And since power in the US is wherever the money is, that’s where the abuse is.

In Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, protesters weren’t taken seriously either.  In fact, in every revolution that’s ever happened, leaders stay in denial for as long as they possibly can.  Don’t any of them read history books?  Apparently not.  They arrest protestors, try to disrupt or destroy rebellion.  They use injustice, violence.  When that doesn’t work they sulk, use more violence.

Eventually they go down.  It’s inevitable.  And I think the Occupy Wall Street movement’s outcome is inevitable, too.  Protesters are getting arrested now, but for absolutely trivial reasons.  14 people were taken away for violating a midnight curfew – by sitting in a waterless fountain in Washington Square Park.  In Minneapolis 150 protesters were camped out outside City Hall at night and police took away their tents.

Other arrests have been made in Denver, Seattle and San Diego, but reports of violence have been rare.  This is a peaceful movement, but it has power.  I’ve seen a few commentators make fairly derisive comments about it because it’s  “unorganized” but I smiled to myself.  Just wait and see.  A couple of unions have pledged their support – the United Auto Workers and the United Federation of Teachers.

Pretty soon celebs with deep pockets and a wide reach will adding their voices.  America needs a revolution.  According to Wiki at the end of 2001 10% owned 71% of the wealth and the top 1% owned 38%.  Now the top 20% holds more than 80% of the wealth.  Financial gains over the last decade have mostly been made at the top of the economic food chain as more and more people fall out of the middle class.

Something’s gotta give.  It drives me utterly demented every time I see a wealthy capitalist bitch about paying better taxes.  They wouldn’t even notice the money was gone out of their purses.  And for this greed and idiocy a whole country must be sacrificed?  A whole global economy?  Because it isn’t just in America, it’s all over the place.  

Well, Occupy Wall Street is spreading around the world.  It could become the first global and peaceful revolution in the history of mankind.  Now that would be progress.  Where do I sign up?

click here for some great photos

Middle East, Libya, Egypt and Their Brave New World

I have never known very much about Arab and Muslim people.  Mostly by reason of having no real information – certainly very little firsthand.  All I’ve seen and heard have been opinions, when some terrible crime against humanity has been committed.  And of course for me it started with 9/11.

I didn’t buy the Bush government’s story, and I was aware that any foreign hatred of America isn’t entirely unmerited.  I also knew that fundamentalism was at the root of much of the violent atrocities, that Muslims per se are not violent in nature and nor is the religion.  And I don’t like fundamentalists of any sort, so that wasn’t just about Muslims.

Still, since 9/11 I’ve been influenced without realizing it by the perspective of much of the west and the media representations that I’ve looked at.  The picture painted of Muslims and Arabs has never been complimentary.  I’ve rarely seen stories about them in their daily lives, their dreams and aspirations, how they go about trying to accomplish them, their everyday struggles, challenges and triumphs.

I can’t blame it all on the press, though.  I didn’t go looking, either.  Until now that is.  With all the exposure of the Middle East, particularly so far Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  Tunisia caught my attention, but Egypt touched my soul.  I’ve been glued to my TV ever since Egyptians started protesting. Now it’s Libya. I’ve  wanted to know – and I still do – what’s happening all the time.  I channel hop like crazy between BBC, CNN and SkyNews to get everything I can.

What’s so great is that for the first time in my life I’m seeing the truth about Egyptians, Libyans, and others who are protesting in the region.  Real people, not just general statistics, and not fundamentalists.  I’m seeing beautiful, passionate, courageous, non-violent people by the hundreds of thousands protesting against repressive regimes, willing to sacrifice their lives.

People I can relate to and admire, regardless of the cultural and religious differences between us.  Women and men, young and old, from every sector of society.  Businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, workers.  United in their desire for peace, and to be respected.  None of the protesting has been motivated by fundamentalism or even religion.  It’s just sane people wanting freedom.

What’s not to respect?  Last night I saw a report on Radio Free Libya, in Benghazi.  This was originally the national state radio, totally controlled by Gaddafi and his cronies.  When Benghazi fell to the opposition, much of the station was destroyed, but what remained has been turned into Radio Free Libya – by ordinary people, professionals and business people who have no desire to be in politics, but just want to contribute to putting the country back together again.  None of them are getting any money for it.  It was incredibly moving to watch.

I’ve heard so many comments about Egypt and Libya that are mistrustful of Egyptians and Libyans and their capacity to create change that will really be about democracy.  There’s a lot of skepticism and voicing of negative opinion.  It’s as if people in the west just can’t bring themselves to be positive about the Middle East.  Can’t even let themselves say “I believe something good – something great – will come out of this.”  It’s a pity. They’re missing out in participating positively in the miracle of the century.  It’s a brave new world in the best sense.

Middle East, Egypt, Libya and Twitter

I’m getting addicted to television.  And Twitter.  Blame it on the Middle East and this extraordinary blossoming of people’s awareness of their rights, all the connection that’s happening.  It’s infectious, that’s what it is.  One revolution such as the world has never seen before.  That points the way for all of us, no matter what our challenge is.  Speak out, stay firm, don’t give in to violence, connect with everybody around you. Ghandi would be proud.

I always hear it – and have said it myself a million times – that history repeats itself, and things never really change.  All the dictators, all the repression leading inevitably to crisis and violent,  bloody revolution.  But it’s not really true any more.  Something’s different this time round.  Don’t forget, it’s the year of the Female Iron Rabbit, generally spoken of as a particularly auspicious year.

Here we are in the west pretty much controlled by the power we’ve given to capitalist kings and queens (mostly kings but let’s face it their wives are right behind them).  They are the dictators of this century for us.  They’ve manipulated the desires, the honor, the work ethic of the middle classes just as any dictatorial monarch.

But just as the French, the Russian, the you-name-it Revolutions of the past started with mumblings and rumblings of dissatisfaction which gathered momentum, our awareness is growing of how powerless we really are, who we’re sacrificing our lives to.  And we’re not so happy about it.  We’re doing some mumbling and rumbling of our own.  Revolution is in the air.

In the Middle East, the business of dictatorship has been business as usual up until now.  Repressive regimes violently punishing opposition.  But something has changed.  In fact quite a few things have changed.  It isn’t just one country, one despot.  It’s a whole region, many different countries.  The rulers are independent from each other, but it’s as if there are almost no borders between the people.  At least no borders that can contain the infectiousness of their courage, their desire for freedom, the fact that they’ve all had enough.

So now each country has the momentum, the kind of mass consciousness of the whole region to back it against its despot.  Even somebody like Gaddafi, who lives in an altered reality, much like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and who doesn’t care who he kills or how he goes about it, doesn’t have the power to suppress that momentum.  He may not be able to see it but everybody else does.

And how about this for a difference:  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is trying to pre-empt a revolution by promising to spend $3 billion on housing and security.  A political commentator on BBC said it wouldn’t work, people don’t want lip service, they want the real thing.  He’s 87, by the way, the world’s oldest reigning monarch, and one of the world’s wealthiest men.  He stands to lose a lot.  He may still be deluded, but at least he’s thinking, watching, paying attention.

Something else that’s completely different to past revolutions is that so much of this one is being carried out by young people, who have vision, energy, courage – and Twitter.

Got Egypt on my Mind – Virtual World vs the Physical World

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Today I’ve been thinking about my trip to Egypt, and what a powerful and exciting experience it was.  It was such an evocative trip that filled every part of me hankering for new and exciting stimulus.    Sailing down the Nile, stopping at the most magnificent, awe-inspiring temples, camel-riding and being spat on – great experience! – haggling with creepy Egyptian men who always won, staying in the hotel where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile.

Thinking about it made me realize how most of my experience these days happens in my head.  Just over a year ago, I knew virtually nothing about the internet – that’s a good pun, ha! – and used my ancient computer as a typewriter.  Didn’t have internet at home, and absolutely hated internet cafes or the ones that were close to me, anyway.  Rap music, dark, gloomy décor if you can call it that; people playing video games out loud or yelling to some friend or enemy over skype.

Internet – nah, not for me.  Internet friends?  Pallleeease, I scorned the concept.  Turns out I was just scared of it.  Thought it was something I couldn’t understand.  Well, I was partly right!  But in the last year I’ve covered some ground, and now the internet is like my umbilical cord.  I get up in the morning and switch on, and first thing I do is open my email.

I’ve made new friends, connected with old, created a blog that’s getting quite reasonable traffic and response, set up a foundation for my writing, found a way to begin with my singing.   It’s even a place where I can earn a living and build another business.  I haven’t needed money or a car.  So the internet has opened up a whole world for me that I didn’t have before, and I’m very excited about it and grateful for it.  Have to be grateful.  But I’ve realized lately that virtual life on its own isn’t enough life.

Physical life is much slower and can be cumbersome, but there’s nothing to beat the all-inclusive all-round thrill of it. This morning I went out back, where there’s a wild garden built on a steep slope.  I stood there, breathing in the early summer air, and watching sailboats in the bay playing around in the breeze.   I remembered sailing in the felucca.  Mmm.  Egypt.  It’s really on my mind again.

As for virtual versus physical, I’ve been letting the virtual replace the physical, because you know it’s also safe.  But it’s not enough on its own.  I also want real, physical life.  I can feel myself getting ready for some adventure here.  Egypt, here I come again!

In general, this blog is about the pursuit of dreams.  Mine are to establish myself as a vocalist, script & blog writer & novelist, & to earn by doing something meaningful.   If you’d like to help me in that, click the “donate” button (the amount is up to you).  To read more about my dreams, click here