Why are Muslims Misunderstood in America?

The majority of Americans feel confused, judging the traditions and practices of Islam as well as the Arab community intensely. Considering our location in the world, it makes sense average citizens wouldn’t be as understanding of foreign cultures. But when it comes to people of Arabic descent or that follow Islam, a uncomfortably negative connotation is expressed in public, private, and media settings. I have a very unique perspective, I was born in the American city with the largest Muslim population in North America. Dearborn, Michigan, -roughly a single bridge away from Detroit- where many street signs and business are only available in Arabic. This gave me the opportunity to experience middle eastern culture for most of my life. My family is Bulgarian Macedonian which also has a large ethnic presence in the region. I am of orthodox Christian faith, yet I’m here to say Islam is one of the most respectable practices in the world.

The media and almost thirty years of military conflict haven’t improved relations in recent years. Another major factor is the confusion between Christianity and Islam. In America you can not to go church, have no real knowledge of the story, and may have never even read a bible, but claim you are a Christian and believe. Arabs have no comprehension of this idea, because their religious demands devotion to practice. For example, the minimum amount of times a Muslim prays a day is six. No matter what you are doing, every four hours the prayer bell would ring and every Muslim in the town would begin to pray. Ramadan is a couple months of no eating or drinking anything except for water as along as the sun is out. The point is to reflect on your past, contemplate your relationship to god, and plan your future. We have a fascinating concept of altering our religion to match our personal lives and abilities, instead of being faithful to the rules. Similar to the ten commandments, Islam is based on five pillars: admission, prayer, alms, fasting, pilgrimage. Admission is the true belief in one god and his one prophet. Prayer is to display your devotion and how you communicate with god. Alms is the belief in aiding the less fortunate. Fasting is required to represent the struggles you will endure for you faith during the duration of your time on earth. Pilgrimage is the pledge that every healthy Muslim will visit the holiest city of Mecca, once in their lifetime to follow in the steps of their prophet. As far a Arab is concerned you either practice while believing or you do neither. I like this idea because it holds accountability to the members of their faith.

Socially, in my experiences, they seek business ownership and are very family oriented. Often times the whole extended family will live under one roof with the oldest members in charge of decisions and finances. The less respectable aspect of the religion is that unless a woman is a mother of many sons or elderly, they generally have little say in matters. Most Arabic people that immigrate to the United States are shocked on how minor the consequences of bad educational performance or breaking social norms. Therefore the Arabic population among us has an exceptional lead in academics, economic stability, and are the growing, leading minority of my home county. In meeting you for the first time, by tradition, Arabs invite you to their home for dinner and to meet their family members. Dinners are usually served on a giant rug on the floor, where each person sits on a mat and uses pita bread to eat pieces of everything available. As their guest, they will use English as much as possible. Diverting back to their native tongue only to speak to someone who doesn’t  know any other language, then quickly apologizing. They are a very humble community. Unfortunately American Muslims are given a bad reputation but the rest of the nation. People fail to see that as a culture they are extremely passionate about their beliefs because a great deal of their lives are invested into faith, moderate or conservative. In the same way their followers are more loyal then ours, their extremists are incredibly more unstable. Our media portrays their domestic religious wars as crazy, because all of our conflicts are political.

Word Count: 724

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Why are Muslims Misunderstood in America?

Israel vs Hezbollah Continues

The morning of July 12th, 2006 two attacks occurred against Israel killing both civilians and soldiers. This event started the 2006 Lebanon War, a 34 day military conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamic militia/political party. One of various altercations since the founding of Hezbollah in 1985. Last month Hezbollah militants fired five anti-tank missiles at Israel military vehicles sparking a response missile attack, multiple fire fights, and tensions of a very violent and repetitive past.

Hezbollah major allies are Iran and Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Their latest offense on Israel is a counter to an earlier airstrike in Syria that is believed to have killed Hezbollah operatives and Iranian leadership including the confirmed death of notorious General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi. It also caused the immediate death of the son of a major Hezbollah founder. “The attack delivered perhaps the highest-profile blow to Hezbollah and Iranian interests in Syria since the outbreak of war there…” claimed Foreignpolicy.com journalist, Phillip Smyth. Hezbollah was started in the late 1980’s by fighters in Lebanese civil war with the main objective of ending the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) occupation in South Lebanon. Hezbollah is influenced with radical Shi’a Islam, anti-Zionists, Islamic nationalism, anti-west, and anti-imperialism ideologies. In 1990 the civil war had ended, Syria was in control of restoring Lebanon but failed to enforce the Tiaf Agreement which called for the disbandment of all militant groups including Hezbollah. Corruption and white-collar crime became rapid. Through the 90’s Iran endorsed Hezbollah’s rise in political power in Lebanon as well as their paramilitary forces. They currently control 14 seats within the Lebanon Parliament and Cabinet. During the 2000’s Hezbollah carried out multiple terrorist attacks through the Middle East and Europe. They lost their legitimacy as a resistance movement in the Arab world due to the direct aggression against Syria’s opposition. Similar to other terrorist organizations who identify and justify their actions as freedom fighters, Hezbollah often dresses as civilians in dense urban settings commonly participating in guerilla warfare.

The concerns the article doesn’t seem to address is that the Syrian civil war is very far from over and with more escalation leaves the opportunity of more clashes against Israel prompting more military actions affecting all relations especially Iran and Israel. The good news is that with dropping oil prices are taking their tolls on Iranian and Russian economies alike. Iran being the main endorser of Hezbollah may affect their groups’ infrastructure, political influence and militia style operations. According to the main source article, analysts don’t believe both side wants to have another war and that it was just a matter of border dispute and high tensions. It seems obvious Israel doesn’t want disputes on its land due to its minimal response compared to the 2006 consequences of militant attacks. Another aspect to consider is that Iran could be held accountable for their ally’s actions as their main means of funding. Unfortunately the negative possibilities are all too real, Iran could easily claim it has no bearings on Hezbollah actions and can attempt to lower their global notoriety while their allies keep involvement of their interests in Syria and the Israeli border. As history shows Israel has little patience for attacks on its forces, rightfully so. Currently Israel is fighting Hamas on the opposite, western front, who also identifies as a political group while carrying out rogue civilian involved attacks. The fighting continues as the nations of the world are funding the regimes supporting their own domestic ideology. The Middle East is extremely complex and fragile situation. The power struggle in Syria and the western sanctions among their alliance can and will yield both positive or destructive results to the Middle Eastern relations as a whole. Hezbollah seems to enough backing and homeland political power to stay as an organization for years to come. Another question posed is if Assad’s forces were to regain their country could Hezbollah insurgency could back to haunt Iran and Assad’s regime. Not to mention who else can align with this coalition in the coming decades.

Word Count: 670

Works Cited:

Levs, Josh. “The Israel-Hezbollah conflict is also about ISIS, oil, nukes, and global terror”. http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/29/world/israel-hezbollah-impact/index.html. January 29, 2015

Wikipedia. “Hezbollah” and “2006 Lebanon War” for additional background information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Lebanon_War#Hezbollah_cross-border_raid. March 15, 2015

Israel vs Hezbollah Continues

The Uknown Hero of Two Revolutions

Most men and women the duration of their lives cannot say they caused radical change leading to a new era of governance, at least one man can claim this act of honor twice in the middle of a violent power struggle between the superior factions of Western Europe and claims of authority in the new world. A significant historical figure in both French and American history, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, often referred to as Marquis or simply just Lafayette. Born of nobility in France at fall of 1757, Marquis de Lafayette, fatherless by two and motherless by twelve, become a sort of aristocratic orphan, joined the French Royal Army at age fourteen. At the young age of sixteen, Lafayette married, aligning himself with an extremely wealthy, influential, and elite family. Lafayette was gaining incredible rank and responsibility as a young officer. He was sympathetic to the idea of the American Revolution since his first memoirs regarding the situation, although this may have been due to his hatred of the British Empire. At the brisk age of nineteen he left to America to attempt to serve and volunteer to the independence effort.

Lafayette paying personally for his entire voyage and supplies, arrived in America, boarding with a landowner until he could make his way to Philadelphia, the headquarters of the makeshift American congress. Ironically Marquis was a member of the fraternity of the freemasonry such as many revolutionaries, founding fathers, and even modern presidents. This helped him greatly in making connections his first weeks in Philadelphia. He eventually made it congress whom debated if his service was entirely necessary due to the overwhelming amount of Frenchman attempting to join to do anything to curb the English influence in the new world while being paid to do so. Lafayette pleaded that he would serve with great loyalty on the promises that he would receive no salary and solely be a wartime volunteer. With the help of American representative to the French, Benjamin Franklin, Congress accepted his humble offer, and in the end of July 1777, a decree is made establishing Marquis’ rank as a major-general within the American Continental Army to report to General Washington who would decide if to actually utilize and recognize Lafayette’s newly acquired position. Even after being declared an officer, Lafayette found it difficult to gain control of his own division because he was a foreigner, which made congress weary of his extent in their domestic military.

His first battle of the American Revolution took place in Brandywine, he assisted a failed defense to the British march towards Philadelphia, which they would later capture and occupy. Although losing ground and being shot in the leg, the newly appointed officer organized an impressively efficient retreat, enough so for General George Washington to write a letter to congress finally permitting Marquis de Lafayette to command his own small regiment of troops. By December of that year, he and his soldiers would be suffering alongside Washington in Valley Forge. Although his American military career is considered insignificant compared to his diplomatic skills when looking at the revolution as a whole, he would go on to fight in Albany and Rhode Island before being granted a return visit to his home in France in 1778, departing in early 1779.

He received both American honors and French military promotion in his homecoming. Lafayette’s sought to command an invasion of England, ultimately his campaign was rejected. From the beginning, and more so towards the conclusion of his homeland visitation, Marquis pleaded for aid and additional funding to America. He called for dramatic strengthen in forces sent to the colonies. In his decision to a second voyage to he was equipped with nearly twelve thousand troops and granted some supplies for American colonial forces.

The French had by this time declaring war, offered a military alliance to the United States and was in the process of sending their navy to fight the English at the colonial coast line. France was also able to extend the allies of our cause to Spain and the Netherlands, due partly because of the international attention of the declaration of independence.

Through Boston, he entered America for the second time he recounted with life time friend general George Washington in New Jersey on May 10th, 1780. Through the rest of his combat service in America would be spent evading capture, setting up the siege of Yorktown, and providing artillery fire from the hillsides leading to the final surrender of English ground forces. Marquis proposed collecting the remaining British naval ports, instead congress assigned him back to France as an advisor to the American envoys being sent across France to solidify relations as newly official nation.

His return to France is not well welcomed by the public due to the rise of radicals within the French government and growing support for overthrowing the king. His political and military standing declines swiftly. He is labelled as a member of ‘old regime’ although he is calling for peace talks and following constitutional law. By the early 1790’s his public standing was nearly destroyed hoping to flee to America. Marquis Lafayette was captured by the Prussian-Austrian coalition in the Netherlands and kept as a bargaining chip as the new republic of French declares war. Lafayette attempted to utilize his American citizenship for release, even contacting the embassy in Prague. President Washington makes it clear to his envoys that America is to remain neutral in Europe. The minister to France, James Monroe was at least able to secure passports for Marquis wife and children. A youthful and courageous Napoleon Bonaparte secured the release of most French prisoners and ended the war with Austria. Lafayette’s citizenship was restored in 1800 after five years of imprisonment.

His final years in the public were spent being offered political power and wealth by Napoleon who had moved France into a dictatorship, even offering military high command and a senate appointment. Marquis despised a undemocratic ruling party and spoke often that he would have accepted all positions if offered by a free nation.  Lafayette lived the rest of his days in leisure from America to Paris. Reliving political duties as Napoleon as being exiled in 1815, Lafayette set up his initial set down from power and arranged his failed escape attempt to America. And again in 1830 as 70 year old Marquis was elected to Chamber of Representatives until his death in 1836 He had three children, naming his son George Washington Lafayette and his eldest daughter Marie Antoinette Lafayette via the advice of Thomas Jefferson.

The Uknown Hero of Two Revolutions

Vladmir Putin: The Modern Joseph Stalin

As the Soviet civil war closes to an end, the communists clear victors, Vladimir Lenin begins unification and recovery. This rare time of reform is cut to an end by Lenin’s sudden death in 1924. His successor, a young Georgian communist officer, born in the west Russian Empire, Joseph Stalin. For decades to come, Stalin would build a reputation only less notorious than Adolf Hitler himself. Stalin would abandon the teachings of Lenin ruling with an iron fist, Joseph became closely connected to his intelligence agencies, ordering assassinations of political opponents and protestors daily. He sparked the Russian industrial revolution, communist-socialism, defending his motherland and successfully ending the war front in Berlin. Domestically Stalin waged genocide within his nation, having year long purges, disposing of anyone deemed ‘an enemy to the state’. As of today a new dictator is starting to build effective momentum to igniting a international armed conflict, Vladimir Putin.

As of this weekend, Putin’s main opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, who was set to march in a protest criticizing the controlling party, was shot in the head in the middle of Moscow, about three blocks from the heavily monitored capital building. All signs point to the former KGB operative president, but state media reports this is most likely the work of Nemtsov’s own political party to weaken the support of their nearly soviet government. In Russia, similar to the United States, the President is allowed two consecutive terms. Unlike America, Russia has a multiparty parliament as well as a prime minister. This is Putin third term, in his second political party, and the only break between his terms is when him and the prime minister switch titles. Due to Boris Yeltsin, Russian President during Bill Clinton’s administration had dealt with a coup attempt and tried to dissolve his parliament. This lead to short armed conflict which ended when military commanders pledged allegiance to Yeltsin, then destroyed their own congress building with tanks via his orders. Now as a result the Russian President, whom Yeltsin appointed in final departure has complete control over his entire military. This helps explain events such as putting down uprisings, assassinations, and occupation of neighbors in the recent decade.

It appears that Vladimir Putin will maintain a dictatorship style control for the foreseeable future. His blatant loopholes in Russian politics meets little resistance, and no political opposition can make it to the election race in time with his life. Fresh western sanctions targeting Putin and the other about twenty families that control most all of the private enterprise have lead to more abuses in control of recent months. The ongoing Ukrainian military conflict will serve as a huge hint into the future welfare of Eastern European leadership and Russia’s global stand point. Similar to the event we witnessed in the division of Germany in the 1980’s, Russia wishes to remain the only superpower besides the United State. As the West pushes towards a more equal ground between the power and wealth of developed countries.

Word Count: 499

Works cited:

US seeks ‘transparent, real’ probe into Nemtsov murder, Yahoo.com

Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin , Wikipedia.com

Vladmir Putin: The Modern Joseph Stalin

The Great Second Amendment Debate

The second amendment protects and establishes the right of civilians to bear firearms for the purpose of forming well-regulated militias if ever necessary. This amendment is apart of the bill of rights and has been a highly controversial topic since its final ratification in 1971. The bill of rights is a collective of the first ten additions to our constitution, instilled as terms of the Federalist/Anti-federalist compromise to ensure more stability than the Articles of Confederation. During the days of the late 1700’s farmer majority militias were the closest organizations we had compared to the English and French multi-branch militaries. Young America’s volunteer soldiers’ use of highly unregulated guerilla warfare is credited to being the military advantage in gaining full independence. So a bill accommodating that right was agreed upon entirely with no consideration of detailed description of what exactly was the privileges or limitations of the individual. Additionally, a high range musket or artillery was the most impressive wartime machinery, future technologies such as personal explosives, or high-powered automatic firearms were, arguably not conceivable.

Up until the late 1960’s the second amendment was a state’s choice to enforce, regulate, and interpret. A legal case over the issue finally reached the Supreme Court, finalizing the national ratification of the bill in 1971. In more modern times we often debate the extent of the second amendment’s authority and if it’s presence is still needed. Texas is a rarity on the matter contradicting the majority of state’s opinions, requiring less verification or regulations. Although “open carry” laws are gaining more support of recent. The two opposing sides often lean towards different portions of a very vague couple of sentences. The logical arguments call for stricter pre-screening measures to be instituted, rebutted by the ease of acquiring false papers or black market weaponry. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that handgun possession is a fundamental right, the same importance of the freedom of speech or trial by jury. Among the final decision, it was established that there is no legal proof strict firearm laws will by any means decrease the amount of gun related crimes or deaths. Personally, I believe if we change or abolish the second amendment then it justifies and sets the expectation that any privilege provided by the bill of rights can be taken away or changed. At that moment the constitution that our entire social contract is engraved in would have far less significance or credibility.

Word Count: 403

Works cited:

History notes provided by class

Wikipedia.com. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States.

The Great Second Amendment Debate

Extremist Uprisings Progressing

As ISIS is losing ground on all fronts, a mere two thousand miles away, a more unstable Al-Qaeda ally is gaining incredible influence.  Nigeria has the highest population as well as the largest economy out of any other country in Africa. Their federal government operates in a nearly identical system to America.  Although these statistics seems to solidify the legitimacy of the nation, it is far from the truth. Nigeria has unique and complex demographics compared to its neighbors. The general population is almost split in half between Muslims, to the north, and Christians in the south respectively. Nigeria has three sets of laws: common law enforced in the south (24 regions), Islamic sharia law to the north (12), and tribal law sprinkled throughout the land. Despite the booming economy almost eighty percent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day. All of the oil rich fields that bring the profit are in the most southern tip under control of  some Christians, the ruling party, and the international community. The north has been left to provide for itself having overwhelming poverty, crime, and illiteracy rates.

At the start of 2012 an insurgency group, Boko Haram (translation being “Western Education is Forbidden”), carried out violent raids in a few villages to the northeast. Armed with a surplus of cold war era weaponry, fighting locals with barely enough resources to support their infrastructure.  Within in months the process of militarization began with the kidnappings of children at every raid for the boys to be soldiers and the girls to be married or sold. 2013 they killed double the casualties then the previous year also claiming to establish a Islamic Caliphate without the authority of religious officials very similar to ISIS. Again tripling deaths the following year, ending 2014 at ten-thousand, claiming increasingly more territory, declaring war on Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin. The group was founded in 2002 to provide support to the impoverished civilians with combating international intervention and domestic government corruption. Leadership has always retained a final goal of jihad and establishing a caliphate, objectives carried out by a new generation of militants. Since 2009 they have been responsible for a prison break releasing seven hundred inmates (including over a hundred of their members), corruption on the federal level, infiltrating police and military, extortion, operation of an extensive black market, as well as numerous political/religious assassinations.

So far as this year, Boko Haram rules over three major states of Nigeria, claiming an estimated two-thousand deaths already within this month and a half. State of Emergencies have been declared in parts of three countries where is heavy militant presence or interest. Some African nations have formed a joint military coalition to prevent further expansion of the group with little results. As of this week Nigerian President is making multiple public appeals for American military intervention, matching appeals from Iraq, Yemen, and eastern Ukraine. I don’t have enough earthly experience to confirm but there certainly a lot of violent rebellions and disputes that are all linked to each other, as if we are inching more towards the next great world war or an actual military cold war every year. It will be very interesting to see how so many hostile situations will play out as well as the involvement of our nation and possibly our soldiers.

Word Count: 550

Works Cited:

Yahoo.com. 2/15/2015. Nigerian president seeks more US help to fight Boko Haram. http://news.yahoo.com/nigerian-president-seeks-more-us-help-fight-boko-140106625.html;_ylt=A0SO8zX3JeFU6BkA1hdXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByZDNzZTI1BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–

BBC News. 2/08/2015. Nigeria elections: Mapping a nation divided. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-31101351

NBC News. 2/14/2015. Boko Haram: 200,000 Christians at Risk of Massacre in Nigeria. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/missing-nigeria-schoolgirls/boko-haram-200-000-christians-risk-massacre-nigeria-n306211

Wikipedia. last modified: 2/15/2015. Boko Haram. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boko_Haram

Extremist Uprisings Progressing

ISIS: Modern Day Crusades

The president is catching criticism this week for reminding the American public that Christianity had a past of justifying unethical actions in the name of god, similar to modern jihad groups. He defended his analogy with examples such as the Crusades and Jim Crow Laws. Comparing Crusaders to ISIS at his speech attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. seemed to offend his audience according to most major media outlets. ABC news was first on the scene to defend the crusades claiming that the Catholic church sometimes encouraged violence, but nothing extreme for the Middle Ages. Although some could argue the crusades defined the middle ages in brutality. Contrary to popular opinion, President Obama’s comparison makes historical sense.

The Crusades originated in 1096, when Pope Urban II ordered the Christian armies of western Europe to take the Holy Land from the Muslim Turks. He enticed soldiers with glory, wealth, and salvation for life. Although the Turks were fairly new to ruling over the Holy Lands of the three major monotheistic religions of the world; Jerusalem was in Muslim Arab control since 629. There were eight major crusades, including at least two on fellow Christian city-states, and incredibly amount of small-scale invasions sparking nearly four hundred years of religious warfare ending with the separation of Christianity into three different sects: Orthodox Christians, Catholic, and eventually Protestant.

Today in  the middle east, ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, claims significant land in Iraq and Syria, declaring century old sharia law as a standard. Offering minority religious groups they come across a warning of death or heavy taxation. The group formed an as minor resistance in 1999, into a branch of Al-Qaeda in 2003, and have been associated with nine major civil wars and insurgencies in the region. They have lost what little international support they maintained publicly when burning a Jordanian military hostage alive. Islam and the Koran strictly prohibit fire as a means of death. ISIS was able to establish territory in the wake of a multi-front Syrian civil war and a collapsing Iraq.

To conclude, both groups used religion and faith in god to promote warfare and extreme violence. A major difference is that the Crusades were openly sponsored and financed by Church administration, leaders, and clergy. Where as ISIS is funded mainly by black market activities (oil, guns), taxes, and countries that seek economic gain from the instability of Syria or Iraq.

Word Count: 402

Works Cited:

ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/historians-weigh-obamas-comparison-isis-militants-medieval-christian/story?id=28787194

Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamas-speech-at-prayer-breakfast-called-offensive-to-christians/2015/02/05/6a15a240-ad50-11e4-ad71-7b9eba0f87d6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

Commonweal. https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/yes-crusades-yes-inquisition-update

Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_Levant#Child_soldiers

ISIS: Modern Day Crusades