Text Message a Security Threat?

Last month, Saad Allami, a Moroccan-born Canadian man, was detained for a day while his home was searched and later arrested for 3 days. According to Allami, a businessman, the Canadian police searched his home and told his wife that he was a terrorist. A text message prompted the investigation.

Allami sent a message to his staff at a telecommunications company that was intercepted. In the text, Allami told his staff to “blow away” the competition at a trade show in New York. This expression prompted the investigation. Allami has now filed a lawsuit against the provincial police because of their treatment of him and his wife during the search and for tarnishing his reputation by treating him like a terrorist. According to Allami, he has no ties with any terrorist organizations and was never charged with anything. Continue reading

Celebration or Time to Reflect?

Reststop on N-35 Highway near Abbottabad, Pakistan Photo: Colin Christopher

Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.

Last night, President Obama exemplified the dignity, honor, and humility of most public servants around the world when he placed the death of Osama bin Laden into context. While thousands of people shamelessly celebrated outside the White House, some singing “We Are the Champions,” President Obama delivered a speech of humility and perspective.

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Clinton at US-Islamic World Forum

From February 13th-15th, the seventh annual US-Islamic Forum was held in Doha, Qatar. The annual conference, hosted by the Brookings Institution and Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brings together experts and policymakers from around the Muslim world and the United States. The conference–titled “Writing the Next Chapter”–focused on President Obama’s approach to the Muslim world and his speech in Cairo last June to examine the the changes and opportunities that emerged as a result of Obama’s call to build new bridges. The speech was screened at the opening session of the conference.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the conference and echoed President Obama’s message. Clinton emphasized that President Obama is still committed to fulfilling his promises to work towards a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, to close Guantanamo, to engage countries like Iran through dialogue, and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While recognizing the impatience of many in the Middle East that no tangible change has occurred, she asserted that these kinds of changes require assistance from the worldwide community. The United States, she underscored, cannot do this alone.  She went on to discuss the issue of airport security and the need for freedom of expression. Continue reading

Obama’s Ramadan Message

obama-ramadanOn August 21st, with Ramadan beginning in most countries the following day, President Obama issued a Ramadan message to Muslim communities around the world. This is another gesture by the President to work on the relations between the United States and Muslims worldwide. For me, though, this message was unique. Growing up as a Muslim American, Ramadan was never formally recognized by the larger American community, except on a local level. President Obama’s more visible efforts to fully incorporate the Muslim American community have led to more awareness–positive awareness, I should say–of Islam and the commonalities that it shares with other faiths.

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What Does the Qur’an Really Say?

In President Obama’s speech in Cairo, we heard something perhaps unprecedented for an American president: references to the Qur’an—positive references! Quoting verses from the Qur’an was significant because it brought the holy text into the discussion in a way that reflects its real spirit–especially for the over 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide.

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President Obama in Cairo

In what has been widely billed as a major step in his promised effort to reach out to the Muslim community worldwide, President Barack Obama gave a speech entitled “New Beginnings” at Cairo University last week. The president did not, however, directly address conflicts between the West and the Muslim world. Instead, he tried to set a new tone in favor of global dialogue and to that end he was successful.

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President Obama to Visit Kazakhstan

The speaker of the Senate (upper house) of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Qasymzhomart Toqayev, is quoted as saying that President Barack Obama is expected to visit Kazakhstan soon as part of a wider tour of Central Asia. According to RFE-RL, President Obama met with Toqayev in Istanbul this week and told him he planned to become the first US president to visit the oil-producing country. United States oil companies have major investments in Kazakhstan, and most recently Kazakhstan has agreed to allow transit of non-military supplies to support NATO trips in Afghanistan across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan. For additional details on this matter see “Kazakhstan Says Expects U.S President To Visit” on Radio Free Europe.

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Obama on First Visit to a Muslim Country as President

President Obama has begun his first official visit to Turkey, his first trip to a Muslim country since he was inaugurated president. This trip was announced on an earlier visit to Turkey by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also appeared while in Turkey on the popular news talk show “Come Along with Me” (“Haydi Gel Bizimle Ol”).

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Juan Cole on Engaging the Muslim World

A past program in the Inside Islam radio series “Reaching Out to the Muslim World” covered President Obama’s promise to alter the course of the Bush administration’s war on terror in his inaugural address. Informed Comment blogger and Middle East historian Juan Cole joins host Jean Feraca Wednesday at 3 pm on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders for a live show about ways of “Engaging the Muslim World” with diplomacy and dialogue.

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The Imagination Age and Digital Diplomacy

Second Life is a virtual world that users can enter from anywhere, create an avatar, and build communities with others. In “Understanding Islam Through Virtual Worlds,” a short documentary that follows dialogues about Islam happening in Second Life, hosts Rita J. King and Joshua S. Fouts enter a mosque, take the Hajj, and even visit the online office of a real-life charity. Below is a video of the documentary or you can watch it here in high definition.

Fouts and King feel that the project’s main goal is to tell the story of Islamic virtual realms and give people the chance to share their message with a larger audience. On their blog, Fouts says:

We had many tense discussions with Muslims and non-Muslims alike in virtual space around issues such as Islamic Law and Rape, perceptions about the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, free speech, women’s issues, the conflict in Gaza and the war in Iraq. Many Muslims are fed up with violence and virtual worlds offer a new opportunity, especially for people who live within oppressive regimes, to reach out and discuss these issues and even begin to seek creative solutions.

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