Who Are You Going to Believe?
I have been an active member of Masjid Al-Salam/Islamic Society of Tulsa for more than 13 years, I know the members of the leadership well and I teach classes weekly. After reading your story on members of our mosque (see Op/Ed "Mosque of Peace?" and Letters "And Whose Land Is It?", 14-20 Dec.) and I was compelled to reply to your story titled "Mosque of Peace."
The horrifying events of Sep. 11 have deeply impacted the American Muslim community and we have suffered terribly because of it. Many of our statements against terrorism have not been aired. My Christian friends keep asking me why the Muslims are not doing anything. But the truth is . . . we are! Small minority groups are not often heard unless they do radical things. Our open houses, public statements, letters to the editors, announcements against terrorism, and so much more are often ignored and overlooked. We have continuously denounced these terrible acts committed against others in the name of our religion.
In the last year or two, television, radio and print media have continued to paint a grim picture of American Muslims and has gone so far as to insinuate that all of us are evil, that we have some hidden agenda to Islamicize the world, and that we all want to go out and kill Christians and Jews.
This is simply not true. Often I cringed when I see the wackos Fox news or other stations put on to represent Islam and Muslims. It is as if they search out the most controversial interviewee. As a result Americans are (more often than not) hearing radical views, lies, and fear-based stories. Mainstream Islamic voices are not being heard; however, the trendy hate rhetoric towards all of Islam and Muslims seems to air repeatedly.
In Tulsa we have been chased in our cars, called terrorist at the local grocery stores, told to go home, had our shopping carts rammed, treated like second class citizens at work, had our head scarves pulled off and had our fill of other hateful comments daily. Just last month a Muslim lady, with the headscarf was shot while walking down the street in California and two weeks ago a Muslim man was nearly beaten to death in New York. As we watch the events unfold around us, we are scared and our people are suffering!
We often walk around in fear and some of us have become leery about adventuring out into the public. When we fly it almost pans out like a Saturday Night Live sitcom. We are the ones pulled aside and given extra special inspection and rightfully so--thanks to the terrorist and radicals who have high jacked our religion.
To top off our fears, last year Halliburton was awarded $386 million to build internment camps across the U.S for "special situations."
All this adds up to a rather paranoid group of Muslims who fear what might come next. Are we all to be rounded up and carted off?
Last month a California radio station aired a segment on putting a sort of Jewish star on all Muslims and many of the callers agreed. While we are trying to communicate our disgust of radical Islam, it appears we are loosing the battle.
So when a local Muslim has the intention of writing a glorious letter stating that all Muslims should stand up against terrorism we are all behind him. However, when he mistakenly insinuated that our leadership was or might be involved in terrorist activities or funneling money overseas, we were all taken aback. This insinuation is what many found so troubling. No wonder people were upset.
It is not that Muslims at the Islamic Society of Tulsa are intolerant or that we do not value free speech. We are tolerant and we love life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Muslims are living in a time that our every move is being scrutinized and every mistake reported. The whole world is carefully watching our every move, as a result we cannot afford the backlash from someone spreading lies, creating rumors and discrediting members of our mosque. As Paul Harvey would say . . . "And that is the rest of the story."
Tulsa Native, Tulsa Muslim and convert to Islam for 16 years.
Time for Constitutional Reform
If Oklahoma is ever to have good government, Oklahomans must change both the state constitution and the structure of the executive branch of state government.
Rather than lodging all executive power in the governor, unfortunately our state constitution splits executive power among a large number of elected officers who do not answer to the governor. To name a few examples, we elect the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the state treasurer, the state auditor, the insurance commissioner, the labor commissioner, and the superintendent of public instruction.
What's more, the Oklahoma Constitution creates -- and the Legislature has continued to create -- a multitude of boards and commissions that actually carry out most of the executive tasks. The appointees to these boards often serve for a term of several years, making it possible, even likely, that the governor will never have the opportunity during his or her term in office to name a majority of the board that operates the executive department.
So who's to blame if we're poorly governed? Well, if you try to blame the governor, he will argue that he didn't appoint the boards that are running the executive branch -- he inherited these problems. How about the legislators? They would say they are not responsible because they did not appoint the members of executive board.
Consider the health department's "ghost employee" scandals from a few years ago. Governor Keating took little blame because he did not appoint the people who were running the health department. The Legislature wasn't blamed because the corruption took place in the "executive" branch.
Well, if the Legislature isn't responsible and the governor isn't responsible, the truth is that no one is responsible for poor government. In other words, we have the worst of both worlds: Nothing gets done, and nobody is responsible. Without clear lines of authority, the people cannot exercise their power -- and responsibility -- to make sure our public servants provide good government. It is no surprise, then, that the quality of our governance never really improves.
How can we break this cycle? First, we must amend the constitution to establish a cabinet system of government, similar to the federal executive branch, in which the governor appoints the heads of the major departments and these officials directly report to and are responsible to the governor; the governor, in turn, is responsible to the people.
Second, to the extent to which executive power is placed in boards and commissions, the governor must have the power to appoint the majority of members of these bodies soon after he or she takes office.
Third, we should elect the governor and the lieutenant governor as a team. The elimination of other elected executive branch offices should be considered also.
The political planets are now so aligned to present the opportunity for fundamental change. Reformers, mostly Republican but including a few Democrats, should support long-term structural reforms, no matter who benefits in the short term. Democrats, who might otherwise be skeptical of the reforms, may be able to support them because a Democrat governor may be the first to benefit from the new system.
There is generally no easier political path to structural reform than for one party to hand more power to a branch controlled by its opponents. Thus, the time for change is now.
Another Bush Basher
Our government (read: George W. Bush) enjoys trumpeting the goal of democracy for all the peoples of the world. Really, I would enjoy hearing him give a dissertation on what he thinks democracy means. But my contention is that if the American people relish the existence of our democracy and enjoy the comforts of what we now have as a country, then we ought to get of our intellectual duffs and become a more integral part of what is being done internationally in our collective name.
The pieces have always been evident to those of us who scourge for news contained in media outside of the US. We do understand that quite a bit of what has been done and mostly in the wars we have fought, outside of the great wars, have been anything but necessary to our survival. And this Iraqi expedition is an example of my contention.
And while I am on the subject of war we might examine how many wars we are supposedly waging. The 'war on poverty', 'war on hunger', 'war on crime', 'war on drugs' and now the 'war on terrorism'. And we are not likely to win any of them.
But back to my original thought, because I have been able to put together the pieces, at least in my mind and the foundational thought is not my own but I had always been on the right track. We need to seriously examine the reasons for the series of incursions that our government has conducted in the name of national interest and national security and ascertain if our existence would have been any less secure had these battles not been fought.
My recent reading has added the word 'corporatocracy' to my vocabulary and it seems to mean the control of the global economy by a few huge corporations with the behest of and protection of our government through the CIA and our military. But in my reasoning when we add our recent theocratic tendencies to the mix, I get the feeling that the word fascism conjures the same meaning.
And so, when we look at our recent involvement in Chile, Panama, Bolivia, Venezuela and now Iraq, just to mention a few, there is a disturbing web that connects them to these countries' assets and the challenge for ownership by a few major corporations. The web also ties the loan activities of the IMF, the World Bank and the USAID strapping these countries with debt that they can never repay thereby making them forever in our control.
This is not a conspiracy theory on my part because the resulting loss of self determination by the peoples of these countries and the increase in world hunger and poverty is quite evident. And while these corporations pile up rapacious profits and their executives live a life of exorbitant luxury, the majority of the rest of the world, Americans included, have been reduced to being creators of wealth for the greedy lifestyle of an unconscionable few.
I know that there are many of us who will not take the time or make the effort to examine my premise but this attitude must change. Our White House is under the control of two oilmen, one of which was the secretary of defense when George H. W. Bush attacked Panama. So the mindset of those who believe in the building of a global empire is present in the corporate board rooms of the multination corporations as well as the very highest levels of our government. We need a change in the attitude of those who govern us and we need a change in the level of our involvement as citizens.
Democracy is a very complex type of governance and it calls for those of us who live under such a system to be totally involved. It calls for much more than simply paying taxes or going to the polls and casting a vote for one person or the other. It also requires us to be informed about the world in which we live and the details of our government's decisions and the action it takes on our behalf. Democracy calls for our total involvement. If we fail to do so, our lack of action will certainly lead to a world of constant strife, warfare, poverty and hunger and an America which is constantly fighting off fear and the enemy at our door.
Colin T. Bent
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