Tuesday, July 7, 2009

MJ

Although I could not bring myself to watch the MJ Tribute, for the same reason that I don't attend funeral services, I did, in passing see Jermaine Jermain Jackson singing and stopped to watch because I'd initially read that the Jackson Family would not be performing at the memorial. I have to say that his rendition of the song, "Smile" was quite moving which is why I am moving it to my blog.
video

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Text of President Obama's speech to Muslims


Text of President Barack Obama's speech at Cairo University, as provided by CQ Transcriptions.
___
Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, al-Azhar has, had stood as a beacon of Islamic learning. And for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress.
I'm grateful for your hospitality and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the good will of the American people and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalamu Alaikum.
(APPLAUSE)
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world, tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation but also conflict and religious wars.
More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims and a Cold War in which Muslim majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries but also to human rights.
All this has bred more fear and more mistrust. So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap and share common principles, principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point.
But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground.
As the holy Quran tells us: "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth."
(APPLAUSE)
That is what I will try to do today, to speak the truth as best I can. Humbled by the task before us and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Now, part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian. But my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk.
As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith. As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam at places like al-Azhar that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities...
(APPLAUSE)
It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra, our magnetic compass and tools of navigation, our mastery of pens and printing, our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires, timeless poetry and cherished music, elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
(APPLAUSE)
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second president, John Adams, wrote:
"The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims."
And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars. They have served in our government. They have stood for civil rights. They have started businesses. They have taught at our universities. They've excelled in our sports arenas. They've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building and lit the Olympic torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same holy Quran that one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his personal library.
(APPLAUSE)
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
(APPLAUSE)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as...
(APPLAUSE)
Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire.
We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal. And we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words, within our borders and around the world.
We are shaped by every culture. Drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept, E pluribus unum: Out of many, one.
Now much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected president.
(APPLAUSE)
But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores. And that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.
So let there be no doubt...
(APPLAUSE)
... let there be no doubt, Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations: to live in peace and security, to get an education and to work with dignity, to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead. And if we understand that the challenges we face are shared and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations.
When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience.
(APPLAUSE)
That is what it means to share this world in the 21st Century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings. This is a difficult responsibility to embrace, for human history has often been a record of nations and tribes, and, yes, religions subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests.
Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership, our progress must be shared.
(APPLAUSE)
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite. We must face these tensions squarely. And so, in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all its forms. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.
(APPLAUSE)
We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject, the killing of innocent men, women and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al-Qaida and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice. We went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the offense of 9/11. But let us be clear. Al-Qaida killed nearly 3,000 people on that day.
The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al-Qaida chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach.
These are not opinions to be debated. These are facts to be dealt with. Make no mistake, we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict.
We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths but, more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam.
The holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as it if has killed all mankind.
(APPLAUSE)
And the holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.
(APPLAUSE)
The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced.
That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.
Now, let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.
(APPLAUSE)
Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us that the less we use our power, the greater it will be."
Today America has a dual responsibility to help Iraq forge a better future and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people...
(APPLAUSE)
I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no basis and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012.
(APPLAUSE)
We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable. But in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.
We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States. And I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.
(APPLAUSE)
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities, which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
Now, the second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world. America's strong bonds with Israel are well-known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries. And anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich.
Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful.
Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they've endured the pain of dislocation.
Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.
So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.
(APPLAUSE)
For decades, then, there has been a stalemate. Two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers.
For Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history, from within its borders as well as beyond.
But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth. The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
(APPLAUSE)
That is in Israel's interests, Palestine's interests, America's interests and the world's interests. And that's why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all of the patience and dedication that the task requires.
The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them and all of us to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.
This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia, to Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed, that's how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern with institutions that serve the needs of its people.
Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities, to play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.
(APPLAUSE)
This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
(APPLAUSE)
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security, neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank.
Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace. And Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
And, finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibility. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.
We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state.
It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too many tears have been shed, too much blood has been shed.
All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians could, can see their children grow up without fear, when the holy land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be, when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed — peace be upon them — joined in prayer.
(APPLAUSE)
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons. This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself, in part, by its opposition to my country. And there is, in fact, a tumultuous history between us.
In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known.
Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against but, rather, what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discussion between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.
But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests.
It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
Now, I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nations should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.
(APPLAUSE)
And any nation, including Iran, should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty. And it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.
(APPLAUSE)
I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years. And much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear. No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.
Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.
But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed, confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people, the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas. They are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.
(APPLAUSE)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear. Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments, provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power. Once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.
(APPLAUSE)
So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power. You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion. You must respect the rights of minorities and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise. You must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party.
Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
(AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOUTS)
Thank you.
(APPLAUSE)
The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom. Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia where devout Christians worshipped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country.
That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul.
This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive. But it's being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith.
The richness of religious diversity must be upheld, whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.
(APPLAUSE)
And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which people protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation.
That's why I'm committed to work with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat. Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear.
We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism. In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims and Jews.
That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations.
Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service so bridges between peoples lead to action, whether it is combating malaria in Africa or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.
(APPLAUSE)
I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.
(APPLAUSE)
And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.
Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.
(APPLAUSE)
Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.
That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.
(APPLAUSE)
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity. I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home.
Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations, including America, this change can bring fear; fear that, because of modernity, we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly, our identities, those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai.
In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education. And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work.
Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century. And in too...
(APPLAUSE)
And in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America, in the past, has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we new seek a broader engagement.
On education, we will expand change programs and increase scholarships like the one that brought my father to America.
(APPLAUSE)
At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America, invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world and create a new, online network so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new core of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim majority countries. And I will host a summit on entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim majority country and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops.
Today, I'm announcing a new global effort with the organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments, community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address, but we have a responsibility to join together to behalf of the world that we seek, a world where extremists no longer threaten our people and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes, a world where governments serve their citizens and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together. I know there are many, Muslim and non-Muslim, who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort, that we are fated to disagree and civilizations are doomed to clash.
Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith in every country. You more than anyone have the ability to reimagine the world, the remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
(APPLAUSE)
This truth transcends nations and peoples, a belief that isn't new, that isn't black or white or brown, that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people. And it's what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The holy Quran tells us: "Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
(APPLAUSE)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much.
Thank you.
END

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prayer


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

when there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood, as to understand,

to be loved as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Difference Between Heaven & Hell



A holy man was having a conversation with the God one day and said, God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.

The God led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table.In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

God said, You have seen Hell.
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water.The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump,
laughing and talking. The holy man said, 'I don't understand.

'It is simple,' said God. 'It requires but one skill.

You see, they have learned to feed each other. The greedy think only of themselves.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On This Day.....


On this day:


1904 - B. F. Skinner, American psychologist was born


1936 - Lee "Scratch" Perry, Jamaican Reggae artist was born


2003 - 2003 invasion of Iraq: In the early hours of the morning, the United States and three other countries begin military operations in Iraq.


1969 - John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married.


1602 - The Dutch East India Company is established.


2000 - Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a former Black Panther once known as H. Rap Brown, is captured after murdering Georgia sheriff's deputy Ricky Kinchen and critically wounding Deputy Aldranon English.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Giving....

There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.


There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.


And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.


~Khalil Gibran

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Missed Opportunities….


There are moments in our life that stick with us forever, like winning the finals, gaining acceptance to the universities of our choice, being there for the birth of your child or finally ~* meeting*~ that special someone.


The things that we do or decisions that we make at that very moment, can change the course of history as we know it, or so I have been conditioned to think, but that is another story, for another day.

Now I know most Muslim are prone to say, ” Allahu Allum” when things don’t go the way that they desired or expected, and I am not saying that Allah is not the decider of what is best for you, by no means am I saying that, but what I am saying is this: Allah has endowed man with free will, right? What if Allah has set things in motion so that what you desired was provided on a platter to you, only you didn’t realize it or because you let fear paralyze you, and you failed to act on the opportunity? I am only saying, “what if?”

How do you recover from a missed opportunity or an opportunity of a lifetime? Do you remain face-down in the dirt or do you have the audacity to make Dua to Allah for another opportunity or do you tuck it in and say enough and move forward, vowing to end pursuit of the elusive ~*opportunity*~? I am just asking, because, I recently had one of those rare opportunities that one gets, but I failed to act upon it out of fear, and I am not sure how to get another “perfect” opportunity like the one that I recently squandered because of fear……

He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he had failed.”
-William James (Pragmatist and Philosopher)




Breath Me - Sia
More at MP3-Codes.com

Monday, February 16, 2009

Personality Types


I have to say that I have always been fascinated by people, including myself, and in understanding why people do what they do (i.e. motivation: intrinsic or extrinsic), which is why I am always taking personality tests and the like. Recently, ok about a month ago, I took a personality test that I have to admit is "spot on" when it comes to revealing the "real" me. I have suggested that as many people as possible take it so that I can compare what I have observed with what they submit(of course, right?). In the interim, I am sharing the details below of my assessment results:

Introspective
You like your own company; you're a very interesting person. Tracking your own mental processes, knowing what you're thinking and why you do what you do, is important to you. Often, what's going on in your mind is more compelling than what's going on outside. You are not someone who is constantly looking to be among a group of friends; you never feel bored when you are by yourself. For the most part, those with a high score on the "introspective" trait enjoy reading, taking long walks, learning new things, and other solitary activities.


Intellectual
You are thoughtful, rational, and comfortable in the world of ideas. People find you interesting to talk to. You're the living embodiment of the saying "You learn something new every day."
You do not avoid abstract conversation, experimenting with new ideas, or studying new things. It bores you to stick to the straight and narrow of what you already know. In general, those with a high score on the "intellectual" trait are employed in such fields as teaching and research, and are enthusiastic about reading, foreign films, and classical music.


Aesthetic
You appreciate art, beauty, and design; you know that they are not superficial but absolutely crucial to living the good life. You have good taste, and you're proud of it. You don't think it's pretentious to be moved by art and beauty. You're not one of those who believe it doesn't matter what something looks like as long as it does its job. Those with a high score on the "aesthetic" trait are often employed in literary or artistic professions, enjoy domestic activities — doing things around the house — and are enthusiastic about the arts, reading, and travel.


Sympathetic
You have a knack for knowing what's going on in the hearts and minds of those around you, without their having to tell you explicitly. People tend to turn to you with their problems because they know you care, and that you will likely offer good advice and a helping hand.
You do not feel that people with sad stories are just looking for attention, or have brought their problems upon themselves.


Curious
You like to get to the bottom of things. You're not content knowing what someone did; you want to know why they did it. You don't simply take things as they are and move on; you're not content skimming along on the surface; you don't feel you're wasting time by digging for the meaning of things.


Reserved
You are somewhat shy, or at least unwilling to spend all your time socializing. With you it's true that "still waters run deep," which is why many of your acquaintances never get to know you well. You are not always ready to talk at the drop of a hat. Whether you're in the office or at a party, you're not likely to be found gabbing away in the middle of a group of people.


Solitary
You are a private person, not very comfortable in a big group, and view excessive socializing as a waste of time. You not prefer hanging out with others to spending time alone; you do not tend to feel at home in a crowded room, club, stadium, or auditorium.


Understanding
You are willing to take the time to find out what's going on with other people, especially if they're in distress. You're a good listener, you don't criticize, and you offer unbiased, respectful, honest advice when it's requested. You don't feel the need to impose your standards on others or say things that, even though true, cause pain. With a high score on the "understanding" trait, it is likely that you are enthusiastic about charitable work, helping others, and making the world a better place.


Scrupulous
You are an honest, fair person. You don't lie or cheat to get ahead. You treat others with respect and hope for the same in return. You do not feel that you are above the rules that everyone else follows; you are definitely not willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead.


Responsible
You fulfill your obligations and responsibilities, are true to your word, and generally obey the rules. You're opposed to making hasty decisions, you don't insist that you're above the rules, nor do you feel compelled to color outside the lines. While the majority of those who have a high score on the "responsible" trait enjoy traveling, they are usually very happy to return home — and don’t mind staying put for a while.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Quote of The Day


A wise man can learn more from a foolish question

than a fool can learn from a wise answer.

-Bruce Lee

Friday, February 6, 2009

Do Over

It is not uncommon to hear children say that they want a “do-over”, especially if something did not turn out as they’d initially predicted. And as children, where the world seems to somehow govern itself under rules that are far more just than in the adult world, they are miraculously granted a 2nd chance or a reprieve, if you will, to correct a wrong or gain another shot at perfection.


Admittedly, I am secretly jealous of them for this reason (though no longer *secret* after this post). I mean how many times have you made a choice that you wanted to change later on? For example, it can be something as simple
as while driving, changing lanes to avoid a back-up, only to end up behind a “Sunday driver”; or placing an order for an item, only to have it arrive and be something completely different from what was initially envisioned and now you are stuck with return shipping fees, to something more serious, like posting a disparaging or inappropriate comment on someone’s blog that you now regret , or finally for having chosen a career path that siphons your spirit, with no available viable options of rectification(thankfully this is not the case for me because I love what I do).


A do-over could change the time-space continuum as we know it, right? (Back-To-The-Future reference). Think of what a do-over could have allowed happen: the McCain-Palin ticket actually WON the November election, or my parents got a do-over in regards to their marriage, and as a result, I or my 3 brothers were never born, or that the 3Rd Reich was actually successful in their quest for world domination and subjugation. These events would have had far-reaching effects on how the world as I know it, developed. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, there is no real “do-over” in life, but don’t you wish that there was?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cat.Gato.Chat.Katz.Quittah.


No matter what language you say it in, they are wonderfully loyal and serene pets. I have in the past had two of them as pets. One a pure- breed that I lucked upon at an animal shelter that specialized in pure-breed “displaced” pets and another that was a “mutt” cat. My two cats were Ginger (an orangish colored cat, hence the name Ginger) and Neo, named after the main character in the Matrix Trilogy. Both were great pets, but it was the pure-breed that captivated me and captured my heart.

Neo was a pure-breed Bombay cat the embodiment of beauty. He was long and lean with the most dazzling dazzling golden eyes and a soft coat of black with a sheen that would easily put Arianna Furs to shame.

Beauty and Brains
Neo was not only beautiful, but intelligent too. I was able to teach him to:
-Come when his name was called,
-To sit on command, and
-To jump on command (to name a few).

Sometimes his natural intelligence would get him into trouble. There are several occasions that I can recall with great clarity. The first- I wanted some privacy, so I went into my room and closed the door. Well, Neo was not going to be having any of that, how dare I leave him alone! He proceeded to stand on his long hind legs and twist at the door knob until the door opened. Feeling quite proud of himself, he sauntered over to where I was sitting and hopped up on my lap. The second-Neo liked the breeze that would come off the screened-in balcony and would often lie in front of the balcony door to nap and soak up the breeze and he would also be sometimes seen “sniffing” the air that came in. On day the allure of the outside world was too great for him and he did something about it.

I’d gone to run a few errands one day and when I came back, he was missing and there was a large hole in the bottom of the screen. Naturally I panicked. Neo was an inside cat and had only gone outside in his carrier. Frantically I began to call his name as loudly as I could, yes, the neighbors thought I’d lost my mind, but I did not care. Since he had been trained to come when his name was called, he immediately popped his head from under the neighbors’ bar-b-que grill and let out a meow before running and jumping back onto my balcony, looking as innocent as can be. Initially, I tried to prevent him from escaping through his hole, but that was to no avail, because as I mentioned earlier, he was quite crafty; so I resigned myself to the fact that he would get out whenever the weather was mild enough not to need the AC. Plus, he would never go anywhere but to the neighbors’ grill (yes, I had to work out an understanding with them because they were of the mindset that all animals were “nasty” and that Americans were crazy about their nasty animals (they were/are Haitian).

Finally, one day during the week I was off work and cleaning in the living room when I saw a little squirrel climb up the screen. I was nervous because I hadn’t replace the screen from when the cat chewed/clawed through it the second time (yes, I was stupid enough to replace it! $80.00 well-spent). As I was about to try to shoo it away, I saw the cat leap at it and knock it off of the screen. I was horrified at the fact that my “respectable” cat would attack that “rat with the fluffy tail.” He didn’t kill the squirrel, the hunt was sufficient for him, but I did have to take him to the vet to make sure he did not get rabies and I had to call the association to let them know what happened to the “fluffy rat” in hopes that they could get someone out to look at the squirrel to make sure that it would be fine. The third incident- this incident was actually something that happened several times before I figured out what was wrong. My cat would run through the house and jump up the wall. It was always the same wall and he would do this for about 15-20 minutes before he either got tired or I became irritated with the behavior and would grab him and hold him or if he was especially aggressive, I would have to spray him with water from the water bottle (don’t worry, this is a common cat training tool and doesn’t harm the animal). Well finally I figured out that these bouts were temper tantrums. He would get angry if he couldn’t get any attention or sit on your lap. In many ways he was like a dog without the barking.
One Of A Kind
Neo was an interesting creature who would groom you and himself at the same time (this was him showing you affection), he would hop into the tub when you ran bathwater (strange, right?) and he was known for waking my son up in the middle of the night trying to get a soft spot to lay down (you know that kneading thing that cats do before they can lay down). I would hear my son say something like, “Oh my G-d, could you hurry up!” If it became problematic, I would have him shoo the cat away and close his door. Neo did NOT sleep alone so he would come to my room to start over again, only I did not allow him on my bed (allergies)! I loved him, but not enough to let him onto my bed.
Retrospect For Life
I tell these stories of him in retrospect, because Neo is no longer of this earth. Neo contracted FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feline_infectious_peritonitis , the wet form, from Ginger, who got it from her mother, which should have been detected since I got her from the Anti-Cruelty Society in downtown Chicago. I’d gotten her because I’d read that you should never have one cat, that they get lonely for their own kind and that they should have a playmate, some playmate, huh? If you get a cat from a shelter make sure that they get tested for this disease. I was told by Anti-Cruelty Society that this was not a commonly tested for disease, but strangely enough the rescue group that I got Neo from tested for the disease. If you get a rescue pet, make sure you get it tested for Feline Infectious Peritonitis!!!

Well, on this parting note, I sincerely pray that I meet my friend again in the hereafter, because it was a blessing to have had him in my life and selfishly, I want to see him again…

http://www.catster.com/breeds/bombay

Quote For The Day:


Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation. - Oscar Wilde