Obamacare Deadline Problems

I completed my enrollment for the Affordable Care Act on December 1st, 2013. I selected the Coventry Health Care-Missouri “silver plan”.  I was told to call Coventry and set up payment.

When I called Coventry I was either hung up on, told the computer was down or told they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

On Tuesday December 17, 2013 I got a letter from Coventry in the mail asking me to send in my first payment by December 26, 2013 in order to be enrolled on January 1, 2014. The letter was dated December 5, 2013 and sent from Orlando, FL. How the hell does it take a letter 12 days to get from Florida to Missouri? An accident? Or something else going on?

Thursday December 19, 2013 I went to the post office, got my money order and sent in my payment by priority mail which is 3-5 days. So it should arrive December 22-24 two to four days before the deadline. With possibly a Christmas delay. Will wait and see how this plays out.

Occupation Without Foundation Will Lead to Damnation

Prior to the American led invasion of Iraq I, along with many other American-Muslims, was involved in the anti-war movement. I attended anti-war marches in St. Louis, New York, and Washington DC. Some of these marches involved tens of thousands of people. In New York we even had a Jummah Prayer service attended by thousands of Muslims in Times Square. The march in DC turned from an anti-war rally to a pro-Palestinian rally and was a site to behold. In St. Louis I organized and led with a few fellow activists a large rally against the war in the Delmar Loop. Along with Tim Kaminski we leafleted against the war at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dogtown and were physically attacked by the crowd.

While the anti-war movement didn’t get that much mainstream media coverage it was a substantial movement organized both locally and nationally. The movement was broad and consisted of pacifists opposed to any war, human rights activists, liberal Democrats, Greens, libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, a few trade unionists, Arabs and Muslims. I saw all of these factions and how they interacted with one another.

I experienced the energy and the good of this movement; but in the end I got burned out.  First I got burned out after seeing that no matter what we did the administration of President George W. Bush was determined to pursue its policies of war. Secondly, because I saw the weaknesses within the movement.

The primary weakness I saw was that the movement was not growing beyond its base. Mainstream Americans of any race were not coming into the movement. Amongst African-Americans I saw a very narrow participation from people who normally are protesting someone anyway. The average black barber or school teacher was not compelled to get involved. With whites I saw very few, and I mean hardly any, working-class folks involved. I saw a lot of rich college kids, young people of privilege who were maybe slumming it in an activist phase, and professional protesters who had been protesting since the 1960’. When I attended meetings in New York, of people who claimed to be representing the masses, I had never been around a group of more wealthy and educated people with the bourgeois tastes and mannerisms of the upper-class. This was a group incapable of reaching the masses.

From a Muslim perspective I was also troubled by a few things I saw. Prior to 2001 Muslims lived in America in relative isolation. The majority of the political discussion was Islamist in nature and dedicated to overseas issues. Those that did promote voting were on the fringe and nobody really paid attention to them anyway. Amongst the Muslims I hung out with I was one of only a few who even voted. Many believed that to vote was to justify an un-Islamic system and some even said it was a form of shirk. The small group of Muslim elites that did exist at the time had campaigned for Bush in 2000. Partly because he promised to repeal the Secret Evidence law that the Clinton Administration had used against Muslim activists and partly due to paranoia of Joe Lieberman being on the VP slot of the Al Gore ticket.

After 9-11, with a full scale media, religious, cultural, law-enforcement and military assault against Islam and Muslims it was necessary for a lot of Muslims to come out of their cocoon and fight against this assault. Seeking alliances Muslims joined hands with the anti-war movement marching hand in hand with leftists and atheists for a common cause and that was the right thing to do. The good that came from this was that for the first time Muslims were getting involved in large numbers. The bad was that many young Muslims, who had no political center and limited Islamic education, were getting converted by the left into being Marxists, secularists, greens, and in turn many then supported the kufr of “progressive” Islam or just left the deen.

Stepping away from the anti-war movement while still opposing the war I returned to the kind of activism that my early teachers such as Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Basheer taught me. That was the activism of the masjid and grassroots inner-city Dawah. Realizing that you had to first change the condition of the people and all isms would fail without the foundation of al-Islam. I also became skeptical of Muslim involvement in these movements after seeing so many people losing their deen after becoming involved. A new generation of converts was arising (many white) who converted, never studied the religion, didn’t know anything about tawheed or aqeedah or basic fiqh, and immediately became activists protesting on behalf of the Muslim community. One activist I met kept up a vigorous schedule of anti-war and anti-Bush activity but did not even know how to properly make salaat. So, I began advising all new converts to not become activists until studying the deen for a couple of years first at the masjid and with a teacher (not Sheikh Google or Maulana Myspace).

Moving on to the election of Barack Obama, which most Muslims supported- many enthusiastically (I voted for him), the anti-war movement basically ended outside of a small nucleus of die-hard activists. However, the wars did not stop. As a matter of fact under Obama the wars have increased. Obama has rapidly expanded the war in Afghanistan and has declared a de-facto war on Pakistan killing thousands of its citizens. Predator Drones strikes are now occurring in several Muslim countries who are not in a state of warfare with America, American citizens are being executed with trial ( including minors) and Obama also led the NATO regime-change in Libya. Support for Israel from America has remained steady. The unjust prosecution of Muslims in America has not stopped. The shady prisons from GITMO to the CMU’s started under Bush have not been closed under Obama. Far from reaching out to the mainstream Muslim community Obama has ignored the mainstream and chooses to deal with the liberal fringe of the Muslim community. Instead of inviting known Muslims to government iftars he now invites random people with Muslim names nobody has ever heard of or fringe organizations with no real community support. A new class of Obama Muslims has arisen dedicated both to defending Obama and getting paid via patronage jobs and government contracts.  It is hard to criticize a man and be neutral towards him when he is paying your way (just ask Saudi clerics).

If you are critical of Obama, just as you were critical of Bush for doing the exact same thing, you may lose your job, get your funding cut, and may not get to go on any CIA field trips for Muslim artists to Muslim countries. Abroad these Muslims are on the payroll of the Bush-Obama position and at home I fear they are violating the United States Constitution by violating the separation of religion and state. In Pakistan, Egypt or Sudan there is a state-sanctioned waqf Islam and Muslim leaders vie for the favor of the state and get their direction from it, in America the mere thought of creating such an Islam is profoundly un-American and just another manifestation of FOB Uncle politics this time perpetrated by their children.  

In this context arises the Occupy Movement. A movement I will say off top I morally support and am happy to see Muslims involved in of they have an Islamic foundation and good intentions. I agree with some if the things this movement stands for and disagree with others. Wall Street is corrupt and its actions and bailouts have hurt the people- this is true.

However, it is not just Wall Street.  Main Street is corrupt. It is easy to not take any personal responsibility for the problems of society and point it all towards Wall Street but that is not fair. How many of these occupiers complain about being unemployed but went to college for some nonsensical major that anyone could have told them was a waste of time? How many racked up credit card debt on non-essentials such as pricy restaurants, coffee shops, alcohol, clubbing, expensive clothing, laptops, cell phones and vacations?  How many of the parents bought houses they couldn’t afford and used their homes as ATM’s? How many have lost the sense of delayed gratification? In New York City and DC the biggest plight that faces the poor, and is literally driving them out of the city, is gentrification. How many of these young white activists from say Cleveland moving into former black working-class areas in Brooklyn or Trinidad Northeast living as roommates with four other people setting a market standard which makes it impossible for working-class families to live there are actually a part of the problem? They need to take one finger and point it towards Wall Street and the finger on the other hand and point it towards themselves.

Speaking of the poor, which they claim to represent, how much time with the poor are they spending. I went to Occupy St. Louis and met some cool people who had good energy; but basically all I saw was a bunch of middle-class and rich white kids and a handful of blacks. What can the Occupy Movement do for the temp-tag drivers? You know those people who buy a car, can’t afford plates, get drunk and drive like a damn fool and then crash before they can get plates. Or the mothers who shop their children to doctors so that they can get an SSI check for their kids and use their kids as a paycheck. The parents who have premium cable and wearing Jordans in the projects but not a book in the house. If I drive to the projects a few blocks from my house the parking lot is full of pimped out rides. If I go to the government-funded day care center for kids where my friends mother works I can watch the supposedly poor mothers pulling up in Escalades with TV screens in the backseat, all black Mercedes sittin on fresh rims, and the working people who staff the place are either catching the bus to get to work or driving some piece of crap they bought from one of these scandalous used-car lots. Or how about the passengers in my cab in nice clothes, smelling of weed, who offer to sell me their food stamps (EBT) on a regular basis. The poor steal and scam, the rich steal and scam, and government steals and scams, preachers at churches feat off their congregations (some new imams studying this get rich off religion model) it’s a problem of the whole society and the culture of a nation stolen from Native Americans and built by stolen slave labor from Africa.

Wanna talk about Muslims? The poor Muslims who send their wives in hijab or niqaab into the welfare office and instruct their wives (who they have not married on paper) to tell the caseworker she does not know who the father of her children is so she can get government aid and the man not charged for it. Wanna talk to the sister in Pennsylvania I was a wali for who could not find a husband because all the brothers were interested in marrying a sister with a Section 8 housing voucher and she did not have one. Or how about the Muslim kids, who know the welfare state will take their side to break up a family, who will go and scream abuse to the state so that they can get paid themselves. Education?  There is no shortage of money in urban schools. The schools have a cultural problem that cannot be solved by money or naïve white do-gooders from Teach For America or some guy like Jeffery Canada who was born in the wrong century and should have kicked it with Cecil Rhodes.

I say this to say I support the protest movement- if it expands. If it says the political system is broke, both parties do not represent the people, end the wars, end the racism, end white supremacy, and Islamophobia, change the economic system, as a matter of fact just blow the whole damn thing up. If the movement is saying that then I am with that. If it is this kind of movement I encourage more Muslims to get involved. If it is not, it is a work in progress and still possible of changing if more people get involved. There is no 99, and there never will be, because people are defined and define themselves by so much more than economics, but diverse groups can come together as a working coalition to bring about change.

At the end of the day though real change begins with ourselves and our families and that will change neighborhoods which will in turn change nations. The best model for change is not from the Left or Right; but from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and if we cling to the Quran and Sunnah and let taqwa and emaan occupy our naffs that is the most important occupation. While we are standing up and occupying the streets lets take some time out and occupy the masjid.

Reading Obama: Cult Mentality?, The Interracial Relationship , and The Muslims in His Life

I normally do not read books written by politicians because as a rule they are not written by them, or are written by then and not written well, or are a blatant part of their political campaigning. I deiced to buy Dreams of My Father by President Barack Obama to read because it had been written before he was in politics and could give me some insight into the life and mind of our current president.

Cult Mentality?

As most of my readers know I voted for Obama and enthusiastically embraced his candidacy from an early stage. However, in recent weeks, I have grown a little annoyed at the Obama worship I have seen by many (including Muslims).

When I go to Walgreens now to pick up an odd item they have a whole aisle dedicated to Obama shirts, hats, stickers, and any other kind of BS you can think of. At the gas station half of the magazines on the rack either have his photo or that of his wife on the front cover. Passengers in my cab wear Obama hats (which I wore during the campaign) and I see the shirts and signs everywhere. It kind of reminds me of what you experience when you are living in dictatorships like those of Mubarak in Egypt, Assad in Syria, or the former Soviet Union where you would see photos of the great leader everywhere.

To me, in America, you support your guy running for office and you do what you can to help them once in office, but you don’t become something like the Fedyaeen Saddam or Chavistas (and I happen to like Hugo but I don’t want the American political culture to become like our southern neighbors).

A day or two ago I got an email requesting I send President Obama a thank you letter for mentioning a hadith in a speech. Yes, I see why Muslims are excited, but something just rubs me the wrong way when you get all geeked up and excited for someone quoting someone far greater than themselves. Obama did himself a favor by quoting the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s.), not us.

The Interracial Relationship

Now, with regards to the book, I am far from finished, but just some points. I do not think the story of Obama is that exotic for starters. A naïve white girl with liberal ideas rebels against her parents and gets knocked up by and marries an African student from Kenya on scholarship at an American school. Far from unique, maybe somewhat in the 1970′s, but not now.

Foreign students, and many Muslims (especially Gulf Arab students), have left their seed all over this country. It is not uncommon that this seed was planted in a liberal white girl rebelling. I have met so many young people over the years whose parents were at schools like Wichita State, Southern Illinois, and George Mason who have Muslim names but have never met or barely know their father. These kids are not Muslim because when pops graduated from college he either went back home or left their mother after getting his papers.

The foreign student is away from home and like all young people is interested in sex. If they are single and come from a conservative Muslim background they may have never had the opportunity to have sex before. Then there is the question of legal status in America. A marriage and a child can help you stay in this country and earn money.

Then, on the other hand you have young women like Obama’s mother. Young, naïve, liberal, and wanting to rebel and in America an easy way for a white girl to rebel is to get with a black man. Old Black Panthers told me such women were in hot pursuit of Panthers back in the day (to the scorn of black women in the movement) and many see their sex lives as a part of their political activism. The white man stole the land of the Native Americans? Let me sleep with a Native American and wear sandals. Latinos are oppressed? Let me start buying Latino food to cook at home for my Latin prince. Muslims are treated badly post 9-11? Let me become a Muslim and marry an Arab (preferably from Gaza or Fallujah). I literally know of two such women who have run this full course and have been with all these types of men and it corresponds to their political activism.

So his mom gets left with the baby (while still making lame excuses for his father). Well, I believe St. Louis has something like an 86% out of wedlock birth-rate, so that may have been unique for those times, but today with the decline of our society it is par for the course. But, it is refreshing, in a nation with millions of out-of-wedlock children that they can know that in America you can reach the top no matter where you started or who your father is (or is not).

The Muslims in the Life of Young Obama

Issues of race I will set aside for now. The other issue I thought of while 7reading is how many Muslims Obama grew up with. I do not see this as some kind of an honor or something Muslims should be proud of.

All of these Muslims; his father and his family, his dog-eating step-father, his Muslim neighbors in Indonesia, his school teachers in Jakarta, his drunken druggie friend Hasan in college, his womanizing Pakistani roommate Sadiq, and none of these people made a serious effort to give him dawah. Reading through the book it seems like Obama had a lifelong experience with bad Muslims.

Of course liberal Muslims today would say “oh no, they are not bad Muslims, the only bad Muslims are Wahabbis, they are just cultural Muslims” (and as I say this I am thinking of two progressive activist Muslim women, one also claiming to be a Sufi, I know who sat and talked about what kind of alcoholic drinks they were going to have after leaving a CAIR dinner) Setting aside the issue that there is no such thing as a “cultural Muslim” is it not a great tragedy that no one really made an effort to give the young Barack dawah?  And in his story do we not see that there are tons of lost Muslims all over this country and that we need dawah to Muslims and non-Muslims?

I will write more on this later iA.

How the Bush Years Began For Me and How The Obama Years Will Begin

Eight years ago on inauguration day I was not in the best of places. I woke up early and was kind of nervous. I got up, took a shower, prayed, and then went to a room where a TV was playing CNN.

I had no real idea of where I was going to go that today and sat alone with my thoughts. Sensing my dilemma three guys I knew came up to me to cheer me up; Lorenzo, a soldier in the Gambino crime family from Brooklyn, Johnny a Polish pimp out of the Irish neighborhood of South Boston, and Tommy a sometimes Muslim brother and heavy player in the black neighborhoods of Staten Island.

We talked for a while and they all gave me advice (Tommy seemed to encourage me to resume a life of crime). Then a corrections officer came and escorted me to another building where I changed clothes and received a paper bag full of my belongings. Another CO came and escorted me out of that building to a van and he drove me to a bus stop where a bus would take me from rural central Pennsylvania where we were at to another city where I could transfer.

I did not know where I wanted to go. I didn’t really have a home anywhere and did not have a solid plan for making any money. In my heart I wanted to go to DC to join the protesters who were gathered to challenge the inaugural of George W. Bush. Many, such as myself, believed that he had fraudulently won the election. I had lived in DC before and studied there; but from experience I knew it was a tough place to get a job.

I first went to Philly and decided not to go to DC as I sat a McDonalds and spilled a strawberry shake all over myself. Eventually I ended up in St. Louis and by that time W was the Prez. A few weeks later I was in NYC sleeping in subway cars and then at a masjid in Brooklyn with no heat I the cold winter until I found steady employment.

That is how the W years began for me, not so good. A lot has happened in those 8 years and the nation has been changed forever. I do not recognize the Muslim community of today that is how different it is. 9-11, the War on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and all of that has just totally changed what it means to be a Muslim in America and that for me is the biggest tragedy of the Bush years personally.

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If Obama is Serious About Justice He Will Do More Than Close Gitmo

Good,  Obama is ordering the gulag at Gitmo to be closed. My next question is will he order the Justice Department to take a fresh look at the political prosecutions of Muslims in America? There are two facilities in America known as the American Gitmo’s (Florence ADX in Colorado and USP Terre Haute in Indiana). Will Obama order that the brothers in these prisons be given new trials or there cases be at least looked at? If he is serious about cleaning up the image of America will he pardon Sheikh Ali al-Timimi or at least launch an investigation into his unjust prosecution by the government? Will he commute the sentences of brothers such as Seifullah Chapman and Abdur-Rahman al-Amudy who are serving draconian sentences? Will he have the Justice Department investigate the circumstances around the arrest and conviction of Imam Jamil al-Amin? Will he order the Justice Department to free the money they stole from Muslim charities and allow Muslims in America to raise money for the aid of our suffering brothers and sisters around the world?  If he is really interested in justice, and not just window dressing, these are things that he will do.

Barack Obama and the Message of Gaza

Studies have shown that more than 80% of American-Muslims (including myself) voted for Barack Obama in the presidential election. It is also known that the Palestinian issue is one of the most important issues to a lot of Muslim voters in America. For this reason I have said for months that the Muslim honeymoon with Obama will end once the Palestinian crisis flare up and Muslims find out he is more on the lines of another Bill Clinton than someone who can bring a just resolution to the conflict.

Personally I have no faith in the Obama Administration with regards to Palestine. He is first and foremost a politician who cut his teeth on the ethnic and neighborhood politics of Chicago. Politically, whether it be right or wrong, he will see no benefit in taking a more Pro-Palestinian stance while one-fifth of Democratic donors are Jewish and a pro-Israeli mainstream media would attack him if he took a more just stance. This is compounded by the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the Secretary of State and Dennis Ross will be her advisor.

We are getting a sneak preview now as Obama remains silent as Israel mercilessly attacks the people of Gaza militarily after systematically starving the people for months. This is contrasted by his forceful condemnation of the Mumbai attacks. Combine these two things with the fact that Obama has promised a fool-hearted increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency (which itself is fueled by the occupation). All of this together means that as I am looking at it today Obama will be bad for most Muslims in most places in the world unless he can bring peace with Iran, Syria, and really leave Iraq.

So, why would I vote for someone who I think will be bad for most Muslims? Well, Obama may be bad for most Muslims but he is by a number of degrees better than a unilateralist and neo-conservative Republican Administration with Evangelical leanings would be.

But, even though I think Obama will be better, that is not why I voted for him. I knew that Obama would be no treat for Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. However, as I live in America and my family lives in America I had to vote for who would improve the condition for me, my family and the Muslims in America first and foremost.  This means I had to focus on issues like healthcare, the economy education and other matters first. Just as the people in Gaza vote for who will do the best for them in their lives first I did the same thing here in America.

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Auto Industry Bailout Causes Rift Within Obama Coalition

Tariq Nelson has talked a lot about the auto bailout recently and I will attempt to approach it from a different angle Insha’Allah.

President-elect Barack Obama brought a coalition of diverse groups of people together to win the election. It will be impossible to get all of those groups to come together on every issue during his presidency; but you would think they would wait to disagree until at least Obama has been sworn into office.

However, in its unique way, the crisis in the American auto industry and the requested bailout by Washington has already caused a rift in that coalition that brought Obama to office and exposed major fault-lines on the Democratic Party.

Three of the major groups that brought Obama in are educated white yuppies, union-members (who are of all races), and minorities. Listening to NPR and watching cable news cover this topic it is easy to see this rift although it has not been discussed openly in the media to any degree.

Quite simply, for the most part, yuppies hate American cars. Look at parked cars in Manhattan, gentrified sections of Brooklyn, Adams Morgan in DC, Kenmore Square in Boston, Hyde Park in Chicago, the Central West End in St. Louis, Austin, Madison, Boulder, Berkeley, and any other such place and tell me how many American cars you see on the street? Driving an American car is a fashion no-no in these places that fancy themselves as being hip and creative; but in reality are very conformist and monolithic.

We all know that there was a time between the 1970′s and the early 1990′s that Detroit stopped putting out quality cars; but most auto experts, not just some globos gargling latte who don’t even know how to change a flat tire or check their own oil, will tell you that Detroit has closed the gap and for the most part American cars are on par with Asian competitors. (See this article by Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free-Press).

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Obama Not Setting You Free, Young Muslims With Messed Up Logic..and a Philly and Chi-Town Shout Out

There seems to be a lack of clear thought these days. People are using convoluted logic, are taking rumors as fact, or are allowing themselves to be brainwashed by the dimwitted.

I will start this post by telling the tale of those who take rumors as fact and run with it and how they go and spread their disinformation to the public (you know, kind of like an Arab Newspaper or any number of Muslim blogs…sorry PC Ruthie).

A few weeks ago I heard from a member of my family remark that she had come in contact with two young ladies whose boyfriends were in jail awaiting trial for selling drugs. Both of their boyfriends had filed for their court dates to be delayed until after Obama was elected President of the United States. Why? Because they were under the impression that if elected Obama would be freeing all of the African-Americans from prison.

When I heard about this I laughed. The President does have the power to pardon but there is ZERO chance that he will use his power of the pardon to free drug-dealers, killers, and other types of thugs from prison no matter what color they are. I laughed so hard thinking about this that I told a passenger who I was taking to a popular hip-hop club and he swore I was lying and laughed so hard he started coughing when I told him.

It was not until yesterday that I realized that this rumor that Obama is going to free everyone from jail may be widespread. While listening to one of the local hip-hop stations (either 100.3 or 104.1 I forget) I heard a caller giving shout-outs to his boys in state prison and at the fed joint in Greenville, IL. His message to his boys; don’t worry after 1-20-09 it’s gonna be all good and we all gonna be together on the streets again.

Well, I got news for his boys; it aint gonna happen. So don’t forget to call your mother, baby mamma, or whoever and tell them that you need those money orders for your commissary for the month of January. Obama is a politician and this means he cannot do something that would anger 95% of the people in America. Freeing killers and drug-dealers would be that sort of thing and if he did do such a thing I pray to Allah every Muslim has several weapons at home, in the car, at the office, and every place in between because within days this nation would look like Baghdad in its worst days. (A little background info; in St. Louis, just in the past two weeks, someone randomly walked up to a cop and shot and killed him, a firefighter was shot and killed by a guy who he stopped  to help on the side of the road, two people were robbed and killed at a fast-food joint, a group of cops got into a shootout with each other, and that is in addition to the numerous other drug and street related murders that have occurred in that time period).

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Recession in My Life and Some Notes

We have heard from President-elect Barack Obama and others that we are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. A lot of people have found that hard to believe since we have been told by our grandparents and read in history books of the long soup-lines, food shortages, homelessness and genuine misery of that era. If you grew up in my family you would have heard of how the New Deal brought in by FDR saved the family from starvation and the works program was a blessing from on High.

Today we know that the economy is slowing and there is problems; but people are still dining out, children are still being spoiled rotten never hearing the word no ( and maybe now, thank God, these brats will hear it and somebody puts their foot down), the clubs are still full, and most people are still working. Many people are hurting don’t get my wrong; but this recession may be hard for many to see.

I am not one of those people having a hard time seeing this recession and its affect on the economy. I am back in St. Louis driving my cab and Fall business has been down about 50% from previous years. We have a good day here and there and can eek by; but most days business is very slow.

The reasons for this are numerous. In the day time the business is mostly taking working-class and poor people shopping, to work, and to medical appointments. These people have always been on tight budgets and now they are having to make every penny count and this often means taking public transportation instead of a cab, getting a ride, or just cutting out on trips.

Business in the day taking business travelers to offices and to and from the airport is also way down and this is because businesses are tightening the belt and cutting down on business travel and doing more conference calls and emailing in between downsizing.

Voucher accounts in the day time are also down as hospitals, charities, and businesses who utilize taxi service have to restrict the amount of vouchers they give out due to budget shortfalls.

The night business is down because the young people who fuel that business going clubbing and doing whatever it is that they do are victims of the credit crunch. For years they have went clubbing, bar-hopping, frolicking, and out to eat (not knowing how to cook for themselves). Now they can no longer afford that lifestyle; because they never really could, they just charged everything. While I may suffer from this maybe it will be good in the long run as cities across America will no longer have to see entire swaths of town being gobbled up by areas for young people to get drunk and meet fornication partners at. Most cities have way too many such establishments and most bring nothing but trouble so this aspect of the credit crunch may be a blessing in disguise.

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Where Does Everyone Go From Here?

A day or so after the monumental victory of President-elect Barack Obama in the presidential election life still goes on in America.

Those who simply disagreed with the policy positions of Obama are chalking this up as a loss and moving on with their lives.  The racists, the Islamophobes and right-wing nuts (see Freerepublic) are not taking this easy. You see they have thought, well forever, that they had the monopoly on what an American is and looks like. Now a black man with a Muslim name will be the commander in chief of the armed forces and the face of America to the world.

Many of these enemies of Obama will seethe in private and with friends and family. I am sure there are thousands of neighborhood bars throughout America from Staten Island to Simi Valley from the northern suburbs of Atlanta to Orange County full of talk about how America went wrong. Most will just run their mouths in private and are law-abiding if bigoted; but let us not fool ourselves there are going to be those who will turn to extremism and violence in this period.

It is no mistake that an upswing in right-wing violence occurred under the Administration of Bill Clinton. The right was angry and unlike most of the angry left under Bush it was armed, trained and many had military backgrounds. I expect such a thing to occur again although this time with a decidedly more racial tone. This will come from the Christian Identity Movement, Minutemen types, and even neo-Nazis; but while all of these groups can cause death and suffering on a small scale they are incapable of becoming a major threat due to a lack of popular support. Some of these people have the potential to become “dead-enders” meaning instead of seeing themselves as the ultimate Americans because of their whiteness and Christianity they may see themselves as an oppressed group and drop out of the mainstream they once defined. This type of thing has a greater chance of occurring in a bad economy.

My biggest concern, by far, is the widespread existence of right-wing extremism within the armed forces and federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies throughout America. If there is any real threat to Obama I think this is where it will come from. A vast majority of those in these agencies will do the right thing; but there are more than a few bad apples in these barrels and they have been known to step out of line

For the rest of us life goes on. Obama cannot do everything. He has to do his part and we have to do our part. We cannot have the failed “wait for the messiah” mentality that has doomed many cultures to failure. We cannot be utopian. As Muslims we have to realize that there is no utopia in this dunya and that this dunya is the lower life and utopia will only occur in Jinnah. Those who have came promising utopia in the past from the Soviet Union, China,  North Korea, Nazi Germany and even Libya under the Colonel have only succeeded in creating human suffering and misery. Man does not have the power to create utopia. What our leaders have the power to do, if we meet them half way, is the delivery of incremental change and on specific issues make changes that are better for the masses of the people while the society remains imperfect.

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Obama: A New President for a New America

Due to time and fatigue I will be brief in my analysis of the election. As you can see from my electoral map I was a little too optimistic on a few states (although my home-state of Missouri looks like it is going to a recount it is so close).  At the end of the day though Tuesday November 4, 2008 will go down as one of the greatest days in the history of America. It will be right up there with July 4, 1776 (the day America declared independence from England), June 19, 1865 (the day all slaves were freed in America), the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the Presidency in November of 1932 which brought about the New Deal,   Victory Day for the Allies in Europe when Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered on May 7, 1945, the signing Voting Rights Act in August 6, 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson after the campaigning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the Civil Rights Movement,  and now the election of Barack Hussein Obama to the Presidency of the United States of America.

Yesterday I worked long and hard bringing voters to the polls. At 6:00 AM I brought an election judge to the Wohl Center on North Kingshighway at Dr. Martin Luther King and there were already about 500 people in line to vote (all of them black). All day I witnessed long lines of people of all ages and colors and enthusiasm before I came home to watch the results on television with a couple of close friends and Muslim brothers and my wife. One voter will however stick in my mind forever. At around 1 PM as I was waiting for a voter to finish and give a ride back home I witnessed a young man drive his 97 year old African-American grandmother to the polling place at 725 North Euclid. She was too frail to get out of the car so the ballot had to be brought to her. I just thought to myself what has this woman seen in these 97 years and did she ever think she would see this day?

When victory was announced I took in the awesome scenes on MSNBC from Grant Park in Chicago, Spellman College and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, 125th Street in Harlem, Times Square in Manhattan, and in front of the White House ( where my dear friend Omar Rosario was calling me on his cell phone).

I was numb and in shock; America had just changed. There is now, as Spike Lee stated, a B.B. (before Barack) and an A.B. (after Barack) in America in which time will be judged.

Message to American-Muslims on the Eve of the Election

The night before last a police officer who had been on the job for decades was shot and killed in his squad car. His car was parked in a spot I frequently parked at and from all reports a deranged man just approached the car and began firing.

Last night a man rode in my cab who several months ago had been a strong young man and UPS truck driver. As he sat in my backseat he had no legs, was unemployed and could not walk. One day he had been coming home from work with a friend and co-worker when his truck was hit in the back. When he got out of the car to exchange insurance information with the other driver he was ambushed by the passengers in the other car and shot 7 times. His passenger was killed. The gunshot wounds led to lead poisoning and my passenger’s legs had to be amputated and last night I was taking him to visit a dying friend he had met at the hospital. He said that the accident has helped to put his life into perspective and that he would be at the polls on Tuesday at 6:00 AM sharp to cast his ballot for Senator Barack Obama.

Last Tuesday I gave my wife a ride to the Board of Election Commissioners to cast an absentee ballot. She is 5 months pregnant and did not want to stand in the long lines on Election Day. I sat out in the car and did not plan to vote early because I wanted to be at the polls on November 4th and be a part of the experience. However, while sitting in my cab, I thought about all of the things that can happen in a week and how everything is decreed by Allah. We are not the masters of what will happen and we cannot control events. So I said to myself that while Allah has blessed me with my health and freedom that I should go in and cast my ballot for Obama because I may never have another chance to do this.

This is a vote I felt good about. I do not consider Obama to be the lesser of two evils. I consider him flawed like every politician (and indeed every human) but also as a man that can change America as we know it for the better and can change the image of what it means to be an American. I see him as a man who has got people interested in politics who previously have never voted or even watched the news. Passengers in my cab, shift workers at fast food joints, cabbies, Muslim brothers who have never voted before, are all enthusiastic about Obama. Hip-Hop clubs throughout America, once one the most apolitical of places in America (with the exception of the relatively few more conscious joints) will host hundreds of election watching parties throughout America come Tuesday night.
There are those who are not excited about Obama; such as the guy in my cab the other night who said Obama would push reparations and Black Power and put Farrakhan in the cabinet and the guy who told me that he was dressing as Obama as the Taliban for Halloween (the night where you can see most clearly the cultural and moral decay in America from the frolicking to the bigoted costuming).  Others, on the idealistic left fringe of American life and reality, will not support Obama because he does not match up with their ideological purity (and let’s face it the vast majority of these voters are wealthy white liberals, and those seduced by them, who will be fine no matter who is in office).

The Muslim vote has the possibility of being crucial in a number of states; Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio. All indications are that the vast majority of Muslim voters will be voting for Obama (although Muslim Republicans are not dead especially in the South Asian community).  An Obama Administration will not be perfect for Muslims, and it will not be perfect for some Muslim causes such as Palestine, but on the core issues of civil-liberties, health-care, education, diversity in America and creating a more equitable and just society Obama will be right there with us.

MANA sent out a group email on the election. It included a piece by Imam Zaid Shakir that I did not quite relate to and a well-written intelligent piece by Yasmin Mayaan binti Bobo considering the 200th or something presidential run of Ralph Nader, the man who brought you W and thus the Iraq War and GTMO, and Cynthia McKinney who lost her congressional seat in Georgia and based on that defeat is running for the highest office in the land. McKinney has been a friend of Muslims but so has my grandmother that does not mean I would throw away my vote and vote for her (although she would get about he same amount of votes as McKinney if on the ballot). McKinney and Nader represent the politics of idealism and Obama represents the politics of consensus which is a more mature and responsible outlook.

It is the piece by an elder statesman of Islam in America, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in New York, which I will most encourage readers to read. He encourages Muslims to a make a mature, responsible, non-idealistic vote for Obama based on a number of factors. Imam Talib came of age before there were Muslims Republicans and Muslims who confuse the Prophet ( PBUH) and the Sahabah as a band of politically-correct Marxist hippies. He has a purely American-Muslim take on the race and he comes down decidedly for Obama.

Tuesday I will begin work around 5AM insha’Allah taking election judges to the polls and I will stop working around 6PM to come home and watch the results with a few Muslim brothers. The results from the East Coast will come in first and if Obama wins Pennsylvania , maybe with the help of the large Muslim population in Philly, then we will know he will have  a good night. If he can win in Virginia or North Carolina then we will know this election is over and again the Muslim vote may be the factor in these states.

Leave ACORN Alone: A Message from a Disgruntled Ex- ACORN Community Organizer

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There has been a call from the McCain Presidential campaign and many on the political right to have Sen. Barack Obama explain his alleged ties to ACORN. McCain has even alleged that ACORN is working to “steal our democracy” and we have already the reports of voter registration fraud, etc.

Most Americans have probably never heard of ACORN and those who have may have gotten the impression that this grassroots community organization only exists to steal elections from the GOP.

So, before I tell you that I used to work for ACORN and have had mixed feelings over the years towards the organization, I would like to first explain to you what ACORN is and does.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a grassroots community organization with chapters all over the country. It exists primarily in urban areas where it organizes in communities populated by the working poor. Some of the major issues that ACORN has worked on over the recent years have included the promotion of a living-wage, fighting predatory lending and redlining, health-care reform, and tenant’s rights. In many instances ACORN has also worked closely with labor. In all of these issues ACORN strictly focuses on class and labor issues and thus is an organization I see as having an important role to play in keeping the feet of the Democratic Party to the fire and to keep in check the cultural liberals in the Party who want to move away from issues of racial and economic justice to a Party that is more yuppie centered powered by the “netroots”.

I worked as a community organizer for ACORN in St. Louis and also for very brief stints in Brooklyn and Paterson, NJ. Organizers for ACORN work 60 to 70 hours a week meeting members and trying to recruit new members for low pay in order to serve the communities they are organizing. It is an often thankless job and you deal with a lot of rejection and hostility but at the end of the day the organizer can take solace in the fact they are helping to make our communities better for those most in need.

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Sarah Palin’s “Real America” and the One of Barack Obama

On Friday I had worked for 20 hours; only stopping for the essentials such as gas and jumma prayer. My day began around fajir and did not end till the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. After going to sleep for a few hours I got up in order to attend the Barack Obama rally on the grounds of the St. Louis Arch.

Along with me came my wife and her two children, but unfortunately we were not able to make it in time as we had been given some inaccurate information. We were told that Obama would speak at 1 and as we pulled up on Memorial Drive at quarter to 1 we could hear Sen. Obama wrapping up his speech with a “God bless you St. Louis”. For the next 30 minutes we sat in a traffic jam and moved about 100 feet. Democratic spokesmen estimated the crowd to be at around 175,000 people (one of the largest in American history).

I do not know the exact number of people who gathered in this battleground state yesterday, but what I do know is that the crowd looked like America. I saw the young and old, black and white, people of all faiths, and people dressed in many different ways. The diversity of this crowd represented a candidate, and a Party, that has on its agenda expanding the American franchise to all people. And, while the Party and candidate may not be perfect in all positions, it is the Party of inclusion. For me this means that I can show up at the rally as a white Muslim man who drives a cab and wears a big beard with my African-American wife in hijab and two children and not feel out of place  This does not mean that I am in complete unison with all of those in the crowd or that I have become a cultural liberal and an adherent to the San Francisco madhab (  as prominent Muslim leader who was here last weekend has saying with regards to homosexuality, and without one grain of evidence from Khitab and Sunnah,  ” what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms is not our concern…it is between them and Allah”).  What it means for me is that on all levels as a Muslim, as a working-class American, as someone in a multi-racial family, and as someone who grew-up poor and estranged from the mainstream of American society, I can feel at home at a Democratic rally even if I am with people who may not agree with me on a lot of things. The party has a big tent and I am cool with being under that tent with people of all walks of life.

I say all of this because the divisive campaigning of Sarah Palin has been eating away at me for the last several weeks. She is using the most divisive rhetoric of anyone on a national ticket since the days of George Wallace. This has been pointed out already by conservative writers such as Peggy Noonan and David Brooks; but both Noonan and Brooks came short in analyzing all of the connotations of the conservative populism of Palin.

Yesterday, while that diverse crowd of people gathered in St. Louis to hear Obama, Palin was busy saying that the “patriotic parts of America”, would support McCain implying that people in Blue States were somehow not authentically American.  Today Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri followed up on that by saying American values are more apparent in small towns and rural areas as people “get ready for deer hunting season”. Indeed after the VP debate a few weeks ago Palin also had a rally and I sat in my cab for several minutes watching the crowd walk by before I saw one African-American woman and a Desi couple; but I saw many that could have been mistaken for deer hunters.

Real Americans, in the minds of Palin and Blunt, do not live in the Northeast, West Coast, or Upper Midwest. Real Americans also do not live in cities. The only places “real” Americans live, in the world of Palin and Blunt, are small towns, rural areas, and suburbia (and mostly the areas of exurbia that Karl Rove focused heavily on). These areas have become the strongholds of the GOP, and as was said in 2000 of Bush, “he won every county with a cow in it”.

These areas tend to have two things in common in that they are very religious and they are overwhelmingly white (and most of these areas in most states are around 100% white). So the subtext to the “real American” message of Palin is that real Americans only live in areas that are all white. So by default, the vast majorities of African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews and Asians are excluded from the privileges of being seen as real Americans by Palin and many conservatives.

While these areas Palin may find “the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans” it is also a fact that very few non-whites feel comfortable living in these idealized communities, and that most are highly suspicious of outsiders or people who think, look, or pray a little different than them. Because of this demographic reality, the populism of Palin and the conservatives becomes an ideology based on suspicion of the other as not being fully American and race becomes central to the outlook. Not that there aren’t non-whites who are swayed by this populism, of course there are and we even have Muslims swayed by this, but this is called delusion. People who just want to be loved and accepted often do not ask that they be respected first; it is the politics of house servants.

The white conservative populism is also fueled by Christian, mostly Evangelical, populism. This gives this movement not only a regional and racial component but a confessional one.

The forthrightness to which Palin brings this argument is new for mainstream politics. But all one has had to do for the last several years is listen to conservative talk-radio, watch FOX News, go to sites like Freerepublic and LGF, listen to country music, and it would be obvious that this populism is rampant.

Real Americans are white, real Americans pray to Jesus, real Americans drive trucks and SUV’s, real Americans support the war, and everyone else is a foreign enemy on this soil; so goes there thinking. People like my grandfather, who served as a marine in World War II and is a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, have not got this message that they are not real Americans; because he is a Democrat, union member, product of the inner-city, and an Obama Supporter who cannot fathom how anyone would not see him as an American.

Unfortunately for people like me and my family, those who share the view of Palin are more than a few and we are going to need every vote to count come November 4th in order to defeat the white Christian populism of Palin and the GOP.

I will leave you with the words of General Colin Powell from today on Meet the Press who illustrates everything I have been trying to say in these brief words,

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

“I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards – Purple Heart, Bronze Star – showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the head stone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It has a crescent and star of the Islamic faith.

And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life.”

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Obama and The Lesson of The Two Hijabis

There has been a lot of optimism and hope from young people about the campaign of Barack Obama. Particularly I know of a lot of young Muslims who are very excited about the Obama campaign. In fairness I am one of those people. I think Obama represents change and a breath of fresh air. Obama is a man of big ideas and I think he just may be the man to bring about some of the significant changes we need in this society and put away the old America and usher in the new era.

 

Having said that I do not necessary look at politics as something that can deliver everything the people need in order to make change. True change comes from the bottom up. Change can be nudged along or inspired from the top at times and there are certain things that can only be done from the top but change is something from the bottom up.

 

There are a lot of Muslims, and non-Muslims, who are waiting on some messianic figure to rise in order to make everything alright. Muslims are looking for a khalifah who cannot make salaah, fast or worship for us and cannot from the top down reorganize dysfunctional Muslim societies without Mao-like massive brutality. Americans are looking for one man who can redo some of the ills that have plagued this society from its inception and it is not possible for one man or a group of men to do all things in the system that we have. I except very little from politicians I vote for and if I get anything I’m surprised.

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