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March 18, 2011

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Being Muslim in America Just Got Harder

March 10, 2011

Last weekend, I was in the Detroit airport heading home from our “Jobs and Human Needs” event.  I rounded a corner and almost bumped into a young woman who was wearing a head scarf – I assumed she was Muslim.  I smiled and apologized for nearly colliding with her.  She looked down, and hurried away.  I wondered why, until I saw the reason on the big screen TVs blaring out news around the airport — the news of Rep. Peter King’s upcoming hearings on the “Radicalization of Islam” had hit the talk-show circuit.

I thought about the horrible videos we had seen of the crowds in Orange County, California, screaming “go home” at Muslims — including children — attending a fundraising event.  Their radical crime?  They were raising money for a battered women’s shelter.  The young woman in the airport would probably be subjected to some of that invective today, I thought.  I was ashamed to think that she feared that kind of behavior from me.  As a Muslim woman, she would be even more visible and vulnerable to attack than her male relatives, whose garb is less distinctive.  I wanted to tell her — not all non-Muslims agree with Peter King and with that crowd in Orange County.  But when I looked back, she was gone.

On the plane, I drafted a letter to the members of the Homeland Security Committee, to urge them to reject the very premise for the hearing… to reject the idea that Congress has any authority at all to look into the teachings and practices of a particular religion.  This Congress is particularly interested in following the Constitution… sometimes.  I hope they look at it closely this time.

Prevention Funding Update

March 7, 2011

A few weeks ago, Bridget Moix reported that the CR passed by the House slashed every FCNL priority prevention account through September 30, 2011. Even though the House is determined to cut spending, the Pentagon’s bloated budget was left untouched while modest investments to prevent crises were deeply affected.

With the clock ticking before the CR’s expiration on March 4, the House and Senate struck a deal late last week and averted a government shutdown by passing another short term stop gap Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires on March 18.  This CR will cut $4 billion from the federal budget in two weeks.

Now it’s up to the Senate to follow the House and pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through September 30, 2011.

We asked you last week to urge your Senator to fully fund the Complex Crises Fund (CCF) and United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in the Senate CR.  The Prevention and Protection Working Group, a NGO coalition convened by FCNL, also responded to the House’s CR by emphasizing that drastic cuts to prevention accounts will result in costly emergencies in the coming years.

The CCF and USIP were completely eliminated in the House’s version of the CR, but the Senate responded by including these vital investments in its proposal.  We’re not in the clear yet,  but we’re encouraged that the Senate included these accounts which will help avert expensive humanitarian crises and military interventions. Thank you for writing your Senators!

Until Congress funds the government through September 30, the debate over the budget will continue to dominate the Hill’s agenda.  Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to make your voice heard.

Still Searching for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

March 4, 2011

The weather is getting warmer here in Ramallah and the almond trees are in full bloom. The fields in the West Bank and Israel are a rich green as a result of abundant and welcome winter rains (and irrigation). The natural beauty is striking and uplifting here in the land that is holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. But amidst the natural beauty, there is a sense of deep uncertainty about the future among both Israelis and Palestinians.

I have spent the past ten days talking with people on both sides of the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank. The barrier/wall/fence (the terminology varies depending on your geographic location, as well as your political perspective) often delves deeply into the occupied West Bank, particularly around east Jerusalem and when it is proximate to Israeli settlements. In other places, the barrier snakes its way along the armistice line drawn at the conclusion of the 1948 conflict referred to by Israelis as the War of Independence and by Palestinians as the Nakba (the catastrophe).

I am sojourning with a group of high school students. Our students hail from the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China, and the United States. Our journey thus far has taken us to east and west Jerusalem, as well as to the Jezreel Valley and the Galilee, and to Bethlehem and Ramallah. Over the course of the past ten days, we have had the opportunity to hear differing perspectives on the quality of life and the current impasse in negotiations for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Here are some initial thoughts about what we have heard.
Read more…

War Is Not the Answer to Libyan Protests

March 3, 2011

The non-violent protests that  ousted authoritarian governments in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired people across the world demand political change. As readers of this blog will note, many people  in the FCNL community were particular delighted by the reaffirmation of the power of nonviolence.

Yet the power of nonviolence seems lost to some policymakers here in Washington. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that as soon as the protests in Libya turned violent there were calls for military intervention. What amazed me is that even before some of the groups (and certainly not all) in Libya began calling for international military intervention, some individuals in Congress, in the administration, and in the policy making community began arguing for a no-fly zone over Libya.  Has the United States really learned that little?

Read more…

Welcome Diane Randall!

March 1, 2011

This morning we welcomed Diane Randall to her first day on the job as Executive Secretary of FCNL.

Diane Randall entering the FCNL building

Welcome to FCNL--here's your first photo op!

Diane talking with staff

Breakfast and a chance to say hello to staff

Diane and Stephen laughing

Here's hoping the rest of her first day is as fun as this moment

Among Diane's introductions to the Hill was a reception cosponsored by FCNL to honor Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller for her leadership in negotiating and securing adoption of the New START Treaty. From left: Diane Randall, Joe Volk, Rose Gottemoeller, David Culp

At the reception, Diane had the chance to meet some of FCNL's coalition partners in the arms control community.

David Culp introducing Diane to Rose Gottemoeller.