29 January, 2009

How to Fix a Bad Reputation

In your professional life
Assess the substance of the bad reputation. Is there any truth to it? Or are you the victim of jealousy or whiners?
Seek a second or third opinion from trusted colleagues to determine if there is any validity to your bad reputation.
Reconsider your managerial style if you are in a position of leadership. Could you make subtle changes? Are you a good communicator and listener? Do you give clear instructions? Are raises overdue?
If you determine that you need to improve a personal attribute, make a commitment to yourself to change your ways.
Apologize to employees, clients or customers if you realize that your behavior or words have hurt your professional relationship, and let them know you will work hard to improve the situation.
Tell those around you that you're trying to improve. Others will be impressed if you can admit to your own flaws, and they might have some good pointers.
Perform one act every single day that counteracts your bad reputation.
If the bad reputation is not your fault, find out where it originates. Mention the rumors in a direct but nonconfrontational way: "Burt, I heard that some folks think I am having an affair with Helen in graphics. I'm sure you know there's no truth to the matter." Most gossipmongers will clam up if confronted.
In your private life

Examine the way you treat others. Is there any truth to the bad reputation?
Seek a second opinion from your spouse, a trusted friend or a therapist. Ask if they have recommendations and listen carefully to their answers.
If you determine that you need to improve a personal attribute, make a commitment to yourself to change your ways.
Apologize to loved ones whom you have hurt and let them know you will work hard to improve the relationship.
Tell others that you're trying to improve. They can hold you to your commitment even when you lapse.
Perform one act every single day that counteracts your bad reputation.
If you are the victim of malicious gossip, address its source. Be firm yet nonconfrontational. The gossiper is probably jealous, and if you respond with anger or emotion, it will delight him or her no end.

17 January, 2009

Israel is the most racist society: American singer

David Rovics is a world-renowned American folk singer and political activist from the small, northeastern state of Connecticut. He encourages the free distribution of his work by all non-profit means to help spread his anti-war, anti-occupation message.
Rovics has strong anti-Zionist, anti-Imperialist feelings and is an advocate of peace in the Middle East without the intervention of external forces. He has performed several concerts worldwide and dedicated their interests, benefits to the oppressed people of Palestine. What follows is the complete text of Tehran Times’s exclusive interview with David Rovics, discussing the grievous, uncivilized incursion of Israeli forces into the besieged Gaza strip and the massacre of innocent people there. Tehran Times: Israel is carrying a concatenated series of assaults on the people of Palestine from the air, land, and sea. The casualty rates are surging dramatically and most of the victims are infants, children, women and civilians. What’s your opinion about such atrocities?

David Rovics: I’m so horrified by what Israel is doing to the people of Gaza, and also horrified by what Israel regularly does to the people of the West Bank, Lebanon and other countries. Israel’s war against the Palestinian people is not a response to the home-made, ineffective rocket fire coming out of Gaza .Israel’s war is the reason for the rocket fire in the first place. The idea that Israel is ‘retaliating’ is outrageous and if it were retaliating, the retaliation is so far beyond disproportionate that anyone talking like that can only be viewed as some kind of sick comedian.

Israel’s whole modus operandi is collective punishment, and unfortunately it is undoubtedly the case that not only the Zionist leadership but also many regular Israeli people view Arab life as dispensable. Tehran Times: U.S. vetoed the anti-Israeli resolution of Security Council two times, as it had done several times before. It didn’t allow the UN to impose embargo on Israel for its belligerent genocide of Palestinians. What’s the reason?

David Rovics: The double standards of both ‘democratic’ and ‘republican’ administrations throughout the history of U.S. relations with Israel and the Middle East have been staggering. The U.S. supports a government which has hundreds of nuclear weapons and regularly makes war against other countries. And without this support of the U.S. Israel would not be able to do the things it does. Meanwhile, Iran, which has not attacked another country in 2500 years I believe, is punished terribly in many ways by the U.S. for pursuing a nuclear program. … the U.S. double standard here is outrageous and is one of many instances that demonstrate why the U.S. government has no moral credibility whatsoever.

Tehran Times: The American media pretend that they are independent and non-aligned to government; however, they simply censor and withhold all of the news regarding the criticism of American-Israeli lobby, anti-Israeli remarks of world officials, demonstrations and condemnations. Does it mean that the American media are somehow governmental, while disguising themselves under the mask of independence?

David Rovics: Not exactly, I’d say rather that the government is largely corporate-controlled, and so is the media. It would however be an oversimplification to say that the media ‘withhold all of the news’ regarding criticism of Israel by world officials, etc. In fact, this is not true. What might be called the ‘evil genius’ of the American corporate media and the American system in general is that it’s not entirely monolithic. Voices speaking out against Israel do occasionally get heard in the corporate media, thus giving a lot of people a sense that the media is fair. The reality is that overwhelmingly the media represents pro-Israel voices, and very rarely does one hear the critical voices. That way the media can insure that most Americans are terribly ill-informed, while still allowing many Americans to live under the illusion that the media is not actually censored. In fact, I’d say that keeping critical voices out of the media 95% of the time is much more effective in brainwashing a population than keeping those voices out 100% of the time.

In any case, the corporate media is not independent, though many of the good journalists working for it wish it were. It serves the interests of the elite, even if it does allow a bit of dissenting voices to be heard now and then. Tehran Times: What’s in your view, the main reason behind the unconditional and overall vindication that the U.S. government purveys to Israel, even in the event that Israel commits such a crimes? Why it does not deal with Israel such as other countries.

David Rovics: I often wonder this myself. I mean, generally the U.S. government’s foreign policy represents U.S. corporate interests. You can see this over and over in the history of U.S. foreign policy. When the United Fruit Company wanted the government of Guatemala overthrown, the CIA overthrew it. When the oil companies wanted Mossadegh’s overthrown, the CIA put the shah into power and so on. But given the economic importance of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, why does the U.S. government insist on such unequivocal support for Israeli apartheid and the Israeli slaughter of Arabs?

I’d say the answer is not simple, but actually quite multi-faceted. Partly it’s that the U.S. leadership doesn’t trust Arab regimes, even ‘friendly’ ones, and wants to have a more ‘European’ ally in the region. Partly it’s that the U.S. likes to play with fire, and wants to keep Israel strong in order to constantly demonstrate to the rest of the region what can happen to them if they fall out of line. Partly the U.S. supports Israel because it undermines the so-called democratic movements in the Middle East as long as undemocratic regimes can claim Israel as the source of their problems. It is more difficult for a democratic movement to succeed in opposing monarchies and dictatorships, and of course the U.S. government does not like democracy either at home or abroad). Partly U.S. support for Israel stems from the profits made by the military-industrial complex from this support. Billions of dollars of arms sales every year to Israel alone. Partly it’s about a fundamentally racist attitude many in the powers-that-be have towards Arabs and Muslims in general. And last but not least, partly U.S. support for Israel stems from the power of AIPAC and the confusion of many Jewish Americans around Israel, what it stands for, why it exists and how it behaves. In many cases ‘confusion’ would be a very generous term, and other stronger words might be more appropriate, such as ‘racist’ or ‘fascist.’

Tehran Times: What’s your anticipation about the prospect of Israeli regime with this vicious and savage approach which it has taken toward the world? Is it going to survive with its current stance that is arousing a global hatred and contempt toward itself?

David Rovics: Israel is the most racist society I have ever spent time in. There are many reasons why this is the case, and it’s not simple. I have no idea what the future holds, but it seems to me that positive change could come from many different potential developments. One is that many Jews don’t want to live in Israel; furthermore, most Jews in the world don’t feel particularly connected to Israel, according to polls I’ve read, and most Israelis don’t want to live in the settlements. This threatens the idea of Zionist expansion. Also, Palestinians have a much higher birth rate than Israeli Jews, which threatens the democratic underpinning of Israeli society. But it seems to me the situation is most likely to change not from within Israel, but from within either the U.S. or the Arab world. Either the U.S. or the Arab world, with decent leadership in either, could change everything. Israel can’t do what it does without U.S. support. Also the U.S can’t do what it does without the Arab world being terribly divided, without regimes like Saudi Arabia being motivated primarily by money rather than by any love of their fellow Arabs. I don’t know when the U.S. might have a better government or when the Arab leadership will come together; however I wish I did!

Tehran Times: And finally, what’s your personal agenda about such a disaster which is underway in Gaza? Do you intend to perform any concert or record any piece of music about that? David Rovics: In all of the concerts I’ve done since Gaza has been in the headlines I’ve been talking and singing about the situation there more than usual, trying to take advantage of the fact that people are once again thinking about Palestine in one way or another. I’d love to do more than that, and be involved with lots of demonstrations, concert tours focused on the situation there, etc., but this will depend on people and organizations mobilizing that I can plug into. I hope there will be lots of that going on. Here in Australia where I’m finishing a tour right now, I just sang at a rally for Gaza the other day. When I return to the U.S. tomorrow I hope to do much more than that .

Outrage as Israel bombs UN headquarters, hospital, school, media centre

(The Independent) -- Israeli tanks thrust deep inside Gaza City Thursday night as ferocious fighting raged in dense residential areas with terrified families fleeing along streets echoing with gunfire, although many others were trapped in their homes.

Israeli shelling set fire to the UN headquarters, a hospital, a school and a building used by the media, leading to widespread international protests and renewed calls for a ceasefire in the conflict which has so far cost 1,073 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives.

Three members of UN staff were injured when three Israeli shells hit the headquarters, setting it on fire. Thousands of tons of desperately needed food and humanitarian supplies were destroyed and about 700 refugees given shelter in the building had to be evacuated. UN officials said the shells were white phosphorus, believed to have been responsible for burns suffered by some Palestinian civilians.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on a peace mission to the region, said: “I conveyed my strong protest and outrage to the Defense Minister and Foreign Minister and demanded a full explanation.”

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, apologized for the shelling but claimed Hamas fighters had opened fire from the centre.

John Ging, the director of operations for the UN relief agency, UNRWA, in Gaza described the Israeli claim about a Hamas presence as “nonsense”. He added: “It's a total disaster for us.” Mr. Ging said the UN had warned the Israelis the compound was in danger from shelling that had begun overnight, and provided them with GPS co-ordinates to prevent an attack.

The Al-Quds hospital was also hit by shellfire when Israeli tanks moved further into the city. A tower housing the Reuters agency and other media outlets was also hit. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the damage caused to the Al-Quds hospital is “completely and utterly unacceptable based on every known standard of international humanitarian law”.

The hospital is in the Tal Hawa district, a packed residential area. Streams of people fled from the fighting, carrying what belongings they could on foot, by car, and, in some cases wheelbarrows after homes were demolished and set ablaze. Mahmud Tejan Hussein drove away with seven members of his family. “Bullets started hitting our house and I decided that we must get away from here. There are Israeli tanks in the area now and we might get blocked off if we wait. But I do not know where we are going to go. We wanted to go to the UN office, but that has been attacked. Wherever we go, the fighting will follow us.”

Musah Mohammed, 36, who stayed at his home in an apartment block, said: “We cannot go out. There is shooting in the street. My mother is ill and she is old; we cannot leave her here. People are shouting to each other from balconies crying that they need help. We have no electricity and very little food and water. We are very afraid; we do not know what will happen next.” It was unclear whether the escalation was a final push before a ceasefire, as peace talks continued yesterday in Cairo where Israel's chief negotiator Amos Gilad arrived to hear the Hamas response to an Egyptian initiative

09 January, 2009

Every day is Ashura and every land is Kerbala

What is Ashura ?

In the month of Muharram 61 AH (approx. 20 October 680 AD), an event took place in Iraq at a place known as Kerbala on the bank of the river Euphrates. It seemed in those days insignificant from the historical point of view. A large army which had been mobilised by the Umayyad regime besieged a group of persons numbering less than a hundred and put them under pressure to pay allegiance to the Caliph of the time and submit to his authority.
The small group resisted and a severe battle took place in which they were all killed. It appeared at that time that like hundreds of similar events, this battle would be recorded in history and forgotten in time. However, the events that occurred on the 10th day of Muharram in Kerbala were to become a beacon and an inspiration for future generations. In this article, we shall examine briefly the principal adversaries.

Who is Hussain ?

The leader of the small band of men who were martyred in Kerbala was none other than Husain (A), son of Ali bin Abi Talib (A) and grandson of the Holy Prophet (S). Who was Husain? He was the son of Fatima (A) for whom the Holy Prophet (S) said, "Husain is from me and I am from Husain. May God love whoever loves Husain." [1] With the passing away of his brother Hasan(A) in 50 AH, Husain (A) became the leader of the household of the Holy Prophet (S). He respected the agreement of peace signed by Hasan (A) and Muawiya, and, despite the urging of his followers, he did not undertake any activity that threatened the political status quo. Rather he continued with the responsibility of looking after the religious needs of the people and was recognised for his knowledge, piety and generosity. An example of the depth of his perception can be seen in his beautiful du'a on the day of Arafat, wherein he begins by explaining the qualities of Allah, saying: " (Oh Allah) How could an argument be given about Your Existence by a being whose total and complete existence is in need of you? When did you ever disappear so that you might need an evidence and logic to lead (the people) towards You? And when did You ever become away and distant so that your signs and effects made the people get in touch with you? Blind be the eye which does not see You (whereas) You are observing him. What did the one who missed You find? And what does the one who finds You lack? Certainly, the one who got pleased and inclined toward other than You, came to nothingness (failed)." On the other hand, we have Yazid, whose father (Muawiya) and grandfather (Abu Sufyan - the arch-enemy of the Prophet) had always tried to sabotage the mission of the Holy Prophet, and who showed his true colour by stating in a poem, "Bani Hashim had staged a play to obtain kingdom, there was neither any news from God nor any revelation." [2] Mas'udi writes that Yazid was a pleasure-seeking person, given to wine drinking and playing with pets. It is no wonder that Husain's response to Yazid's governor, when asked to pay allegiance to Yazid was, "We are the household of the prophethood, the source of messengership, the descending-place of the angels, through us Allah had began (showering His favours) and with us He has perfected (His favours), whereas Yazid is a sinful person, a drunkard, the killer of innocent people and one who openly indulges in sinful acts. A person like me can never pledge allegiance to a person like him ..." [3] The revolution of Husain (A) was an Islamic movement spearheaded by one of the great leaders of Islam. The principles and laws of Islam demanded that Husain (A) act to warn the Ummah of the evil situation which it was in, and to stand in the way of the deviating ruler. As Husain (A) himself remarked when he left Madina for the last time, "I am not rising (against Yazid) as an insolent or an arrogant person, or a mischief-monger or tyrant. I have risen (against Yazid) as I seek to reform the Ummah of my grandfather. I wish to bid the good and forbid the evil." [4] Hussain (A) was killed on the battlefield as he did Sajdah. His head was removed from his body on the plains of Kerbala, mounted on a spear, and paraded through villages and towns as it was taken to Damascus and presented at the feet of Yazid. Why remember Ashura ? Why is Husain (A) regarded as the "leader of the martyrs" ? It is because he was not just the victim of an ambitious ruler. There is no doubt that the tragedy of Kerbala, when ascribed to the killers, is a criminal and terrible act. However when ascribed to Husain (A) himself, it represents a conscious confrontation and a courageous resistance for a sacred cause. The whole nation had failed to stand up to Yazid. They had succumbed to his will, and deviation and regression towards the pre-Islamic ways were increasing. Passiveness by Husain (A) in this situation would have meant the end of Islam as we know it. Thus Husain (A) took upon himself the responsibility of the whole nation. The greatest tragedy was that one who stood up for the noblest of causes, the defence of Islam, was cut down in so cruel a manner. It is for this reason that the sacrifice of Husain (A) is commemorated annually throughout the Muslim world. Our sorrow never abates as we relive the tragedy. As Allama Iqbal says in his Baqiyat (in Urdu): Ronay wala hoon Shaheed-e-Kerbala key gham men main,
Kya durey maqsad na dengey Saqiye Kausar mujhey I am one who weeps at the plight of the Martyr of Kerbala
Won't the reward be given to me by the Keeper of Kauser (Imam Ali (A)) The commemoration of Ashura on the 10th of Muharram every year serves to remind us of the sacrifices of the family of the Prophet (S). It also makes us aware of the people, then and now, who tried to destroy Islam and the family of the Prophet (S) and all that they stood for - as well as those who watched, listened and did nothing.
[1] Ibn Majah: Sunan, Hadith 144.
[2] Ibn Jarir: Tarikhu'l Umam wa'l Muluk, vol.13, p.2174.
[3] Sayyid ibn Ta'us: Maqtalu'l Husain, pp.10-11
[4] Al-Khatid al-Khuwarazmi: Maqtalu'l Husain ,vol.1, p.88.