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Freshman Florida Rep. West Stirs Controversy over Anti-Islamic Comments

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers –

Newly-seated Rep. Allen West (R-Fl) is facing a controversy following abrasive comments about the Islamic religion.

The Tea Party-backed conservative, in an interview on “The Shalom Show,” a public affairs program airing on the JLTV cable channel, told producer Richard Peritz that Islam was the “antithesis” of America’s founding principles.

At the outset of the 11-minute interview, Peritz asked West how he was going to deal with members of Congress he disagreed with, especially Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) who is Muslim.

“Well I think it’s most important that I stand upon the principles [of the] people that elected me to go to Washington, D.C., and represent them on Capitol Hill,” West responded. “So that when you run into someone that is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established, you’ve got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright.”

West’s comments came at a time when public and political focus on America’s Muslims is intensifying following the announcement of a mosque being constructed near New York’s Ground Zero monument.

The Future of the Global Muslim Population, a new demographic study by the Pew Research Center and the John Templeton Foundation, estimate that there are 2.6 million Muslim Americans. The Pew Research Center projects this number will more than double by the year 2030.

According to various media reports, Ellison in a statement said he was surprised by the comments, as West had never expressed those views to him directly. Ellison disagreed with West's assertion that his religion precluded him from representing the principles of America.

“Contrary to the views expressed by Congressman West, I work to represent the highest ideals of our great nation – ideals like freedom of worship and respect for all faiths, equal protection under the law as well as a civil and open public discourse,” Ellison said.

“Americans across the country want their public servants to reject the toxic and corrosive chatter that yields more heat than light,” he added. “I hope to have a productive and respectful dialogue with all of my colleagues, including Allen West.”

West’s latest comments are in stark contrast to those he made when he was sworn in to the Congressional Black Caucus. At that time, he acknowledged there would be differences between him and other members of the caucus, but he said that all members just wanted what was best for America.

“You bring a different perspective, but I think we're all working toward the same end, which is what is best for our country and within the African-American community,” West told The Washington Post shortly after being sworn in.

But his anti-Islamic comments are likely to offend members of that community. A 2009 Gallup study reveals, “Muslim Americans are the most racially diverse religious group surveyed in the United States, with African Americans making up the largest contingent within the population, at 35%”. This percentage is up from an earlier 2007 report by the Pew Research Center, which put the African American Muslim segment at 24 percent.

This, however, wasn’t the first time West made comments about religion. Last March, West criticized the popular “Coexist” bumper stickers, which display symbols of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religions and philosophies.

“And the reason why I get upset, and every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving,” West said, according to the blog ThinkProgress, operated by the progressive policy group Center for American Progress. “Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.”

West added that Islam was a “very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country because we ride around with bumper stickers that say ‘Coexist.’”

American Islamic groups strongly denounced West’s comments, saying they are disappointed that an elected official would harbor such views.

“Congressman West’s statements against Islam are profoundly troubling,” said Corey Saylor, Government Affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I don’t think it reflects well on the office of a member of Congress.”

Ronald Reagan: A Better Friend of Blacks than Obama?

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By George E. Curry, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

COMMENTARY

There they go again. First, conservatives ranging from anti-affirmative action foe Ward Connerly, to combative talk show host Glenn Beck, claimed to be acting in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as they sought to dismantle everything he fought for. Now, one of Reagan’s sons has made the outlandish assertion that Reagan was a better friend of African-Americans than the nation’s first Black president.

These people have no shame.

In an article that appeared on FoxNews.com the day we observe Dr. King’s birthday as a federal holiday, Michael Reagan wrote, “…The past two years have made one thing clear: Ronald Reagan was a far better friend to black Americans than Barack Obama has been.”

And he didn’t stop there.

Instead of Bill Clinton being known as the first Black president, the younger Reagan wrote, “Well, I could make an even stronger case for my father, Ronald Reagan, as ‘our first black president.’” He said he could make such a case, but in deference to Obama, he decided he wouldn’t.

Well, as his father would say, let’s examine the Reagan record.

■While campaigning for governor of California, Reagan opposed that state’s Fair Housing Act, saying, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so.”

■Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

■Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which at the time was known for only one thing: the Ku Klux Klan murder of three civil rights workers. Reagan, using the code words of the day, said, “I believe in states rights.”

■The Reagan Justice Department, unlike previous Republican and Democratic administrations, decided to stop negotiating specific goals and timetables in settling illegal discrimination cases.

■Under Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights William Bradford Reynolds, the U.S. Department of Justice went to court to challenge voluntary affirmative action programs that had been agreed to by different parties.

■Over the objection of Reagan, the Supreme Court upheld an Internal Revenue Service rule denying tax exemption to Bob Jones University, an institution that prohibited interracial dating and marriage.

■Reagan vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act passed by Congress to overturn a Supreme Court ruling (Grove City v. Bell) that limited the remedies available to the federal government when going after private organizations that receive federal subsidies. Congress overrode Reagan’s veto.

■The Reagan administration went to court to invalidate voluntary school desegregation programs, such as the one in Seattle.

■Throughout his presidency, Reagan refused to take a stand against South Africa’s racist regime. When Congress voted for sanctions against the minority-ruled country, Reagan vetoed the measure. But, Congress again overrode his veto. After one pro-apartheid speech, the normally mild-mannered Bishop Desmond Tutu said: “I found it quite nauseating. I think the West can go to hell…Your president is the pits as far as blacks are concerned. He sits there like the great, big white chief of old.”

■Reagan slashed domestic programs for the poor, especially housing subsidies. According to Peter Dreier, a housing expert: “Reagan’s most dramatic cut was for low-income housing subsidies…Between 1980 and 1989, HUD’s budget authority was cut from $74 billion to $19 billion in constant dollars.”

■Reagan didn’t recognize his lone Black cabinet member responsible for carrying out the drastic housing reductions. At a reception for mayors, he approached HUD Secretary Sam Pierce and greeted him, “Hello, Mr. Mayor.”

■He depicted poor women as “welfare queens” driving around in pink Cadillacs.

■In his article, Michael Reagan noted that his father signed into law a bill making Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday. However, he neglected to say that Reagan signed the measure grudgingly, noting he did so because “Congress seemed bent on making it a national holiday.”

■Reagan attempted to fire three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – Mary Frances Berry, Blandina Cardenas and Rabbi Murray Saltzman – because the members of the then-independent body were critical of his civil rights record.

■Reagan’s most lasting legacy is the number of far-right judges he appointed to the federal bench. One – Robert Bork – was so extreme that the Senate rejected his nomination.

As proof that he wasn’t a racist, President Reagan often recalled the story of when two Black members of his college football team were not allowed to stay in a hotel with their White teammates, he offered his parents’ Illinois home to the African-Americans.

Michael Reagan recounts that story yet again in his defense of his father. However, his quote reveals his father’s interest was not limited to the welfare of the two Black teammates. The future president said that after the coach said all of the players would sleep on the bus if the Black kids were not allowed to register at the hotel, Reagan then came up with his offer.

The son said, “Dad spoke up and offered an alternative: why not send Burgie and Jim to the Reagan home in Dixon, just 15 miles away? Dad’s parents, Jack and Nellie Reagan, would welcome his teammates – and the whole team would get a good night’s rest.”

Despite his devastating policies, President Reagan saw himself as a friend of African-Americans. In a 1989 interview with CBS News about his relationship with Blacks, Reagan said, “One of the great things that I have suffered is this feeling that somehow I’m on the other side.”

It was more than a feeling; it was reality. And there’s nothing that Michael Reagan and other revisionists can say to alter the truth.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

 

$20 Million Bribe for One Signature, Revealed in U.S. Cables in Nigeria

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

In newly-released U.S. embassy cables from Nigeria, a Shell Oil executive was said to have shared with the Ambassador examples of corruption in the Nigerian government that nearly defied belief.

Record requests for bribes in the multi-millions were being sought by government officials and their family members, the executive, Ann Pickard, reportedly informed the U.S. official.

According to the cables, released by WikiLeaks, the $20 million bribe for one signature on one document was made by the Nigerian Attorney General – who asked for $2 million up front and $18 million the following day.

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly received more than $10 billion for National Power Projects to improve the generation, transmission and supply of electricity but none were completed by the end of his tenure.

Pickard expressed optimism that “the nationalism card was cooling.” Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, the new state oil head, was a graduate of U.S. universities, she said, and although he used terms like “nationalism” and “Chavez” (referring to Venezuela Pres. Hugo Chavez), she thought he could be steered in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth International and Amnesty International filed an official complaint charging Shell with using discredited and misleading information to blame the majority of oil pollution on saboteurs in its Niger Delta operations. The complaint was filed with United Kingdom and Netherlands government contact points for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Several studies place the bulk of the blame for oil spills in the Niger Delta on the doorsteps of the oil companies; particularly Shell,” said Friends director Nnimmo Bassey, adding: “They should take responsibility and clean up the mess they made in our country.”

Repressive African Governments Under Siege

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Unpopular and anti-democratic rulers throughout the region are facing new and unexpected pressures from fired-up citizens demanding democracy in the wake of a people power uprising in the northern African nation of Tunisia.

In Yemen, police arrested Tawakul Karman after she led two protests at Sanaa University, criticizing autocratic Arab leaders and calling on Yemenis, using SMSs and e-mails, to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Karman, who heads the Yemeni activist group Women Journalists Without Chains, also called on Yemenis to support the Tunisian people in their political struggle.

Protesters in Sanaa last week held signs reading: "Leave, before you are forced to leave."

In Algeria, helmeted riot police armed with batons and shields were reported to have clashed this week with rock- and chair-throwing protesters who tried to march in defiance of Algeria’s ban on public gatherings.

In the past two weeks, eight people have set themselves on fire in the country to protest unemployment, poverty, social inequality, and government corruption.

The largest protests were reported in Egypt, where thousands of demonstrators demanded an end to President Hosni Mubarek’s decades-old rule.

In Cairo and Alexandria, protestors were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. The rallies had been called on Facebook and Twitter, mostly by young Egyptians facing the same poverty and oppression that set off Tunisia's unrest.

Emergency laws in place since 1981 outlaw demonstrations without prior permission. Opposition groups say they have been denied such permits, and Egyptian security forces have a track record of dealing violently with protesters.

Writing on the VOA Africa website, Reuben Camara warned: “You can oppress some of the people some of the time - but you cannot suppress the vast majority all of the time. North Africa is about to explode.”

Mamdouh Khayrat, 23, said to Al Jazeera news service: “We want a functioning government, we want Mubarak to step down, we don't want emergency law, we don't want to live under this kind of oppression anymore… Enough is enough, things have to change…”

Madonna Scraps Plans for Girls School in Malawi

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A pledge by superstar Madonna to invest $15 million in an academy for underprivileged girls in Malawi has been scrapped by the recording artist.

The pop star known for racy videos had offered the “gift” after her adoption of two Malawian children. The $15 million “Raising Malawi – An Academy for Girls” would have taken in 500 young women to prepare them as future leaders. The school was scheduled to open this year.

Her revised plans have embarrassed government officials who had evicted some 200 villagers from their ancestral lands for the school. The villagers were reportedly paid about $1,500 each for their houses, gardens, and trees but offered no other land.

"We'd like to know why," said education minister Peter Mutharika. "Yes, we do appreciate that it is her project; she devised it and she knows best how to implement it. But still, as government, we'd be interested to know why there is this change."

Children’s rights activist Maxwell Matewere chided Madonna for "dumping" the project. "You educate a few to educate others,” he said. “She must borrow a leaf from others like Oprah [Winfrey] who did it in South Africa."

According to her publicists, Madonna has teamed up with the Global Philanthropy Group to "shift the strategies so that we can accomplish our goals with more efficiency as we continue to consult our government partners in Malawi". A pilot school is on the cards “that will address the barriers keeping girls from secondary education".

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