‘ Captive Hearts & Captive Minds’ By Dr. Mubarak Ali

From L-R: “Let

It is worth reading article shared by Zafar Khizer.

Personality cults have mostly remained a significant characteristic of totalitarian regimes. Ideas attributed to individuals are propagated with the intention of bringing about radical transformation in society.

Gradually, the ideas become subordinate to the individual; while his own role in society becomes all-important. He is worshipped as a hero and regarded as someone playing a significant role in creating history.

In our society, which is plagued by religious extremism, terrorism, lawlessness and disorder, intellectual groups and politicians rely on ‘personalities’ rather than ideas, concepts and thoughts to counter these issues. For example, some intellectuals believe that reviving the teachings of the Sufi saints, and dissemination and preaching of Sufi thought and poetry, could be used to weaken or even wipe out religious extremism from our society. Since you cannot revive the past, nor implement traditions and values of the times of yore, the idea may prove futile.

In the subcontinent, the Sufis emerged during the medieval period to support the Muslim rule by preaching religious tolerance among the Hindus and the Muslims. Later, Sufi shrines became the centre point for disciples and common people to gather and pay homage to Sufi saints; as well as pray for fulfilment of their wishes and desires. Based on the assumption that they inherit spiritual powers from their ancestors; the successors or sajjada nashin of the Sufi saints assumed a position of authority, became spiritual leaders and earned themselves a high status in the society.

Becoming political leaders, winning elections from their constituencies and getting into the parliament is not difficult for them as they have a secure vote bank in their disciples who vote for them irrespective of their ability or merit. If Sufi culture was revived, these individuals would be at a further advantage. Considering the above, will the revival of Sufi teachings really eliminate religious extremism from our society?

An analysis of the negative impact of religious prejudice and the positive influence of religious tolerance shows that a society with sectarian and religious conflicts suffers politically and socially. On the other hand, religious harmony creates peace and prosperity and all people are treated equally irrespective of their religion or sect. Religious tolerance should be propagated as an idea by itself without attributing it to the Sufis.




‘Civil Liberties VS Security’ Discussion on Forum Lecture Of 4/27/14 By F. Sheikh

Dr. Shoeb Amin sent an important e-mail , which is posted here and my comments are at the bottom.

Comments by Dr. Shoeb Amin

“As part of the discussion re the activities of the NSA, a question was raised if you should worry about the NSA collecting our private data, if you had done nothing criminal or you had nothing to hide. The case of Brandon Mayfield – described in the link above – was given as an example of why you SHOULD worry even if you had nothing to hide. After having read the whole article, i find that it was the FBI’s I unprofessional conduct and not secret eavesdropping that was at fault. I agree that innocent people do get into legal trouble sometimes but given the choice of preserving my privacy vs. increasing my safety, i would lean towards safety. It is true that the NSA has not provided concrete evidence of any terrorist acts thwarted by their activity, it is certainly possible that people w/ bad intentions know someone’s watching and are wary of being caught.

I would like people who were at the meeting on 4/27/14 and even those that were not present to share their views re. privacy vs. security.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Mayfield

Comments By F. Sheikh

It is a good topic to have discussion and question raised by Dr. Shoeb was the main crust of my talk. Unfortunately I did not write the article in full and wrote notes on the main points for discussion. It is appropriate that I should write my thoughts on this point so that there is some basis for the discussion.

I think since 9/11 a lot has been achieved for security of our country and we are much safer now, but no matter how much more we spend in money and human life, it can never be 100% risk proof. There will always be some sporadic incidence of terrorism, both external and internal. I think we are either already at that stage where throwing more money and compromising our civil liberties may add very little to the national security and might even do more harm than good. As I pointed out in the lecture, the NSA is very important entity for cybersecurity not just for our country but for the whole world.

During a Senate hearing in March 2013, the nation’s top intelligence officials warned that cyber-attacks and digital spying are the top threat to national security, eclipsing terrorism.

Unfortunately because of recent revelations, as per David Ignatus of Washington Post, the NSA has lost the trust of many foreign countries who are now building their own networks without the involvement of US technology companies, which they think are in bed with NSA. It will cost US companies billion of dollars and future of cyber-security is also in jeopardy. As per article sent by Dr. Shoeb,( Meta-Data http://www.huffingtonpost.com/geoffrey-r-stone/nsa-meta-data_b_4499934.html

) the last paragraph reads;

“The Review Group concluded that the information obtained through the section 215 telephony meta-data programs had not proved necessary to the prevention of any planned terrorist attack since the program’s inception in 2006. At the same time, though, it is certainly possible to imagine a situation in which the section 215 program might produce highly valuable information.”

It is obvious that after eight years, any benefit from the Surveillance program is still speculative, but it has inadvertently undermined the cyber-security, which is even more dangerous than terrorism. During the same surveillance period unfortunately Boston Marathon Bombing took place.

As Dr. Shoeb pointed out about Bradon Mayfield case, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Mayfield)

and rightfully said that it was abuse of law by FBI, but let us look at the case from ramifications of collection of vast Meta-Data,heightened environment and how innocent citizens can get tangled into the web.

The brief story of case. Mr Mayfield is an American born and educated attorney in Oregon. His wife is Egyptian and he is a converted Muslim. He was arrested 20 years ago, unknown case, and has defended one person with terrorist charges. In 2004 Madrid bombing took place. Spanish authorities sent suspect finger prints to FBI who matched it against its own data base. Its results showed 20 matches in USA. The investigation included medical records, financial records, employment records, etc. on all 20 people and their families. It was during this time that Brandon Mayfield’s name rose to the top of the list. The Spanish authorities informed FBI twice that they have possible suspect here and you have wrong person as suspect. The FBI disregarded all this and eventually arrested Mr. Mayfield as material witness without giving any access or information to family or attorney.

After Spanish authorities arrested the actual suspect, who also confessed the crime, the FBI has no choice but to release Mr. Mayfield but a gag order was imposed on him. Later gag order was lifted, Mr. Mayfield sued the FBI and a settlement was reached with FBI with 2 million dollars as settlement.

Apart from FBI’s abuse of law and possible religious discrimination, the case shows following problems on the direction, we as freest nation on earth are heading;

1-      If we have vast non specific data, it will show in greater number false positive (innocent suspects) results. FBI has vast data and showed 20 innocent people as suspect in Mayfield case. All of them went through FBI investigation and their all the records , including medical and financial were collected.

2-    Mr. Mayfield was wrongly arrested. It was not just that FBI abused the Law, but FBI agents were working under heightened zero risk tolerance environment which took precedent over common sense approach. They were scared of consequences of letting a Muslim suspect free and ignored evidence from Spanish authorities.

3-    !9 other suspects were not arrested, but they also went through FBI investigation. They are innocent but what will happen to their record in FBI computer files?  Will it pop up at airports or other places for unrelated investigation? We know many people say they have no idea why their names are on no fly list. They spend hours on Airport for clearance. What if anyone of them innocently gets matched again?

4-      As the article by Dr. Shoeb pointed out, collection of telephone data  has similar problem. It can include lot of false positive (innocent suspects).

Just because we are doing more, spending more resources and compromising our civil liberties, does not necessarily makes us safer. At some point, it does more harm than good. I think we as a nation, are at that point now.The same resources can be used for other important issues-like cyber-security.

P.S. Any  computer expert will tell you that once a data is on computer, it is almost impossible to get rid of it.

Fayyaz A. Sheikh


9/11 Museum & Film on Al-Qaeda

There is controversy brewing over a short film ‘ Rise Of Al-Qaeda’ that will be shown next to 17 hijackers. As per critics, including interfaith advisory group, the film wrongly  depicts as if all the Muslims and Islam is responsible for the attack. Few excerpts from the NYT; ( F. Sheikh)

“With the museum opening on May 21, it has shown the film to several groups, including an interfaith advisory group of clergy members. Those on the panel overwhelmingly took strong exception to the film, believing some of the terminology in it casts aspersions on all Muslims, and requested changes. But the museum has declined. In March, the sole imam in the group resigned to make clear that he could not endorse its contents.”

” Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan, wrote in a letter to the museum’s director. “Unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between Al Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam, leading to antagonism and even confrontation toward Muslim believers near the site.”

“From the very beginning, we had a very heavy responsibility to be true to the facts, to be objective, and in no way smear an entire religion when we are talking about a terrorist group,” said Joseph C. Daniels, president and chief executive of the nonprofit foundation that oversees the memorial and museum.”

“But the disagreement has been ricocheting through scholarly circles in recent weeks. At issue is whether it is inflammatory for the museum to use terms like “Islamist” and “jihad” in conjunction with the Sept. 11 attack, without making clear that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. The panel has urged the use of more specific language, such as “Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism” and doing more to explain the meaning of jihad.”


‘WHY REDUCE POVERTY AND INEQUAILTY’ A Brief thought By Mahmood Mirza


          Pakistan, despite a population of about 190 million, has a limited market. A large majority of the people is poor and does not have sufficient money to buy goods other than food. The elite and upper middle classes, who have the resources, prefer to buy foreign goods. Industrial development will be possible by creating the demand for goods and services by raising the income level of the poor.

Pakistan has regional and ethnic inequality. Such inequality raises social and political tensions. The development strategy must aim at reducing inequality. Planning for this purpose must be regional to be coordinated at provincial and national levels. Again, the planning has to be bottom-up.

Mahmood Mirza