FMC Blog: Free Speech Zone

Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

While there is no conclusive answer to who killed former Pakistani prime minister Bhutto, so far the only claim of responsibility has come from an Al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, who posted the claim of responsibility on an Italian Web site. Al Qaeda posted the following message: "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat the mujahideen. (holy warriors.)"

Bhutto was an outspoken critic of Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamist groups. Consequently, Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups hated her for her rhetoric, for supporting secularism and for being a woman.

While we can't know for sure who killed Bhutto, on two occasions, Al Qaeda has also tried to kill Pakistani president Musharraf. This brings us to the state of emergency that was enacted by Musharraf in November to “defend Pakistan from extremists and terrorists.â€ï¿½ At that time the United States and much of the world criticized Musharraf and pressured him to lift the state of emergency and to resign as army chief, a position he held alongside the position of president.

Currently, the only force that can keep Pakistan intact and safe from the terrorists is the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military and president Musharraf know better than any outsider what it takes to keep Pakistan from failing and falling in the hands of terrorists and extremists. It is a mistake for the United States or any other country to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan by pressuring the Pakistani government to take any action that Pakistan does not want to take. It should be left up to the Pakistani people to decide whether emergency rule stays or not, whether the president wears an army uniform or not and when and whether elections are held.

The wrong interference by the United States and the weakening of the Pakistani military's control over Pakistan may produce a repeat of the disaster that brought clerical rule to Iran. In 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed when the military refused to back him and the country fell in the hands of religious fundamentalist who continue to rule the country until today. This must not happen in Pakistan. The United States needs to be more emphatic to the particular circumstances of Pakistan and not to pressure Pakistan to do anything that is a threat to the stability and security of the country. If president Musharraf abuses his powers it is up to the majority of the Pakistani people to stop him and not foreign governments. The Pakistanis have a long democratic tradition and are capable of protecting their rights and institutions. An example is when Pakistani lawyers took to the streets to demonstrate against the weakening of the judiciary.

While democracy is a great ideal, Pakistan is currently facing turmoil and the Pakistanis need a strong president, a strong central government and a strong military to keep order. This remains the case despite allegations that the Pakistani military has been infiltrated by extremist elements. The United States should take no action to undermine the power of the central government, the military or president Musharraf, who has been a great ally in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Currently, the Pakistani military has more than 100, 000 troops fighting extremists on the Pakistani/Afghanistan border at a minuscule cost to the United States.

Posted December 28, 2007 by Kamal Nawash

This Christmas Happy Hanukkah and a Prosperous Eid

This year, the three Abrahamic religions celebrate important holidays in the same month. For Jews, it is Hanukkah, for Christians, it is Christmas and for Muslims, it is the Grand Eid.

The Free Muslims Coalition feel it's important to explain the significance of the three holidays to focus on our commonalities rather than our differences.

Holiday of Sacrifice

The least known of the three holidays among Americans is the largest Muslim holiday which is abbreviated as "Eid."� Actually "Eid"� simply means "holiday"� in Arabic and thus, in Arabic speaking countries, Eid is also used for Christmas and Hanukka. Thus, Christmas becomes "Christmas Eid"� and Hanukka, "Hanukka Eid."�

The most important Muslim holiday is known in Arabic as "Eid al Aldha"� which translates to "Holiday of Sacrifice."� This holiday celebrates the Muslim patriarch, Abraham, his family and his example. Abraham is also the patriarch of Christianity and Judaism which makes this holiday season especially important for Muslims as it provides them an opportunity to focus on their similarities with Jews and Christians, rather than their differences.

This time of year, Muslims remember the life of Abraham and his unconditional love for God. Currently, millions of Muslims from around the world are performing the once in a life time pilgrimage to Mecca where they celebrate and follow the steps of Abraham and his family. Muslims believe that it was in Mecca where Abraham opened the first house for the worship of the one and only true God. The Eid of Sacrifice centers around God's commandment to Abraham to sacrifice his own son. Abraham chose to obey God, but as he raised his hand to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him and God provided Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead. This Abrahamic story is the single most important event in Islamic history. Abraham represents the two most important concepts in Islam, monotheism and submission to the will of God. In fact, "Islam"� is an Arabic word meaning "submission."�

The Holiday of Sacrifice is a very festive and happy holiday for Muslims. It is common during this holiday for Muslims to purchase large quantities of lamp and divide the meat among their neighbors or the poor.


Recently Jews celebrated Hanukka which is also known as the "Holiday of Lights." Hanukka is an eight-day Jewish holiday which started on the 25th of Kislev, a month on the Hebrew calendar that falls in November or December. This year, Hanukkah began on Dec. 5, and ended on December 13th.

The holiday originated when Jews in Jerusalem fought and took their Holy Temple from the Greeks. The rededication of the temple included the lighting of a menorah with oil that was expected to last only one day. The oil lasted for eight days while patrons searched for more oil and this is why Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration.

Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew and the traditional item is the lighting of a menorah, a seven-branch candlestick lit by olive oil, often said to symbolize the prophet Moses and the burning bush from Exodus 25. Here again, is an event that is shared by all three religions. The burning bush from Exodus 25 is not exclusive for Jews and Christians. The burning bush is an extremely important event in Islamic history and theology and thus, the Hanukkah Eid can certainly be a source of harmony and appreciation between Jews, Christians and Muslims.


"Christmas"� was created from the words "Christ's mass," which signified the birth of Jesus Christ who was born through an immaculate conception to the virgin Marry.

While Christmas has always been an important holiday, it was not celebrated as it is today until the early 1800s, when Washington Irving published "The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon" and Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol." After these stories stuck in the hearts of Americans, the themes began to come together with Christian beliefs and the Renaissance reputation of Saint Nicholas. The saint's popularity transitioned into the embodiment of the red and white Santa Claus in the 1840s and the holiday has only grown in significance ever since. Christians celebrate Christmas by attending Christian masses, large meals, gift giving and family gatherings.

Christmas can also be a source of unity for Christians, Muslims and Jews. As mentioned above, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Marry. The Virgin Marry is the most important woman in Islam. She is second to none. Moreover, both Christians and Jews believe that Jesus was Jewish. Muslims believe that Jesus is a descendent of "Bani Israeel,"� an Arabic term that means the "children of Israel"� which means he is a descendent of the Israelites. This is a technical difference that is not significant for this discussion. What is important is that both Christians and Muslims believe that Jesus is their Messiah and that he will return one day. It is certainly a source of unity and affinity that the Messiah of Christians and Muslims is considered a Jew by one and an Israelite by the other.

It should be noted that the Free Muslims Coalition understands that the above chronology and history have been used as a source of conflict. The point here is that we can focus on our differences or our similarities. The Free Muslims believe that the world would be a better place if we focus on our similarities.

Happy holidays and may God bless us all. Amen.

Posted December 17, 2007 by Kamal Nawash