Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another Opinion: The 100th Issue

Hello dear reader! Thank you for stopping by to read the 100th edition of Another Opinion. Yelp, you read that right. This is the 100th edition of A/O. I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly. There have been so many stories, and so many insightful comments from people like you. But, before proceeding any further, I would like to take a moment to thank some unlikely people for making AO possible. I’d like to thank some of our local “good ole boys” like Rick, Jerry, Danny, Paul, Larry, George, and Denver. You were right about me. I was never going to be lead around by the nose or shut up and do as I was told. I was and remain an independent thinker. You also showed me who I could count on. To the party hacks out there, especially Michael, John and Jack, I owe you a debt of thanks too. I was amazed to see how your pettiness and jealousy outweighed winning elections; it showed me what really counted in the end. Most of all, I would like to thank the editorial board of our “once great newspaper” for inspiring me to start A/O in the first place. It was your arrogance and efforts to manipulate elections that moved me from the pages of the Editorial Section to writing articles that are read and acted on nationally. I still believe the media should provided a balanced and impartial look at the candidates and issues. We the Public, can make up our own minds thank you. I humbly bow in gratitude to the short sightedness of each of you.

We’ve had some great guest writers over the past two years, such as Moderate Man, who writes on local issues; John Buck, an independent oriented former union organizer, as well as numerous authors such as Douglas Schoen, John Harwood, and Gerald Seib. However, it has illegal immigration which has become as featured piece in many of A/O articles. So much so in fact, that A/O is often cited as a “go to” site for anyone doing research on the subject. I spend hours combing through other sites, news releases, and various studies looking for information I think you, the reader, would find interesting. Illegal immigration has become one of the greatest threats to national security that we have ever faced. I used this opportunity to point out that in no way does A/O advocate any type of racial, ethnic, or religious hatred. There are those sites out there who certainly do, but not this one.

I have never had a problem with immigration. Heck, most of us are the sons and daughters of immigrates. But the difference is that once national sovereignty laws were established, they complied with those laws when entering this country. Every nation has the right to establish their border and restrict immigration. The problem we’re having is people immigrating from countries which have a long record of civil unrest, crimes (including governmental corruption) and a socioeconomic structure which has made it all but impossible to fully develop a middle class (this has been historically, in part, due to collusion between the ruling elite and a dominate religion). Poverty is rampant in these countries. So, who can blame them really? However, their own governments essentially encourage their citizens to violate national law through illegal immigration. It makes great sense really by relieving the government of their responsibility to their citizens; by reducing the likelihood of civil unrest; and leaving the status quo intact. But, the result is a tremendous burden on the already financially strapped American Taxpayer.

You and I, as citizens, are forced into paying tens of billions of dollars in housing, healthcare, education, and welfare costs to support these people. This doesn’t include the additional costs to the taxpayer for additional federal, state, and local law enforcement. Nor does this take in consideration the costs incurred in terms of property damage and human lives associated with the increased crime and gang activity. Then there is the language issue. Most of these illegal immigrants do not speak English. Some, in fact, insist that their children, who are attending public school on the taxpayer’s dollar, be taught only in Spanish. That means hiring bilingual tutors. So, how is that it that someone here illegally gets to dictate to the government how and what their children are taught? As an aside, someone recently asked me why Another Opinion isn’t published bilingually? My answer was that is was. A/O is published in English and in Southern and that was bilingual enough for me.

There is another cost which is often overlooked when discussing illegal immigrants, and that’s the immigrants themselves. Many pay outrageous sums of money to be smuggled here in the most dangerous of circumstances (under engines or sealed containers for instance) to smugglers called “mules”. While some of these “mules” operate independently, many are associated with criminal gangs. Occasionally these immigrants are simply abandoned and left to die in these same sealed containers. Some cross miles of desert at night and race across highways in the dead of night and are unknowingly hit by oncoming traffic. Once here, they are often victimized by employers looking for cheap (very cheap) labor. They find themselves working long hours in unsafe and unhealthy conditions for virtually nothing. Being here illegally, both the immigrant and employer (who is just as much, if not more so, a criminal here) aren’t going to report them to anyone. They also have to seek shelter with sometimes dozens of other illegal immigrants; sleeping 12 to room on filthy mattresses and one (hopefully working) toilet. The landlord, by the way, if caught, faces criminal charges too for harboring illegal immigrants.

Many of these individuals come here on their own, while others use the services of “mules”, others are smuggled here and protected by various church organizations. These groups believe that because of their religious orientation, they are not bound by international or national laws. They often hide illegal immigrants in their basements and provide them with church sponsored services, which may include basic educational classes, laundry services. In addition, they often use parishioners to help find safe houses, jobs, or healthcare for these illegal immigrants. Is this right? It’s hard to say. There has been a long struggle between Church and State over numerous issues. The right of national sovereignty (and thanks to 9/11, national security) versus the right of the Church to act on what it believes is humanitarian reasons is yet another issues to add to the mix.

What can we do? Indeed, what should we do? I am one who does not like government intervention. I am also a nationalist. I am proud of being an American, but I don’t believe America has all the answers nor what is right of us is necessarily right for someone else. All of us are citizens of this planet. We can no longer live undisturbed in our little worlds. What happens in one part of the world affects those in the opposite side of the world. Those fighting to turn back the hands of time are fighting a lost cause. We must learn to adapt and adjust. Illegal immigration is an example of adapting and adjusting.

We must understand the reason why illegal immigrants are coming into this country. We must secure our borders, if for no other reason that to stem the inflow of criminal gangs. Since it is virtually impossible to completely stop the flow of illegal crossings or catch and deport the approximately 8 to 12 million illegal residents already here, we need to look at the demand. Those who smuggle, hire, or shelter illegal immigrants must be severely and publicly prosecuted. This means arresting everyone from the supervisor all the way up to the human resource manager (or even president of the company if necessary), and it needs to be done with news cameras present just like they did when someone on Wallstreet got busted for insider trading. It also means no longer turning a blind eye on religious groups who believe they are above the law. Once the demand dries up, supply usually follows quickly.

We need to stop allowing illegal immigrants the use of taxpayer based programs (with the exception for emergencies of course). Any program paid for by US tax dollars should be in English only. That’s the language we speak in this country. We should extend additional temporary work permits for critical jobs and offer a “work-to-citizenship” program, especially for some blue collar jobs. Additionally, I would also like to see unions offer training programs in organizing for these individuals as well. Should they go back home, they would be equipped with the tools to organized others and build a strong middle class in their home countries. They would also have ties to Labor here in the States to help them along. Lastly, we need to support democratic groups (even if they’re Left leaning) in these various countries. Only until they resolve their own socio-economic and political issues will the tide of illegal immigration be stopped.

So dear reader, there you have it; a brief overview of what Another Opinion has been about for the past four years. Of course, we do cover other issues such as the environment (including oil spills), global warming, increasing gas and utility prices, elections/politics, crimes and human interest stories. Another feature here at AO is book reviews. As part of my research for articles, I am constantly reading. As such, whenever I come across a book or article I think you would like, I’ll tell you about it. Hopefully you’ll check it out for yourself. It’s been quite a ride since that first article, and I owe it all to you, the reader. I hope you’ve enjoyed the articles so far, and that you’ll continue to come back often (and be sure to tell your friends!).

Speaking of articles, here’s a timely article written by a former Islamist extremist. I don’t know about you, but I’m often interested in reading how our perceived enemies see themselves. Check it out:

Afterword: And What About America?
by Ed Husain,Author of The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and Respected stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.
--George Washington, 1783

If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mahometans, Jews or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists.
--George Washington, in a letter to Tench Telghman, 1784

It was my first visit to the United States. I was expecting to be stopped at the airport, harassed, interrogated and perhaps detained. Since 9/11, Muslim communities across the globe are filled with horror stories of encounters at American airports. My friend from college days, Majid Nawaz, who had spent four years as a political prisoner in Egypt, was with me. Together we had attended countless anti-American rallies in Britain, and witnessed many US flag-burning rituals. Now, in our thirties, and after a decade in the wilderness, we had changed. But would America understand us? Would we understand America?

Like good Brits, we patiently stood waiting in the long queue at Washington Dulles Airport. Suddenly, Majid's name was called from the loudspeaker, telling him to go to the front of the line. Then mine. Were we in trouble? Majid had visited the US recently, appearing as an expert witness for the Congressional Homeland Security Committee chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman. Majid had been one of Hizb ut-Tahrir's most intelligent, vociferous and articulate leaders, travelling to Pakistan, Denmark and Egypt advocating the group's ideas and setting up secret cells. The Hizb, in essence, was identical to al-Qaeda, differing only in terms of the tactics it chose to achieve the desired result: political power. Majid has been banned in several countries, and is wanted by Pakistan's ISI, their intelligence agency. But he had recently rejected extremism and, after years of study and reflection in prison, become a public advocate for liberal democracy, using scriptural evidence to support peaceful Muslims -- who represent the vast majority -- in their struggle against religious extremism. His rejection of Hizb ut-Tahrir made headlines in the British press, and the British prime minister quoted Majid in parliament. But now we were in America, and during Majid's recent trip, federal escorts had accompanied him everywhere, fearful that he might violate US security regulations and not quite sure what to make of him. Would he, would we, face the same fate again?

An immigration officer at Washington Dulles Airport, accompanied by several colleagues, took us to one side, registered our passport details and asked the desk officer to clear us for entrance. Senior officials at the US Department of Homeland Security were expecting our arrival and wanted minimum kerfuffle. The polite, courteous conduct of the officers touched us both. But my mind was on the thousands of American Muslims who had been subjected to raids and arrests. Can we forget their plight?

Outside the airport, I stood with Majid and was stupefied by the number of US flags I saw everywhere. Flying at full mast at several junctures in the car park, and then above the airport, and on cars and coaches, the stars and stripes were ubiquitous. Unlike Britain, America was proudly patriotic and unreservedly expressive of national pride.

'Their flag is almost sacred to them, isn't it?' I said to Majid.

'And extremists burn it all the time. Why did we do that, Ed? Why?' he asked, trying to come to terms with how we had been sucked into extremism.

'Why didn't anybody stop us?' I asked in response. 'We watched this happen in London, not Baghdad -- what possessed us?'

Majid and I recalled how several of our fellow activists became suicide bombers, were imprisoned, or created entire organisations that linked themselves to al-Qaeda. What started off as mere talk, as rhetoric, found expression in mass murder in several European capitals, including London and Madrid. The murder we had witnessed on our college campus a decade before the attacks on London's subway on July 7, 2005 was an unspeakable testament to the power of words. The talk of jihad, hatred and anger never remains abstract, limited to 'freedom of speech.' It yields results.

More than anything else, what worried Majid and me was the lack of awareness in the wider society of the root causes of extremism, and of the lifestyle that fosters recruitment into extremist movements. Society's demonstrated failure to grasp the urgency of the situation was also troubling, because that comprehension might precipitate policies and actions that could prevent young Muslims from becoming fanatical ideologues committed to creating a world dominated by Islamism, not Islam. To help fill this void, Majid and I started the Quilliam Foundation, the world's first think-tank committed to explaining and countering Islamist thought.

We were in America to speak at Harvard and Princeton, at an array of Washington think tanks, and to meet Muslims on both the East and West coasts. We spoke with leading personnel at several government departments, US ambassadors, academic leaders and students. And everywhere we went, we were asked a similar series of critical questions. Can America create home-grown terrorists? Will American Muslims, like British Muslims, attack their own homeland in the name of a false Islam? Britain is home to over 3,000 extremists: Can America be harbouring enemies without knowing? The 9/11 hijackers hatched their plot in Europe: Are American-born Islamists capable of a similar monstrosity?

My answers to these questions, after meeting quite a few American Muslims and consulting with American experts on these issues, are both yes and no.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left by Ed Husain. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Islamist by Ed Husain. Copyright © 2009 by Penguin.

Author Bio
Ed Husain, author of The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left, was an Islamist radical for five years in his late teens and early twenties. Having rejected extremism he travelled widely in the Middle East and worked for the British Council in Syria and Saudi Arabia. Husain received wide and various acclaim for The Islamist, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing and the PEN/Ackerley Prize for literary autobiography, among others. He is a co-founder of the Quillium Foundation, Britain's first Muslim counter-extremism think tank. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

Poll Results

I asked you if you thought illegal aliens should be counted in the census. Not surprisingly, 70% of you said no while the rest of you though they should. I find that interesting. So, drop me a note if you would. I’d like to know your reasoning. Meanwhile, the US Census Bureau plans on going ahead with counting illegal residents.

No comments: