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For nearly a decade, Islam has been involved in heated debates throughout the United State. Many of the defining issues of our time have involved religious differences, and yet the Muslim world continues to be largely misrepresented by the media. Some of the most basic rules and beliefs within the faith remain unexplored or unknown.
Here is a look at some common questions and misunderstandings.
• Hijab, Muslim women's headscarf, is the most visible indicator of Islam today. Hijab literally translates to modesty and morality. Whether to veil or not depends on the interpretation of modesty among Muslim women. Some argue that Hijab oppresses women and limits their ability to interact in the social realm. Headscarf debates have developed of late in Europe, where many Muslim women claim that Hijab should be an independent and optional choice.
• Hate crimes and backlash against Middle Easterners and Muslims after the tragic 9/11 attack and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq have increased both in the US and in Europe. Still, for many the term Muslim means terrorist. The majority of these hate crimes are regularly committed against average Muslim citizens. It is often overlooked that terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda who are interpreting Islam to the most extreme ends are a small minority among Muslim sects and make up a minute population of Muslims around the world.
• So, how many wives is it? It is crucial to state that monogamy among Muslims is the norm. But it is true that Islam does not provide restrictions against polygamy. When looking at the Quran -- the holy book of Muslims -- polygamy is encouraged at times of war, when many women are widowed and the support of orphans could strengthen the sense of society and community. At the same time, Islam only allows polygamy if the man is capable of providing equal opportunity and support for his wives. It is important to note that many Muslim scholars today are arguing for a more modern reinterpretation of Islamic laws.
• Are all Muslim Arabs? No. The largest Muslim nation in the world is Indonesia while Saudi Arabia is the largest Muslim Nation among Arab countries. Also, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups live in the Middle East along with Muslims.
In an e-mail to fellow student workers in a university office, my colleague penned a letter which was at once both sad and terrifically ironic.
"I'm having a much harder time finding a full-time job after graduation than I anticipated," my friend, a senior majoring in print journalism, wrote.
"Unfortunately, I am going to have to cut back on my hours ... in order to dedicate more time to the job search," she said, asking if anyone could pick up her Friday shift for the rest of the semester.
The mood among campus seniors hinges on whether one has plans for after graduation. With final exams approaching and graduation ceremonies only a few weeks away, a sense of anxiety is increasingly apparent -- and it's not just the print journalism majors who are struggling.
They've had an uphill battle. In the fall, John McCain had to compete with the sex appeal of Barack Obama (those abs!) and Joe Biden (those teeth!), but McCain proved he had more sexy in reserve than America has oil in reserve offshore when he introduced Sarah Palin (those legs!) as his running mate.
But Americans voted "Yes, we can" instead of "Drill, baby, drill," and Palin retreated back to Alaska, so the Republicans were left with a sexy deficit (except for when Palin family scandals pop up in the news once a week).
That deficit has been filled. Aaron Schock is in the House.
Of Representatives, that is. Schock represents Illinois' 18th District, and at 27, he is the youngest Member of Congress and the first to be born in the 1980s. He's not just a pretty face, hair and body. Not surprisingly, Schock is your typical over-achiever. He graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. with a B.S. in Finance, a four-year degree, in two years.
In his early teens, he began working after-school jobs and invested the money he made, making his first real estate purchase at age 18, according to his official House Web site. He entered public service by serving on the Peoria School board starting when he was 18 years old.
When he was 23, he was elected to the Illinois House, where he shared the 2007 award with then-Senator Barack Obama from the Illinois Committee for Honest Government for his "Outstanding Legislative and Constituent Service." He spoke at the 2008 National Republican Convention, and now that he is in Congress, he is sitting on three committees: the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Small Business Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He's also been named Deputy Republican Whip.
And, perhaps most notably, he's been named "hottest freshman in Congress" by the readers of the liberal blog site Huffington Post.
According to Heidelbaugh's prepared remarks, NYT beat reporter Stephanie Strom submitted to her editors in late October a story that alleged Obama offered the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, better known as ACORN, a list of its "maxed-out donors" for their get-out-the-vote fundraising operations. The primary source in the piece was Anita Moncrief, a fired ACORN employee and frequent informant to Strom. However, per Heidelbaugh's testimony, the Times refused to publish the controversial article because, as Strom allegedly told her source, "it was a game changer." Strom subsequently penned not a single additional ACORN story between the described incident and the November election, Heidelbaugh added.
Although Strom could not be reached for comment, the Times' Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications, Catherine Mathis, told The Bulletin of Philadelphia that the NYT "do[es] not discuss [its] news gathering and won't comment except to say that political considerations played no role in our decisions about how to cover this story or any other story about President Obama."
Even so, it remains unclear whether any wrongdoing actually occurred. If the allegations are true, Obama's collusion with ACORN could constitute "gross violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971," Heidelbaugh said. However, the hearing's participants did not further inquire as to how or why this was the case.
Furthermore, there is insufficient evidence to indict the Times for journalistic malpractice.
Anyone cruising around on the Drudge Report this morning got a glimpse of a grainy image of Barack Obama bowling, above the headline "GUTTER BALL." The jab is a reference to Obama's comment on The Tonight Show that his new bowling score of 129 is "like Special Olympics or something."
Now critics are jumping all over Obama's quip, even after a spokesman hastily dished out a statement in defense saying that the president "made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics."
And apparently, before Obama's appearance even aired on television, the president called the Special Olympics chairman from Air Force One and apologized for being funny.
"He was very sincere, expressed an interest and an openness in being more engaged in the movement, and said he was a fan of the movement," chairman Tim Shriver said on Good Morning America, " and I think importantly he said he was ready to have some of our athletes over to the White House to bowl or play basketball or help him improve his score."
So much for wanting a president we can relate to. Raise your hand if you've never made a joke about the Special Olympics.
The news isn't great for Dodd, who is already stumbling in his home-state polls. But one place you'd never suspect that is The Huffington Post.
The Huffington Post -- or "HuffPo" -- has long been a Democrat-friendly news aggregator and blog hub, known for its screaming, all-caps banner headlines pertaining to the issue du jour. So yesterday, following Dodd's admission, the Huffington Post decided to instead put the blame on the Federal Reserve.
"WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON?" HuffPo asked, above the more specific headline, "Fed Failed To Tell Obama About AIG Bonuses." That second statement has certainly been a talking point from the White House, which has insisted that Barack Obama did not know about the bonuses until just before the public found out.
That's not all, though. Below the website's main picture of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the AIG building and Obama, another sub-headline reads, "Dodd: Treasury Insisted On Weakening Bonus Provision," again playing to the Democrat's spin that he was pressured by the administration to add the language to the stimulus bill.
This should not be a surprise to many people, and this is by no means the first time such selective headlining has appeared in the Huffington Post. Yet with nearly 8 million visitors per month, the Huffington Post is trailblazing the way for online opinion molding.
In his second public appearance since September, Edwards spoke at Brown University where he discussed what he has been doing since the election and what his new aspirations are. Obviously the topic of his affair was on a lot of the audiences' minds, and he did address it...sort of.
In response to a question raised by a student who claimed to be a campus organizer for his campaign about whether or not it was "just or fair" for politicians to be held to a "higher moral standard," Edwards responded:
"It is not for a candidate to decide what is appropriate and what's not appropriate. That's something every single American has a right to decide for themselves. We live in a free country where people have a right to voice their views and have a right to form their views without limitation...
"It is not for me to impose on anybody what they can observe and can't observe. I have my own view, which I will keep to myself. But I believe it is enormously important to have the best thinkers and the best visionary people to lead our country where it needs to go."
Spoken like a true politician...er, advocate.
So now that we all know that Edwards plans to step away from politics and dedicate his life to a cause close to his heart (Al Gore anyone?), it's fair to ask: Is it too soon? In my opinion, its not.
I'm visiting friends in Los Angeles and just went window-shopping on Rodeo Drive, the famous Beverly Hills shopping district. High-end fashion is on my mind - though not in my shopping bags.
Right now there's no higher fashion icon than Michelle Obama. The new First Lady has been on the cover of several magazines since she moved into the White House. The consensus: she's looking good.
The Cold War had the arms race. Now we have the arms watch.
The First Lady appeared on the cover of the March issue of Vogue, her muscular arms bare. She was on the cover of People magazine in bare arms, talking about life in the White House. She was snapped in a sleeveless dress in the White House kitchen. And when President Obama gave his first address to a joint session of Congress, she was there to watch him, in bare arms in February.
Staffers with the St. Petersburg Times pored through hundreds of pages of Obama's speeches, TV appearances, position papers and his campaign website. From ending the War in Iraq to purchasing a new puppy for his daughters, the team found over 500 promises - large or small - and created the Obameter on their new Web site, PolitiFact.com.
The Obameter grades each promise on one of six levels: no action, in the works, stalled, promise broken, compromise, promise kept. Obviously, most currently fall in the "no action" column.
The staff has individually numbered each promise and runs the list through continuous checks in order to update their status. So far, Obama has kept 16 promises, compromised 7, broken 2 and has had 2 stalled.
The two promises Obama has managed to break already, according to PolitiFact.com, are his promise to allow five days of public comment before signing bills and creation of a $3,000 tax credit for companies that add jobs.
And equally important as what he says are what his callers think, all 14 to 30 million of them.
Take Sharon, whose March 6 transcript with Limbaugh is titled on the talk-show host's website, "Our President Wants a Depression." Sharon, from northern Virginia, claims that Barack Obama is hoping for economic conditions circa 1929 because "last time we had a Great Depression, it resulted in a generation of Democrat power, and this time it looks like he's doing exact same thing that happened last time."
Limbaugh, always the devil's advocate, points out that there's a big difference between Obama and FDR -- specifically, "Obama is doing much more to create and cause economic collapse than FDR did."
The caller agrees. "I think it's definitely intentional," Sharon says. "Some of the things that are being done to drive market instability and uncertainty couldn't be anything but intentional."
In March 2003, then-President George W. Bush did the unthinkable: He snubbed Helen Thomas.
Indeed, contrary to established White House ritual, whereby Thomas concluded presidential press conferences with her signature "Thank you, Mr. President," Slate editor-at-large Jack Shafer noted at this particular Spring presser that "Bush denied her that supporting role, ending the conference with his own sign off, 'Thank you for your questions,' and flushing a decades-old White House custom."
To a press corps that is as much a part of Washington culture as the presidents they cover, Bush's misstep was pure anathema; journalists could not conceive of a previous abomination of equal impudence.
Their manifest perplexity, however, was not a function of Bush's audacity; rather, it was a byproduct of their short collective memory. Before Bush brazenly brushed-off Thomas, Ronald Reagan renounced press conferences and jipped journalists of due access to the United States' intervention in Grenada. After the impeached Richard Nixon realized he could profit from perceivably facile foreign interviews, the lore of which now lives in Oscar infamy, Bill Clinton sat cozy with critical columnists on his airplanes.
Of course, these abuses of the "fourth estate" varied in effect, duration and warrant. But they nonetheless represented repeated attempts by presidents to manhandle press-government relations and control the scope and tone of national political reportage.
Is it any surprise, then, that the Obama administration has employed a similar strategy to cordon journalists in 2009? The new president's pre-determined question lists exhibit a striking resemblance to his immediate predecessor's surprise seating rearrangements or follow-up question bans, among other silencing tactics. Add to the brewing controversy Obama's over-reported tendency to ignore conservative-leaning reporters and outlets, and it is easy to understand why journalists at large are growing increasingly upset with the new administration.
Three days into his presidency, Barack Obama visited the press corps in the White House briefing room to introduce himself and trade a few pleasantries. What he didn't expect was that one of them would still be on the job.
One of Politico's top reporters, Jonathan Martin, approached Obama and asked why he was nominating a former lobbyist for a top defense post, when he had promised that no former lobbyists would work in his administration.
The president laughed it off. "Ahh, see," he said, "I came down here to visit. See, this is what happens. I can't end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here."
The reporter tried again, repeating his question. Then Obama became agitated, placing his hand on Martin's shoulder and staring him down.
"All right, come on," the president glared. "We will be having a press conference, at which time you can feel free to [ask] questions. Right now, I just wanted to say 'hello' and introduce myself to you guys – that's all I was trying to do."
But unfortunately for Obama, making friends with the men and women who will cover his presidency isn't a dream that most of them share. White House reporters have a very specific job: to tell the public what Obama is doing, what he isn't doing and what he's hiding. There's nothing friendly about it.
Which helps explain why Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial burial ground for a couple of million war dead including a handful of Japanese war criminals, is a focal point of nationalism.
During World War II, Japan's imperial army led bloody campaigns in China and other parts of Asia, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. Yet a few decades after the island nation surrendered, more than 1,000 soldiers who were charged as war criminals -- including 14 really terrible ones who are called "Class-A" criminals -- were secretly enshrined in the burial ground.
When this became public, China and Korea got pretty angry. Now, every time a Japanese official (like former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi) visits the shrine, East Asia flares up in wars of words. Japan's current leader, Taro Aso, said recently that he is considering a visit.
But that's not the only reason why Yasukuni is controversial. Walk 200 feet to the right of the shrine, and there's the Yushukan, a "history" museum erected by super-conservative, right-wing nationalists who want to set the record straight about Japan's wars -- at least, their version of the record.
Keep in mind that this group openly advocates -- and has succeeded in -- revising school textbooks to omit details such as the fact that during the war, the Japanese used Korean "comfort women" as sex slaves for their soldiers.
So when you think the United States has too many political extremists, think again. Whether they're on the right (like Sean Hannity) or the left (like Bill Maher), none of them have anything on the conservative Uyoku dantai.
Manage Those Wolves!
A national hunting association is throwing its full support behind Palin to counter Ashley Judd's glitzy charges that the governor is unethical for encouraging wolf-hunting from helicopters. None the wiser, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance sent a letter to Palin saying that it wants to "publicly endorse your wolf management policy."
Needless to say, Palin probably wouldn't have gotten all this attention if she hadn't piggybacked onto the Republican ticket last year. In the anti-hunting campaign, Judd says in a video, "It's time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery."
Palin's spokesman, Bill McAllister, responded by saying, "I don't know that people necessarily base their views on these issues on what celebrities say."
Hughes is the lady who begged President Obama for a house at a town hall meeting this week. Obama promised to help and he sort of did. A staffer gave her a card and suggested she go through more of the bureaucratic mess she had been complaining about.
Instead, Chene Thompson, the wife of Republican State Representative Nick Thompson, came to save the day, giving Hughes the keys to her home and inviting both her and her son to live there rent free.
Not suprisingly, her entire life history is now being combed over meticulously.
In her plea, Hughes mentioned that she had reached a dead end with local government assistance and no local charities would help.
Tanya Johnson, director of We Care Outreach Ministry, a faith-based organization in Fort Myers, says that just ain't so!
For the last month, Johnson claims she offered Hughes permanent housing and a place to stay free for three months, but Hughes refused.
"We've extended a lot of services to her," Johnson said.