So what about Niger?

The United Nations recently announced that Niger is going through an extreme famime and the world seems to be ignoring it. The UN says 150,000 children could die following last year's disastrous crop. It has gotten so bad that according to Oxfam families are feeding their children with grass and leaves from trees to keep them alive.

While critics accuse Niger for waiting to long to call for help, one wonders who will be the first to give their hand for need.

Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson believes that the US needs to step up to the plate to save the famished African country.

"Let us hope an administration that used Niger to fake out the world for its invasion of Iraq can take the time to go back to that country to prevent death to many times more people," said Jackson. "To almost the complete silence of the United States, Niger, one of the world's poorest nations, was hit last year by natural weapons of mass destruction -- locusts and drought."

"Jan Egeland, the UN relief coordinator, said this week that 150,000 children will die soon without immediate aid. This is on top of famines in other parts of Africa. Relief agencies have been warning about the possibility of this since last fall, but for all of the self-praise of wealthy nations at the recent Group of Eight summit, the response to this crisis has been appalling. An initial call for aid by the UN in November resulted in almost nothing. This spring the UN called for $16 million and received only $3.8 million. The crisis has escalated so rapidly that Egeland revised the figure needed to $30 million, but so far, only $10 million has come in."

This comes as an irony as the president of Niger was one of the five African heads of states invited to the White House recently to discuss aid and trade issues for the continent.

''The United States will do our part to help the people of Africa realize the brighter future they deserve," said Bush at the meeting.

"The United States, unfortunately, stands out for standing on the sidelines," said Jackson. "Bush has boasted of increases of aid to Africa, and, yes, the United States is by far the world's biggest giver of aid in absolute dollars. But it has taken three years for Bush's Millennium Challenge Account to start giving out aid, and as a portion of our gross domestic product, we are at the bottom of wealthy nations. British Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted the nations to commit to a target of 0.7 percent of GNP for aid at the G-8 summit. Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, and Denmark all already give at least 0.7 percent. The United States gives 0.16 percent. It is the only wealthy nation under 0.2 percent."

Jackson always says it best: "The nation that was so concerned about yellowcake in Niger now needs to give its people the grain they deserve."


Mother of Germaine Lindsay finally speaks out

The mother of suspected terrorist Germaine Lindsay finally broke her silence yesterday at a press conference in Greneda. Maryam McLeod Ismaiyl is a in disbelief that her son would be involved in such an action.

''I can't believe it," said Ismaiyl according to the today's Boston Globe. ''I have so many questions, and I do not know if I will ever receive the answers."

''Jamal, as he would love to be called, was the best son I could have ever hoped for," she told reporters in the capital of the Caribbean island, where she is staying for the summer with her husband's family. ''I am still in shock and know not how to grieve for my son. Therefore, I grieve first for the victims."

She also stressed that she tried to best way she knew how to raise her children, including that they agree that suicide bombings are wrong, but wonders sometimes. ''Perhaps I was too strict, but that's how I brought him up, and I brought him up with a lot of love," she said.

By all accounts Germaine Lindsay was an outstanding member of the mainstream Muslim community in his hometown of Huddersfield, a town outside Leeds, England. Friends and family members believe that he changed due to a accident of fate. The Globe furthers says that "...He applied to Greenhead College, a nationally acclaimed school in Huddersfield, and his exceptionally high grades assured him admission, the close friend recalled. But his application was lost in the mail, the friend said, and by the time he reapplied the school was already full."

From that point he turned to befrieding local radical Muslim leaders. He married "Samantha Lewthwaite, 22, who studied religion in college, had converted to Islam a few years earlier and taken to wearing full Islamic dress when she went outdoors. Classmates at the Grange School in Aylesbury, where she grew up, recall her as an opinionated person whose best friends were Muslim and who, after the Sept. 11 attacks, said the hijackers were simply ''standing up for their rights."

"Lewthwaite has issued a statement saying that she ''totally condemns" the London bombings, and ''never predicted or imagined that [Lindsay] was involved in such horrific activities."

Also from the Globe, "Neighbors at their most recent home recalled him as a doting father who would wave to them when he double-parked his red Fiat in front of the house on the crowded street -- the same car that was found after his death in a parking garage filled with nine extra bombs.

"He lifted weights with a friend at the Body Flex Health Club, according to the gym's owner. To break the ice, he challenged everyone at the gym to arm-wrestle, he said.

"On June 6, Lindsay bought $175 worth of vitamin supplements and peppered other men at the gym with questions about what weights to use to gain muscle, and what types of food to eat.

''If he were going to kill himself, why would he waste all the money on that?" the gym owner asked."


Not your "typical" Muslim

Many of those who have been following the aftermath of the London bombings were possibly shocked to learn that the fourth terror suspect is Jamaican-born Germaine Lindsay, a 19 year old husband and father. Unlike the images projected in the media, Muslims come in racial backgrounds and are not just from Middle East, as Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

According to the Black Infomation Link, the Islamic Invitation Centre claims on its website that Islam is the fastest-growing religion among African-Caribbeans in the UK.

While the vast majority of African Caribbean Muslims are peaceful, there are a few who became radicals. Richard Reid, another black Briton of Jamaican descent, was arrested and found guilty for attempting to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes.

Peter Ratcliffe, director of UK Monitoring Centre for Racism & Xenophobia, said the fact that Lindsay had a Jamaican background had no relevance to the crime he is suspected of because Islam is a world religion.

He said: “Islam takes precedence over national identity. The fact that he’s Jamaican is not relevant. It’s unusual that we’ve got someone of Jamaican descent but it’s not as surprising as it appears.

Professor Ratcliffe said that people carried an “archetypal stereotype” image of likely terrorists but stressed Islam was a world religion and a “primary identity.”

Hughie Rose, chairman of the UK Black Panthers Party, said Islam naturally draws Blacks because it offers them a lifeline. “Anytime that you have a people stripped of their language, religion, culture, name and history, there’s a void there.

"Islam comes to people that are dead and lightens up that void. Islam has been able to do that for Black people and awaken the Black man. He’s seen as a dead man in the West with no hope for him.”

In an exclusive interview with yesterday's Boston Globe, the Germaine Lindsay's grandfather, Austin McLeod had serious doubts about his grandson and daughter converting to Islam. He said that his daughter grew up worshiping in a Christian church and that he opposed her conversion to Islam.

''She told me she converted, I tried to persuade her not to," said Austin McLeod. ''She grew up in the church with us. So she had no reason to doubt the God we had been serving. I told her the Lord had been good to us."

The 62-year-old Jamaican who moved to Boston in the early 1990s was shocked to hear this his grandson was involved in the attacks, making hime sceptical about Lindsay's involvement.

''Why would he put his family aside?" McLeod asked. ''What proof do they have? In the blink of an eye, he's gone, I want to know the proof."

McLeod said he only met his grandson in person once, about seven years ago, but described him as ''a very loving young man." He said that he wanted to talk to his grandson's wife, Samantha Lewthwaite, about his mental state in the days before the bombing, to see what could have changed him.

''It's devastating, I'm trying to hold my head up, because I know that if it was him, it wasn't [because of] the way his parents brought him up," said McLeod, who brought up his family in Jamaica before coming to the United States in the 1990s. He and his wife, Stella Coleman-McLeod, moved to Dorchester about eight years ago, he said.

''If he did it, we'll deal with it. If he didn't, we wouldn't want to suffer the consequences."


Book Reviews: Persepolis and Persepolis 2

A friend of mine recommended that I read this series of graphic novels. I usually don't read graphic novels because I relate them to the comics one reads in the newspapers. But I didn't expect to see what I saw in these two novels. In light of the growing division between Muslims and Western, capitalist nations, these books seem even more relevant in these times.

I heard about this book through a friend of mine who went to a book signing by Marjane Satrapi in town recently. The book mainly deals with the author's childhood years going in Iran shortly before, during and right after the Revolution. It was interesting to see how she developed her progressive views from her Communist parents and other relatives like her grandmother and uncle who defied the restrictive Iranian government. The book is also impressive because you get a first hand view of what it was really like to be a woman in that society. I think I learned more about the Iranian Revolution, or at least an alternative view, from reading this book than from all those years in school. If you are looking for a pro-American/pro-Western Iranian point of view, you are likely not to find much of it in this book, as it talks a lot about negatively about Western policies towards Iran's oil industry and Western involvement in Iraq. The drawings are amazing. I felt like Satrapi's life vividly came to life to me and told her story more clearly to me, which made to book even better.

Persepolis 2
This book picks up where Persepolis left off, when Marji's parents send her to Vienna to escape the traditionalist Iranian regime. This sequel is equally as impressive. This deals more with how others, in this case Europeans, identify her as "other." Marji always felt like an "outsider" or a "Third-Worlder" as she had a hard time relating sometimes to her white friends. From being a homeless drug addict for a brief time to finding out one her first loves was gay to becoming an aerobics teacher, Marji definitely goes through more things in her short time than most people do in a lifetime. I was thoroughly impressed with the author's storytelling abilities, which were sad, thought-provoking and comical, which made it hard for me to even put down the book. It was really great to read a book about a Iranian feminist who lives her life the way she wants to live it. I was impressed by this book because the Western media gives the impression that all Muslim women are helpless, when in fact as one read this book, Muslim women are empowered and taking control of their lives.


The Moral Divide Between Westerners and Muslims in Europe

The trial of Mohammed Bouyeri, the man accused of November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, will commence today in a Amsterdam courtroom. Bouyeri, who is of Dutch-Morrocan nationality, is accussed of killing Van Gogh because of a film he made about the ill-treatment of women within Islam. Van Gogh's murder sent shock waves through the generally liberal Netherlands.

This trial along with the London tube bombings last Thursday only further widens to divide between the West and Muslim Immigrants to Europe.

A note spiked into Van Gogh's body carried threats against his co-author, Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. An outspoken critic of Islam, she wrote the script for his short film Submission, which offended many Muslims.

Last night on the US program 60 Minutes Hirsi Ali explained that she warned Van Gogh about doing a film of this nature.

"Before we talked about making the film I said, 'Do you realize the danger?' " says Ali. "But he was adamant about making it. He was adamant about putting his name on the title."

Critics say that Van Gogh was specifically trying to offend Muslims. However Van Gogh is known for doing films that challenges everyone, no matter what race or religion. Furthermore, Van Gogh didn't feel that his life was threaten in a country where marijuana, prostitution and gay marriage were legal. But he was wrong.

Hirsi Ali has seen the wrath of the Muslim immigrant community first hand. She is seen as a traitor to Islam, the faith she rejected as a very young woman. She says her rejection of Islam started at an early age: "From the time I started reading novels of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, I wanted to be like Nancy Drew." Her beliefs estranged her from her parents, who remain devout believers. She is under 24 hour security and she got out of the country while the people of Holland dealed with the murder's immediate aftermath.

Hirsi Ali got into politics because she felt the need to point out the blindspots in Holland's so-called tolerant society.

"My accusation towards the Dutch society was, 'You think you are tolerant, but if you look behind those curtains in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, there are women who are abused. There are women who are taken to Morocco and Turkey and are killed there. They're murdered. And there are no records of those murders,' " says Hirsi Ali.

"I suppose some people would say we can't impose our alien laws on these new citizens," said Morley Safer, 60 Minutes interviewer.

"That was the definition of tolerance before I came," says Hirsi Ali. "And now we are redefining that by saying, freeing these women, giving them a chance at life is not imposing Dutch will, or let’s say Dutch values, on others. But it's protecting these individuals."

According to 60 Minutes, "out of a Dutch population of 16 million, there are 1 million Muslims, mostly Moroccans and Turks, who are now Dutch citizens. With high unemployment, and with huge numbers who never learned the language, most Muslims live in a separate world, in barren suburbs known as "dish cities," named for the satellite dishes beaming sometimes inflammatory Arab television into homes, and fostering a militant Islam. The man charged with killing Van Gogh grew up in such a place."

This same trend is seen all over Europe today. But Hirsi Ali will not give up. She plans to make a sequel to Submission.

By not making 'Submission Part II,' I would only be helping terrorists believe that if they use violence, they're rewarded with what they want," said Hirsi Ali.

Will she submit to the threats? "Not me," she said.


London Terrorism: Why the G8 should support African Aid

Today the international community grieves for the lost of life as terrorists strike again in London's public transit. During a press conference today from the site of the G8 summit in Gleneagles British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a visibly distraught form stated this act of extremism is counterproductive to the work the eight leaders are discussing this week in Scotland.

"It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate change and the environment," said Blair. "Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G8."

Blair further stated that it is important to "defend our values and our way of life" in order to stand up to terrorists. Currently no one has officially claimed responsibility. Possible suspects are the IRA and anarchist anti G8 protestors. An alleged Al Qaeda group posted a statement on a Web site claiming responsibility, saying, "The heroic mujahedeen has undertaken a blessed attack in London."

If it is in fact an Al Qaeda attack, this gives the leaders of the industrialized world more reason to provide aid to Africa as a way to prevent the spread to terrorist recruitment. It has been proven that organizations such as Al Qaeda tend to recruit and take advantage of those in the most marginalized poorest countries where there seems to be no opportunities for advancement. These organizations falsely advertise that they will provide "humanitarian aid" in exchange for their 'services' within their ranks. One does not have to look to far back in history to find examples. The 1998 US embassies' bombings in Nairobi is a good example of this. The are reports that Al Qaeda is also organizing in West Africa, further continuing the diamond wars.

It is not just Al Qaeda G8 should be worried about; the ruthless Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe is also using tactics to recruits country's most vulnerable into its campaign of extreme human rights abuses. Recently human rights organizations accused Zimbabwe's government of evicting from their homes citizens who didn't support Mugabe in the last elections.

“G8 and African leaders should recognize how massive human rights abuses also fuel poverty in Africa,” said Tiseke Kasambala, researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “They should call on the Zimbabwean government to respect fundamental human rights and stop the evictions.”

And there are countless other corrupt government officials throughout the continent who are festering on their populace.

So as the G8 reflect on the events in London today, it is hoped that they will realize that they will not only be investing in Africa's survival, but they will also be investing in the survival-and safety-of their own countries.


Book Review: Small Island

Andrea Levy's Small Island is a book about misconceptions of identity and race during World War II era Britain. The story revolves around Jamaicans who move to England as they believe they are "British" as they feel entitled to all the Mother Country has to offer. What they realize is that not everything is as it may seem. The best feature of this book is the way Levy tries to explain "colonial politics." During the height of colonialism, European rulers instructed their subjects in Africa, Asia and Latin America that if they "act" properly by learning the ways of being a European they will be treated equally. This included having light skinned and having 'proper' Christian education. This book also shows that people of color in England have to deal with the same level of racism as their counterparts in the United States. Although they had the right skin color and education, when the first wave of Jamaicans arrived on British shores in the 1940s, they were relegated to second class citizenship as shown in the novel. Many of these immigrants who fought with the British against Hitler's Germany. Instead of being welcomed with congratulatory arms after the war was won, these former colonial fighters were treated even worse by the country they just helped. This is the same experience African American soldiers saw as they returned to Jim Crow America. It is interesting to note that in the novel much of the racism colonial soldiers have to deal with come from white American GI stationed in England. The book also points out that race relations still has a long way even today both in the US and in England.


Post-Colonial Moment: Live 8

This weekend the Live 8 concerts will be hosted in nine cities around the world in order to bring attention to poverty in Africa. When Bob Geldof officially announced the concerts, he was immediately criticized for the lack of non-white, especially African performers, on the concert bills. London-based group Black Information Link described the list of performers at the Hyde Park event as "hideously white." Youssou N'Dour, the only African-born artist signed to play at a major concert, will be performing in Paris. In a recent BBC interview Blur frontman Damon Albarn said, "If you are holding a party on behalf of people, then surely you don't shut the door on them. It's insensitive and it also perpetuates this idea that Africa is separated in some way...This country [the UK] is incredibly diverse. More than ever, black culture is an integral part of society. So why is the bill so damn Anglo-Saxon?"

Geldof argues that the concerts aim to get the biggest-selling most well-known artists to guarantee a large television audience. However, many critics have noted that some of the white performers are less known than some major African artists, thus making the same mistake he made at the 1985 Live AID concerts.

In a badly patronizing act Geldof later announced that an all-African line up, Africa Calling, will be held on the same day as the main Live 8 concerts. Some critics have already described this as reminicent of apartheid in South Africa by putting African artists away from the main concerts. So now there is a second concert in Johannesburg with an all African line up, which is considered a main concert hosted by Nelson Mandela.

Meanwhile African-American business leaders are protesting that African-American vendors are not being given a chance to have to provide services at the concert in Philadelphia. The mayor of Philadelphia, in response, has promised that at least 30% of the booths would go to minorities.

So is this neocolonialism run amuck? Many Africans feel that Live 8 represents this attitude, where Westerners feel obligated to help out a supposedly helpless Africa. In a opinion piece in the Independent recently, "I am coming, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Live8 is as much to do with Geldof showing off his ability to push around presidents and prime ministers as with pointing out the potential of Africa. Indeed, Geldof appears not to be interested in Africa's strengths, only in an Africa on its knees." Furthermore is Africa being used revive the careers of aging rock stars or to revive Africa?