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Dr Kaukab Siddique | Editor-in-Chief Jamada al-Awwal 9,1429/ May 15, 2008, #29

Jamaat al-Muslimeen [News] [4 items only]
p.O. Box 10881
Baltimore, MD 21234

720 Balloons to Mourn 720 months of Israeli occupation of Palestine

May 15, 2008: Greensboro, North Carolina: As we go to the "press," the Muslims of North Carolina led by Imam Badi Ali are rallying against al-Nakba or the Catastrophe as the occupation of Palestine is called in the Arab world. The children of the community are releasing balloons with messages on them meant for the American people. [A helium gas tank is on hand to fill the balloons.]

The messages translate the meaning of al-Nakba. Some of the messages refer to Jimmy Carter's comment on the collective suffering imposed on Gaza. Others refer to the occupier status of Israel.

Br. Badi Ali says that the future belongs to Palestine, not to Israel. Terrorism is the foundation of Israel, he said. Expulsion of millions of Palestinians from their lands is the proof that Israelis are OCCUPIERS. He criticized Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak for sending greetings to Israel on its 60th anniversary. Br. Ali said that Islamic scholars should address Hosni Mubarak's gross error. Does he not know that Israel is an occupier? Br. Ali asked. Such greetings mean Mubarak is totally out of touch with the thinking of the Egyptian people.

Final Reminder of Jamaat's National Islamic Shoora on May 24. Pre-Order CDs of three Formal Presentations.

Inshallah, the National Shoora of Jamaat al-Muslimeen will meet in Greensboro, North Carolina,on May 24. It will give the final touches to the planning for the International Islamic Peace and Awareness Conference to be held in Baltimore on August 16, inshallah. [The conference web site is: Organizer: Br. Aziz.]

The Jamaat plans to distribute CDs of three essential presentations to be made at the Shoora. You may pre-order now. Please send a donation if you want more than one. The presenters are top of the line activists in America's Muslim communities.

1. Dr. Abdulalim Shabazz , Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, Endowed Chair, Grambling University, Louisiana. He will speak on Education for the Oppressed and African American Communities.

2. Sis. Karen English, California teacher of children with special needs, author of numerous books, first American Muslimah to visit the ancient Islamic city of Timbuktoo, West Africa. She will speak on: Boycott of U.S. businesses which support Israel and which indirectly endorse the occupation of Palestine.

3. Imam Warith Deen Umar, one of America's most distinguished Imams who played a very important role in setting up the chaplaincy system for Muslims in New York state which helped Muslim inmates get their basic Islamic rights. After 9.11 he was targeted by the Wall Street Journal and the united forces of Zionism to break him and to destroy his livelihood. He stood firm even as Bush's storm troopers ransacked his apartment in the Bronx, desecrated his prayer books, then raided his family home in Albany with dogs and terrorized his family. He was taken to court but refused to compromise. He will talk about his brilliant new groundbreaking book JEWS for SALAAM, a formula for an honorable peace.

Big Muslim Presence at Washington, DC Town Hall Meeting: Response to Police Misbehavior with Sis. Octavia. Apology Demanded. Police Commander Defensive. Muslim women's right to head cover

May 14, 2008: Muslims from Washington, Maryland and Virginia packed the town hall meeting held at the Kelly Miller Middle School Auditorium, 301 49th Street, in Washington, DC., N.E. They had come to show support for Sis. Octavia and Br. Mark Wali Timberlake. As reported in the previous issue of New Trend, Sis. Octavia was mistreated by police right in front of her home on the allegation that her car windows tint was not right and that her license had been suspended [which turned out to be wrong].

During the Q & A, Br. Wali presented the story of his wife's suffering. He wanted to know on what basis her head covering was removed and she was not permitted to feed her suckling infant. He spoke well. The police commander from the 6th district, where the incident happened, did not deny Br. Wali's charges. When the commander indirectly admitted fault and conceded that the police should "use commonsense," the crowd cheered.

Br. Abdul Wali is active in the community activities of the area and Muslims are well respected. Masjid al-Islam, which is nearby, led by Imam Musa has had a positive influence.
Sisters from Jamaat al-Muslimeen Baltimore showed up to support Sis. Octavia because, they said, this could happen to any Muslim woman who wears a head covering.

Br. Abdul Wali adds:
Dear Brothers and Sisters
Alhumdulillah they heard our voice last night at the town hall meeting and now they need to hear from the community. I ask that you please send letters to the below individuals expressing the need for the Metropolitan Police Department to be trained in cultural awareness and sensitivity towards Muslims and women. Please note what has happened to sister Octavia and the fact that her drivers license wasn't even suspended and that she was unable to nurse her baby. Also let it be known that the Department of Motor Vehicles has been known to harass sisters about taking their ID pictures with their Hijab (Hair Covering) on. In one case they told a sister that she couldn't take a ID picture with Hijab on. Lastly the DMV needs to check to see how many people have had their license suspended improperly and without proper notice.
Email letters to:
Police Chief Cathy Lanier
Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes
Commander Robert Contee
Ward 7 Council Person Ms. Alexander
Ward 8 Council Person Mr. Barry
At Large Council Person Mr. Brown
Mayor of Washington DC Adrian M. Fenty
Mayor Fenty's Chief of Staff Tené Dolphin
Director of Motor Vehicles Lucinda Babers

Lucasville prison imam Abdullah Hasan Unjustly sentenced to death: Support increasing 15 Years after the Uprising
by Saadiqah Amatullah Hasan, Toledo, Ohio

Peace & Blessings,

It has been 15 years since the Lucasville Prison Uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional facility, where 9 inmates and 1 prison guard was murdered.

The search for retribution led to an absence of justice for the prisoners involved in the uprising. Prosecutorial misconduct and snitch testimony resulted in five men on death row, and many more serving extended sentences for convictions surrounding the uprising. Some of those convicted negotiated with authorities, saving officers' and inmates' lives, and attempting to keep the peace.

2008 marks the 15th Anniversary of the Lucasville Prison Uprising, and those wrongly convicted are still awaiting their day in court. We ask that the governor appoint a special commission to investigate the uprising, bring justice to those who've been wrongly accused, and bring closure to the many families affected by the tragic events of fifteen years ago.

The Lucasville Justice project ask that you sign the petition on the ACLU website and/or contact Ohio's Gov. Ted Strickland and request that he investigate the grave injustice surrounding the Lucasville convictions.

Attached to this e-mail is a recent article composed by one of the Lucasville 5; editor and co-founder of Compassion, Siddique Abdullah Hasan. His work can be found on , , . Hasan has also taken a genuine interest in not only publicizing his case, but also speaking out in solidarity with other political prisoners. An article he composed with regards to Mumia Abdul-Jamal can also be downloaded from this e-mail.

Lastly, we ask you to aid us in continuing to shed light on the injustice in his case and the circumstances surrounding all of these cases.

Our America
Why are U.S. Muslims so helpless? Why is Every Politician Supporting Israel? Why is Africa Ignored?
by Kaukab Siddique, Ph.D

Democratic Party leaders are vying with each other to show support for Israel. The Republicans think they have already proven that they love Israel more than they love America itself. U.S. Muslims watch in horror, helpless and directionless.
Why do we have this situation when there are an estimated 7 to 9 million of us in America? Why can't we have any impact on U.S. policies? Jewish Americans are fewer in number but are, more or less, running this country.

The basic reason for this helplessness is that we have already "given away the store." Self-styled leaders implanted themselves in Muslim communities and decided to recognize Israel and to woo American Jewry and to kow tow to the American power structure.

America's Muslims could have changed the situation by unitedly rejecting the legitimacy of Israel. With 7 to 9 million highly articulate, socially mobile, educated and cultured Muslims opposed to the existence of Israel, the political situation would change. The American government would know that we are unalterably opposed to Israel and to all that the U.S. does to help Israel. The government would also know that the global Muslim ummah agrees with us. Any steps taken against us would damage America's influence globally.

In a situation where a power bloc exists which is not controlled by either the Republicans or the Democrats, the Muslim viewpoint would carry weight and people from all political groups in this country would want our support.

The strategic blunder we committed was that we gave away everything without the slightest resistance. Why should anyone want our support when they already have our support on Israel and our silence on the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The African-American community suffered a fate not very dissimilar from that of ours. The Democrats take them for granted and they vote up to and sometimes above 90% for the Democratic Party. They have the Congressional Black Caucus [BC] which is as spineless as CAIR and ISNA. How easily they fell into the Darfur trap. BC is willing to help the Zionists destroy the biggest African country, Sudan, in the name of helping a tiny Sudanese province called Darfur.

Would the BC ever dare to say: Why are you pumping BILLIONS of dollars into Israel and many more billions into Israel's war in Iraq when AFRICA IS STARVING and facing ECONOMIC RUIN. No chance!

Our task through Jamaat al-Muslimeen and likeminded groups is to unite the Muslims of America, through strictly peaceful means, on the basis of the Qur'an and the authentic Hadith. We must make it very clear to America that Israel is a terrorist entity implanted in Palestine by brute force. It has no legitimacy under international law and under Islamic law. We will use every peaceful method available to us to oppose, defeat and dismantle Israel.

BE OUTGOING: Don't Bring "Them" into our Communities

One of the greatest blunders of CAIR and ISNA [and MAS] was to admit guilt for being Muslim. There is nothing in U.S. law, even as interpreted by Bush, which gives the FBI and CIA the right to come into Muslim communities and to recruit Muslims to spy on each other. The law says that the regime must bring charges against individuals: no one has the right to brand the entire Muslim population as POTENTIALLY criminal. ISNA's men like Syed Sayeed, Nihad Awad, "imam" Magid and a whole list of bootlickers have tarnished the self-respect and Islamic identity of the Muslims of America. CAIR man Hooper standing at the pulpit of a mosque with the mass murderer of our ummah was a lesson in humiliation which Stalin could have hardly matched.

We need to go out into the communities of America and talk about the issues. Not that we pray 5 times a day and fast in Ramadan. Go on praying. That's not the issue in America. The issue is that we are against the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. We oppose the funding of Israel, the supply of weaponry to Israel. We want to stop the infusion of American mass culture into Africa to help stem the spread of AIDS.

We must show political understanding of the motivation of some good Americans who oppose Israeli ATROCITIES. That does not mean that they oppose Israel. These ongoing atrocities must be stopped but people like Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Fisk and others conceal their acceptance of Israel as a legitimate entity. U.S. Muslims are not slow thinking fools. We don't need all this criticism of atrocities which simply covers up the real issue of the legitimacy of Israel. Unless we tackle the real issue, nothing will change.

Once we make a powerful statement against Israel, we will get support from millions of Americans who want an independent America, freed of the Jewish albatross. Remember we are NOT anti-semitic. We are NOT against anyone's race. We are not against Judaism either. Jews are the People of the Book. The issue is the behavior of the Jews, not their race or their religion. They have taken our land, Palestine, by force of arms, and they exploit, manipulate and control America to use this great country against the Muslim world and Africa.

War News: From NT's Media Monitor
Pakistan: U.S. Air Attack Kills 20, wounds 35, destroys small mosque in Bajaur Agency

May 14, 2008. According to villagers and Pakistani Urdu media, an American drone fired rockets at two buildings in the village of Dama Dola in the Bajaur agency near Afghanistan. The dead include at least two children. There are indications that 4 Islamic visitors from other countries were also killed [perhaps the main targets]. Maulvi Taj Muhammad, a local Islamic leader affiliated with the Taliban was among those killed. A small mosque was destroyed in the attack.

Funeral prayers for the martyrs held on May 15 were attended by thousands of people. They were chanting angry slogans against the U.S. and vowing to take revenge. The Pakistani military claimed that it had no idea of what happened.

Meanwhile in Southern Waziristan, Islamic elements exchanged 12 Pakistani military men for 32 of their supporters.

Afghanistan: Taliban Pin Down U.S. troops, says NBC

May 15, 2008: A martyrdom operator attacked a police station in the western province of Farah killing 18 and wounding 22. Taliban cadres are moving out of the south, most of which they control, to attack U.S. funded forces in western and northern provinces. Unable to explain the Taliban successes, Karzai's men are claiming that Iran is helping the Taliban.

The situation is quite serious with Taliban on the offensive. On May 1, NBC TV showed America's best troops under Taliban attack in the Garmser area of Helmand province. NBC reported that the marines were "pinned down" by the Taliban and had to call in air strikes to make the Islamic fighters back off. NBC admitted that most of Helmand, and Garmser area where the marines are entrenched, remains under strong Taliban control.

IRAQ: Big Shi'ite offensive, backed by U.S., against Mosul: 500 arrested

U.S.-installed Iraqi "prime minister" al-Maliki arrived in Mosul to coordinate a massive Shi'ite offensive against the al-Qaida held city of Mosul. In some parts of the city, Shi'ite troops are going house to house to kill resistance fighters. The most backward segments of society, the tribal chiefs, are being paid significant amounts to help find the al-Qaida fighters. According to IP, 500 Iraqis have been arrested in Mosul from May 10 to 14 to reduce support for the Islamic resistance.

In turn al-Qaida is targeting Sunni tribal elements supporting the U.S. On May 13, in a village west of Baghdad, a martyrdom operator killed scores of U.S. supporters attending a funeral

Pakistani fighters hit U.S. convoy, are killed in Air Strike.

Taliban do not have to Force ideology on people. They have mass support. [Interview with Pak Taliban leader.]

by Arif Yousafzai [The writer lives in Peshawar and seems dependable because he reports without his personal views.]

PESHAWAR: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has announced that the unilateral ceasefire by the Islamic militia against the security forces has virtually ended and therefore the Taliban have resumed attacks on troops in some parts of the country.
"We are not formally announcing that the unilateral ceasefire we have proclaimed few months back has been withdrawn but I feel no hesitation to announce that the truce has virtually ended," said Maulvi Umer, a spokesman for the militia.
In a telephonic interview with this correspondent from an undisclosed location, Umer dismissed the media reports that the Taliban had given two months deadline to men in Taliban-controlled areas to sport beard or get ready to face the music. "It is unfortunate that we have been misquoted by some media organisations. We have never given any such deadline to men to grow beards or get ready for consequences," Umer clarified. He said that the Taliban believed in applying peaceful means to persuade people to adopt Islamic way of life.
"We have several branches which are busy motivating people towards Islamic teachings through peaceful means," he said. These branches included Amar Bil Maroof Wa-nahye Anil Munkar (commanding morality and discouraging sins), Dawa and Tableegh (preaching virtues), reviving Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and a squad protecting rights of the women as mentioned in Islam, he said.
The militia spokesman said that almost 90 percent of the men in the tribal areas grew beards and the Taliban had no need to use force against the remaining 10 percent male segment of the society. "We will never use force to press people to keep beard," he claimed.
The commander-turned-spokesman said that a dominant majority in the tribal areas and now in settled parts of the country too were cooperating with the Taliban in their agenda which had roots in Islam and the Islamic militia could not think of intimidating ordinary people to live this way and don't live that way.
"We are basically mujahideen (warriors engaged in a jihad) and we are busy promoting jihadi culture to defeat the enemies of Islam. We being Taliban are not a state to push people towards what we feel as right," Umer said. "After establishing Islamic state, we will be in a position to use the state machinery to enforce the Sharia in letter and spirit," he observed.
The spokesman said that the Taliban had no intention to establish a government within the government or run a parallel judicial system, saying that running affairs of the government was the responsibility of those who were in power. However, he made clear that the Taliban would take action against sins, injustices and malpractices if brought into their notice by the citizens.
"It is peoples' confidence on our honesty and method of quick dispensation of justice that they bring their problems to us to be resolved," Umer remarked. Had the government delivering timely justice to people, he questioned. "We are against criminals and we have no enmity with the common man," he made clear.
Asked about the latest situation involving peace talks between the government and the Taliban, Umer said that peace negotiations was now a bygone tale. "The government wasted our four months in futile exercise of signing peace accord. The efforts from the government remained largely confined to media statements," Umer alleged.
Had the government been sincere in inking peace accord with the Taliban, the agreement would have signed much before, the talkative Taliban spokesman opined and said that it was unfortunate that the government (both federal and provincial) never demonstrated serious attitude in this regard.
He revealed for the first time that a key figure in the Awami National Party had contacted the Taliban directly for initiating peace negotiations. ANP President Asfandyar Wali and NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti were making tall claims regarding peace negotiations with the Taliban but their position has exposed before the people, Umer said.
He went on to say that both Asfandyar and Amir Hoti seemed to be powerless as far as their desire to ink peace deal with the Taliban was concerned. "We don't doubt the intention of Asfandyar and Amir Hoti but we feel they don't have any power," Umer revealed.
The Taliban spokesman said that the ANP government was beating drums over the release of Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammadi chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad as the release of elderly cleric would prove to be the harbinger of drastic change in situations in the Swat valley. "Sufi Mohammad is veteran leader but for peace in Swat ANP would have to sit across the table with Maulana Fazlullah," he suggested.
Umer predicted a shameful future for the ANP if it deceived the public mandate as, according to him, was done by the MMA, which cheated people in the name of Islam. He described the recent attacks on the security forces in Swat, South Waziristan Agency and Bajaur as reaction to the government's flawed policies and use of force against the Islamic militia.
The Taliban didn't want to fight with army or police but the militants had to retaliate when they were attacked, he said. "It is regrettable that our army is playing mercenary role for American, which is enemy of Islam, and Taliban are fully prepared to continue to fight American forces and their aides till they are wipe-out completely from the surface of earth," Umer resolved.
The spokesman said that the Taliban were fast spreading in other parts of the country in general and in the tribal areas as well as in most parts of the North-West Frontier Province in particular, saying that all the Taliban were united under their leader, Baitullah Mehsood.

Another report from London adds: The bodies of nine local Taliban, killed by the US forces in Afghanistan, Monday arrived in Wana, South Waziristan.
BBC reports that at least thirty militants led by Mulla Nazir Group crossed the border around twenty to twenty five days ago.
It is reported that Taliban attacked on convoy of NATO forces in the area of District Uruzgan of Paktika, which inflicted heavy damage to the forces.
When the militants were returning after the attack, the US planes targeted them in which twelve of them were killed and some of them also detained by the US forces. The rest of militants have taken nine bodies to Wana whereas three bodies are still in Afghanistan.
Deputy Commander of Mulla Nazir Group, Maulana Muhammad Iqbal was also killed in the attack. Seven of the deceased are from Wana whereas two of them are from Punjab. It is difficult for locals to identify the bodies owing to burn injuries on their faces.
The AFP reports that these militants attacked NATO convoy in the area of Gardaze due to which eight army men were killed and destroyed number of tanks.

'No clemency for Fazlullah'
ISLAMABAD: Awami National Party (ANP) spokesman Zahid Khan on Sunday said neither clemency has been announced for cleric Maulana Fazlullah nor the cases against him were quashed. Khan said that during the initial negotiations between the NWFP government and Tehreek-e-Taliban, both sides agreed on ceasefire. The issues of clemency for Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi Amir Maulana Fazlullah, release of his comrades, and cancellation of cases against them were not discussed during these talks, he added. He further said that jirga-style talks were moving forward in positive directions. It was decided in the talks that there would be complete ceasefire, official and private buildings and security forces would not be targeted, he maintained. Talking about the reinstatement of judges, he said that it was the matter between PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Iranian viewpoint
Pakistan to extradite Jundullah terrorists to Iran
Tehran Times Political Desk
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan will soon extradite some of the top members of the Jundullah terrorist group to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Pakistan will soon officially deliver some top members of the Jundullah terrorist group, who are currently in custody, to Iran, Pakistani government officials told the Mehr News Agency correspondent in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Jundullah is a terrorist organization based in Pakistan's Balochistan Province that has been blamed for attacks there and in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

Jundallah claims that it has 1,000 fighters and has killed a number of Iranian soldiers. The group has been labeled as a terrorist organization by Iran and Pakistan. Some believe the group is linked to Al-Qaeda

Letter: Reader thinks Texas raid on non-conformist religion is meant to protect children

The Texas thing is not about polygamy but about sexual exploitation of children.
These girls are under-age and become the toys of adults.
If you have children, you understand why this is wrong.


Letter: Re: Siraj Wahhaj and Abdul Malik Mujahid: Angry Letter Condemns Dr. Siddique

Dr. Siddique:
I am shocked by your tongue. It is not only too harsh, it is also incorrect. What you are doing is equal to condemning a Muslims, especially the welknown activists, equal to hypocrites and kuffar. I told you before, and repat now, you have all right to disagree with them, but not right to condemned them in such language, as opportunists and other terms that you have used agsisnt Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Abdul Malik Mujahid.

Look at yourself, you are not really making any substantianl effort agaisnt the enemies of Allah and the believers, like anybody else, other than bad mouthing. I am afraid, you do not seem to be a person who fear Allah or make tauba for your unjust acts, especially inflicting upon innocent Muslims who may be mistaken, like you and anybody else, myself included. You can talk about issues in terms of what you think is right for Muslims to do and vice versa, not in such way of personal attack on other well known Muslim activists. Siraj Wahhaj and Abdul Malik Mujahid may be failing to understand how to help the cause of Islam and Muslims properly, but do not deserve to be condemned by other Muslims in such a tone. I know you had broken away from Jamat, but since then you are only cursing those who you don't agree with, without really making any proactive gesture to the cause of Allah. I feel obligated to remind you that you need to ask Allah to give you the light of Iman that you, I am sure, are claiming of so confidently, evident in your tone of condemning others. I believe, the Prophet,s, would not accept such tone of condemnation of each otehrs. Do not be so sel-righteous and take a position of being a perfect guy in Islamic movement, especially in the situation that is so confusing, for Muslims without the direct and physical guidance of the Prophet of Allah in it. I am so disappointed in you. You are not allowed to condemn other Muslims of repute like that. I have nothing against you, except what I read from you. Please don't put people on the spot by this type of writings.

wa assalamu alaikum

Your brother in Islam,
Haider Bhuiyan [Georgia]

Letter: Re: New Trend's critique of Turkey's Gulen Group [new "Islam"] and ISNA president Mattson: U.S. Turkish group rejects Gulen, accepts Bediuzzaman

The reason we are sending this communiqué is that we are receiving many emails from friends and acquaintances inquiring whether or not we belong to the Gulen Movement. We (the Nursi students in Milwaukee function with a Saturday Jalsa and have now established the Islamic Society of the Americas, Inc.) do not have any relationship or affiliation with the Gulen Movement. We are an independent group and we are doing Islamic work according to our Ustad Bediuzzaman's methodology, which is derived from the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah. We believe that Bediuzzaman was the most important Islamic scholar who defended Islam in Turkey after WWI. During this era, secular forces in Turkey had the mission of eliminating Islam after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Bediuzzaman paid a high price for his religious conviction by spending the majority of his life in a number of prisons. He never compromised the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah of Islam to appease western interest or for his own personal gain.

Within the Nursi Movement there are numerous groups. Groups like us follow Bediuzzaman's methodology of Islamic work while some other groups combine Nursi and western philosophies for their personal gains or alternate agendas. Our group maintains its Islamic identity and uniqueness and interacts with others with mutual respect. We perform Da'wa (invitation to Islam) according to our Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) example.

Your Brother in Islam,
Suleyman Kurter [Wisconsin]

May 10, 2008

Barack Obama sacks adviser over talks with Hamas

WASHINGTON (Times Online) -- One of Barack Obama's Middle East policy advisers disclosed Friday that he had held meetings with the Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas -- prompting the likely Democratic nominee to sever all links with him.
Robert Malley told The Times that he had been in regular contact with Hamas…. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think-tank and had no connection with his position on Mr. Obama's Middle East advisory council.

"I've never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people," he added.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, responded swiftly: "Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future." The rapid departure of Mr. Malley followed 48 hours of heated clashes between John McCain, the Republican nominee-elect, and Mr. Obama over Middle East policy.

Mr. Obama, who has been trying to assuage suspicion towards him among the influential Jewish and pro-Israel lobby, spoke at a Washington reception marking the 60th anniversary of Israeli independence on Thursday when he promised that his commitment to the country's security would be "unshakeable". However, Mr. McCain has high-lighted the Democrat's pledge to negotiate directly with nations such as Iran and a statement from Hamas saying that it hoped that Mr. Obama would win the presidency.

This was denounced as an offensive smear by Mr. Obama, who repeated earlier statements saying that… "we should not negotiate with them (Hamas) unless they recognize Israel (and) renounce violence".

He went on to suggest that Mr. McCain's attack showed that he was "losing his bearings". This remark triggered a furious reaction from Mark Salter, the Republican's senior adviser, who said that Mr. Obama was "intentionally raising John McCain's age as an issue" -- a claim the Democrat vehemently denied. The intensity of this dispute reflects both Mr. Obama's desire to move beyond his battle with Hillary Clinton and how Republicans are already beginning to train their sights on him.

The Republican National Committee has amassed a 1,000-page dossier on Mr. Obama, with researchers spending weeks in Chicago seeking fresh material. He is already being criticized for his links with Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia University professor who has branded Israel an "apartheid system in creation".

Mr. Malley, a respected commentator on Middle Eastern issues and part of President Clinton's negotiating team at the Camp David talks, has come under attack in recent months from right-wing bloggers. Friday, asked if Obama campaign was aware of his contact with Hamas, he said: "They know who I am but I don't think they vet everyone in a group of informal advisers."

Randy Scheunemann, Mr. McCain's foreign policy chief, suggested that Mr. Malley was part of an emerging pattern in which other advisers had been repudiated after throwing confusion over policies on trade and Iraq. "Perhaps because of his inexperience Senator Obama surrounds himself with advisers that contradict his stated policies," he said.

2008-05-16 Fri 08:32:39 cdt