Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Benefits of Hijab: Scripted Sayings vs. The Reality

From the moment I decided to start wearing hijab, I, like many other Muslimahs, became the public face of Islam. I am asked hundreds of questions about Islam and/or Arab culture. I am expected to explain the history of the Israeli-Palestinian, conflicts in the Middle East and what every Muslim on the planet thinks about a given issue. As complicated as those questions may be there is one simple question which people never fail to ask- why do you wear hijab/the veil/”that thing on your head”/the scarf? After I provided an “official” answer about why I was wearing it- per the Quran, modesty, distinction as a Muslimah- I proceeded to highlight the benefits of wearing hijab. I would launch into a scripted but passionate explanation about all of the perks that go along with being a hijabi.

One day I listened to myself and I began to pick apart my own arguments with examples I’d seen in the Muslim community and in my own life. I was going on and on about the benefits of hijab but in the back of my mind I knew that my life was more complicated than I made it sound. If I’m honest I’d be forced to admit that subconsciously I was trying my hardest to make the life of a hijab-wearing Muslimah look appealing to non-Muslims (and even to non-hijabi sisters.) Somewhere along the lines I must’ve read an article or a book on hijab and decided the answers someone else provided were the best. Who knows, maybe I was trying to convince myself. So, what are some of the common answers I used to give? Let’s take a look.

Hijab protects me from the harassment of men. They do not look at me like a piece of meat or treat me like an object.

Believe it or not, there is some truth to this statement. On the average men do not hit on me when I’m out in public. They don’t whistle or make obscene gestures towards me. On the average they do not “hey baby” or ask me for my number. They either see the hijab as an off limits sign, don’t know how to approach someone like me or figure it’s too much work. However, I don’t think it’s true as a general statement to say that hijab makes me 100% exempt from the treatment other women receive while out in public. I think it depends on the situation and the person who's doing the approaching:

-I’ve been approached by non-Muslim men who pretend to be interested in learning about Islam so that they can get close to me or at least get my number.

-Even though I’m in hijab I’ve been solicited by men who are looking for prostitutes.

-I’ve come to the realization that some men have a fetish with Muslim women who wear the hijab and/or niqab. They wonder what's underneath all those clothes and apparently it turns them on. Non-Muslim relatives of mine have told me that sometimes men like things left to the imagination. A woman who is all “covered up” is seen as challenge.

-I’ve had Muslim men catcall me or try to get with me. (And I don’t think it was for the purpose of marriage). One time I was catching the bus to work and two Muslim men held up traffic as they tried to offer me a ride or at least get a telephone number. The fact that I was wearing an abaya didn’t seem to dissuade them in the least.

And then there's the Somali mall. If you ever been to the Twin Cities or lived there then you know, hijabs, niqabs, abayas, gloves or burkhas do not prevent a sister from being heckled, stared at or even touched sometimes...

When people (non-Muslims) see me in hijab, they will see a righteous, pious woman who is committed to God. They will be drawn to Islam as a result.

Hmm, I don’t know about that. From the studies I’ve seen and the conversations I’ve had with people, it seems that when people look at us they think the following: She’s oppressed, she’s backwards, she doesn’t speak English, her husband/brother/uncle/father made her dress like that, she’s not very educated etc. Some people are repulsed or even afraid!

Not a lot of people look at us and automatically see a righteous woman who is consciously striving to please her Lord. In fact, people are surprised when I tell them that I chose to dress this way and that I am doing so to please God. They're shocked when they discover that I converted to Islam, don’t come from an “Islamic country”, have no Muslim family and made the choice to “dress like this.”

It seems like once people have had the chance to get to know me (and interact with me) only then do they start to think, Oh, she's a person who's striving to be religious. Whether they understand it or not is another matter...

The hijab forces people (esp. men) to move past the physical and to focus on my mind; my intellect.

In the right situation, yes. As I mentioned in the previous example, when it comes to non-Muslims, the majority of them are already convinced they know who we are. And one of the things they think is that we are not very educated (read: not very intelligent). Again, think about the surprise people express when they see a hijab-wearing Muslimah who is educated, articulate, and intelligent.

When it comes to Muslims (generally speaking of course), as much as we would like to believe this statement to be true, I have my doubts. I don’t think I need to discuss the sexism that exists in our community (check out the Muslim blogosphere.) Sisters are fighting to make their voices heard and for positions in key organizations. Sisters are tired of simply cooking for masjid functions or supporting the brothers. And we’re tired of being regulated to the back of the masjid to be heard from no more.

No, not all Muslim men are sexist. There are brothers who do appreciate us for our intellect. We thank them. Now it’s time for you to get out there and challenge the other brothers!

Muslim women wear hijab as a sign of modesty and purity. It is a symbol of their chastity and dignity.

Ideally yes. Realistically no. We all know that there are Muslim women who wear a scarf (and I say scarf deliberately rather than hijab) but have cleavage hanging out, painted on jeans, see through garments etc. The only thing they are hiding is their hair (or part of their hair). And believe me; I say this not as a judgment but rather as a statement of the facts. One day I was walking to work and as I approached the corner I saw three guys with their neck stretched out, looking at someone who was around the corner. I heard them saying, “Dayyum, look at all that ass!” Much to my surprise they were checking out a Muslim woman who was wearing a scarf but had on ultra-tight jeans with a fitted shirt. I try not to judge people- esp. women when it comes to wearing hijab- but I didn’t think those guys were looking at her and seeing a woman who is modest and pure; a symbol of chastity and Islamic dignity. (And I am not fully blaming her. I could write another blog about the objectification of women etc.)

The other thing is that there are women who wear hijab (and I do mean ‘proper hijab’- whatever that means to you) whose behavior does not reflect its purpose. The way I see it, hijab is more than just the clothing you put on, it’s also in the behavior, and how a woman carries herself. Unfortunately, there are hijabis who curse like sailors, hijabis who are loud and rude in public, hijabis who are flirtatious, and so on. A friend of mine once told me that she knew a non-Muslim guy who had a hijabi “girlfriend”. My friend was trying to explain the purpose of hijab, modesty etc. to him but he thought it was a joke. He told my friend when it came time to have sex with his “girlfriend” he just lifted up her skirt and “did his thing.” He’d never seen her hair but he was “getting it.” (And I say this not be crude but to be honest about what’s going on out there).

If iman is not cultivated but sisters are urged to wear hijab, what do you think will happen?

By wearing the hijab, I am freed from the body image issues that exist in American culture. As a hijabi, I don't need to worry about suffering from Bulimia or Anorexia or similar illnesses. Unlike non-Muslim women, I am not influenced by the media or society’s definitions of beauty.

WRONG! While I have not seen statistics on bulimia or anorexia in the Muslim community, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t practicing Muslimahs who suffer from either disease. The reason I say this is because I have been around Muslim women and have listened to them complain about their weight- even if they are slim. I’ve also know that in certain Muslim cultural communities the ideal woman is fair-skinned and skinny. What happens if a woman is neither?

Even though we are Muslim many of us are still subjected to the same messages about beauty that every other woman in society is subjected to. (i.e. we are taught to hate the way we are designed and to spend exorbitant amounts of money in order to change ourselves). Our men (Muslim men) are influenced by the larger society as well as we are. I know sisters who husbands have put pressure on them to lose weight so that they can fit into the American body ideal. (I personally experienced it in my previous marriage). It's not a secret that some Muslim brothers are looking for walking perfection in a hijab. True: I know a sister whose husband placed it in their marriage contract that she had to work out a certain number of days and do everything she can to maintain her weight. (Even after kids).

I think it’s rather foolish of us to think we won’t be influenced by our environment. Unless you’re living like the Amish, it’s going to be there. I think ideally we’re striving to get to a place where our main focus is developing internally (with less focus on the external). We’re trying to abide by the Islamic principles we read about and are exemplified in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) I just don’t think the majority of us are there yet. That includes me! Hence the outside influence.

I love hijab and I never regret the decision to wear it. I am so happy! I'll never take it off.

For some Muslimahs the aforementioned statement is true. However, I have to admit (and I know I'm not the only one) that I have my ups and downs. For the most part I absolutely love wearing hijab. It has become like a second skin to me and most of the time I could not fathom the thought of taking it off. Generally, I feel so feminine and so proud to represent Islam. Then there are days when my iman is not as high and though I still wear it, it's difficult. Sometimes I feel unattractive in it. I look at myself and I see a strange, foreign lady staring back at me. Those days are rough. I have to ask for Allah's assistance and do little things to lift my morale.

I'd also be lying if I said I never thought about taking it off. Especially in this post-9/11 world with the spike in hate crimes directed towards Muslims and the overall discrimination we face. The other day I was telling my husband that he does not feel the sting of racism and discrimination directed towards Muslims in the way that a woman wearing hijab does. Without a doubt, people KNOW I am Muslim when they look at me. By the same token, they don't know he's Muslim unless he tells them. They just see a Black guy with a beard who has a "funny name." From time to time, the staring, the rudeness, the stereotyping, and discrimination starts to get to me. But alhamdulillah, my saving grace has been that I remember the blessing that is involved. I rememeber the more difficult something is, the more reward you're getting for it.

But you have to know, it's difficult being the public face of Islam every single day. You have to be a really strong person. Among many other reasons, some sisters don't feel like they can do it anymore and they take their hijabs off. While I don't think they should give up so easily, I certainly understand. I pray, in time they will make the decision to try and it again- once and for all.

In Conclusion

I am not saying that some of the statements listed above are not true for some Muslimahs. And I am not suggesting that we air all of our dirty laundry to people when explaining the benefits of hijab. I just don't think it's good to try and sell a dream or to be deceptive in any way. And I feel like, in some respects, many of us are just regurgitating statements we've read and heard over the years without seriously thinking about what we are saying. I personally decided that I would tell people my reasons for wearing hijab but I would also share the complexities (and ups and downs) that come along with it. I'm all for being real and I think people respect you more for that.

Besides, the biggest benefit I've gotten from wearing hijab has nothing to do with other people or their understandings of Islam. The best and most important benefit is the closeness I feel to ALLAH by doing something he has commanded- no matter how difficult it is at times. That's enough for me.

Wearing the Hijab in America

Muslims girls face many different issues when it comes to wearing the hijab in public. There are many reasons for these issues. Most of the largest issues come from schools where Muslims girls feel it is their right to be able to wear their hijab. Girls that insist on wearing the hijab are told that they are not conforming to the school uniform policy and are forced to take it off.

One of the most documented cases is that of Shabina Begum. Begum was a pupil at Denbigh High School, in Luton, England. In this situation, Begum took her case to the court along with her brother, stating that the school was violating with her rights to manifest her religion and her right to education. The problem was not that she could not wear the hijab, but she could not wear the jilbab, a form of dress that covers the entire body. She first lost the case, but later won it. The school went on to say that by wearing the jilbab, she was indirectly forcing the other girls in the school to wear it as well. The accuracy of this statement is arguable. It may have been a hollow statement offered by the school as a last minute hope to get extra credibility within the case.
The arguments for and against the wearing of the hijab and other religious dress in public are also widespread. There are those that say people should be allowed to follow their religion no matter what it allows in terms of clothing. Others say that it creates unwanted and unneeded tension in society. There are even some Muslim writers say that Begum was overdoing the amount of modesty required, after all the hijab was allowed, why did she have to take it a step further and wear the jilbab.

Sometimes the stereotype is so strong that just by wearing the hijab, women are getting negative images and representations of Arabs thrust upon them. There are may instances of physical abuse when wearing the hijab in public, especially after 9/11. Before the attacks in New York, hijab wearers were always given stares and looks. They were made to feel slightly out of place, but nothing more. After 9/11 occurred, the violence and hatred started to expose itself to these women. Racial slurs were thrown around and physical violence was used, where tearing off the hijab occurred frequently.

There are also many instances of intersectionality between race, religion and gender. African American women Muslims sometimes have to face the racism and anger of not only being black, but also a Muslim who wears the hijab. These problems are widely documented in newspapers and journals. Amina Wadud, Professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, said that "When I wear a hijab, I don't look African and my words are measured with politeness; however, when my hijab is not covering my hair, I become Black and my words lose all value." This shows us how race and religion collide.

A Muslim Girl in Denmark

By Guest Writer Natasha

I've got the impression that many of us are living outside the Arabic countries. So therefore I would like to share some of my opinions with you about how it is to live in a country in Europe.
I live in Denmark, and I'm a Muslim girl who's 16-years old. I wear hijab, and sometimes it causes me trouble.

Once I was walking downtown in Copenhagen with a Danish friend, and all of a sudden a guy steps in front of me and spits me in my face and yells to me that I should go back where I come from. No surprise, I began to cry because it hurts to be humiliated in front of so many people...

I'll never forget that episode, but it never changed anything in my opinions about the Danish people. Many of them are very kind human beings, and almost all my friends are Danish. I've always been on a Danish school, and now when I'm in high school I still meet the greatest Danes who respect me and my religion. They take a look on my personality, and not on my outfit.

It's kind of hard to find a job just to make some money, because I wear hijab. But lhamdilla now I'm working in a great place with the kindest boss.

No doubt that I would choose to live in Lebanon, where I'm from, but then again - it would be VERY hard to leave all the good things behind here in Denmark.


well one of the better movies i have seen actually underworld 2 is kinda crappy , i really like the first but i just kinda like this pic

Money hungry mulsim girls

4 those of U who don't know i meet this chick a while back and was talking to her and she told me that she toungt that her husband should give her $5000
( a little less than $1000 ) every mth to spend on her self cause she was a sophisticated girl , i told her that i cant afford her .

Some real money hungry muslims in this country

frig all trini girls

Flawed AVG antivirus update cripples Windows XP PCs

Published: November 11, 2008

A flawed signature update to AVG Technologies' antivirus software over the weekend crippled some Windows XP PCs by mistakenly deleting a critical system file, the company has confirmed.

According to messages on AVG's support forums and its own support site, an update released late Saturday for the company's security software fingered the "user32.dll" file as a Trojan horse. As per the program's settings, the AVG software, including the newest version 8.0 and its predecessor 7.5, shut the .dll away in quarantine. The result: A crippled computer.

"If you have chosen 'heal' or 'quarantine,' your PC will no longer restart," said a panicked user named "pa3bar" in a message Sunday. "It shows a blue screen at start up and tells you it cannot find winsvr, error c0000135. System recovery has no effect."

AVG, best known for its free Antivirus, confirmed the error in a FAQ on its support site. "In case you are not able to run your Windows XP operating system after AVG 8.0 virus definition update, it may be caused by a false positive on a specific 'user32.dll' system file," the company said. "The file was moved to the AVG Virus Vault and deleted. Therefore it is not possible to start Windows."

Although some systems refused to boot, others rebooted endlessly instead.

On its support site, AVG posted instructions for affected users that involved running Windows XP's Recovery Console, disabling several AVG services and restoring the user32.dll file by copying it from the operating system's install CD. For users unable to locate their installation disc, AVG offered a utility that fixed the problem; those users also needed to create a bootable CD or USB drive.

The utility work-around was for AVG Antivirus 8.0 only; a similar utility for AVG Antivirus 7.5 will be available "soon," according to a message posted by a support forum moderator Tuesday.

An AVG technical support representative provided more detail on the snafu. "We can confirm that it was a false alarm," said Zbynek Paulen, who identified himself as an AVG employee. "We have immediately released a new virus update (270.9.0/1778) that removes the false positive detection on this file. Please update your AVG and check your files again."

That suggestion, however, only worked if the user had not turned off his or her PC, or rebooted it, in the meantime.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience," Paulen added.

AVG did not publicize the problem on the front page of its Web site and did not immediately respond to several questions, including how the flawed signature slipped through internal checks.

This wasn't the first time that AVG has been in the spotlight. Last summer, the LinkScanner Search-Shield component of its antivirus software triggered a flood of bogus traffic to Web sites, angering site operators.

Nor is AVG the only security vendor to issue a damaging update. Only last September, a Trend Micro Inc. signature mistook several critical Windows XP and Vista system files for malware, blocking the PCs from booting.

Copyright 2008 IDG. All Rights Reserved.

The World Reacts to Obama

Students in Jakarta, Indonesia, react to the announcement of Mr. Obama's victory, at the school he attended in childhood.

An audience gathered in Hong Kong to listen to Mr. Obama delivering his acceptance speech live from Chicago's Grant Park.

Filipinos celebrated with cutouts of Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden at a shopping mall in Manila.

Students from an Islamic high school, the Jamia Senior Secondary School in New Delhi, celebrated around a cutout of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama as they react to the news that he was elected as the 44th President of the United States.

India Police Say They Hold 9 From Hindu Terrorist Cell
Published: November 11, 2008

NEW DELHI — For the first time in this Hindu-majority nation of 1.1 billion people, the police have announced the arrest of people who are accused of being part of a Hindu terrorist cell.

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Brijesh Singh/Reuters

Members of a right-wing Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, offering prayers last month in Agra, India.

Associated Press

Pragya Singh Thakur, shown in 2007, has been arrested in a September bombing.

Police officials in western Maharashtra State said they had arrested the nine suspects and charged them with murder and conspiracy in connection with the bombing in September of a Muslim-majority area in Malegaon, a small city. Six people, all Muslims, died in the explosion, which was among a string of terrorist attacks in Indian cities in recent months.

Blame for several of these attacks has been placed on radical Islamist groups; one group, calling itself Indian Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for several attacks. But the arrests of the Hindu suspects in the Malegaon bombing raised the possibility of another source of terrorism, involving a radical Hindu fringe.

“This is a very dangerous trend,” said Ajit Doval, former chief of India’s Intelligence Bureau, who added that it could undercut efforts to bolster pluralism in India.

Those arrested by the police antiterrorism squad in Maharashtra over the past two weeks included a Hindu nun with links to the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and an army colonel, who is suspected of having provided ammunition and training to the bombers.

The Indian Army has long viewed itself as being free of ideological or political bias, so the arrest of an army officer was deeply troubling to the military. “I can tell you that we are taking it seriously,” said the defense minister, A. K. Antony.

The arrests reinforced growing suspicions over the last few years of a potential threat from Hindu extremists. In August, two members of a right-wing Hindu group called the Bajrang Dal were killed while assembling bombs in the northern industrial city of Kanpur. In 2006, two people who were thought to belong to the same group died under similar circumstances in a bomb-making workshop in Nanded.

Officials in the Central Bureau of Investigation told reporters in New Delhi on Saturday that investigators had established a link between the Nanded group and the Malegaon bombing.

Bal Thackeray, the leader of another Hindu hard-line group, the Shiv Sena, wrote in June in the group’s weekly magazine that Hindus should defend themselves from Islamist attacks by forming their own squads of suicide bombers.

“The threat of Islamic terror in India is rising,” Mr. Thackeray wrote, according to a translation from the Marathi language that was published in The Hindu, a national English-language daily. “It is time to counter the same with Hindu terror. Hindu suicide squads should be readied to ensure the existence of Hindu society and to protect the nation.”

Prosecutors said that investigators of the Malegaon bombing on Sept. 29 traced a motorcycle at the site of the explosion, apparently used to plant the bomb, to a Hindu nun named Pragya Singh Thakur, 37, who lives nearby in Gujarat State. While in college, Ms. Thakur was a member of the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to Vishnu Dutt Sharma, a senior leader of the student wing.

Mr. Sharma described Ms. Thakur as “aggressive in her speeches and work.” She was religious and studious, Mr. Sharma said, and did postgraduate work in history.

During a pilgrimage in 2007, Ms. Thakur renounced a worldly life and became a nun, or a sadhvi in Hindi, cutting her hair short and donning orange robes, the sacred color of Hinduism, according to a brother-in-law, Bhagwan Jha. After she became a nun, her name was changed to Purnachetnanand Giri, which means complete consciousness.

Ms. Thakur’s lawyer, Naveen Chomal, said she had done nothing wrong and that the police had arrested her only because her motorcycle was found at the site of the bombing. The police have said they also have taped telephone conversations in which Ms. Thakur wondered aloud why the Malegaon bombing had not inflicted a higher death toll.

Some people have begun to treat the suspects as heroic figures. Several Hindu organizations have rallied to Ms. Thakur’s side, contributing to a fund for her legal defense.

Her father, Chandrapal Singh Thakur, told The Times of India, a national daily newspaper: “If the government doesn’t act in time, common people will have to do something about their own safety. I pray that she succeeds in her endeavors.”

Mr. Thakur has placed a photograph of his daughter on the family altar. The Bharatiya Janata Party has issued statements defending Ms. Thakur.

Her arrest led police investigators to several other suspects, including Lt. Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit. At the time of his arrest, Colonel Purohit was posted with the Indian Army’s education corps, studying Chinese.

A prosecutor, Ajay Misar, said that Colonel Purohit had helped the bombers obtain money, arms and training. “He supplied six pistols and 196 cartridges to the other accused,” Mr. Misar said in a telephone interview.

Dinesh Aggarwal, an inspector in the antiterrorism squad, said the suspects were part of a larger conspiracy. “Their precise role will be known after the investigation is completed,” he said.

The terrorist bombings have become a major political issue, with state elections scheduled for later this month and a national election expected next spring.

The opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, initially distanced itself from Ms. Thakur, but acknowledged that she had been part of its student wing after photographs of her with prominent party leaders were published. Recently, the party has defended her. And the party’s chief minister of Gujarat State, Narendra Modi, accused the government of maligning the army’s image by arresting Colonel Purohit as a pre-election ploy.

China Unveils Sweeping Plan for Economy

Published: November 9, 2008

SHANGHAI — China announced a huge economic stimulus plan on Sunday aimed at bolstering its weakening economy, a sweeping move that could also help fight the effects of the global slowdown.

Qilai Shen/European Pressphoto Agency

An elevated highway site near Hangzhou, the sort of project that would be financed in a new economic stimulus package.


Asian Stocks Rise Sharply (November 10, 2008)

Times Topics: China

At a time when major infrastructure projects are being put off around the world, China said it would spend an estimated $586 billion over the next two years — roughly 7 percent of its gross domestic product each year — to construct new railways, subways and airports and to rebuild communities devastated by an earthquake in the southwest in May.

The package, announced Sunday evening by the State Council, or cabinet, is the largest economic stimulus effort ever undertaken by the Chinese government.

“Over the past two months, the global financial crisis has been intensifying daily,” the State Council said in a statement. “In expanding investment, we must be fast and heavy-handed.”

The plan was unveiled as finance ministers from the Group of 20 nations met in São Paulo, Brazil, over the weekend.

It came less than a week before President Hu Jintao was scheduled to travel to Washington for a global economic summit meeting hosted by President Bush.

On Saturday, Mr. Hu spoke by telephone with President-elect Barack Obama about a variety of issues, including the global financial crisis and how their countries might cooperate to help resolve economic problems.

Asian markets welcomed news of the stimulus plan. The Japanese Nikkei index rose 5.6 percent in trading early Monday. Stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai rallied strongly, jumping over 5 percent and lifting share prices that have been depressed for much of the year.

Although Beijing has indicated that it will focus on keeping its own economy on track, it is difficult to insulate any economy from a global downturn. After five years of growth in excess of 10 percent, China’s economy is beginning to weaken. Growth in exports and investment is slowing, consumer confidence is waning and stock and property markets are severely depressed.

The stimulus plan, though driven by domestic concerns, represents a fresh commitment by China to keep from adding to the economic and financial woes of the United States and Europe. It is also likely to cheer foreign investors in China’s economy by ensuring that the country remains a source of growth.

China’s package is not comparable to fiscal stimulus measures that are being discussed in Washington. In China, much of the capital for infrastructure improvements comes not from central and local governments but from state banks and state-owned companies that are encouraged to expand more rapidly.

The plan also differs from the $700 billion financial rescue package approved by Congress, which has helped strengthen bank balance sheets but did not directly mandate new lending or support specific investment projects in the United States.

China’s overall government spending remains relatively low as a percentage of economic output compared with the United States and Europe. Yet Beijing maintains far more control over investment trends than Washington does, so it has greater flexibility to increase investment to counter a sharp downturn.

It was unclear how Chinese officials arrived at the $586 billion figure or how much of the stimulus would be spending above what Beijing normally earmarks for infrastructure projects. Beijing said it was loosening credit and encouraging state-owned banks to lend as part of a more “proactive fiscal policy.”

The government said the stimulus would cover 10 areas, including low-income housing, electricity, water, rural infrastructure and projects aimed at environmental protection and technological innovation — all of which could incite consumer spending and bolster the economy. The State Council said the new spending would begin immediately, with $18 billion scheduled for the last quarter of this year.

State-driven investment projects of this kind have been a major impetus to Chinese growth throughout the 30 years of market-oriented reforms, a strong legacy of central planning.

The biggest players in many major Chinese industries — like steel, automobiles and energy — are state-owned companies, and government officials locally and nationally have a hand in deciding how much bank lending is steered to those sectors.

The investment numbers announced by China’s central government often include projects financed by a variety of sources, including state-backed entities and even foreign investors.

Beijing is struggling to cope with rapidly slowing economic growth. A downturn in investment and exports has led to factory closings in southern China, resulting in mass layoffs and even setting off sporadic protests by workers who have complained that owners disappeared without paying them their wages.

With many economists in China now projecting that growth in the fourth quarter of this year could be as low as 5.8 percent, and amid worries that the country’s economy could be walloped by the global financial crisis, Beijing is moving aggressively.

Analysts were expecting China to announce a big stimulus package, but they said they were surprised at its size. “That is much more aggressive than I expected,” said Frank Gong, an economist at J. P. Morgan who is based in Hong Kong. “That’s a lot of money to spend.”

Mr. Gong said that after the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Beijing undertook a similar, but much smaller, stimulus package, earmarking huge sums to build the country’s highway and toll-road system, projects that helped keep the economy growing.

Arthur Kroeber, managing director at Dragonomics, a Beijing-based economic research firm, said the government was concerned because people in China had suddenly pulled back on spending as a precautionary move because of worries about China’s suffering with the global economy.

“The government is sending a signal saying: ‘We’re going to spend in a big way,’ ” Mr. Kroeber said Sunday in a telephone interview. “This is designed to say to the market that people should not panic.”

Quake Hits Remote Area in China

BEIJING (AP) — A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the remote northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai on Monday, the United States Geological Survey said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The quake struck at a depth of 6.2 miles, the agency said.

China’s far west is fairly earthquake-prone. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake on May 12 devastated parts of Sichuan Province, killing about 70,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

WW II vet held in Nazi slave camp breaks silence: 'Let it be known'

By Wayne Drash, Thelma Gutierrez and Sara Weisfeldt
LOMA LINDA, California (CNN) -- Anthony Acevedo thumbs through the worn, yellowed pages of his diary emblazoned with the words "A Wartime Log" on its cover. It's a catalog of deaths and atrocities he says were carried out on U.S. soldiers held by Nazis at a slave labor camp during World War II -- a largely forgotten legacy of the war.
Anthony Acevedo served as a medic during World War II. He was captured and sent into a Nazi forced labor camp.

Anthony Acevedo served as a medic during World War II. He was captured and sent into a Nazi forced labor camp.

Acevedo pauses when he comes across a soldier with the last name of Vogel.

"He died in my arms. He wouldn't eat. He didn't want to eat," says Acevedo, now 84 years old. "He said, 'I want to die! I want to die! I want to die!' "

The memories are still fresh, some 60 years later. Acevedo keeps reading his entries, scrawled on the pages with a Schaeffer fountain pen he held dear. See inside Acevedo's diary »

He was one of 350 U.S. soldiers held at Berga an der Elster, a satellite camp of the Nazis' notorious Buchenwald concentration camp. The soldiers, working 12-hour days, were used by the German army to dig tunnels and hide equipment in the final weeks of the war. Less than half of the soldiers survived their captivity and a subsequent death march, he says.

Acevedo shows few emotions as he scans the pages of his diary. But when he gets to one of his final entries, the decades of pent-up pain, the horror witnessed by a 20-year-old medic, are too much.

"We were liberated today, April the 23, 1945," he reads.

His body shakes, and he begins sobbing. "Sorry," he says, tears rolling down his face. "I'm sorry." Video Watch Acevedo's emotional account of being freed »

Acevedo's story is one that was never supposed to be told. "We had to sign an affidavit ... [saying] we never went through what we went through. We weren't supposed to say a word," he says.

The U.S. Army Center of Military History provided CNN a copy of the document signed by soldiers at the camp before they were sent back home. "You must be particularly on your guard with persons representing the press," it says. "You must give no account of your experience in books, newspapers, periodicals, or in broadcasts or in lectures."

The document ends with: "I understand that disclosure to anyone else will make me liable to disciplinary action." Video Watch diary of a POW at slave camp »

The information was kept secret "to protect escape and evasion techniques and the names of personnel who helped POW escapees," said Frank Shirer, the chief historian at the U.S. Army Center for Military History.

Acevedo sees it differently. For a soldier who survived one of the worst atrocities of mankind, the military's reaction is still painful to accept. "My stomach turned to acid, and the government didn't care. They didn't give a hullabaloo."

It took more than 50 years, he says, before he received 100 percent disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Despite everything Acevedo endured during the war, little had prepared him for his own father's attitude toward his capture. "My dad told me I was a coward," he says.

"I turned around and got my duffel bag, my luggage, and said, 'This is it, Father. I'm not coming back.' So I took the train the following day, and I didn't see my parents for years, because I didn't want to see them. I felt belittled."

For decades, Acevedo followed the rules and kept his mouth shut. His four children didn't know the extent of his war experience. He says he felt stymied because of the document he signed. "You never gave it a thought because of that paper."

Now, he says it's too important to be forgotten. In recent years, he's attended local high schools to tell his story to today's generation.

"Let it be known," he says. "People have to know what happened."

Born July 31, 1924, in San Bernardino, California, Anthony C. Acevedo is what is known in today's parlance as a "citizen child" -- one who was born in the United States to parents from Mexico. iReport: Tell us your war stories

A Mexican-American, he was schooled in Pasadena, California, but couldn't attend the same classes as his white peers. "We couldn't mix with white people," he says. Both of his parents were deported to Mexico in 1937, and he went with them.

Acevedo returned to the States when he was 17, he says, because he wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army. He received medical training in Illinois before being sent to the European theater.

A corporal, he served as a medic for the 275th Infantry Regiment of the 70th Infantry Division. Acevedo was captured at the Battle of the Bulge after days of brutal firefights with Nazis who surrounded them. He recalls seeing another medic, Murry Pruzan, being gunned down.

"When I saw him stretched out there in the snow, frozen," Acevedo says, shaking his head. "God, that's the only time I cried when I saw him. He was stretched out, just massacred by a machine gun with his Red Cross band."

He pauses. "You see all of them dying out there in the fields. You have to build a thick wall."

Acevedo was initially taken to a prison camp known as Stalag IX-B in Bad Orb, Germany, where thousands of American, French, Italian and Russian soldiers were held as prisoners of war. Acevedo's diary entry reads simply: "Was captured the 6th of January 1945."

For the next several months, he would be known by the Germans only as Prisoner Number 27016. One day while in Stalag IX-B, he says, a German commander gathered American soldiers and asked all Jews "to take one step forward." Few willingly did so. Video Watch Acevedo describe being selected as an "undesirable" »

Jewish soldiers wearing Star of David necklaces began yanking them off, he says. About 90 Jewish soldiers and another 260 U.S. soldiers deemed "undesirables" -- those who "looked like Jews" -- were selected. Acevedo, who is not Jewish, was among them.

They were told they were being sent to "a beautiful camp" with a theater and live shows.

"It turned out to be the opposite," he says. "They put us on a train, and we traveled six days and six nights. It was a boxcar that would fit heads of cattle. They had us 80 to a boxcar. You couldn't squat. And there was little tiny windows that you could barely see through."

It was February 8, 1945, when they arrived. The new camp was known as Berga an der Elster, a subcamp of Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp where tens of thousands of Jews and other political prisoners were killed under Adolf Hitler's regime. Photo See the horrors of Buchenwald »

Acevedo says he was one of six medics among the 350 U.S. soldiers at Berga. Political prisoners from other countries were held at Berga separate from the Americans. "We didn't mingle with them at all," he says, adding that the U.S. soldiers worked in the same tunnels as the other political prisoners.

"We were all just thin as a rail."

The U.S. prisoners, Acevedo says, were given 100 grams of bread per week made of redwood sawdust, ground glass and barley. Soup was made from cats and rats, he says. Eating dandelion leaves was considered a "gourmet meal."

If soldiers tried to escape, they would be shot and killed. If they were captured alive, they would be executed with gunshots to their foreheads, Acevedo says. Wooden bullets, he says, were used to shatter the inside of their brains. Medics were always asked to fill the execution holes with wax, he says.

"Prisoners were being murdered and tortured by the Nazis. Many of our men died, and I tried keeping track of who they were and how they died."

The soldiers were forced to sleep naked, two to a bunk, with no blankets. As the days and weeks progressed, his diary catalogs it all. The names, prisoner numbers and causes of death are listed by the dozens in his diary. He felt it was his duty as a medic to keep track of everyone.

"I'm glad I did it," he says.

As a medic, he says, he heard of other more horrific atrocities committed by the Nazis at camps around them. "We heard about experiments that they were doing -- peeling the skins of people, humans, political prisoners, making lampshades." Video Watch Acevedo talk about Nazi atrocities »

He and the other soldiers were once taken to what Acevedo believes was the main camp of Buchenwald, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Berga. They noticed large pipes coming from one building.

"We thought we were going to be gassed when we were told to take our clothes off," he says. "We were scared. We were stripped."

"Rumors were around that this was where the political prisoners would be suffocated with gas." It turned out to be a shower, the only time during their captivity they were allowed to bathe.

The main Buchenwald camp was officially liberated on April 11, 1945. But the camp and its subcamps were emptied of tens of thousands of prisoners as American troops neared. The U.S. troops held at the Berga compound were no exception.

"Very definite that we are moving away from here and on foot. This isn't very good for our sick men. No drinking water and no latrines," Acevedo wrote in his diary on April 4, 1945.

He says they began a death march of 217 miles (349 kilometers) that would last three weeks. More than 300 U.S. soldiers were alive at the start of the march, he says; about 165 were left by the end, when they were finally liberated.

Lines of political prisoners in front of them during the march caught the full brunt of angry Nazi soldiers.

"We saw massacres of people being slaughtered off the highway. Women, children," he says. "You could see people of all ages, hanging on barbed wire."

One of his diary entries exemplifies an extraordinary patriotism among soldiers, even as they were being marched to their deaths. "Bad news for us. President Roosevelt's death. We all felt bad about it. We held a prayer service for the repose of his soul," Acevedo wrote on April 13, 1945.

It adds, "Burdeski died today."

To this day, Acevedo still remembers that soldier. He wanted to perform a tracheotomy using his diary pen to save Burdeski, a 41-year-old father of six children. A German commander struck Acevedo in the jaw with a rifle when he asked.

"I'll never forget," he says.

On a recent day, about a dozen prisoners of war held during World War II and their liberators gathered at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. Many applauded Acevedo for his heroics.

"Those of us in combat have our own heroes, and those are the medics. And that's Antonio. Thank you, Antonio," one of the men said.

The men gathered there nodded their heads. Two stood to shake Acevedo's hand.

"The people that are in this room really are an endangered species," another man said. "When they're gone, they're gone. ... That is why they should be honored and put in history for generations to come, because there are not that many of them left."

Donald George sat next to Acevedo. The two were captured about a half-mile apart during the Battle of the Bulge. "It's hard to explain how it is to be sitting with a bunch of people that you know they've been through the same thing you've been through," George said.

"Some of us want to talk about it, and some of us don't. Some of us want to cry about it once in a while, and some of us won't. But it's all there," he said.

"We still like to come and be together a couple times a month," George added, before Acevedo finished his sentence: "To exchange what you are holding back inside."

Acevedo says the world must never forget the atrocities of World War II and that for killing 6 million Jews, Hitler was the worst terrorist of all time. He doesn't want the world to ever slide backward.


His message on this Veterans Day, he says, is never to hold animosity toward anybody.

"You only live once. Let's keep trucking. If we don't do that, who's going to do it for us? We have to be happy. Why hate?" he says. "The world is full of hate, and yet they don't know what they want."