Houstonian Corner (V12-I15)

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Unique Books of Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer Introduced During Famous Poet Khalid Masood Khan Humorous Poetry Program

“You may need Tylenol by the end of this program not because of headache but because of abdominal aches due to laughter:” These were the words of Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer at Lasani Restaurant Banquet Hall this past Friday, as he introduced famous Hilarious Poet from Multan Pakistan Khalid Masood Khan, who has introduced a new style of poetry, where he mixes Urdu and Punjabi languages, to introduce in an entertaining manner various cultural aspects of Pakistan; explain many issues facing the society & world; and even gives resolutions to some of the problems. The whole hall was full in anticipation of an unforgettable evening and everyone left the hall most satisfied. He indeed had the audience move their places with hilarity. Someone in the past has said about his poetry:

“Koee Nahee Hae Khalid-e-Masood Ki Tarha – Uus Ki Ghazal Ka Zaiqa Umrood Kee Tarha Hae”

The occasion became more buoyant as famous community leader, social worker and medical practitioner Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer (M.D.) introducing two of his books: “Nadir-o-Nayaab Ashaar”, which is a 225 collection of verses of famous poets over the last two centuries (Mir Taqi Meer; Ghalib; and others) and second book is “Muntakhib Mazahaya Shairee”, which is a 230 pages collection of humorous verses. Both these books have been reviewed by Newspaper Jang, Pakistan and have been entered into the curriculum at the Allama Iqbal Open University.

The program was emceed in the traditional manner by three persons: Saeed Basheer Gaddi of Sangeet Radio; Abdullah Jafari (son of famous humor poet); and Inayat Ashraf. Famous poet of Houston Reverend Dr. Afzal Firdous and Former City Councilperson M. J. Khan paid glowing tributes to Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer for his efforts in gathering excellent couplets and poems from the past and gave special accolade to Guest Poet Khalid Masood for giving new style to poetry.

“I have got inspiration for poetry from Dr. Amanullah Khan of Dallas, whom I call the ‘Father of Punjabi Poetry’. I did have some germs for poetry, but he is the one, who has revived the writer from inside me,” said Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer (M.D.). Dr. Qadeer graciously gifted his books to the guests with his autograph.

Dr. Amanullah Khan M.D; PhD, who was present on the occasion and informed that he has made his first movie (in Punjabi language with English subtitles film – Theme is Pakistan & India relationship) and it will debut on April 10, 2010 at 8 pm at The Landmark Magnolia Theatre in Dallas West Village, with a second screening on April 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm at the same theater. Eventually it will go worldwide in May 2010.

Khalid Masood Khan is a famous Urdu columnist, critic, poet and comedy writer from Multan (Khanewal), Pakistan. His work has been published with the leading Urdu newspaper Daily Jang for almost a decade or so. Some of his couplets are:

“Lalloo Khaet Sae Aik Paraona Aaya Tha – Munjae Peerae Phur Gaya Pan Sae Thuk Thuk Kar”

“Uus Ka Rishta Na Hunae Ka Baes Uus Ka Abba Tha – Sub Haryan Thae Uus Nae Aesa Abba Kahaen Sae Labba Tha”…

Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate of Houston. The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

Under the dual nationality agreement between the United States and Pakistan in 2002, Pakistani-Americans can retain both US and Pakistani passports and are eligible to vote in both countries. You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan, 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX 77070.

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Negotiations with Taliban? (Part 1)

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–March 15th–Gautam Mukhopadhaya is a career diplomat in the Union of India’s Department of External Affairs (i.e., Foreign Service). He was their Ambassador Embassy to Kabul for the first time after the Taliban victory during the 1990s.  When, after the 200l American onslaught, the Indian federation deemed it safe enough to re-establish a presence in the Hindu Kush.  In many ways, New Delhi is more of a negative influence than a positive one in that area, for they have exacerbated the Indo-Pak rivalry as it was slowly cooling down.  Succinctly, your essayist sees New Delhi pulling a geopolitical pincher movement.  Rawalpindi has moved significant Divisions of their Army into new areas facing India’s Western frontier that previously Pakistan did not judge to be essential to their security.  This, curiously, has hurt the military their campaign in the Durand borderlands, for the Pak COAS (Commander of the Army Staff) has decided to move a significant numbers of his military to counter the new Indian concentrations.  Further, your author’s sources have informed him that there is a  very secret “War” being waged between the Pakistani ISI (Inner Services Intelligence) and the Indian RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) within Afghanistan itself destabilizing the efforts of foreign forces (NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and especially Washington).

Although (Indo-) Bharat is not an Islamic-majority country, it is the second most populous (“culturally”) Muslim land in the world.  Although he has a Hindu name, (Former) Ambassador Mukhopadhaya was raised in Calcutta, which is within the eastern (Indian) state of West Bengal, and borders the Islamic-majority nation of Bangladesh.  Slightly over a quarter of Indian (West) Bengalis are Muslims, which must have given him a great sensitivity for — and knowledge of — the Afghanistani Muslims, for he was the first Indian chief envoy to be appointed there after the fall of the Talibani State in 2002.

He made a notation which your reporter has heard from other knowledgeable people in field:  Iraq was/is a War of choice for the U.S.A. while Afghanistan is one of necessity.

Mukhopadhaya observed that President Barrick Obama of the United States of America is beginning the second year of his Afghan Policy.  Obama is now considering negotiations with the Taliban!  His Excellency America perceives Pakistan as aggravating the War in Afghanistan, for the District of Columbia (D.C.) perceives that the province Peshawar rules has not pursued the Taliban and Al-Qaida with the zeal for which they the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) hoped, (but the causality figures of Pakistani Army in the N.W.P. [the Northwest Provinces] belie the accuracy of his Excellency’s analysis.) 

The Obama Administration views not only the Pakistanis but the  Indians as “spoilers!”  Yet, whatever, the U.S. War effort entails, the assistance of Pakistan’s COAS, General Ashram Parvez (Kayani) and his staff, the North Americans with their European allies cannot do alone, for the regional nation-states are long-term stakeholders within their topography! 

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Islam in the Bahamas

April 1, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

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Jama’at Ahlus Sunnah Bahamas, Carmichael Road, Nassau

Introduction

Vacationing in the Bahamas, who would have thought that there are Muslims living in nice neighborhoods with a beautiful mosque. There are more than 300 Muslims in Nassau, Bahamas who are organized and have five daily prayers. Islam has come to the Bahamas more than 40 years ago via United States.

History

Which country is closest to Miami?  It is the Bahamas, only 40 miles from Miami to the east while Cuba is 80 miles to the south.  The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, well known for their gorgeous beaches, sea of colors, vivid flamingoes, and Poinciana trees that line the edge of roads and tantalize the senses with their fragrant aromas. Christopher Columbus discovered it on October 12, 1492 and named it Bahamas (low water or sea).  The British have controlled it until the Bahamians achieved their independence on July 10, 1973.  The thirteen colonies fought the British and won the island for few years but at the treaty of Versailles in 1783, the British traded Florida for the Bahamas.

Economy

Nassau, the capital, is the queen of archipelago, most densely populated consisting of two thirds of total population of 342,000. Eighty five percent of people are of African descent with literacy rate of 95 percent. City of Nassau is decorated with architecture of British, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and flavor of southern US. In 2008, 4.6 million people visited Bahamas, 85 percent from the USA.  Its economy thrives on four areas for income:  tourism, fishing, banking, and farming.  The Bahamas, because of it strict secrecy laws, is called the “Switzerland of the West.” It has no income tax, sales tax, capital gain tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax. The nation’s stable government and economy as well as its proximity to the U.S. make it one of the most attractive areas for investors all over the world. There are 110 US affiliated businesses operating in the Bahamas, mostly in tourism and banking.

Coming of Islam

According to the old records, some of the early Muslims were brought as slaves from North Africa. In the 1960’s a Bahamian called Bashan Saladin (formerly Charles Cleare) preached Islam and converted his home into Mosque. In 1974, Dr. Munir Ahmad who returned from US as Dental Specialist and Mr. Mustafa khalil Khalfani joined hand to establish Islam. They were later joined by Br. Faisal AbdurRahmaan Hepburn. There is only one central college in Nassau and no large university.  For all higher education, the Bahamians must travel to the United States.  After independence, many Bahamians converted to Islam while studying in the US.  Everyone you meet has connection to the US.  There are many South Asian Muslims from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as Turkey and Guyana totaling to 20-30 people working as doctors, businessmen and teachers that visit the mosque.

Community Development

There are many Muslims from India, Pakistan and other countries that have helped develop this community. In 1978 when Jamaat-Ul-Islam, the Revolutionary Islamic Movement, was formed and Br. Mustapha Khalil Khalafani was chosen as its leader. The Muslims established Jamaat- Ul-Islam Mosque in Nassau runned  by Jamaat Management Consultancy Limited owned by Brother Faisal Abdurrahman Hepburn.

The Mosque

The Mosque rests on two acres of land, white in color with three domes (one large and two small) and one tall minaret.  It is surrounded by newly planted trees, a colorful courtyard and a parking lot.  Women area is separated by a perforated wooden partisan. The five daily prayers are performed punctually in congregation. Over 60 people attend the Friday sermon and prayer.  Other activities include brothers and sisters study circle as well as children’s Sunday school.

Conclusion

Islam in Nassau is growing with strong foundation for increasing the Dawa work in the area. Muslims are being ignored or marginalized in many ways, because of being a very small minority(less than 1% of the population). For example, the media refuse to air positive Islamic program and local newspapers are reluctant to cover events relating to Islam and Muslims. They are still facing problems in carrying on their activities. They could use some help and attention from US Muslims in order to energize their work. Muslims in the U. S. including doctors, engineers etc. can contribute by devoting their 1-2 week of vacation per year while doing seminars on Islam or having free medical clinics while still enjoying the scenery. The entire area is conducive to Dawa work due to high literacy, good command of English language, respect for people from US in general and religious background. The US national organizations of Muslims have special obligation to reach out and extend a helping hand. Any cooperation and coordinated activity will go a long way in establishing Islam in this part of the world. For more information about the mosque or the Islamic organization in the Bahamas, contact them at email: faisalhepburn@yahoo.com or visit their website: http:// www.jamaahlus-sunnah.com/.

Anis Ansari, MD,
Clinton, IA
Dr. Ansari is President of Islamic Society of Clinton County in Clinton, IA  and Board Certified Nephrologists. He can be reached at a.ansari@mchsi.com.

OpEd–An Insulting Comment

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

I was very surprised to find a reference to my work while “googling” to see if a certain academic piece of mine was online, for I wished to make a reference to it, but I discovered, in the internet edition of Outlook India of August 27th 2007 (http://www. outlookindia/article.aspx?23514), I found an unflattering reference to myself.  In an interactive comment at the bottom of a travel article on Kashmir, “Eden’s Secret” by Parvaz Bukhavi, there was an attack not only on me,  but another American academic and three leading progressives in India.  To quote the comment by a Mr. Varun Shekkar of Toronto Ontario in Canada:

“Articles like this [it happened to be an apolitical travel piece] should give lie to Kashmiri separatists, but to their supporters across the border [i.e., Pakistan], and their vulgar sympathizers in the international media like Eric Margolis and Geoffrey Cook(!)..”  The interactive commentator goes on to say because of the comparative peacefulness of the region of Gurais in the (Indian, sic.[!]) State, “…the…Kashmiri movement is not a province-wide struggle against ‘Indian rule’…a strong rebuff to the likes of Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai and Nandita Haksar.”

Thank you, Mr. Shekkar, for including me in such a stellar array of fighters for human rights!  I am a great admirer of Mr. Margolis, but the Ms. and Mr. Roy, Bidwai and Haksar are, also, Indian citizens, and they are courageous individuals for speaking criticizing their own country’s policies when  those procedures are wrong!  I am afraid my name should not be listed with these brave and learned individuals, but I am glad at least someone is reading my works – even my critics!

For me this insult is praise!  From time to time I receive such “compliments” in the press and listservs.  That is one of the drawbacks for “opinion makers,” such as journalists politicians and other  individuals who expose their necks to the public.

Kashmir, after Palestine, is the most burning political issue within the Islamic world currently, for both sides of the argument are nuclear powers, and they almost came to explosive fisticuffs in 2001-2002 which would have killed and maimed hundreds of millions of human souls if not for the diplomatic skills of Perez Musharaf!
I do not wish to go over the recommendations that I made to the United States State Department through an elected Congressional official with whom I worked with on the conundrum and the United Nations — at their request. Because my scenario depends upon one step following after another, an order which is not the way how negotiations work – which are fraught with compromises, I shall not go into my suggestions as a whole.  Kashmir is a resolvable situation, though, but the problem lies within the Government buildings in New Delhi.

The Simla Agreement, where it was agreed that India and Pakistan would work out “outstanding differences bilaterally” without third party interference, has been unworkable!  Third parties (major extra-regional powers?) are needed – especially for shuttle diplomacy.

There is a fair enough chance that India’s right-wing political party, the BJP, who almost brought the region to catastrophe during the first year of this millennium, might be able to form a coalition after the next general election.

Kashmir can be settled, and it must be!  The sooner the better because of the  changing political landscape in South Asia  (Pakistan, too, is in danger that the struggle in the Northwest Frontier Provinces (N.W.P.)will descend into urban regions and their hinterlands there). 

The Arabian Sea area, which borders South Asia, portions of the Middle East and East Africa, does not only have a nuclear threat from Southern Asia but from the United States, France and Israel from  their nuclear missiles within their submarines which regularly prowl the vastness of that Sea.  The quandary lies not only with the Indo-Pak rivalry over Kashmir, but the other powers as well within that wide maritime territory.  The goal should be a nuclear-free zone in the expanse of that ocean and its surrounding nations!

The first step, though, is that Islamabad and New Delhi should begin consultations without preconditions!

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Upgrade: Islamic Finance 2.0

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Rushdi Siddiqui, Gulfnews.com

sharia_finance_dollar Future of Industry lies in move from sharia-compliant to sharia-based approach

Dubai : We are at an important crossroads in Islamic finance and banking, and I want to explore, in this column, the future of Islamic finance.

We hear about 1.5 billion Muslims, but has Islamic finance benefited the ‘man on the street?’ What is so ‘Islamic’ about Islamic finance?

Have we simply been putting an Islamic wrapper around conventional structures and products and placing a blessing them?

I’ve been in Islamic finance for more than a decade. This inaugural article will set the non-technical tone for the important areas I want to explore in the future, and I encourage the readers to comment as the Islamic finance community’s collective psyche, experience and insight will benefit the industry.

We in Islamic finance want to see a group blueprint of the industry going forward, including the building of two-way bridges — be it with South-east Asia or with Group of 20 (G20) countries.

Islamic finance is, at one level, for all those interested in “boring finance”, asset or project backed/based financing and non-turbo-charged investing (without derivatives and excessive leverage) in selected real economic sectors.

Islam does not necessarily have a monopoly on ethics because these are common shared values with other religions and philosophies. However, the former has ‘codified,’ via scholars, screens and structures into financial contracts having links to permissible real economic activities.

Sharia compliance

Among the 57 Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries, not one Muslim country in the last 40 years has ‘Islamised’ its economy for general acceptance; not Sudan, Pakistan or Iran.

The $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) industry operates in a world economy of inter-connected interest rates, debt and other similar factors, hence Sharia scholars have allowed a permissible amount of impurity as long as the industry moves towards removing such impermissibilities.

Put differently, scholars, as Sharia gatekeepers, are seeking progress and prosperity, which is different from modernisation. Thus the reference rates in Islamic mortgages, syndicated loans, sukuks and other financing are the efficient cost of capital credit of the London interbank offered rate (Libor) and/or the Treasury.
However, where is the industry with a methodology for an Islamic interbank offer rate (Ibor)?

There are over 555 Islamic funds with $35 billion (Dh129 billion) of assets under management, and, if we focus on Islamic equity funds, the question that comes to mind is this: ‘What is the link between a Sharia-screened company from any of the five index providers to Islamic finance or a Muslim country?’

The screening results in a universe that can be deemed as a style of investing — ‘non-financial, low debt social-ethical investing.’

Thus, some of the Sharia-compliant companies include Microsoft, BP Amoco, Pfizer (with a bias towards energy, health care, and technology), yet what is their link or connection to Islamic finance?

Could such companies and, in the aggregate, present day Sharia-compliant Islamic indices, be deemed an economic indicator of Islamic finance in a Muslim country? We now need to look at Sharia-based Islamic indices.

IFIs and sukuks

We hear and read about 300 Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) in 75 countries, and the need for larger balance sheets to compete against the ‘big boys’ on the project finance deal table for instance, hence, a call for the consolidation or the creation of established Islamic mega-banks.

A concern with such an Islamic mega-bank revolves round whether it poses a systemic and confidence risk in the home country as concentrated exposure without many compliant-hedging mechanisms?

Is there a need to think about safety nets and stress tests before central banks allows for an Islamic mega-bank?

The sukuk market, roughly equated to Islamic bonds, is now worth over $107 billion, having been the locomotive of Islamic finance during the petro-liquidity spike.

However, recent bankruptcies, defaults, and restructuring exercises, have been portrayed by western media as the beginning of the end of Islamic finance.

In an embryonic industry, like the 40-year-old Islamic finance, these growing pains are welcomed and will actually strengthen the industry, as precedents become known and down-side risk is better understood.

Sukuk growth and development appear to be following the ‘path’ of the Eurobond market, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and General Electric (GE) sukuk issuances in late 2009 underline the merits of such financing in turbulence.

Contribution factor

We have a number of Islamic finance conferences, and a number of Islamic finance awards.

It is often strange to see or read when different conference organisers or magazines have, for instance, a ‘best Islamic bank’ award, and each names a different bank.

It has been said in certain quarters that some of these awards are driven by sponsorships rather than actual votes or, ideally speaking, real contribution to the industry.

At this stage in Islamic finance, awards should emphasise ‘contribution’ and not ‘best,’ as that latter implies mature and connected Islamic financial institutions globally.

The foremost contribution to Islamic finance has been made by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Governor Zeti Akhthar Aziz, and, obviously, the real Sharia scholars, regulators like the United Kingdom’s FSA, central banks like the Central bank of Bahrain, and conventional banks with windows and subsidiaries.

Shaikh Mohammad, a standalone stakeholder, raised the profile of Islamic finance globally via the Dubai brand before oil reached $140 a barrel, and Zeti, as a globe-trotting ambassador, made her a separate asset class in Islamic finance.

They have established the awareness and macro framework, and now the industry has to move towards Islamic finance 2.0.

Pulse of Islamic finance

One of the serious issues the markets are tackling is to how to find an effective, overall pulse of Islamic finance. In most instances, numbers such as $1 trillion and the like are used to demonstrate the awesome potential of this industry.

However, how can we really gauge what’s happening to the industry on a daily basis?

The path to Sharia-based Islamic finance is expected to have speed-bumps, pot-holes, diversion road signs, construction vehicles with signs such as ‘do not follow’, but lets raise the issues from Sharia-compliance to get to the destination of Sharia-based.

The writer is the global head of Islamic Finance & OIC Countries for Thomson Reuters. The views expressed in this column are his own and should not be attributed to his organisation.

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Community News (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shah R. Ali Receives Soros Fellowship

679E This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. 

Shah R. Ali came to the USA  from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.

Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.

St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.

The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.

The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said “Discrimination is intolerable” or “St. Cloud school district must integrate” among other things.

Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members aren’t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.

A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.

Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week

BOSTON, MA–Boston University’s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.

Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Society’s “Lights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,” the Daily Free Press reported.

He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.

College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as “unconventional” and insecure.

“He encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,” he said. “By sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.”

New mosque opens in Highland

HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.

Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.

“Don’t think you’re done now,” he said, smiling. “Today is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. You’ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.”

The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.

Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless

By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown.  The project’s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures.  Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people.  But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa’s homeless. 

“We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,” said one of the students. “So that’s our purpose here.  That’s all.”

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities.  The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.

“Project Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,” said another student. “They went to the local city hall and started feeding.”

The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people.  It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless.  That’s about three percent of the population.  For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter.  What matters is that they are in need.  Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.

“We come up to them,” said Jill Moreida. “We don’t just give them food and walk away.  We don’t feed them like they’re at the zoo.  We make friends with them; we talk with them.  We interact with them.  Week after week after week.  And we know stories about their family.  We know when they’re sick.  We get to develop relationships with them.”

“Oh, we wait for them!  We wait!  You see, we waited in the rain,” said a homeless man. “We got caught in the rain!   We feel beautiful with them coming.”

As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.

“They say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,” said Moreida. “And it’s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when we’re feeding them.  But there’s a bigger message being brought, and it’s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam.  Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that we’re going to hurt them or anything.”

Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida.  Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance.  Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.

“Our main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Hussein Nagamiya. “So, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away.  We conduct their [medical] tests.  Some of them may never have a test in the entire year.  We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.” 

In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States.  (Courtesy: Voice of America)

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Unity Faith and Discipline

Picture AAA Picture AZ

Census 2010 Meeting at ISGH Main Center…

Pakistan Day of March 23 Celebrated at the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston…

Need to Revitalize the Golden Principles of the Quid: Unity – Faith – & – Discipline: Khalid Khan of PAGH – Honorable Aqil Addressed the Community Especially Media

“I have just returned from Pakistan: What I have seen on the roads, streets and public places over there and then also have closely observed the Pakistan community in USA, I reach this conclusion that individually Pakistanis are the brightest of all and most talented. Somehow when it comes to working together, we have issues. And this is because we have forgotten the golden principles of Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Unity – Faith – & – Discipline”: These were the words of youngest ever President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) at the Pakistan Day March 23rd Festivities at the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston. Mezban Restaurant catered sumptuous brunch on the occasion and everyone appreciate Sohail and Tariq of Mezban for as always grand food.

“We have big egos and instead of positively using our egos, we indulge in negativity.  It is time for us to make a comeback and revive Unity – Faith – & – Discipline, through which we achieved the biggest bounty of independence,” added Khalid Khan.

Before that Counsel General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem, Commercial Attaché Government of Pakistan Dr. Zia Ahmed, various leaders of the Pakistani community, their spouses and community media joined together at the lawn besides the Consulate to raise the flag of Pakistan amidst the national anthem. Some of the distinguished members of the community like Shamshad Wali (who read a patriotic poem); Reverend Dr. Afzal Firdous; Ali Kamal (former seven times president of PAGH); Dr. Aziz Siddiqi (President ISGH); Ghulam Bombaywala (former President of PAGH); Abdul Qayyum; Zafar Khan (office bearer of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce); Mirza Ashraf; and others.

For the first time at a community event like this, members of local Pakistani media were given chance to say their feelings. Tariq Khan; Chairperson of Pakistani Media Council, informed briefly the historical significance of March 23rd and said main lesson we can take from Pakistan Movement is that without combined and unified effort, it was impossible to achieve Pakistan and that unity we need today not only in Pakistan, but living in USA as Pakistani Community, we need to rise up beyond our differences and unite. He pointed out that the community leadership at times ignore the media and do not give due respect. There is need for mutual respect between the media and the leaders of the community. He appealed to Consul General Aqil Nadeem to mediate and resolve the ongoing issue between a member of the media and community leader. Shamim Syed of Pakistan News also gave a message of hope for concord within the community. Shaikh Najam Ali of Pakistan Times said that money is not the criteria of someone being a big man.

After reading the message of President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari on the happy occasion of March 23rd, which talked about need to strengthen the democratic values and system in Pakistan after years of dictatorships; in the midst of ovations, the Counsel General of Pakistan in Houston Honorable Aqil Nadeem announced “Jinnah Scholarship” for someone of Pakistani Origin doing a four year degree program in journalism. He said in mainstream American media, there is lack of Pakistanis presence and this is one small way to enhance our presence in a positive manner. He urged all Pakistanis to help in collecting the necessary funds for this scholarship.

Honorable Aqil Nadeem showed his antagonism towards those elements in the society, including some media outlet in Houston, who gives air to disunity. He said as Pakistan is transforming back into the folds of fully functional democracy, it is also incumbent upon all the Pakistanis abroad to recognize that their motherland has given them identity and education that today they are excelling in a foreign land: One way of pay back is to strengthen the Pakistani community wherever they may be.

Census 2010 has Chosen Two of ISGH Centers for their Community Information Places

“We have more than eighteen major centers across the Greater Houston Region, where Census 2010 can establish the informational centers. Presently Census 2010 has chosen two locations, including ISGH Masjid in Bear Creek Area:” This was informed by President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), as he greeted staff members of Census 2010 and The Alliance For Multicultural Community Services (which mainly deals with issues of immigrants and refugees). Present on the occasion were staff members of ISGH Main Center and Shaikh Omar Inshanally, who started the proceedings with recitation of Quran.

Census 2010 Staff informed that if people need help with understanding of Census Questionnaire that arrived in all Americans mail by March 15th, 2010, they can assist in more than 50 languages’. For all the Desi and Muslim community, The Alliance For Multicultural Community Services Center located at 6440 Hillcroft, Suite 411, Houston, Texas 77081 (Phone: 713-776-4700) provides an excellent centrally location place to get help with Census 2010 Forms.

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Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate.  The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan

11850

Jones Road

Houston, TX 77070

Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate.  The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan

11850

Jones Road

Houston, TX 77070

Imran Khan–His Mission

March 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Liz Hoggard

imran khan I don’t have to do this, Imran Khan tells me earnestly. “I could have a very easy existence. I could go on TV and make so much money, live like a king.” Instead the retired international cricketer, and former husband of Jemima Khan, has dedicated his life to politics back home in Pakistan. Jemima, the daughter of the late financier, Sir James Goldsmith, may just have bought a £15 million stately pile in Oxfordshire, but Imran lives hand-to-mouth on a farm outside Islamabad. He grows his own vegetables and tends cows on his land in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Since he founded his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (the Movement for Justice), in 1996 on an anti-corruption platform, he has campaigned against the elite hogging all the resources. He personally sold all his cricketing memorabilia to fund a cancer hospital in memory of his mother, who died of the disease, and he has opened a vocational college in a poverty-stricken area of Pakistan.

Imran, 57, took nothing from Jemima’s fortune when they divorced, so when he runs out of money he does a brief stint as a TV pundit. But he is completely unmaterialistic. “You achieve inner peace when you give away what you have,” he says.

This week he is in London to talk about the crisis in Pakistan, but he has never liked city life. His parents used to take him up in the hills each summer as a boy, and now he takes his sons Sulaiman, 13, and Kasim, 10, hiking and shooting partridge when they visit his farm. He has built them a mini-cricket ground. “They are quite good,” he laughs.

Gone is the handsome playboy who spent his nights in Annabel’s and squired gorgeous women, including Susannah Constantine and painter Emma Sergeant, around town. He still has those patrician looks but these days Imran would rather stay up all night talking politics than nightclubbing.

Last week I watched him give a talk to students in London. Mostly bright, politicised young Pakistani-Muslims, they treated him like a rock star. His sense of urgency was palpable, as is his fear that Pakistan might implode at any minute.

Already, it is routinely described as a “failed state”. From day one he opposed the War on Terror and “the American puppet politicians in Pakistan”. The decision to send the army into the tribal areas of the North West Frontier, to flush out al Qaeda terrorists, simply fuelled extremism. “It’s civil war in the making,” he says shaking his head. “They were like a bull in a china shop, fighting one or two guerrillas with aerial bombing of villages. That turned people against the army and a new phenomenon was created: the Pakistan Taliban.” It’s made him believe even more passionately in socio-economic justice. “You will have no problem with extremists in Pakistan if you have democracy with a welfare state,” he tells the audience.

By the end of the evening he looked shattered. Half his life is spent in transit and his close friend tells me he is wearing jeans instead of the usual suit because he forgot to pack a belt.

When I meet him two days later at Ormeley Lodge, near Richmond Park, he is still fielding calls about a wave of bombings in Pakistan, and trying to have high tea with his sons. The Georgian childhood home of his former wife is where Imran stays whenever he is in London, as a guest of her mother, Lady Annabel Goldsmith. The wing where we meet is modest: with a pool table and well-worn sofas.

He speaks cordially — if carefully —about his ex-wife. “It’s a very tricky thing, divorce, and toughest on the children. But as divorces go, ours has been the most amicable. The anger and bitterness comes when there is infidelity. But there was no infidelity,” he says firmly. “I realised her unhappiness in Pakistan and she, after trying her best, found she just couldn’t live there. So that’s why it ended, it was just a geographical problem, and we couldn’t sustain a marriage like that. If you care for someone you don’t want to see them unhappy. My connection with the Goldsmith household is just as it’s always been. They [Jemima’s siblings, Zac and Ben] are like my younger brothers. And Annabel is as close to me.”

His marriage suffered because of his political zeal — he didn’t stand in the 2007 election, arguing that there could be no democracy while the judges were still controlled by the ruling party. But now politics is a mission for him, not a career. “If someone offered me a political career, I would shoot myself. Having to get votes through making compromises, no thank you.

“The classic example in England is Tony Blair.

How did the people go wrong with him lying all the way? He sold the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction. If there had been conscientious politicians in your assembly who weren’t worried about their political careers, he would never have got away with it.”

Many people think his involvement in politics is a way to keep alight the adulation he craved as a cricketer, but after leaving Aitchison College in Lahore (the equivalent of Eton), he studied politics at Keble College, Oxford. Former cricketing colleagues — Imran played for Worcestershire and Sussex — recall an intense young man who hated pubs (as a Muslim he doesn’t drink) and public speaking. He returned to cricket once more at the World Cup in 1992, aged 39 when he captained Pakistan to victory.

But his spiritual awakening had come in his early thirties after witnessing his mother’s agonising death from cancer, without access to proper treatment and painkilling drugs. “She was in such agony that after she passed away I had to consciously discipline myself to shut out the memory of her pain.”

He consulted a mystic who “made me realise I had a responsibility to society because I was given so much. It created selflessness.” Imran approached Pakistan’s richest men — many had been schoolfriends — for help in raising £25 million to build a cancer hospital, but quickly learned that wealth and generosity don’t always go hand in hand. Instead, he took to an open jeep and toured 29 cities in six weeks, asking ordinary people for help. “In those six weeks I changed. I realised the generosity of tea boys, taxi drivers, the poorest people bringing 10 rupee notes and also their faith. I collected £14 million in those six weeks.” Today the hospital treats 70 per cent of patients for free.

Although the dictatorial president, Pervez Musharraf, resigned in 2008, Imran has no faith in the current “democratic” government, now headed by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto. Imran talks passionately about how the rich in Pakistan travel by jet and have tax-evading bank accounts in Switzerland.

He may insist that support for his Movement for Justice party is growing, but the truth is he is still perceived as a maverick outsider. And his romantic past hasn’t helped. Conservative voters bring up the love child with Sita White (Imran has never publicly acknowledged Tyrian, now 17, as his daughter; but since her mother died in 2004, he has been involved in her upbringing). And of course there’s his marriage to Jemima, a half-Jewish, half Catholic heiress.

Despite converting to Islam and learning Urdu, Jemima — 20 years Imran’s junior and still at university when they met — was accused (falsely) of trying to smuggle antique tiles out of Pakistan. The final straw, says Imran, was in 2002 when she was accused of studying under “the blasphemer Salman Rushdie” because his book, The Satanic Verses, had appeared on her university reading list. Protesters torched posters of Jemima. “She was really shaken up by that and moved to England, so that was a big crisis for me.”

Two years later the marriage ended. Jemima has continued to impress as Unicef special representative — and a passionate advocate for democracy in Pakistan. “Frankly I never understood the media image of her as a socialite,” Imran tells me. “I never thought she would fit into that role because she’s very bright, she’s very political.”

But then Imran is a mass of contradictions himself. In the past, he has argued that the pressure on women to work has contributed to the breakdown of society in the West: “My mother was the biggest influence on my life, a proper mother.” Yet he believes that “a woman should be able to reach her full potential”, and he set up his university in a remote, conservative part of Pakistan precisely so local women could get an education for the first time in the region’s history. And he reminds me his three sisters are high-powered career women with children.

Pakistan is Imran’s passion and he feels little nostalgia for London — except as the place where his sons live: “Fatherhood has given me the greatest pleasure in my life. And hence it was very painful, the divorce, because that [being separated from them] was the main aspect. But I am basically a goal-orientated person, it’s never been about making money or a job. My passion is there so I only come to England to see my children.” Imran has a core group of friends he has known for 40 years here. Setting up this interview, I came across a devoted group of Londoners — from lecturers to hairdressers — who give up time and money to support his party. “They know I do not have to do this, that it’s a big personal sacrifice,” he says.

He finds it desperately sad that he has to defend being a Muslim. “The most important thing to understand is what’s happening in Pakistan, and this war on terror is not a religious issue, it’s a political issue.” No religion allows terrorism, Imran insists, but “people pushed into desperate situations will do desperate acts”.

It doesn’t make him popular. He’s been dubbed a Taliban supporter by the same enemies who once called him a Zionist sympathiser. Critics say his politics are idealistic and unworkable in a country bailed out of chaos periodically by military regimes, but Imran insists democracy can be a street movement: “Yes there’s a fear, will Pakistan survive? But in a way it’s very encouraging because you can see the politicisation of the youth. That’s how it starts, in the campuses. Sixty-five per cent of Pakistanis are below the age of 25.”

This probably explains why four days ago, with the help of Jemima, Imran set up his own Twitter page. Back home, he says current affairs programmes get higher ratings than Big Brother.

“Our Paxmans are the most watched in Pakistan today.” Is he handing over the baton? He smiles wearily. “Basically I want the young to come in and upset the whole equation.”

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Let There be Light!

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

2010-03-22T173449Z_169073373_GM1E63N040E01_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN

A boy bathes in a tube well reservoir in Hyderabad located in Sindh province March 22, 2010. The Earth is literally covered in water, but more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation as most water is salty or dirty. March 22 is World Water Day.    

REUTERS/Akram Shahid

Just recently I hired a maid, who would come every morning, clean the house and leave. She was a young girl of 14 or 15 not more than that. Every day she would get done with the work and come to me and ask me if there is something else she could do for me. I would tell her that she could leave once she was done cleaning but every day she would come and ask me if there was anything else. When I told her that was it, she would ask me if I wanted her to massage my feet, or if I wanted that drawer on my dresser cleaned out. I didn’t understand why she wanted to do extra work without being asked to do so. Being confused for a long time I finally asked a friend about this strange behavior. She simply said she must be looking for some extra money. She must be thinking that by doing your other small chores you might give her some extra money. But I had not given her any extra money and she had not even asked for it. I still was not satisfied. One day when she was fixing my shoe closet after I had told her she could go I asked her. I said, “Why do you insist on staying here even after I have told you that you can go home? Don’t you like it in your own house?”  Without even looking at me she said in a very matter of fact way that it was because I had fans working all the time. I am one of the lucky ones who have a UPS so even if the electricity goes the fans are still working. She did not want to go home because she did not have a way of even slightly comforting her self when the electricity was taken away in this scorching heat of Lahore.

I was taking a stroll in my neighborhood where I noticed 2 small boys playing who were not wearing anything. I looked around to see if I could find their mother. I saw a woman standing nearby I went up to her and asked her if she knew the boys. She said she was their big sister. She told me that they live in the street next to mine and the boys were playing here so she came to watch over them. I asked her why they were not wearing any clothes. She replied that they had developed rashes and hives because of the heat and the doctor had suggested to not let any fabric touch them and keep them cool so that’s why every day the sun goes down they let them play out for a while. I told her that this is probably not such a good idea since its still not cool enough and their rashes could get aggravated maybe keeping them inside under a fan is a better idea. She said yes that’s what we were doing until yesterday when the lights went out in the morning and came back at 8 in the evening. Today she said is a repeat of yesterday, as far as they were concerned this is the coolest it’s going to be for them today. 

There are many sides to this problem that we are facing and everyone is affected by it in their own way. It does not matter what class or section of the society one belongs to everyone is facing the problems and has their own issues to deal with when it comes to electricity. With that said it would be very correct to assume that the businesses and the marketplace must be suffering greatly because of this problem. I wanted to know how they deal with this problem. The day I visited to talk to a Bookstore they were facing an especially bad day. I was told that electricity had been shutting down every half hour. They said that their generator has been on for the whole day. The manager told me that the business is good but with the cost of generator it is becoming hard to make ends meet considering the growing prices of electricity as well. He said that it is so costly to keep the generator on all day that some times they think of closing early just to avoid the cost “but then its hard to do that when you are running a business and you know customers are counting on you”, adds the manager.

Another clothing store has the same story. Of course their store is well known and they have more customers so it is not such a big issue for them. Surprisingly most shops and stores I spoke to in Liberty market didn’t complain much about electricity problems in that area. They said that they had timed load shedding which they had generators for so it was working out fine. Most of them however shifted quiet quickly to the situation at their homes and their neighborhoods. They were quick to tell me that this electricity problem was a menace in their homes. Most of them told me that had no electricity for about 2 hours at a time in their homes. One cashier said that it’s terrible when his children come home from school all tired and sweating and they don’t even have a fan to rest under when they get home.

While I was talking to the cashier at a shoe store a lady who was standing line right behind me overheard our conversation about load shedding and chimed in saying that sometimes she leaves her house when there is no light because there is an AC in her car and the stores are usually more comfortable than her house under the circumstances. I asked her what about her kids and other members of the family. She laughed and said I don’t do it every day. “Do you know how much patrol costs these days?” of course I know how high those prices are too. But it is sad when people are looking for ways to find comfort and relief in any way possible. I had heard of driving the baby around the block in the car to put him/her to sleep but this was something new for me. Is this going too far? Under this circumstance who knows what is going too far and what is not we are all doing the best we can to survive these days.

A tailor who owns a small shop in the basement of a busy market told me that his business has been cut in half because of load shedding. Now he says he doesn’t take on too much work because he knows he will not be able to complete it. “I can’t afford a generator and when I don’t take enough work I don’t even make enough to feed my family. “When women come in here with a lot of clothes to get sown and tell me that they need it in a week I tell them its not possible. So, they take their clothes to a bigger shop that has a generator and can sew their clothes in less amount of time”.  This tailor is forced to take less work and even with that work he struggles to finish it in the time he has given his customers with the electricity playing hide and seek constantly. Just recently this tailor fired his assistant because he couldn’t afford to pay him any more. He says things don’t seem to be getting any better. Now he is working hard and trying to save up as much as possible. I asked him what he was saving up for…he said he wants to save up enough to be able to buy a generator. He thinks once he has a generator all his problems will be solved.

I guess there is something to be said about the power of generators. A student expressed his opinion when asked how he deals with not having electricity especially during exams by saying; “Generator Zindabad!” then he added that his neighbors keep the generators on all the time since it is convenient and they find it cheaper then electricity. Of course this was in Karachi where things are a bit more difficult in terms of electricity problems. I asked this young man what they do in school when there is no electricity. He said you just get used to it. When asked about how the learning process is in the heat he said, “I don’t think I learn anything in the heat. I mean the teachers are teaching but I don’t retain anything.” I asked him why and he said, “Because it’s HOT”.

Another student who is my relative messaged me one day out of the blue. I asked her what’s up and why she is messaging me she said she was bored and just wanted to see what was up with me. That was not a normal thing for her to do so but I was glad that she had thought of messaging an old person like me just to chit chat. After a while of massaging back and forth she abruptly said that she had to go. I asked her what the hurry was and she said “the electricity is back I gotta go study for my exams who knows how long we have this luxury for”. Basically she was killing time talking to me while she was waiting for the electricity to come back so she could get back to her studying. While it made me feel not so great about myself it made me think of how much time we waste because we have no way of utilizing it while the electricity is gone.

In Pakistan everything stops as the lights go out? Whatever people are doing they just drop it and start to look around waiting for the lights to come back on. If you are reading a book you will stop and spend at least a few minutes thinking about what you should do now. Very few times you will get an answer because there is very little that can be done in the dark. Even while taking an exam the lights go off and everyone stops. There is pin drop silence. And as soon as the lights are back even if it’s five minutes to turn on the generators the students start to ask for more time for the loss of time because of the electricity. I guess the point I am trying to make is that we are wasting collective time of our nation. Nothing gets done while there is no light. Even if there are generators and UPS there are minimal things running and very little that can be done. Children can’t get on the computer and research for their homework. Businesses can’t use credit cards. Schools and colleges have teachers leaving classroom without teaching because it’s too hot for them to bear.

All of this makes us miss time to do things. We take much longer to accomplish things now compared with before because of the shortage of electricity. Our productivity as a nation is going down because out of the 8 hours we barely have 1 or 2 in which the work can actually get done. The problem is that it may seem like that the whole world is on stand still while the electricity is gone, that’s really not the case. Only we are on stand still. While we are waiting for the lights to turn back on time and life is passing us by. We wait and then we start the work while someone somewhere else started the work without any waitt. Of course at the end of the day that person will take the fruits of the hard work we were not able to put in. Time goes on but we stay on a stand still by force. Does that seem fair at all?

People have turned this thing into a joke as well you will hear a person saying that well this is our government’s way of telling us to slow down. It is an automatic brake even if one doesn’t want it. We have lost so many hours of our lives to this terrible menace of our society and we have no idea how many more we still have to lose.

We have discussed what kind of problems are taking place in our Pakistan because of lack of electricity. Actually everything that I have mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that is going on that if we tried to put all of this in one piece of writing it would go on forever. So, we will leave the description of the problem at this point and try to invest the leftover energy in figuring out how we can get to a solution. The question is this is a nationwide problem so to get this solved who do we go to? Do we try to track down the government officials and ask them what should be done? But we have heard plenty of them on television saying that there is nothing that can be done because this shortage of resource is worldwide and everyone feels it. However, we don’t see the rest of the world complaining and suffering from the consequences as we are.

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Community News (V12-I13)

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sayed Naved appointed to MD Board of Education

BALTIMORE, MD–Sayed Naved has been appointed to the Maryland Board of Education by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Mr. Naved is a current member and former chair of the Islamic Council of Maryland. He earlier served as the principal of the ICM Sunday School.

His four year term on the board begins this April.

Application filed for mosque in Norwalk

NORWALK, CT–The Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk has submitted plans to the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning to construct a facility consisting of a prayer hall, classrooms, library and gymnasium. The submitted plans show a 420 seat prayer hall and eighty seven parking spaces.

“Currently Norwalk’s Muslim community has no established house of worship in which to pray or conduct other religious activities. Individuals must meet to worship in private homes without the benefit of an established place of worship where all may gather as a religious congregation,” wrote John F. Fallon, the attorney representing The Al Madany Islamic Center, in a narrative of the proposal “The center has purchased property at 127 Fillow Street in order to address this need and seeks approval to construct a mosque on the property as shown in the plans submitted herewith.”

Madison County mosque plans approved

MADISON COUNTY, MS–County supervisors have approved plans to build a mosque in Madison after a lengthy process, WLBT TV reported.

Earlier attempts to get approval by the Mississippi Muslim Association to build a mosque were stalled by concerns over who would provide utilities for the 9,000 square foot proposed facility.

Supervisor Tim Johnson said the board will ask the Madison County Wastewater Authority to allow the mosque to tap into its sewer line, eliminating the need for a separate septic system.

He said the Mississippi Muslim Association has done all that’s required.

“They have completed all the things that we have asked of them as far as our rules and regulations in regard to the county of Madison and our zoning to we, upon receiving those certificates, we granted them approval to move forward on their building,” said Johnson.

New Jersey Hospital to Receive Diversity Award

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Jersey will receive the 2010 Corporate Citizen Award from the American Conference on Diversity at the conference’s Central Jersey Chapter Humanitarian Awards this week.

Tab Chukunta, community outreach director for the healthcare system, said the hospital reaches out to people of a variety of religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds through religious accommodations such as offering halal meals to Muslim patients and through annual celebrations such as an event marking the Hindu festival of Diwali, or an annual Iftar dinner during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Accommodating diversity not only helps the patients but also has immense benefits for the institutions. As the word gets out more and more clients turn to institutions that cater to their needs.

Sec. Clinton Invites CPR to Event

(WASHINGTON, D.C. 3/23/2010) — Reflecting its presence in Washington D.C., the Council on Pakistan Relations has been invited by Secretary Clinton to attend a March 24 reception commemorating the first Ministerial-level U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will co-chair the talks.  

Topics for discussion will include economic development, water and energy, education, communications and public diplomacy, agriculture, and security.  High-level officials from both governments will come to the table to discuss issues of common concern and shared responsibility.

According to Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have repeatedly stressed the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, a partnership that goes far beyond security. The Strategic Dialogue represents the shared commitment of both nations to a strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust.  The United States is supporting Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, as it seeks to foster more economic development, expand opportunities, deal with its energy and water problems, and defeat the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan’s security and stability in the larger region, and American national security as well.”

The Council on Pakistan Relations is a pro-America, pro-Pakistan not-for-profit advocacy organization interested in strengthening ties and enhancing mutual understanding between the two nations.

CONTACT: Mahera Rahman, mahera@pakistanrelations.org

SALAM Islamic Center Honored

Sacramento–Mohamed Abdul-Azeez

2009 Director’s Community Leadership Awards

The Sacramento Division has selected Mohamed Abdul-Azeez to receive the Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Mr. Azeez is the religious leader of the SALAM Islamic Center in Sacramento, California, which is a mosque, a community center, an elementary school, a preschool, a weekend school, an educational institution, and a place of spiritual uplifting and personal development. Imam Azeez, through SALAM, strives to present the true essence of the message of Islam and to promote moderation, community service, and interreligious dialogue to build a better society.

Educated in medicine, political science, sociology, Islamic history, and Islamic theology, Imam Azeez holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Ain Shams University, a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio State University, and a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago. He has been involved in Islamic activism and education for the past 10 years and has worked with numerous institutions from the Midwest to the West Coast. He has taught at some of them.

Imam Azeez is a passionate advocate of interfaith work and dedicates much of his time educating the community about the religion of Islam. In his capacity as the Imam of SALAM, he is a member of the Sacramento Interfaith Services Bureau and participates in most inter-religious dialogue in the area.

SALAM, in its involvement with other faith-based organizations, has been a steady contributor to building and maintaining bridges within the Sacramento community. SALAM believes further understanding and cooperation can be achieved for the betterment of the greater Sacramento area.

SALAM has instituted many outreach activities, including the Children of Abraham program, interfaith prayer services, interfaith tree planting and, with the help of the members of the San Juan School District, the increase of religious sensitivity and awareness in scholastic curricula. Imam Azeez has also been a regular guest speaker at the Sacramento FBI on the topic of Muslim culture and on July 26, 2009, gave a Muslim Cultural Awareness briefing to members of the FBI Sacramento Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association.

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Tough to Leave the Devastated Place

March 25, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By Ilyas Hasan Choudry, MMNS

TMO Editor’s note:  Houston editor Ilyas Choudry spent a week helping earthquake victims in Haiti.  This is his report.

Haiti Downtown - See Buildings Leaning Lets’ say for seven days in a row, you wake up to see dire situation around you. When you woke up the eighth day, you are going to take an airplane to a place, almost like paradise on this earth, as compared to the everyday anguish of the past seven days. But instead of feeling happy to leave the devastated place, you have this extreme lingering sadness inside; telling that you should not leave. May be there is a way to delay your departure and that you can stay for few more weeks or may be months or even years, to see this torturous place come out of the ruins.

This is what I felt on Sunday, March 15th, 2010, when I went through a long queue for more than two hours to aboard American Airlines Flight 1908 from Port-au-Prince to Miami International Airport. I did not want to leave my fellow Haitian human-beings in desperate situation, while I had to begin my journey back to luxurious life in USA. For the past seven days, I had to take cold showers early in the morning (first time after 1987); sharing one bathroom with six other persons, when on few days suddenly realizing that I was the last of the six and that there is very little water left for me; got to eat rice & beans and for a change of menu, I used to eat beans & rice the next day; fridge not laden with food and Coke / Pepsi as electricity was unpredictable and not strong enough for the fridge to work. If it was not for immediate responsibility of my own family in Houston and to earn a living for them, I would have preferred to stay back in Haiti, as so much is needed to be done there, while we live in heaven on earth called USA.

Leogane Haiti - Temporary Wooden Shelter Homes By HHRD Hopefully To Fare Well As Compared To Tarp Tents World came out in a big way to respond to Haitian crisis after the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Everyone has tried their best in the manner they know to assist. But to be really honest, the world has failed the Haitian people. I feel the hype created about safety and security situation was not appropriate. I drove & walked on the streets of Haiti during these seven days, the Haitians that I have seen on the whole are very nice hardworking people and not threatening (especially after what they had gone through). Provision of safety and security are important things, but the way this fear of insecurity was created and blown out of proportion, it hampered the overall response and made several agencies and NGOs to confine their services to few thousands, the lucky ones who could reach the so-called safe compounds, while real masses were neglected.

Still there have been individuals and non-governmental organizations, working independently or together with the resources of international agencies like UNO, UNICEF, etc. who have tried their best to provide food and health services at grassroots levels in an amicable manner. I am part of one of them called “Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD)”. Visit www.HHRD.Org for more details.

With the help of donors from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Pakistan and elsewhere, HHRD has provided food and healthcare services at rotational clinics in various communities within Port-au-Prince (like Nazon, Leogane, Ave Lamartinier, Masjid Taweed, Masjid Ya-Sin, etc). Between January 26 and March 19, 2010, HHRD in all have organized 55 clinics, taking care of more than 11,000 Haitians, with the voluntary help of doctors from USA, Turkey, Bangladesh and of course Haiti (paid and volunteer). After March 19, 2010, HHRD will work on establishing some permanent clinics.

I was in Haiti from March 7 till 14, 2010 and was appalled to see that two months have passed, but no real effort has been done by the world community. Near me, what was expected of the Governments of the world was to bring necessary heavy machinery and equipment into Port-au-Prince to remove the rubble. Two months have passed and despite traveling east-&-west and north-&south of Port-au-Prince, the number of heavy machinery that I could see was about six (6). One can go to Centerville (Downtown) Port-au-Prince and see several five to eight story buildings leaning on one side and can fall down onto the pubic anytime. There is rubble all over the place. All the work that one can see on the rubble is that people cutting the steel and securing it for any future reconstruction work.
When Tsunami 2004-2005 & later on last year Earthquake 2009 came in Indonesia and Earthquake 2005 came in Pakistan, the action was swifter in removing debris and rebuilding efforts started within one month or so. But not in Haiti, where more than two months have passed and genuine work to remove the rubble is far from sight. Question is not why work was swiftly done in Indonesia and Pakistan: Query is why not in Haiti: I have no idea why??

I was most impressed to see the resilience of common Haitians, who despite the world almost ignoring them, are coming out every day in the morning, to earn their living. Marketplace is full of people, doing small little businesses to survive and few seen begging. Their high spirits need to be saluted.

Many small NGOs like HHRD are doing their little roles at grassroots level as per their capacities, but they usually get no or little attention of the media, and as such are unable to reach out to larger audiences and people to bring more and more assistance to the common masses.

Like the next immediate need for Haitians is proper shelter with rainy season coming in April 2010. HHRD has come up with an unique idea of taking Youth during their Spring Break from USA, to work on a Shelter Home Village project, where 100 wooden small homes are being constructed in another devastated area called Leogane, Haiti (35 miles west of Downtown Port-au-Prince along Leogane Highway). These Shelter homes will hopefully sustain the rainy season and provide safe haven for three to five years. HHRD contacts in the field for this and other projects are Shahid Hayat 1-347-400-1899 and Saqib Ateeque 1-609-575-7474. For general public to participate in this project, details can be found at www.HHRD.Org

As I write these lines, after a long time, we can see a reassuring response from the world, when our very own former US Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are seen standing with President Rene Preval in front of the earthquake damaged Haitian Presidential Palace. They are reassuring the shattered Haitians that world has not forgotten them 10 weeks after the deadliest earthquake of modern times. The still crushed Haitian Presidential Palace with no work being done on it in the past ten weeks, clearly show that world has not done the real work of rebuilding the Haitians’. Hopefully these words of the former Presidents will bring a different response in the right direction towards true recuperation & reconstruction efforts and not merely handouts.

Otherwise the human spirit is very strong. Long-term micro financing initiatives, physical rehabilitation, and reconstruction of infrastructure work is needed: Not merely a box of food here and there. Haitian people together with the non-governmental entities, including HHRD will continue to exert efforts and rebuild a new Haiti soon, providing common human beings worldwide with an opportunity to serve their fellow Haitians and indeed all this will be possible through the Grace of God.

12-13

Interview of Arundhati Roy

March 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

…on Obama’s Wars, India and Why Democracy Is “The Biggest Scam in the World”

New York, NY: Guest: Arundhati Roy, award-winning Indian writer and renowned global justice activist. Her latest book is Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Her most recent article is published in the Indian magazine Outlook called Walking with the Comrades.

ANJALI KAMAT: We spend the rest of the hour with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy on the dark underbelly of India, a country that prides itself on being known as the world’s largest democracy? Earlier this month, when Forbes published its annual list of the world’s billionaires, the Indian press reported with some delight that two of their countrymen had made it to the coveted list of the ten richest individuals in the world. Meanwhile, thousands of Indian paramilitary troops and police are fighting a war against some of its poorest inhabitants living deep in the country’s so-called tribal belt. Indian officials say more than a third of the country, mostly mineral-rich forest land, is partially or completely under the control of Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites. India’s prime minister has called the Maoists the country’s “gravest internal security threat.” According to official figures, nearly 6,000 people have died in the past seven years of fighting, more than half of them civilians. The government’s new paramilitary offensive against the Maoists has been dubbed Operation Green Hunt.

Well, earlier this month, the leader of the Maoist insurgency, Koteswar Rao, or Kishenji, invited the Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy to mediate in peace talks with the government. Soon after, India’s Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai, criticized Roy and others who have publicly called state violence against Maoists, quote, “genocidal.”

G.K. PILLAI: If the Maoists are murderers, please call the Maoists murderers. Why is it that if Maoists murders in West Midnapore last year from June to December 159 innocent civilians, I don’t see any criticism of that? I can call it—159, if government have done it, a lot of people would have gone and said it’s genocide. Why is that not genocide by the Maoists?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Arundhati Roy recently had a rare journalistic encounter with the armed guerrillas in the forests of central India. She spent a few weeks traveling with the insurgency deep in India’s Maoist heartland and wrote about their struggle in a 20,000-word essay published this weekend in the Indian magazine Outlook. It’s called “Walking with the Comrades.”

We’re joined now here in New York by the world-renowned author and global justice activist. She won the Lennon Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002 and is the author of a number of books, including the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. Her latest collection of essays, published by Haymarket, is Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

Arundhati Roy, welcome to Democracy Now!

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go into the very interesting journey you took, you arrive here on the seventh anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. You were extremely outspoken on the war and have continued to be. I remember seeing you at Riverside Church with the great Howard Zinn, giving a speech against the war. What are your thoughts now, seven years in? And how it’s affected your continent, how it’s affected India?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the—you know, the saddest thing is that when the American elections happened and you had all the rhetoric of, you know, change you can believe in, and even the most cynical of us watched Obama win the elections and did feel moved, you know, watching how happy people were, especially people who had lived through the civil rights movement and so on, and, you know, in fact what has happened is that he has come in and expanded the war. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and took an opportunity to justify the war. It was as though those tears of the black people who watched, you know, a black man come to power were now cut and paste into the eyes of the world’s elite watching him justify war.

And from where I come from, it’s almost—you know, you think that they probably don’t even understand what they’re doing, the American government. They don’t understand what kind of ground they stand on. When you say things like “We have to wipe out the Taliban,” what does that mean? The Taliban is not a fixed number of people. The Taliban is an ideology that has sprung out of a history that, you know, America created anyway.

Iraq, the war is going on. Afghanistan, obviously, is rising up in revolt. It’s spilled into Pakistan, and from Pakistan into Kashmir and into India. So we’re seeing this superpower, in a way, caught in quicksand with a conceptual inability to understand what it’s doing, how to get out or how to stay in. It’s going to take this country down with it, for sure, you know, and I think it’s a real pity that, in a way, at least George Bush was so almost obscene in his stupidity about it, whereas here it’s smoke and mirrors, and people find it more difficult to decipher what’s going on. But, in fact, the war has expanded.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Arundhati, how would you explain India’s role in the expanding US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan? This is a climate of very good relations between India and the United States.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, India’s role is—India’s role is one of, at the moment, trying to position itself, as it keeps saying, as the natural ally of Israel and the US. And India is trying very hard to maneuver itself into a position of influence in Afghanistan. And personally, I believe that the American government would be very happy to see Indian troops in Afghanistan. It cannot be done openly, because it would just explode, you know, so there are all kinds of ways in which they are trying to create a sphere of influence there. So the Indian government is deep into the great game, you know, there, and of course the result is, you know, attacks in Kashmir and in Mumbai, not directly related to Afghanistan, but of course there’s a whole history of this kind of maneuvering that’s going on.

AMY GOODMAN: For an American audience, and perhaps for an audience just outside of the region, if you could really talk to us about an area you’ve been focusing a great deal on, of course, and that is Kashmir. Most people here know it as a sweater. That’s what they think of when they hear “Kashmir.”

ARUNDHATI ROY: OK, mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: So, starting there, if you can tell us what is going on there—even place it for us geographically.

ARUNDHATI ROY: OK. Well, Kashmir, as they say in India, you know, is the unfinished business in the partition of India and Pakistan. So, as usual, it was a gift of British colonialism. You know, they threw it at us as they walked—I mean, as they withdrew. So Kashmir used to be an independent kingdom with a Muslim majority ruled by a Hindu king. And during—at the time of partition in 1947, as there was—you know, as you know, almost a million people lost their lives, because this line that was drawn between India and Pakistan passed through villages and passed through communities, and as Hindus fled from Pakistan and Muslims fled from India, there was massacre on both sides.

And at that time, oddly enough, Kashmir was peaceful. But then, when all the independent princedoms in India and Pakistan were asked to actually accede either to India or Pakistan, but Kashmir, the king was undecided, and that indecision resulted in, you know, Pakistani troops and non-official combatants coming in. And the king fled to Jamu, and then he acceded to India. But he was—you know, there was already a movement for democracy within Kashmir at that time. Anyway, that’s the history.

But subsequently, there’s always been a struggle for independence or self-determination there, which in 1989 became an armed uprising and was put down militarily by India. And today, the simplest way of explaining the scale of what’s going on is that the US has 165,000 troops in Iraq, but the Indian government has 700,000 troops in the Kashmir valley—I mean, in Kashmir, security forces, you know, holding down a place with military might. And so, it’s a military occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to your travels in Kashmir, Arundhati Roy, award-winning Indian writer, renowned global justice activist. Her new book is a book of essays; it’s called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. She’s here in the United States for just a little while. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: ”Hum Dekhen Ge” by Iqbal Bano. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Anjali Kamat. Our guest for the rest of the hour, Arundhati Roy, the award-winning Indian writer, renowned global justice activist. Her latest book, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

You recognize that music, Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: Yes, “Hum Dekhen Ge” by Iqbal Bano. Arundhati Roy, your latest article in Outlook, “Walking with the Comrades,” you end the piece by talking about this song that so many people rose up in Pakistan listening to this song, and you place it in a completely different context. Start by talking about what’s happening in the forests of India. What is this war that India is waging against some of the poorest people, people known as tribals, indigenous people, Adivasis? Who are the Maoists? What’s happening there? And how did you get there?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, it’s been going on for a while, but basically, you know, I mean, there is a connection. If you look at Afghanistan, Waziristan, you know, the northeast states of India and this whole mineral belt that goes from West Bengal through Jharkhand through Orissa to Chhattisgarh, what’s called the Red Corridor in India, you know, it’s interesting that the entire thing is a tribal uprising. In Afghanistan, obviously, it’s taken the form of a radical Islamist uprising. And here, it’s a radical left uprising. But the attack is the same. It’s a corporate attack, you know, on these people. The resistance has taken different forms.

But in India, this thing known as the Red Corridor, if you look at a map of India, the tribal people, the forests, the minerals and the Maoists are all stacked on top of each other. You know, so—and in the last five years, the governments of these various states have signed MOUs with mining corporations worth billions of dollars.

ANJALI KAMAT: Memoranda of understanding.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Memorandums of understanding. So as we say, it’s equally an MOU-ist corridor as it is a Maoist corridor, you know? And it was interesting that a lot of these MOUs were signed in 2005. And at that time, it was just after this Congress government had come to power, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, announced that the Maoists are India’s “gravest internal security threat.” And it was very odd that he should have said that then, because the Maoists had actually just been decimated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. I think they had killed something like 1,600 of them. But the minute he said this, the shares in the mining companies went up, because obviously it was a signal that the government was prepared to do something about this, and then started this assault on them, which ended up as Operation Green Hunt, which is where now tens of thousands of paramilitary troops are moving in to these tribal areas.

But before Operation Green Hunt, they tried another thing, which was that they armed a sort of tribal militia and backed by police in a state like Chhattisgarh, where I was traveling recently, they just went into the forest. This militia burned village after village after village, like something like 640 villages were, more or less, emptied. And it was—the plan was what’s known as strategic hamletting, which the Americans tried in Vietnam, which was first devised by the British in Malaya, where you try and force people to move into police wayside camps so that you can control them, and the villages are emptied so that the forests are open for the corporates to go.

And what happened actually was that out of the—in this area, in Chhattisgarh, out of, say, 350,000 people, about 50,000 people moved into the camps. Some were forced, some went voluntarily. And the rest just went off the government radar. Many of them went to other states to work as migrant labor, but many of them just continued to hide in the forests, unable to come back to their homes, but not wanting to leave. But the fact is that in this entire area, the Maoists have been there for thirty years, you know, working with people and so on. So it’s a very—it’s not a resistance that has risen up against mining. It preceded that a long time—you know, by a long time. So it’s very entrenched. And Operation Green Hunt has been announced because this militia, called the Salwa Judum, failed, so now they are upping the ante, because these MOUs are waiting. And the mining corporations are not used to being made to wait. You know, so there’s a lot of money waiting.

And, I mean, what I want to say is that we are not using this word “genocidal war” lightly or rhetorically. But I traveled in that area, and what you see is the poorest people of this country, who have been outside the purview of the state. There’s no hospital. There’s no clinic. There’s no education. There’s nothing, you know? And now, there’s a kind of siege, where people can’t go out of their villages to the market to buy anything, because the markets are full of informers who are pointing out, you know, this person is with the resistance and so on. There’s no doctors. There’s no medical help. People are suffering from extreme hunger, malnutrition. So it’s not just killing. You know, it’s not just going out there and burning and killing, but it’s also laying siege to a very vulnerable population, cutting them off from their resources and putting them under grievous threat. And this is a democracy, you know, so how do you do—how do you clear the land for corporates in a democracy? You can’t actually go and murder people, but you create a situation in which they either have to leave or they starve to death.

ANJALI KAMAT: In your piece, you describe the people you traveled with, the armed guerrillas, as Gandhians with guns. Can you talk about what you mean by that and how—what you think of the violence perpetrated by the Maoists?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, this is a very sharp debate in India about—I mean, you know, even the sort of mainstream left and the liberal intellectuals are very, very suspicious of Maoists. And everybody should be suspicious of Maoists, because, you know, they do—they have had a very—a very difficult past, and there are a lot of things that their ideologues say which do put a chill down your spine.

But when I went there, I have to say, I was shocked at what I saw, you know, because in the last thirty years I think something has radically changed among them. And the one thing is that in India, people try and make this difference. They say there’s the Maoists, and then there’s the tribals. Actually, the Maoists are tribals, you know, and the tribals themselves have had a history of resistance and rebellion that predates Mao by centuries, you know? And so, I think it’s just a name, in a way. It’s just a name. And yet, without that organization, the tribal people could not have put up this resistance. You know, so it is complicated.

But when I went in, I lived with them for, you know, and I walked with them for a long time, and it’s an army that is more Gandhian than any Gandhian, that leaves a lighter footprint than any climate change evangelist. You know, and as I said, even their sabotage techniques are Gandhian. You know, they waste nothing. They live on nothing. And to the outside world—first of all, the media has been lying about them for a long time. A lot of the incidents of violence did not happen, you know, which I figured out. A lot of them did happen, and there was a reason for why they happened.

And what I actually wanted to ask people was, when you talk about nonviolent resistance—I myself have spoken about that. I myself have said that women will be the victims of an armed struggle. And when I went in, I found the opposite to be true. I found that 50 percent of the armed cadre were women. And a lot of the reason they joined was because for thirty years the Maoists had been working with women there. The women’s organization, which has 90,000 members, which is probably the biggest feminist organization in India, now all 90,000 of those women are surely Maoists, and the government has given itself the right to shoot on sight. So, are they going to shoot these 90,000 people?

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, the leader of the Maoists has asked you to be the negotiator, the mediator between them and the Indian government. What is your response?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Look, I wouldn’t be a good mediator. You know, that’s not my—those are not my skills. I think that somebody should do it, but I don’t think that it should be me, because I just have no idea how to mediate, you know? And I don’t think that we should be jumping into things that we don’t know much about. And I certainly—I did say that. You know, I mean, it’s—I don’t know why they mentioned my name, but I think there are people in India who have those skills and who could do it, because it’s very, very urgent that this Operation Green Hunt be called off. Very, very urgent, you know, but it would be silly for someone like me to enter that, because I think I’m too impatient. I’m too much of a maverick. You know, I don’t have those skills.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember, back to Kashmir, when President Obama was running for president, Senator Obama, in an interview, talked about Kashmir, and he talked about it as a kind of flashpoint, said that we have to resolve the situation between India—between India and Pakistan around Kashmir so that Pakistan can focus on the militants. Can you talk about it as being a flashpoint and what you think needs to be done there?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think, you know, unfortunately, the thing about Kashmir is that India and Pakistan act as though Kashmir is a problem. But really for them both, Kashmir is a solution. You know, Kashmir is where they play their dirty games. And they don’t want to solve it, because whenever they have, you know, internal problems, they can always pull up—pull this bunny out of the hat. So it’s really—I really think that these two countries are not going to solve it, you know?
And what is happening is that there is a population of people who have been suffering untold misery for so many years, you know, and once again so many lies have been told about it. The Indian media is just—the falsification that it’s involved with about Kashmir is unbelievable. Like two years ago—or was it last year? Two years ago, there was a massive uprising in Kashmir. I happened to be there at the time. I’ve never seen anything like this. You know, there were millions of people on the street all the time. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And they were rising up for?

ARUNDHATI ROY: They were rising up for independence. You know, they were rising up for independence. And then, that uprising was—you know, when they rose up with arms, that was wrong. When they rose up without arms, that was wrong, too.

And the way it was defused was with an election. An election was called. And then everybody was shocked, because there was a huge turnout at the elections. And all the—you know, we have many election experts in India who spend all their time in television studios analyzing the swing and this and that, but nobody said that all the leaders of the resistance were arrested. Nobody asked, what does it mean to have elections when there are 700,000 soldiers supervising every five meters, all the time, all year round? They don’t have to push people on the end of a bayonet to the voting booth, you know? Nobody talked about the fact that there was a lockdown in every constituency. Nobody wondered what does it mean to people who are under that kind of occupation. The fact that they need somebody to go to, you know, when someone disappears—or, you know, they need some representative.

So now, once again, the violence has started. You know? It’s a permanent sort of cycle where, obviously in the interest of geopolitical jockeying, any sense of morality is missing. And of course it’s very fashionable to say that, you know, there isn’t any morality involved in international diplomacy, but suddenly, when it comes to Maoists killing, morality just comes riding down on your head. You know, so people use it when they want to.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Arundhati, in both India and the United States, as these wars expand, as the military occupations, as you delineated, in Kashmir, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, as they expand, what is your message to antiwar activists, to peace activists around the world, here and in India? What do you think people need to be doing?

ARUNDHATI ROY: See, I think I just want to say one thing more, which is that in Kashmir, you have, as I said, 700,000 soldiers who have been turned into an administrative police force.

In India, where they don’t want to openly declare war against the Adivasis, you have a paramilitary police, which is being trained to be an army. So the police are turning into the army. The army is turning into the police. But to push through this growth rate, you know, you have basically this whole country is turning into a police state.

And I just want to say one thing about democracy. You know, in India, the elections—the elections were—they cost more than the American elections. Much more. This poor country costs much more. The most enthusiastic were the corporates. The members of parliament are—a majority of them are millionaires. If you look at the statistics, actually this big majority it has ten percent of the vote. The BBC had a campaign where they had posters of a dollar bill—$500 bill sort of molting into an Indian 500 rupee note with Ben Franklin on one end and Gandhi on the other. And it said, “Kya India ka vote bachayega duniya ka note?” meaning “Will the Indian vote save the market?” You know? So voters become consumers. It’s a kind of scam that’s going on.

So the first message I would have to peace activists is—I don’t know what that means, anyway. What does “peace” mean? You know, we may not need peace in this unjust society, because that’s a way of accepting injustice, you know? So what you need is people who are prepared to resist, but not just on a weekend, not peace but not just on the weekend. In countries like India, now just saying, “OK, we’ll march on Saturday, and maybe they’ll stop the war in Iraq.” But in countries like India, now people are really paying with their lives, with their freedom, with everything. I mean, it’s resistance with consequences now. You know, it cannot be—it cannot be something that has no consequences. You know? It may not have, but you’ve got to understand that in order to change something, you’ve got to take some risks now. You’ve got to come out and lay those dreams on the line now, because things have come to a very, very bad place there.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Her latest book is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. I look forward to being with you and Noam Chomsky in Cambridge in a week.

12-13

Lahore Shakes, with 7 Blasts in One Day

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS

On March 12th 2010 the people of Lahore paid a heavy price for the decisions made by the leaders of the country. It was a day unlike any other. People of Lahore will never forget the events of that day. One bomb blast or even two the city and even the country is used to, but 7 blasts in one day are unheard of.

The first blast took place in R.A Market just before Friday Prayers and just a few moments after that a bigger blast shook the city. Since it is a cantonment area, the market is near sensitive military offices and installations which most likely were the targets of the attacks. There is confusion about the exact time distance between the 2 blasts. The reports were that they were only 15 seconds apart but then eyewitnesses claimed they were close to 2 minutes apart.

The reason given for the 2 blasts back to back was that after the first blast people started to gather to look at the damage and help the wounded. Another blast at this point would ensure much more casualties and it did.

According to reports around 57 people died and close to 120 were injured. However unofficial sources claim that the number of dead is up to 70.

The public was still trying to make sense of what had happened and were still trying to understand their circumstances when in the evening back to back 5, small fire cracker like, explosions took place in moon market at different times in the evening.

There were no casualties there but the scare was enough to put the whole city in extreme fear, anger and frustration. The public of Lahore could not comprehend what had happened and locked themselves in their homes for that evening.

Cantonment SP Investigation Umer Saeed said the bombers apparently came from the Northern Areas or Afghanistan, he also said that the suicide bomber’s fair complexion suggested that he was probably from South Waziristan. He said fingerprints of bombers would be obtained to verify them with NADRA record.

In a connected effort to hunt down people attached to these bombings 40 people from the same areas were arrested for not having ID Cards.

Even though many people did not come out on the streets that night as Lahoris do on a Friday night the roads were still filled with cars and people.

Seeing that many of the people did not stay at home and were out and about the very next day the media claimed that the people of Pakistan are brave and are not letting terrorists win by canceling their plans.

However, the area around R.A bazaar was closed on Saturday and people were in fear and grief along with shock.

All of the leaders of Pakistan condemned these attacks and said that the people of Lahore and Pakistan were brave and were crushing the plans of the enemy by resuming normal life right after the fact.

However when we spoke to people of Lahore there was a different view point. Shahbaz a father of 2 who works in a government office said that he has no choice but to get out because of work. He fears for his life but at the same time he cannot lose his job by staying at home.

Samina who works at a maid 50 minutes away from her house says the same thing. She told us that she works in Model Town, which is the area that was hit with the previous blast. However she has no choice but to leave the house and go there every day. Her children worry about her she says while she is gone but what can she do. Wiping her tears with her shawl she says, “I hate leaving my children behind because I don’t know what catastrophe might befall them that I cannot save them from”, but there are no other options for her.

So, it would be wrong to say that people of Lahore are coming out and ignoring these events because they are resilient. Of course the fact that the people of Pakistan have become immune to guns and bombs most are getting out of their homes because of necessity rather then courage.

Again I repeat that this is not to claim that people are not courageous in these parts of the worlds because to live here every day and to move on from events like these requires a lot of strength which the people of Pakistan have.

However, with that said it is important to keep in mind that this courage comes from the need to survive as well. If getting out in these situations where there are more than one bombs exploding all over town is dangerous, staying in and losing one’s job is even more dangerous for these people.

In short the people of Pakistan are stuck between bomb and striving to fill their stomachs.

12-12

Preconceptions, Misconceptions: Disaster in Afghanistan

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

PRECONCEPTIONS, MISCONEPTIONS AND “NO FEEDBACK LOOP” LEADS TO AMERICAN DISASTER IN AFGHANISTAN

By Gordon Duff

I have only recently returned from the region where I toured as a journalist and lecturer.  Our group included Jeff Gates, Raja Mugtaba, BG Asif Haroon Raja and BG Ali Raza and me of Veterans Today and Opinion Maker.  We met with some people we will not mention and many we can.  Prince Ali of Afghanistan had a delegation with us headed by Fayyaz Shah,  as advisors.  BG Ali Raza was primary coordinator on the ground for Pakistan during the “Charley Wilson War” against the Soviets.  No person has spent so much time “where he isn’t supposed to be” as General Ali Raza.  BG Asif Haroon Raja is Pakistan’s best known military analyst and author and an invaluable resource.

I would thank the Director General of the ISPR,  Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas and Director BG Syed Azmat Ali for their detailed briefing and great courtesy.

Background on the critical border regions was supplied by the former military head, BG Amir Gulistan Janjua.  His vast experience in the region was an invaluable aid to our understanding.  I would also thank Ahsan Rashid and Col. Javed Mujtaba for their advice, hospitality and analytical skills.

Our primary briefer and advisor for the region and constant correspondent is Admiral I A Sirohey, former Chairman, JCOS of Pakistan.  General Aslam Beg, former Army Chief of Staff and General Hamid Gul, former DG ISI, also briefed us extensively on military affairs.  These three, along with our companions, BG’s Raja and Ali, are the primary experts on regional military affairs and the Taliban.

We also want to thank Tarik Jan of the ISSI for his kind assistance.  I am leaving out two dozen names, some out of kindness.  Many political leaders met with us who normally would never see Americans.  We were treated with more than courtesy and kindness in some of the most unexpected places.

My close friends and personal advisors, Col. James Hanke, USA SF (ret) former Defense Attache to Israel and Fred Coward, former FBI counter-terrorism expert were a continual help.  Their knowledge and extensive contacts in the region were vital.

The question, of course, what did we learn?  Does anyone learn anything if weighed down by prejudiced, misconceptions or military and political theories based on flawed analyses or policies?  Our job is simply to listen, learn and use our best judgment.  Our responsibility is to be honest in our assessments.  The findings in this work are entirely my own.

The root of the problems in the region are historical in nature.  Unless you go back 200 years or more, something we aren’t doing here, nothing will make sense.  The region, Af-Pak, is a creation, primarily of Britain’s, seemingly created out of a design to stimulate instability and conflict to enable “the great game” Britain is famous for to be played, one side against the other.  In 1893, when Afghanistan and India/Pakistan were split by Durand, dividing tribes and even families, continual war was guaranteed.  In 1947, when Pakistan was created out of a group of peoples, roughly “Islamic” but otherwise unrelated, we were guaranteed even more instability.  Pakistan would be a combination of advanced culture, warlike tribes and resentful quasi-independent regions constantly at odds with their powerful neighbor, India.

The alliances that have defined the region, India and the Soviet Union, Pakistan and the United States (and China) and now, India and Israel and the United States(maybe Russia again and part of Afghanistan) and Pakistan and the United States (and China) have led to continual military buildups, including nuclear weapons and other advanced strategic technologies, all within a framework of acrimony and continual terrorism.

India, Israel, the United States, Afghanistan, China and Britain are all accused, on a daily basis, of coordinating terror attacks inside each country of the region, including Iran.  Accusations of training and arming terrorist groups, numbered in the dozens, perhaps the hundreds, in each of the countries involved, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, are continually voiced.  In the process, everyone denies involvement in the vast drug trade that has reemerged with the American occupation of Afghanistan and the vast network of corruption based primarily on what seems to be an American policy to stimulate waste.

Permanent war, in itself, has become the only business of the region, other than drug trafficking, with endless thousands of “contractors” from around the world flocking to the region to suck down the American dollars carelessly thrown at every imaginable perceived threat or ill, often with little or no consideration for end result or attempt at accounting.

This has brought American war planners to a number of disastrous conclusions about the area, ones that defy any historical or strategic model.  The gutting of the intellectual capabilities of American policy planners during the Bush administration, based on an overlay of an Evangelical Christian model, applied, not only to the Pentagon but intelligence services, State Department and many key decision making environments has left the United States unable to process and respond properly to feedback.  Thus, failed policies are replaced by untested experiments and short term fixes, none based on broad or sound analysis.

All advice comes from groups tied financially to the continuation of the war and even the destabilization of Pakistan.  One major unseen actor is Israel, whose powerful lobby in Washington is capable of making policy for the region.  Israel’s military alliance with India and extensive investment in the regions gas and oil industry is a major driver in, what has become a suicidal American effort.  With Israel benefitting from billions in arms contracts with the United States and India along with becoming a defacto “super power” of the region by proxy, their “special interest” and unique ability to use their control of media, their massive influence over the electoral process in the US and their long relationship with the Pentagon, continual regional conflict may be a hidden agenda.

Current American policies in the region, both military and economic, seem to prove this out.  All are doomed to eventual failure, seemingly purposely so and all are the result of reliance on advice from sectors profiting from war and destabilization, not only of the region, but of the United States itself.  It is a unique possibility that the series of ill conceived wars begun under the Bush administration may eventually bring about the economic collapse of the United States as had happened to the Soviet Union some years before.

Afghanistan

America claimed they came into Afghanistan seeking the terrorists who attacked on 9/11.  This is blatantly dishonest.  Osama bin Laden had been a guest of the Taliban for some time but had been put under severe restrictions by that group.  There is no evidence any terrorist organizations were being run by Bin Laden in Afghanistan and current intelligence has proven, despite “media” coverage to the contrary, that bin Laden had no involvement in 9/11.  Broad evidence exists that bin Laden died during the initial US attack in 2001.  All intelligence and informed opinion leads to this conclusion causing both embarrassment and consternation when “press driven” demands for a continued hunt for bin Laden come from the United States.

Less publicly, the United States has long accepted the death of bin Laden yet has spent millions of dollars and hundreds of lives in a dishonest attempt to keep a “branded” big name terrorist in front of the public. 

This has caused a general distrust of the United States among its military allies who, universally, believe that the phony “hunt for bin Laden” is proof, not of a need to resurrect a phony “boogieman” for public consumption but rather to create an artificial “icon” to cover massive corruption and a history of failure.

At the outset, America’s approach in Afghanistan was flawed.  Our dependence on the Northern Alliance, a group of warlords wishing to restore drug production, prohibited by the Taliban, to assist us led to establishing a regime in Kabul that was never accepted by the people of Afghanistan.  President Karzai, not only notoriously corrupt and weak but closely allied to India, would make an unlikely leader in a war requiring continual coordination with Pakistan, a country nearly as distrustful of Karzai as his own people.

The decision by the US to support Karzai, even after a rigged election and to build an army and national police force primarily out of tribal minorities from the Northern Alliance who are hated by the majority of Afghanis has led to the need for the current increase in American presence and the stalled military operations in Helmand, the nation’s primary opium producing region since 2001.  Current American plans to consider restructuring the massive national police force on regional ethnic lines is encouraging but doomed to failure.

Tribal traditions in Afghanistan are based on a system called Pashtunwali.  All judicial and police functions reside within a long established tribal structure, one that functioned well prior to the Soviet occupation and one which could be restored.  Replacing this with a “northern occupation” will only lead to continual warfare.

Gun Culture

The economy of Afghanistan is almost entirely non-existent.  Warring groups are living off American bribes, payments to allow supplies to pass unharmed to American forces or from taxes on the massive opium harvest.  With the destruction of tribal cohesion under the Russian backed government and the mining of Afghanistan, the traditional yearly migrations of the large pastoral population within Afghanistan has stopped.  This group, numbering as many as 15 million, are a recruiting ground for “gun culture.”

Replacing normal occupations, farming, husbandry or small industries is a vast number of fighters, many simple bandits and criminals but untold thousands fighting out of a belief they are opposing a foreign occupation.  Discerning the difference between the two and restoring a traditional economy to replace warlord-ism, drug production and mercenary activities is the only way of bringing about stability.  The cost of these programs, some of which the USAID is working on now, is low in comparison to military action.

However, too little is being done and, for every successful program, ten “boondoggle” programs are put in place, building useless projects with massive cost overruns and corruption.

Military Action

American military planners are currently trying a variety of approaches, including working with the Afghan army, a vast mercenary group, primarlily of the northern tribes that is, on the whole, both unsupportable economically and totally helpless when used in any independent capacity.  Afghanistan has a tradition of compulsory military service, a “people’s army” of lowly paid but highly motivated soldiers from every area of the nation.  These troops are paid as little as $5 per month but receive food subsidies for their families and extensive training in civilian trades as part of their service.

This successful system has been destroyed by the United States and the Karzai government, replaced with a “paid” professional army untrusted by any group within the country.  Pakistan fears that this army will fall under Indian command and threaten their borders and, perhaps, rightly so.  The model used is based on Blackwater, a private military contractor, not any national army.  The new national army in Afghanistan is quite likely to work for any group capable of paying them.  The nation of Afghanistan itself will never have that capability.

American efforts to occupy destabilized regions thru “civil affairs” operations used in Vietnam with some success can only function as they did in Vietnam, as part of a permanent occupation force which will be immediately replaced by an opposing “occupation force” of domestic fighters, the enemy, when Americans leave.  In fact, Taliban units simply melt into the civilian population when confronted by American forces beyond their capability of defeating.

Only the foreign fighters in Afghanistan, those who came to fight and die, continue action against the US forces under unfavorable conditions.  Others, trained in “irregular warfare” from birth, simply wait out America’s resolve, exactly as had happened in Vietnam.  Pentagon planners understand this, thus making our current efforts by cynical and deceitful.

America is unaware that most of the Taliban live in Pakistan.  The total number of Taliban exceeds 50 million, a number America and Pakistan can never fight successfully nor do they need to.  The vast majority of those the US considers enemy combatants can be rehabilitated, but not under programs currently being initiated by the United States.  The idea of paying “fighters” or members of the “gun culture” to stop resisting is hardly a thoughtful strategy but it is the one the United States has chosen.

There are forces that need to be defeated and that could be defeated by an Afghan army, a traditional force based on compulsory service and fighting for a government with wide support among the tribes, a government Afghanistan currently doesn’t have.

Current military operations are likely to recruit more fighters against the United States and the unpopular Karzai government and, as things are going, eventually lead to a wider conflict in Pakistan and the economic destruction of that nation, a vital US ally.   We are well along that road already and are more than well aware of it despite our protestations to the opposite and the total lack of media attention to any “reality based” assessment.

Economic development programs being enacted in Afghanistan are primarily based on supporting a corrupt culture and maintaining “cover” for the massive drug trade that powerful groups among all the players, Afghanistan, Israel, the United States, India and Pakistan, are growing immensely wealthy and powerful on.  A restructuring of the economies on both sides of the Durand Line separating Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan along lines suggested by Imran Khan and Jeff Gates and groups supporting Prince Ali Seraj may be the best solution.

Simple “grass roots” development built on supporting and expanding traditional industries while providing improved delivery of educational and health care services is a start.  Only education of men and women can fight the cycle of extremism, broad public education delivered at village level within a social and economic environment supporting a traditional model.  These plans exist, are inexpensive and have broad support among nearly all tribal leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The only thing stopping their implementation is the current much more profitable and corrupt system that is creating a new ruling oligarchy based on American money and continual chaos.

Solutions?

They have always been there but real solutions have been opposed by those profiting off the war and the environment the war has created.  Too many with too much money and power want the wars to continue for too many reasons, including long term geopolitical goals unfavorable to the United States and Pakistan.  With a lack of strong leadership within the United States compounded by the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, US foreign policy will continue to be a “runaway train.”

The first step toward enacting known solutions would be getting real information to decision makers and keeping the American people properly informed.  Currently, media in the United States is so heavily skewed toward misinformation and propaganda that political accountability has nearly disappeared.  An systematically misinformed populace negates all concepts of democracy and representative government.   There can be no accountability and no national policy as long as the mechanisms for disinformation that have taken control of America’s news media exist.

Defacto control of Americas media by foreign nations and a cabal of corporations tied to the war economy has ended effective public participation in American policy and decision making and, in the process, ended Congress’s ability to oversee policy.  Grassroots movements in Afghanistan, while America remains the “prime mover” depend on restoration of similar authority in the United States.

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Bomb Blast near FIA Building in Lahore

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

A bomb blast near the FIA building in Model Town Lahore on March 8th 2010 shook the entire city. “Eleven people have been killed and several others injured in the suicide car bombing. The target was the FIA building and the Special Intelligence Agency which also had a building in the vicinity.

Reports state that 14 people were killed in this blast and 61 are injured and out of those 29 are in critical condition. Out of those 9 were policemen and the rest were women and children. Seven of the constables killed in the explosion were identified, their names are: Naveed, Habib Ullah, Arif, Manzar Alam, Abdul Aziz, Muhammad Afzal and Aziz Ahmed. The bodies were later shifted to the city morgue.

The DCO of Lahore and the Inspector General of Punjab, Tariq Azeem both confirmed that an explosive laden vehicle rammed into the Investigation Agency’s building.

Around 600 kilograms of explosives were used in this attack. The police said that the massive explosion has managed to create an 8 foot deep crater. The bomb even killed a woman who lived 300 meters away from where the bomb originally exploded. Many buildings, including houses, were damaged and a considerable number of cars were also damaged and destroyed because of the blast. Security has been placed on high alert across the entire city.

Witnesses say that they saw two people step out of the van which means the suicide bomber had accomplices.However, a case under Sections 302 and 324 of the PPC, 7 of ATA and 3/4 of Explosives Act was registered against the unknown suicide bomber and “his two accomplices” on the complaint of an assistant director of the SIA.

Witnesses have told the media that the FIA building completely collapse people were buried under it. Khusro Pervez, the top administration official in Lahore said on Monday, “I fear the death toll may rise. We believe there are still people trapped under the rubble.”

This statement came out to be true since on Monday the death toll was 11 and by the next day I had risen to 14; if there are anymore bodies under the ruble that is still to be discovered.

“The blast also severely damaged a nearby religious school and houses. All schools have been closed in the area in order to avoid further losses or to prevent the possibility of another attack,” said Mr. Parvez Rathore who is Lahore City Police Chief.

Police said 30 to 50 people were in the building, used by police and intelligence agents, at the time of attack.

Interior Minister Mr. Rahman Malik stated while talking to the media that people who are carrying out these acts are not Muslim and these people are agents from outside who are committed these crimes. He also added that Muslims cannot kill other innocent Muslims so brutally. Mr. Malik also added that in his opinion the target was the Special Investigation Agency and not the FIA building.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan took responsibility for these acts soon after the fact, “We claim responsibility for the Lahore blast. We will continue such attacks in future,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP reporters in telephone calls from an undisclosed location.

“The attack was to avenge (US) drone attacks and (Pakistani) military operations in the tribal areas. We will carry on such attacks as long as drone strikes and operations continue.”

The concern by the public that has been raised in the past has become a more prominent voice in the wake of Monday’s attack. This concern is that official government and police institutions in the middle of a residential area are a bad idea.

The public of Lahore are too familiar with this drill, where there is a police building or some kind of army, police or intelligence building suicide bombers are sure to follow. As much as this situation saddens the public just as much they hope to be far away form it. The residents of Model Town claim that they had brought this issue to the notice of the government because they knew this was a disaster waiting to happen-which it actually was.

We are left to wonder whether this is going to start a string of attacks as the attackers claimed that this was one of the many attacks that they plan on carrying out against the government. If this is a first of many the question now is what is the government going to do to protect the public now? As we speak the drone attacks in the northern area keep killing more people. It is obvious that there is no negotiating or stopping of the war against terror and war against Al-Qaida.

This question of how the public of Pakistan should be protected is on the minds of every body who is living and beathing in this country even if they didn’t feel the physical shock this attack. Even though they haven’t felt this one many people in Pakistan have heard other bomb blast from close up, many have lost someone they loved or knew in these attacks, many of them are not with us today to ask the same question we are asking-how will our leaders protect us now.

12-11

Celebrating Extraordinary Muslim Women

March 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Salma Hasan Ali

Washington, DC – On 10 March, three Muslim women will be honoured alongside philanthropist Melinda French Gates and human rights activists Panmelo Castro from Brazil and Rebecca Lolosoli from Kenya, by Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, DC-based organisation that works to empower women around the world.

The need to recognise the work of Muslim women is important. Type the search terms “Muslim women” or “women in Islam” online and chances are that a majority of English-language hits will consist of stories relating to what Muslim women wear on their heads or how women in Muslim-majority countries are subjected to physical abuse, or subjugated under the false pretext of religious principle.

But there is another side to Muslim women that is too infrequently recognised, reported or discussed. The Vital Voices Global Partnership awards ceremony, taking pl ace two days after International Women’s Day, provides an opportunity to celebrate this not uncommon, yet too frequently overshadowed, side to Muslim women.

Andeisha Farid grew up in a refugee camp outside Afghanistan. As a teenager, she lived in a Pakistani hostel for six years, where she studied and tutored others. In 2008, at the age of 25, she started her own non-profit organisation, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), in Kabul. Today, AFCECO runs ten orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 450 children of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

In a country where non-governmental organisations that work with women and girls are frequently targeted by religious extremists, Andeisha is constantly on guard. But she remains committed to providing Afghan children not only with food and shelter, but with a sense of mutual respect, regardless of ethnic differences, a feeling of khak – connection to the earth as their homeland – and a s ense of empowerment to shape their own future, and that of their country.

“The happy faces of these children give me hope,” she says. “It helps me conquer fear.”

Afnan Al Zayani is a wife, mother, social activist, television personality and CEO of a multi-million dollar business. It’s no wonder that Forbes and Arabian Business magazine call her one of the most powerful women in the Middle East. In addition, she helped ensure the first written personal status law that protects the rights of Muslim women in cases of divorce and child custody was passed in Bahrain.

She attributes her ability to juggle so many responsibilities to her strong faith. “God will judge us on whether we use our gifts of life and health towards good or evil,” she says. Immaculately dressed in her hijab, or headscarf, she shatters the Western stereotype of the downtrodden Muslim woman. Her guiding philosophy: “Live your life as if you will live forever; live yo ur day as if you will die tomorrow.”

Then there is Roshaneh Zafar. While studying development economics at Yale University in the United States, she came across the story of Khairoon, a woman in Bangladesh who owned only one sari. Khairoon borrowed $100 from the microfinance organisation Grameen Bank to invest in a business, and now owns a sweetshop, a poultry farm, a call centre – and a collection of colourful saris.

Roshaneh met Khairoon many years after her initial loan, and saw firsthand the miracle of microfinance in changing women’s lives. She decided to start a microfinance organisation in Pakistan called Kashf, which means “miracle”. It is now the third largest microfinance organisation in Pakistan, with 300,000 clients and a goal to reach more than half a million in the next four years.

Roshaneh’s message encapsulates the sentiment of many: “Women matter to the world. We need not accept the status quo. Freeing the world of poverty and disenfranchisement of women is possible. But it will only happen when 50 per cent of the world’s population is allowed to recognise its latent strength.”

It is these stories that must be reported, not only to herald the achievements of remarkable women, but to dispel falsely created perceptions of the role of Islam in defining the fate of Muslim women.

###

* Salma Hasan Ali is a Washington, DC-based writer focusing on promoting understanding between the West and the Muslim world. This article first appeared in Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

12-11

Iranian President Visits Afghanistan

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Reports from Xinhua

2010-03-10T130705Z_585848497_GM1E63A1MOO01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN-IRAN

TEHRAN, March 9 (Xinhua) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.

“It has been decided that the president will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday,” Mehmanparast told reporters in his weekly press conference.

The visit will mark Ahmadinejad’s first official visit to the country since the re-election of Hamid Karzai as Afghan president.

An unidentified Afghan official said Monday that Ahmadinejad has postponed visit to Afghanistan which is originally scheduled on Monday.

Afghan President to visit Pakistan for seeking help to hold talks with Taliban

ISLAMABAD, March 9 (Xinhua) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai will pay a two-day visit to Pakistan on Wednesday and is expected to officially ask Pakistan for its assistance in the talks with Taliban, political analysts here said.

They said that the president will also seek the extradition of the top Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from Pakistan to Afghanistan for a court trial.

Sources from Pakistani Foreign Office said that President Karzai will meet his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and some other civil society members.

Anti-terrorism battle, U.S. army surge, repatriation of Afghan refugees and progress in the war-ravaged country will also be discussed during the meeting with Pakistani high-ups, they said.

Analysts believed that Pakistan will raise the issue of border infiltration of militants from Afghanistan and of its missing persons while Afghanistan will seek details for the recovery of the abducted Afghan diplomat Abdul Khaliq Faraakhi.

Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar has asked for Baradar extradition when he held a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik in Islamabad last month. But circumstances changed when a Pakistani court ordered not to hand over Mullah Bardar to any country.

Saleem Safi, a leading journalist and expert on Afghan affairs, told Xinhua that President Karzai’s visit is very important because the situation has changed and American authorities have given a green signal for negotiations with Taliban, adding that Pakistan could play a crucial role in the negotiations with Taliban.

It is the first visit of Karzai to Pakistan after he won his second term as President in November 2009, Safi said.

“Approach in Pakistan’s policy towards President Karzai has changed too much but there is slight shift in policy towards Afghanistan,” said the expert.

Maryana Babar, an analyst on foreign affairs agreed that the visit is very important in the backdrop of the new U.S. policy for Afghanistan, in which Pakistan has asked for a role in the negotiations process.

Babar said that Pakistani Army Chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, in his recent trip to Kabul, told the Afghan government and U.S. authorities that Pakistan could provide training to Afghan troops.

She said that the Afghan president would bring a plan of action and will ask Pakistan’s assistance in the process of reconciliation and reintegration with Taliban as Karzai has openly asked Pakistan and the Saudi Arabia for assistance in bringing Afghan Taliban to talk table on the sidelines of London conference in January.

12-11

Talal Asad

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Camp Meeker (Calif.)–February 28th–This discussion was observed some time ago in Berkeley, but your essayist is only finding the time to write it up this Sunday afternoon.   

Asad’s father was an Austrian Jewish convert to Islam and his mother was a Muslim-born woman.  The philosophically-oriented Talal was born in the Saudi Kingdom, but raised in India and Pakistan.  The younger Asad was trained as an anthropologist, and now is a professor in New York City.  Your critic is mainly familiar with his compilations as an historian.

He began the exchange with “…I can give you a…location [of] where I am [stand] today.  I was much more confident [of] rational criticism” in the past than now.  “Working through certain materialists, [can be]…positive.”  In this way, he has transformed the Islamic tradition to respond to Western Secularism with an (Islamic) Modernism of its own uniqueness, “…a straight forward approach …” to problem solving (“reality testing”) is required according to our philosopher. 

“… [cultural] continuity is still relevant…for creativity.”  The question is “What can be continued and why,” but he still has much to work out for a comprehensive “critique…I don’t know what we can do…Thinking is good [positive], but what kind of thinking?”

Speaking especially of the Middle East, “Life is…entangled…The scope of the horror has tremendously increased” with the Afghani and Pakistani theaters, “We are in a new type of War…”  Unlike President Obama, he disagrees with the Just War theories (both Christian and Islamic).    There is a threat of a nuclear holocaust at present.  We are following a suicidal logic!

In the Occident, Classic Eighteenth Century “Liberalism has…evolved historically [into Neo-liberalism during our generation]…”  Sarcastically, he exclaimed “Let the market rule” although “…the State can intervene…”        “The…West… [‘s cultural] language’’ contains violence…”  He, personally, does not hold to a Culture of Death as he describes it. 

“…any texts we write can be interpreted in many ways…”  Curiously, therefore, he maintains he is not responsible for his writings.

Although he is fully conversant in European and American humanism, “…I am committed to… [the]…values of Islam…” constantly employing his religion within his philosophical doctrines.  Towards the end of the dialogue, he noted certain similarities between Eastern Christianity and Islam.  In this manner, he has emphasized the commonality between the roots of the West and the Islamic; and, thereby, a space for meeting.

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