Saturday, March 25, 2017
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South Asia

A group of more than 35 cross party British Parliamentarians led by Bradford West MP  Naz Shah, have today co-signed a letter asking for the Prime minister of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) – Farooq Haider Khan – to complete and expand the diaspora support initiative that he has been working on in Kashmir.

The government of Azad Kashmir have recently legislated for a “Commission for Overseas Kashmiri’s” based in Azad Kashmir. Ministers will report directly to the PM, who will personally chair the Commission. It has been designed specifically to support the Kashmiri diaspora community navigate through processes that they may be unfamiliar with.

Yesterday, Naz Shah met with the PM Farooq Haidar Khan and held lengthy discussions around the continued implementation of the proposals. Naz Shah suggested that this commission would benefit if it had direct designated links to the diaspora communities, via the Pakistan high commission and its regional offices here in the U.K.

The letter also calls for a strengthening of the current proposals, asking them to explore the possibility of separate ‘Diaspora Facilitator Police Cells’. Arm’s length, on the ground, independent policing units within Kashmir.

While commending what the government has done so far these British Parliamentarians are asking the government to go further.

Naz Shah states: ‘’Whilst I am pleased to see the authorities in AJK, and particularly the Prime Minister himself are making visible efforts in rooting out corruption and making legal processes more accessible for the diaspora community in the UK, it can often be a struggle to achieve justice and legal remedies.

“The Diaspora community are vulnerable in many ways to processes that are often opaque, confusing and difficult to navigate without support. The establishment of a Commission represents a significant opportunity and British Parliamentarians have urged the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmiri to consolidate the initiative with a liaison team based in the UK, allied to a dedicated investigative police team in Azad Kashmir. This is not about getting the diaspora a different level of access, it is about ensuring that they get access to due process.

“The diaspora community invests considerably in Azad Kashmir, and these additional initiatives will help secure the legacy and success of the commission.”

by Maryam Ansar

With rising tensions between Pakistan and India in recent days over the Uri attacks, it comes as no surprise that Kashmiri civilians have been caught in the middle of a tug of war between both countries.

Whilst the two nuclear powers battle out their differences in stalemate over the security and future of Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control; the human right abuses towards its people have been brushed under the carpet – such disregard is catastrophic. Attempts to bring the Kashmir conflict to light on the international platform have been pitiful to say the least. Reports have surfaced suggesting Nawaz Sharif’s foreign affairs advisor, Sartaj Aziz, has requested an ‘impartial’ international probe into the Uri attacks; his 7e3de5fd-f686-45ca-abcf-d31a1a086eb5attempt at diplomacy is credible, but not nearly good enough, it is diverting away from the real issue at hand, the plight of the Kashmiris and their biddings. The response of our world leaders in isolating the Kashmir conflict has allowed individuals to take matters into their own hands, and raise awareness towards this devastation as a unified front.

Three wars have been fought over Kashmir’s territory in nearly seven decades, yet the use of systematic torture in Indian administered land is rife, with prospects for improvement looking bleak in the current climate unless the international platform is properly informed. It has been less than six months since news erupted of pellet guns being used against Kashmiri protestors by the Indian Army, in an attempt to supress their voices for peace and justice. T

he images were shared by thousands, and refuted by even more, yet the back story and facts remained in the background; the Indian army were blinding peaceful protestors with pellets of lead, the result was one hundred surgeries in four days- a terrifying number when analysed on a larger scale. The term blinding certainly isn’t being used metaphorically here, the pellets have caused victims to lose their eyes and sight in one or both eyes, a horrific price to pay for envisioning freedom.

The firing of lead pellets at protestors is just one example of the torture Kashmiris suffer on a daily basis, an example that was fortunate enough to gain some momentum in mainstream media. However, for the most part, the torture inflicted on innocent civilians goes unnoticed, with virtually no coverage on well-known outlets.

Perhaps this is why a dreadful majority of an apparently well informed society is clueless towards the one in six Kashmiris who undergo suffering at the hands of its so called safe-keepers, the Indian Army. On one hand we witnessed the use of lead pellets, but on the other, we are veiled from the harrowing accounts of rape suffered by the women, and often men, of Kashmir, deserving of an entire investigation of its own. The extent and severity of these abuses is still not apparent, and to revisit Sartaj Aziz’s proposals for an impartial investigation into the Uri attacks; it would be far more fitting, as many would agree, to launch critical investigations into almost seventy years of unrest, abuse and criminality; to raise awareness within the international community instead of isolation.

 

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by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

Nearly four weeks of my holidays in the village of my birth in the part of Pakistan held Kashmir, the weather has been expectedly fabulous with moderate sunshine and rain. The second week of my stay here in an environment full of natural beauty including a man-made lake was blessed with the company of my close friends and colleagues both locally and from Mirpur and Islamabad. The hide and seek game played by the unpredictable supply of electricity, in this part of the world, has been quite irksome and disturbing, but manageable.

In this age of highly advanced technology in global communication, it has been easy for me to keep myself abreast of some of the important issues and news of the world.

During the last four weeks, in Pakistan, the press and electronic media has been dominated with three main news. Firstly the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab in January 2011, produced massive reaction in all parts of the country. Although Qadri was convicted for murder and terrorism, his funeral was one of the largest ever held in Pakistan. Qadri was nawaz_1860146fawarded the death sentence by an anti-terror court but the judge had to flee the country for the sake of his safety. However after long judicial process, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court. Thus, Qadri was sent to the gallows. The timing of his hanging was decided by the government of Nawaz Sharif with some trepidation due to fear of the reaction the execution may unleash. However, while the media and the government played down with his hanging, his supporters and sympathisers were out to protest in almost all small and large towns and cities of the country. All the religious political parties and clergy closed their ranks and condoned his death and condoned his act of assassination unanimously. Qadri was hailed as a great hero and martyr and the government a stooge of the west. I believe the ideological opposition of Qadri to Salman Taseer’s statements on blasphemy law that prompted him to fire twenty shots to kill him, was the result of his fixed mind on some of his religious beliefs.

He was a product of steady growth of religious extremism and intolerance in Pakistani society over the last three decades.

pervez-musharraf_650_010214013413In the third week of February, the Punjab Government took a bold decision and passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill in the Assembly. In the province of Punjab, where in the last five years according to the statistics available with the Punjab Police, a total of 1269 women became victims of “honour killing” and thousands were subjected to rape and domestic violence. In a misogynistic society like Pakistan, the majority of women are subject to retrogressive traditions and customs. The law has been challenged and furiously opposed and condemned by the religious leaders who are labelling the law as anti-Sharia.

The abhorrence of clergy and conservative segments of the country is a manifestation of their desire for the perpetuation of oppressive male domination, using religion as a cloak. The “Mullah Brigade” as mumtaz_hussain_qadri-1usual is spitting venom on all those who are supporting this long overdue legislation to protect the most vulnerable women. The male supporters of the legislation in the Punjab Assembly are described as hen pecked husbands and liberal secular’s hell bent on destroying the fabric of society. The government have yielded to pressures from the religious right and have agreed to consider proposals from religious leadership for possible amendments. But their demand is for scraping the law altogether. Hence, the ball now is in the government’s court.

Nawaz Sharif, ironically, has been closely associated with some Islamist groups and enjoyed their electoral support from time to time in the past. Therefore, despite his bold decision to go ahead with this radical legislation, he is not regarded as the beacon for any real social change or enlightened policies.

The Musharraf saga ended on Friday the 18th of March with no surprises. He was allowed by the government, after his successful appeal to the Supreme Court, to leave Pakistan for medical treatment abroad. He is now in Dubai where he is resting with his family. Many observers believe that he will not return to Pakistan to face his trial on treason charges. But he has insisted that he will come back after few months when his health is fully restored.

The departure of Musharraf has created enormous embarrassment for Sharif’s government. The opposition parties are accusing him of surrendering to Musharraf and letting him go scot free. In the eyes of opposition, his acclaimed resolve for bringing the treason trial of the dictator to its conclusion for strengthening democracy in the country was nothing more than a rhetoric. I believe the decision to let Musharraf leave the country was made collaboratively by the army and Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf had now become a thorn in the back of the army as the possibilities for his conviction were becoming more convincing day by day. The verdict of guilty for Musharraf would have been not easy for the army to stomach and would have put them in the most uncomfortable and uncompromising position. Nawaz Sharif’s administration also realised this forthcoming crisis which perhaps they wanted to avoid at all cost.

Musharraf’s return to Pakistan will be a risky venture for him as long as Sharif is in power. On the other hand, if the establishment offers him a safe return, he may not resist the temptation.

In Pakistan, the action against extremism and terrorism since the devastating attack on an Army Public School in Peshawar, has intensified and things have moved forward in positive directions. But it is difficult to visualise the end result of this resolve of the army.

The government is faced with enormous opposition from religious outfits. They have unanimously ganged up against it. Their demand is for total withdrawal of the Woman Protection Act and apology for Qadri’s execution. These obscurantist groups are preparing themselves for a decisive encounter with Nawaz Sharif’s government. The question is, will the government be able to muster the courage of its conviction and face this challenge fearlessly or will it lose its nerve and submit to their whims?

All the available evidence suggests, however, that in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the religious right and puritans still possess the capacity to incite religious passions and mobilise street power to wreak havoc for any government.

The Panama Papers Leaks, whereas they have shaken many incumbent governments in the world, the Nawaz Sharif government also has been under extreme pressure from opposition parties. The revelations about the alleged investment by his two sons of ill-gotten wealth in the off shore companies abroad and his failure to declare it, have seriously on his moral authority. This has happened when his relationship with the establishment is at a very low ebb. His announcement for a judicial commission to probe the allegations of tax evasion and money laundering has been rejected by all opposition parties. His reluctance to take the parliament into confidence by declaring all of his and his family’s financial interests has made his opponents suspicious of his move for purposing the judicial commission. Mr Nawaz Sharif seems to be faced with a political quandary which he did not expect and now desperate to find safe exit. However, in view of the current politically intensely heated climate in the country, he is faced with two probable choices. Either to go for re-election or resign.

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln

narendramodipti-mThe Prime Minister of India, Narendra Damodardas Modi’s recent visit to Britain was marked by cheerful greetings, noisy and angry demonstrations, contempt, and some unfavourable and critical media reports. However, Mr David Cameron, our Prime Minister, received him on the rolling red carpet and showered him with factitious words of praise and admiration with the hope of securing more investment to the UK and vice versa. When Modi was received by a huge crowd of British Indians at Wembley Stadium, David Cameron accompanied him and acted as a compere and then greeted the crowd by speaking a few sentences in Hindi. He seized this opportunity to woo his potential voters as most of those present were wealthy businessmen and women.

On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn the Labour leader, shunned Mr Modi and had a short private meeting with him. The reports suggest that Mr Corbyn, in this meeting, very cogently raised with Mr Modi the question of abuses of human rights in India. Mr Corbyn has been a consistent critic of Modi in the last few years.

modi-protestOn 12 November, a large demonstration was held against Modi in front of 10 Downing Street by mainly British Kashmiris as well as a number of Sikhs, Nepalese, Bhutanese and Sri Lankans. All these groups were protesting against Modi and his government’s intransigent and aggressive policies against their people. Under the Modi regime, the Kashmiris who have been struggling to achieve their fundamental right of self-determination for longer than half a century, claim to be suffering most grievously now from anti-Muslim overt policies of the present Indian government. The escalation of anti-Muslim sentiments in India, they believe their struggle for freedom will require more sacrifice of lives. Already more than eighty thousand men, woman and children are estimated to have been killed by the Indian security forces, numbering over three quarter of a million stationed there for the last 30 years.

modi-uk_0Mr Modi, who is well known as the butcher of Muslims during his reign as the chief minister of the Gujarat state in 2002, has recently been dubbed with the new title of ‘Hindu Taliban’ in an article written by Anish Kapoor in the Guardian. It is believed that Modi’s political shaping has greatly been influenced by his close association with the extreme militant Hindu organisations who have flourished in India since independence. Among the most bellicose of them are the Rashtriya Sawayam Sevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal and Bhartya Jan Sangh. Mahatma Gandhi, the symbol of none violence, peace and harmony was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godsey, a militant Hindu and a prominent member of Mahasabha. Unfortunately, the resurgence of this mind-set is being supported and encouraged by the present government of BJP in India. Muslims and Christians are being forced into mass Hindu conversions and the suffocation of the freedom of expression, the raping of women and banning of consumption of beef are a few examples of Modi’s India. Some Muslims have been lynched and brutally murdered by fanatic Hindus because they were suspected of eating beef.

India, a so called secular country and the greatest democracy of the world, is fast becoming a land of intolerance, discrimination, violence and extremism where religious minorities have to live under oppression and the fear of losing their indentures and even their lives. Those who oppose these evil doings, are harassed and muzzled. The gravity of the current situation is noted by the world media too.

The history of India is imbued with a sense of grandeur, diversity, pathos, casteism, subjugation, polarisation, poverty and squalor. However, since its independence, most leaders of the country were sincere in developing India as a secular, modern and tolerant nation. Jawaharlal Nehru, on the sad occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, while addressing the nation said: ”Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.” Once again, the clouds of darkness are hovering over India’s horizon. The return of the mind set which took the life of Gandhi is at work again. India’s secularism and unity can be at risk if the necessary steps to nip into the bud of this evil are not taken now.

Meanwhile, BJP, the ruling party, has recently faced the electoral defeat in the eastern state of Bihar and many of the individuals and civil liberty groups are openly opposing Modi’s state sponsored oppressive measures. The women organisations have also come out to agitate against some of the obsolete attitudes of the extremists. Such moves should be welcomed and supported by all freedom loving people.

Boasting by Modi while in London, about the fast growing Indian economy and its influence in the region, does not stand any scrutiny. The preponderance of Indian masses are still struggling with the drudgery of their existence. The country’s relations with its neighbours are at their lowest ebb. Recent escalation of skirmishes on the border with Pakistan were feared to be turned into another war between the two neighbours. Kashmir still remains a flash point. Separatist movements in the country under Modi are gaining strength.

Despite the spending of millions of pounds by Modi’s friends in London, helped by David Cameron, they failed to achieve their goal. Modi could not win any laurels for himself because he could not fool all the British people. He was only able to fool himself.

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Commemorating Kashmir Martyrs Day, Labour MP, Imran Hussain said that the only solution is self-determination for the sons and daughters of Kashmir, and he pledged to ensure that the UK Parliament does not ignore Kashmir.

Imran Hussain, Member of Parliament for Bradford East
Imran Hussain, Member of Parliament for Bradford East

Marking the anniversary of the events of 13 July 1931 where 22 men were shot and killed by Dogra Forces outside Srinagar Jail in the Kashmir Valley, Kashmir Martyrs Day commemorates the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives for the right to self-determination for Kashmiris.

Attending a meeting to commemorate Kashmir Martyrs Day, Mr Hussain pledged to ensure that the international community does not ignore the inalienable right of Kashmiris to self-determination and the ability to choose their own future, and announced that he tabled a motion calling for a debate in the House of Commons and questioned UK Government Ministers on their involvement in Kashmir.

Speaking on his motion, Imran Hussain said:

“Kashmir Martyrs Day marks a dark day in the history of Kashmir that no son or daughter of Kashmir will ever forget, where 22 young men were butchered because they dared to speak up against tyranny and for their rights, and we must never forget their sacrifice.

“I have campaigned on this issue for many years and will continue to do so. The continued human rights abuses in Kashmir must end and the sons and daughters of Kashmir must be granted their birth right to determine their own destiny.

“I will be advancing the cause of the inalienable right of self-determination for Kashmiris through questioning the Government and calling for action. I have today tabled a motion to ask for an immediate inquiry into the human rights abuses in Kashmir and called for a full debate in the House of Commons.”

 

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

The three sisters with their nine young children from Bradford who travelled to war-torn Syria, last month, generated massive publicity both in the national and international media, has left many observers dumbfounded.

Many columnists and analysts have theorised a number of reasons these families’ leaving a safe and secure living place in Britain for a country unsafe and insecure to the extremes of one’s imagination. Over the years, both Syria and Iraq have become a magnet for youngsters of the Muslim communities the world over and a breeding ground for a violent, brutal and ruthless religious extremist ideology. A few of the reasons cited for the Dawood family to leave Bradford for the so called Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) range from a lack of interaction and integration of British Muslims with the indigenous population to the restricted and oppressed environment in which Muslim females have to live; the lack of parental control over their children and the inept and ineffective community leadership. It is true that these factors have a decisive role in the promotion of cohesive communities but the relation of the recent wave of radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain is beyond comprehension. Nevertheless, it is a well-known fact that these factors have been prevalent in some of our cities for several decades.

Dawood-Bradford_3342293bThe decision of three sisters to move to Syria seems to be well planned and carefully executed. It was not made on the spur of the moment and it must have been influenced by their brother already present in Syria and fighting for ISIS. The matrimonial disputes within the family and the alleged irksome behaviour of the Counter Terrorism Force might also have contributed to some extent. It ought not to be expected that they will be enganged in terrorist activities in ‘Islamic State’ or in Britain if they want or are allowed to return. The fundamental question is why a few young members of the British Muslim community, who are born, bred and educated here, are vulnerable and easy prey to those who recruit and groom them on or off line.

In order to understand this phenomenon of rising extremism and terrorism in recent years, we have to turn the pages of history. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 which prompted America to repel the Soviets from that country by pouring billions of dollars for financially supporting and providing gorilla training for Mujahedeen mainly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan and then to use them to fight against Soviet forces, sowed the seeds of extremism. As these Muslim cadres had adequate training to fight against and defeat one of the two Super Powers, it was but natural for them to conceive that with the piles of arms and ammunition at hand, they can also play havoc with the other Super Power and the rest of the Western world.

1410261170121.cachedWhen the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Americans left too after achieving their objective of defeating the enemy. Thus, the Afghans were left at the mercy of mutually destructive war lords, who were easily replaced by the Taleban, a creation of Pakistan, desirous of having in depth access into Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda too were headquartered in that fateful country. Hence, Pakistan and Afghanistan became centres for breeding extremism. The West ignored the danger of this growing evil mind set in this region and instead embarked upon another adventure of safeguarding their economic interests by invading Iraq under false pretences. As a result, the country suffered ineffable devastation and destruction. More than half a million of innocent civilians lost their lives. Iraqis still remain a nation divided across the board and suffering from sectarianism, violence, extremism and lawlessness. The West’s policy of rearranging the geography of the Middle East may be working but at the expense of incalculable loss of lives and suffering of the region that compounded the miseries of the unfortunate populace, thus unleashed the forces with pernicious mind set and brutal beliefs. Both countries are engulfed in chaos and carnage. Syria is not far from becoming a graveyard.

Once more, the USA has repeated the blunder it committed in Afghanistan by supporting and nurturing the followers of ISIS (Daesh). Like Taleban, its strategy was to hire the extremists against Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria. But, as it was expected, as soon as they gained sufficient power, they decided to fight against both Syria and America. During the last two year, the ISIS has successfully established its own authority by conquering the territory of Iraq and Syria and now they possess abundance of ISIS-nucleararms and money. Members of Al-Qaeda are also joining ISIS in hordes. ISIS is a fast growing monster and its success and influence continues to force America and its allies to learn the lessons of history and stop meddling with the internal affairs of other nations.

The establishment of Caliphate in the territory controlled by ISIS has created panic and alarm throughout the world. ISIS is attracting young people from all parts of the world to come and live in the Caliphate where they promise to provide them with secure “Islamic” environment. They are also preaching hatred against the West and its lifestyle and permissive society on line as well as through their followers in many parts of the world. They would claim that heterodox values of the West are incompatible with the Islamic values. ISIS and their agents working in different countries usually lure those individuals who are inclined to hold similar extremist and barbaric views that characterises the ISIS’ philosophy. Some of the strong arguments they advance are:

  • The creation of chaos and political upheavals in Muslim countries
  • The political and economic injustice meted out to Muslims throughout the world
  • Policy of non-intervention in resolving the issues of Palestine and Kashmir

bradfordThese arguments penetrate into the raw minds of young Muslims who can easily be exploited emotionally and are thus ensnared into its net. They hold the West responsible for dividing and weakening Muslims so that Israel can continue to grab by force the land belonging to Palestinians, but still enjoys impunity and even protection ensured by the West. These assertions are much appealing to young Muslims. It is inevitable for the West to incorporate radical changes in its foreign policies if it wants to see durable peace in the world.

Such teachings and preaching of the ISIS, Al-Qaeda and their allies who hold a similar ideology, have affected the thinking and attitudes of a minority of disaffected young Muslims in Britain; hence they are becoming radicalised and alienated. They begin to believe that they are misfits here. However, we cannot afford to overlook the possibility of the existence of some secret dens in the UK where preaching of hatred and extremism is taking place. Just a few weeks ago, a graffiti ‘Kafir’, [that means ‘Infidel’], has appeared on the wall of a Shias’ Mosque. This sort of act is clearly the manifestation of the mentality only appreciated by those enganged in extreme activities. Therefore, aiding, abetting and spreading the violent ideology of Daesh must be stopped at all costs. Our Anti-Terrorism organisations have to act with prudence and professional skills to bring the culprits to book.

The leaders of the British Muslim community have immense responsibility. They need to strike a balance between defending their community against many pressures emanating from right wing press and media and political organisation and their unequivocal condemnation of the ideology of ISIS. At this critical juncture they have to come out of the fold of passive moaning, groaning and opposition.

The community of Imams should seriously take cognisance of worsening relationship between the Muslims and the indigenous community. Their traditional role of preaching must entail the worldly affairs as well as consistent reminder to their congregation of the danger of extreme religious ideology. They should encourage dialogue and interaction of Muslims with the wider community. In this regard, their role can be of paramount importance and beneficial to the promotion of community cohesion. Thousands of Seminaries, up and down the country, should try to instil tolerance in the minds of very young children and prepare them for moving successfully in the wider society as they become responsible adults. Respecting the law of the land and loyalty to their country should be an integral part of the curriculum.

The government and the intelligence agencies seem to have not achieved much success in maintaining vigilance of the suspicious individuals inclined toward extreme beliefs. It is claimed that 700 suspected terrorists have already left the country during the last two years to join ISIS. This cannot be a commendable track record.

The government’s constant pressure on the Muslim community for doing more without the provision of any resources is ill-advised and unmerited. This policy is bound to annoy and antagonise the moderate and peace-loving elements of the community. The government and its agencies need to engage the community in a meaningful way and gain its confidence to work together. It is imperative to recruit more Muslims in the intelligence services.

Britain is a free country and its citizens are free to move to any country in the world by fulfilling the legal requirements for entry but how can they justify their return if they are proven to have been indulged in terrorist activities voluntarily? There can be no moral or legal justification. No country could tolerate this kind of repugnant behaviour of its citizens. In order to avoid betrayal of their conscience, such nationals of any nation should revoke their citizenship before they leave for their bloodletting mission.

It is a bloody and complex world of which we are a tiny part. Instead of making it more violent and bloody, it is incumbent upon us irrespective of race, religion and nationality to play a positive part in attempting to build a conflict free and peaceful future for our coming generations. Perhaps it requires to resist the temptation of subjugating the weaker, either by using the cloak of religion or political and economic supremacy.

Note: The author is the former Lord Mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

George Galloway has once more demanded that the police and the British government take action against the leader of the extremist Pakistan party the MQM, who is now holed-up in London.

Altaf Hussain
Altaf Hussain

The Bradford West MP has today written to the Home Secretary and to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police over Altaf Hussain’s alleged involvement in an arson attack on a garment factory in Karachi. Two hundred and fifty-nine workers died in the fire in September 2012. A joint investigation team comprising Pakistan’s police and secret services submitted a report to court last Friday which alleged that the MQM leadership ordered the attack after the factory owner refused to pay extortion money.

George_Galloway_2007-02-24
George Galloway

“This man, Hussain, has been fingered in dozens of murders, as the alleged person who gave the orders. And now this horror,” Galloway said. “It’s inconceivable that this fire was ordered without his knowledge. Altaf Hussain’s house was raided last June on suspicion of money laundering but as far as I can see nothing further has happened. It’s now almost two years now since I called on the police to take action against him after he gave a series of filmed threats he made. He was given British citizenship for some unfathomable reason by the previous Labour government and to all intents and purposes he seems to be above the law. I am demanding answers as to why this despicable individual with blood on his hands is not facing justice.”

By Maryam Ansar

The recent attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the death of eleven individuals, including one Muslim policeman, has been succeeded by countless debates on freedom of speech and its limitations.

Students demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo in MogadishuThe magazine in question, drew cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in order to be amusing it seems, seeing as that is the entire point of their publications. That in itself is a huge mistake; making a mockery out of religion, let alone making a mockery out of Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) who millions of Muslims around the world love and honour. It is clear that Muslims would go out of their way to protect their religion and Prophet (pbuh) from being disrespected; as was evident from the 800,000 people in Chechnya who protested the actions of Charlie Hebdo and even went so far as to supporting the killings that took place. The killings in Paris are not something that many Muslims supported, however, simply because murder of such likes is not permissible in Islam. Muslims should follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet (pbuh) did not mercilessly kill those who disrespected him, therefore Muslims have no reason to so. It is because of the aforementioned, that Muslims condemn terrorism in all its forms; Islam does not teach its followers to be violent and blood thirsty, and nor did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) do so.

untitled (6)The Charlie Hebdo attack also puts to task the issue of freedom of speech and questions its limitations and context. Freedom of speech exists to allow an individual to express their views without fear or reprimand; and it was under the right of freedom of speech that Charlie Hebdo decided to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). However, freedom of speech does not mean people can disrespect religion to such an extent that would come under inciting hatred towards Islam and said religion. If freedom of speech is a right, then one must also remember that decency is a virtue; in society we are taught to never hurt another person’s feelings, by the same standard, this means non-Muslims should not act in ways which upset Muslims and all religions towards others.

In fact, freedom of speech can be a rather hypocritical concept at times; for example, if someone speaks out against the crimes Israel has committed against the Palestinians, the individual is branded as an Anti-Semitic and one’s right of freedom of speech is taken away if they talk about Israel in a negative light. Yet, when individuals talk about Islam and Muslims in a negative way, freedom of speech is encouraged; many Muslims have noticed this hypocrisy since the rise of Islamophobia.

After last month’s attack by the Taliban on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, Urban Echo’s Naz Shah asked the simple question… Why?

By Naz Shah

Having just returned from a candle lit vigil held for the 132 children who have been killed in Peshawar earlier this week, emotionally I feel numb.

Since the incident, all I have witnessed is an outpouring of grief and mass media coverage.

‘Terrorist’, ‘Taliban’, ‘Responsibility’, ‘Massacre’… words circling around me, verbally, written and even shouted. Raw emotions of anger and disbelief.

imagesVTNNIBYFFor me however, my first thoughts after digesting the news wasn’t the Taliban or the ‘war on terror’, it was flashbacks of Dunblane. When, on 13th March 1996, Thomas Hamilton killed sixteen children and one teacher at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, Scotland. I recall those emotions like it was yesterday but today those emotions were magnified. Perhaps that was because now I am a mother myself.

In trying to make sense of what has happened, to understand why in the middle of the night when I woke up I looked at my children and struggled to sleep, my mind grappled with the mess it was in. I tried desperately to draw upon my years of experience as a Samaritan volunteer to emphasise with those parents but I couldn’t. How could I try to understand and make sense of something which is senseless? How could I go to the depth of emotion in trying to, in my own little way, show my support? I couldn’t, otherwise I could not cope.

I went back to the day when I travelled to 10 Downing St in protest of this year’s massacres in Palestine. A friend had come up with the idea of carrying ‘coffins’ of children to bring home the reality of what was happening. I recall how I struggled with just cardboard coffins with names of the children printed on them.

I know the world is united in this grief. Must we look for explanations? Can there ever be an explanation for the killing of innocents, for the massacre of children? No.

imagesA5H001XZThose candles at the vigil this evening helped me, they helped me understand that the struggle is a global one – one for humanity as a whole. For the purpose of grieving, we need to allow ourselves to be angry, to be shocked and to let our minds struggle for no human can or will make sense of something which is senseless, so let’s not try, for now let’s just accept the atrocity as what it is… evil.

Regardless of any ideology of why, what, when, what could I say to a mother who has carried this child for nine months, nurtured her baby, jumped at every little step in case they hurt themselves, celebrated every birthday, every development from sitting to crawling, from walking and running, from those first shoes to those first school shoes. How could any thing I say possibly console that mother who had dreams and aspirations for her child, who bought that first uniform, who’s emotions knew no bounds on that first day of school, who never for a moment thought she would be at such a tender age be burying her child. What words do I send to comfort her? There are no words. I am lost for words to console her.

Search teams scanning the Java Sea for the main wreckage from AirAsia flight QZ8501 have found “four large objects”, the search chief says.

Bambang Soelistyo said the biggest of the objects was 18m (59ft) long and he believed they were parts of the plane.

The Airbus A320 vanished with 162 people on board en route from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore last Sunday.

So far 30 bodies have been recovered with most of the remaining bodies thought to be trapped in the fuselage.

Indonesia’s weather agency believes bad weather was the “biggest factor” behind the crash, in which no survivors were found.

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes at the forward operating base in Pangkalan Bun says it seems this could be the breakthrough search teams have been hoping for.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. Specialist equipment has arrived to the search for the plane’s “black-box” flight recorders, though officials say no signals have been picked up yet.

‘Confident’

Sonar from an Indonesian navy ship detected one large object on Friday night with the other three found on Saturday, Mr Soelistyo announced.

“I am confident these are parts of the missing AirAsia plane,” he said.

According to the Associated Press news agency, he also gave the width of the largest object found, saying it was 5.4m. Another was said to be 10m long.

Mr Soelistyo said an ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) was being lowered into the water to get an actual picture of the objects, which were at a depth of 30m.

He warned that the height of waves was hampering the search effort at sea. The waves were four to five metres high, he said.

Another official, Supriyadi, said earlier that poor visibility was hampering the work of the ROVs.

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