Saturday, August 19, 2017
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United States and the Americas
News and politics from North and South America.

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
The immediate effect of the Executive Order by the US President was complete confusion and chaos at the airports as approved refugees, valid visa holders, non-US dual citizens and US legal residents were detained, barred from planes or ordered out of the US. A Federal Judge in New York ordered a stay on the deportation of the people with valid visas. Universities, hospitals and tech companies staggered from the order which threatens or has already banned thousands of doctors, students, researchers, engineers and others. Refugees persecuted for their sexual orientation or suffering from medical crises are still in limbo with other people denied entry because the order makes no exception besides for minority religion applicants.

The Executive Order banning entry of citizens of seven Muslim majority countries into the US is being taken as closing the door on the world. Its natural and rebounding effect would be that the world will start closing the door on the US.

There is a growing concern that this policy would throttle the flow of foreign talent, block certain employees from returning to their home offices and harm small businesses that rely on immigrant spending. That is what made some US corporations to decry the immigration blockade. The fears are growing that big foreign investors like Kraft, General Mills and Nestle would scale back foreign investment plans. Thus, counterproductive measures are afoot to stop the government from carrying out the ban. Lyft, a ride-hailing firm has donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to battle the ban. Uber too pledged a $ 3 million legal defence fund for immigrant Uber drivers caught outside the US.

Many other companies whose professionals are spread out among citizens countries reacted gingerly, in such a way that some declined to comment on the policy altogether, while others expressed mild concern and yet a few others criticised the ban out rightly. For example Ford, the major US automakers openly assailed Trump’s action. Ford CEO Mark Field and Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman told employees in an email: “Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world. That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”

Although Ford said it was not aware of any employees who were personally affected, reports came to the limelight of other organisations that were affected directly. For example, a Saudi-born and Sudanese-passport-carrying doctor at the Cleveland Clinic was reportedly denied entry to the US upon returning and was forced to return to the Middle East.

General Motors sent an email to its employees obtained by the Detroit Free Press, about the travel and immigration policy. John Quattrone, GM’s senior vice president of global human resources said in the memo: “Some of our colleagues operate here with a GM-sponsored work visa and a few are from the countries affected by the Executive Order. Please know that, per our normal business practices, if any GM employee travelling back to the US with a visa encounters difficulties, GM will provide the employee and his/her family with support.”

The US Chamber of Commerce said that some companies are advising potentially affected employees to “simply stay in place and avoid travel until the confusion can be rectified. The Chamber said in a statement: “Companies are understandably confused with regard to the status of green card holders and dual nationals, and we hope the administration can quickly clarify how these will be handled.”

Certain corporations like Exxon Mobil and BP that have significant operations in the Middle East declined to comment. Others were low key, such as Cargill, which employs many immigrants in its meat and poultry plants, said it is working with its travel and security partners to determine what the action means for its workers.

Jennifer Walske, a professor in the school of management at the University of San Francisco says: “It is not surprising that companies are cautious of opening up a Pandora’s Box by taking up the issue when they apparently could be ‘a tweet away from annoying the administration’.

Malissa Arnoff, chair of corporate communication at Levick Strategic Communications says: “In the end, companies need to look at the fundamentals, what their business stands for and where their customers are. Because of that many firms are being cautious of what they say. If you look at a lot of the statements, people are criticising the policy without criticising the President. It’s a fine line, but they are trying to not blatantly say he’s a horrible person.”

Michelle Sternthal, deputy director of policy and government affairs at the Main Street Alliance says: “The ban could undermine American innovation because 25% of science and engineering companies have at least one immigrant founder. The chilling effect is just enormous.”

Several law suits are under way in Federal Courts in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington State challenging Trump’s executive order. Thousands of Americans protested at airports and outside a Brooklyn courthouse in the 48 hours following the executive order. Democrats and civil rights attorneys have criticised the order, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer saying it contradicts the ideals enshrined in American culture and on the Statue of Liberty.

Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan have stood by Trump praising his executive order. Republicans like senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have criticised the order.

Barack Obama, ten days after handing power over to Mr Trump, stated that he supports mass protests against the “extreme vetting” orders. It is rare for former Presidents to criticise their successors and certainly not just ten days after they are sworn in. Protests continue across America and around the world – including in Britain.

His entry into the White House was marked with the beginning of an era of pride not only for himself but also for the colour-skinned Americans. He marvelled in certain fields of public service such as marriage equality, expanded healthcare, a renewed economy, federal divestment from for-profit prisons, the Fair Sentencing Act reducing the disparity between crack and cocaine sentencing, the end of the war in Iraq, the appointment of thelandscape-1429889065-obama first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and a lot more.

During this time, it was witnessed that equality is never free. Those who invested in the system of justice make the oppressed pay for any progress they make. Thus, those who were mildly prejudiced became vehemently racist. Rumours of Obama’s “Muslim Identity” during his campaign didn’t dissipate after his election; instead these became a regular part of the Conservative lexicon that fuelled violent Islamophobia.

Thus, with his elevation to the American Presidency, an increase was seen in the hate crime and hate groups nationwide. During the recent US elections, many Americans lamented the angry and sometimes violent rhetoric and actions, frequently demanded by the angry white people to “take the country back” – as if the election of the black president amounted to a coup.

Black Americans had to bear the brunt of getting into the White House of a black president. An email message was circulated among all female persons of colour in an office in Washington that read: “Congratulations bitches! Don’t come crying when you’re forced to wear a burka in a few months”.

Conservative Americans dismissed political views of their fellow coloured Americans as being ignorant; just once in American history their support to a black man was labelled as race-based while none of them ever questioned what must have been their 100% support for white men in all previous elections. Just in one instance of black leadership, the nation stood divided, hate sentiment of whites against the coloured Americans rose to the new heights.

In that climate of unprecedented hatred against the coloured Americans by the white supremacists, President Obama had to make heartbreaking and unforgiveable compromises during his eight years in the White House. The carnage wrought by drone strikes would likely result in paying for the enemies thus made with all the indefensible deaths caused.

Millions of families were torn apart as Obama’s administration deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president in the American history. Obama tried to walk the “middle road” on the extrajudicial killings of black people at the hands of police officers, knowing that if he were to voice too much support for the Black Lives Matter campaign, he would be lambasted by those who would claim that he is anti-white and anti-police.

rt-obama-trump--72-er-170120_4x3_992Today, at the end of his eight years in the White House, the African Americans as well as all other coloured Americans are not the least safe, not the least equal and not the least free. Their children are still knocked out of schools. They are locked up. A third of their men are more likely to be imprisoned. They are still 13 times poorer than their white counterparts. They are still four times more likely to die at the hands of police.

The cloud of glory and optimism with which Barack Obama entered into the White House eight years ago, he has now departed from the White House leaving the nation in a cloud of disappointment, recrimination, and even paranoia.

None of the wars Obama inherited are truly over, and he started or joined several more. If anything, the sense of America’s decline is even more palpable than before. For a sense of that decline, look at the pathetic tantrums that the Obama administration threw in its last days.

After the White House received some criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in the media for letting a non-binding resolution condemning Israeli settlements pass at the UN, Secretary of State John Kerry let fly with speech on Israel and its settlements at a bewildering length. He scolded Israel for having the “most right-wing (government) in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements”. It was petty and unnecessary. Letting the resolution pass said everything that the administration hoped to express. This indicated clearly the impotence of administration in the backdrop of no intention to stop economic aid or military aid to that country.

Now comes the treatment meted out to Russia as an omnicompetent rival by the Obama administration. Just before his departure from the White House, his administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and their families in retaliation for their government’s supposed hacking. But when the Obama administration presented its evidence for Russian hacking to the public, it was so week and circumstantial, it almost invited those perusing it to disbelieve the administration’s claim.

Obama administration has fallen far short of the soaring aspirations in which it began. The wars have not ended. Obama is the first two-term president to be in one war – the war in Afghanistan, the war that even his own “surge” could not end – for his entire presidency. And it’s a war in which Taliban have been making a comeback. Obama hands off American involvement in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and a humiliating wind down of its five-year covert intervention in the Syrian war.

Obama was hailed as a genius and political saviour. Now his Democratic Party has fallen to new lows in the state legislatures and governors’ mansions across the country. Instead of handing on the executive branch to an ordained successor, he is passing it onto the man who questioned his birth certificate, a certain Donald Trump. God help America!

By Mohammed Nazir Tabussam

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

The elections in the United States of America, the most powerful nation of our times, are over. These elections, according to many observers, were most controversial and unpredictable. In nearly two years of electioneering, both parties were fiercely engaged in naming and blaming each other so much so, that the FBI had to intervene and investigate the allegations against Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party’s candidate.

Although she was vindicated twice, but her last clearance was only two days before the ballot. On the other hand, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate continuously spit venom on all visible minorities and xenophobic, scapegoating them for the country’s socio-economic problems conducted his campaign in the most reprehensible manner. His emotionally charged language often with overt racist slurs, created enormous fear and insecurity among Black, Latino, Mexican and Muslim communities. His rhetoric to restore the American past glory and greatness by protecting and promoting its cultural and religious values and repatriating all the illegal immigrants and to ban Muslims to enter the country, helped his campaign to sway the opinion of voters in his favour. Still it was expected that Hillary Clinton might just win by a small margin.

6360139435793044861461393096_donald-trump-prune-faceBut on 8 November, Donald Trump triumphed with a more than comfortable majority. The elections results were clear evidence of his divisive tactics which he used to woo the support of those who believed in white supremacy. These white supremacists included the Ku Klux Klan and other neo-fascist outfits, who openly supported Trump. His assertions that all non-white Americans are a serious threat to the so called core values of the country and to whip up racial animosity, is justified to protect the interests of white Americans. He told frustrated voters what they wanted to hear same as BREXIT campaigners in our country. Trump’s stance in support of racial and religious hatred was frank and unambiguous. His nefarious, vile and evil beliefs in supremacy of white race can not only be dangerous for visible minorities in America but the entire world.

America generally is hailed as one of the best democracies of the world, and yet anyone aspiring for the office of the president has got to possess enormous wealth. It is ones beyond comprehension the huge amount of money spent on building images of candidates in the press and media irrespective of their political experience, ability or level of their intelligence and intellect. The only exception to this well protected tradition was Abraham Lincoln.

The ruling elites (wealthy land owners, big businesses and the establishment) over the years have kept the ordinary Americans rendered incapable of independent thinking and thus, the two party system has managed to maintain the status quo except the introduction of some reforms from time to time.

Trump will find it difficult to fulfil his promises of creating jobs for jobless as the country’s economy has been plummeting over the last few decades. The globalisation and outsourcing has seriously dented the manufacturing industry with the exception of armaments and aerospace. This segment of American industry is well protected as the sale of this arms to war torn countries has always been the major part of its economy. American governments have been deliberately creating wars or invading weaker nations with a view to maintaining its political hegemony and steeling their resources. Also, causing havoc and destruction in these countries. This kind of policy of the USA can only be described as international political thuggery which it has pursued for many decades with impunity.

Trump desires to bring some radical changes in the foreign policy. He announced to work in close co-operation with Russia to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria and to withdraw some support from NATO. This must be the most contentious commitment he seems to have made. Whether the Congress and Pentagon will swallow this bitter pill, only time will tell. But worse than all this is that he has caused serious schisms, fractures, rifts, fear and insecurity across the width and length of the country through his utterances full of contempt, hate and intolerance.

By M Nazir Tabassum

The Presidential elections take place in the US after every four years. Today is the day that American’s decide between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

According to the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution, an incumbent president cannot contest presidential election a third time, that is, the term of the president is limited to only two terms. The presidential primaries and caucuses took place between February and June 2016 in 50 states and the District of Columbia and US territories. As a result of these, Donald Trump, a real estate businessman and reality television personality, became Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and former US Senator from New York, became the Democratic Party’s nominee.

6360139435793044861461393096_donald-trump-prune-faceBoth the contestants have been in the headlines with their good and bad points since the campaign started. FBI, the American spy agency is after Mrs Clinton for her alleged emails relating American interventionist policies. Donald Trump, since he came to the limelight as a presidential candidate, has become a highly controversial figure because of his political naivety. In the very beginning, he earned notoriety for using foul language against Muslims. He confuses Iran’s Quds Force (a US adversary) with Kurds (by and large US allies) and does not seem to care. He has almost never met a Middle East problem that he hasn’t at one point suggested could be solved by force.

Now Trump denies that he backed the Iraq and Libyan wars too. “We‘re gonna get rid of ISIS … fast”, he says. He will “bomb the hell” for not hitting the Syrian leader with “tremendous force “after he used chemical weapons against the rebels. He would have Iranian vessels that taunt American ships “shot out of water”.

There is unanimity of thought and action among most of the Americans that Islamic State must be destroyed. They think that the weak states in the Middle East, if allowed to fail completely, they could become havens for the extremist groups. Therefore, they agree that America needs to stay in the Middle East for its oil production that keeps the global economy afloat. In spite of all that, they do not want any new commitment of military force because of the bitter war going on in Iraq, a less disastrous but more unpopular intervention in Libya and a failed democratic revolt in Egypt which is a key American ally.

Hillary Clinton who has a long experience of structuring America’s foreign policy is in favour of a low risk plan little different from the one perused by Barack Obama. She favours the use of Air Force to support Kurdish and Arab allies slowly moving in an IS stronghold and special forces to train the local troops, preferably with origin in IS-held regions, to garrison the cities after they have been taken back. She vows an “intelligence surge” to hunt Jihadi leaders, rules out any big commitment of American ground troops, and offers no time table for success.

A number of women have come forward who accused Donald Trump of assaulting them sexually. Thus, there were protests in no less than 15 states across the US against the presidential candidate. One of the largest protests was at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York.

A Survey Monkey poll of 15 battleground states conducted with the Washington Post and released on Tuesday the 18th October showed Clinton leading in enough states to put her comfortably over the 270 majority needed to win the presidential election on 8th November. Top Republican leaders are now worried that Trump’s irresponsible behaviour is going affect their elections of Senate and House of Representatives.

Polls say that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the final Presidential Debate. The CNN/ORC poll named Clinton the winner for the third time. During the debate, the two candidates sparred over Supreme Court, abortion policies and immigration, among others. Trump notably declined to say whether he would accept the outcome of the election. “I will look at it at the time,” he said, adding that he “will keep you in suspense”. The answer prompted strong criticism from many who argued it threatened democratic principles. Hillary Clinton’s response was succinct.

Trump seems jittery while facing his doom today, that is why he is becoming more and more controversial by claiming that the election is being rigged. In the third and final Presidential Debate, Donald Trump twice declined to say whether he would accept the results of the 2016 election. As a result, leading Republicans disowned Donald Trump’s claims that the US election is rigged. President Obama said: “One way of weakening America and making it less great is if you start betraying those basic traditions that have held it together for well over two centuries.” The President also accused Trump of irresponsible “whining” and said there was no evidence at all to support his allegations.

The Daily News, a New York Tabloid, published 14-chapter editorial that rallied against Donald Trump and everything that he stands for. Its front page on Friday (21 September) morning:

NEWS TO AMERICA: BURY TRUMP IN A LANDSLIDE. Restore US honour with giant defeat of the fear mongering demagogue.

Because Trump refused to say at the last Presidential Debate that he would accept the election result, the Daily News urged the public to deliver an unequivocal message on Election Day. The editorial offers a point-by-point takedown of Trump across 14 chapters that question his policy positions, his business record, his fitness to serve and even his sanity: “TRUMP THE DEMAGOGUE,” “TRUMP THE FRAUDSTER,” “TRUMP THE HEAD CASE,” “TRUMP THE FAKE PHILANTHRPOPIST,” “TRUMP THE LIAR,” “TRUMP THE FLIP-FLOPPER,” “TRUMP THE IGNORAMUS,” “TRUMP THE CONSPIRACY THEORIST,”TRUMP THE TAX EVADER,” “TRUMP THE DIVIDER,” “TRUMP THE AUTHORITARIAN,” “TRUMP THE SECURITY RISK,” “TRUMP THE MISOGYNIST,” and finally, “TRUMP THE ENEMY OF DEMOCRACY.”

by Mohammad Nazir Tabassum

A prophet of socialism, Fedel Castro, former President of Cuba, prophesied sometimes in 1973:

“The US will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope.”

President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Sunday afternoon, 20th March this prophesy turned out to be true when the Black American President Mr Barack Hussein Obama along with the first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, landed at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. And the incumbent pope is Pope Francis, a Latin American who was born in Flores, Argentina.

This was one of the most difficult tasks Obama may have kept on his secret agenda as he would have ascended the stairs of the White House on 20th January 2009 as the first Black American President. He has accomplished that task if not adequately then at least to the extent of breaking the ground. Embargo has always been the most hurting aspect of estranged relations which directly affect the common man. Although Obama expressed optimism that this will go, but he was unable to give a timeframe for that. This is because trade relations and free travelling cannot be restored and sanctions can’t be lifted until the Congress allows that. Now the Congress has a majority of Republicans who are opposed to Obama’s pilgrimage to Havana, there it requires patience till that time when the coming Democratic government could take up that step too.

The world has witnessed that the performance of a Black American President has in no way been less, if not above, than that of the Presidents of other ethnic groups. Just nine months after his inauguration on 20th January 2009, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2009 for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.

Barack-Obama-Talks-About-Daughters-ViewDuring his first two years in the office, he took steps to legislate in response to the Great Recession in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, unemployment insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. His first term will always be remembered for his bold steps to get legislated and implemented the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This was opposed tooth and nail by the big and powerful insurance racket in America who nicknamed this Act as “Obamacare”.

He took landmark steps in the field of foreign policy as well. He ended US military involvement in the Iraq war and increased US troop levels in Afghanistan. Another bold step that he took was to sign NEW START arms control treaty with Russia. His military involvement in Libya opposing and then killing Col. Qadafi is a controversial step opposed by those who are against the interventionism. However, the military operation undertaken by the American Navy Seals on his orders that resulted in killing of Osama bin Laden was hailed by and large.

He has been mostly at odds with the Republicans. It became worse in 2011 when they regained control of the House of Representatives because his Democratic Party lost 63 seats. Thus, there had been a lengthy debate over federal spending and also over whether or not to raise nation’s debt limit. As a result Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Tax payer Relief Act of 2012.

In November 2012, he defeated the Republican nominee Mitt Romney and was thus re-elected and then sworn in for a second term on 20th January 2013. He has been actively engaged in domestic politics during his second term. Thus, he took bold steps in gun control prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He called for greater inclusion of LGBT Americans and his administration filed a case urging the Supreme Court to strike down part of the federal Defence of Marriage Act and State same-sex marriage laws as unconstitutional.

After withdrawal of forces from Iraq in 2011, once again, during his second term, Obama had to order his troops to go to Iraq and fight against the ISIS militancy because this terrorist organization had occupied large areas of both Iraq and Syria. He continued the process of ending US combat operations in Afghanistan. He took initiative to start discussions that ultimately led to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change. The way he brokered a nuclear deal with Iran will always be remembered as an excellent gain by peaceful means. And lastly, his whirlwind visit that aimed to lock in key aspects of his historic overtures to the socialist-run country that will deepen the US-Cuba economic relations was an attempt to send the message that President Raul Castro’s government will sooner or later embrace democratic reforms. That is another thing that Josfine Vidal, director of US affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry remarked: “Cuba will not move one millimetre to try to respond”.

by Nazir Tabbussam

When Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 and injured many at a Christmas party going on in San Bernardino (California), President Barack Obama addressed the shooting from the Oval Office saying it is possible the massacre in San Bernardino was related to terrorism, but it’s also possible it was workplace-related.

Donald-TrumpAs compared to this sober statement most appropriate to a statesman, the republican hopefull presidential candidate for the forthcoming US presidential elections, Mr Donald Trump has been quite reckless in his response. On December 7 he said: “Total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on … our country cannot be the victim of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

This statement of a possibly would-be US president, without the least reservation, can be classed as extremely Islamophobic because it stereotypes all Muslims indiscriminately. Mr Trump did not feel the least need to identify the specific hate-mongering elements who incite to violence the American Muslim community and abroad. Trump’s negative remarks are indicative of the fact that quite often negative remarks have more impact than the positive ones. Thus, his statement received widespread and justified criticism. The US foreign Secretary John Kerry accused Trump of endangering the security of the US. In the UK, the reaction against Trump was strongest. A petition calling for Trump to be banned from entering the UK has reached 556,386 signatures at the time of writing this article.

In spite of all that, Trump is adamant to his abhorring statement and he says: “The proposal was probably not politically correct, but I don’t care.” This sort of attitude is called speaking from the heap of one’s wealth because he is a billionaire who made fortune from property and the entertainment business. Thus, his policy statement says: “Shariah authorises such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won’t convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women. Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody, the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why, we will have to determine.”

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in AmesDemocratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley condemned Trump: he tweeted: @realdonaldtrump removes all doubt: he is running for president as a fascist demagogue.” Other politicians on both sides of the aisle did not spare any moment to get their condemnation recorded, including former US Vice President Dick Cheney. Trump’s Republican rival Lindsey Graham said: “Donald Trump today took xenophobia and religious bigotry to a new level. His comments are hurting the war effort and putting our diplomats and soldiers serving in the Middle East at risk. The way to win this war is to reach the vast majority of people in Islamic faith who reject Isil and provide them to resist this ideology…”

The Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal attacked Trump and tweeted: “you are a disgrace not only to GOP (the Republican party) but to all America. Withdraw from the US presidential race as you will never win.” (The Guardian 12/12/15) Al-Waleed’s attacks gave a new impetus to Trump who retorted immediately in his tweet: “dopey prince… wants to control our US politicians with dad’s money.” (Jerusalem Post 13/12/15) It won’t be impertinent to quote here another such interesting episode of Prince Al-Waleed. After 9/11 Al-Waleed gave a cheque to the then New York Mayor Guiliani for the sum of 10 million dollars. Guiliani refused the money following Al-Waleed’s suggestions of “moral equivalence.” Al-Waleed had said that the “US must address some of the issues that led to such criminal attacks….” and furthermore, that the “US should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.” (CNN 12/11/2001) Interestingly enough, the 19 Al-Qaeda affiliated Arabs who came to the US to launch 9/11 attacks, 15 of them were Saudi citizens. They were neither poor, nor deprived, nor the victims of American social injustices. In this perspective, the US relationship with the Saudi monarchy is worth studying when under US umbrella, they have created a new defence pact between 34 Muslim countries, including Pakistan. All these countries are Sunni by faith and Shia have very carefully been excluded from it. The Sunni nomenclature used in the West actually means Wahabism or Salafi faith and it does not include the Sunni Brailvi and Deobandi who are in great majority in South Asia. Pakistan’s Advisor for Foreign Affairs had to cut a sorry figure in the Senate when questioned about the legitimacy of joining this pact at the cost of ill-feelings of its Shiite population.

President Obama addressed the nation soon after the killings in California. He was most passionate while making an appeal to the Americans for tolerance in the aftermath of San Bernardino incident. He underscored most specifically by saying while Muslims have a responsibility to identify and reject extremism within their ranks, Americans cannot lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of Islam’s more than a billion followers are peaceful.

Once again, the same incidents dominate the media, in particular surrounding the situation about the United States police and the racial tension against the black community.

It’s a topic that I have pondered over many a times and I find myself asking the following question… is racism really abolished? Maybe this will answer my question.

‘I can’t breathe’

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

The infamous phrase was one of the last words of an unarmed black father, Eric Garner. Eric Garner died due to a ‘chokehold’ position a police officer in the United States of America put him in. Garner’s death followed after the shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown on August 14th 2014. Both incidents marked a pivotal point in Black history as they instigated outrage and racial tension between the police and the African-American community in America.

But is this a debate of discrimination or just bad policing in the United States of America?

If it is a sign of bad policing, is it just a coincidence that “Black people were about four times as likely to die in custody or while being arrested as whites.” (MoJo) – need I say more about the Sandra Bland controversy?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Sandra Bland situation, here’s what you need to know…

Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland, 28 was pulled over by a policeman in Texas after she switched lanes on July 10. Policeman Brian Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette, however she refused as it wasn’t illegal. Following this, Encinia attempted to move Bland from the vehicle without any reason and wanted to arrest her. Eventually, Sandra Bland got out of her car according to video footage released by the police and was sent to a prison cell. Why? Who knows? Sadly on July 13, Sandra Bland was reported dead as a result of suicide.

Was this a racist move on behalf of the police officer?

I guess it is easy to say that Sandra Bland’s arrest could have been fuelled by an act of racism, but was that the case?

There are two sides to any argument; arguably Encinia could have arrested Bland because of her disobedience to get out of the car. At the end of the day don’t the police have the right to give orders? Is this not in their job description?

Debates over the racial tensions and the police continue in the U.S., but is there an answer? No one knows an individual’s personal agenda, if it is racist or not. But it is an issue that cannot be blindsided, especially taking into consideration how far society has come in gaining equal rights for those of a different skin colour. Racism was abolished but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist in the twenty-first century.

As always Urban Echo wants to hear from you, so why not put your opinion forward by contacting us at:

By Qainaat Aftab

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

By Naz Shah
By Naz Shah

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of America’s greatest and arguably most influential African American civil rights activists in history, Malcolm X.

I had the huge honour of speaking alongside Malaak Shabbaz, the youngest daughter of Malcom X and a world leading humanitarian within her own right, when she visited Bradford in December as part of the 2014 UK tour ‘An insight into Malcolm X’.

Malaak Shabazz
Malaak Shabazz

I remember being nervous with excitement at the sheer thought of being in the presence of someone who continues to fly the flag of a man who changed people’s lives and who played his part in shaping the agenda of ‘Race’ beyond America.

After listening to Malaak speaking movingly about her parents, I spoke to many of my colleagues and friends alike who told me that ‘Malcolm X on Afro-American History’ was the book that changed their whole lives in terms of their own identity and empowered them.

I took a great deal from Malaak’s words as I felt inspired and it gave me and others present so much food for thought. However the following day when I mentioned my excitement to my niece, who just graduated from the University of Bradford, I was shocked that she had never heard of Malcolm X, which prompted me to write about him.

tumblr_n5u9v2c5ry1s3rx1fo1_500Malcolm X (originally known as Malcolm Little), born in May 1925, was one of eight children of Earl Little, an outspoken Baptise Minister who supported the ‘Back to Africa’ civil rights movement. Earl’s views made him a target which led to the family moving many times and in 1929, the family house was burnt down and soon after he was found dead. Following these tragedies, Malcolm X’s mother, Louise, suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent to a mental health institution where she remained for the next 24 years until her children secured her release. All the children were sent to foster homes.

Although Malcolm X did very well at school when he expressed his desire to become a lawyer, he was told that ‘it was no realistic goal for a nigger’. That conversation was a game changer in that Malcolm X dropped out of school the following year and soon his life then descended into crime which took him to prison which is where he joined the ‘Nation of Islam’ whilst serving a ten-year prison sentence. He later renounced the ‘Nation of Islam’ and its teachings and converted to ‘Sunni Islam’ and completed ‘Hajj’ in 1964. Seeing Muslims of ‘all colours, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans’ interacting as equals, led him to see Islam as a means by which racial problems could brainy-quotes-malcolm-x-1114be overcome. Following his pilgrimage to Mecca, he changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

Malcolm X also contributed to the agenda on our shores. In December 1964 he took part in a debate at the Oxford Union Society. The motion was: ‘Extremism in the Defence of Liberty Is No Vice; Moderation in the Pursuit of Justice Is No Virtue”. Malcolm X argued for the affirmative, and interest in the debate was so high that it was televised nationally by the BBC.

On February 12, he also visited Smethwick in Birmingham, where the Conservative Party had won the parliamentary seat in the 1964 general election. The town had become a byword for racial division after Conservative supporters used the slogan ‘If you want a nigger for your neighbour, vote Labour.’ In Smethwick he compared the treatment of black people with the treatment of Jews under Hitler, saying, ‘I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens’.

Malcolm X felt that calling the movement a struggle for civil rights would keep the issue within the United States, while changing the focus to human rights would make it an international concern. The movement could then bring its complaints before the United Nations, where Malcolm X said the emerging nations of the world would add their support.

Malcolm X worked tirelessly to change the world. Between 1957 and 1965 he travelled over 6 million miles, delivered more than 2500 speeches and wrote 5 books as well as many other writings. He is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage.

Funeral of Malcolm X
Funeral of Malcolm X

On February 21, 1965 he was assassinated by members of the ‘Nation of Islam’ during a meeting with members of an organisation ‘African-American Unity’.

At the Funeral, actor and activist Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy, describing Malcolm X as ‘our shining black prince.’

One of the things I took from Malaak’s talk was the role which her mother Betty Shabaaz played following the killing of her husband whilst she was pregnant with Malaak and her twin sister. Betty went on to become a Civil Rights Leader within her own right and ensured the work continued. Today, across America dozens of schools have been named after Malcolm X which not only keeps his memory alive but also ensure the dialogue of race relations continues.

Betty Shabazz
Betty Shabazz

Fortunately fifty years on, we as a world have come a long way in achieving racial justice but we still have a long way to go. According to a recent report by The Runnymede Trust, ‘Drifting Upwards or Sliding Back’ post 9/11 incidents of race crime have risen although there was a decrease following the London Olympics. The world has changed, some observers would go as far as arguing that ‘religious’ discrimination is now the dominant status quo.

Is there some comparison to be drawn between the civil rights movement and what is happening post 9/11 and more recently, ‘Charlie Hebdo’, following which voices are now rising and demanding that they are heard; that they are recognised for their reality of being good humans and are not responsible for the acts of 0.1 % of the 1.6 Billion Muslims across the globe?

In the 50’s and 60’s Malcolm X articulated concepts of race pride and Black Nationalism.

Fifty years on is our new reality, that we now live in times where the concept of ‘Muslim Pride’ is, will or can be the new ‘Civil Rights Movement’ of this side of the millennium? Whichever juncture we are at, one thing is for sure, he inspired the world to change. Let’s continue to celebrate his life and his legacy.

RIP Malcolm X

(19th May 1925- 21st February 1965)

Apple is sued for claiming iPhones have 16GB of storage when its operating system takes up more than a fifth of available space.

slide-1-2A lawsuit has been filed against Apple, accusing the technology giant of promising more available storage space than it actually delivers in its iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices.

The plaintiffs argue that while Apple advertises 16 gigabytes of digital storage on lower price models of gadgets such as iPhones, about a fifth of that is eaten up by the latest operating software.

The percentage of space touted as available for digital content such as photos, video, or music shrinks further on Apple gadgets built with eight gigabytes of storage, it is claimed.

Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 8, which was beset with problems when it launched in September, takes up as much as 23.1% of storage capacity on some devices.

The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of two men from Florida, Paul Orshan and Christopher Endara, in a District Court in Northern California.

They also complain that once Apple gadget owners reach limits to data storage, they are prompted to pay monthly fees for digital locker space online at the Californian based-firm’s iCloud service.

The lawsuit says: “Using these sharp business tactics, (Apple) gives less storage capacity than advertised, only to offer to sell that capacity in a desperate moment, eg when a consumer is trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild’s recital, basketball game or wedding.

“Each gigabyte of storage Apple shortchanges its customers amounts to approximately 400-500 high resolution photographs.”

Lawyers behind the suit are seeking class action status along with punishments that include Apple turning over all profits from sales of gadgets at issue in the case.

Apple has so far declined to comment to the media on the matter.

Apple has been embroiled in countless lawsuits with tech rival Samsung over recent years. The smartphone and tablet makers have accused each other of infringing patents in intellectual property battles around the world.