Monday, March 19, 2018

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#AskMSDStudents - Parkland Survivors Call Out Media For Ignoring Gun Violence In Black Communities

By Hayley Miller
“We have to use our white privilege” to help elevate those most affected by gun violence, one student survivor said.

A group of students who survived last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, slammed the media for not dedicating enough coverage to gun violence in black communities.
David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman shot and killed 17 people on Feb. 14, called that unequal coverage one of the “greatest obstacles” that #NeverAgain, a student-led anti-gun violence movement created since the massacre, is trying to overcome.
“There is a lot of racial disparity in the way that this [shooting] is covered,” Hogg, 17, said Monday during a live Q&A on Twitter.
“If this happened in a place of a lower socioeconomic status or ... a black community, no matter how well those people spoke, I don’t think the media would cover it the same,” Hogg continued. “We have to use our white privilege now to make sure that all of the people that have died as a result of [gun violence] and haven’t been covered the same can now be heard.”
Six Stoneman Douglas students turned #NeverAgain activists ― Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch and Cameron Kasky ― acknowledged the disproportionate effect gun violence has on people of color as well as those living in poorer communities.
“We’re an affluent community ― that’s why initially everybody followed this [shooting] so closely,” Kasky, 17, said during the Twitter Q&A. “There are communities that ... have to deal with [gun violence] on a much more regular basis and have to feel a lot less safe than we do.”
People of color are more often affected by gun violence in the United States, yet the media and the American public have paid comparatively little attention to their stories. While the media has elevated the voices of Parkland survivors, activists of color have discussed why shootings in their communities and their own calls to action are largely ignored.

It is interesting to note the difference in support for the kids in FL versus the kids in Black Lives Matter. I say that with full admiration for the kids in FL, to survive such a trauma and fight for everyone to be safer. But that’s also what was happening in Ferguson and beyond
A group of Parkland survivors met with students from Chicago earlier this month to discuss how gun violence affects their community and how they can work together to keep everyone safer. These students, as well as others disproportionately harmed by gun violence, are now slated to speak at March For Our Lives, a massive protest against gun violence to be held on March 24 in Washington, D.C.
“We have to represent those who unfortunately were ignored,” Kasky said on Monday. “This is not just about us. ... When we’re together marching, this is not going to be different races, different generations ― this is going to be a unified people standing together against those who are trying to ignore us.”
Parkland survivors’ discussion of media coverage begins around the 30-minute mark in the footage below.

Indian Children’s Book Lists Hitler as Leader ‘Who Will Inspire You’


An Indian publisher came under fire this week for including Hitler in a children’s book about world leaders who have “devoted their lives for the betterment of their country and people.”
“Dedicated to the betterment of countries and people? Adolf Hitler? This description would bring tears of joy to the Nazis and their racist neo-Nazi heirs,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, said in a statement.
Published by the Pegasus imprint of India’s B. Jain Publishing Group, the book, called “Leaders” — but listed on the publisher’s website as “Great Leaders” — spotlights 11 leaders “who will inspire you,” according to a product description on the publisher’s website.
On the book’s cover, a stony-faced Hitler is featured alongside Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Also included on the cover is Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has recently come under sharp criticism for refusing to acknowledge atrocities committed by the country’s military against the Rohingya ethnic group.
Earlier this week, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is based in Los Angeles, called for the publisher to remove “Great Leaders” from circulation and its online store, where it is sold for about $2.
“Placing Hitler alongside truly great political and humanitarian leaders is an abomination that is made worse as it targets young people with little or no knowledge of world history and ethics,” Rabbi Cooper said in the statement. Annshu Juneja, a publishing manager at the imprint, said by email that Hitler was featured because, like Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, “his leadership skills and speeches influenced masses.”
“We are not talking about his way of conduct or his views or whether he was a good leader or a bad leader but simply portraying how powerful he was as a leader,” he said.
The publisher had not previously received any complaints about the book, the email said, including from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In parts of Asia, atrocities committed in Nazi Germany are poorly understood and Hitler is sometimes glorified as a strong, effective leader. In 2004, reports surfaced of high-school textbooks in the state of Gujarat, which was then led by Mr. Modi, that spoke glowingly of Nazism and fascism.
According to The Times of India, in a section called “Ideology of Nazism,” the textbook said Hitler had “lent dignity and prestige to the German government,” “made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant” and “instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people.” Only briefly does the book mention the extermination of millions of Jews and others by the end of World War II.
Dilip D’Souza, an Indian journalist, wrote in a 2012 editorial that when 25 mostly upper-middle-class students taught by his wife at a private French school in Mumbai were asked to name the historical figure they most admired, nine of them picked Hitler.
“ ‘And what about the millions he murdered?’ asked my wife. ‘Oh, yes, that was bad,’ said the kids. ‘But you know what, some of them were traitors.’ ”
The statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that “Great Leaders” had been sold this month at the Krithi International Book Fair in Kochi, a city with a long Jewish heritage. The 48-page book was originally published in 2016, according to the publisher’s website, and it was still available for sale online on Saturday. It is unclear who wrote it.

Court: Pakistani Christians Must Reveal Religion to Vote or Apply for Jobs

Religious ID on passports has proven useful to asylum seekers. But expansion targeting Ahmadis threatens Christians’ employment prospects.

Pakistan’s citizens must now declare their religion when applying for identity documents, or if they want to work in government or register to vote, Islamabad’s High Court ruled this month.

Applicants who disguise their true religion defy the constitution and betray the state, the judge stated. Their true religion must now also be visible on birth certificates, ID cards, voters’ lists, and passports.
Those who apply for a job in the judiciary, armed forces, civil services, and other government jobs also need to submit an affidavit declaring the Khatm-i-Naboowat (that Muhammad was the final prophet), stated Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in his ruling, as reported by Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
Human Rights Watch’s Saroop Ijaz said the judgement “would enable and incite violence,” in particularly directed at the Ahmadi community, Reuters reported.
“All [the judge’s] specific instructions are about ensuring and finding out who is an Ahmadi,” human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir told Reuters. He said the order would provide the government with lists of who belonged to which religious minority.
Pakistani passports already show the holder’s religious belief. A local source told World Watch Monitor (WWM) that minority groups, such as Christians and Ahmadis, did not object against this because it has benefited them in, for example, applying for asylum elsewhere.
A previous move by the government in 1992 to try to add citizens’ religious belief to their ID cards, however, was met with protests by Christians, who said they would face economic and social exclusion. The idea was then shelved.
Christians and Ahmadis are two of a number of minority groups in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who together make up an estimated 20 percent of the total—mainly Sunni Muslim—population. The Ahmadis face a lot of discrimination because they are considered non-Muslims; to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam is a punishable offence under the country’s blasphemy laws.
Christians are already instantly recognisable in Pakistan because of their names—men are given the surname Masih, deriving from Messiah. But this is not the case for Ahmadis, making the new ruling more of an issue for them, as they can no longer hide their identity nor safely claim to be Muslim.
During the hearings, the court learned how a group of 10,000 Ahmadis apparently changed the religious status on their Computerised National Identity Cards to Muslim when applying for a government job. They would then change it again once retired.
The court case was opened following a petition by Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik, which opposed a parliamentary initiative to the change of wording in electoral law, suggesting replacing the religious oath with a simple declaration.
The proposed bill, however, also made room for Ahmadis to take part in elections on general seats, even though they are labelled “non-Muslims” in the constitution. Following large-scale protests, the government reinstated the original text.
In his verdict, the judge ordered parliament to develop legislation and amendments to existing laws “to ensure that all the terms specifically used for ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ were not used by the persons belonging to any of the minorities for hiding their real identity or for any other purpose.” If no appeal is filed, parliament has to follow the court’s directives.
WWM’s source said the court only has jurisdiction in Islamabad, so this could be first and foremost a “political stunt.” But “it still sends a strong message how the debate about religion has gone deeper and deeper in Pakistan, and religious minorities—especially Christians—are being affected by this.”
The court order will make minority groups even more vulnerable, according to Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS-UK), who told Independent Catholic News the government should rather promote harmony and religious tolerance and establish peace in the country. All Pakistanis, including minorities, need to know they are secure, protected, and equal before the law, he said.
WWM has reported regularly on how Christians face different forms of discrimination and oppression in Pakistan—in daily life as well through the misuse of blasphemy laws. The Christian woman Aasiya Noreen, popularly known as Asia Bibi, is one of the best-known examples: she has been on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

Perspective: As if Pakistan's Ahmadis weren't marginalized enough already - No faith to state

Waqar Gillani

A recent judgment by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), directing the government to adopt stricter measures in letting people declare their religion at the time of accepting government jobs and getting official identity documents, paves the way for religious persecution at the state level and more intolerance in society.

Members of the legal community are of the view that there is no law which expects people to declare their faith, as desired by the judgment. This has created a furore among the civil society because one religious minority has particularly come to be at its receiving end.

The judgment urges the state to take steps against a ‘particular’ minority group that is using the name of Islam. It directs the government “to make necessary legislation and also introduce requisite amendments to the existing laws to ensure that all the terms specifically used for Islam and Muslims were not used by persons belonging to any minority faith for hiding their real identity or for any other purpose.”

Ahmadis were the prime focus of the judgment on a writ petition, filed at the end of November, against this ‘amendment’ to the oath statement of prospective legislators about the finality of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as part of the Election Bill 2017. The petition was filed by a leader of an anti-Ahmadi group, International Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Organisation, Maulana Allah Wasaia. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi of the Islamabad High Court took up the matter at a time when the Faizabad Dharna was in full swing. Later, he separated the dharna issue from the petition and continued with this Election Bill and the Khatam-e-Nabuwat matter.

While hearing the petition, Justice Siddiqi sought the record from National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) and statistics department about the count of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. The judge admitted the petition for hearing despite the fact that the government had, weeks ago, nullified the controversial amendment in the law after protests by political and religious parties.

Declaring the “faith affidavit” compulsory, the judgment reads: “Nobody should be permitted to conceal his/her real religious faith and for getting CNIC, passport, birth certificate, entry in voters list, appointment in judiciary, armed forces and civil service, an affidavit must be sworn by the applicant based on definition of Muslim and non-Muslim provided by Article 260 (3)(a)(b) of the Constitution. Appointment of a non-Muslim on constitutional posts is against our organic law”. It’s interesting because the constitution does not bar non-Muslims from contesting for any office other than that of the president and prime minister.

The judge also directed Nadra, as part of the judgment, to fix the time (period) for any citizen who intends to make corrections or changes in the already given particulars, especially about religion.

“This is akin to further marginalising the Ahmadis and providing an opportunity to exploit and victimise them in a situation where they are already vulnerable,” says human rights activist and senior columnist I.A. Rehman. “The court took up this matter unnecessarily. Such a judgment should not have been given. This will make it more difficult for Ahmadis to get jobs etc. Nobody has right to ask anyone about his personal matter — neither our faith nor our constitution allows this. The government should go into an appeal against this judgment.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also condemned this IHC judgment, urging the federal government to file an appeal against it in a written statement that says: “Forums for justice such as the Honourable IHC should play their due role in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable sections of society. It is, therefore, unfortunate that Pakistan’s religious minorities should feel more unsafe as a result of a ruling by the honourable court.”

During the proceedings, the judge, after getting initial figures of Ahmadi population in Pakistan from Nadra’s record not only barred people from changing the religion on their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) without permission of the court but also observed that if anyone wants to change religion after his CNIC is made, they should change it within a couple of months after the CNIC is issues.

The target were the nearly 10,000 Ahmadis who had changed their religion after the age of 60, creating this suspicion that they may have got government jobs as Muslims and then changed their religious identity after retirement. “It seems Ahmadis are showing themselves as Muslim for government job and going back to their original faith after retirement,” the judge said in one hearing while seeking the travel history of these 10,000 citizens who changed their religious identity as Ahmadis. He also observed that following the September 1974 legislation [Second Amendment] declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslim, there was a need to take more measures to force them to declare their religious identity rather than posing themselves as Muslim(s).

As per the data of 1998 census, the population of Ahmadis was 286,212 while the data provided by Nadra showed that just over 167,000 people were registered as Ahmadis in Pakistan. However, there are no reliable official/unofficial statistics about the number of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Many Ahmadis don’t publicly identify themselves as Ahmadi; they refuse to take part in the census and also refuse to enlist themselves in the separate electorate. According to different figures available on the Internet, the estimates about the number of Ahmadis in Pakistan range from 500,000 to four million. The community also declines to give the official number of Ahmadis, fearing this may lead to victimisation.

“The witchhunt of Ahmadis continues. Unfortunately, the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution are marred by the Zia era legislation that Pakistan’s parliament is yet to review. These legal instruments have turned Pakistan into a state that practises a religious apartheid against one community,” says Raza Rumi, editor and political analyst.

“Sadly, the judiciary has upheld anti-Ahmadi constitutional provisions and laws time and again. The judges, howsoever strongly they might feel about matters of faith, must desist from such a path.”

Last December, after the government had withdrawn the said amendment to the Election Bill, which it claimed was a “clerical error,” Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, son-in-law of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Member National Assembly (MNA), spoke on the floor of National Assembly, demanding a ban on Ahmadis from joining the armed forces. Some analysts thought the speech was aimed at rectifying the political damage incurred by the ruling party.

The state declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims in 1974, which was followed by more specific anti-Ahmadi laws in mid-1980s in the Penal Code, during Ziaul Haq’s time, barring the Ahmadis from calling their worship place a “mosque,” calling themselves Muslims or ‘misusing’ Islamic epithets, descriptions etc.

According to data compiled by Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Pakistan, since the introduction of these sections in 1984, as many as 765 Ahmadis have been booked for displaying Kalma; 447 have been booked for ‘posing’ as Muslims; and 815 booked for preaching. 1164 Ahmadis have been booked in other cases on religious grounds; 379 assaulted for their faith; and 260 have been killed.

“We were the aggrieved party but the court did not call us even a single time,” says Salimuddin, spokesperson of Ahmadiyya community. “This is against the spirit of justice. What else does the court wants from us. The identification for Ahmadis or oath against Ahmadi-faith has already been mandatory while obtaining CNIC, passport, for vote registration and even for admission in various educational institutions. They just want to push us to the wall.”

He adds, “every Ahmadi is proud to show their identity and they do not need any state certificate to do so”.

Ansar Ahmad, a Lahore-based community member who does a private job, says: “We are already living a vulnerable life. We face discrimination in society, schools and public places. Hate speech against us is not barred. Such judgments will make our lives more miserable.”

In Pakistan, religious minorities and different minority Islamic-sects face different types of social and legal discriminations and faith-based persecution. Early this year, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the Secretary of State of United States of America placed Pakistan on a “Special Watch List” for severe violations of religious freedom. According to the 2017 report of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Pakistani government continued to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.

Pakistan ISI: Doctors protest against spy agency over beating

By M Ilyas Khan

Authorities in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region have promised action against military personnel who detained and beat a doctor, sparking protests.
Medics went on strike and the military was criticised after Dr Abdul Hameed was held for several hours on Saturday.
Protesters accused the army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of "state hooliganism".
Campaigners say tens of thousands of tribal residents have been killed or disappeared during years of conflict.

'Are you murderers?'

Doctors in Bajaur called off their strike on Monday after the military made concessions. Protesters had threatened to extend it to other parts of the country.
The concessions include exempting doctors from being stopped at military checkpoints in tribal areas. The army authorities also promised to curb the number of soldiers allowed to seek medical treatment at civilian hospitals, a constant source of complaint from locals.
Pressure on the military had been building since Saturday's incident.
Doctor HameedImage copyrightFAMILY
Image captionDoctor Hameed sustained bruising to his eye during Saturday's assault
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Dr Hameed, who works at the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Bajaur's main town Khar, was roughed up while he was attending a female patient in his room.
"Two men in civvies walked into the room and wanted him to see a patient they had brought," his brother, Hamid Khan, who is also a doctor, told the BBC.
"The staff helping the doctor asked them to wait outside, but instead they stepped up to the doctor and one of them shook hands with him. The doctor got a bit impatient and refused to shake the second man's hand, asking them to step outside and wait till he was finished with his patient."
The two men then pounced on his brother, Dr Khan said. They called in some other colleagues and roughed up the doctor and other staff.
"Then they dragged my brother by the hair, shoved him into a truck and drove away."
Dr Hameed was released only after the doctors and other hospital staff shut down all services and medical stores in the main markets of Khar also pulled down their shutters.
The incident was widely discussed on social media, with activists criticising the military and the ISI of treating the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as their fiefdom.
In a video shared on Facebook, a tearful Dr Khan told protesters that people would "not allow the ISI to kill their children".
"Are you a protector of the people, or are you a murderer?" he said, addressing the ISI. "Why do you want to turn the children of this nation into your enemies?"

Growing protests

Fata is a semi-autonomous strip of land along Pakistan's north-western border. It was used as a base for anti-Soviet Islamist militants during the Afghan war of the 1980s and became a Taliban and al-Qaeda sanctuary post-9/11.
Thousands of Fata people are believed to have been killed during this period.
A military operation to clear out anti-Pakistan militants in 2014 displaced nearly a million people.
Residents have faced layers of security checks on all entry-exit routes to the area. Non-locals, including the mainstream media, are barred from travelling to Fata.
The area is also outside the sphere of Pakistan's regular system of justice, and is ruled under a colonial-era law that prescribes collective punishments to tribes for violations committed by individuals.
But since January, protests have erupted in several parts of Fata and Pakistan's north-west, mostly over "extrajudicial killings" and procedures at security checkpoints.
A movement which started after one such death - the alleged extrajudicial killing of a tribal youth in Karachi - was the first to criticise the military's actions in tribal areas.
The Pashtun Protection Movement appears to have opened the floodgates for public criticism of the military, something which had been unthinkable until a few months ago.
Its leaders claim that more than 30,000 locals have been forcibly disappeared by the military's intelligence network. Many more have had their houses demolished by the military, campaigners say.