Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time

Michelle Obama Is Ready for Life After the White House

By Kate Andersen Brower

She was never a political person, so although she enjoyed the perks of the job, she's also ready for a more "normal" life. When Michelle Obama walks out of the White House for the last time as first lady on Jan. 20, 2017, she undoubtedly will breathe a sigh of relief. The Obamas will head to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony and the formal handover of the presidency to the new first family in what Lady Bird Johnson — Michelle’s predecessor nearly 50 years ago — called “the great quadrennial American pageant.” The first lady will be saying good-bye to the butlers and maids her family has grown to love and to the incredible platform she had in the White House, but she will also be released from the stresses and strains that accompany life there. And she will be free to speak her mind.
While researching my book, First Women, in 2015, I interviewed friends and advisers to the Obamas who told me that Michelle and the president were already eager to leave. “They’re ready, they’re done!” President Barack Obama’s former communications director Anita Dunn said, although because Donald Trump’s win threatens Michelle's husband’s legacy, her departure now likely will be bittersweet. Part of Michelle’s eagerness to leave the White House is because, as she recently told Vogue, “it’s time. I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It’s enough. Because it’s important to have one foot in reality when you have access to this kind of power. The nature of living in the White House is isolating.” But part of it is her very nature: She is not a political person and she has largely resisted campaigning, which shows just how remarkable it is that she campaigned so passionately for Hillary Clinton.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, Michelle Obama used her voice in a way that no other modern first lady has ever done: Spurred, in part, by her deep disdain for Donald Trump, who had anointed himself the de facto leader of the so-called birther movement, she became the single most effective surrogate for Hillary Clinton, who was once her husband’s political rival. At the Democratic National Convention, the first lady introduced a slogan that would resonate with men and women across the country — “When they go low, we go high” — and in October, she gave an impassioned speech denouncing Trump’s response to a leaked video tape that showed the Republican nominee using vulgar language to describe sexual assault. Without mentioning his name, the first lady said his demeaning words had “shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.” Her disgust was palpable: “The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman,” she said near tears. “It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts.” Because she is not an avid campaigner or an office seeker herself, her message resonated even more with voters.
Growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side, Michelle was uneasy at first being surrounded by so many White House residence staffers who are there to serve the first family’s every need, from one administration to the next. One of the first times she met Chief Usher Admiral Stephen Rochon, who ran the executive mansion when the Obamas moved in, she pleaded with him, “Please, call me Michelle.” He replied, to her dismay, “I can’t do that, Mrs. Obama.” Few people would call her “Michelle” ever again. (Even though there were times when staffers said they were in danger of forgetting their own rule. She was especially relaxed on long trips, one staffer told me, even occasionally offering to get staffers drinks.) As first lady, Michelle had to abandon a career she enjoyed, earning almost $275,000 a year at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she was vice president of external affairs. She had been the breadwinner in the Obama family — in fact, living in the White House is the first time she was unemployed in her adult life — and it was Michelle who was her husband’s mentor when they first met. “I think that all things being equal, she would have loved to have stayed in her life in Chicago,” a former Obama staffer told me on the condition of anonymity — no Obama friend wants to make it seem like Michelle did not appreciate being first lady.

Still, Michelle joined the ranks of some of her predecessors who were not always happy about the assignment. Martha Washington called herself a “state prisoner.” Before moving into the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy proclaimed: “The one thing I do not want to be called is ‘First Lady.’ It sounds like a saddle horse.” Michelle admitted that living in the White House is like living in a “really nice prison.” Melania Trump will be added to that list: Before Trump's June 2015 announcement of his candidacy, she pleaded with him, "We have such a great life. Why do you want to do this?" Even though there was so much vitriol less than 48 hours before, the outgoing first lady and the incoming one shared tea and polite conversation in the elegant Yellow Oval Room on the second floor of the White House after Trump's victory. During their conversation, which quickly became fodder for Twitter jokes referencing the fact that part of Melania’s RNC speech was plagiarized from Michelle’s 2008 DNC one, Michelle offered Melania advice about raising their 10-year-son Barron in the White House, just as Laura Bush had offered her advice eight years earlier. It is not as simple as a sorority, but more like a complicated sisterhood of women who are married to men representing different political ideologies and who are bound together by this shared title of "first lady."
First ladies are expected to embody American womanhood: They should be perfect mothers, helpmates to their husbands, and champions of an apolitical, noncontroversial issue. There is no job description and no pay, but they are endlessly scrutinized. As the first African-American first lady, friends say, Michelle was always aware of — and often frustrated by — how much extra scrutiny she was under. When asked if Michelle turned to her predecessors for advice, Dunn told me flatly: “No, not a chance.” That is because she was so different from the women who came before her — many of them were from wealthy families, had spent years in the public eye as the wives of senators and governors, and all of them were white. She felt an extra degree of responsibility because of the historic role she played and early on during her husband’s 2008 campaign, she was surprised by the backlash caused by one particular off-the-cuff comment. “For the first time in my adult life,” she said at an event in Milwaukee, “I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” A New Yorker cover depicting her with an Afro, wearing combat boots, and a Kalashnikov slung over her shoulder while fist-bumping her husband in the Oval Office also troubled her. Years later, during a commencement at Tuskegee University in May 2015, she talked about the unfair expectations she faced. Not only was she compared to the previous first ladies, she said, she also faced a separate standard “sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?”

Of course, there is also an absurdity to the superficiality to the position. In Michelle’s case, there was seemingly endless discussion about her chiseled arms with how-to guides featured in fitness magazines around the world and she caused an uproar in the fashion world when she decided to wear a bold red gown from the British label Alexander McQueen to the China state dinner in 2011 instead of wearing a piece from an American designer. At a 2013 summit in Africa with Laura Bush, Michelle referenced the ridiculousness of the social media uproar sparked by her decision to get bangs: “While people are sorting through our shoes and our hair and whether we cut it or not ... whether we have bangs ... We take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see, and eventually people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we are standing in front of.”/blockquote> But Michelle’s frustrations went beyond annoyance and veered into genuine concern for her family. In her personal speech at the Democratic National Convention this year, she revealed the sacrifices and inner struggles faced by every first lady. She described the first days they lived in the White House, and what it was like watching her 7- and 10-year-old daughters leave for their first day of school and “pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns.” She laughed, “And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, What have we done?” Because of her husband’s ambition, her children were now public figures. Rosalynn Carter shared that same guilty feeling decades earlier as she watched her young daughter, Amy, put on a bulletproof vest under a small blue windbreaker during a particularly dangerous foreign trip. The Obamas worked hard to give their daughters some semblance of a normal life, even encouraging them to invite friends over for sleepovers in the Solarium, a third-floor family room in the White House. Last summer, Sasha, then 15, even worked at Nancy’s, one of the Obamas’ favorite seafood restaurants in Martha’s Vineyard. She went by her full name, Natasha, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the job a secret. Katie McCormick Lelyveld, Michelle Obama’s first press secretary, remembers how her boss made the ground rules clear to her daughters. “While she appreciated that there are staff there to pay attention to those details, those staff are not there for the girls,” Lelyveld said.
This isn’t to say Michelle didn’t enjoy the perks of the job, including traveling on Air Force One, meeting world leaders, and trumpeting important causes. But it was the family dinners Michelle treasured most. She saw her husband more than ever once they were in the White House and they essentially “lived above the store.” She made it clear to her husband’s advisers that she expected to have a family dinner most nights at 6:30 p.m. She had a very traditional approach to being first lady — unlike Hillary Clinton, who had a West Wing office, Michelle and her girls rarely ventured into the West Wing. Incredibly, the Obamas are the first first family to turn off the lights in the living quarters themselves. “She treats it just as if it were her house,” former White House Usher Worthington White told me./blockquote> Michelle was the youngest woman to hold the position since Jacqueline Kennedy — Melania, now 46, will be two years older than Michelle was when she became first lady — and like Jackie, Michelle passionately guarded her family’s privacy in the White House. (Jackie even had tall rhododendron bushes planted along the fence along the South Lawn of the White House to block the view of photographers with long-range camera lenses.) For her part, Michelle made a small change that spoke volumes: Before the Obamas, at night, an usher would drop off a folder of work for the president on the reading table on the backside of a sofa, outside their bedroom in the family’s private living quarters. Michelle did not like that because the folder was clearly visible when they walked out of their bedroom. It made her feel like her family had no sanctuary. So she told the staff to put all of her husband’s work in his office in the Treaty Room, an office on the second floor, and all of her work in an ante office. It was clear that for Michelle, the rooms on the second and third floors of the White House were not an extension of the Oval Office — they were her family’s home. Her mother, Marian Robinson, lives in a suite on the third floor, and President Obama joked that she was the only member of the family who had the freedom to walk into a CVS without sparking attention.
The Obamas have made the rare decision to stay in Washington, D.C., after the 2016 election while Sasha finishes high school at Sidwell Friends. President George W. Bush retreated into relative seclusion in Dallas, and the Clintons chose the New York City suburb of Chappaqua to continue political life. From their leafy Kalorama neighborhood in Northwest Washington, Michelle will probably pen a memoir, as most first ladies have done. It will be the first time she will earn an income in almost a decade. In some cases, as was the case with Betty Ford, a former first lady’s autobiography can outsell her husband’s, and Michelle’s will undoubtedly be a huge best seller — her approval ratings consistently have been higher than her husband’s and either candidate's for the presidency, and she is a sought-after interview for any television show. Once she leaves the White House, she will have less to lose and will be able to be even more honest and take more risks to champion causes she truly believes in. We’ve already seen hints of this with her Tuskegee commencement address and how she forcefully took on Donald Trump during the campaign. Friends say that in their post-presidency, both she and the president will do more work around urban issues, including gun control and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative the president started to help young men of color. And after the election, it is clear that they will serve as figureheads for a badly bruised Democratic party.
One thing Michelle will not do is run for office herself. "There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and Michelle is not running for president," the president has said, joking, but not really. Asked by James Corden in her now-viral Carpool Karaoke segment what she’ll miss most about her eight years as first lady, Michelle did not hesitate to say the White House residence staff. The butlers, cooks, and maids became her lifeline, and she grew accustomed to their company. Many of them are African-American and for them, serving the first African-American family in the White House was an honor. Recently one butler told me, “I’m so proud of them.” And many of them will miss her dearly. “Once I remembered Michelle asked for a drink, and I had to reach down to get a glass and left my hand on the bar,” the butler recalled fondly, “All of a sudden I felt her hand pat mine. She was thanking me.”/blockquote>

Where Were Trump’s Votes? Where the Jobs Weren’t

Did the white working class vote its economic interests?
The day after the presidential election — in a long and brooding interview with Rolling Stone magazine — President Obama offered his take on why blue-collar whites flocked so decidedly to Donald J. Trump.
“This is not simply an economic issue,” Mr. Obama concluded. “This is a cultural issue. And a communications issue.” From family leave and overtime rules to Obamacare, he noted, his administration offered a steady stream of policies to help working-class communities. But “whatever policy prescriptions that we’ve been proposing don’t reach, are not heard, by the folks in these communities.”
This view fits a common narrative among liberal analysts of American politics, most prominently conveyed in “What’s the Matter With Kansas,” the 2004 best-selling book by Thomas Frank: Republicans use cultural issues like abortion, guns and gay marriage to gain the votes of struggling workers who nonetheless stand to lose the most from the Republicans’ small-government agenda.
But it largely misses the mark. Yes, the economy has added millions of jobs since President Obama took office. Even manufacturing employment has recovered some of its losses. Still, less-educated white voters had a solid economic rationale for voting against the status quo — nearly all the gains from the economic recovery have passed them by.
There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.
Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years. The racial and ethnic divide is starker among workers in their prime. Whites ages 25 to 54 lost some 6.5 million jobs more than they gained over the period. Hispanics in their prime, by contrast, gained some three million jobs net, Asians 1.5 million and blacks one million.
“In every age group,” wrote Lakshman Achuthan of the Economic Cycle Research Institute in a penetrating analysis, “blacks, Hispanics and Asians have more jobs now than they did at the November 2007 high-water mark.” This lopsided racial sorting of jobs is only one of the fault lines brought to the fore by the presidential election.
Only 472 counties voted for Hillary Clinton on Election Day. But according to Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution, they account for 64 percent of the nation’s economic activity. The 2,584 counties where Mr. Trump won, by contrast, generated only 36 percent of America’s prosperity. The political divide between high-output and low-output parts of the country also meshes with the cleavage between urban America — largely won by Mrs. Clinton — and the vast, less-populous rural stretches where Mr. Trump racked up large numbers of votes.
Non-Hispanic whites account for 62 percent of the population. But they make up some 78 percent of the population of nonmetropolitan areas and 71 percent of that of small cities, according to the demographer William H. Frey from Brookings. By contrast, they account for only 56 percent of the population of the 100 largest urban areas in the country.
Problem is, many of the jobs created since the economy started recovering from recession were in service industries, located primarily in large metropolitan areas — not in small towns and rural areas where the factories that once provided steady good jobs were either shuttered or were retooled to replace workers with machines.
Even as the typical American household experienced the fastest income growth on record last year, median household income outside of metropolitan areas fell 2 percent, according to the Census Bureau. By last summer employment in nonmetropolitan areas was still 2 percent lower than in the first quarter of 2008.
Metropolitan areas, by contrast, had 5 percent more jobs than they did eight years earlier. And that is where most Hispanics, blacks and Asians live. The low-end service jobs there certainly pay less than those that lifted white blue-collar workers into the middle class. But they do offer a more hopeful future than a shrinking employment base.
“It has been a good decade for metropolitan America,” said Mr. Muro, who heads the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. By contrast, “you can’t underestimate the economic and social pain across the rural tier.” Given such clear divisions — less-educated whites living in depressed rural areas, on one side, and minorities living in more vigorous big-city economies on the other — the social and racial animosity manifest during the election campaign is hardly a surprise. So there is a clear economic argument for Mr. Trump’s angry voters to have bucked the establishment. But all that raises a bigger question. Will President Trump deliver on the promises — the new, well-paying jobs — that his supporters demand? Mr. Achuthan, for one, thinks not. “Trump will get smacked in about a year or so,” he told me. “Regardless of his policies.” The story extends back to the turn of the century — when China was allowed into the World Trade Organization, setting off a wave of investment by multinational corporations hoping to take advantage of cheap Chinese labor.
Goods-producing jobs in manufacturing and construction, which had been roughly flat since 1979, plummeted by more than three million before a building boom fueled by an inflating housing bubble clawed back many of them. When that bubble burst, the construction jobs evaporated too. And there has been no new job-producing boom to take its place.
Can Mr. Trump do more for his supporters than previous presidents? It’s doubtful. Most of his promises are empty. No matter what he does, he cannot bring back the coal jobs of yore or the old labor-intensive manufacturing economy. Some of his proposals — walling off the country with protective tariffs, for example — would make things worse for the middle and working class, while tax cuts for the wealthy will exacerbate inequality rather than lessen it.
The job market has tightened and there are a number of underlying forces that may well propel the economy forward for a while in a way that prosperity spreads more outside the major cities. A major program of public investment in infrastructure would probably increase employment, but it is not a long-term solution for a rural population cut off from the most dynamic sectors of the economy. What progress the nation has in store is likely to come through investments in technology and human capital. This will happen mostly in its cities. Less-educated rural whites, with deep roots in their local communities, are often reluctant to move. But that means all too many are likely to be left behind.

Video - President Obama - The Daily Show - Trevor Noah

Barack Obama Reveals Why He Won't 'Vanish' During Trump Presidency

"It's not my intention to be the old man at the bar who's just kind of hanging on," President Obama joked to The Daily Show host Trevor Noah in a 20-minute conversation about life after the White House. "But I don't anticipate that I'll suddenly vanish." 

The outgoing president gave two specific issues he would be vocal about should they arise: if a registry of Muslim Americans is created that "violates the Constitution" and endangers the American public by incentivizing home-grown terrorism. Second, if Dream Act beneficiaries – young people who immigrated to America as children – are being "rounded up," he said. "[That's] contrary to who we are as a nation of laws and of immigrants."
Obama said that it's important for him to personally recharge and focus on being a good citizen. He thinks that the incoming Trump administration needs space and the American public needs clarity about what the administration enacts. On controversial issues where Trump and Obama disagree, like climate change, incarceration rates and the Affordable Care Act, Obama said he has counseled the president-elect to face the issues directly. "I said to [Trump], you can find different approaches to deal with problems," he said. "What you can't do is pretend they're not problems."
The president also said he believes Trump will get daily intelligence briefings when he's in office, despite what the president-elect said about needing fewer briefings when in office. "It doesn't matter how smart you are," said Obama. He added that making presidential decisions without consulting United States intelligence agencies is like "flying blind." "I think the president-elect will say one thing then do another once he's here," said Obama.
"The federal government is like an aircraft carrier, not a speed boat," Obama said thoughtfully. "Turning it is hard."

Video - 'She is being a guard dog' - Putin jokes as his pet barks at Japanese journalists

Video - RAW: Intense fighting near Palmyra, Syria

Video Report -Aleppo: Scars of War (360 report)

Video Report - Aleppo: Inside key Sheikh Saeed district reclaimed by SAA as crowds celebrate major advance

Video Report - ISIS used as tool by Saudis, US & Turkey when it suits their interests – US senator to RT

Bilawal tightens noose around PMLN after Chakwal incident

O Pakistan, when will you stop persecuting Ahmadis?

Dear Pakistan,
I have lots of love for you. You raised my parents, taught them what it meant to work hard and provided them with shelter. You didn’t however, provide them with religious freedom. And that’s why we left.
The Ahmadi story of persecution in your country has a rich history. In 1974 you introduced the second amendment in the Pakistani Constitution and declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims, denying us our basic and fundamental rights as human beings. In 1984, your President and dictator Zia-ul-Haq added Ordinance XX to the Constitution, making it a crime for Ahmadis to profess their faith. Since then, Ahmadis have been subject to state-sponsored hate, violence and gruesome persecution. This persecution has personally affected me and continues to cause me great pain, grief and sorrow. I’d like to fall in love with Pakistan again, but something holds me back. It seems to be fear of continuing to lose those that I love most.
And so, I have to ask, O Pakistan, when will you stop?
On July 27, 2008, you murdered one of my good friend’s father in front of his very eyes. My friend was 14 visiting Pakistan with his family. He was hopeless, shocked and scarred forever. On May 28, 2010, you killed my good friend’s father and brother. He thought his brother was alive, but as he was painfully lifting covers off dead bodies at hospitals, hoping his brother wasn’t next, he saw his face and broke down. There lay his brother as one of the 94 Ahmadis martyred on May 28 for their faith.
On May 4, 2014, I attended the burial of my friend’s uncle, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar, who visited Pakistan to selflessly serve the less fortunate as a practitioner. What crime did he commit by going back to his country to help the less fortunate?
On June 21, 2016, you killed a homeopathic doctor in your country, serving your people.
O Pakistan, when will you stop? The unfortunate fact of the matter is that this persecution has not only resulted in brutal and unjust behavior towards Ahmadis, but has resulted in your limited growth as a country.
You failed to recognize a Pakistani jurist and diplomat who served as 1st Foreign Minister of Pakistan and was the first Muslim, Asian and the only Pakistani to preside over the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice – Sir Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan. He was an Ahmadi, but he was also a Pakistani. He was a source of motivation for youth aspiring to make a positive change in our world today, but you tried to suppress his achievement.
You failed to recognize the first Muslim Nobel Laureate that your country produced, Dr. Abdus Salam. He was ignored for 30 years while you questioned your baseless morals and had no answer to: “Can we recognize an Ahmadi Pakistani Nobel Laureate?”
Finally, 37 years later Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved a plan to rename the Quaid-e-Azam University’s Physics Department to the Dr Abdus Salam Centre for Physics.
Even this victory was bittersweet. While you now recognize Dr. Abdus Salam as a scientist, when will you recognize him as a Muslim? On the same day of this achievement, the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya community were attacked in Rabwah, Pakistan.
This past week on December 5, police authorities forcefully broke into the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya community without any warrants or justification. The contingent of roughly 28 armed and masked unidentified police officers then assaulted the Ahmadi employees. Two Ahmadi Imams and an administrative staffer from the publisher’s office were arrested and taken into custody without charges.
The irony of this attack was that it was done under the guise of terrorism charges, when Ahmadis are known throughout the world as the most peaceful and law abiding citizens. Had we even remotely endorsed terrorism, at the very least we would’ve fought back against the police. But we didn’t. And again, today you crossed the line. Thousands of your citizens attacked our 'place of worship' in Chakwal, ironically claiming to be lovers of Prophet Muhammad. Was this what the Prophet taught? And yet again, it is we who will respond with patience and steadfastness. We are responding with love, not hate. For our community to progress and become the predominant voice of Islam in the world, we will make all sorts of sacrifices, and we’re ready. In the wise words of Mirza Tahir Ahmad,
“Swords can win territories, but not hearts. Force can bend heads, but not minds.”
Your persecution has backfired. We may be hated by the Government in Pakistan, but we are loved across the world.

The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan and beyond

A mob has attacked a mosque belonging to the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan, raising concerns about a growing religious intolerance in the country. But Pakistan is not the only Muslim nation where Ahmadis face persecution.
In der Großstadt Lahore im Osten Pakistans hat eine aufgebrachte Menschenmenge dutzende Häuser von Christen in Brand gesetzt (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
As Pakistanis marked the birthday of Prophet Muhammad on Monday, thousands of religious fanatics attacked a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect. In what appears to be a well-coordinated attack, the hardliners besieged the Ahmadi place of worship in Chakwal, set the mosque furniture on fire, and wounded several people inside the building. According to Mahmood Javed Bhatti, a local police official, armed men also opened fire on Ahmadis and clashed with security forces.
"A mob attacked the worship place, threw stones and shot gunfire. Police could not stop them because of weak deployment," Saleemuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, told the Reuters news agency.
The spokesman said the mosque was built by the community in 1860 and has been in use since then.
Officials say the mob of around 2,000 people likely attacked the mosque because they suspected the worshippers were commemorating the birthday of Islam's prophet Muhammad.
Ahmadis, who believe the Messiah Ghulam Ahmad lived after Muhammad, insist they are Muslim and demand as much right to practice their faith in Pakistan as other people. Declared non-Muslims in 1974, Ahmadis face both legal and social discrimination in the Islamic country, and the attacks on their properties have increased manifold in the past decade.
The Monday attack comes just a week after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif renamed a university center for physicist Abdus Salam, the country's first Nobel laureate, after more than 30 years of disowning his achievements as Salam belonged to the Ahmadi sect. The South Asian country's hardline Islamic groups slammed the renaming of the physics center and demand the premier retracts his decision.
Constitutional discrimination
Pakistani activists say that religious extremism and intolerance are no longer isolated phenomena in the Islamic country.
The Islamization of Pakistan, which started during the former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government in the 1970s, culminated in the 1980s under the military dictator General Zia ul-Haq's Islamist regime. It was during Haq's oppressive rule when Ahmadis (also known as Qadianis in Pakistan) were banned from calling themselves Muslim and building their mosques in the Islamic Republic. Their places of worship were shut down or desecrated by Islamists.
Infgrafik Verfolgung der Ahmadis Englisch
Baseer Naveed, a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission, says that Ahmadis continue to be persecuted and attacked in Pakistan with the full backing of the state.
"The government wants to appease Muslim fundamentalists and right wing parties. We see that the Pakistani state continues with its policy of hatred towards religious minorities, which embolden fundamentalists," Naveed told DW.
However, Amin Mughal, a scholar based in London, believes the issue is more political than religious.
"Ahmadis were once a relatively strong group within the Pakistani establishment. The dominant Sunni groups felt threatened by them and axed them out of the state affairs," Mughal told DW.
Pakistan has witnessed an unprecedented surge in Islamic extremism and religious fanaticism in the past decade. Islamist groups, including the Taliban, have repeatedly targeted religious minorities in the country to impose their strict Shariah law on people.
Asad Butt of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told DW that intolerance was definitely growing in Pakistan.
"There was no such issue prior to the 1980s, but when General Zia ul-Haq came to power, he Islamized everything and mixed religion and politics," Butt underlined.
But how and when did Pakistanis become so intolerant towards other religions and their followers?
"The days are gone when we said it was a small group of religious extremists, xenophobes, hate-mongers and bigots who commit such crimes," Karachi-based journalist Mohsin Sayeed told DW. "Now the venom has spread to the whole of Pakistani society," he added.
Beyond South Asia
Pakistan is not the only Muslim-majority country where Ahmadis face systematic persecution. In South Asia, Bangladeshi Ahmadis are also discriminated against, whereas the situation is direr in Southeast Asian Muslim nations, particularly in Indonesia.
Moschee Indonesien Jakarta (AP)
There are an estimated 400,000 Ahmadis in Indonesia
Most of Indonesia's over 200 million Muslims are Sunnis. There are an estimated 100,000 Shiites and 400,000 Ahmadis who were declared "deviant" by Indonesia's top Islamic body in 2008.
According to various polls, over 40 percent of those surveyed in Indonesia would not want Shiites or members of the Ahmadi community living in their neighborhood in comparison to 15.1 percent who said they did not want Christians or Hindus as their neighbors.
Ahmadi leaders in Indonesia complain that members of the community have been intimidated and terrorized since 2005 and that their prayers and activities have been banned in many districts.
An especially shocking incident happened in February 2011 when 20 Ahmadis were attacked on the Java peninsula by about 1,500 radicals. Three members died and five were severely injured.
Moreover, people who are discriminated against on religious grounds do not seem to be able to turn to the courts for help.

Perspective: Pakistan's Double standards in fighting terror

When the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) raided the offices of the Tehreek-e-Jadid in Rabwah earlier this week, arresting nine men, it claimed to have done so in order to stop the publication and propagation of hate speech. The Punjab Government barred Tehreek-e-Jadid from producing any literature in 2014, following a recommendation from the Muttahida Ulema Board, the official body charged with determining what does or does not constitute hate material. This was the basis upon which the CTD chose to take action, displaying a degree of alacrity that is usually missing from most campaigns against terror in the province.

Of course, the situation is not quite as clear-cut as the official narrative of the raid would suggest. Tehreek-i-Jadid is an Ahmadiyya organisation, and the ‘hate speech’ it is accused of producing amounts to little more than literature related to the ideas and activities of their community. As such, it could be argued that the CTD’s actions this week were yet another ignominious chapter in the state’s long campaign of Ahmadi persecution, with the government using a raft of anti-Ahmadi laws to continue harassing that community.

It is important to highlight this incident because it stands in stark contrast with the state’s conduct in the broader fight against terror and hate speech. Two weeks ago, Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, a known sectarian activist and possible terrorist with his name on the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act, was allowed to campaign for, and eventually win, an election that saw him become the newest member of the Punjab Assembly. It is not difficult to find video footage of Jhangvi inciting people to violence, openly using extremely inflammatory language to target Shias, amongst others, as apostates. This merchant of hate and purveyor of extremist violence is treated with all manner of deference and respect; he has been feted by television anchors since winning his election, and will undoubtedly use his new position to further his poisonous agenda openly and with impunity.

Why, one might reasonably ask, does the state move so effectively against a small, non-violent Ahmadi organisation, but refuses to take any action whatsoever against a malcontent like Masroor Jhangvi? There are several possible answers; perhaps the state fears a backlash from his supporters and lacks the stomach and/or capacity for a fight, or maybe this is simply reflective of how the state continues to play double-games with the people of Pakistan, nurturing and tolerating extremism for ideological and strategic reasons? Perhaps the deliberately targets the weak and marginalised as part of a systematic campaign to appease religious militants, hoping that doing so will prevent them from unleashing their murderous rage upon the rest of the country? Atlee believed the same about Hitler. Whatever the reason, it is clear that there are double-standards at work in Pakistan’s ‘fight’ against extremism, and that much more needs to be done to hold the state accountable for its lack of action against militant organisations operating in the country without compunction.

On that note, it also makes sense to pay some attention to yet more counsel from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) whose Chairman, Maulana Sherani, took the opportunity provided by his final meeting as its head to launch throaty denunciations of several actions recently taken by the government. He argued that renaming the Physics Centre at Quaid-i-Azam University after Dr. Abdus Salaam, the country’s most renowned and accomplished physicist, ‘set a bad precedent’. Precisely why this would be the case was left unsaid, although one suspects it had something to do with the fact that Dr. Salaam was an Ahmadi. Similarly, Sherani had nothing but criticism for the proposed bill against forced conversions currently being debated by the Sindh government. Sherani said that the law was un-Islamic and unconstitutional, since it prevented people from embracing Islam of their own free will. That the law was specifically designed to prevent ‘forced’ conversions, in a context where it is clear that this is a serious problem confronted by the country’s minorities, was simply dismissed by Sherani without comment. In a context where Pakistan continues to grapple with militancy and sectarian violence, he chose to use his last meeting with the CII to focus on the truly important issues of our time.

None of this is unexpected coming from someone who has made a career out of making the most insensitive, parochial, and frankly unhinged interventions in Pakistan’s political discourse. Obsessed with all things carnal, promoter of child marriage, defender of child abuse, enabler of religious persecution, abettor of rape, all of these are labels that could reasonably be applied to the CII chairman based on his pronouncements during his time in office. Even in Pakistan, a country beset with extremism and bigotry, it is rare to find a man as misogynistic, misopedic, and downright misanthropic as Maulana Sherani enjoying the power and privilege that he has. Given the ultimate pulpit from which to preach his vitriol, Sherani has never come across as anything other than someone utterly lacking in even the most basic human empathy and kindness towards those less fortunate than himself, and has amply demonstrated that he possesses a heart full of hatred fuelled by raging self-righteousness. When his term finally comes to an end on the 16th of December, we will all finally be able to see him for what he truly is, shorn of the trappings of office; a small man of limited intellect and few gifts, impotently raging against a changing world that he both loathes and fears. He will not be missed.


Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims Prosecution - Ahmadis' Basic Rights Violated

 Madeel Abdullah

Dear Editor,

On December 5th, 2016, the Counter Terrorism Department of the Punjab Government in Pakistan unlawfully raided the offices of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Rabwah, Pakistan. 4 Ahmadi Muslims were arrested and 9 were charged under anti-blasphemy laws with Pakistani authorities seeking to try them as terrorists.

This is yet another incident in a long line of state-sanctioned discrimination.

For decades, Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan have been disenfranchised, imprisoned, tortured, murdered, and discriminated against simply due to their faith. This persecution is meted out both by government action as well as inaction in the face of actual terrorist and extremist threats to the community. Pakistan state authorities have sealed Ahmadi mosques, stripped Ahmadi's of the full and free right to vote, and seized Ahmadi publications — a direct assault on every social and civil right afforded to a citizen.  I urge human rights organizations and governments of the world to raise their voices against the injustices being carried out.

Madeel Abdullah, MD
Newtown Square, PA

Arabic Music Video - مليسا | جزيرة الحب | Melissa | Jazeeret el Hob

Video Report - ‘They slaughtered my brothers & sisters, but let me go’: Stories of Aleppo orphans


Saudi ministers support for Takfiri terrorism and divert public attention by making “baseless” allegations against Tehran.

n a statement released on Sunday night, Qassemi described the recent remarks against Iran made by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in a joint press conference in Riyadh as “baseless”.
Without providing any evidence, Jubeir accused Iran of supporting terrorism and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
He also claimed that Tehran had ties with al-Qaeda terrorists and that the group’s leaders had fled to and been living in Iran since 2001. Johnson, meanwhile, said London and Riyadh share similar stances on what he described as “the Iranian threat, particularly in Syria and Yemen.”
The allegations are an attempt to cover up the destructive role of Britain and Saudi Arabia in supporting Takfiri terrorism and divert attention from their extensive crimes against humanity in the ongoing war on Yemen, the Iranian spokesman stated.
Despite the world public opinion’s strong opposition and protests by the people of conscience across the globe against the use of British weapons in the war against the Yemeni people, statesmen in London still insist on selling their weapons to the countries involved in the aggression against Yemen and supporters of terrorists, Qassemi added.
Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by a coalition led by the Saudi regime for nearly 21 months.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been launching deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to the fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.
Nearly 10,000 Yemenis, including 4,000 women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.
Human rights organizations have frequently underlined that British weapons sales to Saudi Arabia are a serious violation of international law, because of the Riyadh regime’s bombing campaign against the defenseless people of Yemen.


When a Saudi woman daring not to wear a hijab leads to calls for her beheading, maybe it's time the UK paid attention

Our Government has put business, arms and trades deals before human rights. It isn't ethical and it isn't fair.

Today it was reported that a Saudi women who posted a picture of herself on social media in public without wearing a hijab faced outrage on social media, including calls for her execution. One man memorably declared: “Kill her and throw her corpse to the dogs.”

To the surprise of the some, Saudi Arabia – which has been bombing Yemen for 18 months, including one incident where the country’s fighters bombed a funeral, and which has arguably the worst record on women’s rights in the world – was recently re-elected to the Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ premier human rights body. There was, predictably, an outcry.
Governing women’s clothing, whether on the beaches of Cannes or the streets of Riyadh, is a violation we should all stand against. And clearly people in the Islamic world believe this as ardently as atheists in the West. This year, men in Iran wore headscarves in solidarity with their wives who are forced cover their hair in public places. The campaign against the enforced hijab in Iran has seen women defying morality police in public and even shaving their hair. If men in Saudi Arabia campaigned in similar numbers and joined the fight, perhaps we’d see a change in the Middle East’s political landscape.
Steps have been made, however small, of late to extend women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. In August this year, the kingdom’s passport office suspended a programme that notified a woman’s “male guardian” (usually her husband) if she wished to travel outside the kingdom. Furthermore, a Saudi prince and business magnate, Alwaleed bin Talal, added his voice to the debate over women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, urging it to abandon its driving ban for women. In an unprecedented move, he stated that preventing women from driving is an "issue of rights similar to the one that forbade them from receiving an education.”
In addition, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a prominent member of the Saudi Committee of Senior Scholars, said this year that there is no legitimate reason to ban women from driving under Islamic law. Across the Arab world, and in Saudi Arabia, female Islamic scholars and activists have been pushing for interpretations of Sharia law that consider women and men as equals before God.
Nevertheless, it’s now time for the International community to put pressure on the Saudi regime. It is scandalous that we are complicit in human rights violations perpetrated by a kingdom that continues to behead people for breaking their laws. Indeed, it was reported in January that Saudi’s beheadings had reached their highest level in two decades.
Our deafening silence in the face of multiple human rights violence in Saudi has gone on for too long. Our Government has put business, arms and trades deals before human rights, casually expecting the country to catch up with it in terms of equality. But when a woman appearing without a hijab on social media provokes calls for her to be killed and eaten by dogs, perhaps it’s time we took our fingers out of our ears and started listening.

SCREW SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabian woman pictured without a hijab ARRESTED and could now be lashed

A YOUNG woman who received death threats after going out without her abaya – a full-body dress – in Saudi Arabia now faces being lashed after she was arrested.
The woman, identified as Malak Al Shehri, shared a photograph of herself without a hijab or abaya – a traditional body covering – on a street in the capital city of Riyadh.
Malak Al Shehri sparked fury on social media after she went out in public in Riyadh for breakfast without a full body cloak – called an abaya – or a veil
Malak Al Shehri sparked fury on social media after she went out in public for breakfast without a full body cloak or a veil
Al Shehri sparked fury on social media after she went out in public in the conservative capital, with some even calling for her execution.
Some raged that she should be “thrown to the dogs” or “beheaded” for daring to stand against the country’s strict rules.
But hundreds came to her defence and praised her “bravery” for sharing the picture on Twitter.

A 21-year-old student from Dammam, who used the name Sara Ahmed, shared the shot and revealed the woman was receiving death threats
A student from the Saudi city Dammam, who used the name Sara Ahmed, shared the shot, which showed Malak wearing a black coat over a brightly-coloured calf-length dress.
Malak also donned over-sized sunglasses and brown ankle boots which offered a glimpse of a tattoo on her lower right leg in the picture.
“A Saudi woman went out yesterday without an Abaya or a hijab in Riyadh Saudi Arabia and many Saudis are now demanding her execution,” Sara captioned the image.