Monday, August 14, 2017

Obama responds to Charlottesville with one of the most liked tweets in history

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..."

After a "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly on Saturday, former president Barack Obama reached out on Twitter to comfort Americans.

<blockquote></blockquote>While President Trump was silent on the platform, refusing to address the violent clash between hate groups and protesters for hours, Obama shared a powerful message in the form of a Nelson Mandella quote about hate and the potential to love.<blockquote></blockquote>

The first of Obama's three tweets has since become the third most-liked tweet in history, according to Esquire.

The tweet, which featured a photograph of Obama peering at young children through a window, began the quote: "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion..."

Barack Obama ✔ @BarackObama
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..."

8:06 PM - Aug 12, 2017
 37,166 37,166 Replies   991,353 991,353 Retweets   2,368,734 2,368,734 likes

It quickly amassed over 2 million likes and 970,000 retweets, nearing other record-setting tweets like Ellen's famous Oscars selfie, which got in impressive 2,419,012 likes back in 2014 and Ariana Grande's 2017 tweet to fans after the deadly Manchester bombing attacks took place at one of her concerts. Grande's emotional tweet currently holds the top spot on Twitter with 2,703,092 likes.

After his tweet, Obama then went on to finish the quote, writing "'People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.' - Nelson Mandela."

Barack Obama ✔ @BarackObama
Replying to @BarackObama
"People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love..."
8:06 PM - Aug 12, 2017
 14,917 14,917 Replies   370,544 370,544 Retweets   1,044,186 1,044,186 likes

 FollowBarack Obama ✔ @BarackObama
Replying to @BarackObama
"...For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." - Nelson Mandela
8:06 PM - Aug 12, 2017
 12,108 12,108 Replies   294,377 294,377 Retweets   897,802 897,802 likes

Obama was heavily praised for speaking up in wake of the tragic events that took place in Charlottesville, especially since Trump appeared reluctant to address the rally. Trump was criticized by notable political and cultural figures including Chelsea Clinton and J.K. Rowling.

Eventually, he condemned violence "on many sides," but didn't explicitly call out white supremacists. 
Then, on Monday afternoon — two days after the fact — Trump gave an impromptu announcement to the press, while gazing deeply into his teleprompter. 
After bragging about the current strength of the economy, the president publicly addressed those at fault for the violence, condemning the racist actions of members of the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.
Obama's message just goes to show that quality of tweets is more valuable than quantity ... take notes, Trump.

Video Report - CNN Charlottesville panel erupts: I won't be attacked on my blackness!

Video Report - Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump's "Nightmare" Speech

Video Report -Jake Tapper wonders why it’s easier for Trump to criticize anyone but ‘these actual Nazis’

Video Report - "YOU ARE A RACIST, SIR!!" CNN Panel Debate with Trump Lackey SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL

Video Report - PPP chairman Bilawal Bhuttto congratulates nation on 70th Independence Day

Video - PPP Leader Qamar Zaman Kaira's address 13th August 2017

ISIS Claims Suicide Bombing That Killed at Least 15 in Pakistan

A suicide bomber riding a motorcycle rammed into a military truck near a busy bus station in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 15 people, including eight soldiers, and wounding at least 40 others, military officials said on Sunday.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province in the southwest. A military spokesman said the attack had been aimed at sabotaging Independence Day celebrations, as Pakistan will mark its 70th anniversary on Monday.
Active-duty troops in the Pakistani Army have rarely come under attack in Quetta, although paramilitary forces and police officers have repeatedly faced assaults by militants in the city.
The explosion, which was heard far away and set off a fire that engulfed vehicles nearby, left several people critically injured. The wounded were taken to Civil Hospital and Combined Military Hospital.
The attack, near several important government and private buildings — including the provincial assembly — renewed concerns about security arrangements in the city, which has long reeled under militant and sectarian violence despite the heavy presence of security forces and paramilitary soldiers. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistani army chief, arrived in the city on Sunday morning to chair a high-level security briefing and visit the wounded at the military hospital, officials said. The interior minister, Ahsan Iqbal, had also traveled to the provincial capital on Saturday for meetings with senior civil and military officials.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has claimed to be behind several terrorist attacks in the province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, in recent months.
Pakistani officials, however, played down the presence of the Islamic State in the province, asserting that the group does not have an organized presence there.

Forced conversions of Hindu girls in Pakistan make a mockery of its constitution

In a famous speech on August 11 1947, Pakistan’s founder and first governor general, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, stressed that the new country was being built on the idea of religious tolerance:
You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.
But 70 years later, a trend of forced conversions in the country is making a mockery of the constitution of Pakistan, which offers equal rights to all religious minorities.
In early June, a 16-year-old Hindu girl called Ravita Meghwar was allegedly abducted by men in the southern Pakistani region of Sindh. Within hours, Ravita had apparently embraced Islam. She was given new name – Gulnaz – and married off to a Muslim man.
The next day she told journalists that she had accepted Islam and married the man without any pressure. But Meghwar’s parents reported the suspects, claimed she was a minor, and demanded the safe recovery of their daughter. Countering the claims, Meghwar’s husband submitted an application to the Sindh High Court to seek protection from her family and relatives. The case was settled on June 23 when the Sindh High Court allowed Meghwar to go with her husband. The judge apparently ignored the 2013 Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act which prohibits marriages under the age of 18.
As usual, Sindh High Court allows forcibly converted Scheduled Caste Hindu girl to go with her kidnapper, who is now her husband.
In a similar case in early 2012, a young Hindu girl called Rinkle Kumari was victim of a forced conversion to Islam. The case went to court but ended with Kumari going to live with her husband.

A growing problem

Forced conversions to Islam have become a new form of violent extremism in Pakistan. A forced conversion is defined as being when any person uses pressure, force, duress or threat, to make another person adopt another religion. It affects almost all religious minority groups in Pakistan but Hindu teenage girls in the Sindh province are the main victims. There are no verified numbers but according to the NGO, South Asia Partnership Pakistan, at least 1,000 girls, mostly Hindus, are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year.
Conversion to Islam is a one-way process. Once a person becomes Muslim – forcibly or voluntarily – then going back will be an act of apostasy, which is punishable by death in Islam under penal law. There is no way for a person to go back due to an imminent danger of being killed.
I have done some initial analysis of English-language newspaper reports in Pakistan of forced conversions that occurred between January 2012 – just before the Kumari case – and June 2017. In total, I found reports of 286 separate incidents of women and girls being forcibly converted. The actual number could be much higher as many cases of forced conversion are reported in local Urdu or Sindhi newspapers. As one journalist working on the issue in Pakistan told me, many cases in which influential locals and religious leaders are involved go unreported because of pressure put on the media not to report the stories.
Even if families report the kidnappings to the police, the kidnappers usually file a counter report on behalf of the girl claiming she has come of her own will, has accepted Islam and is happily married. When they do take on the cases, the courts often find in favour of the Muslim men. For example, in one case in 2016 involving a 16-year-old called Shabana, the Sindh High Court declared her marriage valid and she converted to Islam.

Unabated power of madrassas

One of the reasons for the increase in forced conversions is an increase in Islamic religiosity in Pakistan. This has been influenced by the rapid expansion of madrassas – Islamic seminaries – and the unabated power of religious parties and groups across Pakistan in recent years. A surveyin 2015 noted there were 28,982 registered madrassas in Pakistan and countless unregistered ones, serving more than 3m pupils. This number stood at 2,861 in 1988 and 246 in 1947.
In Pakistan, madrassas have played a key role in forced conversion and in Sindh some madrassas have become infamous for facilitating such conversions. For example, Bharchundi Sharif shrine and madrassa and Pir Ayub Jan’s madrassa are notorious for promoting and facilitating conversions to Islam.

Curbing forced conversions

So far those Pakistani politicians who have attempted to combat forced conversions have been unsuccessful. In November 2016, the Sindh provincial government passed a bill against forced religious conversion. The bill recommends a five-year punishment for perpetrators, three years for facilitators of forceful religious conversions, and also it makes it a punishable offence to forcibly convert a minor.
But after an outcry by some hardline Muslim religious groups who declared the bill un-Islamic and demanded its withdrawal, the provincial government immediately agreed to review the bill. It has never been ratified.
Forced conversion is, however, covered by provisions in other laws. These include the 2013 act against child marriage in Sindh, and sections of the Pakistan penal code against forced marriage, kidnapping, abducting or inducing into marriage. Yet, implementation of these laws remains limited, largely because of fear a backlash from religious groups.
This means the government of Pakistan must act decisively to ratify and implement the 2016 law against forced conversions.

Pakistan - #AyeshaGulalai - A mirror to our society

Afiya Shehrbano 

The Accused, a 1988 movie starring Jodie Foster, became iconic for challenging the culture of
blame towards rape victims. The plot reveals the compromises that define the judicial system. The powerful subtheme of the movie implicates the fraternity of men who cheer and encourage the bar room rape, where the drunk and flirtatious victim is assaulted.
The allegation of sexual harassment by Ayesha Gulalai against the PTI leadership has been commented on by a few sane voices, who appeal for a balanced, judicious and sensitive way of dealing with such accusations. Parliament and the women’s caucus have rightly objected to the vicious media trial and social media lashing against the accuser, and cautioned against levelling unverified charges against the accused.
Rather than repeating these, it is important to review the common public opinions of doubt, denial, demonising and disowning that have been circulating. These reveal the spiteful social and cultural biases towards women that persist despite progressive laws.
The most repeated counter-accusation to Gulalai’s allegations has been over the political-sensitive timing of her speaking out, questioning why she chose to remain silent over her harassment for so long. This is a common strategy used by those defending sex offenders. But, deflecting the focus from the criminal’s act to the victim’s delay in speaking out does not in itself prove that the crime did not take place.
There are many explanations for why women tolerate, fear, or delay speaking out against domestic abuse, workplace harassment and even pestering and stalking. Women fear losing their jobs or promotions, or being told to stay indoors. They worry about being accused of encouraging such behaviour, or inviting ‘shame’ to families, tribes or even nations. These are common reactions and a majority of victims do not speak out unless they reach a tipping point, or fear for their lives, or feel the harassment is not worth the silence. Would diehard loyalists have believed Gulalai if she had spoken out immediately? By the measure of PTI spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry, who accused Gulalai of ‘selling out’ in 24 hours — completely unlikely.
After the treatment of Ayesha Gulalai, how many women are likely to break the silence? Perversely, comparing Ayesha Ahad’s defamation allegations against the PML-N only dilutes the issue by confusing sexist insults with sexual intimidation. Both are objectionable and proof of systemic misogyny but sexual harassment is an advanced, gendered and illegal form of violence.
Harassment was not a crime until recently but considered a man’s right or justified as biological necessity. Being from a privileged class does not guarantee courage or nerve on part of the victim. Often, families encourage silence to avoid social censure and blame. When feminists fought for recognition of the criminality of such behaviour, they were ridiculed for being kill-joys and home-wreckers. In fact, sexual harassment kills the confidence and reverses the blame on the victim and encourages harassers to continue benefiting by exercising this form of sexually aggressive behaviour.
The law against sexual harassment takes away this power and so, rather than changing their behaviour, many harassers resort to accusing the victim of lying, being of ‘bad character’ or blaming her for asking for it.
Perhaps no woman can honestly claim she has never been harassed in any society, without exception. This includes powerhouses such as the White House and World Bank. All of us have met the harasser who is the bus conductor, corporate boss, policeman, colleague, party comrade, bourgeois club member, NGO co-worker and even ironically, (as activists of Women’s Action Forum will testify), the very pro bono lawyer who is defending women in cases of sex crimes.
All of us have heard the common advice to ignore, avoid and keep it a secret. In politics, this sacrifice is supposedly for the ‘bigger cause’.
We also know that neither the criminal nor recipient is limited to any one social class. And still, when a woman alleges such an offence there is immediate denial and doubt against her word. Justifications are offered that women provoke poor passive men and as if ‘civilised’ and liberal institutions are exempt from the culture of sexual harassment. Class bias completely falsely exempts men who are educated and from ‘respectable’ families — as if they would never indulge in sexual power politics.
One would think after the 9/11 era, Muslims would have developed an acute understanding of persecution and developed a sense of empathy with victims of injustices. But instead, only brown, Muslim men are privy to automatic sympathy and presumed innocence but Muslim women remain permanently suspect for faking, lying, and being libidinous.
Feminists have insisted that women’s sexual history or ‘morality’ should not be relevant in adjudications of sex crimes. Ironically, this privilege is being extended to Imran Khan by his supporters. They do not consider his history of casual sexual encounters as evidence of his guilt, or the absence of such a record for Gulalai as proof of her innocence. Imran Khan’s defenders need to decide if past morality and track records feature in judging something called ‘character’. The vaguely defined virtue articles 62 and 63 of the constitution have opened the floodgates of political character assassinations and morality must stop being used as a political weapon.
However, sexual harassment is not a moral issue — it’s a crime.
Male privilege owns public spaces and flaunting masculinity is admired but if women show political or sexual confidence, they are condemned. This gender game is historic and in postcolonial societies, women are considered the viruses that can destroy tribes and betray nations, or be the cure if they obey its rules and suffer silently the internal discrimination and even abuse.
The claim to deny domicile to Gulalai by the grand jirga of North Waziristan encapsulates the politics of expelling the ‘compromised’ betrayer, so well. Her celebrated sister became collateral damage and was stripped of her independent achievements as collective punishment for Gulalai’s challenge to male privilege. So much for all those who fêted the victimhood of honourable tribesmen of Waziristan as poor Muslim males throughout the ‘War on Terror’. If there’s one thing patriarchy bonds over, it’s the dispensability of women.
One male television anchor interviewing Gulalai ruled that if women face sexual harassment from the party leadership they should vacate their political seats as a ‘fair’ resolution. Another male media anchor interrogated her on why she chose to stay in the party — just like all those who ask women why they stay in abusive marriages. It’s a lose-lose for political women — stay invisible and survive, speak out and disappear.
Most disappointing is the disowning of Gulalai’s cause by prominent women activists and politicians. Feminism is not about taking a woman’s ‘side’ but recognising that in an extremely unequal culture, the cost of speaking out is much, much higher than the rewards. It means a lifetime of being stigmatised and labelled as victim, liar or betrayer.
Strangely, several of these women who are skeptical of Gulalai’s allegations have themselves been accused of being unpatriotic, betrayers and sexually compromised because they breach the male fields of politics or journalism, or have Indian friends, or do not conform to appropriate dress codes. Do we really need to lend credibility to the majoritarian suspicion, and become the token ‘good women’, who speak out against ‘bad women’, rather than extending the benefit of doubt to the complainant?
After the treatment of Gulalai, how many women are likely to break the silence at all? Perversely, comparing Ayesha Ahad’s allegations of defamation against the PML-N only dilutes the sexual harassment issue by confusing sexist insults and libel, with sexual intimidation. Both are objectionable and proof of systemic misogyny but sexual harassment is an advanced, gendered and illegal form of violence.
Nothing new about the PTI
The political mudslinging across the issue of women’s harassment is a sad mirror of our gender and class biases, and exposes the predatory male environment of party politics in Pakistan. As elections loom, voters should be clear that the PTI is not a party but a cult with a male frat boy following.
Any criticism of its culture will be converted into a character assassination of the critic, any judgement against the leader will be seen as a result of bribery, any shortfall of votes will be proof that Pakistan does not deserve democracy, any turncoat who leaves the party is a traitor but any defector who joins is welcomed and valued as upright and honest — no matter his track record as bigot and sexist.
Diverting blame on to other parties as equally misogynist, nepotistic or corrupt is simply acknowledgment that the PTI is no different from them and still pretends that it is.
As long as the PTI leadership embraces men with proven records of abusive behaviour against women and does not condemn its following of trolls who gang-shame and abuse women, the culture of gender abuse will only strengthen. And if people like Shafqat Mahmood and Shirin Mazari shield such behaviour, and give it impunity rather than attempt to tackle the sexism and racism that define the PTI, we are only likely to see far more cases in the future.
For those who support some imagined and completely unproven entity they like to call Naya Pakistan, they should be very worried — about their leadership but also about themselves.