Archive for the ‘ British Muslims ’ Category

Park 51 Photo Exhibit Features American Children From All Over The World

BY Jessica Jenkins for Groundswell

NYChildren, a new photo exhibit at the Park51 community center in downtown Manhattan highlights the diversity of American identity by featuring New York City children from all parts of the world. A slideshow in the New York Times highlights a dozen portraits from the NYChildren exhibit. The photographer, Danny Goldfield, says he was inspired by a 2004 encounter with the brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh man who was murdered at his Mesa, Arizona gas station on September 15, 2001. That encounter led Mr. Goldstein to think about what constitutes American identity, and his project to photograph a child from each country of the world. So far Mr. Goldstein has photographed children from 171 different countries, all living in New York City.

It’s been a year since the Park51 community center was besieged by Islamophobic attacks from across the nation for its proximity to Ground Zero. Park51 has since scaled back its plans to build a new community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan but nevertheless has continued to offer events and faith services to the local community in its existing building. On its website, Park51 says about the exhibition: “We live in a world with far too much fear and misunderstanding. This exhibition is about finding the courage to meet and get to know neighbors to build trust and friendship.” We can’t think of a better way to set a tone of resilience, tolerance and hope.

Amir Khan Gets Invited to The White House

By Araiz Baqi for Sportspulse

Amir Khan, the British professional boxer of Pakistani descent, has been invited to the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States, also known as the White house, for a dinner, along with other Muslim sportsmen, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities in New York.

The currently unified IBF and WBA World Light Welterweight Champion was invited to attend the dinner by the United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The event will take place on September 10. “Amir was invited there by Mrs Clinton,” a source revealed. “He will be among a group of the most prominent Muslim sportsmen in America, and as Amir is now based in the US, that offer was extended to him.”

The Irony is that IBF and WBA champion have become frustrated with the lengthy delays he has to face whenever he travels to the States. There are seven levels of security at the, with seven being the highest, and Amir comes in at full seven.

When on vacation, Amir almost everytime visits Pakistan, and most recently, he visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia (All Muslim Countries). ‘All these things are taken into account by US Homeland Security. The Khan family are kept in a holding area until the green light is given from Washington DC, as all the checks that are made.’ – reports dailymail.

The Organizers of the event have yet to confirm whether President Barack Obama will be present at the event or not. If the President attends the ceremony, Amir might find a smoother passage on future entries to the United States.

Khan, Currently rated as the best boxer in the Light Welterweight division, has made his fans, especially Pakistanis, proud after getting the invitation for the dinner. After all, in this world of racism, hatred, and diversity, who eould expect a Pakistani to get invited to the White house…

After returning from pilgrimage last week in the holy month of Ramadan, Khan will fight in the United States most likely against Mexican legend Erik Morales. He will leave the White House on Sept 11 and go on to Las Vegas, where one of his rivals, Victor Ortiz, defends the World Boxing Council welterweight title against Floyd Mayweather Jnr.

Eid ul-Fitr 2011

Memorial for Noor Inayat Khan, SOE Agent and Daughter of Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan

As Reported by The Sufi Times

This past New Years Day would have marked the 96th birthday of Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, an Indian muslim woman who was shot dead in a Nazi concentration camp in September 1944, after being the first female radio operator to infiltrate occupied France.

Her courage and self-sacrifice during World War II are to be honoured by a memorial which has been proposed to be raised in London’s Bloomsbury area next year. It will be the first war memorial in Britain either for a Muslim or an Asian woman.

The project has the support of 34 Members of Parliament and a number of prominent British Asians, including human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti and film director Gurinder Chadha, OBE. Permission has been granted by London University and the local authority to build a sculpture in Gordon Square. A sculptor has already been commissioned and the organisers now need to raise £60,000 to complete the project, of which about £25,000 has already been raised.

Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of acclaimed Sufi teacher and musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882 – 1927), who was one of the first people to bring Sufi teachings to the modern Western world. He established the “Sufi Order in the West”, which survives in various forms to this day and has followers around the world.

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s great-grandfather was Tipu Sultan, a king of Mysore who ruled during the time of the East India compay and who had died in battle against the Duke of Wellington in 1799. Hazrat Inayat Khan had been initiated into the Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi tariqas, but his primary initiation was from Shaykh Muhammed Abu Hashim Madani into the Nizamiya branch of the Chishti order (named after Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya, died 1325).

Being an accomplished musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan went to America to tour with a group of musicians, playing mainly traditional court music on his veena and singing. During this time, he attracted a number of students to Sufism and met his wife, Ora Meena Ray Baker, an American from New Mexico who was of English-Irish-Scottish descent. They had their first child, Noor, in Moscow (1914), where Inayat Khan had gone to perform. Three more children were to follow: Vilayat (1916), Hidayat (1917) and Khair-un-Nisa (1919).

When Noor was four years old the family moved to Paris. Noor grew up in an environment steeped in Sufi teachings. Her father established a Sufi centre and regularly held Sufi meditation meetings with a growing number of students, lectured widely and authored a number of books.

Noor went on to study at the Sorbonne, and in her mid-20’s became an author of children’s stories. At the outbreak of war Noor’s family returned to her motherland and they moved into rooms in Bloomsbury Square in London. The site of the memorial which is to built in her name is, therefore, very appropriate.

Both Noor and her brother Vilayat decided they would do something to help the Allied Forces in their efforts against the Nazi threat. Vilayat joined the RAF (Royal Air Force) and trained as a pilot, whilst Noor joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Because of her fluent French, she was given a position in the new Special Operations Executive (SOE) of the British Secret Service. The SOE was desperately looking for radio operators who could be positioned in enemy territory to send back intelligence by wireless.

Her recruiters were not at first convinced of her suitability for the role. One of them noted, “Not overburdened with brains but has worked hard and shown keenness, apart from some dislike of [the] security side of the course. She has an unstable and temperamental personality and it is very doubtful whether she is really suited to work in the field.”

But in June 1943, she became the first female SOE agent to be parachuted into enemy occupied territory in France. According to Sir Colin Gubbins, head of the SOE, she had “occupied the principal and most dangerous post in France”. As a radio operator she was on the front line of intelligence operations, a dangerous role not for the faint-hearted. She was once stopped by the Gestapo whilst cycling with her radio equipment, but managed to convince them that it was a cinema projector.

However, it eventually transpired that the French resistance group she had been sent to help had already been infiltrated by Nazi agents and within weeks of her arrival hundreds of operatives had been arrested and shot.

Noor turned down the opportunity to return to Britain, choosing to remain behind as the SOE’s only radio contact in or near Paris. She was given a life-expectancy of three weeks, but survived for three months.

But then she was betrayed by Renée Garry, the sister of one of her French Resistance colleagues. The reason for this betrayal is not clear. Some reports say Garry was jealous of Noor’s role as an SOE agent, others say she was jealous of her beauty. In any case, she was seized by the German Gestapo and taken to a concentration camp in Pflozheim. Here she was routinely tortured for weeks, but refused to give up any information to her interrogators.

On 11 September 1944, Noor, together with three other female SOE colleagues, were taken by cars to the concentration camp in Dachau, arriving in the dark. During the night, they were tortured again. Early on the morning of September 12, they were marched out to the dog kennels, forced to kneel two by two and each was shot in the back of the head. Their bodies were incinerated in Dachau’s infamous ovens. Her last words before she died were ‘liberte’.

Shrabani Basu is Noor Inayat Khan’s biographer and founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust. She spent eight years researching Noor’s life from war archives and family records, and has more recently been involved in the planning of the new memorial. Basu remarked, “I feel it is very important that what she did should not be allowed to fade from memory, particularly living in the times that we do. Here was a young Muslim woman who gave her life for this country and for the fight against those who wanted to destroy the Jewish race. She was an icon for the bond that exists between Britain and India but also between people who fought for what they believed to be right.”

Of the SOE’s 55 female agents, 13 died in action or at the hands of the Nazis. One of those killed (Violette Szabo) and one who survived (Odette Hallowes) have had popular movies made about their lives.

The initial unfavourable assessment made by Noor’s recruiters was in stark contrast to the note that her commander and head the SOE’s French section, Maurice Buckmaster, later made of her: “A most brave and touchingly keen girl. She was determined to do her bit to hit the Germans and, poor girl, she has.”

In France, Noor is already widely recognized as a war hero. There are two memorials for her, and a ceremony is held each year.

In 1975, a commemoration plaque was installed at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, by the State of Massachusetts. It displays Noor’s name and the names of the three others who were executed with her on September 12th 1944.

To this day, nothing has been built in Britain to commemorate the life of this Indian Sufi Muslim woman who courageously sacrificed her life for freedom and the British contribution to the war against Fascism. It is hoped that the proposed memorial will be built to redress this oversight.

Amir Khan on George Lopez

Here is a video of Amir Khan on the George Lopez show after the win against Zab Judah.

Norway Suspect Wanted European Anti-Muslim Crusade

As Reported by The Associated Press

The man blamed for killing at least 93 people during terrorist attacks on Norway’s government headquarters and an island retreat for young people wanted to trigger an anti-Muslim revolution in Norwegian society, his lawyer said Sunday.

A chief surgeon treating the wounded from Friday’s mass shooting, meanwhile, said he believes the attacker used special “dum-dum” bullets that cause massive internal injuries. The doctor told The Associated Press that the killer’s chosen ammo “exploded inside the body.”

The manifesto that 32-year-old suspect Anders Behring Breivik published online ranted against Muslim immigration to Europe and vowed revenge on those “indigenous Europeans” whom he deemed had betrayed their heritage. The document said they would be punished for their “treasonous acts.”

Police said they were analyzing the approximately 1,500-page document. They said it was published Friday shortly before the back-to-back bomb and gun attacks.

Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said his client wrote the document alone. While police said they were investigating reports of a second assailant on the island, the lawyer said Breivik claims no one helped him.

The treatise detailed plans to acquire firearms and explosives, and even appeared to describe a test explosion: “BOOM! The detonation was successful!!!” It ends with a note dated 12:51 p.m. on July 22: “I believe this will be my last entry.”

That day, a bomb killed seven people in downtown Oslo and, about 90 minutes later, a gunman began opening fire on about 600 young people at a retreat on Utoya Island. Police said the death toll in the shooting rose by one Sunday to 86.

That brings total fatalities to 93, with more than 90 wounded. People remain missing at both scenes. Police have not released the names of any victims.

Authorities revealed Sunday that one of the attacker’s first victims on the island was an off-duty police officer who had been hired by the camp directors to provide private security in his spare time. Oslo Police Union Chairman Sigve Bolstad declined to identify the victim.

That detail sheds new light on the confusion many survivors described during the 90-minute massacre. The attacker arrived dressed as a policeman, and some campers were killed when they approached the killer thinking he was there to save them.

Dr. Colin Poole, head of surgery at Ringriket Hospital in Honefoss northwest of Oslo, told The Associated Press the gunman used special bullets designed to disintegrate inside the body and cause maximum internal damage. Poole said surgeons treating 16 gunshot victims have recovered no full bullets.

“These bullets more or less exploded inside the body,” Poole said. “It’s caused us all kinds of extra problems in dealing with the wounds they cause, with very strange trajectories.”

Ballistics experts say the so-called “dum-dum” bullets also are lighter in weight and can be fired with greater accuracy over varying distances. They commonly are used by air marshals and hunters of small animals. Such characteristics potentially would have allowed the gunman to carry more ammunition and fire his weapons at varying targets without adjusting his sights.

Officials at the lakeside scene of the island shooting spent Sunday continuing to account for the dead.

Six hearses pulled up at the shoreline as orange-jacketed Red Cross searchers on small boats slowly explored the extensive shoreline.

Body parts remain inside the Oslo building, which housed the prime minister’s office. In a chilling allusion to the fact that the tragedy could have even been greater, police said Sunday that Breivik still had “a considerable amount” of ammunition for both his guns — a pistol and an automatic rifle — when he surrendered.

Police and his lawyer have said that Breivik confessed to the twin attacks, but denied criminal responsibility for a day that shook peaceful Norway to its core and was the deadliest ever in peacetime. Breivik has been charged with terrorism and will be arraigned Monday.

Lippestad said his client has asked for an open court hearing “because he wants to explain himself.”

Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim said a forensics expert from Interpol was joining the investigation Sunday.

European security officials said they were aware of increased Internet chatter from individuals claiming they belonged to the Knights Templar group that Breivik describes, in fantastical terms, in the manifesto. They said they were still investigating claims that Breivik, and other far-right individuals, attended a London meeting of the group in 2002. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.

The officials would not confirm whether they had identified Breivik as a potential threat.

As authorities pursued the suspect’s motives, Oslo mourned the victims. Norway’s King Harald V and his wife Queen Sonja and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg crowded into Oslo Cathedral, where the pews were packed, and people spilled into the plaza outside. The area was strewn with flowers and candles, and people who could not fit inside the grand church huddled under umbrellas amid drizzling rain.

The king and queen both wiped tears from their eyes during the service themed on “sorrow and hope.”

Afterward, people sobbed and hugged one another in the streets. Many lingered over the flowers and candles. The royal couple and prime minister later visited the site of the bombing in Oslo. The royals then visited shooting survivors at Ringriket Hospital.

The attacker picked targets linked to Norway’s left-wing Labor Party. Breivik’s manifesto pilloried the political correctness of liberals and warned that their work would end in the colonization of Europe by Muslims.

Such fears may derive, at least in part, from the fact that Norway has grown increasingly multicultural in recent years as the prosperous Nordic nation has opened its arms to thousands of conflict refugees from Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. The annual Labor Party retreat — which the prime minister, Stoltenberg, fondly remembers attending in his own youth — reflected the country’s changing demographics as the children of immigrants have grown increasingly involved in Labor politics.

The assaults have rattled Norway, home to the Nobel Prize for Peace and where the average policeman patrolling in the streets doesn’t carry a firearm. Norwegians pride themselves on the openness of their society and cherish the idea of free expression.

“He wanted a change in society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution,” Lippestad, the lawyer, told public broadcaster NRK. “He wished to attack society and the structure of society.”

Lippestad said Breivik spent years writing the manifesto titled “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.” It was signed “Andrew Berwick.” The document later explained that 2083 was to be the year when European government would be overthrown en masse.

Sponheim, the police chief, said there was no indication whether Breivik had selected his targets or fired randomly on the island. The manifesto vowed revenge on those it accused of betraying Europe.

“We, the free indigenous peoples of Europe, hereby declare a pre-emptive war on all cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites of Western Europe. … We know who you are, where you live and we are coming for you,” the document said. “We are in the process of flagging every single multculturalist traitor in Western Europe. You will be punished for your treasonous acts against Europe and Europeans.”

The use of an anglicized pseudonym could be explained by a passage in the manifesto describing the founding, in April 2002 in London, of a group he calls a new Knights Templar. The Knights Templar was a medieval order created to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade in the 11th century.

A 12-minute video clip posted on YouTube with the same title as the manifesto featured symbolic imagery of the Knights Templar and crusader kings as well as slides suggesting Europe is being overrun by Muslims.

Police could not confirm whether Breivik posted the video, which also featured photographs of him dressed in a formal military uniform and in a wet suit pointing an assault rifle.

The video contained a series of slides that accused left-wing politicians in Europe of allowing Muslims to overrun the continent. One image showed the BBC’s logo with the “C” changed into an Islamic crescent. Another referenced the former Soviet Union, declaring that the end result of the left’s actions would be an “EUSSR.”

In London, the leader of Ramadhan Foundation, one of Britain’s largest Muslim groups, said mosques are being extra vigilant in the wake of the attacks. Mohammed Shafiq told The AP he was talking to European Muslim leaders and British police about the need to increase security.

The last 100 pages of the manifesto apparently lay out details of Breivik’s social and personal life, including his steroid use and an intention to solicit prostitutes in the days before the attack.

Also Sunday, police carried out raids in an Oslo neighborhood seeking explosives. Police spokesman Henning Holtaas said no explosives were found and no one was arrested.

Police said the bomb used in the Oslo blast was a mixture of fertilizer and fuel similar to what home-grown U.S. terrorists used to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

A farm supply store said Saturday they had alerted police that Breivik bought six metric tons of fertilizer, a popular terrorist component for car bombs.

Amir Khan, A Son of Pakistan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Amir Khan is a British boxer. Let’s first get that straight. He represented Britain in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece where he was the only British boxer in the contingent. In those Olympics, the British flag was raised and a medal counted towards their overall tally due to Amir’s performance. At the age of 17, he brought home the silver in his lightweight boxing class and became the youngest British boxer to represent the United Kingdom since Colin Jones in 1976.

Since then, an impressive professional career has blossomed to where presently Khan is the current WBA Super Lightweight champion of the world. He has a record of 26 wins and only one loss with 17 of those wins coming by way of a knockout. That sole loss to Briedis Prescott, where Khan was knocked out in the first round, is the only blemish in his otherwise stellar career. Since that bout in 2008 against Prescott, Khan has gone on to defeat such notable fighters as Marcos Antonio Barrera, Marcos Maidana and Paul McCloskey. Today he is considered one of the best pound for pound British fighters in the world.

Standing in his way to even bigger fame and glory was tonight’s fight against Zab Judah, the IBF light welterweight champion of the world and a fighter who had won five world titles in different weight classes. The fight was thought to be very interesting as Judah is considered a very experienced fighter and someone who was capable of knocking out the lightening quick Khan. The winner of tonight’s fight also would go on to unify the Light Welterweight titles as he would be the IBF and WBA Light Welterweight champion of the world.

In the boxing circles there was also a lot of talk of a potential fight in the near future with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. prior to Kans’s fight against Judah. Mayweather is considered as one of the best boxers in history due to his impressive undefeated fighting record of 41 wins and 0 losses. In an interesting note, Amir Khan is trained by Freddie Roach who also happens to be the trainer for Manny Pacquiao, the seven division world champion and also arguably one of the best fighters of all time. Pacquiao is the only boxer that Mayweather has refused to fight due to one reason or another. A fight that boxing fans around the world have been salivating at for several years now. A potential fight between Khan and Mayweather will need to suffice the fight fans until and if the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight ever materializes. Therefore saying that the ramifications of tonight’s fight are big would be an understatement in the boxing community.

As for me, my love for boxing must have started at an early age when I learned that my father, on a training trip to the United States, met and had a lengthy meeting with the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. At that time my dad had gone to America in the 70’s on a training course on behalf of his company. While staying at the Hilton hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, he ran into the world heavyweight champion Ali in the lobby where a crowd was hounding the champion.

Instantly recognizing Ali, who surely must be one of the most famous people the world has ever known, my dad reached out to shake his hand and at the same time uttered “Asalaam-alikum” to Ali. Grabbing my father’s hand, Ali replied with “Walikum Asalaam” and asked where my father was from, to which he replied Pakistan.

Intrigued with meeting a Muslim from the East as he later stated to my father, Ali invited him to his penthouse suite where my dad proceeded to spend close to two hours with Ali and his entourage during which time the champ asked him many questions about Pakistan and Islam. In particular, he was interested in how the religion was practiced as compared to the way practiced by the Muslims of the Nation of Islam in America, an organization that Ali was influenced by.

Having heard numerous accounts of his story growing up along with seeing countless pictures of my dad and Ali during their encounter so many years ago, not only endeared me to the champ but also to the sport of boxing. Since then I have always followed boxing and seen many great fights and boxers. But for the first time, my interests in boxing along with many people of Pakistani origins has piqued further by the arrival on the world stage of Amir Khan.

Although he is known as the pride of Bolton in England where he was born, his Pakistani origins are never far away as they are a big part of his life and spirituality since his family hails from Kahuta in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Kahuta which was previously famous for being the site of Pakistan’s main nuclear facility is now also known as the area of Pakistan where Amir’s family originates.

This nation of Pakistan has in the last few years perhaps become synonymous with terrorism, instability, bombings, religious intolerance and extremism. But for one night, the Pakistani people can raise their head with pride and claim Amir as one of their own. He is a product of their soil who is making the country proud during a difficult time in their history. It is also a credit to his native England that promoted an environment for him to train and succeed. There is no limit to the amount of other talent in Pakistan that would have a chance to succeed if only there were such facilities and opportunities in Pakistan or even stability and security that was provided to Khan in England.

There is no doubt that to many people both inside and outside the nation of his forefathers, Amir Khan represents the best of every Pakistani. To these people. whether they are Pakistani Canadians in Toronto, or a youth in the inner streets of Birmingham, UK or a Pakistani American eating paan on Devon St in Chicago, Amir Khan is one of their own.

As he fought and defeated Judah in Las Vegas Saturday night, Amir Khan looked up and saw the thousands of British fans in attendance who had traveled from the UK and were proudly waiving the Union Jack. Deep inside, he must have known that many more millions in Pakistan and across the world were praying and hoping for even greater future success for him as the hopes and dreams of an entire nation are squarely on his able shoulders.

-Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Amir Khan Can’t Get Floyd Mayweather Out Of His Head

By David Anderson for The Daily Mirror

HE may have taken a couple of wrong turn here and there, but Amir Khan insists he is on track for a 2012 showdown with Floyd Mayweather Junior. Just as Ricky Hatton became obsessed with Pretty Boy, so Khan can’t get him out of his head.

Freddie Roach may have floated the idea of a possible clash between Khan and his pal and gym-mate Manny Pacquiao, but Mayweather is the one he wants.

Khan’s plan was to unify the light-welterweight division against Timothy Bradley in his July 23 date before stepping up to face Mayweather at welterweight next year.

His plan took a hit when Bradley refused to honour their agreement to meet and instead the Bolton fighter will take on IBF champ Zab Judah at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay.

Khan says fighting Judah is not too much of a detour from his path towards Mayweather and reckons they could still meet next year.

His new plan is to beat Judah, have one more fight in the autumn before taking on the winner of Mayweather v WBC welterweight champ Victor Ortiz in 2012.

Khan is convinced Mayweather will beat Ortiz on September 17 in what will be his first fight for nearly 18 months and then their paths will finally meet.

“I’m hoping to get Zab Judah out of the way and look good against him, then get one more fight at the end of the year,” Khan said. “Then I’d like to fight the winner of Ortiz-Mayweather, maybe next year.”

Khan could get his wish and Mayweather is currently with his US promoter Golden Boy, which removes one massive hurdle from the negotiations.

As ever with Mayweather, it all comes down to money and if he feels he would get enough from fighting Khan, he will take on the Athens silver medallist.

Khan will have to get in line, though, and there is the small matter of Mayweather v Pacquaio which is still unresolved.

Some of the bitterness between the two camps has gone and that megafight is looking more likely than it has done for 18 months. Khan may have to wait his turn and Pacquiao would love a showdown with Pretty Boy to be his swansong.

Khan can wait and as we keep having to remind ourselves, he’s still only 24.

He’s still developing under Roach’s tutelage at the Wild Card gym and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he had time to improve even more before facing Mayweather.

Khan Enjoys Early Finish

From Sky Sports

Amir Khan retained his WBA light-welterweight title after a controversial technical points decision over Paul McCloskey in Manchester.

The bout was halted during the sixth round after the challenger was deemed unable to continue due to a cut caused by a clash of heads. Khan was a unanimous victor on the scorecards, with all three judges awarding him a comfortable 60-54 win.

McCloskey’s awkward southpaw style meant the champion did not have it all his own way but there was no doubt who was on top at the time of the fight’s premature end.

But after the contest there was protestations from the McCloskey camp that the cut was not bad enough to warrant the stoppage.

The opening stages of the contest were tentative, with Khan looking to come forward but finding his fast hands matched by the reflexes of the previously unbeaten McCloskey.

Khan looked to be more settled in the second as he landed in bunches, but McCloskey stood firm and landed a left of his own at the end of the round. The challenger even had Khan on the back foot at times and caught him with another winging left hand in the third.

Khan began to fire again in the fourth, landing a sharp right and crisp left before attacking with hooks in the early stages of the fifth. McCloskey’s defences seemed to be weakening in the sixth as Khan landed an impressive flurry but the fight was soon over.

After an accidental clash of heads, referee Luis Pabon called for the doctor, who advised the official to bring an end to the bout.

On the undercard, Leicester binman Rendell Munroe made a winning return to action after his unsuccessful world title challenge by claiming a unanimous points win over Andrei Isaeu.

Craig Watson lost his British welterweight title to Lee Purdy the later claimed a fifth-round stoppage win in their contest.

Islamophobia and Radicalization

By James Zogby for Counter Punch

Let me state quite directly: Islamophobia and those who promote it are a greater threat to the United States than Anwar Al-Awlaqi and his rag-tag team of terrorists.

On one level, Al-Awlaqi, from his cave hide out in Yemen, can only prey off alienation where it exists. Adopting the persona of a latter-day Malcolm X (though he seems not to have read the last chapters of the “Autobiography” or learned the lessons of Malcolm’s ultimate conversion), he appears street-smart, brash, self- assured and assertive — all of the assets needed to attract lost or wounded souls looking for certainty and an outlet for their rage. Like some parasites, Al-Awlaqi cannot create his own prey. He must wait for others to create his opportunities, which until now have been isolated and limited: a disturbed young man here, an increasingly deranged soldier there.

Islamophobia, on the other hand, if left unchecked, may serve to erect barriers to Muslim inclusion in America, increasing alienation, especially among young Muslims. Not only would such a situation do grave damage to one of the fundamental cornerstones of America’s unique democracy, it would simultaneously and rapidly expand the pool of recruits for future radicalisation.

I have often remarked that America is different, in concept and reality, from our European allies. Third generation Kurds in Germany, Pakistanis in the UK, or Algerians in France, for example, may succeed and obtain citizenship, but they do not become German, British or French. Last year, I debated a German government official on this issue. She kept referring to “migrants” — a term she used to describe all those of Turkish descent living in her country — regardless of the number of generations they had been there. Similarly, following their last election, a leading British newspaper commented on the “number of immigrants” who won seats, without noting that many of those “immigrants” were third generation citizens.

America has prided itself on being different. Being “American” is not the possession of a single ethnic group, nor does any group define “America”. Not only do new immigrants become citizens, they also secure a new identity. More than that, as new groups become American and are transformed, the idea of “America” itself has also changed to embrace these new cultures.

Within a generation, diverse ethnic and religious groups from every corner or the globe have become Americans, dramatically changing America in the process. Problems remain and intolerant bigots, in every age, have reared up against new groups, but history demonstrates that, in the end, the newcomers have been accepted, incorporated and absorbed into the American mainstream.

This defines not only our national experience, but our defining narrative as well. When immigrant school children in Europe learn French, German or British history, they are learning their host’s history. In the US, from the outset, we are taught that this is “our new story” — that it includes all of us, and has included us all, from the beginning.

It is because new immigrants and diverse ethnic and religious communities have found their place and acceptance in the American mainstream that the country, during the last century, survived and prospered despite being sorely tested with world wars, economic upheaval and bouts with internal strife. During this time we had to contend with anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, and anti-Japanese movements. In the end, after creating their moment of pain, these efforts have always lost.

They lose, but they don’t always go away. The Islamophobia we are witnessing today is the latest campaign by bigots to tear apart the very fabric of America. We know the groups promoting it. First, there is the well-funded “cottage industry”, on the right, of groups and individuals with a long history of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim activity. Some of the individuals associated with these efforts have been given legitimacy as commentators on “terrorism”, “radicalisation” or “national security concerns”, despite their obvious bias and even obsession with all things Arab or Muslim (in this, they remind me of good old-fashioned anti-Semites who never tired of warning of Jewish threats or conspiracies or who while always claiming to like individual Jews rallied against any and all Jewish organisations).

If these “professional bigots” have provided the grist, the mill itself was run by the vast network of right-wing talk radio and TV shows and websites, and prominent preachers who have combined to amplify the anti-Muslim message nationwide. Their efforts have done real damage. They have tormented decent public servants, created protests that have shuttered legitimate institutions, fomented hate crimes, and produced fear in the Muslim community.

In just the past two years, we have seen a dramatic upsurge in the activity of these bigots. More ominously, their cause has been embraced by national political leaders and by elements in the Republican Party, who appear to have decided, in 2010, to use “fear of Islam” as a base-building theme and a wedge issue against Democrats for electoral advantage.

In the past, only obscure or outrageous members of congress (like North Carolina’s Sue Myrick who expressed nervousness and insecurity because of “who was owning all those 7/11′s”; or Colorado’s Tom Tancredo who once warned that he “would bomb Mecca”) were outspoken Islamophobes. After the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee embraced opposition to Park 51 as a campaign theme, it is hard to find a leading Republican who has not railed on some issue involving Islam or Muslims in the US.

The net impact here is that this current wave of Islamophobia has both played to the Republican base while firming up that base around this agenda. The polling numbers are striking and deeply disturbing. Some 54 per cent of Democrats have a favourable attitude towards Muslims, while 34 per cent do not. Among Republicans, on the other hand, only 12 per cent hold a favourable view of Muslims, with 85 per cent saying they have unfavourable views. Additionally, 74 per cent of Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate” and 60 per cent believe that “Muslims tend to be religious fanatics”.

The danger here is that to the degree that this issue has become a partisan — and in some cases a proven vote getter — issue for the Republican Party, it will not go away any time soon. The longer we are plagued by this bigotry, and the displays of intolerance it breeds (the anti-mosque building demonstrations or the anti-Sharia law efforts now spreading across the country) the longer young Muslims will feel that the “promise of America” does not include them, and they will feel like aliens in their own country.

It is this concern that has prompted many inter-faith religious groups and leaders and a diverse coalition of ethnic and civil rights organisations to so vigorously oppose Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings that will deal with the radicalisation of American Muslims later this week. They know, from previous statements made by King, of his personal hostility to American Muslims. They also know that what King is doing will only aggravate an already raw wound, creating greater fear and concern among young Muslims who have already witnessed too much bigotry and intolerance.

What they should also know is that in the process of targeting a religion in this way, and engaging in this most “un-American activity”, King and company are, in fact, opening the door for increased alienation and future radicalisation. Al-Awlaqi must be smiling from inside his cave.

-Dr James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute and is a Roman Catholic of Lebanese descent and brother of prominent American political pollster and founder of Zogby Polls, John Zogby.

In Pakistan, Justifying Murder for Those Who Blaspheme

By Aryn Baker for Time

“I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us,” the doomed man said, staring straight into the video camera. “And I am ready to die for a cause.” Shahbaz Bhatti had no hesitation in his voice as he responded to a question about threats from the Taliban and al-Qaeda. “I’m living for my community … and I will die to defend their rights.” It was his last answer in a four-month-old self-produced video that was to be broadcast in the event of his death. But the radicals had the final say. On March 2, Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, was shot dead in Islamabad. Pamphlets scattered on the ground claimed the act for a new alliance of “the organization of al-Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban” and asserted that other infidels and apostates would meet the same fate.

Bhatti’s death had been foretold not just by himself but also in the nation’s response to a previous assassination, that of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer on Jan. 4. Taseer, a self-made millionaire, had turned his largely ceremonial post into a platform for a campaign to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Bhatti, the only Christian in the Cabinet, refused to be a token and swore to battle intolerance. Both men supported clemency for Aasia Noreen, a Christian woman who had been accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Taseer’s stance on the issue infuriated a large part of the population that, thanks to religious leaders and school curriculums, believes that blasphemy is a sin deserving of execution. In the weeks leading up to his assassination, Taseer had been denounced at Friday prayers, excoriated in the media and largely abandoned by his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for fears that his campaign would prove politically toxic. The witch hunt culminated in a bodyguard’s pumping 27 rounds into his head and chest in the parking lot of a popular Islamabad shopping center.

Within hours of Taseer’s death, telephone text messages celebrating his assassination made the rounds. “Justice has been done,” read one. “If you love the Prophet, pass this on.” A Facebook fan page for assassin Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri garnered more than 2,000 members before site administrators shut it down. Even the leaders of state-funded mosques refused to say funeral prayers for the slain governor. When Qadri was transferred to a local jail, he was garlanded with roses by hundreds of lawyers — the vanguard of a movement that in 2008 helped unseat a military dictator — offering to take on his case for free.

At his court appearance a few days later, Qadri told the judge that he believed in a Pakistan where loyalty to the Prophet eclipses all other rights. According to Taseer’s daughter Shehrbano, her father “wanted an egalitarian society where open debate is protected and people are not killed for speaking out.” And Bhatti dreamed of a nation true to founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision, one where “you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship.” Which vision prevails — Qadri’s or Taseer and Bhatti’s — will decide the future of the country.

The Roots of Extremism

 
It is not news that Pakistan has a lunatic fringe. What is disturbing is that after Taseer’s murder, when the silent majority finally spoke up, it praised Qadri, not his victim. The public reaction exploded the myth of Pakistan’s moderate Islam; Qadri belongs to a mainstream sect that routinely condemns the Taliban. “The Pakistan we saw in the wake of Taseer’s killing is the real Pakistan,” says Amir Muhammad Rana of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies. For the past two years, Rana’s organization has conducted in-depth interviews with a broad spectrum of Pakistani citizens. “They might dress Western and eat at McDonald’s, but when it comes to religion, most Pakistanis have a very conservative mind-set.”

Pakistan’s religious parties rarely do well at the polls — a fact often cited by those countering concerns that the country is going fundamentalist — but their street power is considerable. The furor over blasphemy appears to be partly in response to significant losses for the religious right in the 2008 elections. With the current government on the verge of collapse and popular sentiment against the PPP mounting, the religious parties are betting on significant gains if fresh elections are called. The case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor accused of killing two Pakistanis during what appears to have been a botched attempt to rob him, demonstrates the state of Pakistan’s politics. It has gone virtually unremarked in Pakistan that Qadri, a confessed murderer, has been hailed as a national hero, while Davis — who, whatever his background, seems to have been acting in self-defense — is considered worthy of the death penalty. Over the past few weeks, street rallies led by the religious right have simultaneously called for the release of Qadri and the hanging of Davis. (Read: “Pakistan’s Christians Mourn, and Fear for Their Future.”)

Using religion to shore up political support is nothing new in Pakistan. Founded as a Muslim nation carved from a newly independent India in 1947, Pakistan has long struggled to unite a diverse population divided by language, culture and ethnicity. Islam was the common denominator, but Jinnah was famously enigmatic about its role in government.

Then, in 1977, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, an Islamist military general, overthrew the democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was already retrenching his secular vision of Pakistan in an effort to win religious support. To further appease Muslim religious leaders, Zia-ul-Haq strengthened the colonial-era blasphemy laws, mandating that breaches should be answered by the death penalty. Since then, more than 1,274 cases have been lodged. As repeating blasphemous words could be considered to be perpetuating the crime, many cases are accepted without evidence, a system well primed for the pursuit of vendettas. That nobody has yet been executed by court order is hardly reassuring: 37 of the accused have been killed by vigilantes. (In 1929, Jinnah famously defended an illiterate carpenter who shot to death a Hindu publisher accused of blasphemy. The plea failed, and after the carpenter was hanged, Taseer’s father was one of the pallbearers.)

The Uses of Blasphemy
When a nation rises up in support of a murderer instead of his victim, it’s hard not to believe it is heading down a dangerous path. “What is happening now won’t matter in five years,” says Shehrbano Taseer. “It will matter in 25 years. What we are seeing now is the fruit of what happened 30 years ago. If people had stood up against [Zia-ul-Haq], we would not be here today. Because of that silence we have madrasahs spewing venom, a true Islam threatened by the same people who claim to serve it, and a cowed majority too afraid to speak.”

President Asif Ali Zardari, an old friend of Taseer’s, condemned the murders but didn’t go to either funeral. After paying his respects to Taseer’s family, Interior Minister Rehman Malik gave an impromptu press conference outside Taseer’s house during which he announced that he too would kill any blasphemer “with his own hands.” A few days later, the Prime Minister announced that he would drop the issue of the blasphemy laws altogether. Meanwhile, the government is under pressure to go through with Aasia’s sentence, and now her two champions are dead.

Reaction to Bhatti’s murder has been muted, characterized mostly by denial. What little newspaper coverage there was focused on security lapses or the role of the country’s Christian community rather than on the motives of the killer. On television talk shows, members of the religious parties and right-wing commentators spun a conspiracy theory that alleged that Bhatti’s murder had been “a plot” hatched by “outside forces” to “divert attention from the Raymond Davis affair.” There was no mention of the fact that Bhatti was campaigning alongside Taseer on the issue of blasphemy.

The PPP was founded in 1967 with the goal of bringing secular democracy to a nation under military rule. It vowed to give power to the people and promised to protect the nation’s downtrodden. That Pakistan’s most progressive party — one that has already endured the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto — should cave in the face of religious fundamentalism speaks volumes about the strength of the religious right. A candlelight vigil promoting a progressive Pakistan a few days after Taseer’s assassination drew nearly 1,000 supporters; a religious rally in Karachi the same day had 40,000 in the street chanting Qadri’s name. “Taseer’s murderer was tried in the court of public opinion, and he has emerged a hero,” says a woman shopping for vegetables in the same market where the governor was killed. “If someone kills me because I criticize Qadri, will he too be called a hero?” She declined to give her name. (Read: “Murder in Islamabad: Pakistan’s Deepening Religious Divide.”)

Of course, few Pakistanis would ever go as far as Taseer’s or Bhatti’s killers. But their ambivalence can easily be manipulated. “Just because we are religious does not mean we will all be reaching for guns the next time someone says something wrong,” says Malik Khan, a university student who spent a recent afternoon at a shrine in Lahore dedicated to a revered Islamic saint. “But Salmaan Taseer was an extremist as well. He should not have touched the blasphemy law.” Khan received a text message praising Qadri and exhorting him to pass it along. It posed a moral quandary: “I don’t agree with the message,” he says. “But I love the Prophet. My thumb hesitated a long time over the delete button.” In the end, he passed the hate along.

Qadri himself was the religious-minded youngest son of a family just stepping into the middle class. Like his brother, he joined the special-forces branch of the Punjab police in 2002. He had been flagged as a security risk because of his strong religious leanings but was nevertheless appointed to Taseer’s security detail when he visited Islamabad. In his confession, Qadri said he had been inspired by the teachings of his local mullah, Hanif Qureshi. At a rally a few days later, Qureshi claimed credit for motivating Qadri. “He would come to my Friday prayers and listen to my sermons,” he said. Then he repeated his point: “The punishment for a blasphemer is death.”

But is it? Two weeks after Taseer’s murder, I visited Qari Muhammad Zawar Bahadur, the head of one of Pakistan’s mainstream religious groups and a co-signer of a statement that advised Muslims not to show “grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy.” For more than an hour, he justified his group’s stance, telling me that the Koran was clear on the issue. I asked Bahadur to show me the exact verse that detailed the punishments for blasphemy. He mumbled that “there are several passages,” as if there were so many, he couldn’t decide which one to quote. When pressed further, he consulted a Koran and read aloud a passage that spoke of killing a man who had once harmed the Prophet.

That verse has routinely been dismissed by leading Islamic scholars as referring to a specific case and having nothing to do with blasphemy. They say there is no definition of blasphemy in the Koran, nor any prescription for its punishment. “Nobody challenges these mullahs, and that is our problem,” says Omar Fazal Jamil, who runs a p.r. firm in Lahore. “We can’t invoke liberal secular values anymore. I have to have the knowledge to contradict these men who distort our religion for their own political gain. I have to be able to say, ‘No, this did not happen, this is not right, and show me where it says in the Koran that blasphemers should be shot on sight.’ ”

The Sin of Silence
In the absence of such challenges, those favoring religious intolerance will continue to have things go their way. In late 2007, Benazir Bhutto released an updated manifesto for her father’s party. “The statutes that discriminate against religious minorities and are sources of communal disharmony will be reviewed,” it said. Less than a month later she was dead, killed in a bomb attack just 13 km from where both Taseer and Bhatti were murdered. Her death was an opportunity to rally the nation against the forces of extremism. Instead the party focused on consolidating power. The manifesto remains an empty promise, and two more voices of tolerance have been silenced. For evil to prevail, goes the old aphorism, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.

With reporting by Ershad Mahmud / Lahore and Omar Waraich / Rawalpindi

The Myth of ‘Moderate Pakistan’

By Sadanand Dhume for The Wall Street Journal

It’s time to bury the myth of moderate Pakistan. You know the one: the notion, repeated ad nauseam in magazine articles, think-tank reports and congressional testimony—as though saying it often enough will make it true—that Pakistan is an essentially tolerant country threatened by a rising tide of fundamentalism. Here’s a news flash: The tide has risen.

The most recent reminder of this came last Wednesday in Islamabad, when suspected Taliban militants shot dead Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s 42-year-old minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation’s cabinet. His crime? Supporting the repeal of a barbaric blasphemy law that makes insulting the prophet Muhammad punishable by death.

The law is often used to settle scores with hapless religious minorities, especially Christians such as Asia Bibi, an illiterate peasant sentenced to hang last year after she allegedly badmouthed the prophet during a row with Muslim coworkers. Bhatti’s assassination comes two months after a bodyguard murdered Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer for visiting Ms. Bibi in jail and speaking out against abuse of the law.

To be fair, Pakistan’s claim to relative moderation has been kept alive thus far by more than just wishful thinking. Overtly Islamist parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami have rarely commanded more than a fraction of the national vote. Women enjoy freedoms in the public square that their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Iran could only dream of. At great personal risk, a small but courageous group of activists, intellectuals and politicians speak out publicly against bigotry and religious intolerance.

Scratch the surface, however, and a bleaker picture emerges. Islamist parties may not garner large-scale electoral support, but Islamist ideas are widely tolerated by mainstream political parties. The major opposition party, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League, flaunts its closeness to sundry Islamists, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent organization of the international terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Ostensibly secular, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party supported both Kashmiri militancy and the Afghan Taliban in the past. In its current incarnation it appears permanently cowed by the country’s legion of vocal fundamentalists. President Asif Ali Zardari failed to attend the funerals of either Taseer or Bhatti. His government has made it clear that it will not touch the controversial blasphemy law. Interior Minister Rehman Malik declared that he would personally kill anyone who dared blaspheme Muhammad’s name.

As for Pakistan’s undeniably brave activists and intellectuals, unfortunately they appear to have more admirers overseas than among their compatriots. Hand-wringing in the pages of Dawn and the Friday Times, two of the country’s leading English-language newspapers, has not prevented Mumtaz Qadri, Taseer’s murderer, from becoming a national hero.

Not surprisingly, anti-American sentiment—often a reliable shorthand for a society’s paranoia and self-loathing—is rampant. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, American favorability ratings stood at 17% last year, the lowest of all countries surveyed. On the streets, bloodcurdling yells for the execution of alleged Central Intelligence Agency operative Raymond Davis, accused of killing two Pakistanis in January, have prevented the government from granting Mr. Davis the diplomatic immunity that the U.S. claims he is entitled to. This despite personal pleas by President Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry.

By now the reasons for Pakistan’s predicament are well known. They include the intolerance embedded in the nation’s founding idea of a separate “land of the pure” for Indian Muslims, the malign shadow of Saudi Arabia on religious life, blowback from the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, and the overwhelming influence that the army and its thuggish intelligence wing, the Inter-Services Intelligence, wield on national life. The army’s very motto, Jihad-fi-Sabilillah, or jihad in the path of Allah, is an exhortation to holy war.

For the international community, the long road to fixing Pakistan begins with the simple recognition that the country’s true face is not the urbane intellectual making reasoned arguments, but the frenzied mob showering rose petals on a murderer for his services to the faith. Over time, Pakistan can only be saved by re- arranging the basic building blocks of the country.

This means backing provincial autonomy and linguistic identity as an alternative to the centralized pan-Islamism used by the military and its supporters to weld the country together. It means deploying social networks and satellite television to open the door to reasonable discourse about religion. It means channeling aid to ensure that children are no longer taught to glorify Islamic conquest and reflexively mistrust the West and India. It means accepting that the most poisonous madrassas—such as Jamia Binoria in Karachi and Darul Uloom Haqqania outside Peshawar—must be shuttered if they can’t be reformed.

Needless to say, none of this will be easy. But the consequences of the alternative—pandering to fundamentalists while blaming outsiders for all the country’s ills—can be seen in the freshly turned soil of Bhatti’s grave.

-Sadanand Dhume is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist for WSJ.com.

Why Noor Inayat Khan, the Indian Princess and Decorated British Spy Who Was Shot By The Nazis, Deserves A Statue

by Gurinder Chadha and Shrabani Basu, Daily Mirror

On September 13, 1944, a beautiful Indian princess lay dead on the floor at Dachau concentration camp. She had been brutally tortured by the Nazis then shot in the head. Her name was Noor Inayat Khan. The Germans knew her only as Nora Baker, a British spy.

The first female radio operator to infiltrate occupied Paris, she was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and the George Cross – one of only three women from the Special Operations Executive to receive the latter medal.

But while Odette Hallowes and Violette Szabo have had Hollywood films made of their lives and blue plaques put up in their honour, Noor has been largely overlooked.

The gentle Indian woman who sacrificed her life for Britain, has become a footnote in history. A memorial to her has long been overdue.

And when a bust of Noor goes up in London’s Gordon Square in 2012, it will be the first statue to an Indian woman in Britain – and the first to any Muslim.

Given the contribution of Asian women in this country to arts, music, literature, law, human rights and education, it is a gap that is crying to out be filled.

Noor’s journey from her birthplace in Moscow to London was in many ways part of her exotic upbringing.

A descendant of Tipu Sultan – the famous 18th century ruler of South India, known as the Tiger of Mysore – she was brought up a fierce nationalist by her father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi preacher and musician.

Inayat Khan left his hometown of Baroda in western India to take Sufism to the West. Deeply spiritual, he gave concerts and lecture tours in America where he met Noor’s mother, Ora Ray Baker. Soon the two moved to London where they were married, Ora taking the name of Ameena Begum.

In 1914, Inayat Khan was invited to Moscow and it was there that Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan was born. She had the title of Pirzadi, daughter of the Pir.

Moscow at the time was rife with political discontent and Inayat Khan soon moved back to London. The family spent the next six years in a house on Gordon Square.

But the British government was suspicious of Inayat Khan, who was a friend of Nehru and Gandhi and a strong nationalist, so the family went to France. They began life again on the outskirts of Paris in a house called Fazal Manzil or House of Blessing. It was here Noor spent most of her life.

Educated and genteel, she went to the Sorbonne to study child psychology.

She started writing stories for children and in 1939 her first book, Twenty Jataka Tales, was published. But war clouds were gathering. And as England declared war on Germany, Noor and her brother Vilayat decided it was a crime to stand by and watch, even though as Sufis they believed in non-violence.

They went to London to be a part of the war effort. In November 1940, Noor volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Officers of the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s secret army, were looking for people with language skills. Noor – fluent in French and now a trained wireless operator – fitted the bill. At an interview, she was told she would be sent as an agent to Paris – and shot if she was caught. She took the job.

Over the next few months, the gentle harp-playing Noor was trained as a secret agent, given arms training, taught to shoot and kill, and finally flown to Paris under the code name of Madeleine, carrying only a false passport, a clutch of French francs and a pistol. Despite her spy network collapsing around her, Noor stayed in France for three months, until she was betrayed. What followed in October 1943 was arrest, imprisonment in chains, torture and interrogation.

Noor bore it all. She revealed nothing to her captors, not even her real name. When the end came on September 13, 1944, it was not swift or painless.

All night long an SS officer kicked and tortured Noor. Defiant till the last, she shouted “Liberte” as she went down to a bullet fired at the back of her head. Then Britain gradually forgot about her brave sacrifice. Bringing Noor back to Gordon Square, near the house from where she left on her last mission, will be a worthy gesture by her adopted country.

Gurinder Chadha has directed Bend It Like Beckham, and Bhaji on the Beach. Shrabani Basu, author of Spy Princess, The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, is founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust. Contribute at www.noormemorial.org, or email noor.memorial@gmail.com.

U.S. Companies Urged to Tap Into $170 Billion Muslim Consumer Market

By Brittany Hutson for The Atlanta Post

U.S. companies are loosing out by neglecting a rather attractive and overlooked consumer: American Muslims.

There is an estimate number of six to eight million Muslims in this country that possess an annual spending power between $170 and $200 billion. It is believed that two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000. Miles Young, chief executive officer of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, an international advertising, marketing and public relations agency, said in a speech at this past December’s second annual American Muslim Consumer Conference that Muslims are the best-educated religious group in America and over 40% have bachelors’ degrees. Clearly, this is a consumer that companies cannot afford to not attract.

According to the Associated Press, corporations in Europe have long been catering to Muslim communities there. Nestle has about 20 factories with halal-certified production lines and advertises to Western Muslims through its marketing campaign called “Taste of Home.”

So why is it that companies in Europe have been able to successfully attract and retain the interest of their Muslim consumers?

Part of it has to do with Muslims in Europe having lived there for multiple generations, said Ponn Sabra, founder and owner of the online blog community for American Muslim Moms, AmericanMuslimMom.com.  Also, “European Muslims are extremely strong in faith, very vocal, [and] much more confident in their practice of our faith than the majority of Muslims living in America.”

It also helps that Muslims in Europe are not stereotyped like Muslims in America, added Sabra. It’s only been recent that businesses in the U.S. have started to tap into the Muslim consumer market. McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have entered the halal arena and last August, Whole Foods began selling its first nationally distributed halal food product—frozen Indian entrees called Saffron Road. But because there is still intensified anti-Muslim feeling throughout the country, this is causing companies to worry that they will be attacked for going after this consumer.

But Muslims do not necessarily want companies to be their advocates against opposition, more so as they would appreciate that companies get to understand their values. Mohammed Abdullah, director of the 2009 Conference, said in a press release, “Muslims want to be acknowledged in mainstream media. You don’t need to change your product of show Muslims in your ads. Instead, consider advertising in a Muslim media outlet. Say Eid Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem during the holidays. The Muslim community will respond. When we see an ad we like we send it to our friends and share it with each other,” he said.

Of course, the worldwide market for Islamically permitted goods, also known as halal, is the best option for companies interested in attracting the American Muslim. The industry includes foods and seasoning that omit alcohol, pork products, cosmetics, finance and clothing. According to Young, the global halal market is worth $2.1 trillion dollars and it is growing at $500 billion dollars a year.

Muslims as entrepreneurs shouldn’t be underestimated either. For example, Tariq Farid developed and launched one of today’s successful and international companies in the floral industry that many know and love as Edible Arrangements.

“The American Muslim Consumer is extremely loyal, wealthy, educated and well-connected on and offline,” said Sabra. “Companies who jump at the opportunity have the potential for life-long happy customers who willfully recommend their products and services.”

Thou Shalt not Mock or It May Cost You Your Life!

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

In the wake of the murder of Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab a couple weeks back, I did a great deal of contemplation about the situation in Pakistan and the current state of affairs of Pakistan and indeed in much of the Muslim world.

The current situation, especially in Pakistan and when it concerns the rights of the non-Muslims, is apparently the worst of anywhere in the Muslim world. Indeed, the plight of Asia Bibi, (also known as Aasia, Ayesa Noreen) Islam and Islamic Blasphemy laws have come under rightful scrutiny as of late.

One question that tugs at the heart of the debate for me is why is it that Muslims seem to get so very offended to the point they want to KILL you over a remark or something that comes out of your mouth? As Americans, we wonder to ourselves, “Haven’t they ever heard of sticks and stones may break my bones, but words don’t hurt me?!

Sadly, what the fundamentalist preachers at all the podiums of their Friday sermon or khutbah, nor any of their brethren on the run and in caves like the Taliban and Al Qaeda fail to realize that we are all God’s children. And God, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, or whatever name you assign him, he is One and the same God of all religions. He is too big to fit into just one religion, concept, version or story of him.

And we all are his creations. Not one of us is superior over the other in his eyes and he judges us all equally. To him, the children of these three religions and its offspring’s are all related to each other. Adam being the first man, then Eve, and then all the Biblical figures and names such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, yes especially Jesus. He is their Messiah too!

Jesus, in fact is mentioned some 28 times in the Muslim holy book, Qu’ran whereas their own prophet Muhammad is mentioned only 4 times. And the fact that Jesus is also considered by Muslims to be the Messiah, it is sad that his followers should get such abject treatment in Pakistan and sadly, many Muslim countries.

If only the bad guys realized the connections between Christians and Jesus only then would a Pakistani Christian woman, suffering needlessly in a cell tonight going on 2 years away from her children in solitude, and constantly fearful for her life, would see her horrific ordeal come to an end.

These people are incapable of understanding basic rights, freedoms and even the unhindered concept of free will. No, they are primitive minded in their their spiritual and daily lives. They fail to see that a Christian’s God and a Muslim’s God are the one and the same. And he never would agree to laws like Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws at all. Why? Well because the Muslim God is known first and foremost as a Gracious, Merciful, Compassionate God.

In fact, the Arabic phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim is a beautifully poetic phrase which offers both deep insight and brilliant inspiration to the average Muslim who says it countless times as he or she starts each day and till they rest their head to sleep. “ It has often been said that the phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim contains the true essence of the entire Qur’an, as well as the true essence of all religions. Muslims often say this phrase when embarking on any significant endeavor and the phrase is considered by some to be a major pillar of Islam. This expression is so magnificent and so concise that all except one chapter of the Qur’an begins with the words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim.”

The common translation:”In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate” essentially is saying that God is compassionate, and full of grace. So how would this God punish Asia Bibi? What would he do if he is so full of compassion and mercy? Would he even punish her? And if he is such a gracious and a compassionate God, then wouldn’t he feel that nearly a two year jail sentence in solitary is already far more than her crime not to mention being away from husband and children and being worried about mob vengeance on her or the death penalty?

That God may act in a multitude of ways and we cannot ever know till said Judgment Day. That is what Judgment Day is all about after all. In fact, this is probably one day when the man upstairs works overtime judging all of us mankind, from the beginning with Adam to the last standing comes till Tribulation and the End of Days. It is only he, the Creator who will do the judging and this is something that the men with the loudspeakers who climb to the top of the minaret five times a day to call the faithful to prayers, just do not really understand, in my opinion. They apparently constantly seem to forget and pass judgment from the pulpit and this in turn helps set the “popular” opinion amongst the ultra-religious faithful of Pakistan’s society.

My only prayer to this Creator is that may he keep Asia Bibi safe tonight and continue to give her strength. And if God should call her home and have her die a death at the hands of the real savages those that not only kill but shockingly, in your name, then please Allah grant her heaven just as you should governor Salmaan Taseer, a man who was only defending the rights of all your children, including those of other faiths. He was being compassionate and gracious towards a fellow human being God, as he was only trying to emulate his creator, You Lord. Ameen.

And while you are at it Lord, will you also please let the imam at the microphone know that “Thou shall not mock, should not cost you your life.” Afterall, “Thou shall not kill is one of your top 10 commandments, whereas mocking prophets or religious figures does not make the list!

Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is a Sufi Muslim who is also the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites such as www.DigitalJournal.com, www.Allvoices.com, www.Examiner.com and www.open.salon.com as a freelance journalist and writer. He asks that you like the Official Facebook Page of Pakistanis for Peace to get the latest articles as they publish here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Pakistanis-for-Peace/141071882613054

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