Archive for November 3rd, 2010

India Link in US: Nikki Haley Creates History as First Woman Governor

As Reported by The Hindustan Times

Parents of both Nikki Randhawa Haley, who on Tuesday won the governor’s election in South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal, the other Indian American governor of Lousiana, were born to immigrants from Punjab. Nikki Haley is the first woman and the second person of Indian origin after Bobby Jindal to become governor in the US. Jindal won the top job in Louisiana state in 2007.

While Nikki’s father Ajit Singh came to the US from Amritsar, Bobby Jindal’s (who name before his conversion to Christianity was Piyush Amrit Jindal) father Amar Jindal came from Malerkotla, not far from Amritsar.

Nikki’s victory is another sweet moment for Amritsar because the first Indian American Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, who served three terms (1957-1963) in the US Congress from California, also came from that city, the home of the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s most famous shrine.

Nikki, whose family is running a garment showroom called Exotica International in West Columbia since 1976, has been serving as a legislator in the South Carolina state assembly since 2004.

“I don’t do anything halfway – I’m in this race to win,” Nikki had told IANS in July taking time off her busy campaign for raising money.

“I am confident that come November, the people of South Carolina will send me to the Governor’s Mansion.

“When they (voters) do, I will immediately get to work to give them progress that makes them proud.”

Asked whether her Sikh background will matter in the race, she had said,”What matters most in South Carolina – and I imagine elsewhere in the country – is not the personalities of the candidates but the message they carry.

“Our message of bringing good government back to the people of this state, creating jobs by reforming our tax code so it’s flatter and fairer, and reminding government of the value of a dollar resonates with all the people of this state.

“I am very proud of my background and how I was raised. Just as in 2004 (when her opponents had raised the issue of background) I will hold my head up high and focus on what I can do for the people of this state.”

Nikki beat Democrat Vincent Sheheen who tried to steal her conservative agenda by projecting himself as “pro-life, pro-gun rights and pro-jobs”.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s  Note 11/03/2010We at Pakistanis for Peace want to congratulate Nikki Haley for winning the governorship of South Carolina in a very tough and hard fought race. Both as an American as well as ethnically being a person from the Indian subcontinent aka Desi, we are proud to see her elected to serve as governor, despite disagreeing with her party on many issues.

Her rise as well as that of Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to the top of American politics is a source of pride for all Desis, be they Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, etc. We invite people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds to join our Facebook group at Pakistanis for Peace and strengthen those who support peace between India and Pakistan and around the world. To join, clik  http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37793413510&v=wall

Righteous Among the Nations: Muslims Who Saved Jews from Holocaust

By Tim Townsend for The St. Louis Dispatch

In 2003, Norman Gershman was looking for some of the righteous.

What he found astonished the investment banker-turned-photographer, and led him toward a project now on display in a St. Louis synagogue.

The Righteous Among Nations are gentile rescuers who make up “a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values,” according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum.

They are, the museum says, “the few who helped Jews in the darkest time in their history.”

Gershman’s story begins during the Holocaust and involves Albanian Muslims — villagers, peasants and farmers — who risked their lives and the lives of their families to shelter Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

Italy invaded Albania in 1939 and occupied the country until the overthrow of Benito Mussolini in 1943. Germany then took over the Albanian occupation. Before the war, Gershman estimates from his research, only about 200 Jews lived in Albania, a country that is about 70 percent Muslim.

During the years of occupation, 10 times as many Jews streamed into Albania to escape persecution from Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Italy. Gershman says it was the only country in Europe where the Jewish population grew by the end of the war.

Most of the hidden Jews either fled to Israel or back to their native countries after the war. Albania’s postwar communist regime made it impossible for the Jews who had been hidden to stay in touch with the Albanian Muslims who had provided shelter.

In 2003, New Jersey native Gershman heard hints of the story and began doing research, eventually traveling to Albania to begin interviewing those Muslims who took part and who were still alive. Gershman said it wasn’t just Muslim families who shielded Jews from the Nazis, but also Orthodox and Catholic families.

All of them were motivated by an Albanian code of honor called “besa,” a concept that can be translated into “keeping the promise,” Gershman says. The Albanian villagers were motivated to risk their lives by the simple concept of helping one’s neighbor.

“We chose to focus on the Muslims because, who ever heard of Muslims saving Jews?” Gershman said in a telephone interview from Israel, where he is at work on his next project.

Gershman’s research eventually led to an exhibit of his photographs, “Besa: A Code to Live By,” which opened recently at Congregation Temple Emanuel, and a book, Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II.

The exhibit makes the case that the Muslim Albanian villagers who sheltered Jews from deportation to concentration camps did so from a sense of religious obligation.

“Besa is a cultural idea, but for the Muslims in Albania it was ingrained in their faith as well,” Gershman said.

Ahmet Karamustafa, professor of history and religious studies at Washington University, said saving a life is a universally acknowledged Muslim value.

Protecting a life, Karamustafa said, “has always ranked at the very top of moral and legal categories articulated by legal and theological scholars in Islam.”

The exhibit has been traveling the world since 2006, opening in Yad Vashem in Israel, the United Nations in New York, and synagogues, mosques, college campuses and Holocaust museums from Turkey to El Paso, Texas.

The exhibit of 30 photographs includes one of Lime Balla, born in 1910, who told Gershman that a group of 17 Jews came from the capital city of Tirana to her village of Gjergi in 1943 during the holy month of Ramadan.

“We divided them amongst the villagers,” Balla said, according to Gershman. “We were poor. We had no dining table, but we didn’t allow them to pay for food or shelter. We grew vegetables for all to eat. For 15 months, we dressed them as farmers like us. Even the local police knew.”

David Sherman, president of Temple Emanuel, said the synagogue “decided it could be an opportunity to educate the public about this piece of history that was a model of dialogue and tolerance.”

The synagogue’s rabbi, Justin Kerber, said one of the Reform congregation’s goals with the exhibit is to combat a common depiction of the modern relationship between Jews and Muslims.

“There’s so much coverage about Muslim-Jewish strife and conflict,” Kerber said. “It’s important to tell people that’s not the whole story, and these are examples of Muslim-Jewish respect, tolerance and love. This was a good opportunity for us to be part of that conversation.”

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