Archive for the ‘ Pakistani Britons ’ Category

Facebook in Pakistan: Islamists vs. Liberals

By Adam B Ellick and Ahmad Ziadi for The New York Times

When Facebook was recently banned in Pakistan for hosting a “Draw Muhammad Day” fan page, one thing became very clear: Islamists here operate with organized precision, able to mobilize the masses in an instant, while the liberal voice remains paralyzed by fear and passivity.

Some media experts predicted that the ban – which a Pakistani court has now ordered the government to lift – might motivate the nation’s deeply disconnected liberal elite to take on the Islamists. After all, while members of the urban elite have been largely immune to the recent rise of violent militant attacks, the Facebook ban presented them with a personal vendetta.

In a nation without bars, and where entertainment options such as music concerts are rare, Facebook serves as a precious tool for the elite to organize discreet private events with music, drugs and alcohol. It has also helped mobilize social movements, including the lawyers’ march in 2009.

But the fervor that has followed the Facebook ban has been entirely one-sided in favor of the Islamists.

As the rest of Muslim world remains largely indifferent, tens of thousands of anti-Facebook Pakistanis protested in urban centers by burning American flags. A poll conducted by an IT portal called ProPakistani showed 73 percent out of about 8,000 voters favor a permanent ban on Facebook.

How did it get to this? There has been a widespread SMS campaign perpetuating a false narrative that Pakistan’s ban has brought a behemoth anti-Muslim company to its knees. One SMS attributes the recent fall in the Euro to the ban. Here’s another SMS I received:

THE BOYCOTT MADE BY MUSLIMS AGAINST FACEBOOK SINCE LAST 2 DAYS

CHARGE DEM A LOSS OF 2 BILLION EUROS..AND IF ITS CONTINUED AFTER 7 DAYS IT WOULD

REACH AROUND 40 BILLION EURO…. PLZ SPREAD AS MUCH AS U CAN.

Facts suggest otherwise. Facebook is not a publicly traded company, therefore, its earnings are not published. Still, some venture capitalists have valued Facebook at about $8 billion. Its annual revenue is estimated between $500 to $800 million.

In addition to the SMS campaign, this week, two new Muslim-friendly alternatives to Facebook have been launched. One of them, www.millatfacebook.com, was inaugurated by the bar association of the same Lahore court that banned Facebook. Millat means “Nation” in Urdu.

The site wooed more than 20,000 users with its slogan: “A site for Muslims by Muslims where sweet people of other religions are also welcome!!” Members are asked to specify if they drink alcohol. The founders are enraged at Facebook for curtailing Nazi-related hate speech while refusing to curb the Muhammad cartoons.

Their website says “Let’s prove to the world that if we can generate revenue for Facebook.com then we can also run our own website. Prove to the world that we are independent Muslims…” The other alternative site, www.Buddyflick.com , aims to “create/build/run our own network.” But where are Pakistan’s liberal and moderate voices?

Speaking out against the ban can be as hazardous as the forbidden cartoons. When those against the ban held a small news conference, the press mostly ignored it. After the press conference, several anti-ban activists were aggressively confronted by a large crowd of opposing activists as they left the venue. As tensions escalated, the anti-ban activists retreated into the building and waited for the crowd to dissipate.

One friend who is especially furious about the ban wouldn’t dare to speak out. “Nobody has the guts to go out and do something about it. The issue of Muhammad is so sensitive that you just never know.”

Instead, liberals are hashing out their frustrations in the low-traffic comment sections of liberal blogs and leftist newspapers, and, ironically enough, on their actual Facebook pages. Some have hacked into the banned site from the confines of their gated homes. Among the comment section in one newspaper is the latest joke: What’s the difference between Facebook and Lashkar  e Taiba? Answer: Facebook is banned!

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Amir Khan the Ambassador

By Lem Satterfield for Boxing Fanhouse

NEW YORK — WBA junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion Amir Khan had just scored Saturday night’s 11th-round knockout over Brooklyn’s Paulie Malignaggi in the biggest victory of his career.

In doing so, the 23-year-old, 2004 Olympic silver medalist not only out-boxed a pure boxer, but he mixed in an assortment of power shots — namely crisp, counter and over hand rights behind double- and triple-jabs — with a compliment of damaging left hooks and uppercuts.

When the fight was over, the English-born titlist had won the approval of the roaring crowd of more than 4,412 that filled Madison Square Garden’s 5,000 capacity WaMu Theater, and left the trash-talking Malignaggi beaten, battered and bloodied in his own hometown.

Khan had Malignaggi pinned on the ropes and was nailing him with several unanswered blows when referee Steve Smoger came to the rescue, calling a halt to the bout at 1:25 of the round.

“I was nervous, this being my first time in America. And I was walking into the theater, I could hear a lot of boos. But at the end of the fight, they started cheering for Amir Khan because I won them over with my style. I want to make all of my fights like this one,” said Khan, who rose to 23-1, with his 17th knockout and his fourth, consecutive victory.

“It’s my style. I’m explosive. I’m entertaining to watch. I’ve got speed, and I think I made a statement. I think that now there are a lot of American people who are interested in Amir Khan,” said Khan, who was coming off of a December’s first-round knockout of another Brooklyn resident, Dmitry Salita (30-1-1, 16 KOs).

“I’d love to fight some more over here. I want to save some big fights for the United Kingdom,” said Khan. “But I’ve had my American debut, and it’s the best feeling fighting in America. It’s a dream come true. I’d love to go to Las Vegas and have a big fight over there too.”

But as admirable as Khan’s in-the-ring efforts had been against Malignaggi, it is the maturity, poise and grace with which he handled the out-of-the ring distractions that may yet make Khan even more of a cross-cultural, crossover icon.

There was an irony surrounding Khan’s visa issues, which overlapped with the recent actions of alleged Times Square bombing attempt suspect Faisal Shahzad. Together, the two situations caused concern heading into Khan-Malignaggi.

Khan is a practicing Muslim who was born in England, but who is of Pakistani descent, while Shahzad is a native of Pakistan who became a U.S. citizen a year ago.

In early March, long before Shahzad’s actions on May 1, which resulted in a failed attack after he left an SUV rigged with a homemade bombing device in Times Square, Khan and his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, became aware of the fighter’s issues concerning the obtaining of a work visa.

David Itskowitch, chief operating officer of Golden Boy Promotions, said that Khan entered America under the country’s visa waivers program “which, for all intents and purposes,” allows its holder, “a tourist visa, which is good for ‘X’-amount of days.”

“Khan’s status while he was here training was one of a tourist while not earning money,” said Itskowitch. “In order to change your status to someone who is working, you have to leave the country, get a visa, and, then, come back.”

Khan had been holding workouts at Wild Card Boxing Club, in Hollywood, Calif., owned by his trainer, Freddie Roach, a three-time Trainer Of The Year.

But Khan was forced to leave the United States, and has been preparing for his American debut against Malignaggi (27-4, five KOs), while training under Roach in Vancouver, Canada.

“I was in training camp. Then I had to go to Vancouver to get my visa. And my visa took a long time. We had to move the whole training camp there. My head was all over the place, so I had to stay mentally strong,” said Khan, who was not granted the work visa until nine days prior to the fight.

“When I finally got my visa, I had to go back to Los Angeles again, and the, fly to New York. So I was flying a lot. I was traveling all over country, and I got a visa for 23 days that it took me three weeks to get. That could have gotten to me, but I had to work very hard not to let it bother me,” said Khan.

“I have to thank Freddie for flying all over with me,” said Khan. “One thing about Freddie, he looks at his fighters like they’re his kids. He was standing beside me all of the way through, so I have to thank him for that.”

Although Khan laments the notion that suspicion may have been heightened due to the comparisons between himself and Shahzad, he also embraces the opportunity to perhaps be an ambassador.

Khan wants to use his boxing skills to influence American opinion.

“What I want to do in this game is that, you know, I know that a lot of the Pakistani people and the Muslims are getting a bad name in the United States with the bombings and the terrorism and stuff, but not all of us are like that. Look at Amir Khan. I’m an English boxer. I’m one of the faces of boxing,” said Khan.

“And I want to do the same thing that I’ve done in the United Kingdom. I want to put a new face into boxing. I want to bring the Muslim community into boxing. Whenever you’re at an Amir Khan fight, if you come to the United Kingdom and watch me fight, you look into the crowd, and you see all different colors,” said Khan.

“You see the Asian, Chinese, Pakistanis, Muslims — you see everyone. I want to do the same in the United States,” said Khan. “As more people get to know Amir Khan, you’ll see more of that. Hopefully the Americans will love my style and I can do the same here. I want to fill out the stadiums and the arenas like I do in the United Kingdom.”

Pakistani Makes History as Nation’s First Winter Olympian

By Manzer Munir

Vancouver, Canada- On Tuesday February 23, 2010, Pakistan will field its very first entry into its very first Winter Olympics. While the nation has won three gold, three silver and four bronze medals in its history at the Olympics since becoming a nation in 1947, this is the first time Pakistan will field an athlete for the Vancouver Olympics in Canada. The sole member of Pakistan’s Winter Olympics team is a 24 year old Pakistani skier by the name of Mohammad Abbas. He was the first Pakistani to qualify for a Winter Olympic event and will participate in the Alpine Skiing in the Giant Slalom category.

Mohammad Abbas hails from Pakistan’s northern Nalthar valley near Gilgit, Balistan and the now troubled beautiful Swat valley of Pakistan. For years very popular with the British and since with affluent Pakistanis, this picturesque and scenic area of Pakistan is nestled at the foothills of the Himalayas and receives a good amount of snow fall in the winter months. There are not many ski hills in hot weather Pakistan, but there is one in the Nalthar valley where Abbas grew up as one of the local boys. He grew up in a small village near the ski slopes.

When the idea of creating a ski team first developed, all the candidates were local children. Unfortunately out of the original 9 hopefuls, only Abbas qualified for the Vancouver games. “I started skating in 1995 using homemade wooden skates, which is how all the children in our village used to learn. We didn’t have ski boots so we tied our feet to the skis with traditional woolen foot bindings. It was pretty precarious so we had to get our balance right,” he said.

For Abbas, it has been a long and at times arduous 15 year journey since 1995 when he first took interest in skiing at the age of 9 in his village near the ski slopes of Pakistan’s Nalthar valley watching Pakistani and foreign tourists skiing spurned young Abbas and many of his cousins to take up the sport. In a cricket mad country, not very many people pick up skiing. Very few people in Pakistan can afford ski equipment and also only a very small portion of the country gets snow, so it is a surprise that the nation is even fielding an athlete at the Winter Olympics.

Sitting in the Olympics athletes village in Vancouver, Abbas admits that he does not have the camaraderie or the support of Olympic teammates that most other nations participants share, and he was concerned that he may feel a bit lonely representing his country by himself at such a big stage. But the boy from Nalthar valley was greeted with great enthusiasm and support by the rather large Pakistani Canadian community of British Columbia. “The support from my fellow countrymen has really helped me deal with the lack of teammates,” said Abbas.

Abbas said that he “achieved his ambition through hard work” and hopes he has inspired other Pakistani athletes to take up the challenge and aim for future Winter Olympic games. He also realized that his chances of bringing home Pakistan’s first Winter Olympic gold are very small but he said he wants to finish the race in an “honorable manner and make his country proud.”

Although not expected to medal, he is considered the fastest of the first time entrants to compete in the Giant Slalom that is scheduled to take place at Tuesday. It is perhaps an accomplishment to have finally fielded a Winter Olympics team, but for Pakistan it is also a moral victory to have a young man represent the country from the same troubled yet beautiful valley that has been now for months fighting for its life from Taliban insurgents. He represents not just Pakistan’s Olympic hopes, but the spirit of the people of the area to make the best of their situation and rise above the adversity of their daily struggles in a very beautiful part of the world that has also long been known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan.”

Gandhi and King- Two Martyrs Who Will Never Die

By Manzer Munir

Martin Luther King Jr, who would have been 81 years old January 15, was a great believer of Mohandas K Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement from Brittan. King saw that Gandhi’s peaceful civil disobedience and non-violent methods of protest were very effective in bringing down the British Empire in India and as a result Pakistan after some 300 years of direct and indirect rule. Gandhi had believed that people could resist immoral government action by simply refusing to cooperate. Gandhi adopted many peaceful resistance techniques in developing his concept of Satyagraha, which was a philosophy and practice of passive nonviolent resistance.

Gandhi had earlier used this resistance technique in his struggles for freedom and equality for blacks and Indians in South Africa where both minorities were subjected to second and third class citizenry. His methods and refusal to bow down to the injustices that Indians faced in colonial South Africa inspired Nelson Mandela several years later to start his own peaceful struggle that eventually led to the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1990.

While at Morehouse College, King learned about Gandhi and became very excited about his ideas. He wanted to further educate himself and read many books on Gandhi and his life and beliefs. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, King states that “Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. He further writes in his book that “It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking. I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

King felt that he had finally found a way to where oppressed people could successfully unlock social protest through Jesus’ teachings of love. In fact Gandhi himself had said “What does Jesus mean to me? To me, he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.” He also once mentioned Jesus as the “most active resister known perhaps to history. His was non-violence par excellence” Therefore to the Christian minister living in the pre-civil rights era in the South in America, Gandhi appeared to King as a follower of Christ, someone who preached peace and love even at the expense of suffering. Martin Luther King once said of Gandhi “It is ironic yet inescapably true that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity.”

In 1959, King visited India and became fully convinced that Satyagraha could be effectively applied to the struggle by blacks in the United States for racial integration. He came back to the United States where he continued the struggle for freedom and equality for all Americans. Like Gandhi, King also talked about suffering as a path to self purification and spiritual growth. He not only experienced this suffering by being jailed, beaten and harassed by the authorities of the day, but he eventually ended up paying for this cause for freedom for all with his life.

 Mohandas K Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr arguably were two of the greatest men of the last century.  Both men believed that “injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.” They both led their people and millions of others out of slavery and servitude against seemingly insurmountable odds to freedom and salvation. On what would have been his 81st birthday, let us recognize that despite an assassin’s bullet and in the greatest democracy in the history of the world, the spirit and dream of a King still live on.

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