Posts Tagged ‘ English ’

In Ahmadis’s Desert City, Pakistan Closes In

By Myra MacDonald for Reuters

At the office of what claims to be one of Pakistan’s oldest newspapers, workers scan copy for words it is not allowed to use — words like Muslim and Islam.

“The government is constantly monitoring this publication to make sure none of these words are published,” explains our guide during a visit to the offices of al Fazl, the newspaper of the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan.

This is Rabwah, the town the Ahmadis built when they fled the killings of Muslims in India at Partition in 1947, and believing themselves guided by God, chose a barren stretch of land where they hoped to make the Punjab desert bloom.

Affluent and well-educated, they started out camping in tents and mud huts near the river and the railway line.

Now they have a town of some 60,000 people, a jumble of one- and two-storey buildings, along with an Olympic size swimming pool, a fire service and a world class heart institute.

Yet declared by the state in the 1970s to be non-Muslims, they face increasing threats of violence across Pakistan as the country strained by a weakening economy, an Islamist insurgency and internecine political feuds, fractures down sectarian and ethnic lines.

“The situation is getting worse and worse,” says Mirza Khurshid Ahmed, amir of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. “The level of religious intolerance has increased considerably during the last 10 years.”

The town, renamed Chenabnagar by the state government since “Rabwah” comes from a verse in the Koran, is now retreating behind high walls and razor wire, awaiting the suicide bombers and fedayeen gunmen who police tell them are plotting attacks.

Last May, 86 people were killed in two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, capital of Punjab; others were attacked elsewhere in the province. Many fled to Rabwah where the community gives them cheap housing and financial support.

Among them is 15-year-old Iqra from Narewal, whose shopkeeper father was stabbed to death last year as the family slept. “I was sleeping in another room when my father was attacked,” she begins in a small voice, pulling a black scarf across her face to cover her mouth in the style of Ahmadi women.

“The attacker wanted to kill all the Ahmadis in Narewal,” her brother Zeeshan continues. “My elder brother tried to help my father and he was stabbed and wounded too.”

Later police found the attacker hiding in a mosque. He had believed the mullahs when they told him that all Ahmadis were “wajib ul qatl”, or deserving of death.

BATTLEGROUND FOR POWER
The Ahmadis follow the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who in the town of Qadian in late 19th century British India called for a revival of a “true Islam” of peace and justice. His teachings were controversial with Muslims and Christians alike.

He argued that Jesus did not die on the cross but escaped and travelled to India and was buried in Kashmir. And he claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus, destined to put Muslims back on the true path.

Many Muslims were offended by the suggestion he had come as a prophet, breaching a basic tenet of Islam that there can be no prophet after Mohammad, whose teachings are believed to be based literally on the word of God, perfect and therefore final.

Yet his call for peace, hard work, temperance, education and strong community bonds resonated, and over the years the proselytizing movement acquired millions of followers worldwide.

At home, however, their history has been intimately bound up in Pakistan’s own descent from its relatively optimistic birth.

Lacking a coherent national identity, it has become a battleground for competing political, religious and ethnic groups seeking power by attacking others.

“The mistake of the Ahmadis was that they showed their political strength,” said an Ahmadi businessman in Lahore.

Better education he said, meant they obtained good positions in the army and civil service at first; strong community bonds made them an influential force in politics up to the 1970s.

But they also made an easy target for the religious right who could whip up anti-Ahmadi sentiment for political gain.

Ahmadis follow two different schools of thinking, but will argue, often with detailed references to the Koran in both Arabic and English, that they do not dispute the finality of the Prophet Mohammad. Their erudite theological arguments, however, had little chance against the power of the street.

After anti-Ahmadi violence, they were declared non-Muslims in 1974. In the 1980s, their humiliation was completed when legal provisions barred them from associating themselves with Islam, for example by using the call to prayer or naming their place of worship a “masjid” or mosque.

“You can say you don’t consider me to be a Muslim but you can’t force me to also say I am not a Muslim,” complains Ahmed, the amir, the pain clear in his voice.

Yet in the newspaper office in Rabwah, a white board displays the words they are not allowed to use — they could be accused of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty.

SPREADING TO OTHER SECTS
Many Pakistanis, if you ask about treatment of the Ahmadis, shrug it off — it’s an old story, they say, dredged up by westerners who do not appreciate the importance of the finality of the Prophet.

Yet there are signs the attitudes first directed toward Ahmadis are spreading to other sects. In a country which is majority Sunni, and where insurgents follow Sunni Islam, Shi’ites and even Sufi shrines have been bombed.

A 2010 study by Pakistani analyst Ayesha Siddiqa of students in elite colleges found that while 60 percent said the government was right to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims, a sizeable 18 percent believed Shi’ites were also non-Muslims.

These and other findings led her to conclude that radicalism was growing even among the educated youth — it is often, wrongly, blamed on poverty — which in its extreme form could lead people into violence.

Their tendency, she wrote, to see different groups with an unquestioned bias, she wrote, “especially coated with religious overtones or padded with religious belief prepares the mind to accept the message from militant organizations.”

In the nearest town to Rabwah, the central square as been renamed “Khatme Nubuwwat” Chowk, meaning the finality of the Prophet. Beyond, low jagged hills spike up above the dusty land, the summits of much bigger rock formations below the surface.

Many of the Ahmadis had been active supporters of the movement which created Pakistan and when they first came here they were inspired by a verse in the Koran, describing “an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water.”

Now they are surrounded by a very different country.

Rabwah itself is open to the outside world — despite the high walls guarding individual houses, it is not a walled town.

“Under the circumstances we try to take the best measures we can to protect ourselves,” says the amir. “But what we can do is very limited. We don’t have a mindset or training for that.

And in any case, he adds, “How many people can leave Pakistan or Rabwah?”

World Cup 2010: Football’s India vs Pakistan

By Paul Beckett for The Wall Street Journal

It is standard for newspapers, including ours, to include the following sentence in almost any story about India and Pakistan: The two countries have fought three wars since Independence in 1947. You do not read the same about England and Germany: The two countries have fought two World Wars since 1914. Except at times like this.

For a series of reasons, part historical part psychological, there may be no match up in soccer that is quite equivalent to England versus Germany. Not for the quality of the football although Germany last night ran over England at the FIFA World Cup 2010 with some of the best football of the tournament so far, winning 4-1. Germany now advances to the quarter finals.

Nor does the significance of the game come from the fervor of football in each country. Yes, both are football crazy but there are plenty of countries that take football as seriously, if not more so, as these two do.

But there may be no bigger game when it comes to two nations who view each other as former enemies, now allies and rivals. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any other sporting event where two major nations weave so much national drama into men running around on grass, with the possible exception of when India and Pakistan play at cricket.

Why is this so?

India and Pakistan may have been separated at birth, but England and Germany have their own shared attributes (which certainly don’t get any attention at times like this): They are both northern, beer-drinking, sausage-eating nations; Britain’s current monarchy, the House of Windsor, has German origins; they may be more alike as nations than England is when compared with any nation outside the British Isles (just don;t tell the English.)

Of course, the situations have as many similarities as they do differences. England and Germany are friendly nations (despite what you read in the British press at times like this) bound together by the European Union and NATO. “It is high time to forget (World War II),” said Germany coach Joachim Loew, according to the Associated Press. “This is year 2010, we are all in the EU and it’s highly inappropriate to raise this subject.”

India and Pakistan, meanwhile, are caught in a diplomatic netherworld between war and peace that only now is showing signs of some thaw.

England and Germany, overall, have prospered in the past few decades, even if Germany’s industrial might means its economy has eclipsed that of the U.K.; India has prospered while Pakistan has struggled as the two nations took dramatically different courses, politically and economically, post Independence.

Yet there are times when sport comes to represent something that defines relations, seizes national imaginations and confirms dearly-held stereotypes, and that is the case with England versus Germany at football and India versus Pakistan at cricket.

It is not that the fans of either team hate the fans of the other (despite what you read in the British press at times like this.) It is a strange mix of respect, rivalry, historic ties, insecurities, bluster, hope, fear and a desire to read deeper meaning in a game of football that makes these games so compelling.

It is a time when entire nations stop to watch. When everything else is eclipsed in favor of one game and people want to think they are watching something that will go down in the history books, a marker of where they were when.

“It’s insane, the roads are completely empty here right now,” an Indian friend said in a text from London before yesterday’s kick-off. When Miroslav Klose in the 20th minute pierced a sloppy England defense to score, he followed with: “And the pub goes quiet.”

England also got the required controversial referee’s decision that will let it, as a nation, worry over its beads for years: a shot by Frank Lampard that clearly bounced over the line but which was not allowed as a goal.

That would have equalized the game at 2-2 and who knows what would have happened next, mate, it would have done the England team no end of good mate, you hear what I’m saying, it’s all about the psychology and that was devastating for the lads, just devastating wasn’t it and I’m not saying that Germany didn’t outplay them, mate, but you’re never gonna win when the ref’s an #%^& and mine’s a pint of lager.

“Fabio’s flops are battered in Bloemfontein,” said The Sun, a reference to English manager Fabio Capello. The headline ran on top of a picture of Frank Lampard realizing he hadn’t scored. “Three Lions Muller-ed by Germans…and the Ref,” said The Mirror, a reference to Thomas Muller, who scored goals three and four for Germany and the referee. Imagine an umpiring decision that incorrectly dismisssed Sachin Tendulkar from the crease against Pakistan.

This was a matchup that probably carried greater weight for England than for Germany, even before the opening whistle. Germany has had the better of England in big tournaments in the last several years. Germany also took a famously young side to these World Cup finals; many of them will return four years from now.

Not so England. Only are handful – and not including Steven Gerrard, John Terry, or Mr. Lampard – are likely to have a shot at Brazil 2014.

And now England can sink into its other national sport: getting depressed over the underperformance of its football team. As my friend in London texted: “All you hear is the german girl laughing. Totally quiet otherwise. This is amazing.” Not long after, he added: “This really tortured drunk guy screamed at Rooney at that last corner. And then put his head in his hands. Awesome.”

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