Tag Archives: ethnicity

My Racist Encounter at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

By Seema Jilani

The faux red carpet had been laid out for the famous and the wannabe-famous. Politicians and journalists arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, bedazzled in the hopes of basking in a few fleeting moments of fame, even if only by osmosis from proximity to celebrities. New to the Washington scene, I was to experience the spectacle with my husband, a journalist, and enjoy an evening out. Or at least an hour out. You see, as a spouse I was not allowed into the actual dinner. Those of us who are not participating in the hideous schmooze-fest that is this evening are relegated to attending the cocktail hour only, if that. Our guest was the extraordinarily brilliant Oscar-nominated director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin. Mr. Zeitlin’s unassuming demeanor was a refreshing taste of humility in a sea of pretentious politicians reeking of narcissism.

As I left the hotel and my husband went to the ballroom for the dinner, I realized he still had my keys. I approached the escalators that led down to the ballroom and asked the externally contracted security representatives if I could go down. They abruptly responded, “You can’t go down without a ticket.” I explained my situation and that I just wanted my keys from my husband in the foyer and that I wouldn’t need to enter in the ballroom. They refused to let me through. For the next half hour, they watched as I frantically called my husband but was unable to reach him.

Then something remarkable happened. I watched as they let countless other women through — all Caucasian — without even asking to see their tickets. I asked why they were allowing them to go freely when they had just told me that I needed a ticket. Their response? “Well, now we are checking tickets.” He rolled his eyes and let another woman through, this time actually checking her ticket. His smug tone, enveloped in condescension, taunted, “See? That’s what a ticket looks like.”

When I asked “Why did you lie to me, sir?” they threatened to have the Secret Service throw me out of the building — me, a 4’11” young woman who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet, who was all prettied up in elegant formal dress, who was simply trying to reach her husband. The only thing on me that could possibly inflict harm were my dainty silver stilettos, and they were too busy inflicting pain on my feet at the moment. My suspicion was confirmed when I saw the men ask a blonde woman for her ticket and she replied, “I lost it.” The snickering tough-guy responded, “I’d be happy to personally escort you down the escalators ma’am.”

Like a malignancy, it had crept in when I least expected it — this repugnant, infectious bigotry we have become so accustomed to. “White privilege” was on display, palpable to passersby who consoled me. I’ve come to expect this repulsive racism in many aspects of my life, but when I find it entrenched in these smaller encounters is when salt is sprinkled deep into the wounds. In these crystallizing moments it is clear that while I might see myself as just another all-American gal who has great affection for this country, others see me as something less than human, more now than ever before.

When I asked why the security representatives offered to personally escort white women without tickets downstairs while they watched me flounder, why they threatened to call the Secret Service on me, I was told, “We have to be extra careful with you all after the Boston bombings.”

I explained that I am a physician, that my husband is a noted journalist for a major American newspaper, and that our guest was an esteemed, Oscar-nominated director. They did not believe me. Never mind that the American flag flew proudly outside of our home for years, with my father taking it inside whenever it rained to protect it from damage. Never mind that I won “Most Patriotic” almost every July 4th growing up. Never mind that I have provided health care to some of America’s most underprivileged, even when they have refused to shake my hand because of my ethnicity.

Continue reading My Racist Encounter at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Hate crime legislation

By: Farahnaz Ispahani

Pakistan has become a brutal place to live, especially if you are a member of a religious minority. Most observers agree that the country is being swept by a rising tide of hate encouraged by unbridled hate speech. Hate speech is defined as any spoken or physical action that negatively targets a person or group of people based on their ethnicity, gender or religion.

Several countries have dealt with hate by introducing laws that enhance penalties for crimes if they are motivated by racial, gender or religious hatred. Pakistan, too, needs to implement laws that discourage the whipping up of hateful religious sentiments. While researching a private members bill to be introduced in the National Assembly of Pakistan on hate crimes and hate speech, I noticed that the issue of preventing incitement had been addressed by several articles of the Pakistan Penal Code, which dates back to 1860. The adhoc introduction of ostensibly religion-based ordinances by dictators has significantly altered Pakistan’s legal edifice, adding parallel  ‘Islamic’ provisions to the pre-partition criminal justice system. In some cases, the new superstructure has weakened the foundations of a more tolerant and pluralist society that could be ensured under the original scheme of things.

The Pakistan Penal Code is fairly rigorous on the subject of hate crimes of all kind. However, we have two serious and pressing issues. Firstly, contradictory laws like the blasphemy laws challenge the ability to prosecute under the Pakistan Penal Code and secondly, over the decades, we have seen less and less implementation of the Penal Code as in the protection of rights of our minority citizens.

Article 153-A of the Penal Code prescribes punishments for promoting “enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”. If implemented effectively, it could be the basis for prosecuting extremists who encourage religious hatred, particularly those whose  ‘malicious intent’ is clear.

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Dangerous self-destruction Disease – Origin of our national mindset

By Khaled Ahmed

Origin of our national mindset

The Army is composed of Punjabis up to 80 percent. Even the Navy, which should normally absorb coastal populations, is composed almost exclusively of Punjabis.

The ‘vitality’ and ‘dynamism’ of the middle class in Pakistan are channeled into ideological aspirations that negate the modern state

The economist says the middle class anywhere in the world is a factor of dynamic growth: a growing middle class means the country will post good growth rates. But for the non-economist, no two middle classes may be alike. In Pakistan, the middle class is conservative, just like India’s; but unlike India, it is ideological, anti-American and pro-Taliban.

The Indian Constitution informs the attitude of the Indian middle class, which is tolerant of secularism. In Pakistan, the Constitution inclines the middle class to desire sharia and consequently prefer the ‘harder’ sharia of al Qaeda to state ideology. It is the sentinel of the unchanging character of the medieval state presented as a utopia by state ideology.

Continue reading Dangerous self-destruction Disease – Origin of our national mindset

What American Think-Tank thinkers think about how Pakistan will evolve in future? Part -1

By Khalid Hashmani

As the bitterness continues to rise in the Pakistan-USA relationship so does the interest of American Think-Tankers in the future of Pakistan. Last Monday (December 5, 2011), the Brookings Institution launched a new book about Pakistan titled “The Future of Pakistan”. In this book, 17 experts from Pakistan, India, Europe, and the USA looked at the various scenarios in the context of how Pakistan is likely to evolve and develop in the near future. A well-known scholar and US Policy Advisor Stephen Cohen headed this project. The launch event consisted of two panels who discussed different aspects of the project and some of the conclusions.

Continue reading What American Think-Tank thinkers think about how Pakistan will evolve in future? Part -1

The killers of Karachi

By Matthew Green

The hitman did not bother to knock. He announced his arrival by firing a volley of shots through Salima Khan’s front door. Bullets ricocheted as she cowered in the kitchen. One of the rounds struck Zainab, her bright-eyed five-year-old, in the arm. A Molotov cocktail shattered and their tiny home began to burn. The family’s crime: belonging to the “wrong” ethnicity.

“They want to kill all the Pashtun,” says Mrs Khan, wiping away tears with her headscarf as she cradles her daughter. “I pray to God there will be peace in Karachi.” The charred body of a rickshaw driver from their Orangi Town neighbourhood was dumped in the street a day after the attack – a grisly portent that the gunmen will return.

A slow-burning war for control of one of the great economic engines of south Asia has burst back into life with a ferocity not seen since the mid-1980s, when Pakistan’s army acted to quell clashes on Karachi’s streets.

The killings are the bloody dividends of a long-running struggle between rival political parties with roots in the ethnic Pashtun and Mohajir communities. This summer, the violence has hit new heights. Shootings and grenade attacks in labyrinthine slums and hillside shanty towns claimed more than 300 lives in July, one of the worst monthly tolls on record. The deaths took the total killed in Karachi this year to more than 800, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation.

New murders occur daily. Asif Ali Zardari, the unpopular president, has proved powerless to pacify the country’s biggest city – the heart of its $160bn economy, the seat of its stock exchange and the home of an important Arabian Sea port.

Rehman Malik, the interior minister, earned widespread ridicule when he played down the significance of the mayhem by suggesting 70 per cent of the murders were committed by angry girlfriends or wives. In fact, the violence is a warning light for long-term prospects for stability in a country whose fate may have grave security implications for the west.

US and European concerns centre on Pakistan’s murky role in Afghanistan, its army’s ambiguous relationship with Islamist militants and the security of its nuclear arsenal. The risks posed by this volatile mix were highlighted in May when US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder, who was hiding less than a mile from Pakistan’s military academy. Karachi’s politically instigated killings may seem parochial by comparison but they are a symptom of deeper conflicts that may ultimately play a greater role in shaping Pakistan’s destiny.

Like no other city, Karachi distils the mix of gun politics, ethnic tensions, sectarian strife, state weakness, militancy and organised crime that makes the whole country so fragile. It is these trends that will determine whether Pakistan’s hesitant journey from military rule to a semblance of democracy will deliver greater stability or deeper fragmentation. ….

Read more → http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b520d928-c80f-11e0-9501-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1Vs5XAcva

Does Britain back MQM’s violence? By Shiraz Paracha

– The British government shares some responsibility for violence in Karachi as wanted criminals use their UK bases to incite hate and violence in Pakistan.

Altaf Hussain, a British citizen and a mafia style leader of a linguistic group, everyday violates the British ‘Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994’ and the ‘Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006’ by inciting hatred and encouraging bloodshed in Pakistan.

Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 the following are arrestable offences in Britain:

a) Deliberately provoking hatred of a racial group. b) Distributing racist material to the public. c) Making inflammatory public speeches. d) Creating racist websites on the Internet.

From his London headquarters, Hussain gives hours long hate speeches over the phone to supporters of his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), in Pakistan. The MQM applies latest telecommunication technology to instantly spread Hussain’s hate speeches to thousands of people in different Pakistani cities.

In British law a hate speech is defined as:

“A gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic”.

The British law forbids “communication which is hateful, threatening, abusive, or insulting and which targets a person on account of skin colour, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both.”

A fugitive, Altaf Hussain, is wanted in many criminal cases including murder and abduction in Pakistan. He had absconder to the United Kingdom in the early 1990s. Surprisingly, he was given British citizenship. Ever since he has been involved in crimes against people of Pakistan and his mercenaries have turned Karachi into a city of death and destruction.

Several of Hussain’s lieutenants in London are criminal gangsters who have been accused of murdering innocent people in Pakistan. ….

Read more → LET US BUILD PAKISTAN

A history of oppression: the Tamils of Sri Lanka

By Danielle Sabai

June 2, 2011 — Asia Left Observer, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission — In February 2011, the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the island’s independence. In his speech, he stressed the necessity of “protecting the reconstructed nation”, as well as protecting “one of the oldest democracies in Asia”, its unity and its unitary character.

This speech came nearly two years after the end of the war on May 19, 2009, between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The military command of the LTTE was decimated in the last two months of a merciless war that has had led to tens of thousands of deaths since the early 1980s.

Some 30 years of civil war have transformed the Sri Lankan political landscape. Once an island characterised by a developed social policy and high development indicators, Sri Lanka is today ravaged by state violence, the militarisation of society and an authoritarian state.

The end of the war has in no way opened a period of peace; still less has it settled the Tamil national question. The Sri Lankan government, whose powers are concentrated in the hands of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers, has not sought to remedy the structural causes that led to the civil war. The state remains Sinhalese nationalist and racist in its essence and rejects any devolution of powers, which would allow the different communities to envisage the future together.

The president is at war against his people. State violence is also exerted against Sinhalese, journalists and political activists who oppose him but also against workers as a whole. Despite the end of the war, the government has maintained the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows it to muzzle its opponents. All communities suffer from the collapse of the rule of law. No peace can last if it does not rest on any political will to settle disputes.

The history of Sri Lanka is rich in lessons. It illustrates that attacks against minorities lead to more general attacks against workers whatever their ethnicity. They lead inevitably to a weakening, if not collapse, of democracy. It is important and necessary to review the historic roots that are at the base of the formation of this specific state having led to the emergence of two antagonistic nationalisms: Buddhist Sinhalese nationalism and its reaction, Tamil nationalism. …

Read more: Links International

Interview with Pratap Mehta on Pakistan

Pratap Mehta: Pakistan’s Perpetual Identity Crisis

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political theorist and intellectual historian based in New Delhi, is leading us through another reflection on the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.

The reconsideration of partition is a critical, current existential question not only for South Asians, but also for Americans who watch the continuous outrages from Taliban and CIA sanctuaries inside Pakistan. It’s a question on many levels — terrorism, geopolitics, ethnicity and religion — but, Pratap Mehta says, “it’s fundamentally the question of the identity of a country.”

In his telling of the partition story, the contemporary reality of Pakistan grew out of a failure to answer a core challenge of creating a nation-state: how do you protect a minority? It’s Mehta’s view that the framers of the modern subcontinent — notably Gandhi, Jinnah & Nehru — never imagined a stable solution to this question. He blames two shortcomings of the political discourse at the time of India’s independence:

The first is that it was always assumed that the pull of religious identities in India is so deep that any conception of citizenship that fully detaches the idea of citizenship from religious identity is not going to be a tenable one.

The second is that Gandhi in particular, and the Congress Party in general, had a conception of India which was really a kind of federation of communities. So the Congress Party saw [the creation of India] as about friendship among a federation of communities, not as a project of liberating individuals from the burden of community identity to be whatever it is that they wished to be.

The other way of thinking about this, which is to think about a conception of citizenship where identities matter less to what political rights you have, that was never considered seriously as a political project. Perhaps that would have provided a much more ideologically coherent way of dealing with the challenges of creating a modern nation-state. – – Pratap Bhanu Mehta with Chris Lydon at the Watson Institute, April 12, 2011.

Unlike many other Open Source talkers on Pakistan, Pratap Mehta does not immediately link its Islamization to the United States and its1980s jihad against the Soviets. Reagan and his CIA-Mujahideen military complex were indeed powerful players in the rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan, he agrees, but the turn began first during a national identity crisis precipitated by another partition, the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Suddenly, Mehta is telling us, Pakistan could no longer define itself as the unique homeland for Muslims in the subcontinent. In search of identity, and distinction from its new neighbor to the east, Pakistan turned towards a West Asian brand of Islam, the hardline Saudi Wahhabism that has become a definitive ideology in today’s Islamic extremism.

Mehta is hopeful, though, that in open democratic elections Islamic parties would remain relatively marginalized, that despite the push to convert Pakistan into a West Asian style Islamic state since 1971, “the cultural weight of it being a South Asian country” with a tradition of secular Islam “remains strong enough to be an antidote.”

Click here to listen Radio Open Source interview with Pratap Mehta, it is much more in depth than the text summary

Courtesy: http://www.radioopensource.org/pratap-mehta-pakistans-perpetual-identity-crisis/

If the situation is not checked very quickly, someone may soon write an epitaph of Pakistan

Pakistan: A country created & being destroyed in the name of religion

by Aziz Narejo

It was not long ago when some Indian Muslim leaders had gathered in Lahore and had adopted a resolution at their meeting to demand a brand new country in the name of religion. They systematically created a mass frenzy in the support of their demand and finally achieved what they wanted – ‘a brand new country in the name of religion’. It was born in a pool of blood and was accompanied by the misery and the mass migration on a scale never seen before in the Sub-Continent.

But creating hysteria and dividing population in the name of religion was very easy compared to running and managing a new country. The leadership failed at all levels – and in all sections of the society. The rot started early. They couldn’t bring the country to the people. Couldn’t keep it together. Couldn’t agree on a Constitution or a form of government. First it was Mullahs, feudals and bureaucrats. They were soon joined by the military, which lost no time to enslave everybody else. It became the ‘praetorian masters’, the ‘powers that be’ and the ‘establishment’. The military became the ultimate master of the destiny of the country.

To stop the people from getting their due rights, the establishment created a fake ‘ideology of Pakistan’. When pressed to accept demands of the people, especially from the eastern wing and the smaller provinces, it first created One Unit and then encouraged the rightists to fight the progressive elements and the people of various nationalities demanding their rights. The religious right and the establishment would readily dub them unpatriotic, anti-state, anti-Islam and enemies of the country.

What was the result? They lost half of the country in just 24 years. They still didn’t learn. Created some more monsters in the name of religion and ethnicity. Today everything seems out of control. The rightist groups, which were supported in the name of religion to fight the nationalist and progressive elements in the country and to wage proxy wars on the borders and in India and Afghanistan, have started working on their own agenda. They now think they are in a position to claim the whole pie – ‘why settle for less’?

These groups hold the whole country hostage now. They have made the governance impossible and the country is fast moving to complete anarchy. The establishment still seems to be oblivious of where these groups may take the country and what havoc they may create. It still supports part of these groups considering them as its ‘strategic assets’.

Along with the establishment, some in media and other sections of the society have also developed soft corner for the rightist groups. They think that country could be brought together in the name of religion, which can actually never happen. Religion as it is today can only further divide an already divided country. It may create some more fissures and chaos. Most of the religious groups and parties are at loggerheads with each other and frequently issue edicts dubbing the followers of rival sects as infidels and liable to be eliminated.

Country is clearly on a path to self-destruction. Many of the people would still not realize the seriousness of the situation. They are in the constant state of denial and blame every misfortune either on America or India ….

Read more : Indus Herald