June 27, 2014
NEW YORK — The New York City cab driver from Pakistan and his daughter both began weeping the second she first took the witness stand at his murder conspiracy trial. Once composed, she told a jury that they had a loving relationship — and that he had once threatened to kill her.
The encounter came in a case where Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry has pleaded not guilty to charges he arranged the killings last year of two relatives of a man who helped his daughter flee an arranged marriage in Pakistan. Prosecutors at the trial in federal court in Brooklyn have likened the shooting deaths to so-called honor killings — the ruthless vigilantism against Pakistani women accused of disgracing their families.
‘‘I don’t want to hear any more complaints about you,’’ Amina Ajmal, 23, claimed her father warned her when he first learned she wanted out of the marriage. ‘‘I will kill you if you do anything wrong.’’
Though she agreed to testify for the government, Ajmal often sounded and acted on Thursday like she didn’t want to be there. There were long pauses before meekly mumbling answers to prosecutor’s questions about her father’s alleged misdeeds. Yes, she answered, he had threatened her, but she quickly added, ‘‘I don’t think he meant it.’’
The defense claims that Choudhry, who was in Brooklyn at the time of the deaths in Pakistan, had no hand in them. They say government agents coached the daughter on how to manipulate her father into making empty threats that were recorded for use as evidence against him.
Ajmal was born in Pakistan, lost her mother as a child, and was largely raised in Brooklyn by her Muslim father. She testified she was the only one of his five children to take to Western trappings like social media and to go to college. But in 2009, she said, her father tricked her into visiting Pakistan so the family could force her to marry one of her cousins there.
30 April 2014
The leader of the Pakistani CiU (Convergence and Union Party), Khalid Shabaz, aka Chuhan, is a radical Islamist who was arrested in 2011 by police for fraud and forgery of documents. Chuhan was also photographed on a recent trip to his country wearing traditional Pakistani dress (shalwaar kameez) and a machine gun in his hands, accompanied by a fellow carrying a rifle.
He founded the Catalan Federation of Pakistanis and now heads the Asian Area of another organization, Nous Catalans. Nous Catalans was recently targeted with connections to radical Islam. In fact, the former head of the Moroccan area of this organization and president of the Union of Islamic Centers in Catalonia, Noureddine Ziani, was expelled from Spain a year ago at the request of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) after being considered “a danger to the security of Spain.”
March 18, 2014
Khadija Shah, a 26-year-old British woman of Pakistani descent, was sentenced to life in prison in Pakistan on Tuesday after being convicted of trying to smuggle 63 kilograms of heroin out of the country. According to reports, Shah was arrested at the Islamabad airport in May 2012 after the heroin was discovered in several suitcases in her possession. She has claimed that she was carrying the cases for someone else and was unaware of their contents. Her lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, said they would appeal the conviction — given by the Special Narcotics Court in Rawalpindi — next week.
Maya Foa, the director of legal charity Reprieve’s Death Penalty team, said the conviction was “a terrible outcome” for Shah and her baby girl, who was born in prison; Shah was six-months pregnant at the time she was arrested. Foa urged the British government to “ensure that Khadija gets the urgent assistance she needs to appeal her sentence so that her baby doesn’t grow up behind bars.” A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they were aware of the case and providing Shah and her family with “consular assistance.”
February 20, 2014
More than 28,000 people have backed a petition calling for the release of a mentally ill Scottish man sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. Demands for Mohammad Asghar to be freed on humanitarian grounds have intensified since The Independent published an open letter today from politicians, academics, human rights campaigners and Islamic scholars appealing for clemency.
Mr Asghar, who has a history of mental illness and is thought to be a paranoid schizophrenic, had been detained under the Mental Health Act in 2010 shortly before he flew to Pakistan. Once there he became caught up in a dispute with a tenant who went to the police with letters written by Mr Asghar in which he claimed to be the Prophet Mohamed.
The online petition to David Cameron and Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, urges them to “intervene in the strongest possible terms to help save the life of a vulnerable British man”. The letter’s signatories raised concerns about the failing health of the 70-year-old grandfather and urged the Pakistani President, Mamnoon Hussain, to intervene stating: “We respectfully urge you to consider using your discretionary powers as President to pardon Mr Asghar and to allow him to be released from jail so he can receive his treatment and be reunited with his loving family.”
January 31, 2014
The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK. Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail. Mr Ahmad had been released from prison on bail and was now in secure accommodation pending trial although it was not known when the case would be heard and he faced a long and uncertain wait.
Following his arrest in November more than 600 people protested outside the police station. Under Pakistan law it is an offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. Each year dozens of members of the sect are charged with breaching religious laws whilst they and other minorities are also at risk of outbreaks of sectarian violence in the country if they are deemed to have committed blasphemy.
The quietly-spoken widower was arrested after he was recorded on a mobile phone reading from the Koran by two men posing as patients. Amnesty International said he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family.”
January 25, 2014
A British pensioner with a history of severe mental illness has been sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of breaching the country’s blasphemy laws. Muhammad Asghar, 69, from Edinburgh, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is unaware that he is ill following a stroke, was convicted at the end of a trial in Rawalpindi in which it was alleged he claimed to be the prophet Mohammed. During the case, which was heard without a jury, the judge forcibly removed his independent lawyers from the court and appointed a state counsel on the defendant’s behalf.
His treatment has been severely criticised by human rights organisations which have long campaigned against Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy legislation which, according to Amnesty International, has created a climate of fear and murderous vigilantism in the devoutly Muslim country where allegations of religious crime are routinely used to persecute minorities.
Mr Asghar’s lawyers and his doctor are desperately concerned for his wellbeing after he attempted suicide following his incarceration in 2010. His condition is getting worse and he requires complex daily medication as well as psychological and social care but is instead sharing a crowded cell with other prisoners. The conviction is now being appealed although it could take five years before it is heard.
Dr Jane McLennan of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh – a leading authority on psychiatric illness in older people – said that to properly analyse his behaviour she would be required to repeat her patient’s claims – potentially running the risk of being considered blasphemous herself. Thus the very nature of the charges in Pakistan makes it difficult for a mental health professional to indulge in a full discussion of the proper diagnosis.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We strongly object to the use of the death penalty and will continue to provide consular assistance to him and his family during this difficult time. We have continuously made representations to the Pakistan government on behalf of Mr Asghar and we will continue to do so. We are opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and we are dedicated to doing all we can to prevent the execution of any British national.”
December 20, 2013
By Josh Feldman
Tucker Carlson filled in for Sean Hannity on his show Friday night, and he brought on Anjem Choudary, a Muslim preacher responsible for an effort to threaten Muslim-owned business to stop selling alcohol lest they receive 40 lashes. Carlson confronted Choudary about this stunt and his desire to implement Sharia law in England.
Choudary pushed back against Western “propaganda,” saying he is simply trying to encourage the following of Islamic law in a “den of iniquity.” Carlson shot back, “This isn’t Pakistan, this is Great Britain!”
He continued on to say that “troublemakers like you are thrown in prison in Pakistan,” and called him out for being a beneficiary of social services in the country he’s condemning as decadent. Choudary said the legal notice is actually “intended to provoke discussion” and warn of ultimate punishment in the afterlife.
Carlson concluded by asking, “Will you concede that your unwillingness to denounce violence makes your program repulsive to people in the West and decent people everywhere?” Choudary insisted that “we’re not threatening anyone with violence.”
With most superheroes, when you take away the colorful costume, mask and cape, what you find underneath is a white man. But not always. In February, as part of a continuing effort to diversify its offerings, Marvel Comics will begin a series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City.
No exploding planet, death of a relative or irradiated spider led to Kamala’s creation. Her genesis began more mundanely, in a conversation between Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, two editors at Marvel. “I was telling him some crazy anecdote about my childhood, growing up as a Muslim-American,” Ms. Amanat said. “He found it hilarious.” Ms. Amanat and Mr. Wacker noted the dearth of female superhero series and, even more so, of comics with cultural specificity.
When they told G. Willow Wilson, an author, comic book writer and convert to Islam, about their idea, she was eager to come on board as the series’ writer. “Any time you do something like this, it is a bit of a risk,” Ms. Wilson said. “You’re trying to bring the audience on board and they are used to seeing something else in the pages of a comic book.”
Kamala, whose family is from Pakistan, has devotedly followed the career of the blond, blue-eyed Carol Danvers, who now goes by Captain Marvel, a name she inherited from a male hero. When Kamala discovers her powers, including the ability to change shape, she takes on the code name Ms. Marvel — what Carol called herself when she began her superhero career.
“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Ms. Wilson said. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”
As for Kamala, Ms. Wilson said the series was “about the universal experience of all American teenagers, feeling kind of isolated and finding what they are.” Though here, she adds, that happens “through the lens of being a Muslim-American” with superpowers.