Book review: ‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai

October 11, 2013

 

Marie Arana is the author of the memoir “American Chica” and the biography “Bolivar: American Liberator.” She was also a scriptwriter for the recently released film about education in the Third World, “Girl Rising.”

Malala tells of that life-shattering moment in a riveting memoir, “I Am Malala,” published this past week even as she was being cited as a possible candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-written with Christina Lamb, a veteran British journalist who has an evident passion for Pakistan and can render its complicated history with pristine clarity, this is a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls.

The story begins with Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the son of an imam (a preacher of Islam), who was instilled from boyhood with a deep love of learning, an unwavering sense of justice and a commitment to speak out in defense of both. Like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Ziauddin was convinced that aside from the sword and the pen, there is an even greater power — that of women — and so, when his firstborn turned out to be a bright, inquisitive daughter, he raised her with all the attention he lavished on his sons.

Malala was born in 1997, as her father was struggling to found his school against a sea of troubles: a deeply corrupt government official to whom he refused to pay bribes; a mufti who lived across the way and objected to the education of girls, a practice he denounced as haram, or offensive to Islam; and the vicissitudes of a fierce jihad, visited upon them from time to time in Taliban raids that evolved from harsh rhetoric to outright killings. By the time Malala was 10 and the top student in her father’s surprisingly flourishing school, radical Talibs had penetrated the valley all the way to the capital of Islamabad and were beheading Pakistani police, holding their severed heads high on the roadsides.

We know how this story ends, with a 15-year-old child taking a bullet for a whole generation. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one. Disfigured beyond recognition by her assailant’s gun, Malala was rushed to Peshawar, then Rawalpindi and finally to Birmingham, England, where doctors reconstructed her damaged skull and knit back the shattered face. But her smile would never be quite the same.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-i-am-malala-by-malala-yousafzai/2013/10/11/530ba90a-329a-11e3-9c68-1cf643210300_story.html

Court order states man charged in Calif. terrorism case was headed to Pakistan

October 17, 2013:

A California man charged with attempting to join al-Qaida and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism was planning to travel to Pakistan before he was arrested, a court document showed on Thursday.

A federal court order to detain Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove states that arresting agents said he was due to travel to Mexico City by bus and then board a flight to Pakistan.

The order, which was made available online Thursday, also states Nguyen was holding a fake passport and had recently traveled to Lebanon and Syria to help the Free Syrian Army.

Nguyen, who is a U.S. citizen, was arrested last week in Santa Ana while waiting to board a bus to Mexico. He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Monday.

Nguyen, who is also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, attempted to work under the direction of al-Qaida, according to an indictment returned last week. The four-page document provides no details about the alleged terrorism act.

 
The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/court-order-states-man-charged-in-calif-terrorism-case-was-headed-to-pakistan/2013/10/17/8d987df0-3795-11e3-89db-8002ba99b894_story.html

NYC man sentenced to 13 years for lying about his plans to join al-Qaida

NEW YORK — An American citizen was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday for lying to the FBI about his attempts to wage violent jihad against U.S. forces by joining the Taliban or al-Qaida.

Prosecutors in federal court in Brooklyn had sought the maximum 21 years behind bars for Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, arguing that he was following a proven formula of other would-be, homegrown terrorists who succeeded in aligning themselves with extremist groups by traveling to Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

 

 

But U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano imposed the lesser term after suggesting the defendant proved too immature and inept to pull it off.

Shehadeh, 23, appeared in court with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail. He spoke only briefly, telling the judge a letter he had written asking for leniency expressed his position.

His outlook on jihad “has matured over time,” he wrote. “Jihad and terrorism are not synonymous, they are conflicting in my view.” The letter portrayed a failed attempt to get to Pakistan as “an impulsive move” by a misguided young man.

Florida imam sentenced to 25 years in prison for financially supporting Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — An elderly Muslim cleric was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison following his convictions on terrorism support charges for sending tens of thousands of dollars overseas to finance the Pakistani Taliban, which has launched numerous violent attacks against both Pakistan’s government and U.S. targets.

Hafiz Khan, 78, had faced up to 60 years behind bars on four terrorism support-related charges. But U.S. District Judge Robert Scola opted for less than the maximum term, although it is 10 years more than the sentence recommended by federal prosecutors.

The case against Khan, who was imam at a Miami mosque prior to his 2011 arrest, was built on hundreds of FBI recordings of both telephone calls and Khan’s face-to-face conversations with an undercover informant. In the calls, Khan discusses details of numerous wire transfers to Pakistan over a three-year period that totaled about $50,000.

“I did not send one dollar to the terrorists or the fighting Taliban,” Khan said. “I am absolutely against the terrorists and the violence.”

Two of Khan’s sons, Izhar and Irfan, were initially charged along with their father but the charges against them were dismissed. Three others in the indictment, including Khan’s daughter, remain free in Pakistan, which will not allow them to be extradited to the U.S.

We’re all in this together: How Leicester became a model of multiculturalism (even if that was never the plan…)

You couldn’t ask for a better symbol of the present, paradoxical state of multicultural Britain than Jawaahir Daahir. She is a vigorous example of female empowerment: a Somali refugee in the Hague, she learnt Dutch and studied for seven years to become a social worker there, while bringing up her six children. She is also a conservative Muslim, like most of her compatriots. She combines the two – feminism and religious piety – with no apparent strain. And it was because that combination is one that Britain can deal with, while the Continent finds it unacceptable, that she is now happily settled in Leicester.

 

“When the Somali community came to Leicester there was a sense of support and a welcoming environment. For example, now there are lights, welcoming Ramadan. When I registered my children for school, there were welcome signs in so many languages, including Somali. It was a culture shock, because you don’t expect a Western city to welcome you in your own language. In Holland, even though I participated actively in all sorts of different areas, I still felt separate, different. But here in Leicester you feel a sense of belonging. You are not a foreigner, you are not an outsider. The society and the system acknowledge you and consider you.”

 

David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine, asks hard questions about the economic and political rationale for the mass immigration that has transformed the ethnic profile of so many of our towns and cities. Britain obtained its dazzling array of new citizens with little conscious planning. And, as Goodhart describes, in places such as Bradford and Tower Hamlets, the mixture of declining local industry and a large, tight-knit population of immigrants from rural parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh has produced severe social tension, culminating in the mill-town riots of 2001. But as Jawaahir Daahir’s story reveals, that is not the whole picture. Slap in the middle of England there is a city where an improbably rich mix of people and religions seems to be working rather well. Nobody planned for Leicester to become the most multicultural city on the planet. It just happened that way. And for the early immigrants, too, there was little thought that they might make their lives here.

 

In the past 40 years, Leicester has become the poster city for multicultural Britain, a place where the stunning number and size of the minorities – the 55 mosques, 18 Hindu temples, nine Sikh gurudwaras, two synagogues, two Buddhist centres and one Jain centre – are seen not as a recipe for conflict or a millstone around the city’s neck, but a badge of honour.

 

But in the 12 years since the attacks on America, punctuated by 7/7 and the Woolwich atrocity, Britain’s faith in multiculturalism has begun to erode. After every act of Islamist terrorism, there has been a spasm of revulsion. This is one of the conundrums of our age, one which laid-back, permissive Holland epitomises: how are the super-tolerant children of the European Enlightenment to react to the arrival of newcomers who refuse to adopt the uniform of secular liberalism? How far do you tolerate those who themselves have strict limits on what they will tolerate?

 

As atheists – who account for 23 per cent of Leicester’s population – like to point out, religion is not a reliable recipe for communal harmony. Quite the reverse: as every religion enshrines an exclusive explanation of the world, each has the potential to oppress and persecute those who think differently. And often that’s how it works out. Muslims are often treated like second-class citizens in India, Christians in Pakistan, Hindus in Bangladesh and Muslims in Burma.

 

While the mill towns of Burnley, Oldham and Bradford experienced race riots in 2001, Leicester has ridden out its multicultural decades in considerable peace and harmony. The white population, guided by the likes of Peter Soulsby, has responded with maturity and imagination to these epochal demographic changes. And while there will always be grumbling about the “cosseting” of immigrants, the facts speak for themselves. In the mid-1970s, the National Front was active in Leicester, and on one occasion came close to winning a single council seat. But since then, they and their successors have been notably unsuccessful in the city. If the minority of British whites are seething about the way the city is changing, they are keeping it very much to themselves.

Dutch Court Blocks US Extradition of Al-Qaeda Suspect

23 July 2013

 

A Dutch court has blocked the extradition of Dutch-Pakistani Al-Qaeda suspect to the US, on the grounds of unanswered questions regarding the US role in his alleged torturer in Pakistan. Without proof that the US was not involved in his alleged torture, extradition is illegal.

The man is accused in the US of planning to commit acts of terror, including a suicide attack in Afghanistan in 2010. The 26 year old says that the US played a role in what he says was his torture in Pakistan following his arrest.

Burka Avenger: the Pakistani cartoon challenging the Taliban on girls’ education – video trailer

Watch a trailer for Burka Avenger, the first animated series to be produced in Pakistan. The cartoon was created by local pop star Haroon and stars a burka-clad female superhero who takes on her enemies using a martial art called Takht Kabaddi, which uses books and pens as weapons. The series is intended to provide a positive role model for girls in the face of the Taliban’s opposition to female education.


Concerns over online Qur’an teaching as ex-Pakistan militants instruct pupils

With his track record as a member of the political arm of a banned terrorist organisation, Mian Shahzib is unlikely to ever be given a visa to enter Britain. But that does not stop the jovial 33-year-old from giving British children religious instruction every day from the comfort of his home in Pakistan. He spends hours each night sitting under a fluorescent light in the courtyard of a small mosque in Lahore, peering into a laptop as children first from the Middle East, then Europe and North America spend half an hour after school talking to him over a faltering Skype line. The fact that a hardcore Islamist and long-term follower of the UN-proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) has daily access to children in the west is likely to fuel concerns about religious radicals spreading their message. The organisation is on the UN’s list of sanctioned organisations because of its alleged association with al-Qaida and is considered a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

 

Shahzib’s website, Easy Qur’an Memorising, makes no mention of his history and is one of hundreds of such online companies, some of which advertise on satellite channels broadcasting to the Pakistani diaspora. They are part of a little-known outsourcing boom fuelled by parents of Pakistani origin turning to Qur’an teachers in Pakistan.

The Guardian was told of other online tutors with radical backgrounds or who are members of extreme or sectarian organisations, but it is impossible to know how widespread the phenomenon is in a completely unregulated industry.

 

Sultan Chaudri, the owner of Faiz-e-Quran, said his company is at pains to scrutinise all 13 teachers who work for him to ensure radicals are not employed. “All the problems we are seeing in Pakistan and Afghanistan is because these young children get sent to madrasas where no one knows what sort of education they are getting or what kind of indoctrination is taking place.” Outsourced Qur’an teaching started about six years ago and there are now a handful of big players. Although there are no reliable figures on how many children around the world are being taught by Pakistan-based teachers everyone seems to think it is growing fast.

Shaker Aamer: My fight for justice in Guantánamo

In Guantánamo Bay he was meant to be a Muslim extremist, one of the “worst of the worst”, according to the former United States defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Indeed, because he is still there and 613 detainees have left, you might think that he is the worst of the worst of the worst – although perhaps the fact that he was cleared for release six years ago would give you pause for thought. As I sit alone in my cell, I learn about acts of terrorism that take place around the world. Because the censors here do not let us have the news any more as a punishment for being on hunger strike, I have only heard the bare bones of what happened in Woolwich but, even without knowing all the facts, it is easy for me to condemn it. Just yesterday I was talking to another detainee about the murder of Lee Rigby. Neither of us could understand how anyone could think such an act was consistent with Islam. I condemn it regardless of the men’s motive. I don’t know what they thought might be achieved by it. Perhaps they were just mentally ill. The same is true of the attack on the Boston Marathon in April. Maybe those who killed the innocent thought somehow that their attack was going to strike a blow against those who were fighting Muslims in Afghanistan or Iraq, or the Americans who were killing innocent children with drones in Pakistan and Yemen. But their actions were just plain wrong. You do not kill innocent people on the streets of London or Boston and say that is a jihad for justice. It is important to recognise that the Americans do evil things as well. They say their motivation is to fight terrorism, and fighting terror is something I wholeheartedly support. But while their intentions may be good, their actions are also very wrong – when they kill a small child with a drone missile in Pakistan, or when they lock people up without trial in Guantánamo Bay. These actions are very unwise, too. They anger people who might before have been reasonable, so that more of them turn to extremism. They feed terrorism, just as once the denial of legal rights to those suspected of being Irish terrorists drew disaffected people to the IRA banner. We cannot establish justice by committing injustice. Evil begets evil.

 

Woolwich murder aftermath: Theresa May praises British-based Islamic group

Home Secretary Theresa May has condemned “all forms of extremism” as she praised a British-based Islamic group for its commitment to peaceful co-existence and charitable works. Mrs May said there had been an increase in attacks directed against Muslim communities since the “horrendous” murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last month. Mrs May was speaking at an event in the House of Commons marking the centenary of the establishment of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK. The branch of Islam was founded in the late 19th century in India, but its leader has been based in Britain since 1984 as a result of persecution in Pakistan, where they are officially declared non-Muslims. Mrs May said the Ahmadiyya were subjected to persecution in Pakistan and threats in the UK.