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Pakistan, A Victim Of The Single Story

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At a party in Lahore recently, while commiserating about the political affairs in the U.S, a Pakistani friend recounted a not so surprising experience. While visiting the U.S. through a cultural exchange program, a white woman whose house he was invited to for dinner to showcase American hospitality refused to take a photo with him because she was afraid he might give the photo to the Taliban. Other participants in the program were taking photos with her, but she specifically told my friend that she would not take a photo with him. We both laughed at the ridiculousness of this woman’s assumption. Did she really think that all Pakistanis have interactions with the Taliban?

A better assumption might be for my friend to assume his host’s sympathy to Trump’s intolerant ideology, since 53 percent of white women voters in the U.S. backed Trump. But this captures the terrible consequences of America’s mainstream political and media entities conflating Pakistan with terrorism and only understanding Muslim majority countries within the context of war. Never mind that Pakistanis continue to pay the biggest price for terrorism and are at the forefront of the fight against it. The news this year that Pakistani troops, operating on intelligence provided by the United States, rescued an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children being held for years by militants suspected of ties to the Taliban was not surprising

This, certainly and unfortunately, is nothing new. In the early ’90s, I had just immigrated with my family to the U.S., and at my high school in the Chicago suburbs, my teacher asked me to show my fellow classmates where Pakistan is on the map. But he first asked me to show Kuwait. This was right after the first Gulf War. I was so confused about why I had to show Kuwait, a country I had no relationship to. I now understand that people in the U.S. only know about the Muslim world through war and extremely dehumanizing stereotypes that leave no room for people like my Pakistani friend to be understood as feminist, queer and just like the majority of Pakistanis, opposed to the ideology of the Taliban.

But what gets covered in the mainstream media about Pakistan is so often only about terrorism. Even human interest stories usually begin with a phrase like “despite terrorism…” After the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, I was asked by a writer for the New Yorker if they kill gay people in my country. My response that I go back every year came as a surprise to the writer; it is to Pakistan that I return for my annual pilgrimage to find my humanity and connect with so many friends who are part of the LGBT community.

Pakistan does struggle with increasing extremism and a shrinking definition of what it means to be Muslim, which leaves so many out of the fold and susceptible to attacks; and there is also the perilous plight of religious minorities. However, to only understand Pakistan in this context is similar to only understanding the socio-cultural context of the United States as a country riddled with gun violence.

How can a country of more than 190 million with thriving cosmopolitan cities, artists of global acclaim, designers who exhibit in fashion weeks in Pakistan and around the world, feminist collectives, LGBT organizing, and most importantly, warm and loving people, be reduced to being connected to terrorism?

I do know that this makes it easier to wage war and impose harsh demands on Pakistan as Trump did during the State of the Union address. Seeing Pakistan only in the context of harboring extremists makes it easier to imagine victims of the ongoing drone attacks as terrorists and not grandmothers who happen to be out in the yard. It makes all of us Pakistanis complicit in the U.S’s imagination as terrorists as though our lives don’t hold any other meaning.

And this also makes it easier to continue to fuel anti-Muslim hate in the U.S. It is so often now that I am told that women in Pakistan get killed for going to school by those who know of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s, nearly killed for encouraging girls to learn. In her much shared TED Talk of 2009, Chimamanda Adichie warns us about the danger of a single story. Malala is a powerful and brave young woman but she cannot be the only representation of women in my country; her story cannot be the only story about the women of Pakistan.

On the contrary, women in Pakistan have a long history of fiercely participating in all walks of life, including holding the highest political office in the land, an accomplishment that United States has yet to match. To Americans I would say:  Don’t make victims of us to assuage your own conscience.

No country should have to prove that it is multi-faceted and complicated, that the people living there have dreams, too, and that if they are lucky enough to go through all the checks you need to pass to get a visa to visit the U.S., they are not coming as part of a sinister Taliban plot.

Is that too much to ask?

Urooj Arshad is a member of the steering committee of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity and the Director of international youth health and rights Programs at Advocates for Youth, and a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow at The OpEd Project.

Mubashir Khatri Success life. Making people successful in a changing world. Ranks feed

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Leading German Far-Right Figure Ditches Party, Converts To Islam

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A leading member of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, known for lamenting “Islamization” of the country, has stepped down following his conversion to Islam, according to multiple reports.

Arthur Wagner resigned from his position in the German state of Brandenburg on Jan. 11 for “personal reasons,” party spokesman Daniel Friese said Wednesday. Friese added that the party has no issue with Wagner’s decision.

It’s unclear what prompted Wagner’s religious conversion. Alternative for Germany, or AfD, rose to prominence beginning in 2015 with the influx of refugees and migrants into Europe. The party worked to appeal to mainstream Germans by stoking fear of a cultural overhaul and a threat to the German lifestyle.

“What they’ve done is create this extraordinary newspeak where all of their positions are justified in terms of liberal arguments about right to an identity, right to a separate culture ― arguments about how far a Western culture can absorb a non-Western culture,” Roger Griffin, an expert on fascism and modern history at Oxford Brookes University, told HuffPost last year.

The party was voted into Germany’s Bundestag, or parliament, for the first time in last year’s elections. It’s promoted policies like the repatriation of 500,000 Syrian refugeesliving in Germany, claiming the Syrian civil war is almost over.

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Brazilian Court Upholds Lula’s Corruption Conviction

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, Jan 24 (Reuters) – A Brazilian appeals court upheld the corruption conviction of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday, a major blow to the plans of the country’s most influential politician to run for the presidency again this year.

The first two of three judges voted to uphold Lula’s convictions on taking bribes and money laundering and agreed with the prosecutors’ request to lengthen the prison sentence of Brazil’s first working-class leader, who remains free pending future appeals.

Lula, 72, could now be ineligible to stand for election under Brazil’s “Ficha Limpa” or “Clean Record” law, which bans political candidates whose convictions are upheld by an appelate court. However, an electoral court must make the final ruling on a candidacy, and would only do so once a candidate had registered.

Lula can appeal Wednesday’s decision to higher courts to delay a final decision, possibly avoiding jail and stringing the process out long enough to register his candidacy by the Aug. 15 deadline.

Lula is one of scores of powerful politicians and businessmen caught up in sweeping corruption probes that have wracked the Brazilian establishment since 2014.

His exclusion from the election would radically alter the political landscape ahead of a campaign in which Lula is the early favorite, with 36 percent of voter preferences according to pollster Datafolha. That is double the percentage of his nearest rival, the far-right congressman and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, who has been energized by anti-Lula sentiment.

Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa stock index has risen 8 percent so far this year, propped up by expectations Lula will be barred from the election, clearing the way for a more market-friendly candidate who would stick to Brazil’s austerity agenda.

The Bovespa hit an all-time high on Wednesday as the first of three judges on the court began reading his decision, dismissing a series of arguments presented by Lula’s lawyers.

Brazil’s currency, the real, firmed 1.6 percent against the U.S. dollar, leading gains in Latin America.

MORE CASES

Lula faces six other indictments in corruption cases ranging from receiving bribes from engineering firm Odebrecht to obstructing justice and trafficking his influence to obtain government decisions favoring the auto industry. He is among over 100 people convicted in the “Car Wash” investigation, the most sprawling of Brazil’s numerous probes, focused on graft involving oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro and other state-run companies.

Speaking at a union rally on the outskirts of Sao Paulo on Wednesday, Lula told the crowd, “I committed no crime.”

“The only fair decision today would be a 3-0 ruling that I was wrongly convicted and sentenced,” Lula said

BEACHSIDE APARTMENT

Lula was convicted of corruption and money laundering last year for accepting a beachside apartment from an engineering firm vying for contracts with the state oil company known as Petrobras.

Prosecutors said the apartment and its refurbishing was a bribe worth 3.7 million reais ($1.1 million). Lula maintains he never owned the penthouse apartment, criticizing prosecutors for relying on the plea bargain testimony of one witness, businessman Leo Pinheiro.

“His word is not enough to incriminate Lula,” Lula’s lawyer Cristiano Zanin told the appeals court.

(Writing and additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Bruno Federowski in Brasilia and Pablo Garcia in Sao Bernardo do Campo; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Hay)

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Trump Threatens To Pull Aid To Palestinians If They Don’t Pursue Peace

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DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to withhold aid to the Palestinians if they did not pursue peace with Israel, saying they had snubbed the United States by not meeting Vice President Mike Pence during a recent visit.

Trump, speaking after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum, said he wanted peace. However, his remarks could further frustrate the aim of reviving long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Palestinians shunned Pence’s visit to the region this month after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to begin moving the U.S. embassy to the city, whose status is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s endorsement in December of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital drew universal condemnation from Arab leaders and criticism around the world. It also broke with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands ― that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” Trump said.

The United States said this month it would withhold $65 million of $125 million it had planned to send to the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees. The UNRWA agency is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from U.N. states and the United states is the largest contributor.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States had taken itself “off the table” as a peace mediator since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Palestinian rights are not up to any bargain and Jerusalem is not for sale. The United States can’t have any role unless it retreats its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters by phone from Jordan.

Abbas has called Trump’s Jerusalem declaration a “slap in the face” and has rejected Washington as an honest broker in any future talks with Israel. Abbas left for an overseas visit before Pence arrived.

Abbas has said he would only accept a broad, internationally backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley also criticized Abbas.

Israel’s government regards Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the country, although that is not recognized internationally. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Speaking in Davos, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said only the United States could broker a peace deal.

“I think there’s no substitute for the United States. As the honest broker, as a facilitator, there’s no other international body that would do it,” Netanyahu said.

Trump said Palestinians had to come to the negotiating table.

“Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace and they’re going to have to want to make peace too or we’re going to have nothing to do with them any longer,” Trump said.

Trump said his administration had a peace proposal in the works that was a “great proposal forPalestinians” which covers “a lot of the things that were over the years discussed or agreed on”, without providing specifics.

Trump said his declaration on Jerusalem took it off the negotiating table “and Israel will pay for that”, adding “they’ll do something that will be a very good thing” without elaborating.

Earlier at the World Economic Forum, Jordanian King Abdullah said Jerusalem had to be part of a comprehensive solution.

He said Trump’s decision had created a backlash, frustrating Palestinians who felt there was no honest broker.

But he added: “I’d like to reserve judgment because we’re still waiting for the Americans to come out with their plan.”

King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Jordan particularly sensitive to any changes of status there.

The last talks collapsed in 2014, partly due to Israel’s opposition to an attempted unity pact between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, and because of Israeli settlement building on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state, among other factors.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider as illegal the Israeli settlements built in the territory which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel denies its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks.

The United States has said it would support a two-state solution if the Israelis and Palestiniansagreed to it.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in RAMALLAH, Ari Rabinovitch in JERUSALEM, Michelle Nichols at the UNITED NATIONS and Noah Barkin and Dmitry Zhdannikov in DAVOS; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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