Hundreds of children dying in Pakistan measles outbreak


Measles cases in 2012 have surged by almost five times of that the previous year in Pakistan, leading to the deaths of hundreds of children, according to an international health body.

Maryam Yunus, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that 306 children died in Pakistan because of the infectious disease in 2012, a dramatic surge from to the 64 children in 2011.

The WHO said the jump was most pronounced in southern Sindh province, where measles killed 210 children in 2012. Twenty-eight children died there the year before.

The organisation did not give a reason for the increase in deaths, but a provincial health official in Sindh said that the disease hit areas where poor families did not vaccinate their children.

A provincial health minister said 100 children died in Sindh province in December alone, mostly in areas where many people were not vaccinated.

He said health officials recently launched a campaign to vaccinate 2.9 million children in the affected areas of the province and urged parents to get their children vaccinated.

“We are vaccinating more than 450 patients per day. We are working on vaccination since the outbreak of measles in the area,” Dr Shahid Hafeez Shahani, a government official, said.

Do the math. At the current rate, they will have vaccinated 2.9 children in just under 18 years. Some of them will already have children of their own – halfway through the project.

Pakistan has a poor health care system, unsanitary conditions in many regions due to poverty, and a lack of education about how to prevent disease.

Pakistani officials believe that the worst-hit areas are poverty stricken areas where children did not receive vaccination.

Many Pakistanis, especially in rural areas, view vaccination campaigns with suspicion as a western plot to sterilise Muslims…

Most people who contract the disease recover, but it can be fatal for malnourished children.

Ignorance, poverty, religion. You can pick the order of responsibility, which needs to be dragged into modern life, first. They all share the blame – and the same clueless government.

Pic of the Day

Click on photo to enlarge
Photo by Ina Fassbender / Reuters

One hundred Barbie dolls dressed in black burkas peer out of their cloaks in artist Sabine Reyer’s ‘Sheltered Position’ artwork on display at the Ruhr-Biennale in Dortmund, Germany, which opened on October 7 and runs until December 12, 2012.

Uh, OK.

India’s mobile Internet turns local clashes into ethnic confrontation

The panic of people in flight
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

In July, tensions that had long simmered in Assam, a state in northeast India, between members of the Bodo tribe and Bengali-speaking Muslim immigrants, came to a boil in a surge of violence, claiming many lives and displacing thousands. It was lamentable that this crisis did not receive as much attention in the national media as it should have, but the fallout of the violence across the country was just as disturbing.

Bit by bit, a regional dispute with a long and complex history involving local political parties, illegal immigration and movement patterns of settlement over decades, was turned, on Internet forums and through text messages, into a Hindu-Muslim faceoff, with all the absence of specificity and projection of stereotypes common to this kind of debate.

Earlier this month, a rally was held in Mumbai, more than 1,500 miles west of the Assam violence, to protest the attacks on Muslims in Assam. Fuelled by doctored videos of violence against Muslims, the protest turned bloody, leaving two people dead and over 100 injured.

A few days later, rumors fanned out in Bangalore, again more than 1,500 miles south of Assam, that the city’s sizeable class of migrants from northeast India might be under attack by Muslims. A vicious campaign of threats over text message led thousands of northeastern migrants to flee the city, in a disturbing echo of the many thousands displaced in Assam. On Wednesday, the Indian Express reported that preliminary investigations revealed that one miscreant in Bangalore, a cellphone repairman, had forwarded inflammatory images and messages to about 20,000 people…

At the heart of this violence was the continuing chasm of understanding that lies between what is called “mainland India” and the seven states of its northeast, which have historically received stepmotherly treatment from New Delhi and found their citizens handled like aliens when they travel to other parts of their own country. As Sanjoy Hazarika wrote in the Hindustan Times on Aug. 19, this ignorance led to thousands of people from the northeast becoming scapegoats…

Meanwhile, back in Assam, thousands of people displaced by the original commotion — the clashes that allowed groups with different ideological convictions to invent or inflame further violence, sometimes with the creative narrative use of modern technology — are just beginning to return home from the relief camps in which they have for weeks been forced to seek refuge.

I can offer little more than empathy from this distance. I haven’t even the advantage of kinship with relatives living in the disturbed areas – or India itself. The roots of colonial exacerbation of religious and ethnic foolishness are nothing new; but, that understanding doesn’t offer – in my mind – any better chance of reason and civic accommodation in India than, say, in the Balkans.

The only start to that process might be in political parties campaigning seriously on unity and civil rights, forming government that recognize the need beyond lip-service. That, too, isn’t a new suggestion.

New Jersey mall cop orders Muslim woman to remove veil

A woman shopping at a New Jersey mall said Saturday that she was shocked when a security guard told her to take off her niqab, the traditional face veil worn by some Muslim women.

Wakeelah Salaam, born in the U.S. and raised Muslim, told WABC Ch. 7 Eyewitness News she felt threatened after the same guard at Bridgewater Commons mall approached her twice.

“He said, Maam, I’m telling you, you cannot wear that mask in here,” Salaam told ABC. Salaam said she felt so uncomfortable she eventually called the police. After speaking to police, she left the mall…

Salaam regularly wears a face covering, a hijab, or headscarf, and a long dress in public, leaving only her eyes exposed…Some women choose to wear the scarf so men don’t judge them by their appearance…

She said she’s worn the niqab to court and to visit a relative in prison without complaint, so was surprised by the security guards actions.

Later, an executive from the company that runs security at the mall called Salaam to apologize.

Our security guard has received additional training in cultural diversity, said the spokesperson. “We respect her right to dress according to her religious beliefs.”

Salaam told ABC she appreciated the apology, but would probably choose a different mall to shop at in the future.

What is there to say? You can come with snappy little jokes about mall cops and nuns, Hassidic Jews, whatever. The company providing security guards did a lousy job at hiring or training or both. This is, after all, supposed to be the United States of America in the 21st Century.

Prayer rooms to be set up at Aussie Rules football stadiums

Establishing a proper sense of quiet reverence

Prayer rooms will be set up at all Aussie Rules stadiums following a request by a devout Muslim player to ensure fans do not have to pray in the car park.

The move prompted claims of “political correctness gone mad” but was largely met with amusement by fans who began issuing prayers for their teams on websites and a newly-created prayer room app for mobile phones.

The sporting code decided last week to introduce the multi-faith rooms as a “demonstration of our inclusiveness” following a request by Bachar Houli, believed to be the first observant Muslim player, who said it would lure more Muslims to the game.

“I speak for the Muslim community, I get complaints [that] there is nowhere to pray other than the car park,” said Mr Houli, who plays for the Richmond club. “It can be quite disturbing [to pray] with people walking through to the game.”

Some Christian and Jewish leaders also backed the rooms, saying they were already common in airports and hospitals.

However the move caused a backlash led by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, now president of the Hawthorn club, who said the rooms were “absolute rubbish”.

“To put prayer rooms into sporting venues is not part of the Australian lexia, that’s not the way in which we behave,” he told SBS Television…I think it’s an overreaction … It’s not practical, it’s stupid, it’s political correctness gone mad…”

On the message board for Playup’s sports social media app, users issued various prayers for their team to win or for their wives to let them watch without changing the channel

“I pray for the miracle of a pies loss AND a bombers loss today,” said one fan. “Will take a draw if this proves too difficult for the almighty…”

My mates in Oz who belong to the only true religion — followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — are filing a request for the food stalls to begin offering pointy food as required by our religion.

23 found guilty of murdering Muslims in India’s Gujarat state

Twenty three people have been found guilty of murdering Muslims, including women and children, in sectarian rioting that erupted in India’s western Gujarat state a decade ago.

An equal number of mostly Hindu defendants were acquitted for their involvement in burning 23 Muslims to death in the small Gujarati village of Ode after bolting the doors of the house where they had taken refuge from marauding mobs and then setting it alight.

Eighteen of the victims were women and children.

Rioting erupted in Gujarat in 2002 after a suspected Muslim mob burned a trainload of 58 Hindu activists at Gujarat’s Godhra station, 100 miles from the state capital Gandhinagar…

Hindus blamed Muslims for the train fire and, seeking revenge, went on a rampage through their neighbourhoods in towns and villages across Gujarat in three days of unrelenting violence following the incident. Sporadic rioting continued in the state for at least three months in what was considered one of India’s worst outbreaks of sectarian violence in recent years and one which activists referred to as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and an ‘anti-Muslim pogrom’.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party…was held responsible for failing to stop the violence. Many activists, backed by media reports and human rights groups accused Modi of actively encouraging the rioting…

The Ode massacre was one of 10 key incidents being probed by a Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team set up in 2008 after Modi was blamed for interfering with riot cases registered in Gujarat by obstructing investigations.

What is there to say?

Nation-states that rely on theocracy for wisdom in governance inevitably fail every historic standard of decency and lawfulness.

FBI Islamic training materials gave the OK to infringe on civil rights

Dick Durbin

Training materials used by the FBI for dealing with American Muslims and other Islamic communities have advised agents they can break the law and impinge on some of their targets’ civil rights.

The instructions were contained in confidential materials reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of an internal FBI probe into what sort of training agents were exposed to when dealing with Islam…

Though that material has not been published – and senate staffers were not allowed to keep copies – committee member Senator Dick Durbin has revealed some of its contents in a letter written to FBI director Robert Mueller.

In the letter – first revealed by the Danger Room blog on – Durbin describes one slide that read: “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others.”

That comment is sure to anger civil liberties groups and Muslim community organisations who have long complained that their community has been subject to undue harassment and racial profiling by law enforcement.

It should also anger any American citizen who believes our Constitution is worth defending.

Continue reading

Two of my favorite footballers celebrate a goal

Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are two of my favorite footballers – even if they play for Newcastle United. 🙂 Demba Ba in particular has a shot like a cannon.

But, I got to thinking about the difference in sophistication likely between the UK and the US. Americans get all woo-hoo over Tim Tebow and his Christian prayer pose. That’s just as common among athletes in Europe. Except oftimes those athletes aren’t Christian – they’re Muslim. Their celebration means as much to them as do the poses of Christian athletes.

So – you think there aren’t any Muslims in the NFL? Think, again. Do you think maybe it’s been suggested that for their own safety they shouldn’t kneel and face in the direction of Mecca when they score a touchdown? Tell us what you think would happen?

Muslim scholars say women driving will end virginity

I have a special pocket for my driver’s license

Allowing women drivers in Saudi Arabia will tempt them into sex, promote pornography and create more homosexuals, according to some conservative Muslim scholars.

Academics at the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, which is Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, said the relaxation of the rules would inevitably lead to “no more virgins”.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving.

The academics, working in conjunction with Kamal Subhi, a former professor at the conservative King Fahd University, produced the conclusions in a report for the country’s legislative assembly, the Shura Council.

It warned that allowing women to drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce“. Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, it claimed, there would be “no more virgins” in the Islamic kingdom.

It pointed out that “moral decline” could already be seen in those other Muslim countries in which women are allowed to drive…

The Saudi government is currently considering a proposal to ban women – already forced to cover up most of their body in public – from even displaying their eyes, if they are judged too “tempting”.

It’s useful once in a while to be reminded how completely useless and backwards a theocracy can be. Like monarchies. Or Congressional fact-finding committees.

Jewish traditional bakery kept alive in Brooklyn by two Muslims

Two Pakistani Muslims in Brooklyn are now running the oldest bialy store in the city, and keeping it kosher.

Zafaryab Ali and his business partner, Peerada Shah, were shocked on hearing through a friend that Coney Island Bialys and Bagels was closing. Ali had worked at the store for 10 years in the 1990s and remembers it always being crowded, with lines out the door and people waiting up to half an hour for fresh bialys. So Ali and Shah bought the store to keep the 91-year business alive.

Bialys are a lighter, softer cousin to the bagel, traditionally made with onion sprinkled on top.

“I know bagels and my partner knows management,” Ali said. “If we work hard and pay attention, we’ll build up and bring more customers in.”

Ali and Shah are keeping everything the same — ingredients, equipment, recipes — all used when it was a kosher store under Jewish management. Ali is now on the hunt for a rabbi to come and give the store an official kosher certification.

They even have some of the same staff, like Ernie Devivo, a semi-retired baker who is still helping out around the shop. “I’m glad we opened up again,” Devivo said. “It’s good for everybody.”

A wonderful tale. RTFA and enjoy ordinary working people who respect other traditions and the sense of community a neighborhood is capable of enjoying.

That the tale is of two Muslims reviving a Jewish tradition is icing on the cake. Or in my case, garlic on a bialy.