(L-R) Malala Yousafzai, Shiza Shahid and Khalida Brohi. PHOTO: FORBES
Two Women Arrested In Sharjah for Burglaries
NJ Assembly Expected To Send FGM Ban to Governor
Victorian Women MPs Pan Abortion 'Death' Claim
Kohistan 'Honour' Killing: Pakistani Woman Rukhsana Bibi Relives Horror
Israel’s New Law To Send ‘Revenge Porn’ Uploaders To Jail For Five Years
Three Pakistani Women Recognised In Forbes '30 Under 30' List
Rafaat Mughal Awarded OBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List
Tunisia Votes for Gender Equality in New Constitution
India’s Malik Sisters Empower Young Women by Scaling Mount Everest, Shattering Stereotypes
Perkasa Full Of Rubbish, Says Marina Mahathir On Group’s Criticism of Her
Rupsina Parvin: First Muslim Women Who Joined Directly In the Post Of Sub-Inspector In WB
Rohina Malik’s Play Unveiled Addresses Negative Stereotypes about Muslims
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Taliban Persuades 10-Year-Old Sister to Wear Suicide Vest to Blow up Local Afghan Police
January 7, 2014
Soldiers arrested the girl named as Spozhmay on Sunday night in a remote village called Uwshi and taken to Helmand’s capital Lashkar Gah to be interviewed
The ten-year-old sister of a Taliban commander has been arrested wearing a suicide vest, it has been revealed.
Soldiers arrested the girl named as Spozhmay moments before she had planned to blow up local Afghan police.
The girl is being detained in Helmand Province and is thought to be one of the youngest recorded would-be suicide bombers to survive.
She was arrested on Sunday night in a remote village called Uwshi , in the Charchino Distric and taken to Helmand’s capital Lashkar Gah to be interviewed.
Sources say the girl, who was pictured eating an orange, claimed her Taliban brother had persuaded her to wear the vest - but she failed to blow it up.
It is thought her mission was to attack a police station and according to interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi an Afghan soldier spotted her wearing a suicide jacket.
But she could not operate the button to detonate the suicide vest and she was arrested before she could carry the attack.
In July it emerged that Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are bribing starving children as young as eight years old to plant deadly roadside booby traps, be decoys in ambushes and even act as suicide bombers.
It comes at a time when the Taliban appear to making a comeback to Helmand Province where British troops have fought them bitterly since 2006.
Yesterday former British defence chiefs have warned parts of Afghanistan could fall to the Taliban when British troops leave this year, despite PM David Cameron’s “mission accomplished, claim .
Ex-SAS commander Lieut Col Richard Williams said there growing collaboration between Taliban insurgents and Afghan soldiers and politicians in the Helmand Province.
He explained: “I will be very surprised if the future governor of Helmand...is not very closely connected to those who we call the Taliban,” he told the paper.
“We will end up in a very uncomfortable position, where people will say: ‘We’ve lost nearly 500 guys, most of those were in Helmand, and at the end of it all, we have handed Helmand back to a Taliban-sympathetic governor.”
It follows a Daily Mirror world exclusive interview with Taliban commander Qari Nasrullah who claimed Afghanistan will be over-run by the Taliban.
We also revealed just weeks ago that the Taliban are already going on joint patrols with British-trained
Afghan security forces in Sangin town - where more than 100 of our soldiers, sailors and airmen have died fighting.
Cameron faced criticism last month for saying that NATO-led foreign troops had accomplished their mission of providing security in Afghanistan.
It echoed of former US president George W. Bush’s much-derided comments on Iraq in 2003.
Britain currently has around 5,200 troops in Afghanistan, down from 9,000 at the start of 2013, and plans to have no combat troops on the ground by the end of this year.
David Richards, who was chief of the defence staff until last year, doubted the Afghan army could cope once the drawdown was complete, saying the ability to deal with insurgents will “rapidly fall away.”
He added: “More importantly, the signal of a loss of confidence in Afghanistan would have a devastating effect on the Afghan economy and, therefore in turn, lead to a breeding ground for militant jihadists to return.”
Two women arrested in Sharjah for burglaries
Afkar Abdullah / 7 January 2014
A CID official said cases of theft were reported at several police station in the emirate, following which they formed a team to investigate them.
The gang, which also includes a male accomplice, broke into apartments by using duplicate keys.
A gang of thieves has been busted with the arrest of two Arab women, who allegedly used duplicate keys to carry out a spate of thefts at residential apartments throughout Sharjah. The Sharjah Police made the arrests on Monday.
Police officials said the gang, which also includes a male accomplice, broke into apartments by using duplicate keys. They stole jewellery, cash, mobile phones and other valuable items.
A Criminal Investigation Department (CID) official said cases of theft were reported at several police station in the emirate, following which ?they formed a team to investigate them.
The police arrested the two women, identified as D.G.H., 49, and K.K.I., 46. D.G.H. entered the country illegally, while K.K.I. is here on a ?visit visa.
During their interrogation, they confessed to the crime and identified their male compatriot accomplice as R.A.I. His role in the crime was to drop the two accused to the place where they planned ?to commit the robbery, following which he would drive them back.
The suspects were all referred to the Public Prosecution for trial.
Colonel Jihad bin Sahoh, Director-General of Investigation and Search Department at the Sharjah Police, warned people against dealing with beggars, as many of them are simply on assessment missions for thefts. He also urged tenants to lock and secure their apartments when going outside or sleeping.
NJ Assembly Expected To Send FGM Ban to Governor
January 7, 2014
TRENTON — A practice that the World Health Organization calls a violation of human rights could soon be outlawed in New Jersey.
The state Assembly today plans a vote on a bill (S1171) that would ban female genital mutilation on minors.
The AHA Foundation – a group founded by a victim of mutilation that drafted the model legislation – said the procedure is typically practiced on girls age 4 to 14 to “ensure their virginity until marriage.” The foundation said that, while genital mutilation has no basis in Islamic scripture, it is practiced mainly in Muslim communities.
“Because this is a private ritual that occurs within the secrecy of the family, there is no way of knowing exactly how prevalent (female genital mutilation) is in the U.S.” the foundation wrote on its website. “There have been few reported cases… being performed in the U.S.; however, numerous authorities suspect that the actual numbers are far higher.”
The bill passed the state Senate in March 2012 by a vote of 39 - 0. If passed by the Assembly today, it will go to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
The World Health Organization estimates 140 million women around the world have been victims of the procedure The bill before the Assembly today estimates that 228,000 women and girls in the U.S. either have undergone mutilation or are at risk for it.
Those who perform the procedure on minors would face three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The World Health Organization says that genital mutilation offers no health benefits but many dangers, including severe pain, infections, childbirth complications, infertility, and the need for future surgeries.
Victorian Women Mps Pan Abortion 'Death' Claim
January 7, 2014
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has joined Liberal women MPs to denounce their colleague Cory Bernardi for claiming supporters of abortion rights are "pro-death".
Senator Bernardi has sparked a furious reaction after he claimed in his new book, The Conservative Revolution, that abortion was an "abhorrent form of birth control" and said the 80,000 to 100,000 terminations performed each year by the "death industry" were "horrendous and unacceptable".
The backbencher likened babies conceived by IVF or surrogacy to commodities, and said having children raised by traditional families was preferable to stepfamilies, gay couples and single parents.
He claimed boys raised by single parents had higher rates of criminality and girls were more promiscuous. Senator Bernardi defended his views yesterday, saying the debate about abortion should be reopened.
"I haven't said we should outlaw or prohibit abortion," he told the ABC. "I have said there is a right-to-life issue we should be exploring." Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has pledged not to change abortion laws despite his own pro-life views, said Senator Bernardi's views were not those of the Government.
A spokeswoman for Ms Bishop said: "These are Mr Bernardi's views. They do not represent the views of the minister."
Victorian Liberal MP Sharman Stone said the senator was out of touch with women's lives.
"No woman chooses an abortion over contraception," Dr Stone told _The West Australian _. "Is he really suggesting he wants the bad old days of coat hangers and backyard haemorrhages because that would be a very cruel and an ungodly thing to suggest."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, himself a stepfather, branded Senator Bernardi offensive.
He has frequently criticised the Islamic faith and was forced to quit as Mr Abbott's parliamentary secretary in 2012 after comparing gay marriage to bestiality.
Kohistan 'honour' killing: Pakistani woman Rukhsana Bibi relives horror
January 07, 2014
On a hot and humid night in late August, a small group quietly scales the wall of a mud-brick house in a village near Pakistan's north-western town of Akora Khatak.
In the dim, starlit courtyard, they make out the figures of a man and a woman lying in two separate charpoy cots, sleeping. About 15 minutes later, they walk out through the main door, leaving the couple in pools of blood.
This description of the scene in Akora Khatak forms the backdrop to allegations of a so-called "honour killing", one of the great unspoken stories of the Pakistan-Afghanistan region where it widely prevails. Nowhere is it pursued as doggedly as in Kohistan, a remote and mountainous region in northern Pakistan.
The code is simple: Any contact, even just communication between a man and a woman outside of customary wedlock is considered a breach of the honour of the woman's family, and gives it the right to seek bloody revenge.
The woman's family must first kill her and then go after the man.
The mere expression of suspicion by the woman's family is enough evidence and the community demands no further proof.
Once such a suspicion has been expressed, local custom prevents the family of the man killed in this way from avenging his death or reporting it to the police.
By their very nature, "honour killings" are particularly difficult to prove or to prosecute. There are frequently no witnesses to the crime and little motivation for the police to pursue any suspects, irrespective of the evidence.
One person who hopes to change that is Rukhsana Bibi, now a widow, who claims that she survived an "honour killing" in a village near Akora Khatak and has taken the unusual step of publicly speaking out, trying to seek justice through the legal system.
Ms Bibi suffered horrific chest and leg injuries when she and husband, Mohammad Yunus, were victims of a brutal attack while they lay sleeping in the courtyard in Akora Khatak. Her husband was murdered, but Ms Bibi survived with seven bullets in her body: two in the chest, three in the left leg and two in the left hip.
She still suffers bouts of weakness because of her injuries. She was so badly hurt that she needs a walking frame to move around.
Ms Bibi was 18, and her lover, Mohammad Yunus, 22 when they decided to elope on 22 May last year. "I had no choice," she explains to me as we sit in a small, cramped room somewhere in northern Pakistan where she is hiding. "I either had to kill myself, or run away."
Ms Bibi tells me that she met Mr Yunus - a student of medical technology - at a village wedding in the summer of 2011. They fell in love with each other at first sight.
Although their meetings were rare, they frequently spoke to each other on their mobile phones.
She describes how their relationship went on like this until April, when her family arranged her marriage to a distant relative, an uneducated cattle tender in her village.
Unhappy and frustrated, she and Mr Yunus decided to run away.
They married in the north-west before going into hiding in the Akora Khatak area.
But Ms Bibi now strongly believes that the brutal attack which killed her husband in August was undertaken by various relatives seeking to avenge the disgrace which they believe she had brought upon her family honour.
She has given her account of the evening when she was attacked to the BBC.
"I must have heard the footsteps in my sleep," she says, recalling the incident.
Tears roll down her cheeks as she narrates her story, but her face is expressionless, and her voice does not tremble.
"I opened my eyes.
"All of them were armed. I knew our end had come, so I shouted to my sleeping husband."
The intruders shot her first, apparently in compliance with the custom, and then turned on her husband, pulling him off the bed and pumping bullets into his body.
"They continued to fire shots at us for a long time. Sparks flew in our house like the flashes from a big explosion. I was screaming at first, but then I pretended I was dead."
Regaining consciousness after the attack, Ms Bibi discovered that she had fallen over and that her left leg was lying limply on the ground.
"It felt so heavy, I couldn't lift it to the bed," she says, her voice steady.
She witnessed her husband dying in a pool of blood on the ground next to her.
She thought she saw him breathe.
"He was alive for a minute or two after they left. I couldn't move, so I called his name. He turned his eyes to look at me for a brief moment. Then his head sank to the ground."
Neighbours who heard the firing and her screams arrived at the scene some 15 minutes later and took her to hospital. Unquestionably they saved her life.
Her determination to stay alive has meant that she was able to identify those who she claimed had carried out the attack. Police have issued arrest warrants for some of those who Ms Bibi has claimed were amongst her attackers.
Whether this was actually an "honour killing" as Ms Bibi claims, and whether any case can be proven in court remains uncertain.
One of those she has named as a suspected attacker has a strong alibi. When contacted by the BBC, he denied that he was one of Ms Bibi's relatives or had any involvement in the attack, stressing that his colleagues had vouched for him on the evening of the attack when he was working many miles away. He also claimed that another of the accused had been falsely implicated by Ms Bibi.
He alleged that Ms Bibi had done so in order to protect herself against those who had sought to kill her and husband. Another of the suspects also denied any involvement in the murder. He claimed that the allegations were a "misunderstanding" and alleged that as Mr Yunus had previously been involved in an unrelated murder allegation, the attack on him and Ms Bibi was likely to be the result of somebody "avenging" a previous incident.
Whether Ms Bibi's case will ever come to court is therefore unclear. Her allegations are unproven, and although arrest warrants have been issued for some of those suspects who she has identified to police, any actual arrests and interviews by the police are not thought to be imminent.
These interviews are necessary before a police investigation can determine whether there is sufficient evidence behind Ms Bibi's allegations to charge any suspects. Until then, the motive for the attack on her and the actual identity of her attackers remains undetermined.
"Fighting such a case in the court is tough, but when I go for hearings, I don't feel any pain in my body," she says.
"I am a dead person anyway, but I have to get justice for myself and my husband. We did no wrong."
For centuries, Kohistan's "honour" killings have remained as little reported as the region itself.
But in recent years there has been greater scrutiny, and deaths have been more frequently reported to the police.
One reason appears to be the growth of mobile telephone technology, which has sparked differences over what constitutes an "honour" killing.
The first big challenge to this unwritten code came in May 2012 when someone in the area circulated a mobile phone video showing some women and men dancing and clapping at a wedding.
It is alleged that some men from the families of the women decided they had been shamed and reportedly killed four women shown in the video, as well as a fifth girl for acting as a messenger. They are also accused of killing three brothers from the men's family.
But a dispute apparently arose when the family of the brothers complained that relatives of the women had the right only to kill the two men who had appeared in the video.
The women's family are said to have argued that since they had killed five of their women, the custom also allowed them to kill five men.
The case was picked up by the Supreme Court and human rights groups, but it was left unresolved due to local complications.
However, the publicity it attracted probably did save some lives and encourage other affected families to report such killings to the police.
Since April, police in Kohistan have registered at least seven reports in which 10 people have been killed, allegedly for "honour", seven of them women.
While these figures suggest that the police have become more active in registering complaints, few people named in them have actually been arrested. That may be because many of those accused wield considerable influence.
There are then the difficulties of the terrain to contend with.
"Each police station covers a 70- to 80-square kilometre area, all of it mountains and deep valleys that take a police team days to reach," says Ali Akbar, Kohistan's district police chief.
"Hours before the police can reach a village, the villagers have advance information of their arrival and send the wanted men into forests and caves to hide."
Furthermore, there appears to be an enigmatic bond between the prospective killers and their likely victims which the police have no clue how to break.
There is considerable evidence that women declared tainted by their families have chosen to die rather than seek outside help, even when this is easily available.
But for Rukhsana Bibi, the mere fact that more people are willing to consider reporting "honour"-related killings to the police is a sign of change.
"I am not alone," she says. "All girls are treated like this in Kohistan, and since most of them are uneducated, they can't fight.
"But the new generation is changing, God willing. They just need a little help from the courts and the government."
Israel’s new law to send ‘revenge porn’ uploaders to jail for five years
January 07, 2014
The Knesset passed an amendment to the Sexual Harassment Bill which stipulates that no sexually explicit image or video can be uploaded to the internet, a measure that is expected to curtail so-called revenge porn incidences.
The new law drafted by MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) states that the posting of 'revenge porn' without the depicted individual’s knowledge will be considered sexual harassment, punishable with up to five years in jail.
Individuals who are targeted by this activity will be considered victims of sexual assault, states the law that was passed Monday.
Kariv drafted the legislation last year after a man posted a video of himself having sex with his ex-girlfriend on the mobile messaging application, WhatsApp. The video was then shared with tens of thousands of people.
“These days, we are witnessing more and more cases of sexual assault that are fecklessly documented and shared with the public,” said Kariv, as quoted by The Times of Israel.
The Israeli MP called the law a decisive step against stopping the “shocking phenomenon of ‘virtual rape.’”
“This is a great accomplishment for victims of sexual crimes.”
She added that posting sexually explicit media “could ruin the lives of people and young girls, some of whom develop suicidal tendencies or become unwitting porn stars as a result.”
Other countries have already experienced such tragedies.
In New Jersey, one of two US states that have laws against revenge porn, a Rutgers university student was prosecuted after he distributed video footage of his roommate engaged in sexual activity, after which the roommate committed suicide. The law has also been used to press charges against several men who allegedly posted revenge porn of their former girlfriends.
In California, it is prohibited to distribute “intimate” photographs or videos taken of an individual “with the intent to cause serious emotional distress.”
The ACLU, however, argued that the posting of ‘revenge porn’ is protected by the First Amendment: "The posting of otherwise lawful speech or images even if offensive or emotionally distressing is constitutionally protected. The speech must constitute a true threat or violate another otherwise lawful criminal law, such as stalking or harassment statute, in order to be made illegal.”
Many other countries have privacy legislation on the books that may be applicable to revenge porn.
France, for example, deems it illegal to violate the privacy of another by "transmitting the picture of a person who is within a private place, without the consent of the person concerned."
Canada is considering legislation that criminalizes the "non-consensual distribution of intimate images" and permits the elimination of revenge porn from the Internet.
Three Pakistani women recognised in Forbes '30 Under 30' list
January 7, 2014
Forbes released its ’30 Under 30′ list for 2014 on Monday, in which the business magazine recognises 450 young game-changers across 15 different fields. This year’s Social Entrepreneurship category features three Pakistani women who they believe are changing the world.
The most well-known face among the three is Malala Yousufzai, whose campaign for girls’ education has already won her many accolades. She is credited with co-founding the Malala Fund and also on the list is her c0-founder Shiza Shahid.
Shahid, a 24-year-old graduate of Stanford University, was also recently acknowledged by Time magazine in December, 2013 as one of 30 people under 30 changing the world.
Shahid, who is also the CEO of the Malala Fund, is quoted in Forbes as saying that with the fund she hoped to leverage Malala’s voice in such a way that the energy surrounding the young activist is transformed into meaningful action.
The third young Pakistani woman on the list is 25-year-old Khalida Brohi. Brohi was only 16 years old when she witnessed the honour killing of her friend, reported Forbes.
This experience led her to found Sughar, a non-profit organisation, which empowers women by providing them with six-month courses on business and crafts. Sughar aids village women in starting their small businesses so that they become more financially independent.
Also on the list, in separate categories, are famous names such as TV actor and director Lena Dunham, tennis star Maria Sharapova and pop sensation Justin Bieber.
Bieber, 19, has earned an estimated $113 million in the last two years from his works. 21-year-old pop star Miley Cyrus also made it onto the list.
Cyrus has sold 270,000 copies of her most recent album Bangerz in its first week after the release.
Other stars who make it onto the list in the category of music include Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, One Direction, Katy Perry, Drake and Lorde.
Jennifer Lawrence, 23, was also on the list. She received the best actress trophy in the Academy Awards for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. She was also named one of highest-earning actresses in Hollywood, reportedly earning $10 million from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Rafaat Mughal Awarded OBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List
January 7, 2014
A women’s rights activist was awarded an OBE for her work to empower women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Rafaat Mughal, founder of the JAN Trust in Wood Green, was recognised in the Queen’s New Years honours list.
She started the trust in 1989 and has since helped thousands of women across London to become independent, active members of society.
Mrs Mughal said: “I am honoured to be awarded an OBE.
“It is such an achievement to be recognised for the work I have been carrying out for the last 25 years for disadvantaged women, supporting and assisting them with their integration into society and tackling the violence and abuse they suffer.
“I am flattered to receive this award.”
As well as founding the charity, Mrs Mughal also lectures on in the Middle East, east Africa and Europe, and previously worked as a researcher on issues affecting ethnic minorities.
She was also one of the first Muslim women to be elected as a councillor in Haringey.
Mrs Mughal has previously been invited to No. 10 Downing Street by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was also runner-up for the Lifetime Achievement Award 2012 in the Directory of Social Change Awards.
JAN Trust has won multiple awards, including The Third Centre Awards for Excellence 2013 in the category of ‘Small Charity Big Achiever’ as well as The Centre for Social Justice Award 2013.
Tunisia votes for gender equality in new constitution
January 7, 2014, AFP
Tunis: Tunisia's national assembly has approved an article in the draft constitution that would guarantee gender equality "without discrimination" in the Muslim nation.
"All male and female citizens have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law without discrimination," states article 20 of the new charter, which was approved by 159 MPs out of the 169 who voted on Monday.
Tunisia hopes to adopt the long-delayed new constitution by January 14, the three-year anniversary of the overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt that kicked off the Arab Spring.
Since the 1950s, when it gained independence from France, Tunisia has had the most liberal laws in the Arab world on women's rights, which some have accused the outgoing Islamist-led government of wanting to roll back.
Human rights groups had expressed reservations about article 20 of the constitution, arguing that it limits the protection of rights to citizens and not foreigners, and does not specify the prohibited grounds of discrimination.
They urged the assembly, in a joint statement last week, to "enshrine the principles of equality and non-discrimination before the law and extend it to anyone subject to the jurisdiction of Tunisian authorities, including both citizens and foreigners".
"Article 20 should specify that discrimination, direct and indirect, is prohibited on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status," said the NGOs, which included Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Article 45, which would guarantee the protection of women's rights by the state and the "equality of opportunity for men and women", has yet to be examined.
India’s Malik Sisters Empower Young Women By Scaling Mount Everest, Shattering Stereotypes
January 7, 2014
In May 2013, a truly extraordinary and unprecedented event occurred on one of the world's most spectacular settings – three young women barely out of their teens, one from Pakistan, the other two from India, scaled Mount Everest, at 29,029 ft., the highest peak on earth, together. Their joint climb to the summit coincided with the 60th anniversary of the historic moment when New Zealander explorer Sir Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay first made the same ascension.
However, the symbolism went even further that – the Pakistani girl, Samina Baig, and the two Indians, 21-year-old twin sisters, Tashi Malik and Nungshi Malik, planted the flags of their respective (and long hostile) nations upon the summit. The Maliks were the first twin sisters ever to scale the Mountain, while Baig was the first Muslim female to do so.
Since that Everest expedition, Samina Baig has moved on towards an ambitious multi-year plan to conquer seven peaks in seven continents (starting with Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, at 22,842 ft., the tallest mountain in South America).
Meanwhile, the Malik Sisters have since reached the top of Mount Elbrus (18,541ft) in the Caucasus, the highest peak in Europe and they also have some impressive tasks on their agenda – they next plan to clamber up Mount Aconcagua, having gained funding support from the Birla Trust in India.
Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, is regarded as comparable to climbing an 8000-meter (26,240 ft.) peak due to its “extremely low humidity, intense solar radiation, high winds, surprise electric storms and extremely sharp variations in temperature, plummeting to minus 35 degrees at the summit.” Indeed, the global climbing community have tagged Aconcagua as “Death Mountain.”
The sisters, who have also conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa at 19640 ft., in May 2012, have dedicated their mountain-climbing projects as a living tribute to Indian girls and young females, who suffer from a multitude of ills, including rape, murder, infanticide and, before they are even born, gender-selective abortions (or feticides). “We are [now] 22 years old and want to continue representing the Indian ‘Girl Child’ who is built of steel from the inside” said the girls in a statement.
The Twins will embark on their battle against Aconcagua on January 17, followed by an expected 18 days of “extreme mountaineering” under arduous conditions. Once they reach the summit, the Maliks hope to unfurl the Indian tri-color flag and plant it there. “We shall raise a toast of smiles on behalf of every ‘Girl Child’ in India, who share a million dreams,” the twins said. “We hope we can positively impact, inspire and motivate every one of them to reach out for the stars and build their ships to take them there.”
The twins are now seeking corporate or private sponsors to mount three other peaks – Mount Carstensz Pyramid (16,024 ft.) in Indonesia (the highest mountain on Oceania); Mount McKinley in Alaska, U.S. (at 20,237 ft., the highest peak in North America); and Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica (16,050 ft., the highest peak on that icy continent) Samina Baig has already received financial support in Pakistan to undertake her mountain-climbing expeditions around the globe, while the Maliks await additional financing.
But who exactly are these two intrepid young Indian ladies?
Nungshi and Tashi Malik, in their brief lives, have already accomplished more than most people could achieve in a hundred lifetimes. Not only have they climbed the world's most foreboding mountains, but they also excel in various other sports as well as in academia. Based in Dehradun, in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, Nungshi and Tashi are the daughters of retired army officer, Colonel Virender Singh Malik, who encouraged the girls to be athletic and self-reliant by sending them to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, in Uttarakhand state.
“We resisted at first," Nungshi told the Times News Network news agency of India. "Once there though, the mountains cast a spell on us," Tashi added. "We ended up doing all the four courses there." When the girls fell in love with mountaineering and decided to climb Everest, their parents, especially their mother, Anju Thapa Malik, were opposed – but eventually relented. In fact, Col. Malik emptied his bank account to finance his daughters’ historic Everest climb.
But perhaps the Malik sisters were born with a love of mountaineering in their very DNA – indeed, their mother is a Nepalese Gurkha, a hardy people very familiar with high elevations (the girls also speak fluent Nepali).
The Malik girls kindly agreed to speak with International Business Times to discuss their lives and careers as youthful mountaineers:
IB TIMES: How did the two of you get into the very difficult and strenuous sport of mountain-climbing? Is it a tradition in your family?
MALIKS: No one in our family has been a mountaineer, although [our] dad being in [the] infantry led a spartan life, including service in all of India’s mountain ranges along its borders with [its] neighbors. But this has/had nothing to do with our journey as mountaineers – for us it all happened by a combination of coincidences.
IB TIMES: Were you planning to climb the seven mountains that Samina Baig of Pakistan has in her designs? Or were you seeking to accomplish this independently of her?
MALIKS: We had [determined that climbing the] seven summits [was] a good accomplishment to attempt, from fellow mountaineers we met during our earlier climbs and while staying at Everest Base Camp.
Samina did not have any idea or such dream when we [first] met. She was so attached to us that on almost all nights, she would leave her tent and sleep with us in our tent. It [was] during these late night chats and ‘dream sharing’ that we wished we could do the seven summits together to symbolize our deep desire and will to contribute to regional peace by hoisting our flags together. We designed three conjoint stars which we would draw on the back of our palms between thumb and index finger to mark our shared dreams and sisterhood.
Yes, it was also understood by both parties, that such a dream would need sufficient funding for all of us to realize [it]. Samina’s brother, Mirza, has been an adventure/mountain guide for several years and has [a] good sense of how to market their achievement and develop ideas for obtaining sponsorships for [the] seven summit project.
Plus, Everest-related achievements in India are less unique, since around 400 Indian climbers have [reached the summit of] Everest, versus [only three] from Pakistan.
IB TIMES: How have you coped with your fame in India? Whom have you met?
MALIKS: [It has been an] amazing experience dealing with the flood of media persons, studio interviews and press conferences! I think being young and having achieved a world record milestone really helped fight fear and, we must admit, we have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Among the eminent public figures who [met and congratulated] us were the President of India [Pranab Kumar Mukherjee], Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand [Vijay Bahuguna], Haryana [Bhupinder Singh Hooda] and Delhi [Sheila Dikshit] and India’s sports and youth affairs minister [Jitendra Singh]. We have also been invited as motivational speakers and chief guests or special guests to various schools, institutions and social events.
IB TIMES: Is mountain-climbing in India completely dominated by men? Can you estimate how many women participate in this activity?
MALIKS: Yes and no. As per our estimates around 400 Indians have successfully climbed Everest – of course, most of these [were] in past six or seven 7 years, mostly through organizational expeditions such as the armed forces, paramilitaries and NCC [ National Cadet Corps].
Of these 400 climbers, around 40 have been women. So if about 10 percent climbers being women is too small a percentage, then, yes, it is a sport dominated by men!
IB TIMES: Are you seeing more Indian girls getting into mountain-climbing?
MALIKS: Definitely -- particularly after our feat and one by Arunima Sinha, [the] first female amputee to scale Everest this year, there is a great sense of pride and excitement among girls to explore this field. For most women in India, climbing Everest is intended to make a statement of gender equality and earning their rightful place in society. Its symbolism is powerful.
IB TIMES: Does your family not worry about you two girls being up in the mountains?
MALIKS: Mom and dad are at the two extremes on this issue. We recollect one incident -- riding high on our great performance in the advance mountaineering course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, when we declared our intention to attempt [to climb] Mount Everest, mom nearly fainted but dad took a deep breath as if to reflect on what he had just heard, and then commanded with a stern voice “put on your rucksacks and [go] back to the mountains”!
Mom had threatened to commit suicide if we ever spoke of attempting Everest. It took us three years to get her concurrence! Even now, for mom, ‘ignorance is bliss’! We do not share any details of [the] difficulties of our planned climbs. It’s dad who is our solid support. But he too admits, ‘the fear is always lurking in the shadows’. He wants to accompany us [on] our climbs, but finances are too huge for us to afford.
IB TIMES: Surely, the two of you don’t go up mountains alone? Do you take guides?
MALIKS: Yes we do, more for ensuring safety and quick response in case of emergencies, especially [since] dad’s not with us in these far-off lands. The guides are assigned in a ratio (usually anything between one guide-per-three climbers to 1:6). That, of course, increases our climbing fees and expenses. If and when we can find some good trusted fellow climbers, we wish to do away with guides.
IB TIMES: What does one eat and drink at such high altitudes?
MALIKS: Well, base camp being at the lowest elevation (18,500 ft.) does not [create] much of an eating issue. People make choices based on their eating habits. For example, the Spanish [people] prefer pasta, macaroni, sausages, etc. We’d eat ‘desi’ meals like dal [lentils], rice, paratha [flatbread], green vegetables and so on. However, beyond base camp our choices are limited to Maggi [instant soup] and [other] soups.
We avoid solid food items at higher altitudes (19,000 ft. and beyond) because more energy is consumed to break down food and we feel nauseated. Climbers also carry some energy/protein bars and high altitude food packets to energize themselves although this may not be suitable for some others. The mantra for high altitude is to save energy and hydrate as much as possible. Soup [is] recommended at all times.
IB TIMES: How does one cope with the thin air at such high elevations?
MALIKS: Most of us know how different human bodies are from each other. The process of acclimatization is very important in determining how well the bodies perform at high altitude and adapt to thin air. Some people run short of breath in the base itself (18,000 ft.) and others struggle for oxygen in higher camps (23,000 ft.). Ideally we have two options; one is to take Diamox [Acetazolamide] daily to compensate for low oxygen levels, and two, use supplementary oxygen bars.
IB TIMES: Why do you think Indian corporations and other organizations have been slow to finance your expeditions, whereas Samina Baig has already gotten the money she needs?
MALIKS: Business investments are about ‘return on investments’. While all the folks at the corporations that we or dad have contacted express their admiration for our achievements, when it comes to sponsorships they do not find it a good area to invest in. Mountaineering is pretty much a ‘back stage’ sport; there isn’t much public awareness or interest in it. Plus in India, as we all know, cricket and Bollywood has consumed the nation, at least up until now.
In the case of Samina, due to the nature of her achievement (the first Pakistani female and third overall to scale Everest) and coming under the current circumstances where the nation is struggling to cope with challenges from armed extremists, a general image where there are rampant gender violations (although India has more in sheer numbers), such a feat by a Muslim girl provided a great anchor on which to build campaigns and movements for equality, empowerment and so on. (India is far ahead in terms of its womens' achievements in international sports).
Perhaps it is also for this reason, that a U.S.-based philanthropist of Pakistani origin has generously supported [Samina's] seven summits’ mission.
IB TIMES: How do you hope to promote awareness of the tragedy of female infanticide in India through your mountain-climbing?
MALIKS: [Our] dad hails from a very conservative Jat ethnic group in rural Haryana [which has] one of the worst sex ratios and [incidence of] gender violations [in India]. He was himself born after three sisters. However, after we were born, despite family pressures for a son, dad unilaterally underwent a vasectomy. He also defied social norms and married outside the community as our mother is a ‘Gorkha’ of Nepali origin.
‘My life is my message’ they say. By accomplishments such as dad’s and ours, we hope to use the media interest, our celebrity status and social networks to spread awareness about this deep-rooted social curse, and campaign against gender inequality and female feticide [in India and elsewhere].
IB TIMES: What did you think of Samina Baig? How did you first meet her? Do you stay in contact with her?
MALIKS: Mountain-climbing people anywhere in the world are generally very magnanimous, peace-loving, egalitarian, more spiritual and spontaneous. We found the same qualities in Samina, who hails from the very mountainous Hunza region of Gilgit Baltistan [in northern Pakistan]. Plus, she is like any other modern young girl, full of dreams and aspirations. We joked, pulled each other’s legs, and shared our life’s experiences and challenges in society as women. We weaved together many dreams, including climbing at least one peak together in each other’s country, attending each other’s weddings (if those ever happen!), and take up any projects that could help restore peace and friendship between the two neighbors [India and Pakistan].
Due to linguistic similarities (Samina speaks perfect Urdu), we actually never felt like people from different countries. We are in regular touch [with Samina] through Facebook -- of course that limits the length and content of our conversation! We are hoping to climb at least two more peaks together: Carstenz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea and McKinley in US, provided we manage sponsors by then.
Samina and we love to call ourselves “three sisters”, and we are very hopeful that taking a cue from our historic efforts, someday, spirited overseas Pakistani and Indian philanthropists will jointly fund our Indo-Pak gender equality and peace expeditions to other challenging mountains, including several peaks in the Himalayas.
IB TIMES: Have you ever been to the United States?
MALIKS: Oh yes, we have completed a year-long Certificate in Peacebuilding from the School of International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont in 2011-12. It included month-long classroom sessions, online semesters and a week-long field seminar, which we attended in Rwanda to study the genocide and emerging peace and reconciliation processes there. The next trip to the U.S., of course, will be in mid-May 2014 when we hope to scale Mount McKinley and thereafter may spend some days in California with the family of a well-wisher, and also to climb some peaks around there for fun.
IB TIMES: Do you hope to make mountain-climbing a career?
MALIKS: No, having weighed its pros and cons, for the moment we see it as a great hobby to pursue for a lifetime. We recognize the extreme physical stress serious mountaineering, especially at heights above 26,000 ft., inflicts on climbers.
We wish to pursue higher studies in sports and exercise science, adventure management etc., which will hopefully give us adequate career options with the outdoor sports industry, in government sports departments and as consultants and coaches etc. We have been offered a ‘full scholarship’ for graduate diploma in sports and exercise science by a premier institute in New Zealand starting early 2015. That should be a good start!
Tashi and Nungshi Malik may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Perkasa full of rubbish, says Marina Mahathir on group’s criticism of her
January 7, 2014
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir will not be dragged into a fight with Malay rights group Perkasa, who had accused her of seeking cheap publicity by supporting the Christians in the Allah controversy.
Marina, who is the daughter of Perkasa patron Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had refused to comment when she was asked about Perkasa's criticisms against her.
"I don't want to comment about Perkasa. They talk so much rubbish," she said after attending the first National Unity Consultative Council meeting in Kuala Lumpur today.
Bearing flowers, Marina had turned up with a group of people at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang yesterday morning as Catholics turned up for Sunday mass.
After the service ended, she handed the flowers to parish priest, Reverend Father Michael Chua, with worshippers cheering and applauding the act.
Marina, accompanied by Sisters in Islam and several other groups, was at the church to show support against threats by Muslim groups who had said they would hold a protest outside the house of worship.
While Marina was lauded for standing up for the minority religion, Perkasa Youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris had hit out at her, saying that she should have instead stood by the Muslims.
“As a Muslim, she should be with us to defend the word Allah so that it is not used by the Christians,” he was quoted as saying.
Perkasa also questioned Marina whether she agreed with the use of the word Allah by Christians.
“As a Muslim and daughter of a former prime minister who had championed Islam and defended the Malays, her actions had resulted in numerous questions being asked by Malaysians, especially the Muslims.
“Where is her faith and does she agree that the word Allah can be used by non-Muslims? We strongly condemn her actions,” he said, adding that she was looking for "cheap publicity".
He had further criticised the social activist, saying that she supported beliefs that are un-Islamic, such as fighting for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) and being closely associated with Islamic group Sisters in Islam, a non-governmental organisation that advocates equal rights for women, human rights and justice.
Rupsina Parvin: First Muslim women who joined directly in the post of Sub-Inspector in WB
January 7, 2014
Kolkata: Rupsina Parvin is the first Muslim women Sub-Inspector of the West Bengal police now working in Government Railway Police (GRP) at Howrah. Rupsina joined as Sub-Inspector of after qualifying in the state public service commission exams for police recruitment of Government of West Bengal on 30 January, 2012 and was directly posted as Sub-Inspector of Police in GRP police station at Howrah Railway Station.
Rupsina Parvin is from Mirjapur Village of Charghat Gram Panchayat area under Swarupnagar Block of North 24 Parganas district. Her father Basarat Hossain is a retired Government employee of the Land and Land Reform Department in the state. Rupsina told TCN that, her father’s dream was to see her only daughter in the state public service, and she finally qualified PSC exams of Government of WB.
After her secondary examinations (Madhyamik) with first division from Chatra Netaji Balika Sikshaniketan in 1997, Rupsina studied Senior Secondary level (HS) at Rajballavpur High School in Commerce stream. She loved Mathematics, Statics and accountancy subjects, and wanted to become a Chartered Accountant or High level Accounts officer earlier.
Rupsina told TCN that her mother Selima Khatun inspired her to appear for different service examinations. In 2009, she appeared for her first written examinations for the post of Sub-Inspector and qualified. She then passed the mandatory physical tests and interviews and was finally recruited to the post of Sub-Inspector post at GRP police station of Howrah.
She had to undergo 13 months training. She told TCN that she was thankful to DIG Damayanti Sen, Chanchal Banerjee who helped and guided her like own parents during training.
Rupsina has made history by becoming the first Muslim woman to become SI.
Although Rupsina has joined the service, she still aspires to become an IPS officer, and is hence continuing with her preparations.
She told TCN that one of her priority would be see to it that no women is harassed in the Howrah GRP jurisdiction. She acknowledged that there are reports of several girls being trafficked through Howrah station and that she would take it challenge to protect women at the station.
Several Muslim women who join as constables have later been promoted to become SI, but Rupsina is the first Muslim woman to join directly the service. She also urged the women to come forward to join the service.
Rohina Malik’s play Unveiled addresses negative stereotypes about Muslims
January 7, 2014
“All stereotypes have the potential to be harmful, but negative stereotypes about a group of people are really dangerous,” says Rohina Malik, a Chicago-based playwright and actor, who was recently awarded the Lorraine H Morton Woman of Promise Award by the Evanston YWCA for her critically acclaimed play Unveiled.
The London-born Malik, who is of Indian and Pakistani descent, has been privy to several negative notions against Muslims in post- 9/11 America. One instance was an ugly encounter between her and an American man, who almost got violent with her in front of her children. The pain of the experience inspired Malik to write her first play, Unveiled.
Unveiled portrays five Muslim women immigrants, four from the US and one from the UK, and the way their lives change after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The common thread among the characters is their hijab and the typical tea from their native countries, which they serve during the course of the play. But what really connects them is their strong yearning for a peaceful and amiable coexistence with people around them.
Since its debut in April 2009 at the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn, Illinois, Malik has been invited to perform Unveiled at theatres, churches, mosques and synagogues across the US and Canada. In a riveting 70-minute monologue, Malik not only entertains with humour, but also compels the audience to rethink any preconceived notions they may have about Muslims.
“As an American Muslim who wears the hijab, I feel the suspicion and racial profiling at airports,” Malik says. “I fly often and more often than not it is an unpleasant experience.
“As a woman, a stereotype that I often come across [in the West] is that I am anti-American, oppressed or that I need to be saved. People also feel I can’t think for myself or someone forced me to wear the veil; that I’m weak, submissive and pathetic,” says Malik, 36.
In her play, she has dealt with this issue through her character Shabana, a London rapper of Indian descent, who says: “Deal with my mind, not my body. ‘Cause that ain’t yours to look at! This is my feminism.”
Incidentally, Shabana also faces opposition from her mother for wearing the hijab, another story that comes from Malik’s own life. “Some mothers think the hijab will hurt their child’s prospects of getting married. When I went to university, I met other young Muslim women whose families were also unhappy about their decision to cover,” she says. Many outside the Muslim community may not believe that because all they’ve heard of are the fanatics who ostracise their daughters or wives for not covering.
Malik has witnessed a measure of success in challenging the negativity associated with Muslim women. She recalls a young American man who sobbed in front of her after seeing Unveiled and told her how he hated Muslims, thinking women wore the veil to celebrate the September 11 attacks. “I will never forget the tears streaming down his face as he looked at me and said he was sorry.
“Most people who see the play often tell me that they learnt a lot from it. The presumptions about Muslims are so strong that it is shocking for audiences to hear the characters in my play explain why they dress their way and do what they do,” Malik says, adding that she has heard people say: “I’m not a racist and I’m educated. But I can’t deny that I had several preconceptions about Islam and Muslim women and you challenged them.”
Having watched the play, many Muslim and Arab women in the US have also broken their silence on their unpleasant experiences.
Of course, there have been negative responses, too, wherein people have walked out saying the play is another form of Islamic propaganda. “I’m OK with that because that is the nature of art,” Malik says, adding that she hopes to bring the play to the UAE someday.