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Pakistani Power lifting Duo a Rare Bright Spot for Christian Minority

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Sept 2016

Twinkle Sohail, Pakistani Power Lifting Christian Girl


 India's Muslim Women Say Justification for Triple Talaq, Polygamy Is Medieval

 Birmingham Preacher 'Called Muslim Woman A Slut and Threatened To Blow Her Up For Wearing Tight Jeans'

 Muslim Woman Killed In Queens in Yet another Attack on Bangladeshis

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Pakistani Power Lifting Girls a Rare Bright Spot for Christian Minority

SEP 7, 2016

LAHORE: Twinkle Sohail and Sonia Azmat have the weight of the Pakistani Christian world on their shoulders, but if anyone can bear the hopes of such a persecuted minority, it is these teenage champion power lifters.

Last year Twinkle became the first Pakistani woman to represent her country in power lifting, taking a gold medal in the 57 kilogram junior event at the Asian Bench Press Championship in her first attempt. The next day, her teammate Sonia took a second gold medal for Pakistan in the 63kg category, earning her place in the history books alongside Twinkle.

The achievements of the two young Christian women represent a rare bright spot for a minority who frequently find themselves the targets of extremist attacks — such as the one carried out in Lahore last Easter that killed 72 people, many of them children.

Christians also routinely fall victim to the country's controversial blasphemy laws, which carry the death penalty, and many are stuck in menial jobs such as sanitation or domestic work.

But Twinkle and Sonia, both 19, are proving an inspiration after their triumph in Muscat last year — boosted by a third gold medal from their Muslim teammate, Shazia Kanwal, to see the Pakistanis outclass athletes from 12 countries.

Pakistan, where cricket is the dominant pastime, is taking the rare opportunity to seek success in other sports, funding the women's return to the Asian championships in Tashkent in October.

With luck they will go further: to the World Powerlifting Championships next year in Florida, in the US. It will be a long way from the tiny homes on narrow, congested streets in the impoverished Christian areas of Lahore where Twinkle and Sonia were both born.

Twinkle began her career as a cyclist, but was spotted by weightlifting coaches while exercising in the gym and advised to take up powerlifting.

This is a branch of weightlifting using the squat, bench press, and dead-lift techniques but without any moves lifting the weight vertically overhead.

Along with Sonia, Twinkle was taken on by coach Rashid Malik, a 2012 London Olympics official and himself an Asian medallist.

“These two were best,” Malik told AFP while supervising his stars training at a shabby gymnasium in Lahore, abruptly plunged into darkness during another of the periodic power outages that afflict the country.

To reach the top, Twinkle says she and her teammate had to work harder than their Muslim counterparts.

“Whether it is at school or for sports, only by putting in twice the work can we ensure ourselves a better place than the majority Muslims,” she says.

Sonia, whose father abandoned her family and whose mother worked several jobs to support her children, tells of female athletes going to work out at the Railway Stadium in Lahore.

She would watch daily, she says, as she prepared to go to work at her job in a factory.

“I wished to go with them, wear joggers like them and do what they do,” she tells AFP in her modest Lahore apartment, tucked over a flight of narrow, dark stairs.

Now she and Twinkle have themselves become inspirations. They are not the first Pakistani Christians to scale new sporting heights, with previous trailblazers in cricket, hockey and athletics — including former Pakistan cricket captain Yousaf Youhana, though he later converted to Islam.

But they are young, they are women — still a factor against them in patriarchal Pakistan — and, unlike many of the country's other athletes currently in the spotlight, they are winning.

“A gold medal is not a usual or ordinary thing,” weightlifter Shetal Asif, another Christian woman aspiring to compete internationally, says.

“They have performed really well,” she tells AFP, describing how her sister and cousins have also been inspired to take up weightlifting after Twinkle and Sonia's success.

A lack of media attention means the pair have not yet set the entire Christian community alight, Shetal admits.

“But those who know are inspired,” she adds.

“The rise of Twinkle and Sonia has renewed hopes of young Christian athletes and will encourage more youngsters to win laurels for the country and respect for themselves,” says Shamaun Alfred Gill, a Christian activist.

Twinkle (L) is watched by her father (R) and brother (C) during an interview with AFP at her residence.— AFP

Twinkle (L) is watched by her father (R) and brother (C) during an interview with AFP at her residence.— AFP

Hira Arshad, who attends the same college as Twinkle, says her achievements are inspiring not just Christians, but women as well.

“After Twinkle's success, now every girl wants to come ahead and get fame for herself and her country,” she says — including herself.

“I am a Muslim, but I am impressed by her performance, and there are other Muslim and Christian girls who are equally impressed and want to play sports at the international level.”

Many of them contact Twinkle and Sonia for advice, the pair say.

“I tell them come, work hard,” Sonia says. "Take Pakistan to new heights."



India's Muslim women say justification for triple talaq, polygamy is medieval

SEP 7, 2016

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Muslim women fighting to ban "triple talaq" divorce and polygamy from family civil law in India's top court condemned on Tuesday justifications given by Islamic clerics as "medieval" and "reeking of sexism".

India's Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed by women's rights activists who want the judiciary to declare triple talaq - where Muslim men can divorce by simply stating their intention three times verbally - as unconstitutional.

The Indian constitution allows most religions, including Muslims - the biggest religious minority group - to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil code.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a non-governmental body which oversees the application of Muslim personal law, opposes any ban on triple talaq and polygamy.

It told the court on Friday that triple talaq was necessary, saying men have greater reasoning power compared to women, and that a man giving triple talaq to his wife was a better option than murdering her or burning her alive.

The AIMPLB also argued that polygamy was a "social need" and a "blessing" as a lawful second wife was better than an unlawful mistress and added that it gave divorced or widowed women more opportunity to remarry.

"Muslim women in India have suffered because of triple talaq where arbitrary divorces declared over postcards or telegrams have been sustained," said campaign group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), or the India Muslim Women's Movement.

"AIMPLB's argument that a Muslim man can delegate his power of pronouncing talaq to his wife is laughable – this can hardly be expected to happen in real life if the wife wants a divorce but husband doesn't," it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The group said the AIMPLB's justification for polygamy was "bizarre" as it had suggested the practice of a man having up to four wives stemmed from a concern and sympathy for women.

"The truth is Muslim personal laws - like other religious laws - flow from patriarchy and relegate women to second class status," said the BMMA.

It said triple talaq had been banned in more than 20 Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh while polygamy was prohibited in Turkey and Turkmenistan among other countries.

Muslims make up more than 13 percent of the country's 1.2 billion people, yet they are among some of the most marginalised communities.

Social indicators amongst Muslim women such as literacy, mortality and employment rates are lower than the national average, say activists.

Triple talaq is unilateral, arbitrary and contravenes both the constitution and the principles of gender justice in Islam, BMMA said. In India, a secular democracy, religious laws could not overwrite the constitutional right to equality, it added.



Islamic street preacher 'called Muslim woman a slut and threatened to blow her up for wearing TIGHT JEANS'

SEP 7, 2016

A Muslim called a woman a "slut" and threatened to follow her home and "blow her up" because she was wearing TIGHT JEANS, a court heard.

Jobless Krissoni Henderson, 31, told 38-year-old Noor Alneami she was "Satan" and called her a "prostitute" - before ordering her to take off her jeans - prosecutors claim.

The incident happened as Ms Alneami was listening to a Christian preacher in Birmingham city centre on July 4.

The Muslim victim said she was reduced to tears following the ten-minute tirade - which attracted a crowd of 60 people - as one man asked her: "How much do you charge for the night?"

Henderson and several Muslim supporters also allegedly hurled pro-ISIS chants at the woman which left her "absolutely petrified" and she dialled 999.

A court heard today from Ms Aleami how she claims she was both terrified by the encounter - and horrified by what was said to her.

Officers arrived in New Street at around 5.30pm and questioned Henderson but he was allowed to walk free from the scene.

The qualified bodyguard was then arrested at his home in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter the following day.

He was charged with causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress and using racially aggravated insulting words or behaviour.

Henderson, of Brook Street, went on trial at Birmingham Magistrates' Court today - and appeared alone in the dock wearing a skin-tight baby blue sweatshirt, brown trousers and a dark blue waistcoat.

During the hearing he paced around the dock and shook his head - and at one point he turned his back on proceedings to pray.

Prosecutor Simon Brownsey told the court: "It's the Crown's case that at the hands of Mr Henderson this woman was the victim of religious and offensive words, including calling her a kafir - a derogatory term for a non-believer.

"(He also said) He would follow her home and blow her up."

"At the time he wasn't known to her and she has expressed concerns about seeing him again because of the threat.

"She was listening to a Christian preacher on New Street and the defendant was also present."

"He targeted Noor Alneami by observing she was wearing tight jeans and told her to take them off," the prosecutor said.

"He told her she was Satan, she was the devil, she was a slut, she was a prostitute.

"He said: 'Take off your tight jeans or you're going to burn in hell, kafir. I'm going to follow you home and blow up your house'.

"These threats terrified her. The defendant accepts he was there but argues he didn't use these words or engage in this behaviour."

Giving evidence from behind a screen, Master's student Ms Alneami told the court: "I was walking down the street when I heard a Christian preacher.

"I found it quite interesting so I stopped to listen. I'm a Muslim and I have respect for all religions.

"All of a sudden I could hear the defendant shout abusive language to passers by.

"He started calling females on the street prostitutes, predominantly white women, calling them sluts. One woman started crying and ran off."

"Then he started hurling abuse at me," Ms Alneami continued. "He said: 'Look at your tight jeans. You are a kafir'.

"I was dressed in Western clothes so I don't think he thought I was a Muslim.

"He kept saying: 'Satan, Satan, Satan' and it started drawing attention.

"I moved away because I was becoming frightened. But something inside me said: 'No, I'm going to go and confront him'.

"I said to him: 'Excuse me, why would you say those horrible things to me?'

"A female with him lunged at me but he said: 'Leave it, leave it' and started raising his voice even louder.

"He said: 'Look at your jeans, they're so tight. You shall burn in hell'.

"I stuck my middle finger up at him and told him I was going to report him to the authorities.

"He said: 'They can't do nothing. I will come to your house and blow up you and blow up your house'.

"I started shaking. I had just had double eye surgery.

"A group of men started sniggering and one of them said 'oi oi, darling' and asked how much I charged for the night.

"I started to cry because my image had been tarnished," she continued.

"Then he started shouting: 'Long live Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi' - the leader of ISIS.

"Then a group of seven men in black robes with beards came over to me openly told me they supported Anjem Choudary and ISIS.

"They said: 'What are you going to do about it?'

"I told them their ideology was sickening. They were using religion for their own evil thug agenda.

"Mr Henderson was abusive to the police and accused them of harassment and told them to 'go catch a paedophile' because he wanted to get away with his behaviour.

"I've never experienced anything like this in my life and I've had to had therapy because of this."

During cross-examinaton, Ms Alneaimi rejected claims that the only comment Henderson made was a request to be left alone after she stared at him.

The trial was adjourned until September 26.



Muslim Woman Killed In Queens in Yet another Attack on Bangladeshis


Less than a month after a Bangladeshi cleric and his nephew were shot and killed in Queens, the community was forced to deal with yet another tragedy last week as a 60-year-old woman, a retired school teacher from Bangladesh, was killed Aug. 31 near her home in Jamaica, Queens as she walked back from a neighborhood grocery, where she and her husband worked, in the evening along with her husband.

Within three days of the killing of Nazma Khanam, aunt of a New York transit policeman, on Normal Road in Jamaica, police arrested Yonatan Galvez Marin, 22, of the same neighborhood. Marin was charged by the Queens District Attorney with two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted robbery and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

If convicted, the defendant faces up to 25 years to life in prison. He was expected to be arraigned this week.

Surveillance video showed Khanam walking with a bag of groceries. Her husband, who was walking with her, but somewhat slowed down reportedly due to asthma, heard screams and ran to the scene to find her on the sidewalk.

District Attorney Richard Brown said that her husband, 75-year-old Shamul Alam Khan, was a few steps behind her wife when the assailant, now identified as Marin approached her and demanded money. When Khanam refused, he stabbed her in her torso and fled. She died in a local Queens hospital where she was pronounced as brought dead.

The traditional Muslim attire that Khanam wore at the time of her murder prompted initial calls by members of the community for a treating the murder as a hate crime. The NYPD’s fate crime task force assisted in the investigation. But even after he was charged with murder, many continued to believe that the woman was killed because of hate crime, and not robbery as nothing had been taken from her.

The Daily News quoted her transit cop nephew Humayun Kabir, 35, who immediately reached the crime scene, was quoted as saying that when he broke the news to his uncle he started screaming and crying. ‘My wife just came to this country to just get killed! We had a better life in Bangladesh!,” he was quoted by the report as having been told by his uncle. “The family doesn’t deserve to be going through this,” added Kabir, who has been on the force since 2005.

At the Jamaica Mosque Sept. 2, where hundreds of people gathered to mourn her death, including dozens of NYPD officers, and at the press conference after the prayer, Shamul Alam Khan broke down sobbing. ““What can I do? I have three kids now. I cannot take care of the kids without her,” he said. He was present along his children and nephew Kabir.

A high-ranking police official told Daily News that NYPD’s best guess is it was a psycho who ran at her.

“This was not a robbery and though we do not know all the facts, the reality is this is happening too often,” public advocate Letitia James said to cheers from the crowd at the mosque Sept. 2. before Marin’s arrest.

Assemblyman David Weprin issued a statement before Marin’s arrest saying he is aggrieved by the death of Khanam.

“Our community is one that stands together against each and every possible bias incident, and together we mourn the passing of one of our neighbors. I send my condolences to the family of Nazma Khanam and urge the New York Police Department to investigate this attack as a possible hate crime against the Muslim-American community,” he said in a statement.



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