“Only when I left home, I realised that not everybody is a Muslim,” said Kausar Jackpot. “I mean, I knew that Muslims were a minority in some countries but I did not realise that it meant having to deal with non-Muslims all the time.”
Kausar was called Mr Jackpot because he did not have to go through what others do for settling down in this country. He got his visa in a diversity lottery, came here, learned driving and became a cabbie. He never had to work at half the legal wage at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants as most people on non-working visas do.
“I also learned that those who believe in other gods are nice too and some Muslims are bad as well,” said Jackpot.
This was another weekend evening at the Tavern and we had just finished a dinner of “aloo parathay” with matar-qeema. Now we were waiting for green tea and shisha.
“Yes, you are always right, Sir,” said Teaspoon Hameed. “Living with others jolts your entire belief-system.”
“There’s a reason that they call you Teaspoon,” said Johnny Jumper, laughing at his courteous response. “But you are right; living with people of other faiths does change your outlook.”
Hameed is a sweet man and is always very courteous. Some of his friends think that he is too sweet, so they call him Teaspoon Hameed.
And Johnny is called Jumper because he always carries a jump-starter in his cab and when other cabbies need help, they call him.
This was a winter evening and it was snowing outside. It was also the beginning of the weekend. Snow on such evenings, if it’s not severe, always means good business for cab drivers. People use cabs even for short distances, which in summer they prefer to walk.
So the Tavern gang finished their tea and drove away to downtown Washington. They would spend most of the night driving people to and from Adams Morgan where most of the bars and restaurants are.
It was past midnight when Khalid Simple parked his car outside Madame’s Organ Blues Bar. Khalid was called Simple because whenever somebody came to him with a problem, he would, “OK, no problem. It is simple.”
It was a productive evening. Simple had already earned $150, so he decided to take a break. Although he was parked outside a bar, Simple could not drink as he was driving. Most cabbies in his group did not drink and those who did, visited bars on Sunday evenings when the business was slow.
Simple loves winters, even the harsh North American winter. The temperature drops. The wind stops. A complete silence fills the space. It gets so quiet that he can hear the leaves falling.
Then comes the rain; the slow winter rain. It begins with little drops that leave their mark on the roads but cannot be seen. Soon it starts to snow. A white powder covers everything – from roofs and trees to cars and streets. Everything assumes a new shape, mysterious and beautiful.
Simple was trying to remember an Urdu or Punjabi couplet appropriate for this freezing night but could not. “They are all written for our mild winter, not this deep-freezer night,” he murmured.
As he took another sip of hot coffee from his cup, someone knocked at the window. It was a homeless person who asked him to buy him coffee and some food.
Simple opened the window an inch and asked the man to go to a nearby donut shop. “The manager is my friend, I will call him. You go,” he said. Soon the man returned with his coffee and donuts, thanked him and walked away.
“A winter night is neither mysterious nor beautiful if you are homeless and have to sleep in a park under the falling snow,” thought Simple.
“You need to be in a warm room, under thick blankets to enjoy it.”
Criss-crossing the city on a cab, looking for passengers, was not comfortable either but it was better than being homeless, he said to himself.
When Simple first came to America, he did nightshifts at a gas station facing a park. In the winter, he often saw people sleeping there, during the snowfalls too. Hiding under heaps of blankets and plastic sheets, they barely moved as the snow piled up on them.
Simple often wondered if they would wake up! But they did. Every morning, while returning from work, he would see them outside a fast food restaurant, waiting to be served.
He wanted to know how they felt sleeping in a park in sub-zero temperatures. So he asked one. The man asked Simple to buy him a cup of coffee. He invited him inside and while the homeless man was enjoying his coffee and donuts, he asked: “How do you sleep in the park during snowfalls?”
“Come and try,” said the man and resumed munching his donut.
Simple apologised. The homeless man accepted his apology with a smile and asked if he could buy him another cup of coffee. When Simple nodded, he said: “Not now. Before you leave.”
“Why not now?” Simple asked.
“It will give me an excuse to spend more time in this warm room,” he said. Then pointing to the park, he added: “It is cold and uncomfortable out there.”
This under-statement disturbed Simple. He thought the man would be full of bitterness about his homelessness and the harsh weather. May be he was but he did not say so.
“Did I really need to learn it from him? Their misery should have been obvious to me and to all others who watch the homeless,” Simple thought as he waited outside Madame’s Organ. “Why should he confide in me? Just because I bought him a cup of coffee? It was very mean of me.”
Then Simple remembered how people walk past the parks where the homeless spend snowy, winter nights. “We ignore them as we ignore other ordinary things that we do not need to notice, like walking by a row of homes,” he said to himself. “We do not notice them because we know it’s none of our business what people do inside these centrally-heated homes.”
Simple then recalled how all faiths encourage people to help the poor. Simple was a religious man, but in his own way. He believed in God and always tried to do what he thought would please the Almighty. But he did not spend much time bothering about religious differences.
“We must do something about these homeless people,” he often said to other cabbies. “I know we cannot do much but we can at least feed a certain number of them every night.” He also suggested setting up a fund for this purpose.
Simple’s thoughts were interrupted by another knock at the window, louder than the previous.
“What do you want?” he asked, sliding his window a little. The man gave him a piece of paper with an address written on it.
“Drop me there. It is too cold. I cannot walk,” he said and showed him a 10-dollar bill. “I will pay you.”
Simple looked at him. The man was not much different from the homeless he bought coffee for. He opened the window a little more and immediate felt a strong odour. He looked closely at his dirty clothes and drove away.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh branded suicide bombers as “criminals” who will go to “hell,” Al-Hayat daily reported Thursday.
Suicide bombings are “great crimes” and bombers are “criminals who rush themselves to hell by their actions”, Sheikh said during a lecture in Riyadh a few days ago, according to Al-Hayat.
Sheikh described suicide bombers as “robbed of their minds... who have been used (as tools) to destroy themselves and societies”.
In Feb 2010, Sheikh denounced terrorism as un-Islamic and condemned the killing of civilians, saying such attacks have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.
His latest remarks come after a preliminary inquiry into a Dec 5 suicide car bombing and assault on a Yemen defence ministry complex found that most assailants were Saudis. Fifty-six people were killed in the attack.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), which was formed from a merger of the jihadist network's Saudi and Yemeni branches, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Tuesday, a Saudi court jailed an Al Qaeda-linked jihadist for 16 years for plotting to kill Sheikh and other clerics.
NEW DELHI: Worried by US spying revelations, India has begun drawing up a new email policy to help secure government communications, but the man responsible for drafting the rules still regularly uses Hotmail.
Like many of his peers in ministries across New Delhi, IT Minister Kapil Sibal's office recently sent an email inviting journalists to the launch of his new personal website using the free email service.
Others, including senior foreign ministry officials, the information and broadcasting minister and the health ministry secretary, also use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo instead of their government accounts.
When asked why he continued to use his Hotmail for official use, Sibal declined to comment, but a senior bureaucrat in his ministry admitted that he personally preferred Gmail because it is “just a lot easier”.
“We keep moving, get different designations, go different places and with that, our emails change. You lose contacts and important emails, which you don't need to worry about with a Gmail account,” the bureaucrat told AFP.
“To be honest, the quality of our official mail isn't that great yet. It still needs some work,” he added on condition of anonymity.
IT security expert Sunil Abraham said the use of Gmail and the like was highly risky since the American services had their servers in the US and the National Security Agency has been known to tap into their database systems.
It is unclear how many state and federal public workers actively use popular email services for office, but some of the estimates are startling.
“As much as 90 percent of government officials use private email (services) for official use... that's because their official email is not as stable or speedy,” said Abraham, executive director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society.
In September Sibal's ministry announced a new “Email Policy of the Government of India” in the wake of spying allegations about the NSA revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
NSA's tentacles not only crept into the Indian embassy in Washington and its UN office in New York, but also accessed email and chat messenger contact lists of hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens worldwide, according to media reports.
During a single day last year, the NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 email address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, The Washington Post said, according to an internal NSA presentation.
The $11 million Indian project aims to bring some five million public employees onto the government's email domain powered by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) as early as mid-December.
It is awaiting clearances and suggestions from all ministries before the proposal goes to the cabinet this month.
J. Satyanarayana, secretary of the department of electronics and IT, dismissed claims that the policy was too late and was a response to the Snowden scandal.
“The policy is not a reaction to any global spying revelations, it was already in the works. It is just a mere coincidence that both came around the same time,” he said.
Some cyber security experts say bringing millions aboard a centralised server could make a hacker's job easier, with all critical government information available on a single platform.
More than 11,000 Indian websites were hacked or defaced between May and August this year, with a large number of attacks on the “.in” domain whose servers are in India, the Times of India reported last month.
“Making the use of a centralised government server is not the best way to proceed. Having everything on one platform makes it even more vulnerable to cyber attacks and hacking,” said Abraham.
“It also brings about new worries of the NIC becoming the local snoop.”Some also predict that the ambitious policy would eventually fizzle out for lack of attention from ministers and bureaucrats, who work in government offices where stacks of yellowing files and papers are still a common sight.
“It's sad but most of these officials don't understand much about technology, so mastering email is something that is miles and miles away,” said Vijay Mukhi, a Mumbai-based cyber security expert.
“These guys saw all the snooping news and suddenly they woke up and said 'lets make an email policy'.
Enforcing this is not possible on a practical basis.”The IT ministry also plans to conduct workshops to teach employees about email security such as when to change passwords and user names and how to use email.
“Every employee should know how, what and when critical data can be vulnerable... with most work still done on paper, it is important to know the nitty-gritty of using email,” Satyanarayana said.
PARIS: Dubai yesterday beat off opposition from Brazil, Russia and Turkey to win the right to host the 2020 World Expo. The Gulf city beat Russia’s Ekaterinberg in the final round of voting to clinch a prestigious event that is credited with delivering a huge boost to tourism and business in the host city. Dubai, the economic and transport hub of The United Arab Emirates, won 116 votes in the third round, comfortably beating Ekaterinberg with 47.
There was one abstention. The four candidate cities, which also included Brazil’s Sao Paulo and Turkey’s Izmir, had pulled out all the stops during 20 minute presentations before voting by the 168 member states of the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE), which oversees the organization of the events. The Emirates kicked off the presentations by pitching Dubai as a futuristic, glitzy city.
Emirates minister Reem Al Hashimi told the meeting that Dubai was a city “capable of hosting the world” and promised visitors an “unforgettable experience” if it won the bid. The victory for Dubai-home to the world’s tallest tower, largest man-made island and one of the world’s busiest airports-means the World Expo will be hosted by an Arab country for the first time. According to UAE officials, 40 percent of the estimated 227,000 new jobs expected to be created as a result of Expo will be in the tourism and travel sectors.
The site chosen for the event, is spread over 438 hectares and located between the international airports of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates. Brazil, which is already gearing up to welcome the World Cup next year and the Olympic Games in 2016, had roped in famed Brazilian composer and musician Gilberto Gil to garner votes for its candidate city, Sao Paulo. Gil played his versions of Bob Marley’s reggae hit “No Woman No Cry” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” in a short performance during the presentation. But it was in vain as Sao Paulo failed to get past the first round.
The World Expo, a modern-day successor to the Great Exhibitions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, showcases technology, architecture and culture. Shanghai was the last host city and Milan is next in line in 2015. The Chinese city set a record by attracting a record 73 million victors to the event. Izmir, a city on Turkey’s western coast, was eliminated in the second round of voting. It had already bid for a chance to host the 2015 Expo but lost out to Milan.
In yesterday’s bid, Turkey showcased Izmir’s long association with medicine and healthcare, highlighting that it housed the first psychiatric hospital in ancient times. Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu described Izmir, known as Smyrna for much of its history, as “the cradle of modern medicine”. Izmir emerged as a flourishing international trading post as a crossroads between Europe and Asia. The city of about four million is a major tourist attraction with a palm-lined renovated waterfront, archaeological treasures and ancient ruins and nearby golden beaches.
Ekaterinberg’s pitch included a video appeal by Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev to “give Russia a chance”. Russia was trying to promote the industrial city as part of a bid to develop the Ural region into a hub for technology and innovation, and attract more tourists to this lesser-visited part of the country. With a population of 1.4 million, Ekaterinburg is Russia’s fourth largest city and had hoped to capitalize on its recent endorsement by Forbes magazine as Russia’s best place to do business.- AFP
NEW DELHI: The editor of a top Indian investigative news magazine faced police questioning Saturday over allegations that he sexually assaulted a young woman colleague in a case that has snowballed into a major scandal.
The allegations hit the headlines due to the prominence of Tarun Tejpal, 50, the founder and editor of the magazine, Tehelka, known for its hard-hitting probes into sexual violence against women, corruption and other lawbreaking.
Police in the holiday state of Goa, where the woman was allegedly assaulted twice by Tejpal, began an inquiry Friday into the incident.
A four-member team of Goa police arrived in New Delhi on Saturday “to collect evidence and question the concerned persons”, a Delhi police official told AFP.
“We will fully cooperate with the Goa team,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The preliminary enquiry, also known as a First Information Report, allows police to gather evidence in a case and take a suspect into custody for questioning.
Tejpal announced Wednesday he was quitting his editorial functions at Tehelka for six months after the woman's complaint was leaked to the media.
In the written complaint, of which AFP has a copy, the woman said she had known Tejpal since she was a child and described him as a “father figure”.
She said the alleged assault took place inside a lift at a hotel where the magazine held a conference last month billed as India's premier intellectual event.
The woman also alleged that when she protested, Tejpal told her “this was the easiest way for you to keep your job”.
In Panjim, the director general of Goa police Kishen Kumar said officers had obtained CCTV footage from the venue and were analysing it.
He would not comment on media reports that Tejpal's arrest was imminent.
In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, Tejpal offered to cooperate with police, saying he would present “all the facts of this incident” to them.
Tejpal, who has since hired a top lawyer to represent him, told The Economic Times in a report published Saturday the incident was “consensual” and “fleeting”.
Earlier in the week, he had said “a bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for,” in an email sent to Tehelka's managing editor Shoma Chaudhury.
An internal probe is being carried out by Tehelka into the matter.
Violence against women has become a hot-button issue in India since last December's fatal gang rape of a woman on a bus in Delhi.
Tehelka shot to national prominence in 2001 when it carried out a journalistic sting against the then-Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government in which it showed footage of party leaders willing to swing arms deals for cash.
MEXICO CITY: Mexico said Sunday it will award its 2013 International Prize for Equality and Non-Discrimination to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for championing girls' rights to education.
The award seeks to recognize Malala's efforts for “the protection of human rights” and especially her fight to protect the right to education without discrimination on “grounds of age, gender, sex and religion,” Mexico's official National Council to Prevent Discrimination said in a statement.
The award ceremony is planned for early 2014.
The 16-year-old, who survived a gunshot wound to the head in 2012, has become a global ambassador for the rights of children.
She is currently living in Britain, where she underwent surgery after the attack.
Malala, who since age 11 has written a blog about girls' right to education, has written an autobiography, addressed the United Nations and set up a fund to help girls around the world go to school and promote universal access to education.
Last week, she was awarded the European Union's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize at a ceremony significantly held on World Children's Day.
ISLAMABAD: The Canadian High Commission is establishing a facilitation desk to woo Pakistani investors and develop business links between entrepreneurs in both countries.
Talking to the participants at the ‘Investment Round Table for Pakistan Entrepreneurs’ organised by the Canadian diplomatic mission on Wednesday, High Commissioner Greg Giokas said that his country’s friendly investment regime is recognised for its low costs and low taxes.
“The Canadian government is interested in attracting foreign direct investment to facilitate economic growth for Canadians,” he said.
He said that the business environment in Pakistan would benefit from Canada’s example of improved investments and attractive policies.
The participants were informed that Canada provides a top performing economy for businesses to innovate, grow and succeed.
The event was attended by businessmen who already have investments in Canada as well as those seeking to avail opportunities. Most Pakistanis have invested in consumer outlets and non-technical businesses in Canada, which were an extension of their core businesses in Pakistan.