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Pakistani origin Sadiq Khan is first Muslim Mayor of London

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An interesting thing has happened in the West right in United Kingdom as a Muslim gets elected as mayor London even as Islamophobia is in the peak as EU continues to block a European Turkey from entering the European Union as a legitimate member and in the US poll campaign with Trump seeking to deny Muslims entry to his ‘motherland’ or rather ‘fatherland’.

A Pakistani origin Sadiq Khan was sworn in as London mayor on May 07 after being elected the first Muslim leader of a major Western capital, as the Conservatives, who consider themselves as hawkish republicans in USA, defended attempts to link him to extremism during the campaign. Corporate media tried their level best to insult him as being a ‘Muslim terrorist’- the usual description of Muslims in the West and world over, maybe for cruel fun and sadistic pleasures.

Sadiq Khan becomes London Mayor against the general anti-Islamic waves across the world as Muslims are increasingly been branded as terrorists by leaders like Trump and media lords to boost the circular of their money and news.

The Conservatives who rule Great Britain have badly failed to get Sadiq linked to ISIS or Al-Qaeda or Taliban, etc, as people of London city reposed full faith in this Muslim and son of a Pakistani bus driver.

Khan won 57 percent of the vote in Thursday`s mayoral election, securing 1.3 million votes to see off multimillionaire Conservative Zac Goldsmith and make history as the city`s first Muslim mayor.

In his victory speech in the early hours of Saturday morning, Khan had referenced the negative campaign against him by saying London had chosen “unity over division” and truth defeated falsehood.

The opposition Labour lawmaker Sadiq Khan broke from convention by taking his oath of office in a multi-faith ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. “My name is Sadiq Khan and I`m the mayor of London,” the 45-year-old said to cheers from supporters, who had earlier given him a standing ovation as he walked in. He added: “I`m determined to lead the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community, and every single part of our city, as mayor for all Londoners.”

Sadiq Khan won the Mayoral position as Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had led the attacks against Khan for sharing platforms with radical Muslims at public events, and Goldsmith said he was “radical and divisive”.

There was criticism from across the political spectrum on Saturday at the tone of the Tory campaign, but Defence Secretary Michael Fallon insisted it was legitimate. “Both candidates were asked questions about their backgrounds, their personalities, their judgment, the people they associate with,” he told BBC radio. “That`s the nature of our democracy and the rough-and-tumble of politics.”News of the win was applauded in Pakistan, with Bilawal Bhutto, leader of the opposition Pakistan People`s Party and son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and rival opposition leader Imran Khan tweeting congratulations.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was looking to working with his “fellow affordable-housing advocate” while Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted that Khan`s “humanity (and) progressivism will benefit Londoners”.

Former Conservative government minister Sayeeda Warsi also offered her congratulations “from this daughter of a Pakistani bus driver to the son of a Pakistani bus driver”, and also condemned her party`s campaign. “Our appalling dog-whistle campaign lost us the election, our reputation and credibility on issues of race and religion,” she said.

Khan admitted representing some “pretty unsavoury characters” during his previous job as a human rights lawyer but said their views were “abhorrent” and condemned the Conservatives` “desperate” attacks.

Goldsmith`s sister Jemima, the ex-wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, said the tone of her brother`s campaign “did not reflect who I know him to be”. Cameron`s former adviser, Steve Hilton, said Goldsmith had brought back the “nasty party label”.

In the audience at Southwark Cathedral was Doreen Lawrence, an anti-racism campaigner whose teenage son Stephen was killed by a gang of white youths. “I never imagined in my lifetime I could have a mayor of London from an ethnic minority,” she said.

Khan has broken the eight-year hold of the Conservatives on City Hall, succeeding the charismatic Boris Johnson in a prestigious post that has responsibility for transport, housing, policing and promoting economic development.

Sadiq Khan’s success was a boost for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who has been battling a row over anti-Semitism and growing criticism from the moderate wing of his party since his election in September. But Labour fared less well in other regional elections on Thursday. The party was beaten into third place in Scotland, once a Labour stronghold, as the Conservatives became the official opposition to the Scottish National Party (SNP), which won a third term in office.

Labour maintained control of the Welsh assembly and lost only a handful of local council seats in England. But critics warned it should have done better against a government that has lost support over welfare reforms and is deeply divided ahead of the referendum on Britain`s membership of the EU on June 23.

Sadiq Khan’s historic victory in London is likely help anti-Islam promoters globally to reconsider their filthy concepts of attributing terror to Islam and work for civilizational unity even if not promoting Islam and Muslims as entity of genuine democratic values.

Muslims are not terrorists but they are sued by anti-Islamic forces and projected them as terrorists to malign Islam and terrorize Muslim community everywhere. Hopefully, the anti-Islamic world would now allow Muslims to shed their false terror visuals and take their legitimate place in the world system.

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Time to Tackle the Stigma Behind Wartime Rape

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Images: UN Women Kosovo

The youngest capital city in Europe, Pristina, is the ultimate hybrid of old and new: Ottoman-era architecture stands amongst communist paraphernalia, while Kosovars who lived through the bloodshed of the 20th century share family dinners with a generation of young people with their sights set on EU accession.

This month, the capital’s Kosovo Museum welcomed a new force for change; Colours of Our Soul, an exhibition of artwork from women who survived the sexual violence of the Yugoslav Wars, showcases the world as these women “wished it to be.”

Colours of Our Soul isn’t the first art installation to shine a light on the brutal sexual violence thousands of Kosovar victims suffered throughout the turmoil of the conflict which raged from 1988 to 1999. In 2015, Kosovo-born conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa transformed a local football pitch into a giant installation, draping 5,000 dresses over washing lines to commemorate survivors of sexual violence whose voices otherwise tend to go unheard. “I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art,” said Xhafa-Mripa at the time.

Victims, and their children, pressed into silence

The silence Xhafa-Mripa speaks of is the very real social stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in the wake of brutal conflict. “I would go to communities, but everyone would say, ‘Nobody was raped here – why are you talking about it?’”, remarked Feride Rushiti, founder of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).

Today, KRCT has more than 400 clients— barely a scratch on the surface given that rape was used in Kosovo as an “instrument of war” as recently as two decades ago. Some 20,000 women and girls are thought to have been assaulted during the bloody conflict; the fact that the artists whose work is featured in the Colours of our Soul exhibition did not sign their work or openly attend the installation’s grand opening is a sign of how pervasive the stigma is which haunts Kosovar society to this day.

As acute as this stigma is for the women who were assaulted, it is far worse for the children born from rape, who have thus far been excluded from reparation measures and instead dismissed as “the enemy’s children.” In 2014, the Kosovar parliament passed a law recognising the victim status of survivors, entitling them to a pension of up to 220 euros per month. Their children, however, many of whom were murdered or abandoned in the face of community pressure, are barely acknowledged in Kosovar society and have become a generation of young adults who have inherited the bulk of their country’s dark burden.

A global problem

It’s a brutal stigma which affects children born of wartime rape all over the world. The Lai Dai Han, born to Vietnamese mothers raped by South Korean soldiers, have struggled for years to find acceptance in the face of a society that views them as dirty reminders of a war it would rather forget. The South Korean government has yet to heed any calls for formal recognition of sexual violence at the hands of Korean troops, let alone issue a public— and long-awaited— apology to the Lai Dai Han or their mothers.

In many cases, as in the case of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the very existence of children born from rape has often been used as a brutal weapon by government forces and militants alike. Official estimates indicate that a mammoth 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped by the Pakistani military and the supporting Bihari, Bengali Razakar and al-Badr militias in the early 1970s. The children fathered, at gunpoint, by Pakistani men were intended to help eliminate Bengali nationhood.

Their surviving mothers are now known as “Birangana”, or “brave female soldier,” though the accolade means little in the face of a lifetime of ostracization and alienation. “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times,” one so-called Birangana explained, “So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist.”

No end in sight

Unfortunately, this barbaric tactic of rape and forced impregnation is one that is still being used in genocides to this day. The subjugation of the Rohingya people, for example, which culminated in a murderous crackdown last year by Myanmar’s military, means an estimated 48,000 women will give birth in refugee camps this year alone. Barring a major societal shift, the children they bear will suffer ostracization similar to that seen in Kosovo, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Initiatives like the Colours of Our Soul installation in Pristina are not only central in helping wartime rape survivors to heal, but also play a vital role in cutting through the destructive stigma for violated women and their children. Even so, if the number of women who submitted their paintings anonymously is anything to go by, true rehabilitation is a long way ahead.

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EU–South Africa Summit: Strengthening the strategic partnership

MD Staff

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At the 7th European Union–South Africa Summit held in Brussels Leaders agreed on a number of steps to reinforce bilateral and regional relations, focusing on the implementation of the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership. This includes economic and trade cooperation and pursuing the improvement of business climate and opportunities for investment and job creation which are of mutual interest.

Leaders also discussed common global challenges, such as climate change, migration, human rights, committing to pursue close cooperation both at bilateral level and on the global stage. A number of foreign and security policy issues, including building and consolidating peace, security and democracy in the African continent and at multilateral level were also raised. Leaders finally committed to work towards a prompt resolution of trade impediments affecting smooth trade flows.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. South Africa was represented by its President, Cyril Ramaphosa. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from South Africa.

President Juncker said: “The European Union, for the South African nation, is a very important trade partner. We are convinced that as a result of today’s meeting we will find a common understanding on the open trade issues. South Africa and Africa are very important partners for the European Union when it comes to climate change, when it comes to multilateralism. It is in the interest of the two parties – South Africa and the European Union – to invest more. It will be done.” A Joint Summit Statement issued by the Leaders outlines amongst others commitment to:

Advance multilateralism and rules based governance

Leaders recommitted to work together to support multilateralism, democracy and the rules-based global order, in particular at the United Nations and global trade fora. South Africa’s upcoming term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020 was recognised as an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace and security. As part of their commitment to stronger global governance, Leaders stressed their support to the process of UN reform, including efforts on the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. Leaders reiterated their determination to promote free, fair and inclusive trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and serving the interest of all its Members.

Bilateral cooperation

Leaders agreed to step up collaboration in key areas such as climate change, natural resources, science and technology, research and innovation, employment, education and training including digital skills, health, energy, macro-economic policies, human rights and peace and security. The EU and South Africa will, amongst others, explore the opportunities provided by the External Investment Plan. Linked to this, Leaders committed to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance including project preparation, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development. Leaders welcomed the conclusion and provisional implementation in 2016 of the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Leaders also committed to find mutually acceptable solutions to impediments to trade in agriculture, agri-food and manufactured goods. They agreed to work towards a prompt resolution of these impediments.

Regional cooperation

Leaders welcomed the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs put forward by the European Commission. They exchanged views on foreign and security policy issues, addressed a number of pressing situations in the neighbourhoods of both the EU and South Africa, and welcomed each other’s contribution to fostering peace and security in their respective regions. Leaders agreed to explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on peace and security, conflict prevention and mediation.

Leaders confirmed common resolve to reform the future relationship between the EU and the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. To this end they are looking forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations for a post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement, that will contribute to attaining the goals of both the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the long-term vision for African continent – Agenda 2063.

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Macron so far has augmented French isolation

Mohammad Ghaderi

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French President Emmanuel Macron has recently criticized the unilateral pullout of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but at the same time expressed pleasure that Washington has allowed France and the other JCPOA signatories to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

In an exclusive interview with the CNN, Macron said that he has “a very direct relationship” with Trump. “Trump is a person who has tried to fulfill his electoral promises, as I also try to fulfill my promises, and I respect the action that Trump made in this regard. But I think we can follow things better, due to our personal relationship and talks. For instance, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran pact, but at the end, he showed respect for the signatories’ decision to remain in the JCPOA.”

There are some key points in Macron’s remarks:

First, in 2017, the French were the first of the European signatories to try to change the JCPOA. They tried to force Iran to accept the following conditions: Inspection of military sites, application of the overtime limitation on nuclear activities, limiting regional activities, including missile capabilities within the framework of the JCPOA.

Macron had already made commitments to President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push Iran to accept the additional protocols to the deal, and he pushed to make it happen before Trump left the JCPOA.

Second, after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, although France expressed regret, they had secret negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the JCPOA.

The result of the undisclosed talks was deliberate delay on the part of the European authorities in providing a final package to keep the Iran deal alive. In other words, after the US unilaterally left the JCPOA, the French have been sloppy and maybe somewhat insincere about making the practical moves to ensure it would be saved.

Third, France has emphasized the need to strengthen their multilateralism in the international system and has become one of the pieces of the puzzle that completes the strategic posture of the Trump Administration in the West Asia region.

Obviously, French double standards have irritated European politicians, many of whom have disagreed with the contradictory games of French authorities towards the US and issues of multilateralism in the international community. Also, France’s isolation and its strategic leverage in the political arena has grown since the days of Sarkozy and Hollande. Some analysts thought that Macron and fresh policies would stop this trend, but it has not occurred.

First published in our partner MNA

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