Pakistan to award ‘courage’ of citizen killed in Christchurch

Nadeem Rashid, brother of Naeem Rashid who was killed along with his son Talha Naeem in the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand. (Reuters)
Updated 17 March 2019
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Pakistan to award ‘courage’ of citizen killed in Christchurch

  • Video of the massacre shows one man gunned down as he approaches the shooter, while others flee
  • The man is believed to be Naeem Rashid, although his face is blurred in the footage

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani victim of the Christchurch attack who apparently tried to tackle the gunman before being shot dead will be awarded posthumously in his home country for his courage, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Sunday.
Khan spoke as the Pakistani foreign office confirmed that nine of its citizens had been killed in the mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city which claimed the lives of 50 people Friday, including many who had emigrated from around the world.
Video of the massacre shows one man gunned down as he approaches the shooter, while others flee.
The man is believed to be Naeem Rashid, although his face is blurred in the footage and he has yet to be formally identified.
“Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rashid who was martyred trying to tackle the White Supremacist terrorist & his courage will be recognized with a national award,” Khan tweeted on Sunday.
Pakistan has several awards to recognize civilian bravery, and Khan did not specify which one would be awarded to Rashid, whose son also died in the massacre.
Rashid’s elder brother Khurshid Alam, who spoke to AFP by telephone from the northwestern Pakistani city of Abbottabad on Saturday, said he was “proud” of his sibling.
“He could have saved his life but he preferred to save others. He was a brave guy,” Alam said, confirming that one of his two nephews, Talha Naeem, was also killed.
He said his brother would likely be buried in New Zealand, adding that the family are seeking visas to attend but that they were difficult to get quickly.
Officials in Pakistan’s picturesque northern areas also confirmed that the main suspect, 28-year-old white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, had visited the largely moderate region as a tourist in October of last year, staying for more than a week.
Syed Israr Hussain, owner of Osho Thang Hotel in Minapin Nagar, told AFP: “(Tarrant) ... stayed for two days before leaving for Khunjerab (Pass, on the border with China).
“He was a decent and quiet guy.”
He said he remembered Tarrant among the many tourists who visit the region “because he was so impressed by the area, and said he had heard so many negative things about Pakistan but he found it the opposite.”
Tarrant’s alleged involvement in the massacre left him “surprised and shocked,” he said.
Tarrant is also believed to have visited Gilgit and Skardu in the mountainous north.
“A total of 9 Pakistanis embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in New Zealand terror attack,” Mohammad Faisal, the foreign office spokesperson, tweeted Sunday. Khan said Pakistan will extend “all our support” to the families of the victims.


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 24 May 2019
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.