News and Views from New York
By Syed S Hussain
New York

The much talked about mild winter finally gave way to the much talked about record snowfall. With nearly 27 inches of snow all sorts of records were being re-written. The inhabitants of the Big Apple were once again seen doing what they normally do in winter - dig.
For me it is a bit of a damper other than the digging part. As the movement is restricted the news and views of the South Asian community, which I normally solicit by moving around, is in short supply. Nonetheless, I met enough people to have the pulse of the important issues they are talking about.
Eavesdropping: The unfolding saga of National Surveillance Program continues to remain an important topic of discussion amongst the people who normally discuss such things. Somehow everybody feels slightly anxious about this program.
The main point of anxiety appears to be the very wide sweep of this program. For ordinary people the very fact that they could be under surveillance, even of benign nature, is rather unsettling. As the hearing and the proceedings are still unfolding everybody is hoping that the program would be as restrictive as the officials are claiming it to be.
Blasphemous Cartoons: The fallouts from the protests and counter-protests of the blasphemous cartoons continue to be a subject of discussion. Surprisingly, the views on this matter are quite divergent. Almost all agree that the cartoons were at the very least in bad taste. Many even consider them a deliberate provocation. But most want the subject to be put on the backburner now.
This sentiment appears to stem from two counts. First, the feeling that this subject will go nowhere, with each side sticking to its respective position. The other and probably more important reasoning is that this subject has all the hallmarks of escalating into something more drastic. Already there is talk of a cultural war taking place between two different civilizations. This kind of position, if taken too far by either side, can only spell more damage to an already sensitive situation.

Zahid Ali Syed

Pakistani American running for New York State Assembly: There is some news to cheer about. A Pakistani American, Mr. Zahid Ali Syed, is running for New York State Assembly and is proving the dictum that hard work can open up all sorts of opportunities in America. The Nassau County Democratic Party and the Working Families Party have nominated Mr. Zahid to this seat
In the special election being held on February 28, 2006 he would be representing District 17 of New York, which comprises areas like East Meadow, Merrick, North Bellmore, Garden City, New Hyde Park, Floral Park and Uniondale, Long Island, New York. A good number of South Asians reside in these areas.
During the last 15 years Mr. Zahid has been actively involved in politics and labor union activities. He holds many offices. He is Labor Union leader of RWDSU Local 338. He serves as Commissioner in the Nassau County Human Rights Commission. He is also President of South Asian American Political Action Committee. He brings with him a rich combination of experience and hard work. The community is eagerly looking forward to his success in the election.
Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Iran situation did not come as a surprise to most people. The rhetoric on all sides had clear manifestations of reaching this stage. But now that the situation is where it is genuine concerns are setting in.
Almost everybody feels that these situations should have been avoided. The present world situation has enough of other problems than to add some more and such a serious one at that. The important question now is: how much worse could the situation get? What if Iran decides, as it appears presently, to up the ante and not back down? Are we looking at another Iraq-like situation?
Pakistan: Yet another hot button issue is the present situation in Pakistan, especially in the sensitive province of Baluchistan. The news coming from there is definitely not encouraging and it adds to the anxiety of the people here. As it is the situation in the North West Frontier Province is worrisome enough with the news of increased militant activities in tribal areas. And now disturbances in Baluchistan!
Although people generally know that the Baluchistan problem is not entirely a new one but that it’s flaring up at this stage is quite shocking for them. From whatever news is trickling down there appears to be substantial unrest resulting in casualties. Everybody is hoping for early restoration of peace and that the government will take all actions to defuse the situation. Pakistan certainly does not need a new set of problems.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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