Pakistani girls take on male-dominated gaming industry

Pakistani girls take on male-dominated gaming industry

CALIFORNIA: Girls make Games is an all-girl led collective headquartered in San Jose, California, that aims to educate, inspire and teach a new generation of girls on how to make a place for themselves in this ever expanding industry.

A CNNMoney report in 2015 listed ‘Video Game Designer’ as one of the best and fastest growing jobs for the next decade.

However, the gaming industry is male-dominated, from the development of the video games to those who play them. Even today, the stereotype of a gamer remains that of a young, acne-ridden male.

This bro-culture of gaming is under threat.

Founded by Laila Shabir, an MIT alum, Girls Make Games hosts annual summer camps and workshops leading up to a demo day.

It aims to increase gender diversity in the male dominated gaming industry especially in the wake of the ‘Gamergate’ controversy which led to female gamers being harassed online.

The three-week camp takes place across nine cities of the United States and has educated more than 800 girls since it began in 2014.

This year’s batch includes Fatima Naweed, a 16-year-old Pakistani who made the journey all the way from here just for the camp.

Speaking exclusively to MIT tech, Naweed says, “While the camp was very diverse, with students from India, China and Pakistan, they were all living in the US – I was the only one who came from abroad.”

The camp provides an introduction to game design, game art and programming. Campers learn gameplay models and terminology, and create characters and backgrounds using Photoshop. There are also guest talks from industry experts.

Participants at the camp get tours of the work space and labs at Google and Xbox, and are provided with contact information of industry professionals in case they came up with new games.

At the end of the camp, there is a demo day where the top 5 teams showcase their video games in front of industry expert judges. The winners of the 2014 demo day went on to launch their Kickstarter campaign and publish their video game “The Hole Story.”

According to estimates from PricewaterhouseCoopers, video game design is a massive global industry that will be worth $90 billion by the year 2020.

The gaming industry in Pakistan is small and mainly driven by studios like Mindstorm Studios, Caramel Tech and we.R.play, however, the local industry has received certain levels of recognition and success.

"The camp was very diverse, with students from India, China and Pakistan...", Naveed talking to MIT ─ Courtesy MIT Review Technology
“The camp was very diverse, with students from India, China and Pakistan…”, Naveed talking to MIT ─ Courtesy MIT Review Technology

“Fruit Ninja” which Caremel Tech worked on has had more than 500 million downloads. Mindstorm Studios’ “Whacksy Taxi” was a top app on App Store in over 25 countries and “Cricket Power” became the official ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 game.

Gaming is an industry that has always been dominated by men both domestically and internationally. According to the Girls Make Games website, 47 per cent of gamers are women but they make up less than 12% of the game industry.

An article in the Washington Post stated that there were 30 million males and 18m females who played games on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles in 2011 but in 2014, the number of female gamers grew rapidly to 30.3mwhile the number of male gamers only increased to 43.3m.

So a growing number of women are now playing games but the games that they are playing are still mostly made by men.

“A lot of girls don’t code or game in Pakistan. I didn’t even know that there was a future in gaming before this,” said Fatima Naweed, who is now spending her second summer at the camp.

After attending Girls Make Games, Fatima Naweed and her team called “The Indefinites” won an award for the Most Original Game Idea at Demo Day 2016 for their game “Umbra” and are now developing the game on their own.

Developers have begun to understand the importance of having a more inclusive workplace in the gaming industry and there are concerted efforts to get girls involved.

A more diverse workforce in gaming has the potential to lead to better idea generation and target a new segment of the audience in the massive billion dollar industry.

This piece first appeared on MIT Technology Review Pakistan and has been reproduced with permission.

Source : Dawn News

UK’s Birmingham City Council aided Muslim religious extremists against Ahmadis

UK’s Birmingham City Council aided Muslim religious extremists against Ahmadis

In a shocking report, UK’s IBTimes has revealed how city council of Britain’s second most populated city, Birmingham favored Muslim religious extremists against the persecuted Ahmadiyya sect. The report revealed how Birmingham’s education authorities blocked one of UK’s oldest and most peaceful Muslim sect from being represented on an interfaith council.

ahmadi-muslim-islam

City of Birmingham’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) told members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that in order to be represented on the city’s SACRE committee they would have to declare themselves as non-Muslims first.

SACRE’s committee member demanded Ahmadis to declare themselves as non-Muslim after right-wing Muslims threatened a walkout.

In an email message published by IBTimes, Councillor Barry Henley, Chairman of Birmingham SACRE committee said that the body would welcome an Ahmadi representative provided they describe themselves as “Ahmadiyya Community or similar wording and not Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.”

Chairman Henley insisted that if he allowed the Ahmadiyya to be admitted he would be “breaking the law because the other Muslim representatives would leave.”

Responding to the judgment, Fareed Ahmad, a member of the Ahmadiyya National Executive Committee, said the Labour-led council had failed to defend religious tolerance.

In July, the SACRE committee rejected a new membership application from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

British law expert, Barrister Neil Addison has said that the committee broke the law in excluding the Ahmadis: “It is endorsing sectarianism, we wouldn’t allow it with anyone else in the UK, and it is not lawful.”

The controversy began in 2012 when Birmingham’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community first applied for SACRE membership. Soon after the initial application, SACRE changed it’s charter so that only candidates chosen by committees representing faith communities would be considered for membership.

Members of Birmingham SACRE’s Muslim Liaison Committee have so far refused to support membership of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Source : ibtimes

UNSC, EU ambassadors briefed on human right violations in held Kashmir by Indian forces

UNSC, EU ambassadors briefed on human right violations in held Kashmir by Indian forces

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Friday briefed the ambassadors of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the European Union regarding the human right violations being committed by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir.

“The adviser deplored the lethal use of force by the Indian occupation forces against innocent Kashmiri people,” said the Foreign Office spokesperson.

“He conveyed serious concerns over the bloodshed in India-occupied Kashmir which has taken a toll of more than 80 innocent Kashmiris since July 8 and inflicted injuries to more than 7,000 people.”

The spokesperson added “oppressive measures by India cannot deter the valiant people of Jammu and Kashmir from their just struggle for their right of self determination”.

Protesters hold the flag of Pakistan during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir. -Reuters
Protesters hold the flag of Pakistan during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir. -Reuters

Aziz, on the occasion, regretted India’s refusal for holding talks on the issue with Pakistan.

He also briefed the ambassadors over the exchange of letters between the foreign secretaries of the two countries.

“The international community, especially the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union have an important role to uphold the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said the adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs.

Read: Pakistan initiates soft offensive to check Indian violence in held Kashmir

He urged the ambassadors present on the occasion to fulfill their international commitments to the people of India-held Kashmir under the UNSC resolutions.

“Pakistan welcomes the UN Secretary General’s offer and would be ready to engage in a dialogue to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” reiterated Aziz.

The P5 and EU ambassadors stressed for a peaceful resolution of the issue and acknowledged the importance of dialogue.

An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard during curfew in downtown Srinagar. —AFP
An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard during curfew in downtown Srinagar. —AFP

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) last week expressed concern over gross human rights violations and unabated killings in India-held Kashmir and renewed its call for resolution of the dispute through peaceful means.

However, India recalled its earlier position that the OIC had no locus standi in the matter.

Uptick in violence

In the worst civilian violence to hit the restive region of Indian-held Kashmir since 2010, at least 70 Kashmiri civilians have been killed and thousands more injured in Indian-held Kashmir in clashes with security forces after the killing of a prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani, in a military operation on July 8.

Wani, a 22-year-old commander of Kashmir’s largest pro-independence militant group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), was killed along with two other separatists during a gun battle with Indian government forces. Indian paramilitary soldiers on patrol after a day long curfew in Srinagar. —AP

Wani joined the HM group at the age of just 15, and was viewed as a hero by many in Kashmir. The state’s former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted after his death that he had become the “new icon of Kashmir’s disaffected”.

Also read: Kashmir unrest

Witnesses said tens of thousands attended his funeral despite a curfew imposed by Indian authorities, chanting independence slogans.

A protester hurls a stone towards the Indian police during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir. -Reuters
A protester hurls a stone towards the Indian police during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir. -Reuters

Indian government troops in IHK have reportedly fired live ammunition, and used pellet guns and tear gas to control anti-government protesters.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called an emergency meeting to discuss escalating violence in India-held Kashmir amid anti-India protests.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office has also condemned the violence in Indian-held Kashmir.

HM is one of several groups that for decades have been fighting around half a million Indian troops deployed in the region, calling for independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan. Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol during curfew in Srinagar. —AP

Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting since 1989.

Violence had sharply declined in recent years following a major crackdown by the hundreds of thousands of Indian forces deployed in the region.

But a recent uptick in militant attacks has galvanised frustrated young Kashmiris, majority of whom deeply resent the Indian military’s presence.

 Source : Dawn News

Italy comes to Pakistan, creates a markhor mural at Jinnah Airport

Italy comes to Pakistan, creates a markhor mural at Jinnah Airport

Something’s happening at Jinnah International Airport, and it involves a markhor.

No, our national animal isn’t on the loose ready to delay your next flight — it’s going to be part of a mural.

VASL Artists’ Collective has partnered up with the Italian Consulate to paint yet another mural at Jinnah International Airport.

Accompanied by curator Mario Liberali, Italian artist Maurizio Boscheri has planned to paint a mural featuring the national animal of Pakistan, the markhor. The two came to Karachi for an exhibition at Mohatta Palace that features artwork based on nature and wildlife.

Arriving at Jinnah International Airport, we were greeted by the sight of the artists and VASL team members Veera, Hira and Yasser. Veera Rustomji, a member of VASL met with us and introduced us to all present and also to VASL itself.

Source : Dawn News

South Asian Economic Union soon

South Asian Economic Union soon

ISLAMABAD: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) finance ministers and heads of delegations decided on Wednesday to accelerate the process towards South Asian Economic Union in a phased and planned manner.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who chaired the Saarc finance ministers’ meeting, later explained to the media salient features of the decisions taken at the meeting.

He said the finance ministers agreed to ensure implementation of decisions recommended by the member states at various Saarc mechanisms in order to realise the goals of Saarc charter to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.

They agreed to operationalise the Saarc agreement on trade and services without further delay by finalising schedules of specific commitments. They also decided to finalise text of the Saarc agreement on promotion and protection of investments.

The Saarc finance ministers decided to initiate discussion on widening the scope of Saarc agreement on avoidance of double taxation and mutual administrative assistance in tax matters.

They emphasised the need for harmonisation of customs procedures and documentations in the region to facilitate movement of goods across the borders. They also underlined the need for improved connectivity in the region including through land, sea and air route and early signing of motor vehicle and railways agreements.

It was decided to strengthen social window and operationalise economic and infrastructure windows of Saarc Development Fund so that tangible benefits are visible on the ground. Enhanced intra-regional investments were emphasised with a view to bridge the large infrastructure financing gap in the region.

The meeting recommended that Saarc secretariat should commission a study on export and import patterns of member states within and outside the region with a view to improve intra-regional trade. The Asian Development Bank and UN ESCAP or trade bodies in member countries should be approached for supporting the initiative.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that since the last meeting of Saarc held in Kathmandu in 2015, significant headway had been made in regional collaboration in the areas related to economic and financial cooperation among the member states.

There is, however, a need to intensify the efforts on reduction or removal of non-tariff and para tariff barriers, trade facilitation measures, investment cooperation, reduction of products in sensitive lists, Saarc agreement on trade services, improvement in connectivity, energy cooperation, harmonisation and simplification of customs procedures and agreement on promotion and protection of investment to achieve our goal for the betterment of the peoples of the region.

Afghanistan has offered to host the next meeting of the Saarc finance ministers in Kabul in 2017.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2016

Captaincy was offered to me in clerk’s room: Misbah-ul-Haq

Captaincy was offered to me in clerk’s room: Misbah-ul-Haq

Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq said in his blog for cricket.com.au that he was offered captaincy in a clerk’s office at the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) headquarters in Lahore.

In the aftermath of the infamous 2010 spot-fixing scandal that saw one of the country’s three “finest” cricketers banned from the game, the then PCB chairman Ijaz Butt arranged a secret meeting with the 42-year-old to offer him the captaincy role since “he didn’t have many options”.

“The chairman wanted to keep the meeting confidential and as it has been reported in the media recently it was arranged in a clerk’s room where I was offered the captaincy. I kept it a secret too and, owing to the state of affairs at that time, did not share it even with my family,” Misbah wrote.

At the time, Pakistan were ranked number six in Tests, but in six years time they topped the table for which the current Test captain is credited by experts and fans alike.

Facebook makes trending news feature more automated

Facebook makes trending news feature more automated

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook said Friday it is further automating its “trending” stories feature, a move that will scale back human input to prevent personal bias from influencing which stories get highlighted.

The social media giant will rely more heavily on an algorithm to operate the feature — which lists what news or events are hot topics — no longer requiring people to write descriptions, according to a Facebook blog post.

The feature prompted controversy earlier this year, with critics alleging that Facebook’s news curators were deliberately omitting stories from politically conservative outlets, allegations the company denied.

Facebook said relying more heavily on software will allow the feature to cover a wider scale, while lessening the risk that personal bias could manipulate the list of trending topics.

“We looked into these claims and found no evidence of systematic bias,” Facebook reiterated in its blog post Friday, but added that “making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics.”

With the change, instead of seeing story summaries in the trending list, users will simply see topics and the number of people talking about them.

Letting a cursor hover over a topic will show “an automatically selected original news story with an excerpt pulled directly from the top article itself.”

Humans will still be involved in the process to ensure that topics are real-world news and not based on an internet trend like #lunch.

Facebook in May made changes aimed at keeping political bias out of its “trending” stories list even though an internal investigation revealed no evidence that it was an issue.

“Our investigation has revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature,” Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said in a letter responding to a query from Republican US Senator John Thune, who chairs the commerce committee. “In fact, our analysis indicated that the rates of approval of conservative and liberal topics are virtually identical in Trending Topics.”

Facebook updated terminology in its guidelines to be clearer and gave reviewers refresher training that emphasized content decisions may not be based on politics or ideology, the letter said.

The review team became subject to more oversight and controls, and Facebook stopped relying on lists of external websites and news outlets to assess the importance of topics in stories.

“We’ve built Facebook to be a platform for all ideas,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on his social network page after a meeting at the company’s California headquarters to discuss the allegations about anti-conservative bias.

Zuckerberg called the meeting after technology news outlet Gizmodo reported anonymous allegations that Facebook was deliberately omitting articles with conservative viewpoints from the sidebar that lists popular stories.

 Source : Dawn News

Nigeria: Ahmadiyya Muslim women group meets on national peace

Nigeria: Ahmadiyya Muslim women group meets on national peace

The Ahmadiyya women group, Lajnal Immaillah, is set to hold the 2016 yearly Islamic conference in commemoration of its 100 years of existence.

The conference is scheduled to hold from 26th to 28th August 2016 at the Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Dutse Alhaji, Along Bwari Road Abuja.

The theme of the centenary conference is “100 Years of Ahmadiyya: The True Message of Islam”

It is expected to be declared open by the Amir, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Dr. Mashhud Adenrele Fashola to be assisted by the (Deputy Head) Naib Amir North, Dr Yakeen Habeeb.

Other topics for discussion at the conference include: The Role Of Women In National Peace and Order; 100 years of Ahmadiyya In Nigeria; Crucial and Demanding Roles Consolidation and Expansion.

Other programmes for the three day events are Quranic, cooking/handcraft completions, marriage and counselling talk, sports and entertainment, special exhibition on contributions of the women group to the 100 years anniversary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Nigeria.

Prominent Islamic women leaders across Nigeria expected at the gathering include: National Commissioner INEC Head Quarters Maitama Abuja, Hajia Amina Zakari, Coordinating Director Compliance Support Group Federal Inland Revenue Service, Hajia Queensley Segosimhe, Director Tax Audit Federal Inland Revenues, Hajia Faosat Ogunniyi, Director of Technical Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja, Hajia Lara Shuaibu.

The wife Speaker, House of Representative Mrs Dogara and the Deputy Speaker, Hajia Lasun, Hajia Salamatu G. Ibrahim, Director Finance INEC Head Quarter Maitama Abuja and a host of others are also expected at the event.

iRabwah | News Watch |
Source/Credit: The Guardian Nigeria

Canada: Mobile Muslims came to counter Islamophobia, say thanks in Abbotsford

Canada: Mobile Muslims came to counter Islamophobia, say thanks in Abbotsford

A nationwide tour aiming to combat Islamophobia with education and discussion stopped in Abbotsford on Thursday.

The travelling exhibition was presented by members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at community, most of whom live in the Greater Toronto area.

Abbotsford was the 22nd stop on the 25-town Mobile Muslim tour, which began in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on July 13.

The group parked a trailer downtown on Essendene Avenue and stood on the sidewalk, engaging the public and handing out literature about their faith.

One member of the group from Edmonton, who studies in Toronto, held a large sign which read, “I am a Muslim, ask me anything.”

The young man, who asked not to be named, engaged in a lively discussion about religion with local Christians.

Omer Ahmed, a banker from Ancaster, Ont., said all questions were welcome, with nothing off limits.

“It’s a safe zone,” he said. “You can have no filter and I’ll be fine.”

The group has fielded a great variety of questions, Ahmed said, some more benign than others. He said he has been asked about their Halal diet, which disallows pork and requires meat to be slaughtered and prepared in a specific way.

Ahmed has also explained to Canadians how he fits five daily prayers into his schedule.

The group has also been asked if they, and all Muslims, are supporters of the violent extremist group ISIS. He said the question came from someone who genuinely believed that all followers of Islam might support terrorism.

“ISIS is hijacking my faith,” said Ahmed, who said he was not bothered by the question and was happy to be able to dispel the misconception. “We want people to get to know the real Islam, not just those who hijack it.”

Ahmed described the several hours spent in sweltering heat as “overwhelmingly positive.”

He said the group had spoken to several dozen locals, and other than some rude comments by people driving by, everyone was happy to see them and appreciative of their presence. Ahmed said one woman even left to fetch friends and return for a discussion.

He said it was particularly important to him and the group to reach people in less metropolitan places like Abbotsford, where people are less likely to have Muslim neighbours, friends and coworkers.

“We are just normal humans,” he said.

Ahmed estimated encountering 5,000 people across the country. Of those, only five or six were outright negative experiences, he said.

The Mobile Muslim tour had an additional goal to public outreach and education, spelled out on the backs of their T-shirts: “Thank you, Canada.”

Ahmed said loyalty to country is important in Islam and he is very grateful to express himself in a country with religious freedom.

For Ahmed, this is a freedom not available to him in his native Pakistan, where practitioners of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam are often excluded and persecuted. He said he may even be killed for following the revivalist Islamic practice founded in Punjab, India in the late 1900s.

The group wrapped up its tour in Vancouver on Aug. 21, after stops in Delta and Victoria.

iRabwah | News Watch |
Source/Credit: Abbotsford News