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Monday, September 22, 2014

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Urdu news service to carry Israeli items

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Tariq Khan

TORONTO — Weekly Press Pakistan (WPP), a Toronto-based news service, has entered into an agreement with the Tazpit News Agency to carry stories from Israel, some of them translated into the Urdu language.

WPP publisher Tariq Khan said Tazpit will provide him English-language stories and he will translate others and include them in his Urdu-language commentaries.

“It’s a good source of information about Israel,” Khan said. “I am very proud that people for the first time are coming to know about Israel, what Israel is doing.”

Tazpit director Amotz Eyal said the collaboration should expose millions of readers to news and information coming from Israel.

“I am confident that this joint venture will be beneficial to Israelis as well as Pakistanis and will promote understanding between the two parties,” he said.

Khan said WPP has been attempting to present its audience with news from Israel that breaks the Urdu-speaking community’s misconceptions about Jews and the Jewish state. There is no reason non-Arab Muslims should share the hostility to Israel of Arab Muslims, he said.

In last week’s edition, WPP carried a Tazpit story highlighting the Lollapalooza music festival that will take place in Tel Aviv next summer. Another featured a historic look at the Tu b’Av “Valentine’s Day” festival, while a third unattributed story celebrated the 89th birthday of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Featured at the top of the news agency’s web page (http://weeklypresspakistan.com/) was a story illustrated by a menorah and Star of David that asked, “Why are Jews so powerful? A Pakistani perspective.” The story cites the Jewish contributions to a number of fields, including medicine, science, and popular culture, and attributes Jews’ disproportionate successes to education.

Khan said he entered into the arrangement with Tazpit after meeting Eyal in June. “I looked into his website, and when he arrived, we had a frank discussion. He’s a good person, a young man with a good team.”

The Israeli government has been deficient in making its case to people in South and Central Asia, where Urdu is widely spoken, Khan said.

Khan, who worked for years in various news agencies in Pakistan before moving to Canada, said he never received any news releases from the Israeli government. “Israel was not at all interested in non-Arab Islamic agencies,” he said. “I never received a single word from Israel.”

Pakistanis’ knowledge of Israel is framed strictly by the conflict with the Palestinians, he continued. “People know only the conflict. I’m trying to promote the better aspects of Israel in Urdu.”

Khan himself has been involved in several meetings with Toronto Jews to try to foster better relations between local Muslims and Jews. A recent get-together at a Toronto library saw 40 Jews and Muslims enter a “get to know one another” dialogue on a number of non-political topics. Khan co-chaired the meeting with David Nitkin of EthicScan Canada.

Khan hopes to expand the next meeting, sometimes in the fall, to include youngsters under 15.

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