ISLAMABAD: An influential group of Pakistani scholars and religious leaders on Sunday declared suicide attacks and beheadings as un-Islamic and called on people to unite for a struggle against the militancy plaguing the country.

‘Ulema’ (clerics) and ‘mushaikh’ (spiritual leaders) of the Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnah, who gathered here for a convention, declared suicide attacks and beheadings as un-Islamic in a unanimous resolution.

They backed the military operation being conducted in Swat and Malakand to flush out the Taliban and restore peace. They described the operation as important, saying it was a war for Pakistan’s integrity and sovereignty.

The religious leaders said the designs of elements engaged in creating a state within a state should be frustrated.

In his address, Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnah president Sahibzada Fazal Karim said those trying to harm the integrity of Pakistan should be dealt with with an iron hand. Karim and other clerics stressed the need to forge unity for the struggle against militancy.

“We played our role during the independence movement. We are Pakistani nationals and we will protect the country and foil every effort of the enemy,” Karim said.

Karim was of the view that the operation against the Taliban in Swat is the need of the hour as some sections of society were forcing people to accept their version of Islam. These elements also kill those who opposed them, he said.

Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, in his address, said those who were fighting in the name of implementing Shariah or Islamic law must first abide by these same laws.

He said the Taliban were so cruel that they were even slaughtering minors. This is contrary to the teachings of Islam, which provides protection to all those who were not involved in battle.

Rehman said if the Taliban have any respect for Islamic values, they should give up bloodshed because it was harming national integrity.

At the same time, Karim vowed to utilise all his energies to enforce Shariah in the country. He and other clerics condemned the US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, saying they were challenging the country’s sovereignty.

The government must take effective measures to force the US to halt these strikes, the clerics said.

Karim also said a number of agencies were working against the integrity of Pakistan and were trying to destabilize the country’s economy. These agencies were pouring millions of dollars and a huge quantity of weapons into areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, he claimed.

The Guard Who Found Islam
Terry Holdbrooks stood watch over prisoners at Gitmo. What he saw made him adopt their faith.

Dan Ephron
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Mar 30, 2009

Army specialist Terry Holdbrooks had been a guard at Guantánamo for about six months the night he had his life-altering conversation with detainee 590, a Moroccan also known as “the General.” This was early 2004, about halfway through Holdbrooks’s stint at Guantánamo with the 463rd Military Police Company. Until then, he’d spent most of his day shifts just doing his duty. He’d escort prisoners to interrogations or walk up and down the cellblock making sure they weren’t passing notes. But the midnight shifts were slow. “The only thing you really had to do was mop the center floor,” he says. So Holdbrooks began spending part of the night sitting cross-legged on the ground, talking to detainees through the metal mesh of their cell doors.

He developed a strong relationship with the General, whose real name is Ahmed Errachidi. Their late-night conversations led Holdbrooks to be more skeptical about the prison, he says, and made him think harder about his own life. Soon, Holdbrooks was ordering books on Arabic and Islam. During an evening talk with Errachidi in early 2004, the conversation turned to theshahada, the one-line statement of faith that marks the single requirement for converting to Islam (”There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet”). Holdbrooks pushed a pen and an index card through the mesh, and asked Errachidi to write out the shahada in English and transliterated Arabic. He then uttered the words aloud and, there on the floor of Guantánamo’s Camp Delta, became a Muslim. Continue reading

There has been a lot of talk and speculation regarding the drop in economic growth and its effect on UK businesses. You would perhaps think that as a result of this, they would be shying away from spending money on Internet marketing.

This however, is not the case and in fact, it has been suggested that not only will these UK businesses maintain their current spending but actually increase their current budget to increase and develop their online business presence.

The Internet is rapidly gaining ground as the preferred method of both shopping and procuring the services of businesses, largely due to convenience and ease of use. Most homes and businesses now have access to a computer therefore it provides a portal to either a company’s website or business details so that we can utilise their services. Continue reading

Chevrolet recently created an online forum called Chevy Nation. The forum is a social community that aims to familiarize the online audience with Chevy’s brand values and culture. Yahoo! has a separate division, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, that focuses on Internet advertising. Then there are the Webby Awards, dating back to 1996. One of the categories in the Webby Awards, which recognize the immense growth of the Internet and honor excellence on the Internet, is interactive advertising.

These developments point towards one fact: the Internet is an effective medium. It is also one of the most dynamic of all media, making it perfect for interactive advertising. Also in interactive Internet advertising’s favor is the fact that the average customer of today does not listen or view promotional messages in isolation; he or she would rather be part of the entire process. Thus, we see more marketing efforts designed with evolving customer desires in mind.

To this end, marketing and advertising efforts are no longer directed towards brand communication or product promotion in isolation. They take into account the consumer’s preferences, shopping habits, television viewing habits, and even things like work and vacation patterns. In short, marketing is all about understanding the consumer’s lifestyle. Continue reading

I’ve read several posts today about Google delivering business listings down the the zip code level.

Click here for a sample search result.

This concept will have an effect on our local search initiatives unless we develop a solid optimization plan, clean up our data and get out of the ‘Enhanced Listing’ business and into the ‘Business Profile’ and ‘Micro site’ business.

  • Optimization– Vendors like Planet Discover and Travidia have really stepped up their SEO game. Their newspaper partner sites and the local advertisers are now showing up in Google search results. This is absolutely necessary to remain competitive. It will keep your advertisers from looking outside for SEM help- Regarding SEM:Having a strategic SEM partner like WebVisible and Orange Soda is important but make sure they fit into your Local Search game plan. If your goal is to build reliance on your verticals or local business profiles and the SEM partner is sending the traffic directly, bypassing the business profile, your site will lose credibility. (Of course, some advertisers with great websites will demand direct clicks.)
  • Clean Data- Make sure your data is accurate, fresh and comprehensive. Remember relevant content is the best SEO plan. Being 100% reliant on the business to update this information is not a good plan.The main data providers, Axciom and InfoUSA, sell enhanced data. Recently, Harvest Info announced a partnership with Moon Valley Software for additional enhancements. Another option for cleaning up the database is to use a mixture of interns and a call center to verify and update information.
  • Micro site/Business Profile– The majority of local businesses either have a really bad website or no website at all. The ‘Business Profile’ in your local search portal can act as their website. In most cases these profiles include all the relevant attributes plus video and coupons. If the profile is optimized, accurate, fresh and comprehensive Google should have no problem finding them. Google also has a submission process that will help.

User Reviews can help us establish our footprint in their search results. Currently, a high percentage of the reviews in the search result are from city portals like CityVoter and CitySearch.

Click here for a User Review sample.

So far, they have only ventured into the restaurant category but I’m sure they have a plan to move into the most popular business search categories.

Consumers aren’t the only ones becoming more conservative with their spending as of late. Companies are also attempting to cut their expenses. As always, marketing costs are among the first expenses to be trimmed. For this reason, it is more important than ever to acknowledge low-cost marketing alternatives like online business listings.

Standard online business listings are free, and they reach a well-segmented audience – those who are seeking a specific offering. Each online business directory is different. Some only display a business’ address and telephone number, while others, like ThinkLocal®, display a business’ contact information, as well as directions to the business location, a map and business reviews. The more informative a listing is, the more likely it will sway an undecided customer.

Business of all sizes should consider creating online business listings to supplement their paid advertising efforts. If you choose to advertise your business on an online directory that receives a lot of traffic, then most likely, you will gain new customers. With no costs involve, you have nothing lose.

This year, Black Friday sales were steady, and Cyber Monday numbers exceeded expectations. How did retailers manage to achieve such satisfactory results during the current economic slump? They offered several cost-saving specials and heavily advertised those specials.

If you are a storeowner, now is the time for drastic measures. Analysts believe retail sales – both online and offline – will drop drastically by the end of the holiday season. Therefore, storeowners must step up their game and continue to offer savings great enough to motivate reluctant consumers.

Online storeowners, as well as offline retailers who own Web sites, should set aside a portion of their budget to advertise online. Pay-per-click advertising is a wonderful promotional strategy because it allows advertisers to target locally. Pay-per-click ads appear only when a user is searching for the products and/or services offered by the advertiser. Additionally, pay-per-click advertising can be seasonal. So, if a storeowner wishes to advertise online only during the holiday season, he or she has the option to do so. Continue reading

Local search directories offer many benefits to a business owner: they’re effective at extending a business’s Web presence, they provide potential customers with the important contact and location information they need, and they can drive traffic to a business’s Web site. While these features can ensure that your business will be found, that is only half the battle; converting your listing’s audience into actual business is another thing.

Many online business directories, including ThinkLocal®, provide a platform where customers can leave their ratings and reviews for each business that is listed. The great thing about customer reviews, in addition to extending a business’s online presence, is their power of persuasion. Customer ratings and reviews make your business stand out from the crowd, and people are more likely to choose a business with a positive review over a business that lacks a customer review. If the search for “sushi restaurants” in your local area brings up multiple results, the restaurant with a 5-star rating and descriptive review is going to grab your attention; it may even convince you to choose that one over the others. Continue reading

Preparation will also go some way to banish pre-interview nerves. But most importantly, research will help you to establish whether a company or industry can match your needs and ambitions.

Follow this advice to help you make a positive and memorable first impression:

  • Start with the basics and read the company’s own material. Look at their website and get a copy of the annual report. This will give a clear picture of the firm’s products and services and its strategic direction.
  • Get information from Justpeople.com, the national press and relevant trade journals about the company and its competitors. Find out what role the company plays in its business sector and where it stands in relation to competitors.
  • Make a note of important facts, such as share price history, pending mergers and acquisitions, or changes in key personnel. Ask yourself what is special about the company, how it differs from its rivals.
  • Find out about the key figures in the company and industry. You will begin to see a pattern of the abilities and temperament required to succeed. Notice also which skills are in demand – engineering, accounting, marketing?
  • If possible, come up with original ideas that could add value to the company.
  • A company’s philosophy, often captured in a lofty mission statement, may differ from the day-to-day reality of working there. To get a better understanding of a firm’s culture and reputation, talk to friends or relatives who work in that business sector, or who can put you in touch with people who do. You could also identify and make direct approaches to individuals who work in the industry in order to find out more. This is a good opportunity to establish useful contacts and get names of other people to talk to – but don’t be tempted to ask for a job there and then.

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Typically the second, or final, interview stage will tend to consist of panel interviews and group work, as well as one-on-one interviews. Each of these elements has a purpose and put together will allow employers to select the successful candidate.

Group sessions typically include up to three activities. First, there are discussions where topics are introduced and debated within the group. Usually these topics have an element of confrontation so as to assess a candidate’s contribution, testing their ability to put and defend a case and win others over to their point of view.

In a group of six or more this environment can be fun or hostile, depending on the group and a candidate’s knowledge about the topic. Having a leading role in these discussions is the best way of raising profile, but quality of content and ability to argue your case will be viewed favourably.

Tips for group role tests

Another common test is problem solving in a project format, working against the clock. Group dynamics are observed, as are the final results of the project.

Personality traits are assessed by observing the roles adopted and the ways in which people interact. The roles can include leader/manager, sales, entrepreneur and technician. These functions are broad descriptions for traits which individuals display when working in a group, particularly in an environment where there is fierce internal and external competition.

A very easy mistake for ambitious people to make is to think that the role of group leader is the only one worth having. As so much work is team-based and requires colLabouration, a candidate should work out which skills the group as a whole needs to be effective, and fit in accordingly.

R Meredith Belpin’s work has shown that everyone can play more than one team-role, although most people have usually no more than two significant role strengths. So spot the role that the group most needs, and if it is suitable, play it up.

Tips for presentations

There is also scope for individual work followed by a presentation. These presentations may be to the candidate’s small group, the combined group or an interviewing panel.

There is not much which can be done to prepare for these types of session beforehand. The best approach is to be well read on current events, get public speaking and presentation experience, and do some research into last year’s sessions. The content of the exercises may change, but the format will stay the same if it has been successful.

The two best ways of acquiring inside information are speaking to people already in the company and asking for it at the first interview. Often the best information, on anything from exams to share options, is from an insider. As the saying goes, ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’. So ask – the worst that can happen is that someone will say no.

Tips for panel interviews

Panel interviews are always harrowing. In one graduate interview, the candidate sat on a swivel office chair facing a panel of five people who were sitting in front of a huge window looking out onto a busy railway square.

The candidate had a tendency to fidget and get easily distracted so this was a big test. The hardest thing was not to swivel too much when talking to the people at either end of the panel. Managing to sit still for an hour helped get the job.

Panel interviews are usually made up of a human resources specialist and divisional managers, who may be competing for graduates or looking to make a joint decision. Some panels may also include senior management and or psychiatrists. These interviews allow a number of different directions to be pursued, in an environment where not everyone will agree with the interviewee’s viewpoint.

Good cop, bad cop

Some panels have a designated ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’. These interviews are a test of thinking on the spot, making judgements on why questions are being asked and where they are going to lead.

Do not expect to get on with everyone and have your view shared: explain and give reasons, but be careful not to become argumentative. Also beware of the silent person: they are likely to ask left-field questions.

Sometimes questions may be trite or obscure, to flush out contradictions between the candidate’s second interview, psychometric test, or first interview responses. But a panel interview can also be easier than a one-on-one because a panel may not be that well co-ordinated.

Tips for one-to-one interviews

The one-on-one interview will often be more micro focused, based on the hiring manager’s style, views and departmental needs. As a result the exercise often focuses on specific skill matching and therefore time may be spent testing or looking back on the candidate’s analytical or language skills.

There can be some difficult questions that may require the candidate to call on knowledge learnt during their degree, or problem solving. Other questions will be scenario-based, designed to test the candidate’s approach to handling particular situations. In many cases these will lead on to a resulting scenario which will need further solutions.

A third major element of the interview will be a discussion of the specifics of the department and the job. The interviewer will want to determine knowledge, level of interest and reasons for applying to that particular area of the company and for that job.

Both the first and second interviews have sections where the company will sell the benefits of coming to work for them, as opposed to the competition, to candidates and expect them to ask questions. Prepare questions and always be ready to respond to unexpected ones that arise in the interview.

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