Desi in DC

July 25, 2007

Lal Masjid and Madrasa Reforms

The Lal Masjid fiasco has once again brought to the limelight the issue of Madrasa reforms. The 9/11 commission reports issued in the US seem to consider the Madrasa education as a root source of problems. In fact there seems to be a general belief amongst the western population and media that these schools help promote intolerance and extremism and are the recruiting grounds for terrorists.

Although acknowledging that it is only a small minority that promote extremism, the question still remains how can Pakistan help change the system while still maintaining the benefits of the Madrasa’s? Many families, especially those coming from rural areas, send their kids to madrasas where although they are provided a basic education heavily focused on religion they also provide support to the family by taking care of these children by providing them with free board, education and two square meals a day. For families who can barely afford one square meal a day, having one or two kids taken care of lands up being a great source of relief.

In addition, children need religious education along with secular education. I think in order to overcome this issue the Pakistani policy makers will do well to observe the Indonesian Religious schools also known as Pesantrens. These pesantrens are noted for teaching a moderate form of Islam.

The pensentran that I had visited was located in Bogor Indonesia, located close to the Indonesian Capital Jakarta. The Madrassah Aliya Nagri is Muslim religious high school run by the department of education and the department of religion. The school is coed, and provided both secular and religious education. I have quoted a journal entry that I wrote incorporating my initial thoughts when I first visited the school. “I visited the school and wished all religious schools could be similar.

The children are provided a well rounded education. The classes are mixed and there is free interaction between the two sexes. The female students and teachers wear the hijab but this in no way restricts their freedom of interaction. The students pray together, but during breaks take out a guitar and join in the singing as well.

In Pakistan half the religious schools would probably teach you that singing is not allowed. I feel the mix that they have in Indonesia will allow them to be more tolerant not only of other religions but also of those who tend to be different within our own religion. “

The government of Pakistan would do well to invest some resources in figuring out what it is that makes these pasentrans work so well in Indonesia and what is the reason that almost 20% of the student population in Indonesia obtains their education from these schools and high schools and why is it that Indonesia is still able to maintain its reputation as a moderate Muslim country even with such a widespread madrasa system?

I believe it is only through learning from the Indonesian experience and making the necessary changes within our own will we be able to not only maintain the benifits of the madrasa system but also prevent it from being exploited by extremist elements.

over and out!


July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the City of Lights (Karachi)

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcdesi @ 5:44 am

I am standing in line at a Barnes and Nobles in Arlington, VA at midnight, waiting to get hold of the latest Harry Potter.

Halfway across the world, for the first time, preparations are being made for a similar event in Karachi, Pakistan We have come a long way, from waiting for almost a week longer then everyone till the 5th harry potter book became available, to being able to get book 6 the day after it was released, to what would now be the ability to share the experience with millions all over the world.

Like my sister predicted, a place like Karachi, it was what it was- wishful thinking. The night before the event, police officers had to diffuse a bomb in an area very close to where the 4:am book release was going to take place. Naturally the event was cancelled.

hearing news like this makes me want to scream, swear and pull my hair in frustration. How can a group of a few people ( tens???hundreds?? maybe thousand??) definitely not more) hold a country of millions hostage. Are we not to enjoy anything, are we to be always dependent on what joy these “would be defenders of the faith” will allow the rest of the country of moderate Muslims to enjoy? Are our children to grow up in this unpredictability? I know we grew up in that atmosphere, but are we to have another generation go through the same?

As a wise journalist once said.. it only takes a few to create destruction.. it only took 5 to create havoc in Bali. So are we going to allow these small numbers hold us hostage?

God help Pakistan, and help us get rid of these so called defenders.

over and out

A frustrated desi!!!

July 13, 2007

Lal Masjid and some frustrations of a desi!

After the government stormed the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, there were statements coming out from some extremist religious camps that this was just one and many others like the lal masjid would crop all over PK. I and ever other Pakistani must have cringed at this statement.

What happened to there is no compulsion in religion? who has assigned them the right to enforce morality? Like all God fearing/ God Loving Muslims I strongly believe my actions will be judged by Him or as die hard feminists may say Her.  If that wasn’t enough OBL’s group now wants Jihad against Musharaff and asking all Pakistani’s to rise up. Please sir keep out of the country’s business.  So just because the government stormed the mosque and fought the “hostage takers” you want us to fight him, what about all the suicide bombers that go inside mosques and kill people?? what happened to your being a Muslim then?

Its frustrating to see all of this happening. Come to think of it, maybe we should just blame Zia for all of this, after all he’s the one who helped/ supported the US in the Afghan war, and then welcomed the millions of refugees that live all over Pakistan today.

But I will not let my optimism be reduced by all these frustrations. I have said and will continue to say there is hope for the country and for our future, we just need to get our act together. After all the western states were not built in 60 yrs, it took them hundreds of years to reach where they are today.

over and out.

Harry Potter and DC

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcdesi @ 2:28 am

Being one of those die hard fan’s its always good to know that I’m not the only one:) As I take the metro into  downtown DC in the morning to get to work and then again in the evening heading home I see most people with a book or a newspaper in their hands.

It is now July and the much awaited 5th harry potter movie has just been released, and the 10 day countdown on the last book has began, I have started to notice people reading the older books as they revise what they have studied so as to make the most of the opportunity when it comes- the final book to be released in less then 10 days.

I sit down in the metro, and take out my book 5. I have to complete it before I watch the movie to make sure I will know whether they have done justice to it or not, once I’m done I will read book 6 so that I ready for the final book when it comes out.

This time, I have not bothered reading books 1 to 4, but thats ok, I’ve read them enough times when book 4, 5 and 6 were coming out that I still remember the details that I need to know.  I pick up my book to read and glance up for a minute and see two other people around me reading a Harry Potter:) It seems I’m not the only one:)

to all you fans out there what do you think— Snape ? Friend or Foe?

over and out

July 11, 2007

US policy and Muslim Communities.

Filed under: Desi,Education,Muslims,Peace building,Politics,Uncategorized,US — dcdesi @ 3:06 am

I know i had disappeared but much has happened.

Today I attended an interesting congregation of US leaders, academics, Muslim Americans, Jewish leaders, media experts, conservatives, liberals etc etc etc in DC. The common concern- how to impact the downward spiraling of relations between the US and Muslims all over the world? How to ensure that US actions do not further harm relations?

Being a Muslim, born in a Muslim country, having spent the last few yrs in the west it is an issue close to home, and hence I have a personal interest in seeing these relations improve. both because A) I don’t want bad relations to prevent others from getting the rich experience and opportunities that I have had in my interaction of the two culture and B) b/c worsening relations due to US actions is creating more problems at home, when a larger number of people join extremist groups due to frustration caused by US actions. As some intelligent American said regarding American policy and Actions: ” we are creating terrorists faster then killing them”

Polling data shows that Muslims outside the US value and appreciate  the same top two things about the US that most Americans value ie democracy/ liberty and technology. ( a complete contrast to the current administration’s stance  on they hate us for our values and freedom) it also shows that more then 50% of Americans know nothing or know very little about Islam and about 1/3 believe that Islam espouses violence.

Data also shows that quite a large population of Americans believe that the problem is a matter of miscommunication and misunderstanding. They believe American actions have been misrepresented and so feel its a communications issue that can be overcome by reducing the communication gap. polls also show for most Muslims it is a policy issue and that people recognize that their problem is with the US foreign policy.

for Muslims outside the US these are obvious issues, it just waits to be seen when these issues will become obvious to those within the US.

the group that met today has a difficult task of coming up with solutions to address these different paradigms of thinking.

Over and out.

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