Desi in DC

April 15, 2017

Mardan and the death of forgiveness and education

And we call ourselves Muslims? When did it become ok to lynch mob and kill a student or anyone for that matter? What happened to if you save a life you save all of humanity and if you kill a person it’s like you killed all of humanity?

What worries me and concerns me is that the mob killing of Mashal Khan happened in Abdul Wali Khan University. Three to four thousand university “students” were apparently involved as part of the mob. University students means they have received at least a high school education most likely even a bachelors before gaining admission to the university. In Urdu students are called Talib-e-ilm ie “seekers of knowledge”.  An education is meant to open your hearts and minds, it allows you to ask questions rather than just believing in rumours. This act highlights the problem of our education system were rote learning is rampant and rote learning is rewarded over actual understanding. Are we removing the capacity of our youth to think and ask questions so that they can no longer question authority and like robots believe anything that is said to them? Are we not required to use our brains to seek out answers?

We also seem to have lost the message of forgiveness. First of all there was no conclusive proof of what this young student had done, there were only rumours. In fact media sources report that Mashal was an active and vocal voice on the campus and someone had recently created a fake social media account in his name. Even if, for arguments sake, we assume he was guilty of blasphemy (for which there is no proof) what happened to forgiveness. We didn’t even give him a chance to defend himself.

The Quran says

“Keep to forgiveness and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant” (Surah 7, Verse199).

And again

“”If you take retribution, then do so in proportion to the wrong done to you. But if you can bear such conduct with patience, indeed that is best for the steadfast.” Surah 16, verse number 126[1]

Blasphemy is an act best left for God to judge. We as humans and Muslims must not judge these actions especially since the Quran does not prescribe a punishment for it in this world[2]. Instead, we must persevere patiently and with forgiveness as prescribed in the Quran, and exemplified by the Prophet.

For all those involved in the mob, I wonder how they plan on answering to God when the question arises who were they to judge whose live should or should not be taken

 

[1] This translation has been taken from Zafar Ansari’s English Translation of Mawdudi’s Translation of the Quran in order to have an easier understanding of this verse.

[2] Kamali, Mohammad Hashim, Freedom of Expression in Islam

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 25, 2009

Buner and the Talibans

According to the Dawn today, the Taliban decided to pull out of Buner. Please don’t take this as a sign of victory, or that the Taliban are now going to live according to the terms of the accord and just stay and rule in Swat.

I remember reading an article 8 to 10 years ago, again in the dawn. the person, a foreign journalist, had been following the “jihadis” as they were then called. She wrote about how there was a generation of young men who had seen nothing but war, who had been trained in nothing but war. They had fought the Russians initially, then they had fought amongst themselves, they later fought in Bosnia and occasionally entered Kashmir and fought there.  These men would now be in their 30s and 40s. they stay have a couple of decade of fight left inside them. They also have a new generation of men that they have trained. They fight in the name of religion, but know only that which has been taught to them, rather then gain their own understanding of religion.

The taliban is a similar breed, if not the same breed of men. Please don’t underestimate them. If they have retreated back to Swat, its only because under the current circumstances it made more sense to retreat. they will look for an opportunity and strike once again when the guard is down. Or maybe they will instill their writ and Swat and practice it till it becomes acceptable to people thinking it is the writ of the land and then they will expand.

We have to prevent this from happening. Were we not taught, that is you see an injustice happen, fight against it. If you cannot fight against it at least speak up against it. I think  most of us can at the minimum speak up against it.

April 22, 2009

CNN, Farid Zakarya and Karzai

There seems to be no point in watching CNN on a Sunday afternoon because all I see is Farid Zakariya on his favourite topic. Labeling Pakistan as a failed state, a rouge state and any other similar word he can get his hands on. First it was via newsweek and now its through CNN . I first thought I was paranoid but after seeing the same trends week after week I know I am not.

On this particular occasion, he had invited Mr Karzai, Afghanistan’s President to provide his comments. His introduction stated that this is the man who controls Afghanistan, why is it then that all unbiased scoops coming out of Afghanistan state that the US is doing miserably in the Afghan war and to be honest all Karzai controls is Kabul and the areas surrounding it.

According to Mr Karzai, the Taliban problem in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan. umm hello.. The Taliban problem in Pakistan is because of Afghanistan, as are the drug, guns, extremism and refugee problems!!

MQM, the talibans and Buner

Who thought there would be a day when I would support the MQM. Growing up in a family with strong supporters, I had the tendency to move the other way. Today after reading the Dawnregarding parliaments shameful reaction to the Nizam’s Adl and Sufi Mohhamad (SM) and his followers, I have to respect the party and thank them for their stance.  At Karachi Univeristy, while the APMSO was involved in all the activities that made us dislike student political parties with their phaddas and fights, they were also the party the girls went too when they  had “guy” trouble in the form of stalking and teasing.

Let’s just say that the girls were not bothered again.

Although I am a 90% optimist and have always believed that Pakistan can come out of everything, and that things will pass, I also don’t believe in just sitting back and not doing anything. I think the people of Pakistan need to be more vocal about their desires. Why is it that a bunch of extremely vocal “Talibans” can aspire to control the country and the silent majority just stay silent? If all its going to take is a “dozen” individual to invite SM into Buner, I would say to everyone please don’t keep sleeping. We saw the way the movement to restore the Chief justice succeeded, we need a similar one to ensure that Pakistan remains the relatively secular, moderately religious state that it is and that these people go back to where they belong- ie Afghanistan.

After all wasn’t it in my Islamiat class that I learnt that the Prophet (PBUH) said we should adopt the middle path ie moderation.

September 27, 2008

US Elections; the North West and Pakistan

Who would have thought that I would say this but after yesterday’s US presidential debate it seems maybe McCain may be better for Pakistan. I disagree with most of his policies except his foreign policy stance related to Pakistan, In Obama’s case his domestic policies make sense but his foreign policy views on Pakistan show his lack of experience..

When will US policy makers realize what a number of US Academics and South Asian experts have been trying to tell them, you cannot look at the north of Pakistan and think its a simple problem that the Pakistani’s don’t want to do anything about. On the contrary its an extremely difficult situation that may require the best minds who know the area to come up with a possible solution that “may” work.  if you look at Pakistan’s statistics you will note that there has been a massive spike in the number of suicide bombings all over the country. As was typical during the cold war, it seems the War on T has done the same, the war turf had moved from the country’s at war to that of ours. It is the Pakistanis who have been losing their lives. Let someone at least recognize that we too have lost thousands of innocent lives due to no fault of our own.

At the same time as Pakistanis we can’t sit and accept the increasing impact that the  right wingers seem to think they are having on our country. Shutting down girls schools, threatening media shops and barber stores, if we don’t do something about this now the situation will only get worse. A number of tribal elders who have tried to help their communities by standing up to these guys have already been killed. We cannot let their deaths be in vain.

We’ll realize too late that the demographics of our country have changed. It is important that for once instead of having a reactionary policy ( ie reacting after the effect) we need to have both an offensive as well as a precautionary policy. It may already be a little late for that and we may already be in the reactionary stage but we still need to make the effort.  We have been complacent for too long and have accepted this violence for too long, its time we stepped up and protected our cities so that our children can be free to go where they wish without us worrying about potential suicide bombings…

August 15, 2008

In Memory of Nicole Dial

As I was wading my way though the numerous junk and forwarded mails in my gmail account today, I came across an email from an SFCG listserve; the title of the email ‘in memory of Nicole Dial”. The name sounded familiar, i just couldn’t associate the word in memory of with the girl I had known while interning for Search for Common Ground. Nicole shared a room with my direct supervisors, she was young, always laughing, always cracking jokes. I didn’t know her too well, just the encounters I had whenever I came into her office looking for my supervisors. She was one of the lucky few who had been able to start a career in a field that the rest of us were struggling to get into.

I open my email, dreading what I may find there. Nicole was killed in Afghanistan on August 13th. She was killed by the Taliban who fired at a vehicle carrying Nicole and three other female aid workers. They said the workers were spies.

Nicole is not a spy. She was never a spy. Having worked with aid workers in different parts of Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan and the US, I can easily say that most of them are in this field b/c they genuinely believe they want to help people. They are tired of the corporate world, and strongly believe that life will be much more fulfilling if they are able to help improve someone else’s life. They are if nothing else optimists and idealists that are hoping for a better world. These workers have been amongst the nicest people that I have met in the West. They are extremely well informed about what is happening in the world, and the mess created by the powers that be within their own countries. Many of them have entered this field in an attempt to right the wrongs committed by their own governments. They aim to help rather then control.

Killing innocent human beings can never be justified. Killing women can never be justified. Killing someone who has come to your house to help you out can also never be justified. Killing Nicole and the numerous other aid workers can never be justified.

The Taliban, in the name of my faith, are practicing a sort of Islam that resembles Islam less and looks more similar to the historical rural Afghan culture that has nothing to do with religion. They have killed aid workers because they were spies. The taliban have killed their own people for associating with the aid workers. They have taken a step further and attacked local health workers in both Pakistan and Afghanistan for daring to give polio drops to their children. They have crippled many young children by encouraging their parents to say no to vaccinations. All in the name of Islam. All with the help of threats and use of force and coercion.

What happened to the teachings of “you shall not convert by the power of your sword”? What happened to God is the most forgiving and the most merciful? That God would forgive us for our sins against him, but not for our sins against other beings unless we gained their forgiveness first.

I am sorry Nicole. As a Muslim, I too am responsible for speaking against the wrongs that I see being practiced. I too should have spoken up before….

February 29, 2008

The genocide of Pakistani Humanity….

Over the past few decades, acts of violence and terrorism and singlehandedly attempted to kill all levels of humanity within the Pakistani society. Every value that we are proud of, that makes us different from the west, that makes us appreciate our culture seems to be targeted by these senseless acts of violence. As if someone is bent on removing them from the very core of our existence.

What do I mean by it?? Lets identify what we value and then move forward from there.

As a kid, growing up in Karachi, if someone had a flat or car problems, I remember my father offering to help. I remember people helping us as well. As I became a teenager that became less and less. Why was that the case? My father said people would use it as a ploy to steal your car or harm your family. It was safer to help a family then to help a single individual, especially a single male.

As part of Pakistani humanity, I remember driving down stadium road and seeing this old Afghan woman walking through the back routes trying to reach the road. My brother and sister in law stopped the car and offered her a ride. Their good deed for the day. This month I read something in the news that really scared me. A couple was driving their on one of the busy roads of Karachi. Someone got in the back seat and said that he was a suicide bomber and to ram the car / building/ police car etc//   This act has killed another aspect of the Pakistani humanity. Anyone who in the past wanted to offer a ride on a hot day to an old man will no longer do so..

On a hot day, I remember poor kids and old beggars knocking on the door asking for food. I don’t remember anyone sending them empty handed. If there was no cooked food in the house, we would hand them some fruits, if nothing else them a glass of water and something to eat. Today we ask how old is the person. Make sure there is no dacoit waiting to  rob the people..

and the list continues…

Are we going to let them completely annhilate our values and our humanity. Our we going to let them completely take over who we are? are we going to let these so called protectors of religion hijack our values and beliefs?

I don’t think so.. I don’t intend to let these terrorists and perpetrators of violence destroy the goodness in our society. What about you? 

This is a work in progress..

February 18, 2008

PK Elections 2008

Today the prayers of many Pakistani’s were answered. The elections were relatively peaceful. As the election results come out it is clear that there will be many changes in the upcoming years.. Many of the existing ministers were thrown out, including the minister for water and electricity. The last would make it seem that the people have decided to exercise their vote. At this point in time it doesn’t see if any one party will have a clear majority. So far the PPP and PMLN seem to be leading and media seems to be supporting the idea that the new government may actually be a coalition of PPP. PMLN and ANP.

For us as a country maybe that may be the answer. No one party be given so much power that it can actually blindly raid the country.

The second positive outcome of the elections is that so far the MMA has lost quite a few seats. In a way that was expected since the Jamaat had decided to boycott the elections. I hope this is a clear message from the citizens of Pakistan that we are proud Muslims and we don’t like people who tell us how to practice our faiths. WE decide what is Islamic and what is not. We will not have ideas of a few imposed on the many..

over and out, time to go back to watching the election transmission

PS: I really liked what the television host on GEo Stated. IS you have the right to vote and you did not exercise the right to vote then you have no right to complain about what happens in the country in the next 4 years.

January 7, 2008

A Nation of Contradictions

I have not posted anything new in the past few days. I logged on to write and then gave up not knowing what to write. The state of violence, and the economic losses rendered me speechless. I have only been able to read, digest, and read again  the scale of the tragedy and violence that engulfed Pakistan, particularly Sindh after the assasination of Benazir Bhutto.

As I hear the stories,  I have come to believe we are a nation of contradictions. The average humane Pakistani who is at a loss at why something is happening and the conniving politicians who leave no opportunity to loot, raid and present problems for the people they aim to serve.

It were these who encouraged their workers to go on a large scale free for all spree of looting, arson and violence.  Never in our history of rioting have we had atms looted, nor factories or trains burned down. This was a first.  They came back again on Monday stating three days were too little to mourn our “great leader”. But then by politicians I don’t just mean one kind. The second lot responsible for the safetly and security of its people delayed issuing orders to protect the citizens of Karachi and Sindh. I have only heard stories that my family, friends and their acquaintances suffered through. I don’t even know 1% of all that happened to the poor masses of Pakistan.

On the other hand are the contradictions. The civilians, the masses, the villagers. These are the people who fed travellers in trains stranded in the middle of nowhere for upto 48 hours and more, with limited food and water on board.  It is these poor villagers who prevented the tragedies from becoming even worse.

We also have individuals who gave shelter to other people while Karachi was hijacked by rioters. Then again there were others who didn’t.  It is these people who warned women to leave their cars and seek shelter as rioters headed towards them.  We had a television host that repeatedly appealed to people to stay in their senses and not attack the lives and properties of their brothers and sisters.  It is these people who make me hopeful that we pakistanis will prevail once again. That there will come a time when we are no longer hijacked by the actions of our politicians and their workers and where the decency of the people will prevail and come to light again.

over and out..

November 18, 2007

Madrasa Reforms- Part2

When Madrasa Reforms part 1 article got published, one of the response that we received asked do you know how expensive it is for the government to board hundreds of students and provide two square meals a day..and how do we address that?

following is the response I wrote back.
I wrote the article since the government has been speaking about madrasa reforms for the last few years and nothing seems to have been done. My concern is primarily due to the long term effects of this education. The madrasa system in Pakistan has become extensive in the last 2 decades and we have started to see the effects in Pakistan in the last few years. In Indonesia the government was providing partial support to the pesantrans, the remainder was coming from private sources similar to those providing support to madrasas in Pakistan. It is up to the government to make the change. If there is no choice of religious education without some secular education, then funds will accommodate as well.

Why is it that the Punjab government can implement free primary education, but we are unable to do so for the rest of the country? Other provinces need to receive similar support, but at the same time the provinces need to show a similar commitment to education.

My only response to the government official is that drops of water make an ocean. If we can identify areas where “extremism” is more rampant (for the moment, these areas include but are not limited to bordering Afghanistan, FATA areas and the province of NWFP), we should start with making changes in the system here and then with more sources try and move to the other provinces as well. We acknowledge that the problem cannot be solved in one day. It took 15 years and more to create the problem and will require a similar amount of time to resolve it, but we need to start somewhere to possibly reach a solution someday. If we keep looking at the situation in a complex manner which is what it is, we will never come up with a solution. In order to reach a solution, we need to simplify it and take it one step at a time.

You have NGO’s like the Zindagi trust who are attempting to make a difference, one school at a time, and frankly that is the approach that we also need to take. Please read the book “Three Cups of Tea”, building peace one school at a time to see what I mean.

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