Archive

Tag Archives: Islam

Maya Khan,

I have no personal vendetta with you.

But you’re at it again.

Last time I found you chasing morality in parks frequented by lower-middle class citizens (they make fantastic targets for righteous condemnation); this time I found you cheering a minority into a further marginalized, compromised position. A conversion on national TV? In a country where minorities are forced to convert already? “Appalling lack of ethics” doesn’t even cut it.

I refuse to get into the whole “Secularize Pakistan!” vs. “Islamic Republic remains!” debate. I’ll be frank with you: I am sick of my Twitter and Facebook timeline where self-proclaimed “liberal thinkers” compete with self-appointed defenders of religion in a hypocritical race of selective outrage against issues within the country and around the world. Apparently you’re Muslim – and quite a passionate one (albeit misguided, misinformed). So am I. But, again, we’re universes apart. In your mind, it seems from your constant appearances on TV, Islam is not a sacred faith that has, in countless instances in history, guranteed that minority rights need not be sacrificed to consolidate an Islamic republic but a sickening opportunity to cash in on consumer-based ratings. Let us assume that Sunil did indeed desire to convert by consent, which is fine, but to air it on national TV in a country where minority rights remain a shaming case of state negligence and constitutionally-endorsed subjugation is a testimony of your indifference or, sometimes I hope, your unawareness of the ongoing oppression. Indifference is a lot worse than unawareness, Maya. I’m giving you the benefit of doubt here.

A few days ago at the Social Media Summit in Karachi, you were mentioned at the media regulation panel which I was invited to and someone told me how the backlash that took place after your park-chase episode was misogynistic against you because the internet had an easy target: A woman. To an extent, I agree. You and I will never find the same outrage and nasty memes against a lot worse people like, you know, Amir Liaquat Hussain (I think I owe him a letter too, just to say hi). So before I explain my stance briefly, I want you to know that I sincerely mean you no kind of harm at all. I don’t know you personally. I don’t even think you’re a bad person. I just think you really need to evaluate your sense of ethics and content selection. Could you possibly do a morning show on, let’s say, media content and the lack of moral responsibility exhibited by those working in said sector? People would love you for it, Maya – think big ratings. I would thank you for it. What better a topic than discussing the recklessness reporters, talk show hosts and anchors have shown in the past? You could win conscientious hearts with this, you could even bring a change in our media. So rich with talent and content this country, it’s a shame you would choose dating and conversion as themes for your show.

What hurts me the most, Maya, is how you have – like many others – used my faith for consumerism, for shoddy attempts at gaining more ratings and ravings. It hurts me when a friend of mine – a Christian – confides in me that she knows that most of the Muslim population in Pakistan would be extremely outraged had a Muslim been converted on TV in a country where they were a minority. It hurts me when I read how people instantly start defaming Islam, my faith that has inculcated in me a profound respect and harmony for non-Muslims, despite knowing that it was not Islam that taught you to run a talk show on a live conversion but your greed for more hits and your insensitivity to the fact that minorities in Pakistan are already isolated and marginalized, that people of non-state religion already know when to keep their mouths shut, that these people will never know that there are people like me who resent you for you irresponsibility – people who are Muslims – and will never, ever condone such a blatant misuse of faith under the guise of ‘spirituality’ on a cheesy TV show. You hurt and maim what you claim to love – a faith that does not encourage relegating minorities into public objects for viewership. That their conversions are utmost private. That their forced conversions are utmost inhumane. Your idea has again, subsequently, backfired.

I’ll keep it short. I’m not angry at you; I am disappointed and there’s a list I could go through. I am disappointed in the silence surrounding this act of hypocrisy. I am disappointed in those who automatically jumped to accuse Islam of such idiocy, never realizing that it wasn’t Islam but our talk show host here who needed to re-educate herself immediately. I am disappointed in what you done in the name of religion without understanding that such a display is another blow against minorities in Pakistan – whether Sunil did it by choice or not, remains an equally significant issue but you do know how it feels to see someone from your own community leave for another, right? Especially when you’re a minority. The number looks small, the number looks weak, the number looks endangered. It is a clear sign of moral superiority draped in congratulating messages.

Before I end, I want you to know that this is not a message against you. This is a message against the electronic media in Pakistan and those ‘regulating’ it; for allowing such a program to be aired only shows how unfazed this board is by the real and unsettling cases of minority oppression in this country. I don’t want you to be fired – I didn’t in the first place. I don’t even want you to stop your show. I just simply wish you would try to understand the consequences of your words and actions. You have an audience, Maya. You have the power to sway public opinion. If you open your eyes, you could raise the public opinion into making Pakistan a friendlier, peaceful place for all faiths. I wish you would never use religion again and I mean this for every single TV personality out there. Using morality for ratings itself is an immoral act. Exploiting Islam is not a great idea. Like I said before, it backfires.

Some day we’ll meet. Maybe in a park, maybe in a temple, maybe in a masjid, who knows. I hope by then you have set a precedent for horrible TV hosts that media could be used as a tool of change instead of a shallow device for more ratings, less brains. Till then, please don’t give me another reason to write you a letter.

Amir Liaqat Hussain ne hi kaafi tabahi phelayi hui hai.

Sincerely,
Mehreen Kasana

An Iraqi prisoner of war comforts his 4-year-old son at a regroupment center for POWs of the 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf, March 31, 2003. The man was seized in An Najaf with his son. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

As a student and ex-teacher, I used to (and sometimes still do) find myself helpless before the constant influx of ‘academic’ and ‘political’ analyses emanating from the West concerning the Middle East, Asia and Islamic world – the East. The dichotomy mentioned by me here is deliberate due to the fact that it is highly obvious and perpetuated in Western ‘studies’ regarding 9/11 and post-9/11 dynamics in the world. The ideology of Us VS Them is endorsed directly and indirectly by the ones favored by the Empire – i.e. the United States of America. It becomes obvious when you read op-eds by Thomas Friedman, Seth Jones and Co simply because you can witness their views take practical form in the instances of drones, intervention, ‘necessary’ surveillance against a particular community, etc. When I spoke to Seth Jones on BBC WHYS after Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, I was very taken aback by the tone and assertion made – after being interrupted – by Mr. Jones that he “knew Osama more than anyone” and that his “regional knowledge of Pakistan” told him enough to understand the “militant ideology of its public.” He was, basically, claiming that the views of a native Pakistani were inadequate compared to his evaluation of the country – a land that is extremely diverse and subsequently complicated. This is a microcosmic example of how the Empire or the Super Power shuns the native voice and claims that its knowledge of a certain land, a certain people is all that should be heard and goes on to force others to accept it.

But it’s not completely bleak; There is hope. And that hope stems from those who choose to question the Empire and its modus operandi. I’ve learned from several people the powerful significance of reading between the lines and knowing that although imperialist powers would love to have matters committed in black and white, things are actually suspended in grey. A thick, murky and often bloody grey space that has to be delved into and sorted out by natives and those who openly oppose imperialism and rhetorical colonialism in, ironically enough, a post-colonial era.

But what is this narrative? What is the Empire? How does it function and how does it destroy the weak and hapless by simply using words? It is important to know the answers to these questions before you stand up and challenge the Empire. The narrative, as I would explain to my students and class fellows, is the description for a certain demographic/region/people established by the Empire. e.g. The narrative concerning Muslim populations has been a bigoted, racist and overly generalized set of theories, ideas and approaches.

To answer some of these questions, I’ve found gold in the words of the witty and wise Manan Ahmed as well as my friend and the humanoid library Salman Hussain. They write for Chapati Mystery, a website dedicated to South Asian literature, world politics, reviews and essays as well as critical slam-downs on racism, Islamophobia, violations of civil liberties and more. In one of the best essays I’ve read on the topic, Salman explains how the Empire controls the narrative and projects a certain image of a land that is called the “frontier” which is the target. Another important aspect of this imperialist manner of dealing with the “backward, Muslim world” is how the Empire uses a traditionalist way of constantly stating that so-and-so is “on the verge of a collapse” or that <insert Muslim majority country> is a “failed state” (by the Empire’s standards). By reinforcing the idea the Country A on that side of the world is ‘unstable’ and thus requires ‘correction’ is how the Empire maintains a control on its brutal and inhumane foreign policies. i.e. All that is done – bombing, drones, torture methods, spying – is justified in the name of patriotism and security. Usually the Empire uses “experts” on the region, something explained by Manan Ahmed:

Such an “expert” is usually one who has not studied the region, and especially not in any academic capacity. As a result, they do not possess any significant knowledge of its languages, histories or cultures. They are often vetted by the market, having produced a bestselling book or secured a job as a journalist with a major newspaper. They are not necessarily tied to the “official” narratives or understandings, and can even be portrayed as being “a critic” of the official policy. In other words, this profile fits one who doesn’t know enough.

Furthermore Mr. Hussains explains:

[…] Globetrotters like Robert Kaplan “who claim expertise by staying in hotels and who produce nothing but banal observations;” unabashed apologists for empire such as historian Niall Ferguson; peddlers of racist tripe such as Thomas Friedman, reportedly a pundit President Obama reads “to get a local flavor for events;”and “authentic voices,” like that of Ahmed Rashid and Daniel Mueenuddin, that serve to confirm the caricature of violent brown masses.

I realized that many of you – curious and critical – asked me what I meant when I’d urge my students and readers to challenge the narrative. As someone from a land that was colonized during the days of the subcontinent and then, post-partition, waged a covert war upon – that was never and probably will never be officially declared – I believe it is important to understand that the legitimacy with which governments – local or foreign – silence and misrepresent people through literature, media and politics has to be aggressively questioned. Like Mr. Hussain says:

The time to contest the hegemonic narratives and systems of dominance is now. “The effort to be ethical in the world we inhabit,” writes Ahmed “cannot wait for better times and milder risks.” For while the tenured illuminati console themselves with doses of virtuous patience and cautious knowledges, drones continue to colonize the skies and rain death from afar like gods. And they are headed home to roost.

I grew up thinking what Frantz Fanon described aptly in his quote: “The oppressed will always believe the worst about themselves.” Because it was what I was fed through TV, newspapers, comics, ad infinitum until I realized: There is a lot more to the story and it is purposefully hidden from my sight. The Empire will do everything to justify its violence. If anything, I had to question it and for that I had to use my mind and my voice.

And before I end this haphazard but important post, I’ll leave you guys with some recommended reads of the week:

Brain food.

I speak from a South Asian perspective – briefly so. The idea of “saving” a woman’s “honor” is not a man’s job. It is highly complicated in the sense that when a woman is sexually assaulted or harrassed, she is seen as a lesser being because her “honor” has been “stolen.” The attacker against said honor is often a man. The guardian of that honor is, erroneously so, a man again. Therefore he has to “save” her and “protect” the “sanctity” of her reputation from that criminal not because he believes that women deserve equal rights and access to the same privilege he has, but because the honor of the woman – an object under him – has been violated. The running emotion behind it is often misguided in that instead of making it her issue, he makes it his own. He finds himself less masculine if his sister, wife, mother or daughter is assaulted. He blames himself. She becomes a fragile, easily-broken, easily-tainted object. The concept of “Ghairat” that continues to thrive in the minds of men in our society is also endorsed by many women. To believe that it is only men perpetuating this mindset, is overly simplified and flawed. I do encourage men and women to protect each other but also to view each other  as equal human beings, that an assault on a woman’s body is not supposed to undermine a male relative’s honor but that it is inherently the attacker’s fault, the shame should be thrown upon him. When a man is assaulted, his ‘honor’ isn’t fretted over upon by a woman. His issue is his alone, his body belongs to him. But when a woman is assaulted, the related man believes he has been insulted. Her body becomes a battlefield. Another problem that arises is that instead of holding the male attacker responsible for the crime, the woman is instantly hidden from public view. The belief is that by hiding her, the problem goes away. But it doesn’t; it grows stronger, angrier and more dangerous for the woman. Silence implies complicity in this case.

Many people forget during feminist discourse on patriarchy that while patriarchy oppresses women, it also defines hyper-masculine, rigid requisites for men. “He must not cry, he must not express emotion, he must be strong every single day of his life.” Men should not define their masculinity by narrow concepts of “honor” but by supporting the idea that their masculinity is defined by the noble drive to hold women’s status and respect equal to that of men.

A real man is the one who respects the individual space and voice of a woman. A real man does not define honor for a woman. That her issue is hers alone and that the help and protection offered is not out of upholding his sense of ‘ghairat’ or honor but because it is her right to be safe from assaults. It is her right to be treated with respect.

Khatam shud.

Disclaimer: I apologize for being absent for such a long time. I bought a pet crocodile and it ate my hands off. And also any remaining energy to write sensibly. On anything of significant value.

Cadocc Claddell the Curt Crocodile

Let’s get back on track with the first thing on my mind: Ramzan.

It’s around the corner. Instead of doing the obligatory explanation of what Ramzan means to Muslims, I’ve decided to take a sarcastic tone on the whole topic. As a Muslim, I’ve seen and experienced hilarious and often hypocritical behavior during the month by people around me and, in some cases, by my very own self. It’s often amusing when you get to witness an alteration in social etiquette and interaction simply because one month has massive precedence over the eleven others according to a faith. I enjoy that as a believer and, in that time, I find the funniest people who I fancy doodling later on. (Secretly.) (Because I don’t want to get killed.) (Humor can be fatal.) (These brackets are nice.)

So I decided to ask people what they love about Ramzan the most and here’s what I received as input. Feel free to share your funny anecdotes in the comments section.

Soaring Market Prices:

This lady loves it all. So does the man next to her, crippling under the collapsing economy while offering her her daily groceries. Bless them.

"Here, ma'am. Your groceries and an invisible burden of worries concerning your budget. Have a lovely day."

 Is Your Moon the Same as the One in My Damn Backyard?

Because that will determine the day I get to celebrate Eid, dude.

All I ever wanted was to celebrate Eid on the same day, man.

Convenient Reasoning for Asinine Behavior:

Use your religious ritual as an excuse to annoy other people. It works!

This stuff isn't legit.

 Religious Education via TV VS Religious Education via Self Exploring:

Believe me, you won’t find God on TV. I tried. It doesn’t work. You will, however, find maniacs ready to kill anyone who disagrees.

Time Well Spent (Swearing Others Off):

Hey, if you’re whispering-backbiting about how utterly pathetic he/she is, you’re still backbiting. Thought I’d let you know.

Subtracting your points now.

 Psychopaths on Pause:

Dangerous. Very dangerous. Run while you can.

Your Boss Doesn’t Care:

You can stop using your fast as an excuse now.

Fasting? Lovely. Now staple those files.

Redundant Diet is Redundant:

This isn’t a bad trait per se. It’s just annoying.

Eve Teasing:

I’m glad you think she’s pretty but you can stop staring now. Also for the next eleven months. Thank you. No, really. Thank you.

So there you go. Don’t do these pestering acts this month, okay? Trust me, you have plenty of time to be a pain in the rear end once Ramzan’s over.

Oh, one thing you shouldn’t do (that often well-to-do Muslims end up saying anyway) is abruptly and loudly invite someone to accept Islam as the way of life. It’s not exactly the best way to change someone’s faith. Like, for instance, one time a friend of mine invited her atheist friend over for iftaari (breaking fast) and her friend really, really enjoyed the damn samosa my friend’s mother made. Something like this happened:

Calm down.

Don’t do that. Islam doesn’t work like that. You could do this though:

Alhumdullilah, dude.

That’s really cool and really Islamic. 100% halal. Or you could win someone’s heart by practicing your faith in subtle, harmless fashion. I do that. It feels nice like marshmallows.

This Ramzan, make sure you don’t do double acts on the whole deal. He’s watching anyway so you might as well say what you mean and mean what you say the halal way.

Don't be this guy.

Happy Ramzan, everyone!

P.S. Now you can comment from your very Facebook account. How rad is that? Almost as rad as not pissing someone off this Ramzan. Exponentially rad.

I was arguing with a professor once about stereotypes and how they affect us in both direct and indirect ways on discerning levels. After being viewed as a brown Muslim female from Pakistan, I have had my fair share of instances where apparently wise people ended up asking me questions that deserved exasperated sighs and, sometimes, a good punch or two. e.g. “Do you guys in Pakistan kill every girl who wants to study?” and recently “Does everyone wear those black face net things? I heard you can get shot if you don’t.”

Stereotypes are scientifically termed as empirical generalizations based on a particular group of people. Sociologists use these prototypes and descriptions to study rules, exceptions, traits, mores among other commonalities. The average individual with average intellect (and in most cases, reluctance to pick up a book and learn better about something) uses them to encapsulate massive demographic in one ignorant little bubble.

Enough of the sociological jargon. Behold! The stereotypical fundamentalist Pakistani!

He sleeps with his extremist cat ever so extremistically.

Dental cavities stand no chance before him and his tube of halal toothpaste:

"Meet your brutal fate, haram germs!" he growled.

Coco Pops and wheat oatmeal, you have been warned. This man will munch your breakfast into oblivion:

And they were no more.

Raised with institutionalized hatred against algebra and geometry, this fanatic will do everything in his power to wipe their inky existence away:

They said he was aggressive and obnoxious.

She reached home safely. Don't worry.

His younger sister, another fundamentalist, grew up to become a suicidal quadricyclist.


His favorite TV channel is Geo.


After a long day of waging jihad against stupidity and ignorance, the Average Pakistani Muslim Fanatic has one message for you all:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,334 other followers