Showing posts from 2006

Despicable traits

Reality TV, or reality shows, are the ‘in’ thing in today’s entertainment world. ‘American Idol’, ‘America’s next top model’, ‘The Apprentice’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, etc., are all very famous shows, mainly due to being reality talent hunt shows. But then there is another genre of reality shows that offer big prizes, but the contestants have to allow the cameras to invade their privacy. ‘Joe Millionaire’, ‘The Bachelor’, ‘Supernanny’ are just a few examples of this genre. One of the most famous shows in our part of the world in recent times is ‘Bigg Boss’ on Sony TV. These shows give the public a chance of spying into the lives of the contestants, as cameras are there to catch their every move!

Most people in this world are extremely curious about what is happening in the house next door or their relatives’ lives. Prying and meddling in other’s lives has become quite common. In an article published in USA Today, the writer says, “Robert Gortarez is no private eye. But with an $ 80 piece of …

Predatory lenders

It is generally believed that “love of money” is the root of all evil in recent times, but in our country the “existence of dishonest money” is more of an evil. We have our very own Shylocks in our midst in the shape of private money lenders who lend at an exorbitant interest rate, usually as high as 90 percent to 140 percent! Surely these unbelievably high interest rates amount to a “pound of flesh”. But the government has more or less turned a blind eye to this black economy. After a delay of more than three years, the Punjab Assembly Standing Committee on Revenue has finally approved The Punjab Prohibition of Private Money Lending Bill 2003, which if implemented would put an end to the private money lending business in the whole province. Among other things, the bill asks for the repeal of the Punjab Money Lenders Ordinance of 1960 that protects private money lenders, even though the irony of the matter is that this ordinance has never been implemented. The ordinance allows license…

Repeated mistakes

It seems that the government is yet not prepared to face the reality staring it in the face. An indication of this ostrich-like posturing came from President General Musharraf’s remarks that militancy in Afghanistan is entirely an Afghan problem and its solution lies there. He was speaking at the 17th annual dinner of the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee (PAK-PAC). Militancy may be an Afghan problem, but its epicentre also lies in Pakistan, and this fact cannot be shrugged away through a dextrous sleight of hand. The general must realise that such a dismissive attitude towards an extremely important issue would only spell doom for Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the whole world. Pakistan should now wake up to the ground reality, which is suggestive of a comeback of the Taliban. Reports in the Western media claim that Quetta is the hub of the Taliban and all their activities are being planned and carried out from there. The Afghan government too has time and again accuse…

Transcending the moral plague

If you could get rid of yourself just once,
The secret of secrets would open to you.
The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe,
Would appear on the mirror of your perception
” — Rumi.

Selfishness, lies, deceit, the ‘me, me, me’ syndrome are a norm in today’s materialistic world. It is a world full of greed, full of intolerance and full of disrespect. Gone are the days when people genuinely cared about each other, when people thought less about themselves and more about others, when neighbours were treated as family members. Today, if a neighbour starts taking too much interest in your life, you begin to wonder if he/she wants something from you. The youth do not respect their elders, the elders do not show love towards their young ones, the rulers (particularly our rulers) are least bothered about the public and the public is too busy trying to outdo each other to care how the rulers are harming their country. It is madness, yet we are all partly responsible for this madness. Wh…

Sufism: a peaceful path

All religions – whether they are the three ‘revealed’ religions or any other – have two historical tendencies. First is that once the message has been received (from God or through introspection, philosophy, contemplation, etc.) and then spread widely, it tends to become organised religion. There are the examples of the Jewish establishment, the Christian Church, the Buddhist order, the Muslim clergy, the Hindu pundits, etc. When a critical mass is achieved, religion becomes ritualised. A mere form of the actual message remains, but the real message gets lost. The second tendency is to counterweight the rituals and the hollowing out of the message by opposing them. The opposition to ritualised, formalised, organised religion in the light of the real message is the basis of Sufism.

A Sufi’s message is love, tolerance, inclusiveness, acceptance, transcending the material world and universal brotherhood. The beautiful message cuts across the grain of religious exclusiveness. The exclusion…

Integration vs. assimilation

Muslims were already viewed as oppressive, backward and ‘barbarians’ by most people in the West. 9/11 served to further solidify these views. Muslims, especially those living in the West, are now being targeted left, right and centre. First it was the ban on religious symbols and apparel in public schools in France. Though the ban includes all overtly religious dress and signs including Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, it was mainly aimed at banning the hijab (headscarf and/or veil) worn by Muslim women. Then the blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) appeared in a Danish newspaper and the furore in the Muslim world over that had barely died down when the Pope made disparaging remarks about the Prophet (PBUH). Last year, several Belgian towns banned the wearing of the burka (full veil) in public and several regions in Germany have banned wearing of hijab in public buildings, especially in schools. As if this was not enough, British Cabinet Minister …

Rising above our entrenched beliefs

Australia’s senior Islamic cleric Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali created quite an uproar recently when in one of his sermons he implied that sexual assaults on women only take place because women ‘provoke’ men to do so by their choice of clothing. If women wore the hijab (headscarf and/or veil) and stayed inside their homes, they would be safe. Hilali’s argument was not only illogical, but also highly insensitive, especially for those women who have been the victims of sexual assaults, as was discussed in my column titled, ‘Rape: is the victim at fault’ (The Post, December 2, 2005). I will discuss the Islamic point of view on whether women are responsible for sexual assaults due to their dress in one of my future columns. Presently, I would only like to talk about how such notions penetrate our minds and stay there.

Recently, I came across a very interesting article on the Mental Immune System (MIS), which said that raw material for beliefs and ideas reaches us through our senses and our br…

And the circus begins…

The alacrity with which another women’s bill was presented in the National Assembly (NA) soon after the Women’s Protection Bill (WPB) was passed, depicts how tactfully the government is playing its cards. The WPB was passed after months of ruckus created by the self-declared ‘guardians’ of Islam, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). This draft bill is in an attempt to assuage the mullahs. PML (Q) president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain submitted the draft bill containing the six-point proposals of the Ulema committee to the NA Speaker on Thursday. The draft bill seeks an end to vinni, watta satta (barter marriages), forced marriages, women’s marriages to the Quran, depriving women of their inheritance and proposes legal action against those men who issue three divorces to their wives in one sitting. Although the bill in itself is a welcome initiative for the plight of women, the timing shows that it was a calculated move on the part of the government. One must not forget how the government w…


Your fate has been decided....
You are one of the lucky ones! Because of your virtue and beliefs, you have escaped eternal punishment. You are sent to Purgatory!



You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScorePurgatory (Repenting Believers)Very HighLevel 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)LowLevel 2 (Lus…

Who is the ‘real’ enemy?

Recently, I had the good fortune of seeing Ajoka Theatre’s play Dushman, an adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. The play touches upon some of the most significant vices that plague Pakistan.

One issue is the usage of words like ‘jihad’ and ‘mard-e-mujahid’ in fiery speeches delivered by religious zealots and politicians alike. These words are used only to play with the emotions of the masses in order to win them over and use them for one’s own political goals. One thing that perturbs me though is: are we such an ignorant bunch of people that we cannot fathom right from wrong? Illiterate people can be forgiven for being taken for a ride due to their religious sentiments, but there is no excuse whatsoever for the so-called educated people who believe in such propaganda.

Anything that goes wrong in Pakistan is immediately blamed on India or the West, especially the US. It is ironic that we are so gullible as to disbelieve any authentic research or fact…

Dushman: a befitting tribute to Ibsen

Hamaara mohsin, hamaara saathi, Dr. Hadi, Dr. Hadi…” were the opening lines of Ajoka Theatre’s play Dushman, an adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. The play was directed by Madeeha Gohar who said that it was a tribute to the father of modern theatre, Ibsen, as 2006 marks his 100th death anniversary. The opening lines were being chanted loudly in a true jalsa-jaloos manner by some youths who were followed by five other people. The public rally begins with the compere introducing the main guests – Nazim Shadab Nagar Colonel Jabbar Ahmed and his brother Dr. Hadi Ahmed. The public meeting is being held in honour of Dr. Hadi, who through his research discovered that Shadab Nagar’s water has miraculous qualities, which led to a sharp rise in Shadab Nagar’s employment rate, business, tourism and real estate value. One of the guests, Ehsan-ul-Haq, who is the owner of a local newspaper, cable channel and a hotel, recites a poem in honour of Dr. Hadi that …

Time to unmask the fanatics

“Because of the mullah, the true religion has sunk lower than irreligiousness,
For the mullah instead of guiding the Muslims, is busy branding the people as ‘kafir’ [infidel].
To us dew appears as the ocean,
But to the mullah the ocean seems but dew.
He does not catch the spirit of the teachings of the Holy Prophet [PBUH],
His firmament being starless is dark,
His shortsightedness, pettiness, and pedantry
Serve but to disrupt the community.
The religion of the kafir consists of planning for jihad,
The religion of the mullah is creating trouble in the name of God.” — Allama Iqbal.

Religion is a private matter; you and I are entitled to have differences in our religious ideologies. If one disagrees with the other’s view, he can argue it but it should be done in a peaceful manner. Contrary to this, the ‘custodians’ of Islam – the mullahs – have another way of dealing with those who oppose their set of beliefs. They issue fatwas against people with opposing views and declare them ‘kafirs’. These fa…

Al Qaeda’s resurgence

Citing counter-terrorist officials, the Guardian newspaper reported that Britain has become the prime target for a resurgent al Qaeda, with last year’s London bombings seen as just the beginning. The officials claimed that al Qaeda has successfully regrouped in Pakistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and the retreat of the al Qaeda leadership into the Tora Bora Mountains. Al Qaeda has managed to survive a four-year military campaign seeking out and killing its leaders, and has managed to come out stronger. Previously, al Qaeda conducted terror attacks in Bali in 2002 and 2005, among some other terrorist ventures around the globe. But the revamped al Qaeda has taken a new leaf out of its old manual and is now involved in urban guerrilla warfare, which is different from and in some respects more difficult than the rural guerrilla warfare in which it was previously mostly involved. Even in Afghanistan and Iraq, al Qaeda’s new strategy is visible through the increase in roadsi…

Edification of women through education

“Man for the field and woman for the hearth;
Man for the sword and for the needle she;
Man with the head and woman with the heart;
Man to command and woman to obey;
All else confusion” — Lord Tennyson.

While driving the other night, I stopped at a signal and in my rearview mirror saw that the car behind me had a female driver; the car next to me also had a female driver. I thought to myself, we have come a long way indeed from the days when hardly any female driver was visible on the roads. But my joy was shortlived as the next day, one of my uncles said something to the effect that a girl should just do her bachelors and then get married. I wondered why there is so little stress on women’s education.

Patriarchy and misogynism are two components that have plagued all societies of the world at one time or another. Some societies have succeeded in eradicating these vices, while others are still shackled by them. Ours is one such society and can best be described as a ‘man’s world’, where fami…

The importance of knowledge

“India’s ‘cash-for-fatwas’ scandal broke out last weekend when a TV channel broadcast a sting operation that showed several Indian Muslim clerics allegedly taking, or demanding, bribes in return for issuing fatwas, or religious edicts.
The bribes, some of which were as low as $ 60, were offered by undercover reporters wearing hidden cameras over a period of six weeks. In return for the cash, the clerics appear to hand out fatwas written in Urdu, the language used by many Muslims in Pakistan and India, on subjects requested by the reporters.
Among the decrees issued by the fatwas: that Muslims are not allowed to use credit cards, double beds, or camera-equipped cell phones, and should not act in films, donate their organs, or teach their children English. One cleric issued a fatwa against watching TV; another issued a fatwa in support of watching TV” — ‘India’s Cash-for-Fatwa Scandal’, Aravind Adiga, Time Magazine, September 21, 2006.

After reading this news, I wondered which fatwas shoul…

Abusing the innocent

While passing by the canal one day when it was raining, the sight of innocent children diving into the canal and enjoying the rain made me think how blissfully unaware these children are of the dangerous times we live in. They have no idea what kind of vultures inhabit the same planet, ready to pounce upon innocent children whenever they get a chance.

“A boy gunned down a man who sodomised him 10 years ago in the suburban area Lehri Potha…” – ‘Sodomy victim kills assailant after 10 years’ (The Post, September 2, 2006). “A father subjected his two-year-old daughter to sexual violence in the suburban area of Korotana…” – ‘Father rapes two-year-old daughter’ (The Post, August 30, 2006). “Accused Malik Arif, a resident of Mohallah Usman Ghani, along with his accomplices kidnapped the 12-year-old girl of the same area with the help of a woman and took her to a house in a deserted place where he subjected her to sexual violence for one year” – ‘Minor kidnapped, raped for one year’ (The Post

Career women: a matrimonial hazard?

While going through some discussions at an online forum, one topic caught my attention. It was titled ‘Why you should not marry career women’ and it quoted an article that said, “Guys: a word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career” (‘Why you shouldn’t marry career women’ by Michael Noer, Forbes). The article goes on to state how research has found that the chances of a successful marriage are lower if men marry professional women since they are “…more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it.”

Indeed, this is reflective of a typical chauvinistic mindset. Throughout human history, men have been portrayed as protectors, supporters, financers, caretakers and breadwinners, and therefore it is deemed that a career is a must for them. Most people think that a woman merely works fo…