This blog is best viewed with the latest browser and an open mind!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Coming soon to a parliament near you?

This REUTERS news story appeared in DAWN today

RIYADH, April 23: Saudi Arabia has detained 40 Pakistani Christians for holding prayers at a house in the kingdom, where practicising any religion other than Islam is illegal, newspapers said on Saturday. A group of men, women and children were attending the service in the capital Riyadh when police raided the house, Al Jazirah newspaper said. It said authorities also found Christian tapes and books. Another Saudi daily, Al Yaum, said the raid took place on Friday while a Pakistani preacher was delivering a sermon. It was not clear what measures might be taken against the group. Saudi authorities were not immediately available to comment. There are around six million foreigners in the kingdom, which has a population of 23 million, including many Christians from Europe, North America, Asia and other Arab states. In a rare official rebuke of a close ally last year, Washington accused Saudi Arabia of severe violations of religious freedom. Following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, which were carried out by mainly Saudis, the Gulf Arab state’s religious establishment came under sharp criticism by the West for fostering militancy and intolerance of other religions.—Reuters


Following, as it does, on the heels of another similar incident (see below} it should be a cause for grave concern. It is likely that, emboldened by these moves in Soddy Arabia, the Mad Mullah Alliances in other Islamic countries will try and make similar proposals. Even without the success of these nuts, it will offer a justification in many countries where Muslims could begin begin to face similar restrictions.


At the end of March 2005, according to a number of newspaper and news wire reports, Saudi Arabian religious police destroyed a makeshift Hindu temple in an old district of Riyadh and deported three worshippers found there. Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (pretty Orwellian, eh?), or the so-called "religious police," stumbled across a room in an apartment that was converted into a Hindu temple and destroyed it. A caretaker who was found in the worshipping area ignored the religious police's order to stop performing his rituals, and thus he, along with two other men who arrived on the scene to worship, were deported from the country. The police made their discovery while raiding a number of apartments suspected of being used for the manufacture of alcohol and the distribution of pornographic videos.

The Hindu temple was in the apartment of the worshippers. It was in their private space. The "religious police" had no right to destroy it. This is a gross violation of the freedom of worship that is guaranteed by the very Qur'an these "religious police" claim to uphold. The Qur'an says, "There is no compulsion in matters of faith" (2:256). It is quite clear. Yes, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to purify the Ka'ba, the central shrine in Mecca first built by Abraham and his son Ishmael (peace be upon them both), from the gods that were put there. Yes, Islam is strictly monotheistic. But this Hindu temple was not at the Ka'ba. It was in a private apartment in Riyadh. They had no right to destroy it. What if a bunch of FBI agents had raided a Muslim's apartment and destroyed a makeshift mosque there? Muslims around the world would have been up in arms, and rightly so

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I really want to scream, but I'll let Johnny do it ... (for nothing compares to Weismuller)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A timeless poem by Habib Jalib

Labels: , , ,

Of monuments to the undeserving

We are so fond of pleasing those in power that we offer to name institutions and landmarks after them. The temporarily-powerful, in turn, in their immodesty, ignorance, and bid for a place in history, readily accept these gifts of sycophancy. If only they were as wise as Cato the Elder, who had this to say: "After I'm dead I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one."

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 11, 2005

Jaahils Online

Switching TV channels, I caught another glimpse of Dr. Zakir Naik. I wondered if, like our illustrious minister-cum-naatkhwaañ-cum-aalim, Amir Liaquat, Naik's doctoral degrees are also iffy. [Amir had, on an earlier occasion, told people at the TRC - with whom he had worked for a while - that he used the "Dr." title because he was a qualified Homoeopath.]

Naik was enthralling the audience, as usual, with his accurate quoting of chapters and verses from a number of religious tracts, both Islamic and non-Islamic. But, after just a few minutes of hearing him, I switched channels again. Wonder if Alec Bourne had him in mind when he said "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated."

TV is being used (one wishes to add "criminally") to propagate the same old superstitions through dumbing idiocies like Istekhara Online, a program that uses religious-looking packaging to market an entirely fraudulent product.

If ignorance really is bliss, we will soon be the first nation to attain Nirvana en masse.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, April 08, 2005

Softening hard realities ...

The advertisements are out. We need people to help project a SOFT (read 'Moderate & Enlightened') image of Pakistan. Much easier, of course, than developing ourselves into a moderate and enlightened nation.

There will be hordes of responses to the ads, I am sure. Ad & PR agencies do this all the time for their clients - presenting attractive images, extolling the benefits of Cigarettes and Guns, for example. Or telling us the wonderful things that we owe in life to Dow Chemicals. Forget that Dow was the supplier of deadly, skin-melting Napalm to the US Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Dow, in fact, if memory serves me well, launched a campaign "to replace Dow's poor public perception with a softer image".

Of course, Pakistan is neither Tobacco, nor Guns; nor is it comparable to Dow. As a Pakistani, I'd be loathe to even consider such an analogy. Most of my countrymen are wonderful, tolerant, friendly, warm. Newsweek, I was reminded by Javed Jabbar only yesterday, had recently named Pakistan among 10 of the world's greatest countries, citing the warmth and hospitality meted out by us to the Afghan refugees as one example. True, no other country had ever given the opportunity for fleeing neighbours to spread and mingle with its residents, moving around with whatever little they had managed to carry in (including weapons and drugs). Another view that supports our large-heartedness, in a direct comparison to our neighbours, can be found at alt.muslim

But, the Newsweek article notwithstanding, the media abroad continues to recognize us mainly in terms of the image personified by a band of nutcases and criminals. One had hoped (perhaps only because hope lies eternal in the human breast, unwilling to learn from experience) that the present government would try and counter the antics of this band ... and not merely by offering soft images for external consumption but through concrete actions.

Instead, we see the government bowing down on every issue, backing off at the slightest barking noise. The recent return of the Religion Column in our passports (bound to be followed up with more insane demands by the victors) - and the inaction at the MMA's storming of a Marathon - point to what we can only hope is a curable weakness and not complicity.

Following the attack on the Marathon, not content to merely launch protests against the government for allowing what he considers to be an outrageous show of immodesty and anti-Islamic acts, we now have Maulana Fazlur Rahman (as reported in the press) threatening to resort to physical violence against citizens, especially women, who wish to participate in sports. This is, to be sure, not surprising, coming from someone who has been a passionate supporter of the Taliban - a group that had placed bans against many forms of sports, including the playing of football by men in shorts. However, asking for a ban on such stuff, reasonable or not, is not the same as threatening people. I am fairly certain if I threatened a citizen with violence, I would be (should be!) liable to having a case registered against me.

With incidents like this being reported - and frequently highlighted - in the international media (some of which is openly hostile to Pakistan and Muslims), no manner of manipulated soft imaging will help. A lot more positive imagery can be generated if the government rewarded exemplary punishments to such vigilantes. If that is too much to ask, the least it could do is stop it's turning on its own decisions whenever threats are made.

But let us not place the blame for this state of affairs entirely at the doorsteps of the government. How about sane citizens across the country raising their voices and joining protests against such outrages? What? There aren't sufficient numbers of us to make a difference? In that case, PR experts, you've got one helluva job to handle!

In closing, here's what an activist friend, Naeem Sadiq (aka 'The Warrior') sent out by e-mail on the same subject today. It is reproduced below, without his permission, since he and I are hopefully on the same side of the copyright issue. If not, he can sue me and I shall happily settle out of court with a meal at Bundu Khan's. Over to you, Naeem:

Newspaper ads suggest that the government is spending huge sums of money in its campaign for projecting a soft image of Pakistan. Obviously it is far more difficult to project what does not exist. So here are five suggested pictures that would not just save this wasteful expenditure, but also project the true image of the government of Pakistan.

1. 2000 'lathi bardar' mullahs stopping 20 school girls from participating in a school marathon. Background placards read "exercise haraam for females".

2. A serious[-looking] Prime Minister signing approval of the RELIGION column [to be reintroduced] in Passports, with smiling mullahs in the background pushing another passport with yet another column for 'SECT'.

3. Mukhtaran Mai giving a press conference [to say] that she has been denied justice for past 3 years. Rapists performing 'bhangra' in the background.

4. Mullahs, drunk on 'soft drinks', breaking hotel furniture during a New Year Party. Weapon carrying mullahs destroying billboards in the background.

5. An 'enlightened' Dr. Shazia, 'softly' stepping into a flight departing for Heathrow airport.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"Havas-e-luqmae-tar khaa gaee lahjay ka jalaal"

The above line from Iftikhar Arif has been buzzing in my mind ever since I read that the government has retracted its original decision to remove the 'Religion' column from passports. Such yo-yo behaviour is increasingly becoming the norm of the government. It happens in the face of the slightest noise made by those who make a mockery of people's beliefs by using religion as a tradeable commodity. I wonder how this about-face fits in with the soft image of an enlightened, moderate nation.

Will the staff at the Passport Office be able to recognize the names of all of the world's religions, should someone genuinely belong to a lesser known belief system? I asked 5 people in an upper-middle-class restaurant today if they knew who or what a Jain was. (I only mention the socio-economic factor to give you an idea of the probable level of education of the customers). I got 3 "don't knows", one - a young teenager - said "a sort of Buddhist", and one offered a helpful "first door on your left in the corridor". (I admit the place was noisy.) So that doesn't seem promising. Or will we be forced choose from a predetermined drop-down menu, as it were? Once again, who decides what the offerings on the menu are? What if the religion is not recognized here but is accepted as one elsewhere? I mean Scientologists have been asking for such a recognition in places and may even be granted the status in some country some day. So what happens if a Pakistani adopts the new religion? (I am talking of non-Muslim Pakistani, naturally ... since it's hardly worthwhile for a Muslim to risk a murtid's fate: best to remain hypocritical ... fits in with the mainstream). He now wishes to place that on his passport. The staff I encounter in that office (or in any government office) hardly seem intelligent or educated enough for such a task. Of course, the MMA could be asked to give them a crash course in skewed viewpoints.

I can foresee several delightful repeats of the time Bertrand Russell was sent to prison during World War I for opposing the war. The jail warden asked the customary questions of Russell: Name, Age, Place of Residence. Then he inquired, "Religious Affiliation?" ... "Agnostic," Russell replied. The poor man looked up, "How do you spell that?" Russell spelled, "agnostic" for him. The warden wrote the word carefully on the prison admission form, and then sighed, "Oh well! There are a great many sects, but I suppose they all worship the same God."

Anyway, I guess it's too late to hope for another swing of the yo-yo, so the stupid, unreasonable, anti-human_rights column in the passport is probably here to stay. But I hope better sense will prevail by allowing one to write 'Undeclared'? Surely (well, perhaps in this country, not-so-surely) I should have the right to withhold the public declaration of my faith (except when necessary for very specific reasons: marriage, inheritance, legal rights, entry into a place of worship) on the grounds that it could endanger my life or create a bias in the mind of a prospective employer, or, more realistically, in the 'whatever-passes-for-a-mind' of an immigration officer in the US of A.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Case Closed?

Terri Schiavo is dead. But fundos do not give up so easily. They'll pick another opportunity to try and make inroads into trampling personal liberties. In such evil times, Freedom needs to be guarded 24/7 !!!

It has been impossible for most people to not take sides in this sad, personal drama that the media thought exciting enough to thrust in our faces. Gratis. It did serve to remind many of us that some things are not quite black and white. I, myself, needed to feel sure that the act of pulling the feeding tubes was humane, that she felt no pain, before I could consider this a clear case of euthanasia, a view that I wholeheartedly support. A search on the web had left me no wiser; everywhere, there were two camps. Finally, a long discussion with my family doctor, a strong opponent of any form of mercy killing or suicide, under any circumstances, whether assisted or not, convinced me that this, indeed, was a case of euthanasia. Strange, the way things often work out.

For most, the case unmasked the politics behind it all when Senator De Lay referred to the courts being "out of control". (I had not been aware that courts in the USA were expected to be "under control" in the first place). And then that poor excuse for a human being, William Bennet, wrote that 'Jeb Bush should simply overrule the courts, break the law and send armed guards to insert the feeding tube by force.' Now that it is all over, we can tell Bill what he can do with the unused tubes!

The usurper-president of the United States spoke humanely when he said "it is wise to always err on the side of life". Must have been hell, for someone who feels this way, having to sign countless death warrants after mere cursory glances at review petitions, when he was the Governor of Texas.

I realize that there may be no concept of honouring a Living Will in Pakistan, especially in such a case. But I plead with my family, friends, and the family doctor, through this public platform: When the time comes, please do not put me through such torture; just let me die with dignity and with the absolute minimum of discomfort.

And, oh yes: No soyem vaghaerah, either.

Labels: , , , , , ,