Partition 1947|Remembering South Asian Women Partisans Part II

We continue on our journey to learn about the Partition 1947 | Remembering South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters, for those who missed, click part I. South Asian women in 1800 and early 1900s worked side by side with men to free us from the shackles of slavery into liberated nations.

7. Aruna Asaf Ali otherwise known as The Heroine of 1942 Movement and in later years, the Grand Lady of the Independence Movement is one of the most important figures. Of Bengali Brahmo origins she but married a Muslim despite opposition and joined him into cutthroat political movements to free India. She hoisted the Indian National Congress Flag at Gowalia Tank Maidan in 1942. A teacher, politician and newspaper publisher, she was sent to jail on grounds of being a vagrant. Her release came after a huge public agitation by both her female jailed political workers and the Indian public. For her life long struggle for India’s glory, she has been conferred Indian and international awards of the highest merit.

8. Bhima Bai Holkar was the princess of Indore Kingdom and defended her Kingdom from British conquest. At the Battle of Mahidpur, she led a brigade of 2,500 cavalry, sword and lance in hand, into the battle ground against the British troops that were four times more in number. It is believed that her act of taking the role of a soldier inspired Jhansi Queen and other Kingdoms into mutiny and battle against the British East India Company.

9. Nishat Un Nisa Begum was an active participant of the movement, she was the public relations officer for her husband and after he was jailed, she continued her services into the Pakistan Movement. She was known for taking charge of literary projects in Aligarh and managed a freedom movement magazine circulation in those tough times.

10. Mahrani Jindan Kaur otherwise known as the Rebel Queen was the last Queen of the Sikhs of Lahore, capital of the princely kingdom Punjab is remembered for her two wars against the British conquest. Despite making some strategic errors, she was responsible for being termed the greatest enemy of British to have ever lived in the 19 century, let alone just Indian or Sikh history. British held on the opinion that Mahrani Jindan was the greatest obstacle that faced their rule in India. They maligned her public image to the likes of “a seductress too rebellious to be controlled” whereas she refused to cooperate with them despite her imprisonment. Queen Jindan disguised as a servant and escaped her prison to head into Nepal from where she sent the British a letter where she taunted at their inability to stop her from using ‘magic’ to escape. Despite being separated from her son, the young ruler of her state she was able to reunite in later years.

11. Zulekha Begum the wife of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, an important figure in Pakistan Movement was a courageous lady who despite her husband’s jail and economic crisis continued to work for the liberation from British. After her husband got one year jail, she sent a letter to Mahatma Gandhi ji stating “My husband got one year imprisonment. This is less that our expectation because if it is the result of his devotion to the nation then he did not get justice; it is less for his eligibility. From today on I will take on the whole work of Bengal Khilafat Committee.’

12. Padma Naidu joined the Indian National Congress at the mere age of 20 and was jailed for her active participation in the Quit India Movement unrest against the British Raj. After independence, she was the Governor of West Bengal and associated in humanitarian work with the International Red Cross, she also remained the Chair of Indian Red Cross for an entire tenure working on assisting the aftermath of the 1971 war between Pakistan and India.

These names are drops into an ocean in terms of women participation into the freedom movement of subcontinent. The history of the freedom movement is incomplete without the mention of invaluable services of women like Asghari Begum who fought the British and after defeat was burnt alive, others like Habiba and Rahimi who were captured and hanged in public.

Historians continue compiling the data consisting of more than several thousand south asian women hailing from all parts of the sub continent, of all age groups, of all castes, religions and ethnicities that were killed into the battles for gaining freedom from colonial masters.

The services of these women, some mothers, others sisters, wives or daughters should not be forgotten for their acts of valor and bravery and their stand with the South Asian men in true history defining moments.

Let’s honor and salute the South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters for their invaluable services for the birth of two nations India and Pakistan, may their glory shine upon our futures.

Partition 1947 | Remembering South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters

There is no doubt that sub continent’s women suffered appalling human rights violations under the British Colonial period and its aftermath. And all sides are to blame for these horrifying crimes against women, in classical fashion the global stereotypical image of south asian women is usually like that of a glorified sexually repressed victim of her native culture. Those “poor-brown” women that are always in need of help from all sides and all Gods, needs to be debunked and I would gladly rain on the parade of countless with bringing to your attention to the realities that are deliberately forgotten or silenced.

During the period of early 1800s, British continued to rule over “Hindustan” like the Devils in disguise leading to a defiant rebellion in the air. The people of subcontinent were gathering to overthrow the colonialists; in 1857 the first freedom rebellion was fought against the British. The rebellion paved path for the partition 1947, in which women participated side by side along with men.

This is the story of South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters, and this our story because their blood continues to live on through us.

1. Rani Lakshmibai, The Queen of Maratha ruled State of Jhansi, is a name etched in history for her bravery. She was the first prominent women freedom fighter to participate in the first freedom rebellion of 1857 where British wanted to take over her princely state under the cover of “Doctrine of Lapse”. The British sent Sir Huge Rose with troops in the city of Jhansi in 1858 March, but the Queen announced to fight for freedom instead of the surrender. Jhansi Ki Rani led her people into fight but after defeat, she moved to another camp for continuing her battle and from Gwalior Fort she along with her son on her back and the cavalry fought bravely until their deaths.

2.Begum Hazrat Mahal  She was another queen of a princely state that rebelled against the British East India Company; she is known as the Begum of Awadh and played a major role in the rebellion of 1857. Her husband died during the rebellion, and she took charge of affairs until she and her supporters seized the control of Lucknow as an act of rebellion against British East India Company and declared her son, Bijris Qadra as the ruler of the state of Awadh. She besieged Sir Henry Lawrence and other officials in the residency where she shot dead Sir Henry Lawrence. Later Lucknow fell back into the hands of British and she was exiled to Calcutta.

3. Madam Bhikaiji Cama She belonged to Parsi community and was a philanthropist and an active social worker. During the epidemic of bubonic plague that hit Mumbai in 1896, she got infected with the disease while providing aid to the others and was sent to Britain for treatment. However that did not deter her struggle for Indian Independence from abroad. She also worked as a secretary to Dadabhai Naoroji and supported the founding of Indian Home Rule Society. On 22nd august 1907, she unfurled the Indian flag (Flag of Indian Independence) in Stuttgurt, Germany while attending the International Socialist Conference where she made Europeans aware of the humanitarian emergency aftermath of Indian famine and raised her voice for the human rights and equality in India. For her valuable services to the people of Hindustan, this active freedom fight was exiled in Europe until 1935.

4. Sarojini Naidu, Popularly known as “the nightingale of India” Sarojini Naidu contributed towards freedom struggle by joining politics during the wake of Partition of Bengal in 1905. She traveled to various places in India delivering lectures on social welfare, making women aware of the need of liberty and invoking women to participate in the freedom movement. In 1917 she helped to launch Women’s Indian association and has many first credits to her person – she was the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and second woman to become the president of Indian national Congress and the first Indian woman to become so.

5. Lady Azizan, was another freedom fighter, who was born in Lucknow in 1832. It is said that she lived with Umrav Jan in Sarangi Mahal. On June 4, 1857 when Nana Sahib called Hindus and Muslims to get united for the cause of freedom and join him, she left home to formally join the freedom movement and organized battalion of women. Since she was skilled into the art of war, she taught other women how to use them, defense techniques and battle field measures. According to certain historians she was also a spy who collected information about the British movements and passed them to the freedom fighters. When Azizan was captured and brought in front of British General Havelock, she offered her pardon if she confessed her crimes. Azizan refused to pander to colonial masters, rejected his proposal and became a martyr to live forever in our memories.

6.Sadat Bano Kichlew was a nationalist poetess and freedom fighter. She was the wife of Dr. Saifuddin Kichlew who took active participation in partisan movement. This lady was well versed in languages Urdu and Persian, which is used to compile patriotic poems to encourage the freedom fighters. During British Raj, it was rather impossible if not difficult to have freedom of speech and media, despite being a traditional Muslim woman she continued her important work. When her husband, Dr. Kichlew was arrested in 1920, she said, “I feel proud that he has been sent to prison for service to his nation. To give one’s life for this cause is as if one has gained thousand lives.” She also participated in civil disobedience movement and served ‘Swaraj Ashram’ founded by Dr. Kichlew as its chairperson.

These women of substance are the symbol of resistance to the British Raj over the subcontinent; they helped in making the British rulers to give up their “Jewel in the Crown” otherwise known to modern-day world as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This is a very incomplete list, however I will post the part 2 of this story shortly to redeem some justice to the amazing women of substance that worked side by side with men to free us from the shackles of slavery into liberated nations.

1947 Partition In Literature| Saluting South Asia’s Own Literary Geniuses

South Asian Partition resulted in a border between two countries, splitting a common culture and its diverse people- today governed by two sworn nuclear armed enemies yet ancient relatives. The socio-political events leading to the birth of both nations is evident in the ‘literary geniuses’ this vast land offered into the global cultural and arts scene.

I don’t recall the exact first time that I read a south asian writer’s work, but I remember sitting with my aunt during our favorite reading session as my (nana) grandfather read a chapter from The Train to Pakistan. Born into a migratory family, nobody needed to describe me the realities, neither did they realize of my awareness of the many untold stories and silences, as I grew older my love of reading continued to grow with me. I have read writers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan with a tenacity of a newly born turtle making its first steps into the sea waters.

The more I read; the more I un-blinded myself of the society and my presence within it. It is funny that I ended up being a writer myself, when I had no such ambition during my childhood.

The most poignant realization is the fact of the partition on the artists born into that period. Most South Asian writers are relatively the underdogs, internationally because Europeans and foremost British wrote on Partition from ‘their point of view’ considered credible in international circles. But that is quite normal, as usually history gets written by victors yet partition produced some of the greatest works known to our world. Without any nepotism I recommend people to not overlook the valuable work that has been written by the South Asian writers of that period, among whom a great number that, were directly affected adversely due to the traumatic partition.

I invite you to join my world of reading, as we meet ‘The Ice Candy Man’ by Pakistani feminist writer Bapsi Sidva presenting the human rights violations and appalling conditions during partition of subcontinent. Sidva herself suffered the first hand trauma of partition and vividly depicts the exploitation and suppression of women at the hands of men. As a novelist she speaks about the power and skills of women, through her female characters who survived the worst time in 1947 in India. She writes what we still hesitate to discuss in today’s times;  the changing faces of men and how religious differences narrow down the realistic picture of Hindu Muslim clashes through the characterization of female protagonist Lenny. This matter of sexual violence against women and ‘honor’ has been thoroughly discussed by feminist poet Kishwar Naheed another historical witness to the Partition events.

Then off course the literary genius of Khushwant Singh’s real life experiences into the wonderful publication “Train to Pakistan” here Singh takes us into the life of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl in love. An unknown little village Mano Majra a place where in our past Sikhs and Muslims lived together in peace for hundreds of years but monsoon of August 1947 changes that with the arrival of a “ghost train”, a silent incredible funeral train loaded with the dead bodies of thousands of migrating refugees on way to their new country, Pakistan. Train to Pakistan is a reminder that religious hate wins at the expense of human lives in an unforgettable manner.

Like Khushwant Singh, Manohar Malgonkar’s “A Bend in the Ganges’ is a masterpiece offering the theme of partition rioting with a background of Civil Disobedience Movement of Mahatma Gandhi to end in separation of the subcontinent. The book starts off with the important slogan ‘Boycott British Goods’ in the whole country on the call of Gandhi. The novel focuses on the transformation of three young men involved into the partition movement – Gian Talwar, Debi Dayal and Sahfi Usman and portrays the communal violence between Hindus and Muslims separated into opposite camps, learning to hate each other with a vengeance. This breaking into religious camps that would allow two free nations liberation caused Malgonkar to note ‘Every citizen was caught up in the holocaust. No one could remain aloof; no one could be trusted to be impartial.’

Partition is one of the darkest phases Indian subcontinent has witnessed; time hasn’t removed the volatility until now. Like Singh, Saadat Hassan Manto, Manohar Malgonkar makes it clear that on scores of massacres no side was less guilty than the other. The biggest irony is that violence of this magnitude wasn’t used against British rule to liberate India from colonial clutches, but used by India’s major religious groups – Hindus and Muslims to each other. If that is not all, Chaman Nahal‘s ‘Azadi’ is a simple and candid novel about the realities of India’s independence and her partition. People like the character in the novel, Lala Kanshi Ram had deeply and unconsciously unaware ‘slave mentality’, whose heart was full of pride to be part of an Empire supreme and unbeatable. Like Mangonkar, Nahal too argues upon the cruel way in which the English granted freedom to India was enough to break the confidence of masses in them. The country was butchered without proper measures being taken to safeguard people’s property, life or honor. Their lives were made tools and toys in the hands of ill luck and tragedy. What the people had known were noble feelings and high ideas – independence, equality and national pride. The result of all these noble feelings was rape, murder, death and separation. There was no connection between the effort and its result.

Indian born Pakistani writer Saadat Hassan Manto life and work, in particular ‘The Pity of Partition’ and ‘Molted Dawn’ serve as prisms to capture the human dimension of sectarian violence in the final decades and immediate aftermath from British Raj.  The famous long story by Manto … Toba Tek Singh, where he looks at those ostracized from the society like the ‘mentally ill.’ Post independence, around 1949 Pakistan and Indian governments resolved to exchange the inmates of their ‘mad houses.’ Among those released was a man – Toba Tek Singh upon whose name is city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Toba arrives at the border where he climbs up a tree to yell that he does not want to go to Pakistan or India. In a world where irrationality rules, Manto lets his ‘crazy’ protagonists voice the only rational thoughts possible in such a brutal reality. Saadat Hassan Manto himself was shattered by his reality, drowning his pain into alcohol, died at the mere age of 43.

Today 68 years passed after the partition leaving the two nations trying to heal the wounds left behind by this incision to once-whole body of India. Many still search for an identity, a history left behind beyond an impenetrable boundary. Both countries started off with ruined economics and without an established, experienced system of government.

We lost many of our most dynamic leaders, like the revered Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal. Nuclear armed Pakistan and India have been to war more than twice since partition and are still deadlocked over the Kashmir issue possession. We are still letting hate win with aggressive divisions and border politics, whereas our artists continue churning out masterpieces giving voice to the bitter brothers and saddened sisters divided by these border lines.

Partition 1947 – The Voices Across The Bitter Borders

0,,16501803_303,00One of the greatest tragedies of the Indo-Pakistan relationship has significant roots into the people’s polarization during British controlled India. There is not enough ink to bleed for writing on the damage partition has done to our people. While the British held on to subcontinent called otherwise in history as “Jewel in the Crown” they only let it go until there was no choice left.

As a south asian and Muhajir Pakistani who has her origins on other side of the border-India; despite taking deep pride in my country and its independence my emotions don’t over shed the negatives of subcontinent separation and how it happened. The violent way we were divided continues to overshadow both our nations’ future and that of its people. Permit me to say that millions still grieve, we could separate but minus the violence. Inside this great land; the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Christians etc continue to suffer in some way or other due to our bitter legacy.

Today, 68 years post independence what do south asian people think about this partition. This is a story bringing real life accounts and sentiments of people.

“The heartland for support for Pakistan Movement lay in Uttar Pardesh, which was not included within Pakistan. I cannot believe how my parents were driven out of UP to migrate towards Sindh where I was born. My childhood memories include my mother hiding herself in a teary state in the kitchen or pantry upon receiving some news from her homeland. During her life, she never realized that I knew how she hid her pain, but her pain lives in me.” – Hyderabad, Pakistan

Muslims came back to the Haveli but this time they did not wait for the night and attacked it, but couldn’t enter it still. Then they sent a representative to talk to the Sikhs holed up in the haveli. Sant Gulab Singh refused to accept their conditions that the Sikhs should disarm themselves hence the fight continued for 2 more days. Finally on the last day, Muslims made it clear they would bomb the whole structure if the Sikhs didn’t come out.  After the Sikhs came out, they got surrounded by the large crowd of Muslims. The Sikhs arrived at the sarovar of the local Gurdwara Sahib. The Muslim Pathaans armed with latest weapons surrounded the Sikhs sitting around the sarovar. The Sikhs were chanting “Satnam Siri Vaheguru”. By then about 10,000 Muslims came and had a dozen barbers lined up to cut the hair of Sikhs. The children cried for food and milk, as the young and old were helpless to do anything. The whole scene was a scene from hell.  – Jaipur, India  

“Dekhiye janab, yaa to Hindustan ko Pakistan mein milaa do, nahin to Pakistan ko Hindustan mein mila do. Is batwaare ne bahut nuksaan kiya hai. Waqt agya hai hum sab ko sabaq hasil karlena chahye.”  (Look, either merge India into Pakistan or merge Pakistan into India, this partition has caused us all great long-lasting damage. It’s high time we all need to learn from our mistakes). – Lahore, Pakistan

Hindu caste prejudices are self-explanatory as to why India messed up so badly in Kashmir (its only Muslim-majority state), despite receiving significant support from Kashmiri Muslims in the early days of Indian rule. So basically my people continue to suffer this tug of war between two egoistic countries hell-bent on not letting go of the partition saga? Come to Indian controlled Kashmir to see for real the pitiful lives we live. – Srinagar, India

I don’t have any memory of those sad days being 6 months old when my parents along with my 2 elder brothers were forced to leave our home and hearth from near Rawalpindi. But today am 66 years old and still haunted by the description I overheard of how the train left Rawalpindi for Amritar was stopped at a station called Lala Musa. The driver absconded with the engine leaving the angry mob to unleash on my brethren. Three nights passed with no food nor water. Thankfully a small number of armed army men THE Gurkhas kept the day and night vigil and saved us from the mob’s fury. Till this date I am unable to fathom what was our fault? – West Bengal, India 

“So what choice had we left when they came to drive us out of our homes and burn the buildings, desecrated the graveyard of my seven generations right in front of our eyes. That night was our hell and 67 years have not wiped my mental trauma.  As we fled towards Pakistan amidst the chanting slogans growing louder and louder, I still remember the Hindus repeatedly chanted “Musalmanon ke do hi sthan, Pakistan ya qabristan” (Only two places for Muslims: Pakistan or graveyard). This partition tore my family apart and broke us, completely. –  Karachi, Pakistan

There is still hope for us, there is still an opportunity for us to tend those wounds that we ended up giving ourselves and there is always a tomorrow. I have chosen my road and what about you?

1947 Partition|The Legacy of Fatima Jinnah, Mother of the Nation

The “Mother of the Nation” (Maadar E Millat), “The Lady of Pakistan”(Khatoon E Pakistan) are given titles to one of the finest Pakistani women who lived in history. Yes, I am speaking of Fatima Jinnah, the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and an active political figure in the movement for independence from the British Rule.

She was a leading, founding and instrumental figure in the Pakistan movement and the primary organizer of the All India Muslim Women Students Federation. Fatima Jinnah like her brother dedicated her whole life to the cause of Pakistan’s birth and its nation building. The Father of Nation Quaid E Azam was always accompanied by Fatima Jinnah, at each public appearance he made before and after partition. It is said that this siblings legacy, in particular of Fatima Jinnah’s unwavering support is the key to his success. When the All India Muslim League was being organized, she was taken on as a member of the Working Committee of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League, and worked in that capacity until 1947.  Paying tribute to her sister, the Quaid once said, “My sister was like a bright ray of light and hope whenever I came back home and met her. Anxieties would have been much greater and my health much worse, but for the restraint imposed by her.”

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By profession she was a dental surgeon, biographer and stateswoman. After the untimely demise of Quaid E Azam, Fatima Jinnah despite her personal loss continued struggling for the betterment of the newly born country. She played a significant role in the settlement of Muhajirs in the new state of Pakistan. In those years, she focused on her literary projects, “Brother” is the name of the biography she wrote on the life of Quaid E Azam, but was held from publishing for many untold reasons. By the time it was published, pages from the book’s manuscript had vanished.

“If there was another leader in Pakistan today like Quaid and Fatima Jinnah Pakistan would be a heaven on earth. I had the good fortune to meet Miss Jinnah in February, 1959 when she very kindly attended a N.E.D. College sports function in Karachi. I found her to be a delightful personality with a lovely smile and full of positive encouragements for the young people.  How can one forget those moments when you are congratulated and asked to serve Pakistan well, now that is real leadership.”  A Pakistani engineer A.K accounts.

Late 1960s was an era when dictators and religious zealots had gained power over political scene in Pakistan yet this noble, gracious and courageous lady did not hesitate to take on a military dictator in her later years. She returned to forefront of political life when she ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP). This had her opponent Ayub Khan furious whose dictatorship was in full swing.

He labeled her being pro-Indian and pro-American and accused her of an being an enemy of Pakistan.“They call her the Mother of the Nation,” sniffed Pakistan’s President Mohammed Ayub Khan. “Then she should at least behave like a mother.” What upset Ayub was that Fatima Jinnah looked so good in pants. The more she upbraided Ayub, the louder Pakistanis cheered the frail figure in her shalwar (baggy white silk trousers). By last week, with Pakistan’s first presidential election only a fortnight away, opposition to Ayub had reached a pitch unequaled in his six years of autocratic rule.”

Fatima Jinnah responded by proclaiming him to be a dictator. She started her rallies where it is said nearly 250,000 people turned out to see her in Dhaka, and a million lined the 293 mile route from there to Chittagong. Her train, called the Freedom Special, was 22 hours delayed to arrival because south Asian men hailed by  crowds at each station pulled the emergency cord and begged her to speak impromptu. It is said people waited hours on foot to catch a glimpse of Fatima Jinnah. Her greatest advantages were her legacy as a politically active founding member of the nation and being the Quaid’s sister who had detached herself from the political conflicts that had plagued Pakistan after its Founder’s death. But the sight of this dynamic lady moving in the streets of big cities, rural towns and on train stops of a Muslim majority country was both moving and unique. The crowds hailed her as their leader and called her the rightful heir of Quaid; the chantings of Mother of The Nation were heard far and wide. Her campaign generated tremendous public enthusiasm. She drew enormous crowds in all cities of East and West Pakistan In her rallies Jinnah argued that, by coming to terms with India on the Indus Water dispute, Ayub had surrendered control of the rivers to India. Fatima Jinnah lost the election but it was a narrow win for Ayub Khan attained by vote rigging. More over, it’s believed that had the elections been held via direct ballot, Fatima Jinnah would have won. The Electoral College consisted of only 80,000 Basic Democrats, who were easily manipulated. These have been the findings of historians, investigative media reports and this election did not conform to international standards.

Interestingly Fatima Jinnah defeated Ayub Khan in two of Pakistan’s largest cities, Karachi (Pakistan) and Dhaka (now Bangladesh). During the election campaign, Ayub Khan gathered support of “those Muslim Ulema who were of the view that Islam does not permit a woman to be the head of an Islamic state.” This sort of propaganda against a woman leader of her stature was uncalled for, but very commonly used resort by patriarchal and insecure men throughout history.

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Despite the fact that she lost the election, the importance of this election lay in the fact that a woman was contesting the highest political office of the country. The orthodox religious political parties, including the Jamaat-i-Islami led by Maulana Maududi, which earlier had repeatedly declared that a woman could not hold the highest office of a Muslim country also had modified their stance to support her Presidency candidature.

Through her life’s example and her battles with power hungry men, Fatima Jinnah laid the foundation for the women of Pakistan to aspire and follow into her footsteps.

There are three things common between this iconic lady and myself.

We both have been born in the city of Karachi.

We both aren’t scared to speak our mind.

We both believe sincerely in working for the glory of Pakistan.

Pakistan Zindabad!

And Pakistan Is Born, 14 August 1947

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The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, popularly called Radio Pakistan came into being as Pakistan Broadcasting Service on 14 August 1947 when Pakistan emerged on the world map as a new country.

The independence of Pakistan was announced through Radio Pakistan on Aug 13, 1947 at 11:59 pm in Urdu, followed by a similar announcement in English, Pushto and other languages. The Pakistani radio presenter Mustafa Ali Hamdani (1909–1980) made the Urdu announcement in the following words:

!السلام علیکم
پاکستان براڈ کاسٹنگ سروس۔ ہم لاہور سے بول رہے ہیں۔ تیرہ اور چودہ اگست، سنہ سینتالیس عیسوی کی درمیانی رات۔ بارہ بجے ہیں۔ طلوع صبح آزادی۔

The English translation of this announcement is as follows:

Greetings!

Pakistan Broadcasting Service. We are speaking from Lahore. The night between the thirteen and fourteen of August, year forty-seven. It is twelve o’clock. Dawn of Freedom.

Once again, as the midnight strikes, lets unite and work hard for the glory of Pakistan and say together Pakistan Zindabad, Long Live Pakistan! 

 

The Shameful Chronicles of 1947 Partition

During August month, annually The Human Lens brings articles and stories related to the birth of Pakistan and India in the pursuit to raise awareness and commemorate ‘one of the bloodiest genocides’ of modern-day times. For those who didn’t yet come to know this, my relation with the Partition is very personal as my forefathers were part of Partisans in “Pakistan Movement.” In today’s post I bring you three events of and around the British India partition that highlight the monstrous colonialism our forefathers suffered.

The Amritsar Massacre

On April 13, 1919, scores of nonviolent protesters defied the British government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. People from all walks of life descended on the walled Jallianwala Gardens in hopes to make themselves heard. Around afternoon, the British troops blocked the Jallianwala Gardens exits to open fire on the unarmed protestors and continued firing until they ran out of ammunition. The troops killed between 300 – 1000 protestors, while some 1200 were injured. A stampede occurred as remaining protestors ran for their lives, over 100 women and children searching for safety got drowned into the Garden well, a current day memoriam known as “Well of Martyrs.” Those left succumbed to rifle shots.

The then General Dyer quoted that blocking of the garden exits was necessary for “was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience.” As the news made its way London, the colonial Parliament was so shocked it recalled the commanding officer who ordered the massacre. The evil nefarious British public labeled him a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money) for what they deemed “the man who saved India.” A mindless human slaughter died peacefully thoroughly convinced right to the end that his actions were morally justifiable.

The shooting was followed by the proclamation of martial law in Punjab that included public floggings and other cruel humiliations. The subcontinent’s people’s outrage grew as news of the shooting and subsequent British actions spread throughout the vast land. On that day Sir Rabindranath Tagore, Begali writer/painter and Partition partisan renounced his Knighthood and wrote a repudiation letter to the ViceroyLord Chelmsford, stating “The time has come when badges of honor make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part, wish to stand, shorn, of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.”

The Infamous Luncheon

As a servant of the British Empire in 1947, Cyril Radcliffe has the distinction of killing more people with the stroke of a pen than anyone else in history. With almost zero time to prepare himself, Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and newly created Pakistan that would split the subcontinent forever along religious lines. It was a tricky task, one that had the potential to cause massive displacement and ethnic violence even if handled carefully. Radcliffe was asked to make some of the most-important decisions during the course of a single lunch where he was excluded and abrupt changes were made by Viceroy Mountbatten in favor of India. These facts are still debatable and continue inspiring many historian researches.

So Cyril Radcliffe arrives in India on July 8, 1947 to work on a new map for South Asia with borders of India and Pakistan as requested by both Nehru and Jinnah, but Viceroy Mountbatten stunned everyone by declaring the independence earlier.  Finally the official borders were haphazardly announced two days after India’s Independence. From my interviews with some surviving leaders from Pakistan Movement I am told that this was in reality a deliberate sabotage by the British Empire.

Cyril Radcliffe’s India and Pakistan borders made no ethnic or geographical sense. Terrified of being caught on the wrong side, polarized Hindus, Sikhs in modern Pakistan and Muslims in modern India upped sticks and ran. As a result 30 million polarized people desperately escaped one country or the other, a situation that quickly spiraled into mind-numbing violence. The British sailed home watching the result of their evil handwork in form of one of the great human tragedies of the twentieth century. An entrée on the bloody Partition 1947 is discussed in last year’s post, feel free to review.

The Ludhiana born Pakistani literary genius Saadat Hassan Manto, recipient of Pakistan’s highest military gallantry award Nishan E Haider (The Mark of the Lion) witnessed the horrifying partition that left a deep mark on his literary work. Manto’s most extraordinary feature is that for all his feelings as a south Asian who migrated from India to Pakistan, he never judges. But for his head on profound work that take on monarchs, dictators and zealots, he was tried for obscenity six times; thrice before 1947 in British India (apparently freedom of speech is a right reserved for colonizers and not the colonized) and thrice after independence in 1947 in Pakistan (freedom of speech tricky factor in Islamic State of Pakistan), but never convicted. The tragedy of Partition, he wrote, was not that there were now two countries instead of one but the realization that “human beings in both countries were slaves, slaves of bigotry . . . slaves of religious passions, slaves of animal instincts and barbarity.” “Despite trying,” he wrote, “I could not separate India from Pakistan, and Pakistan from India.” Who, he asked, owned the literature that had been written in undivided India? Although he faced criticism and censorship, he wrote obsessively about the sexual violence that accompanied Partition. “When I think of the recovered women, I think only of their bloated bellies—what will happen to those bellies?” he asked. Would the children so conceived “belong to Pakistan or Hindustan?”

The Bengal Famine

In 1943, a deadly famine swept across the Bengal region of British India killing several million lives, a preventable tragedy entirely. European historians incline the British had their hands full with WWII, therefore could not do much. But in 2010, author Madhusree Mukerjee book “Churchill’s Secret War” came out with proofs that Britain’s greatest wartime leaders Sir Winston Churchill engineered a deliberate lack of famine relief. According to the book, Churchill refused to divert supplies away from already well-supplied British troops, saying the war effort wouldn’t allow it. This in itself wouldn’t be too damning, but at the same time he allegedly blocked American and Canadian ships from delivering aid to India either. Nor would he allow the Indians to help themselves: the colonial government forbade the country from using its own ships or currency reserves to help the starving masses. Meanwhile, London raised the price of grain with hugely inflated purchases, making it unaffordable for the dying and destitute. Most chilling, when the government of Delhi telegrammed to tell him people were dying, Winston Churchill allegedly only replied to ask why Mahatma Gandhi hadn’t died yet. This man-made famine and the contrast between the plight of starving Indians and well-fed British officers dining in the city’s many colonial clubs will never be forgotten by South Asians.

Today, India and Pakistan remain crippled by the narratives built around memories of the crimes of Partition. On the other hand,  the world stays duped on the South Asian history written by the “colonizers” that at best are criminals.

Note: The Human Lens initiative of online series “South Asian Partition 1947” continues throughout this month. The second part of this topic series will be published soon for readers. Copyrights @2015

Guide For Men On Becoming ‘Allies’ To Muslim Women Feminists

Last week’s post debated the continuous problems that Muslim women and feminists face in the name of solidarity and alliance support. Those who missed it can click here now. Such problems aren’t new to the world of feminism, most feminists be it brown, black, trans, white etc continue to struggle with comparable problems due to diverse societal understandings of what it means to be a “male ally.”

I cannot speak for non-Muslim women, in-fact I refuse to do it as obviously I am not white myself therefore I wont arrogant presume on what white women’s struggles are like. On the other hand, I try best to listen/ aware myself of these different struggles that are totally opposite to mine and finally I try not to be a jerk about it! Having said that. Today I speak on behalf of myself and Muslim women in particular those women of color feminists who identity with Islam as their religion. Its been a while I had been thinking on doing a story on the issue and last week’s post resulted in an interesting reaction from someone I know on a personal basis. This person asked me “how can men become allies with Muslim women and feminists.”

Now that made me sit back and think, remarkably this person’s been very supportive of my work on gender. women rights issues, problems in Pakistan and often brings attention to new events /valuable research work to further strengthen my case. In my eyes, this person is an ally and supporter even if he isn’t aware of this or doesn’t view it that way. Over the years, my personal struggle into feminism has come at a great price, Muslim or otherwise despite the immense opposition I have always had support from male allies, both within my community and outside in the west.

Now coming to the matter of how can men become allies with Muslim women and feminists. First thing first, there isn’t any rule book or set way to follow that men need to follow to become male allies or something silly like that. Here are some features of how allies of Muslim women and feminists  look like:

1. Men who embrace gender differences with dignity 

What? Good allies are those cool men who aren’t afraid nor insensitive enough to embrace the differences within genders. Such cool men are confident and secure in their masculinity and do not consider respecting women as equals in power yet different as a stain on their so-called male pride. Moreover their masculinity doesn’t suffer from anxieties despite societal pressures that place greater value on  pride where usually  male pride is taught and accepted as a ‘manly thing.’ Its only when male pride makes men rash and obstinate, there are problems. But awesome allies are all about ditching the pride thinge in order to move forward.

2. Men who build authentic partnerships with Muslim and women of color feminists

Good allies know that women are more than capable of handling ourselves despite odds. Be it war, earthquake, societal or legal discrimination, women of color have always found coping strategies and struggled on. Now good male allies would be those who wouldn’t hinder women of color’s skills and most importantly valuable points of view that are known to them best. To cut it short – a man, brown, white or whatever cannot know what its like to be a women of color or Muslim women and feminist. Yet good male allies are those wonderful men that acknowledge that there are things that he/them do not see and attribute their new learning into action by following these examples. All in all good male allies consider women as equal partners in all work they do jointly or otherwise.

3. Trust building, adequate space and acceptance of  cultural diversity 

Some years ago, I worked on a feminist project funded by USAID. During initial discussions on project outcomes, many young feminists showed reluctance to be in a room full of men that were foreign. Instead of usual crap, my male colleagues responsible for coordinating the project sat down in a meeting I called to raise these issues, they listened carefully as I explained that despite having a group of really dynamically strong women of color feminists, most weren’t feeling secure in presence of foreign men because most women of color/feminists live lives with the awareness of western men’s hostility and invalidation based on our race and gender. Secondly only a handful including myself had worked in close proximity with men on such sensitive issues hence we had another cultural barrier.

These cool dudes (may God bless them always) took my feedback seriously and assured that they had complete trust in my capabilities of getting the work done. This secure space resulted in finalizing the project outcomes deliverables in less time that allocated for brainstorming activities and the coordinators continued referring me to share what they could do or do not to help the project run smoothly.

4. Walking the talk works in mutual interests 

We all make mistakes, irrespective of our genders. In the quest of solidarity with feminists, male allies can and do mistakes. Most important is to understand that behind most such mistakes lies sincere interest for working on issues of Muslim women. Good men allies are those who stay humble enough to admit their wrongdoings and actively try to right these wrongs. Apologizing is step one, then doing something constructive even as simple as asking “how can things be put right” and actively working on like a team for getting it done are all signs of a good male ally.

5. The Learning Curve; Understanding that there isn’t any fixed rule on becoming the perfect male ally

In conclusion, as I said before there isn’t a guidebook for men to follow in order to be a perfect male ally. No comparisons, no competitions but a simple acknowledgement that Muslim women and feminists are coming from a place different from men. And male allies only know where they come from. This helps men to approach equality from a uniquely authentic and dis-empowered position from where they can help to achieve the changes required for the women’s empowerment. Most Muslim women living in Islamic countries or within Muslim communities are struggling with issues of power and male domination. And when male allies view things ‘through their eyes’ by putting themselves in those positions, we can hope to achieve a lot together.

I feel the feminism cause in particular Muslim feminists could do well with more strong male allies more now than ever. As a Muslim feminist, on my and on behalf of others I am deeply grateful to all the allies who stand by me and other Muslim feminists, because they understand that feminism is extremely diverse to be lumped into just one preset definition. To all those who are sincerely interested in ‘our diverse and different voices’ and accept us as equals having the right to speak for ourselves.

Thanks to the scores of male allies who stand by as we the Muslim women feminists use our ‘agency’ to state our ‘narrative’ without overshadowing us, regardless of how radical or different it is to what they imagined, perceived or are led to believe.

 

Feminism Debate| Fatima Bhutto Versus International Thinker Richard Dawkins

If you are wondering why exactly we are divulging into this very feminist debate match at The Human Lens, please know that this issue has again helped me to write on some ignored issues that comes under the concept of “OTHERNESS.” Now, Richard Dawkins needs neither introduction nor narrative, the prominent thinker started another of his messy debates on twitter of all places (seriously I need to address twitter activism another time) by his tweet stating “Islam needs a feminist revolution. It will be hard. What can we do to help?”

Disclaimer: Before we get further, let me be clear that this post has nothing to do with atheism or Mr. Dawkins being an atheist,  I strongly follow the policy, each or his or her own. Ok, so we are good.

So this “Oh Muslimah” saga is not new to Dawkins, many challenged him for what they see as his patronizing tone; Hind Makki a well known Muslim feminist and blogger, opines that Muslim women have been through this before.

After Dawkin tweeted his unsolicited advice to a religion of 1.6 billion+ it provoked many heated responses on twitter and otherwise. While Dawkins critique on religions is nothing new, his harsher stance on Islam and Islam’s women has been debated by both Muslim and non Muslim audiences.

Muslim women and especially those involved in the cause of religious Feminism are full of  mixed yet strong reactions. So once again, here’s another white man in position of privilege,  Richard Dawkins with his dismissal of the immensely valuable work that Muslim feminists and rights advocates are doing in Muslim countries and with Muslim communities.

Does Dawkins live in some Utopia where he is unable to see the real life examples of Fatima Mernissi, Aminda Wadood, Fouzia Saeed and countless others? Or like many others in his fellow race, he doesn’t think these women really qualify as feminists? Now this kind of nonsense makes the blood of most Muslim feminists boil, while others like me control the rage and take to write a post to highlight how such events are basically depicting the existing racial prejudices within feminism.

Now, Pakistani writer and poet, of international acclaim Fatima Bhutto had some serious responses to Dawkins when in her no-nonsense attitude she informed that such advice was neither appreciated nor required by Muslim women.  Bhutto went on explaining what else irked Muslim women/ feminists was the fact that yet again here’s another man trying to explain to women how to best live their lives. Within feminism, the theme mansplaining has time and again been debated. However in this case, some male writers and theorists have argued that Bhutto’s response was lacking and juvenile. Seriously?

Then there were some who said that muslim feminists are man haters like all other feminists every where else in the world. Seriously please explore reading skills and find a nearby library resource center that will help in getting rid of the inanity that feminists, Muslim or otherwise hate men.

So Bhutto made it crystal clear that Dawkins kind of response was not required. And that Muslim woman can decide for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t. So what exactly is the problem in that? So basically are we saying that Bhutto a women of color and her confident assertion doesn’t suit certain groups of people? These are the very people who think her’s was a shut down.

It never hurts to have allies, that’s true but it hurts a lot to have allies with savior syndromes that are seeking to “Save The Muslim Women” with their Islam needs a feminist revolution. It will be hard. What can we do to help mentality?

Time and again I am frustrated to see people’s inability in understanding littler things such as  Muslim women and Muslim feminists too should be afforded both dignity and equality. And certainly not this we will save you all poor victims approach, please.

And Mr. Richard Dawkins, Islam’s feminist revolution is happening right here, right now and at the right time in global history. And you know what, myself included, millions of Muslim women, feminists and allies  are part of it despite your apparent blindness. You are most welcome to come to Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan etc to witness this in person.

There Are A Thousand Ways To Go Home

COLLAGE

I sat near the window watching how the rain spattered against the glass, while taking sips from my hot milk tea and suddenly a thought struck me hard. OMG, its 2015  and its half gone despite many upheavals that continue to shake my life up.

Problems and Pakistanis go hand in hand and most of us are the living proof of it but being Pakistani means much more then that. Just recently someone very important in my life asked me “What does Pakistan mean to you?”  which was followed by “Why do you love Pakistan?.”

So this is my answer and this is what Pakistan means to me.

  • Pakistan is where I can hike into the Margalla Hill, Islamabad only to fall in love with the most adorable little kittens playing without a care in the world. Munna thank you for capturing that moment in time.
  • Pakistan is the land of Sufis and Sufi devotees who despite Taliban terror attacks continue to flock at the thousands of Sufi shrines, mausoleums and Dargahs which dot our landscape. Recently I went by foot to pay my regards to the patron Saint of Karachi; Abdullah Shah Ghazi Shrine. Visiting this Dargah is a powerful and spiritually moving experience, personally. That is also true for millions of other locals, despite the Islamic history, where Sufis and Islamists mullahs, dedicated to enforcing Koranic laws, have clashed. Mullahs demand obedience; Sufis tend to stress compassion and tolerance.
  • Pakistan is when your own sibling searches endlessly to find bakery preparing “street food” off course spicy samosas and pakoras for a gluten intolerant person like me. And Pakistan is also when he succeeds and comes home with the “foodies loot” that are shared over a cup of doodh pati tea :)
  • Pakistan is where after many failures you do see the result of your hard work and endless labor turning into a positive reality that may be insignificant for outsiders, but is something only a Pakistani can understand. In 2010, I worked on media literacy project in Pakistan, the first of its kind where a local NGO collaborated with the country wide media departments of universities.  Needless to say I lived and breathed while working on this exciting project. Additionally I produced/presented radio shows with participating campus radio stations on media literacy themes.At Islamia University, Bhawalpur, the radio shows received a lot of positive feedback and journalism students participated in various mock practices on script writing and story narrative. Today this campus radio has earned a reputation for maintaining media code of ethics and sensible programming techniques as opposed to the usual sensationalism heard on airwaves.

To be honest there are so so many more things that come to mind, but I will end with saying that there is nothing such as home and there is no home that is like Pakistan for me.

Indeed.

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again – Rumi 

Eid Fever Part I| American Consulate Celebrates Eid With Pakistanis

KARACHI: During Ramazan 2015, the employees of the US Consulate General reveled in the first ever iftar dinner with their local friends in true Pakistani style. The participating team were interviewed by local media to shared this experience and have said that they really enjoyed the fervor of sharing and caring and learned many interesting things related to the blessed month of Ramazan.

After their first iftar with Pakistani friends, they also received many more such invitations by Karachities. Overwhelmed and humbled, the US Consulate spent the first day of Eid with another Pakistani family and that experience was beyond magical according to them.

They loved celebrating Eid with our friends, exchanging gifts, and enjoying traditional Pakistan Eid snacks. The team wishes fellow Pakistanis a wonderful Eid in the country’s national language Urdu with words  “Aap sab ko bohat bohat Eid Mubarak!”

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Mehndi (heena) is an important part of Eid festivities and ladies of the US Consulate General Karachi adapted to the tradition with great enthusiasm. Many wore shalwar kameez in colorful patterns, some also glass bangles (local choorian) and applied heena. It was fascinating to see the female staff — who had never held a henna cone — attempting to tattoo each others’ hands with traditional designs using mehendi.

During a Pakistani Eid, food items both sweet and salty are a major looking forward to treat and the staffers enjoyed the various Eid delicacies with the host family over an informal table meet. The consulate members enjoyed the typical sheer khurma– a traditional Eid dessert.

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Eid time is special for children because gift sharing and a starring attraction of small monetary token is given to all little and young ones, get we call it Eidi in Urdu.  Apart sweets, little ones are anxiously waiting for these two and US Consulate members made two little girls very happy by indulging into the tradition!

Upon receiving Eidi, children are supposed to say ‘Adaab’ which is literally the traditional and universal South Asian  greeting (derived from Islamic etiquette) and it means  respect and conveys thank you. The little girl who recieved the Eidi envelope did the Adaab, catch this fun here. 

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In the season of sharing and caring, its wonderful to note how people from across the world can be joined through the simple yet beautiful occasion of Eid!

Things White Girls Say To South Asian ‘Brown’ Girls (Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi so on)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQXboElx_V8

Few days ago I wrote the post, “Things White Men Say to South Asian Women” and it received quite interesting feedback, but some got offended and couldn’t find the humor. Anyways today I am bringing part II of the story, now this video has been produced for all brown and South Asian folks, whether you’re Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Kashmiri, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, from the Maldives, or part of the greater diaspora, or share an ethnic ancestry with any of the above.

This is a collaboration of two very talented South Asians, Sameer Asad Gardezi, an award-winning Pakistani American Muslim screenwriter and television writer and the super insanely talented American actress and writer/ comedian Kosha Patel very well-known for Miss India America, The Indian and the Samurai and off course this hilarious video Shit White Girls Say… To Brown Girls that went viral. 

Truly this one is for anyone and everyone who wants to have a good laugh amidst the real lifetime awkwardness. Please check it out and share you thoughts?

P.S: South Asian women bloggers and my comrades in action, what are you thoughts on this… Hajra Khan, Meersha, Akriti Mattu, Haqsaima, Parul Thakur,  SameenEmphadiateDhriti Chhabra…. :) :)

Things White Men Say to South Asian Women

Truthfully speaking this post may be a big hard for people to digest as the title suggests, but having said that I would like to clarify that such attitudes are not representative of all “white man” but there are countless of white men that engage into such behavior the moment they come into interaction with South Asian women. In an effort to get to know, date or.. well just for the heck of it, a one night stand, these following questions and comments are sent our way.

1. You’re too cute to be Pakistan (apply Indian/Bangladeshi etc for rest of S. Asian nations) 

Woah, did I hear you right. Is that supposed to be a compliment from where you come from? Let me make it clear that such a phrase is not a compliment when you are surprised that I look good despite my ethnicity. And yes I do come from a region with extremely beautiful and confident women who wouldn’t look twice at men with juvenile tendencies.

2. Your English is so good. Really being South Asian how can you speak it so well?

Secretly we laugh every-time this statement comes out of exalted white mouths. Remember colonialism? It was when white imperialists took most part of the world including the Indian subcontinent profiting on our land and institutionalizing religious hatred resulting into Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. And that is why my English is so good, because colonial power equations still prevail and oh yes, you could redeem some points my apologizing for the imperial wars on my forefathers.

3. For an exotic woman (refers to my natural bronze complexion), you sure are intelligent! 

Scenario I. S. Asian woman: Cringes badly. White man: Expects her falling gratefully on his feet. Recently I was part of a humanitarian delegation meeting with an EU country mission. Believe it or not, after ten minutes into the discussion, this phrase was told to my face by His Excellency, The Ambassador of that country. On other occasions of my visits in Europe I get to hear stuff similar from white men and find silent ‘non acknowledgment best.’

4. Have your parents arranged your wedding? 

Even if they had or hadn’t, I think my marital status is NONE of your business. While I am aware of the arranged marriage issues within the community, allow me to reassure you that not every south asian woman is like the victim you saw in some first world production of arranged marriages.

5. I am a fan of curry.

Good for you and the first world companies selling un-original products. But here in South Asia there doesn’t exist anything “called curry” it’s just a made up concept by white people who have reduced few million recipes in the lands of spices to just one foul-smelling yellow powder.

6. Pakistani weddings (insert India or other S. Asian states) are colorful, but full of antique traditions and elephants. How do you cope?

Facepalming, despite not having visited any country in South Asia, nor knowing its languages and nor married to any local girl (thanks all the Lords for that) you think all that. And what’s this Hollywood obsession with Elephants, get over it.

7. Rape capital Lahore, it’s really bad for women right?

Yea, yea. Except for the 1 in 3 American women who face domestic violence and the 400,000 women in Britain who face sexual assault every year. Women across the world raped and beaten is more to do with patriarchy then your convenient idea of the “savage south asian man” and the saving brown women from their native men mindset. This useless display of sympathy by buying into the typical stereotype won’t get you anywhere with me. Period.

8. I bet I could show you a good time, it no secret that your local men aren’t endowed. 

How come such first hand knowledge of south Asian male private parts came. Finally a good time comes as he walks away chanting Jai Ho, Jai Ho, from Hollywood’s patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice movie -Slum Dog Millionaire.

This list was possible after my countless interactions with many South Asian women I know here in my country and abroad. What do you think, what are you thoughts, comments anyone?

 

A Very Blessed Eid Mubarak To All

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The Human Lens Wishes a Very Blessed Eid Ul Fitr Mubarak to all its global audiences, may Allah’s blessings be with you today, tomorrow, and always, ameen. face-smile.png

Happy Holidays!

Serving Western Style Democracy by Bombs & Invasions of Sovereign Nations

democracybombs

“The West always brags that its own democracy is a ‘universal value’ and denies there is any other form of democracy.” 

The western style of democracy by aggressive military assistance as bombs and ballots have helped decades long violence and turmoil in countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and recent African conflicts.

The reality is that; imperial style of Western democracy did not suit the whole world but sovereign countries are forced to bow down the USA, NATO etc. And frankly people need to get over the idea that the third world is in need of lessons from the west on what democracy.

The cold harsh message is clear: no one has the right of self-defense against such terrorist attacks. The US and allies are arrogant terrorist states by right which can do what ever they wish in any X, Y, X country. And this is the unchallengeable doctrine.

Take the example of Libya, where such state sponsored terrorism was legitimized by the NATO invasion and occupation for a forced “rebirth” of the country. We saw a somewhat similar repeat to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the result was equally devastating for those who have a conscience. Those sitting in west continue to term the military intervention as a “universal success for democracy” but nothing can change the fact that this was a colonial crusade by white nations. Yes, the pretext was protection of civilians in Libya, but the delivery was far more killing as this is a warning to the Arab world and Africa.

Today Libya is overrun by militias,  the chaos has already spilled into other countries and a regional civil war is brewing. But all those hailing such interventions are silent on the outcome of this war where an entire nation was forcefully destabilized, destroyed and the Libyan people driven into abysmal poverty.

I fear, Libya will surely continue its descent into mayhem whereas responsible for these consequences of their war continue to enjoy absolute diplomatic immunity and are already gathering for another military action not far from Libya.

Allah Al-Mighty save us from such saviors and their horrifying definitions of democracy that rob millions of innocent people of their dignity, national freedom and self-determination.

West Papua Indigenous People|06 July 1998- Recalling The Biak Massacre

 

On 6 July 1998, took place a horrifying incident that I wish to remind us all after 17 years. In Indonesia’s conflict zone, West Papuans were demonstrating for independence on the island of Biak. And they were attacked in a coordinated mechanism by the Indonesian military and police. The Biak Massacre is widely known in anecdotal terms in West Papua as being a really severe event but it’s not acknowledged officially at all – certainly not by the Indonesian government.

“The West Papuans in Biak were asserting their right to self-determination after more than three decades of Indonesian military occupation of West Papua. The slaughter began with a dawn raid on a peaceful encampment by the town’s water tower as many of the protesters slept or prayed. After the shooting stopped, the dead, dying, and wounded were loaded onto trucks and driven to the nearby naval base. Surviving Papuans were tortured and then loaded aboard Indonesian naval vessels and dumped into the ocean. Women were raped aboard the ships. Many of the victims had their hands bound or were stabbed before being thrown into the sea. Bodies of the victims washed up on Biak’s shores during the following weeks.”

ASEAN human rights advocate and Executive Director of North South Initiative, Malaysian based Ngo, Adrian Pereira said, “The Biak Incident represents one of the many gross violation of human rights in West Papua. It is only right that Jokowi allow international NGOs to enter West Papua to conduct fact findings and people’s tribunals on such violation to ensure the state supported perpetrators are taken to task.” 

No government of Indonesia has acknowledged the massacre or held the perpetrators accountable. The government continues to discourage investigation of this and other human rights crimes in West Papua by limiting access to the territory by foreign journalists, independent researchers, as well as UN and other international officials.

Watch the video testimony of Mr.Octavianus Mote, human rights advocate, journalist from the West Papua’s Me tribe. At the time of the incident, he was the bureau chief of Kompas daily in Papua and West Papua. Eyewitness of the facts occurred in Biak, he played a role of mediator between the Indonesian Government and the 100 Papuan leaders.

Fleeing an assassination attempt, he now lives in the United States where he was granted asylum and continues his important work for West Papua independence.

Justice delayed is justice denied, 17 years passed on and there is no real closure on the Biak incident. The Human Lens is actively campaigning with ASEAN lobby for bringing readers the on-ground stories from West Papua. Moreover,  we feel that the chilling silence of the international community on these violations is equally disturbing as without a limelight on West Papua, the violations are bound to continue.

 

 

Orang Asli| Voices of Malaysia’s Aboriginal People Reaching Masses

Two Sides of Every Story
Two Sides of Every Story@Shaq Koyok

The artist Shaq Koyok was born in Kampung Pulau Kempas in Banting, Selangor. He started painting with oil pastels at five years old, using his talent as a way to express his feelings about everything that happened around him, weaving a tapestry of sensitive human emotions and events in his life and most importantly the “rights of indigenous people in Malaysia.” 

As he turned 13, Koyok started drawing portraits and since then has worked with many mediums. Today, this young artist armed with an honors degree in fine arts from MARA, he has produced works reflecting his growing concern about the Orang Asli people in Malaysia. In his own words, Koyok says “My activism activities remain the most important to me. I shed light on issues affecting my community.” 

With growing developmental projects in Malaysia, vast amounts of the rain-forest that once covered Peninsular Malaysia have been cut or burnt down for commercial purposes. The risk to environment, land and indigenous people continues to grow as Malaysia partners with first world countries in the race to become more advanced and rich.

In this scenario, native tribes like Orang Asli are concerned about their coming future. They are listed into the world’s indigenous people, the term Orang Asli means “natural people” or “aboriginal people” in Malay, is a generic Malaysian term used for people indigenous to Peninsular Malaysia. Officially, there are 18 Orang Asli tribes and today they comprise only 0.5% of the total population in Malaysia with a total number approximately is somewhere around 148,000.

Malaysia track record, as well as international community support for assistance to Orang Asli has been historically unsatisfactory and needs to be criticized. An artist like Shaq Koyok is testament to the growing concerns of the remaining Orang Asli who sit precariously between Mother Nature and business, and whose voices are deliberately suppressed by those sitting in power. The artist’s love for nature and cultural preservation comes from his roots, and Mother Earth that is depicted in his artistic masterpieces.

 

Shaq also collaborates with North South Initiative, Malaysia run NGO by using its office space as a gallery which simultaneously gives visitors and collaborators a glimpse into Shaq’s creative world. 

Shaq Koyok despite living in an urbanized setting has a deep love for nature and cultural preservation coming from his roots, and is depicted in his talent to his raise awareness. More over he is disturbed by the plight faced by his people today — from the loss of land to the destruction of the surrounding, natural habitat.

He says, “Art allows me to express what I cannot put into words. Orang Asli communities face many problems with modernity; they’ve been slow to embrace it. I feel it’s my responsibility to spread the message, and tell their side of the story. I hope the world can see what’s happening, as there’s a story behind every painting.”

Confessions of Palm Oil@Shaq Koyok
Confessions of Palm Oil@Shaq Koyok

The above painting called “In Confessions Of Palm Oil,” Shaq Koyok depicts how the planting of the crop has deprived the Orang Asli community of fertile soil for their agriculture. Shaq’s primary inspiration for his artwork is his own people – the Orang Asli and he fights through art to see the change he wants for indigenous peoples here.

In today’s world, the voices of the little known tribe Orang Asli and issues haven’t been given attention because the community is too small. But Shaq’s work is a strong voice for the change necessary for the preservation of one of the last remaining native people in the world.

 

 

 

The Written Vs. Not Written Stuff: Death by Stoning a draconian law in Islamic Ummah Part II

The collaborative series, Part II authored by Papatia Feauxzar

“And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they should commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free [unmarried] women. This [allowance] is for him among you who fears sin, but to be patient is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” 4:25

We weren’t present when Quranic verses were being revealed. But what we’re present for and witnesses to, is today’s barbaric acts committed against ‘sinners’ and innocents lives by stoning.

We are all sinners to some degree. Moreover, many innocent lives are also wasted by stoning due to evil people plots against their innocent souls. Some people would lie and accuse their spouses of adultery because they have a candidate lined up. It could also be out of vengeance or pure jealousy. Human nature just never fails to err or disappoint gravely.

“And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” 4:28

Whatever happens to the message of peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, etc. that the Quran preaches? Every page of the Quran is indeed a testament of goodness, science, and the existence of Allah. We should take note of that.

There is a reason ‘concrete’ stoning verses didn’t make it to the Quran. I say concrete because their occurrence is still disputed. So let’s say, stoning verses were revealed. I want to believe that it was with the qadr of Allah that they didn’t become official in the holy book. Make no mistake, the Quran is very powerful and nobody can alter it without unleashing the wrath of Allah on himself. He and his angels protect the divine revelation. Before our beloved prophet sallalahu aleihi wa salam, many messengers were sent. Their messages were nullified and priority was given to the Quran.

And even during the revelation, many verses were revealed and later on abrogated. This is the known case of the consumption of alcohol. Yes, at one time Muslims were allowed to drink alcohol. But because some of the Muslims at that time were negligent with their prayers, they were forbidden to drink as a final order. They were warned several times before drinking was banned altogether for our Ummah.

Du coq à l’âne, I want to apply this reasoning to stoning, maybe it was allowed to stone people in the early days but the practice lost its backbone because the authenticity of the punishment doesn’t stand anymore. I think Allah is testing us and the smart one will prevail. Forgiving is divine and we should act accordingly. He gave us a brain for a reason so that we may use it and come to sane and non-blaspheming conclusions. Therefore, stoning doesn’t have its place in Islam. In fact, no verse in the Quran supports it.

We can teach a lesson to the offender by inflicting on them the number of lashes prescribed but it comes to if you can honestly prove that the defendant did something wrong. Muslims, please fear Allah when you accuse someone of an illegal part because you’ll be judged upon your words. Take this seriously and be merciful on your brothers and sisters in Islam by not starting false rumors, see part I.  “The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.”24:2

Wouldn’t anybody wish for forgiveness if they had sinned? Why do we quench the blood thirst of our naf by taking pleasure in the death of another being? We should know that stoning fosters hatred, anger, depression, sadness, sinister feelings that any believer in his right mind should recognize as not healthy for the soul! On this note, Allahu alim. Allaha ghafurun rahimun.

Note: The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. We will be pleased to hear your feedback, here at wordpress or through email which ever medium works for you.  

Copyrights @2015

The Written Vs. Not Written Stuff: Death by Stoning a draconian law in Islamic Ummah Part I

The collaborative series, Part I authored by Saadia Haq

On 11 July 2013, Arifa Bibi, a young mother of two, was sentenced by a tribal court in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab Province to be stoned to death. The local a tribal court, known as “panchayat” in Urdu found Arifa Bibi guilty of a grave crime demanding such a harsh penalization.

Her crime: possession of a mobile phone. 

No wait seriously? Yes, the tribal court opined that a married woman in possession of a mobile phone was the greatest sign of her “adulterous nature” that needed to be nipped into the bud, immediately.

So came that fateful day, when Arifa Bibi was taken to a spot, worthy of this punishment. And so arrived the most virtuous brigade; her blood relations including an uncle, cousins and others to hurl stones and bricks until she succumbed. Later, they buried her body anonymously without any proper funeral.

The police registered a case against the culprits and members of the tribal court, but justice is yet to be served. Such news is not unique to the Islamic State of Pakistan or Islam itself.

According to the research “MAPPING STONING IN MUSLIM CONTEXTS” the use of stoning is legal or practiced in at least 15 countries or regions. It has spread in either theory or practice, or both, in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Indonesia (Province of Aceh), Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nigeria (12 northern states), Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE and Yemen. The research also highlighted that data gathering of cases of stoning in the Muslim world proved to be a huge challenge and the pervasiveness of such accounts was beyond the research team’s expectations.

On a global scale, women rights campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise within Muslim communities.  The connection of stoning with Islam and Muslim communities is covered well in the upcoming part II by my coauthor Papatia Feauxzar.

It is interesting to note that while women get stoned in the backyard, most Muslim scholars are still arguing the semantics on whether Quran prescribes stoning and why so through Sharia.  In the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence including Shafii, Hanbali, Hanafi and Shia schools the proof required to convict an adulterer is so stringent that the smallest doubt or lack of evidence should prevent a stoning sentence from taking effect.

Although several countries have codified laws on stoning, the punishment remains a point of disagreement between Islamic scholars. Execution by stoning is still carried out in various parts of the Muslim world (either by state or non-state actors) as a punishment for zina (adultery and fornication).  The legal punishment of stoning was revived with political Islam during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. However, stoning also occurs in contexts where there is no legal precedent for the practice. For example, in Iran, zina “crimes” and punishments are outlined in the Penal Code; in Afghanistan, on the other hand, stoning occurs extra-judiciously – it is more of a “cultural” or “traditional” punishment that members of the community implement themselves. Although there are few documented instances of stoning, this form of punishment is still a serious threat to both women and men living in Muslim contexts.

Other notable examples include African countries including Nigeria and Sudan where non-state actors practice stoning under the guise of being culturally authentic.

The Case of Pakistan: Legal Background of Stoning

For example in Pakistan, Shari’a law in Pakistan was implemented shortly after Genral Zia ul-Haq came into power in 1979 (Ordinance No. VII of 1979) and began to Islamize the legal system. Through this legal conversion, hudood offences were included in the law, which prescribed hadd sentences for certain offences. Zina was among these hudood crimes. Under these laws, for a married Muslim (Muhsan) the punishment of death by stoning was introduced for cases of zina and rape.

In 2006, the Pakistani parliament passed the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act62, which amended the Zina Ordinance of 1979 and removed rape from its ambit. One can only be charged with zina if four adult male Muslims witness the act and testify this before the court. The punishment of stoning for a married Muslim offender has been retained in law; however, to date, no such punishment has been carried out within the legal system.

However, women continue to be stoned inside the country, the pervasiveness of the crime is noted most in Punjab, followed by North West and Balochistan by non state factors including tribal system and patriarchal customs. Most noticeable is the fact that, on a larger part more women get killed by stoning as compared to men. However, there are notable cases like a Pakistani army officer being stoned for having an alleged affair with a girl.

Being a Muslim alone, it is hard to cope with the disheartening reality that most Muslim communities living inside Islamic countries or in the west also approve of this gory form of punishment. Most people seek refugee behind the straight-laced and rigid interpretation of Allah’s message and the Quran.

Yet it is the same Quran that speaks of forgiveness, humanity and compassion. And my understanding of Islam has made my belief strong in Allah The Most Merciful. In writing this series, both Papatia and I have spent several weeks laboring the whole issue. During my research one very interesting reference caught my attention, a fatwa by s recipient of the award “One of The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World”, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who states,

“It is not true or correct to say that those who have been guilty of adultery can only be forgiven by Allah if they submit themselves to be stoned to death. The Qur’an and the Sunnah are replete with texts that make it abundantly clear that adulterers can be fully forgiven provided they repent and change and amend their evil ways. There is no doubt adultery has been described by Allah as a most heinous sin and despicable way; therefore, the faithful are not only ordered to shun it altogether but also told not even to “go near it”. This means they are to stay away from all circumstances, incentives, and associations that may lead to adultery. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No one commits adultery while doing so remaining a believer.”

Moreover, Allah tells us in the Quran that severe punishment in the Hereafter is awaiting those who commit adultery. Nevertheless Allah teaches us in the Qur’an that His mercy is limitless.”

In conclusion, I must say that I agree with Papatia who will highlight in part II her argument that forgiveness is divine and Allah expects us to use our minds sanely and wisely. Stoning as a form of punishment contradicts the very spirit of Islam, contradicts the Holy Quran, and is against Allah’s will; therefore it is a profound humiliation to human life that was granted to us by our Creator Allah the Almighty.

Stay tuned to The Human Lens for  part II of this series is coming soon!

Research “MAPPING STONING IN MUSLIM CONTEXTS” and The Dawn, Pakistan.

Note: The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. Copyrights @2015

 

Pakistan Emergency|1000 Dead in Deadly Heatwave While Govt Mulls On Action Plan

This year the unforgiving heat has spared no one at all, in the city of Karachi and across Sindh Province. An emergency has finally been declared after 1000 people died this week due to heat wave and electricity shortage issues.

While Pakistan and the southern city of Karachi is used to baking in the hear around this time of the year, just before the monsoon rains arrive as welcome relief, however this year heat wave has been particularly brutal. It all began last Friday, exactly the first Ramadan in Pakistan. Th temperatures reached 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.64 degrees Fahrenheit) — the highest-recorded temperature in the country in the last 15 years.

Further more, as the heat wave continued, the Government of Pakistan continued with its ongoing electricity shortage – daily electricity outage for 10-12 and in other places 16 hours in others. All those promises by GoP that load-shedding of power will be relaxed during month of Ramadan remained promises.

It is heart breaking to just live in this situation where either people are in mourning for their dead or caring for the heat stroked lying in critical conditions in various hospices.  Many of those who died were fasting. And finally our Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Munibur Rehman issued a fatwa on Wednesday stating it was permissible to break one’s fast under extraordinary circumstances, such as the heat wave affecting parts of Pakistan.

Scores of people stopped fasting but rather trying to help others already affected in the situation. And in a sense, despite not fasting Pakistanis are following the basic principle of Ramadan. As this month is all about solidarity and helping each other.  People have taken to hosing each other down with water to avoid collapsing from heat strokes and state of emergency is in full force in hospitals struggling to cope with the 3,000 people affected by heat stroke and dehydration.

Speaking to The Human Lens on the occasion, a very concerned sister in faith Papatia Feauxzar said that “Allah, this is very sad. May Allah make things better for your nation, amiin. I’m truly disheartened :/. May the victims become shahid that will enter paradise without any issues, amiin.” 

The heat wave has once again exposed Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government’s failure to fund social services, making for a glaring contrast to the military, which often takes the lead in responding to natural disasters. The major chunk of this nuclear armed nation’s annual budget goes to the military, which as ruled Pakistan for half its history.

Public services in the 190 million nation is starved of resources because almost all its wealthy evade taxes. The politicians are enjoying their blame game in the parliament for this recent crisis while the theater of death continues.

 

 

Pakistan| National Protests Against Yemen War Fiasco

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Since the war in Yemen has broke out, thanks to Saudi Arabia led coalition and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is once-again under strict public criticism for supporting The Kingdom in its aggression against Yemen. Since March this year, local populations, leading politicians and anti war activists have taken to the streets and online campaigns to strongly condemn  the Saudi invasion of Yemen and the Pakistani government’s support towards it.

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Most Pakistani anti war activists demand that Nawaz-administration should step back from joining Saudi invasion of Yemen which incidentally happened because the Saudi Government paid the Nawaz administration 1.5 billion dollars last year that the government insists, was a gift from the Kingdom.

There is no such thing as a gift from the House of Saud and This Kingdom. So far, the pressure is building and while Pakistan is supporting the aggression it has so far refrained from joining the airstrikes. Many inside the government and opposition feel that Pakistan should play a lead role in bringing peace instead of joining the Saudi invasion of Yemen.

Why Pakistanis are against War in Yemen?

While many see the crisis in Yemen as a proxy battle between the two Muslim sects camps of Sunni and Shia led respectively by Saudi Arabia and Iran, the people in Pakistan have already seen the glimpses of this war, although in an entirely different form, for nearly three decades.

The Pakistan-based religious schools, which are allegedly substantially funded by Saudi Arabia and several other oil-rich Arab states for promotion of Wahabi Salafi agenda, have been churning out Islamic terrorists and providing sanctuary to similar local and foreign fugitives. Today’s Pakistan is collapsing beyond a hopeful future and in addition Shia persecution is increasing in the country. Pakistan finds itself into a seriously sandwiched position between Arabians and Persian conflicts and has been eradicating its own Persian heritage under the patronage of “The Kingdom.”

Pakistan’s civil society joined the recently held public protests and have criticized strongly the formation of partnership into this new war, that is NOT our war, and all while at home millions of Pakistanis are perishing in the hideous war of terror.

National Civil Society’s official statement said that, “We are already cleaning the mess created in 1970’s. It’s been four decades and another century and it doesn’t seem to end. We have already lost thousands and thousands of Pakistanis because of policies of the few. We are a much informed and politically engaged nation now and we will not let our government fight other’s wars. We will not let our forces to get dragged in the self-created mess of Middle East. PM Nawaz Sharif don’t try to pay back to Saudi Arabia at the expense of 180 million people. “

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Karachi: Local Protesters Demand To stop War In Yemen
What Pakistanis think of the on-going war in Yemen?

A commentator at Tribune Pakistan said that first Pakistan should defend Pakistan’s territorial integrity, they cannot even ensure the safety of children in schools and here they are going to defend a county larger than Pakistan itself. 

Another social media user said Pakistan should work for unity of Muslim countries nor to indulge in such sectarian crises. We have already paid a lot for others war- US NATO war on Afghanistan. We should work now for our own country reforms.

Amina*, university going student told me “Why does no one consider that Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world with over half the population living below the poverty line and in need of food? Yemen poses no harm to anyone least for all Pakistan, whom Yemen deeply respects and looks up to. Pakistan should consider the humanitarian angle of the war. Also none of the war coalition countries would ever defend Pakistan. Never. These Arabs hate us,  Yemeni people dont deserve to be terminated just because Sunnis and Shias are putting up a show of who is more powerful.  Can we stop being so juvenile?”

Speaking on the controversy of Middle Eastern bloc on pressurizing Government of Pakistan to join this war prompted this reaction from a local beautician who works in a well-known saloon. In her words, “Pakistan does not need dictation from Saudis and UAE. Pakistan still lone survivor from terrorism which was initiated by Saudia years ago. Time to focus on fixing our own mess.”

The public opinion is Pakistan points to several important factors including the fact that this is not our war and that a crumbling Yemen doesn’t deserve to become the latest battle ground for the vested interests of super powers.

SAY NO TO WAR IN YEMEN.

Say No To War, Anywhere. Stand with Yemen, Stand with Humanity.

Justifying International Invasions and Target Killings For Protection of Muslim Women

In the post 9/11 scenario, a consolidated effort on part of western countries was made for the justification of rampant target killings, drone strikes and foreign invasions.  This justification duped the world into thinking that such acts were made to shield Muslim women from violence. In 2001, I learned of a press conference by the US President George W. Bush where he spoke at length about the “might” of America and NATO Allies in getting rid of terrorist organizations like Al- Qaeeda, TTP and other gory leaders like Osama Bin Laden and so forth.

We are all testament to what exactly followed in Afghanistan and Pakistan after Mr.Bush boasted countless victories in the nefarious “war on terror.” Mr. Bush narrated two very stirring tales on this occasion. In his own words, he said that “I was struck by this: that in many cities, when Christian and Jewish women learn that Muslim women — women of cover — were afraid of going out of their homes alone, that they went shopping with them, that they showed true friendship and support — an act that shows the world the true nature of America.”

Further he added that “The story I talked about earlier was one that really touched my heart, about women of cover fearing to leave their homes. And there was such an outpouring of compassion for people within our own country, a recognition that the Islamic faith should stand side by side, hand to hand with the Jewish faith and the Christian faith in our great land. It is such a wonderful example.” This saving of Muslim women syndrome received backing by western women allies, one such, Ms. Laura Bush as a principal justification for the Afghanistan War.

This brings me to the second story from Mr. Bush’s press conference where quoting word to word, “Ultimately, one of the best weapons, one of the truest weapons that we have against terrorism is to show the world the true strength of character and kindness of the American people. Americans are united in this fight against terrorism. We’re also united in our concern for the innocent people of Afghanistan.”

Since then there is no gong back to this deliberate conflict that has advanced into South Asia and Middle East on the proposed pretext. But the reality is quite the opposite to what the west wants us to think and believe in. The disastrous effects of Afghan Invasion and West supported war on terror inside Pakistan has accumulated the greatest numbers of war victims to be: women.

If you don’t believe me a Muslim writer on this, please read up available data on the war strategies including target killings and American strikes on civilian populations. Reports have surfaced detailing how Muslim women themselves are killed devastatingly. Though their deaths have been largely ignored by the Western media and denied by the U.S. government, the wealth of data on drone strikes is clear: “targeted” killings murder scores of civilians, including many women and children.

Moreover, the rising deaths of Muslim men in the war on terror is basically affecting Muslim women, because those men are fathers, husbands, brothers and sons and most important bread winners for their families. Their deaths lead to broken families that are disadvantaged by further by economic crisis. Western agenda to wipe out SAVAGE Muslim men is resulting into millions of widows that so presumed compassionate Americans don’t give a shit about, or care.

And finally, drones exact a toll on Muslim women’s communities simply by the very presence of the vehicles. In many regions of Northwest Pakistan, drones constantly circle villages, giving rise to an atmosphere of intense fear. Sites for drone attacks have included mosques, civilians’ houses and funerals and the secondary drone strike strategy have instilled so much fear into people that villagers are scared to go out and help neighbors bombed by a drone.

In my recent conversations with westerners I have failed to understand how they continue to think that they can save Muslim women by killing Muslim men. I find their western commentary assuming that the War on Terror has been a good thing for us Muslim women very inhumane and degrading. It also gives me an eye-opening peep inside the minds of people who think such barbarity is necessary for their misguided rescue mission of Muslim women on a global scale.

As a Muslim feminist, I also find it very interesting to note that Feminist organizations throughout the U.S. that had been working on a campaign against the Talibans abuse of women rights have been deliberately silent on the toll of Muslim women issues that have cropped up during the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Like Ms. Laura Bush, another proclaimed American feminist of Eve Ensler wrote a skit into her play, Vagina Monologues, called “Under the Burka” which decried the oppression, heat and isolation of the veil.  The concern Ensler showed for the plight of Afghani women is admirable and supportable but it was performed at a time when the U.S. government is using rhetoric of “saving by bombing.” I mean seriously?

As the western world goes about “NOT” listening at all to Muslim Women, by taking away our agency deliberately, people like myself will keep writing such stuff in order to be a thorny reminder protest against this continued need to invade and plunder our lands on pretext of saving us.

Don’t justify your wars, your thirst and lust for power on our backs.  YOU with your bombs and your drones won’t save us.

Believe it or not, its only we who has the power to save and liberate ourselves.  And frankly you are in the way.

The Iron Lady of Manipur Irom Sharmila Chanu’s Struggle Against State Persecution

The Human Lens is currently showcasing the  conflict issues in North East India and in this regard we have spoken with Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum, and the last post focused on the problems of widows and orphaned children as a result of the conflict exodus. While the State goes about its business of persecuting communities, there are many conscious personalities struggling for human rights restoration.

Today we are continuing our conversation with Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum about one very important person-  Irom Sharmila Chanu.

Haq: Who is Irom? Why is she known as the Iron Lady of Manipur? What is her struggle about?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum says that Irom Sharmila personifies struggle to protect civil and human rights. She embodies an independent  unmatched tireless selfless movement for the noble cause in India.  Her struggle started in November, 2000, when ten people were killed when a paramilitary force opened fire at a bus-stop near Malom in Manipur. The troops of 8th Assam Rifles were deployed in Malom to counter the ‘insurgent’ attack in the area. Most of the victims were students and women that were terminated during the firing spree of a  brutal combat operation. A witness to this horrifying incident, then 20- year Irom was shocked at the anarchical state act, she decided to begin a fast unto death demanding the repeal of the Act responsible for such brutality on the part of the state – the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. According to Amnesty International, Irom Sharmila is declared a Prisoner of conscience, and “is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs.”

Thus began the fight of Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady from Manipur whose fast has completed 15 years this year.

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Haq: What was the government reaction to the protest?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Though Sharmila began her marathon fast in protest, the investigation into the Malom massacre has still not yet been completed in these 15 years. Following a directive of the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench, in 2004 and 2005, the District and Session’s Judge is conducting an inquiry into the incident.

On January 7, 2010, a team of the court led by Th Surbala, the District and Session’s Judge, Manipur East, conducted a spot inquiry at Malom and investigation is on into the facts and circumstances leading to the firing incidents.

Haq: What has happened to The Iron Lady since her fast protest?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Since November 2, 2000, Sharmila has been arrested under section 309 of IPC which punishes attempted suicide by a one-year imprisonment. She is released every year to be arrested again. A compartment in the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital has become her virtual nest, where the activist, poetess in Sharmila pens her verses. She has clarified her resolve to continue fasting  until the repeal of the Act.

Haq: A fasting protest lasting over a decade is a profound reality, how has been the reaction of the family and people?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: During a telephonic interview, her brother Singhajit shared his memories of his sister’s childhood. He said, ‘Up to 10 years she was somewhat different from other children A pure vegetarian, she trained in yoga after completing 10 grade. She has few close friends and was a solitude seeking person, who spent time listening radio, reading and wirting poems etc. In short she was different.  In October 2000, retired Justice Suresh from Bombay lead a commission and inquired about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Sharmila attended it as an individual activist. It was completed on 25th October, 2000. The Malom massacre took place on November 2. Ten people were killed near the airport in Malom. Sharmila began her fast after hearing the sound of the massacre on that Thursday. She informed some of her friends about her fast and then went to our mother to seek her permission for the fast. A mother being a mother gave her blessings and supported her daughter’s mission.

On 5th, she went to the Malom Massacre site and sat there continuing her fast. In the early morning on 6th November, she was arrested and taken into police custody. On November 11, 2000, Irom’s brother visited the Sajowa jail and told her that we would fight together but she should give up her fasting. She replied, ‘Please come to encourage me and don’t come to discourage me’. At that moment, I promised her that I will be with her in her struggle. After returning from the jail, I resigned my job as an agriculture officer in a leading NGO where I was drawing a handsome salary to devote myself for Sharmila’s struggle and since then I am with her.’

When asked about the reaction of the state agencies when Sharmila decided to fast, Singhajit informed that the family members were threatened by the state agencies and were urged to sign in a letter for handing over Sharmila to the family. ‘But we believe that since Sharmila started her fast she is no more my sister, rather she is the sister of whole Manipur. We cannot sign in any paper asking to hand her over to our family’ he said.

Singhajit was emotional to answer his mother’s reaction over the whole incident. He said, ‘Our mother said that she feels happy when she gets the news about Sharmila’s achievement. But she feels sad whenever she remembers about her daughter. She passes several nights in tears. She believes that she will die after Sharmila’s death for that is something she wishes for.

Haq: Has the Iron Lady of Manipur met her mother she started her fast?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Since Sharmila started her fast, the mother and daughter have never met as a personal meeting such as this may discourage Sharmila from continuing her struggle. Until and unless the mission is accomplished, the mother and daughter will never meet. Irom herself says that “The day AFSPA is repealed I will eat rice from my mother’s hand.”

Haq: Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, the Iron Lady of Manipur is declared as “the world’s longest hunger striker”. She was also voted as the most iconic woman during 2014’s Women’s Day and other laurels. But within India she continues to face the charge of attempted suicide. What legal battles await her?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Irom Sharmila has been regularly released and re-arrested every year since her hunger strike began under IPC section 309. The law declares that a person who “attempts to commit suicide … shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year [or with fine, or with both. The most recent development in that the Judge in Delhi hearing the case is allowing Sharmila to take the stand and speak in her own defense on 11 August 2015.

Check out Dr. Anjuman’s exclusive at http://twocircles.net/2010nov02/irom_sharmila_10year_fast_against_afspa.html#.VXavBtKUfRs.

The Human Lens thanks Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum for her continued collaboration in making possible this series. Through this series, it is hoped that people far and wide with learn and support the struggle of the Iron Lady of Manipur for the complete repeal of the AFSPA by the Indian Government.

Gun Widows of Manipur| North East India’s Realities Untold

Last week, we spoke with an Indian Human Rights Activist and lawyer scholar, Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum on the situation of conflict in North East India, for those who missed it, please see my post here.  Today we are bringing the second part of the series, Dr. Anjuman has written a eye opening story at on northeast India, particularly in Manipur, everyday newspapers carry reports of either ‘suspected militants’ killed in encounter or cross-firing or ‘civilians killed by unknown youths’. Civilian population is sandwiched between the clashes everyday by either state actors or non-state actors. Needless to say that extortions, threats, kidnapping and killings are ‘normal’ phenomenon now.

She feels the local society is heavily militarized and  “might of the gun” is seen as solution to all problems. Most killings of ‘suspected militants’ are never investigated to ascertain the circumstances leading to their death. There are allegations that youths are kidnapped by the state forces and killed later on in ‘encounters’. Such deaths bring immense suffering on women and destroy households.

MANIPUR CONFLICT? 

Manipur is one of eight states that make up India’s Northeast territories. Tethered to mainland India by the narrow Siliguri Corridor, only between 21 to 40 kilometers wide, the Northeast region was not part of historical India. Manipur was an independent kingdom able to trace its history to 33 A.D., and it shared closer linguistic and cultural ties with its neighbors to the east.  Even after it was conquered by the British in the nineteenth century, Manipur remained a separate administrative unit with its own king and legal system. However, after a series of political maneuverings, in 1949, India forcibly annexed Manipur.

When Manipuri groups attempted to dispute the legality of the annexation agreement, India responded by using brute military force to counter any aspirations for independence.  Declaring Manipur and much of the Northeast a “disturbed area,” the government used the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — initially a colonial ordinance used by the British to suppress Indian calls for self-rule — to suppress Manipuri desires for the same.  The initial liberation struggle to restore Manipur’s sovereign independence and the massive, and disproportionate, counterinsurgency measures by the Indian government resulted in a state of armed conflict that lasted decades.

The insurgency was at its height in the 1980s and 90s, but has since been effectively quashed.  For all intents and purposes, the people of Manipur are integrated into the Indian political system.  But even though much of Manipur’s insurgency has been brought under control, Delhi continues to maintain Manipur’s status as a troubled territory, and the Indian army remains in the state.  Overt racism by the predominantly Hindi-speaking speaking security forces goes unchecked.  Thousands of Manipuri people have been murdered.  Yet more have been disappeared while in state custody.  Rapes of Manipuri women by Indian security forces have been all too common.

In 2011, Dutch international development organization Cordaid along with four local partners have published a harrowing eye opener book, “We, widows of the Gun” where five young widows from Manipur (Northeast India) tell their stories for the first time. They call themselves the gun widows. The fates of these women are by no means unusual and countless  women in Manipur can tell a similar story. They remain silent out of fear of state violence and persecution. Over the past five decades there have been many hundreds of extrajudicial executions in Manipur, and many hundreds of Manipuri have been tortured and killed by rebels.

After the shock of losing their husbands the real fight of these widows only begins: the fight for their children’s future, the fight against the stigma that comes with being the widow of a suspected terrorist. The fight  against impunity, corruption, extortion, crippling inflation and strangling black markets. In short, the struggle to live life in dignity – as a woman, a mother, a widow and as a citizen.

Some of these widows have launched legal proceedings to prove their husbands’ innocence. They charge the state, army or police with gross human rights violations and are fighting back, please check the download link to read more on the struggles faced by these women in conflict.

Manipur can only rise when the world sees what is happening in this closed off militarized state and human rights sentiments demand that the world pays immediate attention towards this conflict.  And to make sure that happens, Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum continues to strive bringing forward the untold realities from North East India.

References:

1. Cordaid, Women in Governance Manipur, the Gun Victims Survivors Association, Human Rights Alert, the Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Manipur

2. Year of publication:2011Authors:Cordaid , Women in Governance Manipur, the Gun Victims Survivors Association, Human Rights Alert, the Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Manipur

 

 

 

 

Obliterating The Taboo-Muslim Women & Sexuality Part II

Being a Pakistani Muslim feminist, I have no problems is discussing Muslim women and their sexuality, yet realistically speaking I am obstructed in doing so by standards and stereotypes that have set for “Muslim women.” My co-author for this series, the spirited British Pakistani Muslimah, Hajra Khan has covered the matters of being a practicing Muslim women in the west very well in part I, highly recommended for readers.

At length, she demystifies how western standards affect the Muslim women living in Europe and elsewhere white world where ludicrous groups like FEMEN decide to become dictatorial mouthpiece for the Muslim women. Previously I have written on this matter too and I like to call this the “Saving Muslim Women Syndrome” that 99 out of 100 westerners suffer from. Be it in their geographical setting or a so-called third world country like Pakistan, for instance take an example of myself. A while ago I gave a women rights and media reporting presentation to a group of foreign diplomats working in Islamabad; most of them were shocked out their core to face a confident Muslim woman in sneakers and jeans without any artifice of makeup so preferred by European professionals working in diplomatic and humanitarian sector. And let’s be frank, probably they expected a lady in hijab and oriental eye make, whereas I see no point in “I am high maintenance” when I work in human rights sector and a lot with grass-roots activism.

Having worked for more then 15 years with non-white colleagues, I have come to experience anger, disgust, resignation, humor and irony is their subtle and not so subtle expectations of how my sexuality should be as a Muslim woman. It’s a bizarre experience to hear western people tell me how oppressed I am for internally I know they have literally no idea what they are talking about. On the other hand, living inside a Muslim country and being a practicing Muslim woman is not a bed of roses either. I am not a hijab wearer myself; although I respect and support Muslimah sisters who actively choose it o express their Muslim women identities. But having said that I don’t agree and support hardliner religious bigots and their oppressive campaigns stating… better to wear hijab, it saves you from being raped.”

Believe it or not I have attended such public sermons events with mixed yet segregated audiences listen on as the revered cleric tells them things like… In Islam, women earn Allah’s grace by obeying their husbands, hence the messages is clear MEN RULE, women obey.

Moving forward to more disturbing analogies where clerics teach…. Women are fitna (chaos) therefore they need to be covered so the men aren’t distracted. Clearly men are ardent so their gaze on an unveiled woman is no different then a naked woman, therefore hijab is a must for all Muslim women.

It seems there is no end “to the list of dos” we have to follow as women of faith since that fateful apple theater in Heaven. Before Islam, Judaism and Christianity fueled the same war on women of faith and their bodies…with teachings like… Do you know that you are each an Eve? You are the Devil’s gateway. And so on and so forth.

Millions of Muslim sisters in Pakistan and the Muslim world continue to live under man-made laws that oppress their lives and their bodies in adverse ways. What are some of these ways? The control and violation of women’s sexuality can take forms like early/ forced marriages, honor crimes, stoning for adultery, guardianship, zina laws, marital rape and family concerns.

I will specifically remind readers that I have written on Pakistan’s Mukhtara Mai, Moroccan Amina Filali, Reyhaneh Jabbari, all these women are Islam’s greatest victims falling to man-made interpretations of zina (rape) that led their lives into complete mayhem. What are Zina Laws and how come they control sexuality in Muslim societies?

In this regard, I came across the work of Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian legal anthropologist specializing in Islamic law, gender and development; in her publication “In Control and Sexuality:The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts” she has focused on how Zina Laws are part of a broader legal scheme for controlling sexuality in Muslim societies. The research narrates, cases from five Muslim countries including Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.

Through case examination of these countries laws and their legal frame-work on rape, it has been illuminating to note that an important aspect of resistance to the (re)criminalization of zina is to make it obvious that such a legislative development does not occur in isolation – i.e. that there is a significant incidence of gender-discriminatory laws (whether or not religiously justified) in the respective legal system, all of which are demonstrably used to control women’s sexuality. Hence, the revival, often marketed as a ‘moral reform’ par excellence, is exposed as continuation (and an opportunistic ‘upgrade’) of an established legal mechanism constructed to provide its ‘managers’ with exceptional power over the general populace and, in particular, over women. Even in societies where zina is not explicitly criminalized by law, but instead regulated and ‘punished’ extra judicially, an analysis of the domestic legal system discloses that such social malpractice continues to be effectively condoned or even encouraged by certain laws for a considerably long time. This was the case in Turkey until recent criminal justice reforms.

Many Muslim feminists and reformers have time and again critiqued the legal frame-work on zina matters and how it deliberately allows men to hold power over women. Others have written extensively about how male notions of female sexuality lead to the creation of gender biased laws prevalent in modern day Muslim countries. Feminist scholars such as Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud point out that this male fear of ‘uncontrolled women’ stems from the time of the newly formed Muslim community, when men feared that the Prophet Muhammad was encouraging a women’s rebellion (nushuz) by stopping violence against women (Mernissi (1996). How is that for a reality check? 

There is also a deep notion of taboo and stigma over discussing sexuality in most Muslim societies; it is quite common to see Muslim brothers young and old speaking on sexuality at public forums and penning literary publications. However the same societies don’t accept so easily Muslim women writers or speakers on the topic of sexuality. Still there is hope because many young Muslimah sisters have gone and broken the stereotypes and created alternative spaces for themselves to be heard both collectively and individually.

It is also interesting to note the stark difference between past and present day Islam, in the past, Quran and early Muslim scholars dealt with topics of sex and sexuality with an openness and positively. Where as today, in the back streets of hustling bustling city like Karachi, there are dawas and dars (religious lectures) promoting the need for male control of women’s sexuality, prohibiting birth control as western agendas and so on.

Lets face it, Muslim societies are highly patriarchal and have misused the religion throughout history to exert control over Muslim women sexualities. Last week, in a shalwar kameez (national dress) along with a chador I was riding in a public bus for office,soon a perverted took upon himself to touch my back twice. I and another young girl politely informed him against repeating it – while the bus passengers openly gaped and some angry ones told us in clear words how shameless and honor less we were to protest for it and be rude to a man. A man, oh really a man. Opps.. really I am sorry in my world men ARENT Gods and aren’t getting any Godly status either.

 

Pakistan| Rampant Discrimination Against My Mohajir Identity

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A seasoned writer, Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed in his publication says that “The Mohajirs of Pakistan were the Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after Partition of British India. They were going not as refugees but as citizens of a promised homeland – a country for Muslims where they would not face political or religious discrimination. How then did the Mohajirs of Pakistan, four decades later, find themselves moved from the core to the periphery, marginalized and divided by ethnic conflict?.”

The long standing ethnic discrimination institutionalized against the ethnicity of Mohajirs is not a news to most in Pakistanis. Usual Pakistanis think Mohajirs are represented by the political party MQM, which is no way less violent and corrupt than other national level political parties. But Mohajirs themselves are heavily divided on the MQM factor  and do not consider the Altaf Hussain/ MQM as their representative, a fact known to most.

Politics aside, let me narrate a recent incident to you which is illuminating and outrageous.

Unlike the country’s other major ethnic groups, Mohajirs are not treated as “people of the soil” because their roots  lie in areas that are outside of what today is Pakistan. Yes, their roots are in India. OH, dear India. So its quite common for fellow Pakistanis to ridicule and mock Mohajirs by calling them Makkar (Betrayer), Panahgeer (Refugee), Bhaiyya (slang for ganster), Matarwa (looser), Hindustora (coming from Hindus which  frankly this I find very cheap and racist) etc.

Recently, a senior senator of ruling party PML-N(off course Punjabi ethnicity), Salim Zia, senator on a live TV show called Mohajirs  foreigners and Kalay Kalootay people (black colored people) and all this happened on 16 April, 2015. Its not just him, there are other leaders who also openly share their hatred against Mohajirs.

In all my life, I have listened to this sort of nonsense despite being born inside the borders of a country, called Pakistan. At school I was the “Bhoke Nangey Mohajir zaat”( hungry, naked refugee race) and my fair complexioned class-fellows would tell me that I should quit school  because later on my role would be of a domestic servant in their homes and other interesting slave like roles.

When I was young, it used to annoy me how everyone around me had a problem with Indian origin Pakistani Muslims identifying with their ethnic and cultural identity. Whereas, Punjabis, Pathans, Baloch and Sindhis can make jokes, brag about and display arrogance in general when it comes to their ethnic background, but the second an Urdu speaking Indian origin Muslim would says or do anything showing pride in his/her identity, they would start questioning why and proceed to humiliate the person into silence.

The second dilemma is that most ethnicities have been flourishing and their cultural traditions have been preserved, but there is strong resistance on Mohajir ethnicity people to preserve their culture. It all comes under the so-called “complete integration into becoming a true Pakistani nonsense.” The community despite having shaky start has been integrating into the more rural and feudal culture of Pakistan but stands out due to its more urbanized literate backgrounds.

It took a personal journey into Pakistan’s daily life for me to become more attached towards my identity as a Mohajir.

Things didn’t change much despite my growing up into an adult, even today my Mohajir identity comes under fire anywhere any time, thanks to my darling fellow Pakistanis. I have written about another interesting issue faced by Mohajir women over here, check it out.  Today’s Pakistan has become an intolerant and oppressive state for most of its citizens, a country where ethnic and religious minorities suffer the most due to the ineffectual governance. Be it Balochis, Hazaras, or Mohajirs there is a strong sense of being let down, by most.

There are times, when I feel like I’m labelled as an outsider on account of being Urdu speaking or having Indian origin elders who gave up everything to migrated 1947 in Pakistan to start a new life as its new citizens. Yet the label continues till today and there are hundreds, if not thousands who would try patting my back  and inform me that all this nonsense exists only inside my paranoid head.

No, it isn’t. Do not think my blood doesn’t boil when I hear people telling me what proof I have that my grand parents were married, what proof I have of my ancestral tree, who knows from “whom and where” my parents were born and usually the commentary ends with Mohajirs are Indian dogs.

Frankly I have no problems with dogs themselves and my world doesn’t end if a dog jumps over and licks me either. For the record, I also do not have any problems with India or fellow Indians. But its very telling to note that most Pakistanis use such phrases to insult Mohajirs hailing community.

Now many offended citizens of Pakistan will come forward to comment that this is a useless rant, by Mohajirs who aren’t as patriotic as they are. Let it be said on record, that I nor Mohajirs need no lessons in patriotism or nationalism from others.

And on a final note,  dear country men and women, do me a favor and please refer to me as a Pakistanis and not Mohajir or Urdu speaking. Thank you. 

 

Genocide|Myanmar’s Killing Fields of Rohingya Muslims and Tribal Peoples

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The ethno-religious violence in Burma between the Buddhist majority and other groups, such as the Rohinga Muslims, has existed for many decades if not centuries. Yet the world continues to watch in silence as Rohingyas are butcherred and sliced by the radical militant Buddist monks. Over the last few weeks, there have been an increase in ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine state on the country’s west coast.

Thousands of desperate and terror struck Rohingya people are stuck in the sea waters because hardly any Asian country is willing to receive them. The plight of Rohingya boat migrants is the most bizarre example of a growing migration crisis confronting Asia: An estimated 6,000 to 20,000 migrants are right now at sea, fleeing ethnic persecution in Myanmar and abject poverty in Bangladesh, while the countries are pointing fingers at one another and declining to take humanitarian responsibilities towards human lives that are at stake.

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As most governments continue indulging in the usual game of “look busy-do nothing” many regional human rights activists are condemning their governments stance on Rohingya boat migrant treatment. Many local activists are busy in mobilising the call for humanitarian assistance to Rohingya boat people. We contacted Malay human rights defender, Adrian Pereira, who has been very critical of the ASEAN states closed door policy towards the Rohingya.

He feels that ASEAN member countries need to jointly address this refugees issue before it becomes disastrous and out of hand, putting the effectively stateless Rohingya people at greater risks.

The Asia division of Human Rights Watch states that the three countries Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand involved should stop “this cruel game of human ping pong”. Many of the refugees had been at sea for weeks or even months, and are running out of food and water.

Elsewhere, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi continues to feel that she does not know whether the Rohingya Muslims qualify for becoming citizens of Myanmar and has been very politically motivated. In a genocide silence is complicity and Myanmar government’s on going persecution of the Rohingya has reached a level so untenable that the vulnerable community are faced with two cold blooded options, to remain and die, or else flee.

While thousands of desperate Rohingyas are at sea risk of peril, a pro-democractic Aung San Suu Kyi is mum on the treatment of minorities. One wonders where is her famous ‘moral authority’ as Muslim Rohingya homes are razed to the ground?

The History of Pakistani Feminism Part 4|Islam, Women Political Leaders & Birth of a Nation

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Talking about feminism in Pakistan it would be futile, if I do not bring forth the most key aspect of this country’s birth and the religion Islam. Female identity in Pakistan is very much interlinked with the place of Islam in the socio-political structures of the country. The idea of Pakistan, translated literally as the land of the pure,’ was first conceived and then later realized in the name of RELIGION and is probably the only country in the world founded on the basis of religious ideology.

Islamic principles are an integral part not only of state laws but also of the development of its civil society. It was was the major reason, and the driving force, in the unity of the Muslims of the subcontinent that fought for the liberation of Pakistan. And in the heart-fold of this long struggle against the British Rule were many Muslim political leaders who stood side by side with men in realizing the birth of Pakistan in 1947. The partition of sub-continent is a godawful legacy one that I attempted to cover in my post Recalling Partition 1947| Religion, Rape & The Raped Women, that mirrors the appalling burden carried by sub-continent’s women for liberation.

53eb8ab3affd9Feminism consciousness has always been alive as Pakistani political history sparkles with the services of many notable woman politicians whose contributions are unforgettable. In the shadows of the more prominent figures like Fatima Jinnah, Begum Shahnawaz, Salma Tassaduque Hussain, Begum Liaqat Ali Khan and Fatima Sughra, there were countless women who dedicated their lives to the Pakistan movement.

Theirs was a parallel story of courage and labor, a voice that invigorated the struggle but was unheard when the deafening roar of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ rang out. Addressing the women’s participation into the making of this country, the father of nation Quaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947 said that “Half of Pakistan is yours because you have put in no less effort to achieve it then the men.”53eb80e6de303

Moreover, the newly born nation was striving for equality and equitable rights of women that were considered essential for the progress of any society especially a Muslim Society and in doing that, Islamic principles were adhered to.Today’s Pakistan is completely a complex paradox in face of such a rich heritage. As the decades old misuse of Islam  has resulted into a catachrestic influence on the identity of the women. The version of Islam imposed upon the Pakistani society by General Zia further strengthened the concept that women‘s role in the social structure of the country was ineffective literally.

Patriarchy was and continues to play also its role in undermining of women’s status by using the religion card.  An academic and researcher, in context of Asma Barlas believes the problem with the Qur’an is not the text itself, which she accepts as ‘the speech of God’, but how humans interpret it. She notes that interpretations of the Qur’an have changed throughout history, gradually becoming more hostile to women.

On the controversial Hudood laws in Pakistan, Barlas says that these laws are terribly egregious because the weight of all moral crimes has fallen disproportionately on women. There are thousands of women languishing in Pakistan’s jails while the men with whom they are alleged to have committed sexual crimes have magically disappeared. How just is that? And how just is it not to be able to distinguish, from a strictly legal perspective, between rape and consensual sex so that a victim of rape is actually treated as the criminal? And how “Islamic” is it to mandate stoning to death for adultery when the Quran doesn’t mandate such a punishment for any crime?

“You cannot be an advocate for Muslim women when you think the Quran is oppressive,” says Pakistani academic researcher, Asma Barlas. Further she critiques that most controversial aspects of Islam as practiced with regard to women have their roots in hadith (tradition) rather than the Quran itself. For example, the stipulation that women be veiled is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur’an except with specific reference to Muhammad’s wives. And stoning to death is not a punishment in the Quran for any crime, so how come it became part of shari’a law in Pakistan. In the final part of this series, I share her video here where she discusses on how Women’s Rights from within the Quran and therefore need to be interpreted accordingly.

The History of Pakistani Feminism|Fundamentalists Vs. Feminists Part III

As the current United Nation’s Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, Pakistani feminist and human rights defender Farida Shaheed is known internationally for her activism, and expertise in the area of culture and identity in relation to development and human rights.By profession, she is a sociologist and is known for her extensive work on gender and class analysis, both in Pakistan and more globally. She heads the Shirkat Gah women’s resource center in Pakistan and is part of pressure lobby groups on various human rights concerns.

In this video, she will walk us through the historical context of the decades old battle for women rights in Pakistan, one that started in 1980s and of which I have spoken of here, here and here. She has boldly discussed our national problem of state control over religion and its citizens, that were a necessity at the time of Afghan War for waging Ronald Reagan’s regional agendas in South Asia, along with the Pakistani accomplice military regime. 

Veteran journalist Robert Dreyfuss was quoted in one of his articles saying that for half a century the United States and many of its allies saw what he called the “Islamic right” as convenient partners in the Cold War but it all came at a heavy price for Pakistani people, in particular women. The Islamization of Pakistan for supporting this nefarious war lead by mujahadeen militants meant serious bad news for the Pakistani women, one covered very aptly in the previous posts of this series and in this video interview where Ms. Fareeda Shaheed highlights the state control over its citizens has extended to the limit that Pakistan started to fail its women, its people of diverse faiths and ethnicties.

Women rights cause have suffered great backlash, because the mosque wants to control what women do and what women should not do and in case they do, also what should happen to them. In this ludicrous game of the fundamentalists battling against the feminists — one excuse comes up again and again.

Secularism, for most Pakistan and Pakistanis is being anti-State, anti-Islamic and anti-patriotic. A country where millions are illiterate, the mosque’s mullah factories have taught these lessons well. And a major part of our society shares a particular opinion considering history, religion, culture and nationalism with a slightly radical element. They cannot endure anyone who would dare to disagree with them.

Secularism is a really dirty word in my home country and in such a hostile scenario, having a normal discussion with a fellow citizen is sometimes not that easy. Even today, common beliefs of people include: “Pakistan was made in name of Islam and for Islam”… or “slam is the greatest religion and Islamic laws should be used for people of all religions and anyone who disagrees is a non-believer and hence inferior to us and could be harmed lawfully.”

In jest, not us forget that one can take a bullet in the chest, like Sabeen Masud.

I have no views on secularism and whether it’s the answer to Pakistan’s problems, but sanity dictates that secularism guarantees you freedom of religion, just like the Islamic law. Yet today in Pakistan, Hindus cannot get married legally, innocent Christians are killed after being wrongly accused of blasphemy, remaining Jews are unconditionally hated and Ahmadis are declared non-Muslims and murdered (a statutory gift of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto). This shows us clearly that the problem does not lie in the secular philosophy you chose to govern the country, but in the society.

Secularism cannot save Pakistan, but it can certainly give us a huge respite in the coming times. Narrow minded, uncompromising views of society are prevalent in most anti-women practices and customs that are prevalent in today’s times.

An emotional hatred exists towards women rights activists and local feminists, who according to zealot men of Allah (mullah brigades) need to be stopped at all costs, against corrupting the people and this society.

Where as Muslim feminist like myself feels that this country cannot progress in this system until and unless the true spirit of religion is brought forward, which I do not see happening anytime soon.

The History of Pakistani Feminism Part II| Saeed Khan Rangeela

 

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“One of the first pioneers of women’s liberation in Pakistan was actually a man from film industry Lollywood” 

As our local feminists Shehla Zia, Saima Sarwar and others burned dupattas on the roads of Lahore and protested publicly elsewhere in the country, there was someone we need to not forget in the history of Pakistani feminism. A man from Lollywood (Pakistani film industry), actor, director, singer and comedian, yes am talking about the most radical of them all, Saeed Khan Rangeela.

Hailing from Parachinar, a man of Pushtun ethnicity, he was the first Pakistani male to fully express the concerns and beliefs of the 1970s ‘women’s liberation movement’ in the country, (do check the link for more info). Rangeela walked his talk of women’s rights by going big to put together a big-budgeted feature film that he directed, produced and acted in. The film was called Aurat Raj (Women’s Rule). It was released in 1979 but bombed at the box-office. It was released on the advent of Pakistani establishments disastrous love affair with Islamization under master-ship.. coughs…  US alliance for  unneccessary Afghan Invasion and Wahabism tanda raj ( religious batton- rule alias dictatorships).

While Mulla brigade rhetoric was apparent and blatant in the 1970s with majority of Pakistani films ridiculing the antics and struggles of this period popular women’s liberation movement, Rangeela decided to turn the tables and satirize those who were ridiculing the movement, especially men. This time he invested all of his earnings into an off-beat film project Aurat Raj (Women’s Rule). The result was so shocking that the film distributors went numb at what they saw: A scathing satire on male-dominated societies. Aurat Raj film also parodied the concept of typical macho heroes and helpless heroines in Pakistani films and was entirely sympathetic to the feminist point of view.

The film plot was never ever seen or heard of in Pakistan. It was a move actually like no other ever made in this country. It depicted a repressed wife (played by popular actress Rani) of a flamboyant male chauvinist (played by South Asia’s Chocolate Hero otherwise actor Waheed Murad) — a man who treats women like objects.

The wife finally puts her foot down and organizes a women’s movement in the area. The movement dramatically spreads and mobs of women begin to get hold of oppressive men and beat them up in the streets. The government intervenes and decides to hold an election to resolve the issue. The election is swept by the Aurat Raj Party, and the women gain political power. Rani becomes the country’s new leader and purchases a special bomb from a foreign country. The bomb is special because after exploding it turns all men into women!

All (original) women are elevated to the domestic, social and political positions that were once dominated by the males, and the men are relegated to wearing women’s clothes and pushed into occupations and duties that are stereo-typically associated with women.

Aurat Raj_pictures2Rangeela’s genius made open fun of Pakistani sexism and societal mindsets as audience of Aurat Raj are shown snippets of many other emblems of the new order where women accosting and assaulting men in the street, roaming and publicly smoking female mafious bands, women abducting men on their wedding day, women saving men from rapists and the men falling in love with their saviors, women convicts dunking it out in prisons and then going scott-free. Check this hilarious photos to see for yourself!

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What follows is a hilarious, biting satire that attacks male chauvinism, social conservatism and female stereotypes constructed by the popular media in our disturbing patriarchal society. Film critics blasted with reviews commenting on the physical aspects like the tacky, over done costumes, makeup as well as minced no words on its concept which was more of a nightmare for the male dominated censorboard to digest.

But if the film wasn’t as it was, we wouldn’t get to see a macho hero and actor like Waheed Murad almost unrecognizable in his feminine avatar!

The film was so visually and conceptually startling that the local audiences were not sure exactly how to respond, while the censorboard decided to go full throttle to edit the film and penalize Rangeela for his mindless wanderings in form of Aurat Raj.

Rangeela never ever recovered from the loss he concurred from this (albeit pioneering) cinematic debacle. He managed to remain afloat as a comedian for the next decade or so, but never again did he allow himself to dream this way and died of liver failure in 2005.

Today, people in the land of Pure hardly discuss his efforts for women rights cause, some go on saying it was way ahead of its time, but the fact remains absolute that Aurat Raj has been a commendable effort on Rangeela’s part. 

The History of Pakistani Feminism Part I|Hilda Saeed

 

Who were Pakistani women Fahmida Allahbuksh, Samia Sarwar, or Saima Waheed and why they were significant women in our nation’s history? What happened in Lahore in 1983?Why are women burning dupattas in that historical photograph of WAF members, and what exactly is WAF? Are there no empowering women in Pakistan other than Asma Jahangir or Mukhtar Mai? These are the questions that Pakistanis, especially young people need to be asking themselves, and people around them. But that’s what the problem is, they don’t, and they are unaware of the feminist legacy of South Asia.

Even before the Partition of British controlled India (shudders) into two separate countries, the local women in United India regardless of their religious beliefs, played an active role in fighting for their rights. We read brief paragraphs in Pakistan Studies textbooks about “the role of Muslim women in creation of Pakistan” but that seems like a distant memory that consists only of Fatima Jinnah, Begum Raana Liaquat, and the mother of the Johar brothers during the Khilafat movement. Just like these textbooks don’t portray actual history accurately, similarly they portray no picture of the women’s movement in Pakistan.
Young Pakistani feminists are embracing The Second Sex, A Room of One’s Own, The Yellow Wallpaper, but ask them about Fahmida Riaz’s beautiful “Chador Aur Chaar Devari” (Four Walls and a Black Veil) or the poem by Kishwar Naheed which is affectionately referred to as a women’s anthem among feminists, and you get blank stares. Time for the latest wave of young Pakistani feminists to kindly wake up and smell the coffee, instead of washing hands off our great role models.
It is imperative that we stop taking for granting the rights we have as women, and acknowledge the struggle and sacrifice that enabled the empowerment of the modern woman. It is also just as important to acknowledge that, as the urban woman progresses, the rural woman remains disenfranchised and powerless, and that much work still needs to be done for women’s rights in Pakistan. For this reason, a Pakistani non-profit organization, Bolo Bhi literally meaning ‘Speak Up” created The Women’s Movement Herstory Project, to interview our very own feminists and activists who have been at the forefront of the struggle for women rights in Pakistan, and witnessed firsthand the fight for women’s rights, and personally went through hardships for the sake of all women.
Watch this inspirational video of Ms. Hilda Saeed who has a nearly four decades legacy in gender issues. She is the chairperson at a national NGO, Shirkat Gah, and a founding member of Women’s Action Forum, a women rights organization that was formed in retaliation of the Dark Dictator Gen. Zia’s controversial Sharia laws implementation in 1980s, including Hudood and Law of Evidence etc.
I have had the honor of meeting Ms. Hilda Saeed, several times on women rights events inside Pakistan, a micro-biologist by degree and activist by choice, her work spans from the rights of religious minorities, maternal health, to development and gender.
 Here’s to Women Power in Pakistan!!!

Memphis|A Muslim Feminist Speaks on Islam & Co-Existence

In 2003, the Muslim community in Memphis with the help of Memphis Mayor office established an organization;  Muslim in Memphis (MIM) that is working on the presentation of Islam to the Memphis community in a positive and informative light. In doing so, the organization hopes to erect exhibits, provide speakers, and interact with the larger community of which they make a part of.

As part of 13th Annual Muslims In Memphis event, they invited a personality whose goals and mission are alike. Many of my readers already know about her, yes its Theresa Corbin, a feminist writer, founder of Islamwich and woman of many talents. A convert of 13 years, Corbin feels it is time to stop differentiating based on culture and sect, and time to start focusing on similarities and cooperation.

At The Human Lens, we like Theresa Corbin believe in the importance of the East-West dialogue and the global diversities. 

Check out this video and listen to her humane and positive invitation to actually understand Islam and learn about her own personal journey into the fastest growing faith of present times.

The Hazards Of Reporting On Rape Issue in Pakistan

On serious matters of Violence against women and girl child, the Pakistani mindset is more or less the same — justifying all manner of crimes against women. And an issue as serious as Rape is treated very strangely in this society, read Muslimah lash out here, and also my meeting with  international icon Mukhtara Mai here. Covering rape has always been problematic is most societies, but in ones like Pakistan the drama starts off with she was out late, why did she wear a pink lawn dress (probably they expect us to know before hand that the rapist likes raping women in pink so we should not be wearing that color) and why did she go there?

Being a women journalist in Pakistan and reporting rape is no easy game, I tell ya. No, please I am NO victim so don’t make ONE out of me either. The difficulties that women writers face on speaking over rape matters are down right outraging and unfair, off course due to male domination and overplay of patriarchy in the mindsets of most male reporters.  There are also attempts at policing women journalists who dare speak on issues of persona non grata like once a long time ago, Mukhtara Mai was. It was the summer of 2008, when I was involved in producing stories for a radio project series focusing women’s rights and I asked my female editor if I could do a feature on Mukhtara Mai’s girl’s school initiative that happened after the GoP provided an compensation for her ordeal. She liked my concept immediately and agreed. I contacted the office of Mukhtara Mai organization and was met with cooperative support for the documentary project and additionally I was able to get an an in person meeting with Mai herself.

So I travel from Islamabad to Southern Punjab, at Meerwala district in this quest. Meerwala is a remote village in S. Punjab and the only way I could reach it was by road, that too broken and in semi functional state. And not to mention no proper sign boards to lead outsider visitors, and poor mobile network coverage.  Anyways I arrived to Bhawalpur without any problems, but little did I know what awaited me after. I hit the road with a known driver towards Meerwala, on the way we had to stop over continuously to ask directions to Mukhtaran’s schools en route to Meerwala at a small village called Jatoi, but local people continued to midguide the driver and gave wrong directions. Some times, they even asked me directly ‘Bibi, kahan jana hai, aisa karo ghar waps chale jao. Tumhare le behtar hai.’ (Translation; Maam where do you have to go, look its better you turn back and go to your home. Its better for you.)

people misguided me and gave me wrong directions.

While I was wearing a local shalwar kameez with my head and hair covered well in chadoor, so it wasn’t that I was offending the local customs, but I was going to someone they probably didn’t want me to see at all. And they noticed the car’s number plate wasn’t local so they even  called the local police station, as we were stopped at a check out randomly and asked on car registration, driver licence and an illuminating speech on why women as young as me should not travel far from home and how unsafe it is to be there at that point.

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As a result it took us nearly five and a half hours to reach our destination. Meerwala instead of the usual one hour or so. Anyway, with the grace of the Superior Being God I finally reached one of the schools and as we stopped there, Mukhtara Mai with her team were waiting for us on the gate. She had anticipated my tardiness was due to the welcoming party we met on the way. I later learned that there was a lot of resentment against the establishment of Mukhtara’s schools and a lone woman looking for Mukhtara was an even more unwelcome intervention!

Sometimes, I recall those moments vividly. At others I also think about other women writers who dare to speak up on the issue of girl-child rape, like the inspirational Parul Thakur who penned The Right to Abortion and realize that we women really need to keep soldiering on in solidarity on matters of control over our bodies and our choices.

IQBAL’s Child Pray|Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua

lab-pay-aati-hai-dua-1 (1)The prayer on my lips is my desire manifest.

O Lord! Make my life glow like the candle-flame.

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Let my breath disperse the dark that holds the world in thrall.
Let my radiance result in brightness everywhere.

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With each breath, let me bring glory to my land,
Like the blossoms that are the glory of the meadow

lab-pay-aati-hai-dua-4

O Lord! Let my life be like the moth who seeks
the eternal love of the flame of wisdom

lab-pay-aati-hai-dua-5

Let my exertions, my deeds assuage all those in need.
Let me, ever devoted, be to the afflicted, to the elderly.

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Allah! Preserve me from all the evil in the world.
Lead me down that path that is the path of righteousness.

Translation and Transliteration © Mustansir Dalvi, 2012, All rights reserved.

The famous child’s pray is a masterpiece of the man I know otherwise as visionary of Pakistan, Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal a Muslim poet, philosopher and fierce politician. A lawyer, he studied in England and Germany and has written on wide ranging topics like politics, economics, history, philosophy, religion, children, youth role an is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu literature, with literary work in both the Urdu and Persian languages.

The national poet for his vision of a free, liberated and progressive state independent Pakistan. To many, Iqbal is the “Poet of the East“, The Thinker of Pakistan, Sage of the Ummah and many more.

The Child’s Pray is about human beings. Iqbal’s philosophy states that Human being must be human, which is the ultimate aim of human life. The process of being human is a fruit of the realization of individual. The real human being has a real individual, a unique ego in Iqbalian thought. The strife for a unique ego starts from the earliest period of life, not later period. Iqbal considers every child as a unique and important ego and the period of childhood as the formative period of Ego.

Children are not little and insignificant creatures, but they are the most important and the highest existence in our lives. Iqbal locates children at the center of life, not at the periphery. This poem written by Iqbal is where he asks for the highest aims of life, such as true, creative, passionate, and meaningful life as a child. 

Recalling vividly my school days in Pakistan, being part of the traditional daily mornings starting with school assembly and singing Child’s Pray with the flag-raising ceremony. So in part of child rights theme at The Human Lens I felt this is something I can share with the blog’s readers.

Pakistan Zindabad!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Iqbal

South Asia Condemns Mindless Assassination of Sabeen Mehmud

Last week, I wrote a short post on activist Sabeen Mehmud’s assassination in broad day light in Karachi, a chilling reactionary response to her café T2F latest discussion “Unsilencing Balochistan” that featured prominent Baloch rights activists on the situation of disappearances in the conflicted province.

In the moment that I had written “The Killing of Pakistani Peace Activist Sabeen Mehmud” I was consciously doing something that had been the core mission of her life.As I condemned her mindless and unnecessary death, my post started getting clicks and readers’ feedback, one particular South Asian blogger and fellow comrade Parul Thakur author of a creative blog Happinesandfood brought my attention towards a daily national in India, The Hindu, the national daily in India that ran an editorial for her, Crushing voices of dissent and by far several points made by the author struck me immensely.

Foremost, the writer discussed that activist Sabeen Mahmud’s assassination in Pakistan proves that the state sees in part intellectuals a threat to its unitary vision of nationalism. This couldn’t hold truer in our national sphere, because every time normal Pakistanis want to speak about the issues of Balochstan province, they are fobbed off and those like SabeenMehmud, Mama Qadeer, FarzanaMajeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur are forcefully silenced or suppressed.

Why target LUMS or T2F for having a conversation on Balochistan? What is so disturbing about Balochistan? Why kill those who ask for such spaces? Since 2005, a war has been raging in Balochistan for self-determination and its time we learned the complexities of this alarming conflict.

Fellow blogger Parul Thakur says that she came to know about Sabeen Mehmud’s work from The Human Lens but couldn’t imagine the lives she touched while she was alive. In her own words Parul says, “In my mind the “assassination” of a “Human Rights Activist” sounds ironical. It’s like doing right, does wrong for the right people. Activists, bloggers, feminists or writers – who are these people? Whether in Pakistan or in Bangladesh or in any other part of the world, why do assassins think that killing one will silence everything. Instead, it will incite more dialogue and much more communication. Aren’t they those who dare to speak the truth? Sometimes it’s religion; sometimes it is the government and sometime yet another reason.”

Thakur muses on why it makes sense to send a bullet, to any writer.  She raises a great point that a writer is just using her right of speech and no one has the right to take away her life but it happens every single time.

Since the assassination, South Asians are coming out strongly in condemning this human rights atrocity, individually and collectively. A statement from South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) a regional human rights organization has released an official statement voicing their strong condemnation of this incident. It has urged the government of Pakistan to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in accordance with the spirit and provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and afford them the freedom required, including the right to freedom of expression, speech, assembly and protest, to carry out valuable work to protect and promote the rights of Pakistani citizens.

Such sentiments were also echoed in The Hindu’s Crushing voices of dissent editorial which brings me to the second more striking area of the story. Many readers expressed their concern and anger at this deliberate silencing of Sabeen Mehmud’s voice, but one particular comment was very illuminating quoting “Why Pakistan press is quiet on this? The underlying reason is Pakistan possession of nuclear weapons not as a threat against India but for blackmailing the United States for Billions of Dollars as a pre-text to protect the nuclear weapons. Imagine the disaster occurs if Pakistan does not kill the intellectuals, the uprising of the people will destroy the military-economic complex.”

Failing to understand the connection of Pakistani nukes, the commentator was both right and wrong at the same time. The Pakistani press, is far from silent on Sabeen Mehmud’s  murder, common citizens continue uprising and people from all walks of life are demanding justice. To the fellow commentator from India, I would like to clarify that the general Pakistani populace is not represented by assassins of Sabeen Masud, so please just cross the border and see for yourself.

Overall, this violent act has enticed strong emotions of both dissent and unity within South Asians. Parul Thakur who helped me pen this post is someone I have never ever met in my real life yet her solidarity is a balm while I continue to raise my voice. I am thankful for her support truly. 

South Asia is never silent and that is our strength.

Sabeen Mahmud, the ideology will live on in us, growing stronger and stronger. 

There are no better closing lines then South Asian Feminist and mentor Kamla Bhasin’s who stated “Sabeen Mahmud, a young feminist, secularist, and human rights activist was murdered in Karachi, this is South Asia’s loss and we mourn the untimely, totally unnecessary death, we condemn such mindless violence.”

Educating Rural Pakistani Children Towards a Brighter Future

Education is a universal right for which global community shares a unified responsibility. Pakistan has the third highest out of school population in the world with five million children failing to enroll.

Despite the increase in access to education, nearly half of Pakistani children drop out of school before the age of 16. Currently, some 25 million children or one of three have not completed primary education. Girls drop out at twice the rate of boys, lowering female literacy rates in some areas to a mere 8%. With 60% of Pakistan’s population living on less than $1 a day, a meaningful education is the only viable pathway to socio-economic empowerment. Each additional year of schooling increases an individual’s earning by 10%.

Girls who complete primary education are less likely to get married before 18 or become victims of domestic abuse, and have fewer children. Also the child of an educated mother is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5.

Check out this cool video that shows the wonderful work done by DIL in rural Pakistan by bringing hope and opportunity to underprivileged Pakistani children. This film chronicles a day in life of children studying at DIL schools in rural Islamabad and looks at how their lives are transformed through education.

Those who wish to join hands and support their work can contact their offices in USA, Canada, UK and Pakistan, alternatively browse through their website at http://www.dil.org/get-involved/

In 1947, Founder of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said: “Education is a matter of life or death for Pakistan. The world is progressing so rapidly that without the requisite advance in education, not only shall we be left behind others but we may be wiped out altogether.”

Lets follow this advice to heart to help to secure a prosperous future for children of Pakistan.  

Nepal Quake 2015| In Solidarity

Pakistan expresses deep shock at the reports of massive earthquake that has caused devastation in Nepal and Northern India and “heartfelt condolences and sympathies on the tragedy that has caused loss of precious lives and properties.” 

Pakistan’s government and people are standing together with the Nepalese nation in this challenging time and extending humanitarian assistance.

Pray For Nepal! 

Solidarity
Solidarity

Pakistani Orphans in Slum, Waiting For Change

Shazeb is an orphan, living in the slums of Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His home is a dark and broken concrete box with no running water, no heat and no bed. The kitchen is tucked away in a corner containing a fragile hob made of bricks, fueled with a small gas canister and a tiny pot for food, which is often empty. To add to his problems, when it rains heavily the gutters overflow and his home is filled with infected waters, leaving him vulnerable to hidden diseases.

Islamic Relief team went out to meet with Shazeb and they were struck by the condition of his life – a malnourished child, in a pitiful home, living a desperately malnourished life.

Shazeb’s life echoes thousands of orphans that are born inside the Islamic State of Pakistan and left to fend for themselves while government and authorities indulge in monkey business.

Ironically, Pakistan pays lip service to the rights of orphans while the Holy Quran has addressed the issue at many points.…. the Quran (76:8) describes the righteous people as those who give food to the orphans – “And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive.”

In Chapter 4 verse 127, Allah calls to justly treat the orphan children.  Therefore, the Islamic community should be raised with a thought of justice and equity towards the orphans. A serious national Wake up Call please!

In addition to the pronouncement for doing good towards the orphans and oppressed children, the Holy Quran also addresses the guardians regarding their responsibilities towards the needy children. Quran (4:2) states: “And give the orphans their property, and do not exchange something bad (of yours) for something good (of theirs), nor devour their property along with your own; (for) it is surely a great crime.”

Thanks to Islamic Relief’s latest appeal ‘Sponsor an Orphan Today‘ around 43,000 orphan children around the world will benefit. From just £25 a month… life of an adorable and vulnerable Shazeb will change. 

Lets support their cause and this deserving mission committed towards changing the lives of children orphans, a fate that carries stigma and discrimination despite our rich tradition of providing care to Orphans and children without parental support for the gigantic rising numbers of orphans due to conflict and natural disasters.

Reference:

1. Islamic Relief, Pakistan campaign, Orphan Sponsorship and Child Welfare

Pakistan|The Lives of Slum Children Part II

“I need to put food on the table, therefore I do not imagine the what ifs of going to a school. That’s not my future. Despite the fact I wished I could do something to change it for the better” says, thirteen year old *Yunus. 

The slum in the suburb of Islamabad presents a complete picture of the harsh plights of dislocated children living in crumbling tiny shelters made of mud with grass roofs. Approximately, some one hundred and twenty families are inhabiting this area, poorest of the poor from the  different areas of the country.

Majority people including minor children do labor work, in an average family size that is around six to seven. A close examination shows a repetition of the national scale situation in other slums of the country, most households are headed by female members or very elderly persons. Obviously, the men aren’t of much use for one is greeted by hordes of intoxicated and injecting drug users on every corner of the filth full lanes.

Interestingly, the bizarre cycle of poverty and drug abuse commonly handicaps men, whereas on other hand strong women and the children are left on their devices to fend for themselves. It is fascinating to observe the resilience and resolve of completely illiterate women from the slums, they can in-fact outshine the self-styled liberated feminists any given time.

Although, Government of Pakistan chants about free education till matriculation (grade tenth)  in state-owned institutes but such opportunities are out of Yunus’s reach. As well as his family’s poor standards of living has averted them from seeking any form of possible education.

“We just came back from the cattle market after feeding animals, we are happy we earn 80 Rupees (less than a dollar) a day,” says little *Sara. Her coworker and brother Yunus also shares her views.  “Nothing to do with school, I do my labor work. I collect grass to feed cattle in the market. Between us there is the accord to foot the daily family dinner for seven people,” says Yunus.  

Their philosophy would be disconcerting to many who do not share the opinion. But, he is adamant that if they don’t work, they cannot afford even one decent meal for all. As it is their mom has a lot on her plate including dealing with their errant father’s arguments for cash that allows him to buy him a few hours of heroine induced “normalcy.”

Yunus feels that their young age is an asset, as they have more energy among themselves to share the economic burden with their mom and hopefully things will get better in coming time.

“Life isn’t simple for all of us, if we were a normal family then I think I would have been going to school. There are times, when going about my routine cattle tending, I notice on traffic signals, the school buses with children like myself in uniforms and always think how clean, neat do they look and then I take a look at myself, filthy, dirty and with torn clothes. It angers me so much”, an equally disgruntled Sara.

I think a lot of Pakistan and its children. I am always  saddened to see it in its current state. I always found people to blame: the politicians who are more interested in making money for themselves than helping their countrymen; the masses who voted them in office each time; the army for thwarting the democratic system in the country; the parents who bore these children without having the resources to support them. I lived in my own self-righteous world, blessed with the knowledge that my family could support my education.

Children such as Yunus and Sara drive me to despair yet beyond the stench of this despair, comes a resolve to continue reminding those in power that the time has come that we honor our promises made to the children of this land. 

Footnote: Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality of the interviewees. 

Pakistan|The Lives of Slum Children Part I

“My day starts with scolding by mother us to help her in work. Each morning, I have to fetch water and collect grass for our goats. It’s a nightmare and I am totally fed up especially during summer times. I wanted to become a teacher when I grow up. But, how is that really possible? I have no books to study and neither do we have money for school fees. I will never become a teacher, plus am wasting time in search of water and tending to our animals.”

— Zunaira*, slum child, Islamabad.

It is shocking to note that  seven-year old Zunaira is so angry with life and her circumstances. But there is little she can do, born in poverty in illiterate family has robbed her of a better future and she is quite aware of the unfortunate fact that  she has limited and meager choices. Her father works as a daily wage laborer and her mother stays at home to take care of the in-laws and the children.

They live in a mud house that has a cemented roof. There is a large room the family uses for sleeping and rest, a courtyard and tiny kitchen. The entire family shares one small toilet and there is broken basin in the far-left of the courtyard.

With the passage of time, the family was able to buy several goats that are tended by  Zunaira and her siblings. Moreover, they don’t need to worry about spending money on the dairy products. Still that is not the only expense the family has to make. With rising inflation and continuous price hikes, the family is finding extremely difficult to eat one proper meal a day and all this has taken a b ad toll on the little children.

The siblings are forced to share the daily burdens with their parents and hence attending school is really out of question. On close inspection, I also found out that there is no public school nearby and neither the government is implementing the Article 25-A of the Constitution, which ensures that education remains a fundamental right of every child between the age of six and sixteen. Further more, the law states that all children whose parents cannot afford to pay for education, or have become victims of terrorism shall be enrolled for free in private schools, where they will form 10 per cent of the total class. Every school will now have to constitute a management committee of government representatives, teachers and school principals to ensure that the policy is implemented. Both the school management and the parents can be fined or imprisoned if the law is not followed, according to the bill. These children would also be exempted from paying any extra fee or expenses that may prevent them from pursuing secondary education.

While all that seems very rosy and cosy, one wonders why this Union Council hasn’t got it own school structure which can cater to the educational needs of children from impoverished families?

A dejected Zunaira sitting beside me says, “Our parents are illiterate as they were poor and it seems we will also remain illiterate as we don’t have enough money to study. My grand-father also thinks it’s a waste of money to educate children, it’s frustrating to be powerless to change the elders’ opinions.” It is heart wrenching to note that in the slums of Islamabad, the harsh conditions experienced by many Zunairas while our politicians are living like Kings on the other side of city.

As we walk across the muddy path, suddenly Zunaira run towards the garbage debris and finds a battered child book that had seen better days. She smiles while turning its pages, on the other hand my heart churns inside out at life’s injustices against her.

Footnote: Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality of the interviewees. 

Muslimah Speaks On Pakistan’s Rape Problem

Let’s talk about rape shall we? Recent events where women are being discriminated in Pakistan and elsewhere in the name of Islam, have forced me to call out this prevailing misogyny. As far as Pakistan’s stance on rape is concerned, there is nothing  is nothing remotely Islamic or Shariah divine about the man-made laws in Pakistan.The Hudood laws that were enacted by the then military dictator General Zia to Islamicize Pakistan’s legal system are in reality a legacy of the British Colonial law.

So one cannot understand how come religious bodies aren’t doing anything about correcting them. The laws, as they stand in place today discriminate against women rather than protecting their rights. Furthermore, the continued refusal to embrace the very fact that we are in the 21 century and therefore can use modern-day forensic evidence is another divergence from the Islamic tradition where similar techniques have been used by the Muslim jurists to resolve disputes in the past.

For those who don’t know what this law is about, here a short recap.  Firstly, the Hudood Law unnecessarily confuses rape, a violent crime, with fornication. Secondly, it has made it impossible for a rape victim to get justice in Pakistan because under the Hudood Ordinance, the Courts require four “adult male” eyewitnesses to rape. When a female victim fails to produce four male eyewitnesses,, she is then charged under Tazeer for fornication. If the woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape, then her rapist/s gets to walk away, while the woman is charged with fornication using pregnancy as a proof.

Pakistan should act without delay to address the shortcomings in Hudood Ordinances, women continue to suffer in the name of Islam while Quran has sanctioned all protection rights for women and men both. In fact, the Islamic jurisprudence deals with rape under Hiraba and Jirah and allows a compensation for the rape victims. The Quranic intent has been to protect the rights of women but we don’t see that happening here, instead we see how the Shariah card is being played to subjugate women.

Muslim women campaigners both inside the country and abroad have time and again advocated the change in rape laws, they are anything but Islamic and have no place in Pakistan’s judicial system. Unfortunately this system is heavily under conservative-religious powers. But frankly, this matter cannot be left to the mullahs to decide as we already know what they believe in.  A young Muslimah blogger from the SERAPHICTRUTH blog, Hajra Khan is a British-Pakistani Muslim and an avid women rights advocate. This is her testimony on rape matters.

“Definitely religion needs to be separated. Unfortunately those in power are manipulating Islamic teachings therefore contradicting Islamic purposes. Pakistan is not under the Sharia law and is hardly an Islamic state, therefore it should separate itself from these so-called Islamic state teachings. Religion is not the problem here it’s the people and they have misused it. Pakistan should handle matters like rape and domestic abused without getting the “mahram” arguments involved. Islam says women should have mahrams present with them for their  own protection as men are physically stronger than women. Islam does not say, if she does not have a mahram present go rape her to teach her a lesson. Islam also teaches men and urges men to have self-control. Studies have also shown that rape is more about power over the victim as well as sexual gratification. I guess the power part definitely applies to certain so-called Muslim men. I believe the decent men out there should do more to speak out against rape.

And just for once instead emphasizing so much on the fact that yes women should dress modest, but also a man needs to have self-control. For gods sake, by constantly saying women need to cover to prevent rape they are taking away the seriousness of the crime! They imply that rape is such easy thing to do, all it takes is one glance and the man just loses all self-control. The men scholars need to emphasis how immoral and disturbing this crime is. There’s a lot of young male speakers out here who appeal to the youth and do a good job. However, when it comes to matters like rape all of a sudden their patriarchal ego comes into play and discussions become about “sisters, dress right”, “sisters don’t go out on your own” or “sisters don’t interact with anyone who is not your mahram” why not “brothers please try to keep into your pants, you’re a human not an animal!”

Say No to Rape, please.

The Disturbing Saga|Leslie Udwin’s India’s Daughters

Since the release of a film by Leslee Udwin called India’s Daughter I am struck with growing sense of unease and frustration at the global publicity campaign and the media attention towards the Indian reactions.I have taken to my blog yet again in my attempt to describe some of the problems I have noticed in this whole saga.

  1. What struck me first hand is the use of the wording “India’s Daughters” used by Leslee Udwin. I wondered if Leslee Udwin would use the same title if she made a documentary about rape in the UK, United States – first world countries.
  2. And would she also be so daringly preachy if she had to address President Obama or Cameron in the tone she exclusively reserved for Narendra Modi?
  3. What made Leslee Udwin to use reduction strategy; turning India’s girls and women into India’s Daughters, this is something that Indian patriarchs, Indian government and certain anti feminist forces in India have always done. Why does a global campaign against gender violence do the same? And as we are on that matter – how, why and who gives the “power” to Leslee Udwin to do so? Certainly not Indian women, themselves, as pointed out to me by a close comrade; Dehli based Indian feminist.
  4. Anohter intruging point to be noted is that a global campaign against gender violence had to be geographically focused on India and called “Daughters of India”? The campaign cites statistics from other countries, but it does seem that the focus of the campaign is India. And does it seek to convey the impression that “India’s daughters” are in need of a rescue mission? Unfortunately yes, please refer to the Guardian article of March 1, 2015 which comes of a highly patronizing and full of white savior impression rather strongly.
  5. Another article narrated the film’s interviews of convicted rapists and their defenders justifying rape were followed by an interesting quote by Hollywood actress Meryl Streep, (she happens to one of those backing the global campaign) saying the documentary “forces a look at the mindset that must be made to know it has no place in the civilised world”. That phrase has a lot of problematic notions attached to it.
  6. Most of the western media articles bordered on phrases like… “India’s Daughter, a powerful, brave and heart-wrenching documentary made by Leslee Udwin, provokes grief and anger but also pity for the ignorance” or Leslee’s own phrases like “Indian Men’s brutal attitudes truly shocked me.” As a woman Leslee Udwin should know better that men’s brutal attitudes should not be race specific and that rape is a global concern as opposed to just India’s rampant problem.
  7. Moving on to another annoying issue, which is the  deliberate vilification of “Indian men” as brutes in need of a good “lesson” from the first world civilized groups. Deeply concerning is the aftermath from this not so well-meaning solidarity with Indian women that is leading towards the over the hill racist profiling of Indian men.
  8. All in all, the events surrounding the film have reasserted a sense of India as a place of ignorance and brutality towards women. It frames Indian women as helpless creatures unable to stand up for their rights. The global community’s amnesia is amusing because the reality is Udwin was inspired to make the film after bearing witness to Indian women rights crusaders and feminists month-long street protests that were followed by demands for law reforms that finally managed to get a committee to make recommendations and amend the law relating to sexual violence. All evidences pointing that Indian woman are not the helpless, voiceless creatures as we are being told to believe by the art work of a sole western media person. And all things that the film conveniently ignores in its narrow script.
  9. As a woman of color feminist, I never find any joy in parachute solidarity exhibited by a certain type of western media that trolls in and out of third world countries in their quest for reporting the gory and savage events happening to local women.
  10. I also find it disturbing that a filmmaker like Leslee Udwin would actually interview a convicted rapist and completely ignore taking one quote or statement from the man who tried to save Nirbhaya. Only she can answer why she needed to glorify the bastard rapist in her documentary with broken media clips to his responses, while cleverly cutting out her questions. There is something known as media ethics for interviews and I don’t think Udwin at this stage in her career doesn’t know of them. It also surfaced that Udwin managed to interview Mukesh Singh after negotiating a bribe that was delivered to his family. Another very common tactic used over and over again by western media in their third world documentaries.
  11. The judicial case is still pending, so why exactly did the campaigners decide to go ahead with airing the documentary? If the convict rapist was white, the BBC wouldn’t air the documentary but this all becomes ok when the accused is brown. Need I go on?
  12. Lastly I also need some answers as to why the world feels that Indian women need the attentive ministrations of a western filmmaker to act as their mouth piece? In today’s India, change has become two-fold since 2012’s event and  finally women are being seen as people. While things have a long way to go in terms of gender equality, the current situation is a result of a long battle of grief and struggle led by Indian women themselves. And this film just demoted their status to being India’s Daughters only. Not done, not done. 

Having said all that, I do think that the ban on documentary telecast is a somewhat extreme reaction to a somewhat extreme primitive motive behind Udwin’s India’s Daughter summed up brilliantly by Indian filmkaker and feminist Paromita Vohra. Intersectionality anyone?

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: From Domestic Violence Rampant in Muslim Marriages to Public Violence Against Women Part II

The collaborative series, Part II authored by Papatia Feauxzar

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them to guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat-a light tap that leave no mark them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance); for Allah is most High and Great (above you all). If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation; for Allah has full knowledge and is acquainted with all things.” (Quran: An-Nisaa 34-35)

Islam doesn’t support violence against any creature especially women. Read here to know more on the proper way to deal with an unruly wife. Please, using violence doesn’t mean you’re in control. It says rather that you’re a monster and not a good Muslim.

When I was single, I used to pray jumah at a Pakistani mosque in the neighborhood I used to live in. to this date, this mosque holds a special place in my heart because the sermons were always on point, the community was very generous, and the Imam was a nice man. This nice Imam used to complain about the educated men in the community that attended the mosque based on what their women would report to him. You know why? Because these men with good paying jobs and higher education degrees should know better than to beat their wives! I’m not saying that it’s okay to beat your wife if you didn’t go to school. I’m just saying that uneducated men can make a case that they didn’t know better. That said these uneducated men set the trend for the domestic violence problem we have today. These first generation educated men grew up in houses where they saw their parents abuse women on a daily basis.

Like Saadia already pointed out, these boys see this as normal behavior and repeat these actions later in their lives with no remorse when they grow up. This domestic violence is then projected outside and then plague women in public because of twisted ways of reckoning.

With all that said, our beloved Prophet (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) didn’t go to school but he advised his followers not to hurt women. So there is no excuse to be rough with women.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. So what if your wife talks back to you, doesn’t listen, is hard-headed. Instead of following the proper sunnah, you unleash on her and beat her like an animal.

She could also be too polite and innocent. But because you have twitchy hands, you take advantage of your power over her and give her a serious beating because you’re mad at thin air or simply because you can. Just because you have a peepee doesn’t mean you own her or that it’s your God-given right to inflict pain on her whenever you feel like it. Your good behavior you take after our Rasul (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) makes you a great man instead, my friend.

Don’t you feel ashamed afterwards when you try to sleep with her like nothing happened? She’s not your property but a garment to you. You should feel dirty inside when you take by force something that doesn’t belong to you. To this day, it baffles me the way some men love to rape women they couldn’t have slept with under normal conditions. This is the case of men that rape women in war. This is the case of men that rape women at night because they were supposed to be at home. This is also the case of men that rape women because as husbands, their sexual rights must ‘always’ be fulfilled regardless of the wives’ emotions and mental states. Try fasting a few days a month to get your horny side under control.

Such men have extreme ways of thinking when it comes to women. What makes them think that they have to take it upon themselves to violate a woman that doesn’t belong to them to teach her a lesson? What makes them think they can kill a woman to protect their honor? What makes them think they can decide her fate? The last time I checked, zina was a sin. Again, two wrongs don’t make a right. The last time I checked, killing was also a sin. Finally, the last time I checked, a Muslim woman was entitled to her freedom and independence. It’s very hypocritical to say hijab is a choice when behind closed doors, you force her to wear it. Where is the choice in that? It’s a joke! And Allah doesn’t like hypocrites. Let her make her own choices whether good and bad. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is the only one that saves people and keeps who He wants on siratal mustaqim-the straight path.

To men that sexually martyr women for their own pleasure or because they think they’re doing us a favor, you should be castrated. I will end with one of my favorite quote in the book Normal Calm, “If you don’t know how to use it properly, then you don’t deserve it.’’

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: From Domestic Violence Rampant in Muslim Marriages to Public Violence Against Women

The collaborative series, part I authored by: Saadia Haq

A country like Pakistan is no stranger to violence against women, here conservative ideals and deeply rooted patriarchal structures are responsible for shaping its psyche and social fabric. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 90% women face domestic violence at some point of their lives from their families and husband. This is quite alarming on its own and one cannot but help condemn the archaic tribal traditions and growing trends in religious extremism for playing their part in women’s sufferings.

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Like many other societies, Pakistani women too suffer in silence, due to the taboo around the topic. However, country wise prevalence of “highly alarming” domestic violence are documented for provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan. Not surprising as both provinces have been subjected to the nonsensical violence sponsoring Taliban that ensure existing domestic violence against women continues with “religion tag” attached to it.Government of Pakistan doesn’t really give hoots about tackling domestic violence on a country scale, yet it boasts of achieving smaller glories in the despicable “war on terror” that has come at a great price to the entire nation. And women victims of violence continue to go unheard in the noise from this corrosive warfare.

Domestic violence prevalence is documented in Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey* (2013) and highlights startling findings almost 59% of rural women in KPK reported being subjected to physical abuse since they turned 15. The urban women in Sindh at 21%  were the least exposed to domestic violence. The sample size from Gilgit-Baltistan was too small for comparison with the rest of Pakistan. One in 10 rural women in KPK and Balochistan each routinely experienced domestic physical violence compared to only 5% rural women in Punjab and 1.5% rural women in Sindh. Divorced, widowed or separated women were two-times more likely to report frequent domestic violence than married women.

The country has a long-standing societal trend of using religious-cultural mandates that violence against women need not be discussed openly. And much to the abject horror of readers, many women think that perpetuation of violence is a “man’s” right and their submission is a “given.” Some years ago, hard liner clerics and a political religious party also demanded to review a bill for outlawing domestic violence, citing it risked undermining “family values”.

Being a feminist is not really easy in my country and dealing with the myriad of anti women issues is quite exhausting, still the broken heart continues to function in whatever way it can… with a career exclusively women rights focused; I know we need to continue this fight whatever the odds.  When I listen to wild religious sermons like “The women have been given so-called freedom and liberty, which causes danger to themselves” or Western culture, not abuse, is why women seek divorces” I understand that Pakistan has a lot to do in terms of overcoming this hijacking troupe of radical Islam and prevalent militancy with KPK and Balochistan the epicenters of militant insurgencies in Pakistan.

But I don’t believe that its lack of education and development that causes domestic violence and contributes to militancy and terrorism. Somewhere along the line, religion and culture are being misused for the widespread acceptance of domestic violence against women. A country where young men have witnessed childhood experiences of women being subjected to violence inside their homes, naturally grow-up believing such violent norms are to be reapplied to their socio-political lives. My co-author Papatia is going to discuss at length Islamic jurisprudence on perpetuating violence in the second part of this series, for readers.

Pakistan’s very own renowned historian, Dr. Mubarak Ali has compiled the history of women oppression in his book ‘Tareekh aur Aurat’ (Woman and History) that highlights to readers the hundreds of years of indoctrination, producing male-dominated morality and violence, several ideologues advocating women suppression including Imam Ghazali, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Mowlvi Ashraf Ali Thanvi. More ever, he argues that local tribal and feudal societies seldom recognize women rights and men in these societies resort to violence when women try to assert greater control over their lives. Children, especially males, raised in households that tolerate violence against women are often desensitized to violence and may readily embrace violence then others.

Violence against women is a common given, recalling Samia Sarwar, a Pashtun woman murdered in her lawyer’s office with her parents’ blessings. Leaving a drug addict and abusive husband, through taking proper legal action is something frowned up still in this country. Archaic right? Devised was the propaganda of Saima an adulterous woman leaving her husband for another man, therefore deserving of being killed in broad day light. Equally reprehensible was Pakistan’s Senate’s response when some Senators voted against a resolution tabled by others condemning her murder. Politicians from Balochistan and KPK openly supported this murder in name of honor and had the gall to defend the murderers. What’s so honorable and holy in domestic violence against women, be it a married woman like Saima Sarwar or Shazia Aziz a well sought singer who refused marriage proposals from a lewd suitor?

Pakistan could do well to confront its escalating terrorism problem by addressing its root causes, one of which is the continued domestic violence against women. Additionally Pakistan needs to decentralize religion from state because the matter of violence against women are mostly distorted and defended under so called traditional- religious values. If nothing, we must end outdated traditions that exalt men as Gods and women as appendages for their usage – both kind and brutal.

Plus there is the need to speak about the five hundred pound elephant in the living room otherwise called feminism. My society has a very severely negative opinion of feminism and feminists, no surprises as we shake the patriarchal shackles. Pakistani writer and NYT columnist, Bina Shah, says that “the country needs a feminism that elegantly marries both strands of feminism, secular and Islamic”. As that is how Pakistan was formed – on both Islamic and secular principles.” Yes, women’s rights are misunderstood, under-represented and disregarded in Pakistan but they are by no means absent. Our people need to be informed that feminism does not mean being anti-male or anti-Islamic.

Those rallying for women rights need to be clearer and more united in their stand and find a workable balance between what is right and what we know. The message of feminism does not signify that women should in any way be superior, nor does it call for immoral and anti-religious practices. It is simply trying to strive to give well deserved respite to lives of women across this country that continue to endure continuous violence against themselves. 

Note:

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. Please stay tuned for the second part coming soon for readers. Copyrights @2015

Local Pop Song Salutes Pakistani Women Power

Only last month, two awesome social platforms Mishermayl and Aawaaz joined hands to release the first track out of their six song album initiative ‘Gao Suno Badlo’ (GSB) tributes the efforts of Pakistani women from all walks of life.

The lyrics of this Urdu language song titled ‘Kaun Kehta Hai Bayikhtiyar Hoon Main’ (Who says I am helpless, Who) has been penned by local song writer Aaliya Mirza and sung by local pop icon Zainub Fatima and it resonates with hope and optimism for celebrating the idea of women empowerment in Pakistan.

Please check out this cool video which contains english sub titles, to catch a glimpse of the countless women of substance, women like the female leading founder of Pakistan Fatima Jinnah when she contended elections against military dictator Ayub Khan, deceased Benazir Bhutto becoming the first female prime minister, Pakistan No. 1 squash player Maria Toorpakay Wazir and many more.

It leads into capturing the lives of different women from both urban and rural backgrounds like a doctor, an artist, a lawyer, an engineer, a designer, a beautician as well as an activist. The nuances of the lives struggles and achievements of these women are done with local dance performer group that are seen performing on the song until the end of the track.

The lyrics tell tales of women who have to fight for their rights, break stereotypes and go against conventions established by the society to pursue their dreams. It also honours Malala Yousufzai and pays tribute to some other internationally famed Pakistani women like Samina Baig and Asma Jehangir.

What is most unusual in this 4.20 minute song is the depiction of how Pakistani women are struggling and fighting against the growing radicalism and religious dictatorship elements like Taliban and others, because we realize that its our lives at most “stake” debunking the usual myths that we aren’t able to do anything to help our selves.

 The title of the song echoes at the end of the song as the question is raised: “Kaun kehta hai bayikhtiyar hoon main. Kaun? (Who says I’m helpless? Who?)

Saluting Women Power in Pakistan, may we continue our fight for our rightful place in the world order! 

Afghan War|NATO and White Feminism Connection

As many of know, its only few weeks as United States and NATO ended thier combat mission in war torn Afghanistan. While most Americans and westerners  continue to live with certain lies, that they themselves had told about liberating Afghan women through invasion and occupation, its hard for writers like myself to stay silent. The phenomenon of ‘Saving Muslim Women’ is niether new nor ending anytime sooner.

This sort of feminism that drives bullets and bombs other “sisters” bodies, is something very common in the first world. It is utterly annoying to hear white feminists arguing to shut us, Muslim feminists down with patronizing excuses. Sorry but we do have our brains and we can speak for ourselves. But let it be said that we raise our voices against the blatant idiocracy that has positioned the Americans as the saviors of Afghan women. Don’t you think it allows white feminists a superior perch from which to help their downtrodden Afghan sisters, popularizing the an elsewhere-focused feminism that finds gender-based violences as something found only in faraway lands.

Saving Muslim Women Syndrome
Saving Muslim Women Syndrome

White feminism agenda is furthered by usual western media’s placement of Afghan women and thier miserable conditions. United States, NATO and worse off white feminists continue to pretend that the war in Afghanistan was and is all about saving the Afghan women.

The forceful dictation to accept the lie is not duping us, niether are believing the perpetuation that invading is liberating, the artificial and corrosive war was not a blessing for the Afghan nation, let alone its women. So please refrain from forcing us to accept your destructive lies.

US Funding IS Terror on Pakistani Soil

Yousaf al Salafi getting funding routed through America to run IS organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria.

Last month, Pakistan shared crucial information with top US officials, including Mr. John Kerry on the matter of international funding for ISIS, Pakistan group on what is actually my home soil. The Washington financing of terrorism is nothing new, but these startling revelations come at point in time, when Obama and most of the first world are actually contemplating a fullscale global war against Islam.

Among the details shared with US include the mandate of a Pakistani-Syrian, Yousaf al Salafi, an IS operative and highly dangerous suspect.  Al- Salafi is alleged to have been arrested last year in Lahore, Pakistan, but this information was kept confidential throughout this time. And during the investigations, “Yousaf al Salafi revealed that he was getting funding – routed through America – to run the organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria.” 

Al Salafi also allegedly confessed to recruiting jihadists for the Syrian jihad and has been receiving about $600 per person. It wad further revealed that he had been operating inside Pakistan with the help of a local accomplice, who was reportedly the Imam of a mosque. It also emerged that Al Salafi entered Pakistan through Turkey five months ago. Earlier, it was reported that he crossed into Turkey from Syria and was caught there. However, he managed to escape from Turkey and reached Pakistan to establish IS in the region.

Also citizens from different countries including Afghanistan, India, Libya and Pakistan itself are being recruited by IS to fight in Syria. Interestingly, the IS is also paid from a torrent of fighters, arms, equipment, and cash flowing from NATO territory in Turkey.

The exact nature of the monetary fundings sources still remains to be seen and these matter has been discussed among the top officials of both Pakistan and USA recently with US Secretary of State John Kerry on his recent trip to Islamabad.

With the growing ISIS terror on global front, local media has been discussing the rising influence of Islamic State and the several incidents in cities of Lahore and Multan where Islamic State flags and graffiti were seen publicly. While Pakistani authorities indicate that local militants including Pakistan Taliban TTP would be opposing the Islamic State, it does nothing for the fact that IS operatives like Al Salafi and other are becoming successful due to foreign funding.

The IS terror is a major problem that the Muslim world must urgently address for our own sakes, and on the pother hand the West can help by stopping its historical pandering and support of Middle East’s Wahabi tyrants who spread this extremism that is destroying countless countries, including Pakistan.

Al Salafi’s arrest is a lip service, catching and eliminating an occasional militant leader in raids, drone and special-forces strikes is not really the solution.

The fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda is deeply ironic since these organizations were created and are sustained, in part, by Western funds that are handed over to the Saudis and Gulf Arab nations for oil purchase. And if we continue down this road, it may well be a never-ending war.

The House of Saud is working against the best interests of the Muslim world, it has helped to unleash its Wahabi agenda and is blatant support for the Salafi movements that are a huge obstacle for a poor and fragile Muslim state like Pakistan, and for Muslim communities worldwide.

As US had to dispel the impression that it is financing the group for its own interests, continues to portray itself as “at war with ISIS,” going as far as bombing Syrian territory while claiming it must now train more militants to topple Assad’s regime, but on other hand, it’s ineffectual in stopping the funding of these organisations, which is being routed through the US  from its own borders into the hands of its implacable enemy. This also reminds of a similar conundrum in Charlie Hedbo’s free France that is participating in military operations aimed at both toppling the Syrian government and allegedly fighting ISIS – yet claims to be unable to stop thousands of its own citizens from leaving its borders to join ISIS’ ranks.

It will be interesting to note if US reacts to the Pakistani leaks on Yousaf Al Salafi and the rise of IS terror, however it seems unlikely. The unfortunate probability is that the farce of War on Terror” will continue, with the US propping up ISIS, using it both as impetus to funnel more cash and weapons that shall intentionally and intentionally – end up in ISIS’ hands. Point to ponder? 

Hollywood’s Muslim Issue, American Sniper and A Few Dead bodies

Before I start off, let me make it clear that this is a non apologetic piece. It comes at a time when Muslim Ummah across the world are struck with grief and anger over the blatant killing of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. And guess what, three innocent young lives ended abruptly and hardly any noise in the international media or the usual western hysteria.

This incident happened at a proportionally bad time for global Muslim community that face the consequences of the recent anti-Islam wave after Charlie Hedbo fiasco, German Pegida movement and release of Hollywood’s American Hero that drives home the message that it’s totally ok to kill Muslim women and kids, in fact its American war heroics at its best.

Don’t you wonder at the connection here? On one side there is multi grosser American Sniper, a Hollywood production and lest it be said that Hollywood has always suffered a Muslim problem. It glories a western white idiot – the hero who keeps shrugging whatever and takes pleasure in killing brown people because after all they are just savage Iraqis is the usual Hollywood overtly simplification when it comes to dealing with western war mongering in Muslim countries.

Since release, it became a mega grosser in North America, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia etc, no surprises considering their high Islamophobic trends. However, it serves as an evidence for “biases” depicted in western media’s portrayal of western soldiers as great men that go to kill the “suspicious Muslims” in their lands, for keeping world peace order intact. The under lining messages are always same, the prevailing Orientalism in Hollywood cinema and western media portraying ethnic Muslims and Arabs as a singular “Other” lacking humanity.

It’s quite all right when Muslims die, after all white western lives matter more and all such could be the inspiration behind Craig Stephen Hicks killing spree of innocent Muslims.

Clint Eastwood claims that it’s a hell of a thing to kill a man. Maybe some one needs to remind him that it’s also a hell of a thing being killed!

The silence of the international media, world leaders and western people on this incident is also very telling, no outrage, no condemnations, no irrational demands of apologies from the killer or the socio-religious group he hails from and no apparent or flamboyant sympathies either. However, it was only last month when virtual blogging space was full of #JeSuisCharlie supporters…literally every Tom, Dick and Harry posted stuff supporting free press and zero tolerance towards mocking of others beliefs.

It seemed WEST has ceded to a stand still, with im- or- moral world leaders marching in Paris for upholding the freedom of media.

There is no denying this happened because the offenders were Muslim, because after the Chapel Hill Shooting, CNN, BBC and other western medias’ didn’t find anything report-able about the death of three innocent Muslims. After all, it’s just bloody Muslims and they deserve to die, as I have been told on my face many times.

I also noticed some very telling tweets which I will share here.

This tweet called out the double standards while dealing with such incidents. 

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A non-Muslim twitter user was exasperated with core issue such as.

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Another twitter user of western background analysed the cold-blooded murder of innocent Muslims in these words.

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More ever, the late coverage of the incident was also bizarre and biased, this has been covered in a deserving explicit manner by a fellow blogger post #CHAPELHILLSHOOTING THANK YOU TWITTER.  Usually western media frequently uses headline and breaking news with words like  ‘act of terrorism’ describing a Muslim non white offender, this time again they made do with ‘hate crime’, of unstable mind frame.

The fact that believing or not believing in religion doesn’t allow killing of innocent people is universal. Only it seems this time, parking lot space, neighbor disputes issues are more importantly highlighted where as had the killer been a Muslim who killed three non-Muslim there was an apparent religious motivation and media was going ga ga along the lines of… west at threat due to muslim Invasion, Muslim terrorism and so on. Pun intended. 

Morever, there would be a HIGH terror alert post incident, additionally numerous westerners would engage in social media and public protests in name of freedom of expression to dish out hate speech and toxicity towards Islam and Muslims in general.

It is heart breaking to note that hate has won and humanity has lost, once again today.

With this us versus them mentality, I don’t know how many more people will have to die when the world finally wakes up to the truth that we are humans first and then Muslim, Christian, Atheist or whatever.  Allow me as a human and as a Muslim to honor these three beautiful persons, indeed “Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha have returned to Allah.”

In their abrupt departure, they have left us a legacy to understand something very simple and over-looked. Human Lives Matter, Human Lives Matter. 

Free Papua CAMPAIGN| In conversation with a Papuan Activist

WEST PAPUA - Province of Indonesia
WEST PAPUA – Province of Indonesia

More than often, Indonesia is referred as a peaceful paradise on earth. The Republic of Indonesia is a sovereign democracy, but let’s divulge deeper to see what ‘democracy’ looks like in modern-day Indonesia? Behind closed doors, in reality Indonesia is – committing genocide in West Papua. Since more than 4 decades, over 500,000 innocent people have already been killed.

West Papua continues to stay under the horrific Indonesian colonial rule of a land that has been the paradise and playground for the West. This genocide continues with international backing from the Australian government that trains Indonesian military, in order to carry out a more efficient genocide in West Papua.

The international media and human rights groups are barred from entering West Papua and those who raise voices and fight for freedom are at a huge risk.

But this does not stop the daring filmmaker Wensi Fatubun, from West Papua from informing the world about these atrocities.

In his own words, Wensi says, “I am often called a separatist, an enemy, but that does not stop me from raising my voice against the injustices.” Before he even became an activist, Wensi lost several friends who were tortured and interrogated by Indonesia army personnel on suspicions of their involvement into the separatist movement.

Wensi also trains young people to make documentaries and use audio-visual techniques to advocate for the rights of the Papuan people.

Saadia Haq: Please tell us about your video project the Papuan Voices and your own role in making documentaries through it?

Wensi Fatubun: As you are aware, that West Papua is fighting for its independence – but what else goes on there? How often do we hear directly from the Papuans themselves about life in Indonesia’s most secretive province?

Papuan Voices project is a combination of empowerment and production. I teach Papuan activists new video production and distribution skills so that they have the means to tell their own stories to the world. The most unusual aspect is that the stories we tell are not just framed around West Papua’s political struggle for independence. Now, you would be wondering why this is important. It’s because of the simple fact, that when a Papuan man punches an Indonesian soldier who has assaulted his sister, more often than not that man will be branded a “separatist” by the press and Indonesian authorities. The assaulter-soldier will walk free while the Papuan will be charged with serious offenses against the State. These kinds of injustices occur daily in Papua and a lack of understanding about the issues affecting Indonesia’s poorest citizens works to entrench the problem.

The Papuan Voices overcomes political, geographical and financial barriers – as well as lack of technology – to bring important Papuan stories to the world. In doing so, it shines light on the injustices that regularly occur behind the closed doors of this resource-rich and restive province.

Saadia Haq: What’s the importance of Free Papua Campaign and what it could mean for the people of West Papua? 

Wensi Fatubun: Free West Papua Campaign is an initiative of young intellectuals Papuan for support a liberation movement of oppression Indonesia. For Papuans, this campaign is a movement to share the experience of living in oppression and occupation by Indonesia. This conflict remains largely concealed from the global attention, despite decades of hostility and violence, the West Papuans’ demands for justice received very little global attention.

Papuan Voices: Video shoot with activists
Papuan Voices: Video shoot with activists

Papuan Voices aims to bring the everyday stories of West Papuans to a wider audience. These are not isolated to just conflict issue, rather they bring to the surface the human stories, the faces, the voices, the unheard screams of the people who are caught within this ongoing conflict. As I said, the stories show how the affected people are struggling for their rights for education, environment, equality and most importantly – dignity.

Saadia, you also have to take into account that our stories are not framed around the political struggle of West Papua, they show the importance and need for an end to this conflict so the coming generations can have what we didn’t have till now. Additionally, we also cover a wide-scale of local injustices occurring in Papua and trying to inform the audiences’ the complexities affecting Indonesia’s poorest citizens.

I cannot stress more on the very fact that “Papuan Voices is a cultural struggle.”

We want people to see Papua through the eyes of the Papuans themselves.

And I want people know about Papua through the eyes of Papuans.

Saadia Haq: What are some of the problems in Papua you would like to highlight?

Wensi Fatubun: I would like to highlight “right to self-determination and right to freedom of expression and opinion issues.”

The international media and humanitarian organizations are barred from entering West Papua and in the absence of humanitarian support on ground; Papuan Voices is trying to remedy the gap by giving a platform to the people’s voices and their demands for self-determination and right of freedom.

This project is a multifaceted project covering a range of political and geographical barriers – as well as lack of technology – to bring important Papuan stories to the world. In doing so, it shines light on the injustices that regularly occur behind the closed doors of this resource-rich and restive province.

Saadia Haq: Why do you keep continuing this (fight) despite the dangers?

Wensi Fatubun: Because this is a humanitarian struggle, I work with the indigenous Papuans to speak the truth of their lives, to bring their issues and problems that are unknown to the outside world.

The struggles of indigenous Papauans keeps me going on, I see this on a daily basis and I know that I have to continue doing what I am.

Saadia Haq: How can we support you, what advice you would give to our readers?

Wensi Fatubun: I want you to come join this fight with the Papuans. I will appreciate you and others to join our efforts and struggles, make a choice to stand with the most vulnerable people of today’s times and find together we can pave a path for freedom.

Wensi Fatubun, thank you so much for joining us at “The Human Lens” Blog. We wish you the very best and ensure you of our solidarity.

For the readers interested in knowing about the Papuans Voices project, please visit: papuanvoices.net and http://www.engagemedia.org/Projects/papuanvoices