Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

In solidarity with the human umbrellas of Kolachi

Yet another grainy illustration of wealth inequality in Pakistan has left many Pakistanis on the internet shaking their heads in disappointment, if not shaking their fists in full outrage. A viral photograph on social media shows the diligent waiters of Kolachi taking ‘customer service’ to a new level. The servers are seen forming a short cordon around a table, holding umbrellas over the seated patrons on a rainy evening. For some reason, this modern re-enactment of a scene from Mughal-e-Azam is being praised by some on the internet as a sign of dedication to the customer. Kolachi was ‘prepared’ for the ...

Read Full Post

Is Charlie Hebdo’s most recent Aylan Kurdi cartoon genuinely racist?

Outrage is a natural response to a magazine cover that seemingly mocks a deceased 3-year-old Syrian boy. Yet, there may be more to these cartoons than what meets the eye. Charlie Hebdo has produced another cartoon every bit as tasteless as that which we’ve learned to expect from this French magazine. It features the drowned Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, and suggests that if the refugee child had survived and grown up, he would have been sexually harassing women in Germany like the other immigrants. The cartoon refers to the wave of attacks carried out by immigrants in the German city of ...

Read Full Post

Condemning Trump’s bigotry does not make you any less of a bigot, Netanyahu

When Benjamin Netanyahu wags his finger at Donald Trump for his bigoted remarks against Muslims, a simple eye roll should suffice as political commentary. But it’s not difficult to explain exactly why we’re dumbstruck by the irony of the Israeli prime minister’s statement. Joining a chorus of condemnations from world leaders, Netanyahu decried Trump’s call to shut down entry of all Muslims to the United States, adding: “The state of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens.” Having wiped off the coffee we’d accidentally sprayed upon our computer screens, liberals around the world marvelled at such straight-faced ...

Read Full Post

There can be no “war on terror” without “war on drugs”

Few have witnessed the senseless barbarity of ISIS without rhetorically asking what these brutes have been smoking recently. As it happens, this question is not only pertinent, but strategically impossible to ignore. Captagon, although swallowed and not smoked, is a powerful amphetamine that’s historically landed Saudi Princes into massive scandals. The illicit drug is popular in the Middle East as it’s relatively cheap and easy to manufacture, and serves as an effective stimulant for, say, a militant who has to stay up all night looking out for incoming Russian fighter planes. Turkish authorities have recently seized nearly 11 million Captagon pills near the Syrian border. The similar ...

Read Full Post

The scariest costume you can wear this Halloween is ‘racism’

A fake ‘Sheikh’ nose, blackface, and a Mexican sombrero? Let me guess: you’re going to that Halloween party tonight as a ‘Howling Racist’. Halloween has little relevance to the lives of most Pakistani people. It is celebrated in certain elite quarters, while the rest of us wonder what scarcity of spookiness there is in this country that needs to be compensated for with a few extra zombie masks. For those who participate, I may have a Gullu Butt costume to lend out, if you ask nicely. But it is an important tradition in much of the Western world, particularly the United ...

Read Full Post

Did you ban cow-slaughter in Kashmir right before Eid to offend Muslim sensibilities?

As soon as the Indian authorities are done congratulating themselves over the arrest of the Kashmiri anti-nationalist figurehead, Asiya Andrabi, they can start explaining how they intend to win Kashmiri hearts and minds through an expanding list of despotic restrictions being imposed upon the people. The firebrand chief of the all-female separatist group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat or “Daughters of Faith”, was recently arrested from her Soura resident over a bizarre list of charges. These include the crime of waving the Pakistani national flag and singing the Pakistani national anthem, as well as slaughtering a cow in stark protest of the newly-revisited law against banning of cow ...

Read Full Post

Aamir Khan sometimes cries – Get over it

In a rational universe, no man would ever be turned into an internet meme for doing what psychologically healthy humans are naturally predisposed to do – cry. Aamir Khan was widely forgiven for his first weeping offense after watching Bajrangi Bhaijan in July. The episode was popularly attributed to the film’s earnest portrayal of a man’s conquest of inter-religious strife, capable of making even grown men cry. A second tear-sighting within a month, was ostensibly too much for the public to shrug at. In an interview with NDTV, director Nikhil Advani revealed that Khan cried profusely during the screening of ‘Katti Batti’. Photo: Express Tribune  “The last 22 minutes and ...

Read Full Post

You can be an atheist, but not on social media and not on your terms

Niloy Neel is the “fourth blogger” to be killed in Bangladesh in less than six months. It is now officially convenient to get by with assigning serial numbers to dead atheists, rather than making the effort of memorising their names. In 2013, radical religious groups drew up a list of 84 atheist bloggers, and submitted it to Bangladesh’s interior ministry demanding them to be unconditionally punished. The list was widely circulated, and so far, four of them have been murdered by extremist outfits. Those who live, do so in constant fear. The police laid bare its antipathy for them when Inspector General Shahidul Haque victim-blamed ...

Read Full Post

Let the women of Iran take off their hijabs, give them the right to choose!

Where citizens are forced to abide by the norms of a certain culture, disrespect for that culture for the mere sake of disrespect, becomes a mode of resistance. Thousands of Iranian women are posting pictures of themselves online with their hijabs removed, as part of a rapidly growing movement across the country. Last year, an Iranian journalist, Masih Alinejad, in an act of defiance of her nation’s ultra-conservative culture, posted a picture of herself on Facebook without her hijab. She launched a Facebook group – ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ – which has now snowballed into a movement of over 800,000 followers, inspiring thousands of Iranian women to ...

Read Full Post

Reham Khan tells women to “stop complaining” – As a man, allow me!

Reham Khan, in an interview for IndiaToday, advised women to “stop complaining”, and expressed her disapproval of their constant ‘whining’ and self-pitying. Perhaps I should try putting my male privilege to good use by whining on their behalf for a short while? The cover of IndiaToday featured a clichéd garden shot of Mrs Khan with her children; bound in a moment of sweet domestic bliss witnessed often in magazines, seldom in cooking oil commercials, and never in real life. Beneath the saccharine image, in bold white, are printed familiar words of conformity to the patriarchal system that drive Xanax sales ...

Read Full Post