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)

Pakistan one of the least racist countries? Tell that to the Pakhtuns

The recent ‘revelation’ by the Washington Post about Pakistan being among the most racially tolerant countries in the world, was met by jubilation by the nationalists. However, much of the Pakhtun community being systematically oppressed, mocked and expelled from the country, was offline and unavailable for comment. As a liberal who has long decried our nation’s exquisitely racist attitude towards Pakhtuns, Hazaras, Jews and any mound of protoplasm not strictly conforming to our expectation of what a ‘real Pakistani’ looks like, the study was, at first, humbling. Though I was certain that I hadn’t imagined all that racism, perhaps we were still ...

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Kashmir: Where raising a Pakistani flag is a criminal offence

On March 23rd, a Kashmiri woman publicly displayed a Pakistani flag and sang our national anthem in Srinagar. Judging from the swift and furious response by the authorities, she may well have been brandishing a swastika. I do not believe I would be able to mount a perfect defence, especially to Indian readers, of Asiya Andrabi – a somewhat intimidating niqabi separatist leader commonly photographed with a ceremonial dagger in hand. And that’s fine because who Andrabi is and what she personally stands for is irrelevant to this case. Why Arrest? Gun them down "@TimesNow: "Yes, I hoisted Pak flag & sung Pak anthem," ...

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‘Whiplash’ takes you into the mind of your scariest teacher

Think of the most terrifying teacher you have faced, the thought of whom still makes you jittery years after graduation. If you dare, he may appear on your screen in the shape of the tyrannical Terrance Fletcher in the latest cinematic masterpiece, Whiplash. JK Simmons, best known as the meme-worthy boss of Peter Parker in the earlier Spiderman movies, finally lands himself a role where his naturally fiery eyes and hardened countenance are put to good use. In Whiplash, Simmons plays a dreaded conductor at a cut-throat conservatory for gifted musicians. The Shaffer Conservatory, being no place for passionate amateurs with newly purchased instruments, has a dire reputation ...

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Did America make a bigger deal about Michelle Obama being unveiled than Saudi?

International media may have you believe that the Saudis are marching through Jeddah with pitchforks over the sight of Mrs Obama’s undraped head. A closer inspection of social media trends, however, suggests shrewd political theatre. A few days ago, major news networks broke the story of a strong “backlash” in the wake of a friendly visit to Saudi Arabia by the First Lady and her dupatta-less head. Personalities as politically charged as the ‘Leader of the Free World’ and his wife, do not make sartorial gaffes, or obvious cultural faux pas. It may seem almost comical to imagine the White House ...

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Do we want our children singing and dancing to ‘Baby doll mien sone di’?

At ease, liberals, as this won’t be a furious grandparent’s rant on the corrupting influence of today’s music. This is a critical analysis of the influence of modern “item songs” on young people, without invoking a moralistic argument. Veteran actor, Shabana Azmi, recently rebuked item songs in the following words: “I am saying let it be an informed decision. I am not going to dictate what you should do. But be aware that when you do a song like that it is leading to the sexualisation of children and there are four-year-old girls dancing at all kinds of weddings to really bad songs.” Stating ...

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Saudi Arabia flogged a blogger? Let’s blame the West for that too!

Worshipers emerged from a mosque in Jeddah to witness a Saudi activist, Raef Badawi, being ceremoniously lashed. One… two… three… all the way to fifty painful whips, which are only the first of the thousand due to be delivered in 20 weekly sessions. International condemnations are flowing in, in support of the 30-year-old co-founder of Saudi Liberal Network, convicted of ‘insulting Islam’ after criticising powerful Saudi clerics online. He’s also been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay a fine of one million riyals. This is not the first crackdown by the establishment on liberal Saudi artists, academics and writers challenging the ...

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The new James Bond might be black. So?

The upcoming James Bond movie might offer a critic much to complain about; a hint that the crucial male lead may be played by a ‘black actor’, is no legitimate reason to moan. There are instances of jaw-dropping idiocy one becomes rapidly accustomed to, following social political news in America. I no longer jump out of my seat when Pat Robertson says something misogynistic, or when Jenny McCarthy links vaccines to hair cancer, or whatever her latest unscientific concern may be. Rush Limbaugh too has earned a similar reputation, but blatant racism is something particularly difficult to get accustomed to, especially in the ‘I can’t breathe’, post-Fergurson America where patience ...

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Is Pakistan ready to talk about sex?

I don’t want to jinx it, but there is a weekly call-in show on Health TV freely discussing a subject that has traditionally caused much controversy. Clinic Online is now taking callers’ questions pertaining to sexual health. This is a clear breakthrough, in a country whose schools deny the presence of reproductive organs in the human body and whose public healthcare professionals walk around eggshells trying to impart important information about preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Clinic Online on Health TV, featuring Dr Nazimuddin Siddiqui, invites callers to share their health concerns on-air, and offers helpful medical advice. The program clarifies its role as ‘advisory’, and does not sell itself ...

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The culture of fat-shaming: A conversation with Ali Moeen Nawazish

I’ve written extensively about the society’s attitude towards overweight people. Seemingly harmless jokes and unsolicited weight-loss advice often has serious, negative impact on the lives of people struggling with weight problem. I sat down with academic prodigy Ali Moeen Nawazish, to discuss the issue of fat-shaming and body image. Do you consider shaming people for their weight as something perverse? Definitely. Just judging anyone by not their actions, but the way they look, they sound, they speak; the whole concept of judging people based on these arbitrary things is perverse. Have you personally been a victim of fat-shaming, or suffered from poor self-image? Ever ...

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In defence of the ‘fat person’ sitting next to you on a plane

The hardest thing to do is to empathise with a person who is causing you inconvenience; to contain your righteous anger, with a self-reminder that the person doesn’t intend to bother you, and is probably as uneasy about the situation as you are. Some time ago, Rich Wisken wrote an acerbic letter to the airline company, Jetstar, complaining about being made to sit next to an obese gentleman on a flight from Perth to Sydney. He’d spent the duration of his flight periodically arguing with the flight-attendants, and heaping insults on the passenger next to him. In his letter to the company, he referred to ...

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