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)

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 ...

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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 ...

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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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