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)

Why the French burqa ban upsets me as a secular feminist

The European Court of Human Rights has weighed in on the face veil ban in France and, in a flagrant exhibition of institutionalised bigotry, has upheld the government’s decision. As goes France, so goes Europe. The verdict breathes fresh air into an old debate, in which the opposing sides had begun to take comfort in the thought of this restriction being a French anomaly, not representative of the general European psyche. But we’ve faced disappointments before. We’ve been led to believe that we may choose either one of the two positions: - Burqa is benign, and must be allowed - Burqa is a harmful, patriarchal icon, ...

Read Full Post

Will North Korea consider this blog an “act of war”?

Facing what could be his harshest critic yet, Seth Rogen’s upcoming film, “The Interview”, has been rated 4.5 nukes by the fuming Supreme Leader of North Korea whom it has satirised.   A spokesperson for the dictatorial regime has accused the Obama administration, which allegedly ‘masterminded’ the movie, of “provocative insanity”, and deemed the movie an outright “act of war”. According to the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “If the United States administration tacitly approves or supports the release of this film, we will take a decisive and merciless countermeasure.” It is unlikely that the “merciless countermeasure” would be a caricature of ...

Read Full Post

Just because she’s saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean she’s doing ‘nakhras’!

Sheryl Sandberg makes an impressive argument against the use of the word ‘bossy’, which is often used pejoratively to describe assertive women with ‘executive leadership skills’. In Indo-Pak vernacular, there’s another word far worthier of being thrown before the social media’s firing squad. The word ‘nakhra’ is more formally used for ‘coquetry’, but in common usage it refers to a stubborn refusal to submit. In each sense, it is used almost exclusively for women, who are referred to as nakhraybaaz. There are many scenarios I can describe where this word is used as a cudgel against women, but I’ll make use of a ...

Read Full Post

A mosque named after Mumtaz Qadri? Well done, Pakistan!

I was spending a lazy afternoon lounging in the Osama bin Laden library, bemoaning the dire lack of buildings honouring our local murderers, when my Smartphone informed me of this fascinating new development. I learned of a mosque being erected in Faizabad that is to be named after the man who killed the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer. The very idea of a mosque, a sacred house of worship, being named after a man who attained his glory by murdering another man in cold blood, may reasonably offend certain people. Certain people like, say, Sherbano Taseer, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Mehreen Zahra, who expressed ...

Read Full Post

Bulldozing the poor of Islamabad to make room for the rich?

I offer my deepest sympathies to the elite and upper-middle class families of Islamabad who may be experiencing frustrating irregularities in the activities of their servants. It’s quite possible that the inconvenience is being caused by their maasi (domestic maid) Zareena’s sudden homelessness in the aftermath of the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) war on slums. I’ll try not to undermine the importance of preventing illegal occupation of public land but this prevention shouldn’t be reserved for just one segment of society. It’s expected for these settlements to be raked away especially, if the occupiers are haplessly poor and have no teeth to bite back. But what ...

Read Full Post

Don’t tell me to ‘stop being negative’ about Pakistani affairs

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been mocked for raging on the blogosphere about Pakistani matters. And many like myself have been repeatedly prescribed a ‘positive attitude’. These patronising suggestions need to stop. One of the leading complaints against liberal writers and media outlets is that they allegedly ‘focus on the negativity’ and fail to provide sufficient coverage to the saccharine, more palatable details of our country. Such ‘positivity’ is the staple diet of nationalists who are easily irked by information of our national imperfection and the blessed opium of the ignoramuses who cannot conceive the astronomical depths to ...

Read Full Post

Don’t cheer for Pakistan’s cricket team if you are in India, you may be suspended or stabbed!

In a bizarre demonstration of overbearing nationalism, a university in Uttar Pradesh suspended 67 Kashmiri students for cheering for the Pakistani cricket team. This may be a clinical sign that the sore-loser syndrome has reached its terminal stage. I don’t watch cricket. All I really know about the sport is that Pakistan won the match because Shakil Afridi, incidentally the same guy who found Osama, scored a last-minute goal (also called a ‘touchdown’). I do know, though, that every India-Pakistan cricket match sends the neighbouring nations into a state of frenzy, which is quite natural. It doesn’t matter. As long as their skirmishes and battles are confined ...

Read Full Post

Doctors in Pakistan: Sumbal, only the peptic ulcer wali bibi, not a person with feelings

Her doctor thought she was an open mouth for him to dunk pills into. Instead, she turned out to be a person with thoughts, feelings and questions that were all left unaddressed. As part of Pakistan’s tightly-knit community of doctors, it is common for us to share our horror stories about non-compliant, abusive patients with laughable misconceptions about drugs and bodily functions. We softly giggle at them mistaking left-sided abdominal pains for appendicitis, when the appendix is in fact on the right side. And the unspoken conclusion drawn each time is that a patient is too uninformed to be trusted with his own ...

Read Full Post

I stand with Hanif: Jinnah is not a ‘hero’

No sooner had I finished reading Mohammad Hanif’s full interview with The News, that I dragged a carton of canned food into my basement and braced myself for a storm of nationalism that I knew would inevitably follow. And when, pray tell, have I ever been wrong? A blog appeared recently, as scathing as one would expect it to be, blasting Hanif’s audacity to think that Jinnah really isn’t anyone’s hero. Mr Waqas bluntly implies that freedom of speech is limited to those who speak favourably of Quaid-e-Azam and the other heroes we have been assigned. Indeed, if you have nothing nice to say ...

Read Full Post

Is Abb Tak’s Uzma Tahir the new Maya Khan?

There’s a new trend catching on - TV aunties raiding your homes with their camera crews and demanding to know who you’re sharing your apartment with. Say ‘cheese’, Pakistan! Uzma Tahir is a woman on a mission. The host of the program ‘Khufia’ on Abb Tak, takes in a deep breath and valiantly nose-dives into Karachi’s sordid core where men dress like women. It’s an exhaustive, but fruitful, day’s work of ramming her microphone into people’s faces and inquiring, “Ap Naila ke saath kab se hein? Tumhein pata hai ke who kaun hai? Khuwaja sera? Mujhe toh pata hai yeh khuwaja sera hai” (How long have ...

Read Full Post