bina.shah

Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (twitter.com/BinaShah)

Naureen Laghari, Pakistan’s very own IS bride

In the aftermath of Mashal Khan’s lynching, it is vital that we re-examine some of our assumptions about religious extremism in our society. We can no longer assume that extremism and violence are the territory of the uneducated or the lower classes. The men who beat Khan to death were educated; university employees, students and even a political figure or two were included in the First Information Reports (FIRs). Another case has surfaced that challenges our assumptions even more – that of a young medical student called Naureen Laghari. Laghari, who was studying to become a doctor at Liaquat Medical University in Hyderabad, Sindh, had been reported ...

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Why would CAA break down the beautiful mural created by the Italian artist?

I was absolutely devastated to see what the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has done to Italian artist Maurizio Boscheri’s beautiful markhor mural at the Karachi Airport. Pakistan is seen as a dangerous, brutal country, but lately, we’ve been working on softening our image through art and culture. We get excited when a Pakistani artist is chosen to show her work in New York or London or Tokyo. We want grants and fellowships to support Pakistani artists around the world. We want international attention for projects like the Lahore Biennale and the Pakistani Chowk renovation. We think that this humanises us ...

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Is Islam the most feminist religion?

I’ve been reading about Australian youth activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied (we appeared on an Australian show once together) and her words to Jacqui Lambie on an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television show that Islam is (to her) the most feminist religion. Yassmin got pilloried in the Australian press for this statement. With the state of affairs for women in many Muslim countries today, it’s easy to see how it might not sit well with a cynical and non-Muslim-friendly audience. It would have gone down great with an audience full of Muslims, but we should probably unpack the statement a little bit to come somewhere between the optimism of Yassmin’s assertion and the rest of ...

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An evening with the Girls in Green

Since the success of the Pakistan women’s cricket team at the T20 World Cup, there’s been a lot of interest in these young women. Who are they? Where do they come from? And what is it that’s made them overcome so many obstacles to become sporting heroes to millions of Pakistanis of all ages? We had a chance to ask them these questions at The Second Floor, where Girls at Dhabas had arranged a meet and greet session with seven current and former members of the team and their coach. Captain Sana Mir, Nain Abidi, Batool Naqvi, Ayesha Zafar, Javeria ‘Jerry’ Khan, Muneeba ...

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In Pakistan, we have 13-year-old rape victims

The terrible news of a 13-year-old girl, raped and impregnated by her teacher in Larkana, Sindh, breaks the heart over and over again. The only good thing about this is that the teacher has been arrested, and has confessed to the crime (now that the child is four months pregnant). A powerful essay talks about how nobody in the government has taken notice of this case. Worse, the community blames the victim’s family for not protecting her “honour”. Supposedly they should have protected her “honour” by either never letting her go to school in the first place, or by killing her as soon as they ...

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Why Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy made A Girl in the River

Last night I had the good fortune to attend the first Pakistani public screening of the Oscar winning film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. I also conducted a Q&A afterwards with the film’s director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, who’s been dealing with a lot of controversy in Pakistan for the film’s subject matter and its global success. The movie’s about a young woman who survived an honour killing and lived to take her would-be killers – her own father and uncle – to court. Did Sharmeen make this film for western consumption, as a “transaction” as feminist writer Rafia Zakaria puts ...

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Will Maryam Nawaz invest Michelle Obama’s $70 million anywhere outside of Punjab?

This week we were treated to scenes of Maryam Nawaz Sharif standing with Michelle Obama as the First Lady announced an investment of $70 million as part of a new partnership between the United States and Pakistan to promote girls’ education. The money is part of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, which started up in March of this year and seeks to expand educational opportunities for girls. Ms Sharif also spoke about Nawaz Sharif’s education reforms, and the importance of educating girls. It’s good to see commitment at the highest level to this worthy goal. However, I can’t help being a bit of a cynic about ...

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Why were Karachi University girls beaten up for playing cricket?

News of young women playing cricket at Karachi University being beaten by religious thugs is not a great way to start your day. Members of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) had warned the cricket-playing women days ago, then came and broke up a mixed-gender game, and beat up both the men and women, members of the Punjabi Students Association, with batons. University officials seem to be passing this off as a clash between two student groups, but the IJT outright denies they beat up any of the young women. Campus violence involving political groups and religious groups has long plagued Pakistani universities, especially ...

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Tortured, beaten and raped: Is sexual terrorism ever going to end?

It’s a matter of grave concern and great sadness that in the 21st century, despite all the world’s advances in technology, science, society and economics, violence against women remains endemic. In fact, one out of three women around the world is a victim of gender-based violence: domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, sexual harassment, honour killings and many other permutations of this crime play out in millions of homes, workplaces, streets, villages and cities in every part of the globe. Violence against girls and women is rightly called one of the greatest crimes against humanity, occurring across all nations and cultures, ...

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Understanding rape through the Game of Thrones

Warning: For those of you, who have yet to watch the new season of Game of Thrones, be prepared for spoilers. Or stop reading.   ———————————————————————————————————————————————————————- I’ve been following the controversy about the Game of Thrones rape scene, which troubled a lot of women when it was aired this past Sunday. In the scene, Sansa Stark is raped by the sadistic psychopath Ramsey Bolton, while Theon Greyjoy is invited to watch. You don’t see Sansa or Ramsey, but you hear everything, while the camera focuses on Theon as he weeps. This, women have said, is unacceptable. Rape should not be used as a plot point. It’s gratuitous. ...

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