Stories about diversity

Dear NADRA, your failure to recognise Pakistan’s undervalued regional languages is not surprising

I recently came across a disheartening news article which stated that the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) failed to recognise a degree attained in a regional language. This applied to all the areas and provinces of Pakistan and not just Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Now, let us take in the severity of this statement. In effect, this means that those who have done their Bachelors or Masters in Pashto or any other regional language cannot enter their education data for their national identity cards (NIC) at NADRA. The premier regulatory authority’s online forms only contain and recognise a master’s degree or Doctorate in English, Urdu and Persian. But ...

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I am a Muslim parent in the US and I chose to send my children to a Catholic school

My wonderful nani (maternal grandmother), Jamila Khatoon, was an advocate for missionary schools and hospitals in Pakistan. She would famously say, “Schools and hospitals are best run by the mission.” Resultantly, my mother and her siblings went to missionary schools in Karachi, as did my siblings and I. Why is it that parents, belonging to other faiths, sometimes consciously make a choice to send their kids to a Catholic school? Is it because they feel that faith-based education, regardless of what faith the school believes in, imparts spirituality at a young age that leaves an impact through adult life? I remember putting the ...

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Trump’s #MuslimBan: A realist’s take

Recently, the UAE foreign minister defended Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, claiming that it’s not Islamophobic. The unconvincing statement, perhaps given in relief or gratitude for the UAE having avoided the ban itself, only goes to highlight the unscrupulous foundations of the ban. Rich, influential Muslim countries that are financial or strategic allies like the Gulf States and Pakistan have been spared, whereas those with little utility to the US have conveniently been scapegoated to appease Trump’s right-wing populism. Perhaps Abdullah Bin Zayed’s words have some truth to them after all. Perhaps the ban isn’t merely a coup against Muslim countries, but ...

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Why is it unacceptable for an American seventh grader to learn about Islam?

I can sit at my computer and read the news about what is happening in a remote shipping village in Australia, or find out about the latest political gaffe in Brazil or discover the new ‘Pineapple Pen’ phenomenon sweeping Japan, all at the convenient click of a button.  Globalisation and the overreaching powers of the internet have made all this possible and stuffed us with information overload. The ability to learn about new cultures, inventions and policies is boundless and never-ending. However, the ability to soak all this knowledge must be matched by a desire to learn. If ignorance, hatred ...

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Why did my daughter always pick a petite doll with lustrous blonde hair?

It is pertinent for children to grow up with a realistic idea of beauty. I know and support this because being a mother of a five-year-old daughter; I have closely witnessed how the toys we choose and introduce to our children play a huge part in constructing their ideals of beauty. My daughter always picks a petite doll with blonde lustrous hair, and she roots for Maria Sharapova rather than Serena Williams during a tennis match. Perhaps, inadvertently, the toys I choose for her has begun to limit her idea of beauty and acceptance. Here, I would like to add another important observation ...

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10 Pakistani dramas from 2015 that everyone should watch

2015 was a year filled with lots of emotions, drama and masala for the Pakistani drama industry. We have a set of directors, actors and producers who have always made much applauded dramas, while on the other hand, we have a pool of artists who are always set to bring out taboo topics and make an impact. The dilemma to decide which of the dramas rightfully made it big due to its content and which were given overrated popularity for the love of cast and locations is still unanswered. I feel this confusion will always start a heated debate within the ...

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Breaking bread together: An American convert’s take on Eidul Fitr

When I was younger, family gatherings were the highlight of our year. My siblings and I would don our finest clothes, heading out to these events with so much joy and anticipation, you’d think we were meeting the president. Our family get-togethers celebrated an array of life events both planned and impromptu. My parents, my siblings and I would climb into our beat-up car and drive to our destination, gushing about all the ways we were going to have fun. Celebrations like these are a means for humans to get together, and communal gatherings are essential to our survival and wellbeing. ...

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#OscarSoWhite: The dark truth of a white Academy

Many in Hollywood and on social media were deeply offended by the lack of racial diversity present in this year’s Oscar nominees. This is the first time since 1998 that no person of colour, Hispanic or Asian, was nominated for the Academy Awards in the acting categories. This comes across as a surprise considering both the country’s president and the president of the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences are African-American. While it is important to note that, in the past two decades, a large number of African-American, Hispanic and Asian actors and directors have been recognised by the ...

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Can the Pakistani education system stop catering to political agendas please?

The issue of school curriculum has been under discussion in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) for some time now. The 18th Amendment devolved the education sector to the provinces but that has yet to bear fruit, since the leaders who have decided to take up the responsibility of planning a ‘better’ future for the youth of K-P still need to achieve some constructive results. Playing its ‘due’ role, the coalition government in the province wants to change what is being taught to children at schools. The changes desired are within the lines of ‘religious’ and ‘national’ teachings, according to the members. They want chapters on national heroes like Bacha Khan ...

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Unity, not uniformity

We tend to accept unity as one of the fundamental guiding principles of Pakistan, without questioning what it means. The oft repeated, and clichéd, political slogan is that we need to unify the country. We all need to come together for Pakistan, but come together to what? Unify to become what? The acceptance of the need for unity as a given truth, without questioning the very meaning of the word itself has led to a perverted understanding of the word. Unity seems to be understood to mean uniformity; a society where dissent is not accepted, any person holding an opinion ...

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