Stories about East vs West

When will project Jihad end?

Another man, another terrorist incident, another country and another trail of blood-laden footprints leading back to Pakistan. Mohammed Merah, the French citizen of Algerian extraction finally gave himself up and, for better or for worse, was shot dead at the hands of French forces after a prolonged siege at a housing estate. The 23-year-old killed seven Frenchmen, including three solders, to “avenge Palestinian children” and protest against French military interventions overseas. According to media reports, Mohammad, just like so many others before him, visited Pakistan twice before going on his killing spree. The purpose, presumably, was to freshen up his shooting ...

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The Oscar conundrum

Pakistan’s first Oscar moment was momentous, to say the least. That one of our own was blessed enough to walk in front of the best of the best of the world cinema and claim her place within their ranks is a testament to the resolve of the Pakistani spirit, and an ovation to our limitless talent. At the same time it has been mired in the fact that it does portray a side that we would rather brush under the carpet. There is some truth to both sides of the story. To walk up and be awarded the golden statue, which ...

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Fresh Off the Boat: Why shouldn’t I like curry?

Brown:the colour I was assigned once in Canada. Never in a million years had I imagined that I would be considered a colour just like the black, yellow, white, peach and pink people around me. If we get deep down into it though, just to set the facts straight, I am not brown. I am a darker variation of ochre. No, I did not come here on a boat nor do I ride camels as a means of transportation in Pakistan unless it’s a family outing at Sea View beach, where camel rides are forms of entertainment.  Yet, they insist on ...

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Iqbal: Beyond poetic catchphrases

Yesterday was the death anniversary of one of Pakistan’s prominent national heroes, philosopher and poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Dr Riffat Hassan wrote a wonderful piece on how Iqbal’s ideology and message has been excluded from national discourse. I would like to echo that sentiment; today’s generation feels no connection to Iqbal’s ideas. Every once in a while, I see a couple of his lines on someone’s Facebook status but that’s about it. Pakistanis know nothing of the man beyond a few catchphrases. His ideas are important to understand, question and reflect on, because we have all grown up in an environment ...

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Is the veil not cool enough for France?

Is it difficult to be a woman, a Muslim and a self-proclaimed fighter of gender discrimination – and not support the French government’s ban on the burqa? Nope, no problem. In fact, I feel I am in a position of advantage as a member of a religion that has come under fire from the world’s democracies as well as an outspoken advocate for  equality for both sexes. Let me iterate here: I do not support the ban on the face veil. It is tantamount to human rights violations against minorities. What is French culture? The French government’s ban  says that the ...

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A moral argument for abortion

Abortion. An eight lettered word that can ruin any well-heeled kitty party or friends’ night out. I should know, since I have successfully brought conversations to a screeching halt (or the opposite) on both occasions. I often wonder what it is about that word which awakens the morality brigade. Those arguing against abortion often claim “It’s a living thing!” blithely ignoring my scathing looks of disbelief. Science and logic seem to take a back seat in this argument. How about some facts to back up emotion? The power is hers I’m pro-choice, in case there was any doubt. If there is anything in life ...

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Should Muslims celebrate Valentine’s Day?

The internet has been inundated with emails, Facebook posts and videos encouraging people to boycott Valentine’s Day and claiming that Islam prohibits the holiday. One video made by a group of young boys quotes historical references to prove that V-Day is un-Islamic. I received a text message that said “Speak against the kuffar and boycott Valentine’s Day!” A student in one of the classes that I teach said: “Celebrating Valentine’s Day is gunnah.“ While another said: “Do you know the Americans came up with this event to mess with us? They’re trying to take Muslims away from their faith by showing them such celebrations.” Perhaps these ...

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Davos Diaries: The West is not working

As I attend speak to various members of the 2,200 business elite, top politicians and journalists who have gathered at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos there is a sad realization in the air: the West is not working. The global polarization between the haves and have-nots is taking its toll on progress and if the Western world seeks to move forward it must bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Former President of the United States Bill Clinton addressed a gathering here. He said: “My concern is that businesses and governments in this difficult environment will see the ...

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Be anti-West, be Islamic

The Iranian intellectual Jalal Al-e Ahmed first coined the term ‘’Westoxification’’. Ahmed used this term in the context of a stinging critique of ‘’Western civilization’’ and ‘’Western technology’’. He vividly describes this malady of economic, cultural and social disenchantment brought about by Iranian trying to imitate Western models: ‘’I say that gharbzadegi (the Persian term used by Ahmed for Westoxification)  is like cholera (or) frostbite. But no. It’s at least as bad as sawflies in the wheat fields. Have you ever seen how they infest wheat? From within. There’s a healthy skin in places, but it’s only a skin, just ...

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Love in a time of rishta aunties

I am strongly resisting the temptation to make sweeping statements, but as a general rule I find nowhere else in the world is individuality and free thinking penalised as it is in the land of the pure. From school when the teacher frowned at your blatant use of ‘imagination’, to the fear inducing lessons with maulvi sahib, to adulthood when society already has your course of life charted out and heaven’s forbid if you should dare to deviate. Yes, I cannot think of a society that has a more perverted notion of life; fervently abiding to religious practise whilst ignoring the ...

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