Stories about equality

What Hajj taught me

Before: A friend and I were shopping for my sneakers. I told him that I could not walk without Caterpillar shoes. “I can run but cannot walk without feeling pain.It’s probably a varicose vein.” My friend suggested I try Adidas. We decided that I could get them whenever I went to Dubai. After: I was walking – in simple slippers and even barefoot. I walked 1.5 kilometers to the train station every day, two kilometeres in Jamrat (ritual of stoning the Satan) thrice in three days and similar distances in Arafat. Longer distances in three Tawafs (circumambulating the Holy Kaaba) and saee… almost 12 kilometres in six ...

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Shut down Wall Street

In the mid 90s I found myself in a wall street job because of a lack of really knowing what to do. It had its perks; it allowed me to live in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Par0k slope area for two years of my life, dine on sushi, and later take only the bare minimum loans for law school.  So much in the world has changed since then.   I remember a chilly October lunch date with a girl who worked at Lehman.  She was in a black suit and we both had a lunch of steamed rolls.  She wanted to ...

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We’re here, we’re queer, deal with it!

In 2003, Brazil brought the case for homosexual rights on the United Nations table, only to be derailed at the last minute by Muslim and African countries. Instead, amendments were introduced and approved for the removal of any reference to discrimination based on sexual orientation. My country, Pakistan, was the captain of Team Homophobe. It distributed a memo to the member states declaring that the approval of the recommendation would be: “A direct insult to 1.2 billion Muslims around the world.” This year, thanks to three abstentions, China being absent, Libya’s suspension and the efforts of South Africa to table the resolution again, it was ...

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Let them wear bangles

Has life for women in Pakistan improved or deteriorated over the past decade? This question is being hotly debated in the wake of a report that listed Pakistan as the ‘third-worst country in the world for women’. Now, I am not one to say that some Pakistani women have not made great strides in the past ten years or so. When critics of reports like the one I mentioned above rattle off names of prominent women politicians, educationalists, intellectuals and social workers as proof of women’s success in Pakistan, I agree wholeheartedly that these women have effectively contributed to society, ...

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Women are the weaker sex – so what?

The pervasive staring can be annoying and so can a look on some mens’ faces which says: “she’s just a woman.” While most Pakistani women are victims of inequality, abuse and threats I believe there is a ray of light that often goes unnoticed. In my experiences, many middle-to-upper class women in Pakistan are delicately handled -like valuable, glass objects. They are respected at least outwardly and even allowed to disgrace men in public for initiating eye contact. In spite of the blatant prejudices, should such women appreciate the small advantages they are given in the Pakistani society? On the bus My journey towards exploring the ...

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Gender apartheid in the Muslim world

Before we had started praying, a man came running towards us from the front rows and forced us to stop. I was out of sorts and felt really embarrassed in front of about fifty men, when they turned around with eyes gazing at us fixedly, as if we had committed an act of blasphemy. “But you are not allowed here.” He took us to a dark, dingy warehouse on the far right. “Pray here,” he said. I looked around. It was a deserted room with unwashed utensils and dirty clothes scattered everywhere. Not allowed? I kept thinking to myself. Why on earth ...

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On love and marriage: Where did the spark go?

When two people get married, they might safely assume that they can’t afford to mess it up. Or can they? Today, I speak on behalf of all my girlfriends who are pondering the million dollar question: where did the spark go? A flaming start Initially most of us jump into the institution with gusto.  We look at it as a final end to a romantic rendezvous; the stolen glances and time restricted engagements that leave so much to be desired and explored. After marriage, there is an endless amount of time at our disposal and this reduces romantic fervour considerably. Where is the heart ...

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Religion vs ethics: Who cares where human rights came from?

The election of Asma Jahangir is a welcome development in the establishment of human rights and rule of law in Pakistan. However, the concept of human rights remains one of the most controversial issues in contemporary political and social thought, partly because of the origins and the justifications used in reference to human rights. The case against rights The  grounding of human rights in our respective societies is perhaps one of great concern. Why bother with rights? What gives them legitimacy? Do they even exist? What does it mean to have a right? What about responsibilities? Are human rights universal? These ...

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Making informed choices

Mark Steven Johnson, an American film writer and director, once said, “Everything you do in life, every choice you make, has a consequence.” Last week a woman filed a petition in court seeking divorce from an uneducated man to whom she was married by her parents when she was a young girl. The woman said that she had studied and become a teacher but her husband did not get any education. She submitted that she could not foresee a happy marriage with him since they were very different from each other. My first reaction after reading the news was to rejoice ...

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Boys want to have fun too

What comes to your mind when you think of Karachi? The magnificent sea , ever-glowing lights , loadshedding, paan gutka and for me – gender discrimination. Yup. life is so not fair for the unfair sex in the capital of Sindh. I would have never noticed such discrimination had I been living in Karachi with my family. It was only when I came back to the city to pursue higher studies that I perceived the stark discrimination. The practice here is that all the trendy hang outs, parks, recreational spots are restricted to families only. As harsh as it seems this would still ...

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