Stories about extremism

This is my country, and I want it back

Pakistan has aided the germination of Islamophobia, Taliban, extremist tehreeks and intolerant fundamentalism. But it has also produced quite the opposite. You may call them the hidden ones, but there are Pakistanis who say that it’s time to bring a change. No tolerance for wrong A sense of urgency erupted among judicious Pakistanis after the murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. As the media covered protestors on the streets, both left and right wing, there was widespread confusion. Fortunately now, the truth is becoming clearer to the average Pakistani. Now he questions, looks for inspiration and does not want to ignore reality. Words ...

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Fear and self-loathing in Pakistan

When I returned to Islamabad after five years, I realised how much Pakistan had changed. There were security checks at every entry and exit point of the city and uniformed men looked suspiciously at every car that passed them. “Good job,” I thought after seeing them and assumed they were doing their job properly. But then I noticed that most of the drivers they pulled over had a few similar qualities: they were all  men with long beards wearing shalwar kameez. I understand that terrorists are usually in this type of attire but does this give guards the right to stop ...

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Citizens of hypocrisy: Can a petition save Pakistan?

At the first protest I attended, Karachi Unversity students were protesting against the frequent riots by student political wings. It was grand. A large number of young people, full of energy, were screaming, excitedly holding up placards. Not a single one of them seemed to care about what was written on the placards they were holding. It was all about being at the front, holding the best placard, shouting slogans at the tops of their lungs, and most importantly, getting coverage from the media. Apart from the burning sun on my head and some tiny pushes from here and there, I admit ...

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Legitimising extremism: The state’s deafening silence

Despite fighting a long war against militancy the state seems to have displayed recent apathy towards the spread of extremism over the past year. Its inability and unwillingness to challenge jihadi groups has legitimised the cleric and his judgments. Sadly for minorities, this has turned into an increased threat as many feel that their connection to the country is rapidly deteriorating. Last month, the Federal Shariat Court issued a ruling that declared several sections of the Women’s Protection Act 2006 against Sharia law. The ruling effectively stated that “no legislative instrument can control, regulate or amend FSC’s relating to the Hudood ...

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Wake up America, Islam is not the enemy

“Pakistan is going down.” This was the headline that appeared on the screen on a CNN broadcast as I prepared to board the 16 hour New York – Lahore trek, returning to a country I’ve grown to love deeply but that the newscaster was condemning as the most dangerous country on the earth. Squirming tirelessly on the flight, I thought about all that’s happened over the past few months I’ve been in Pakistan – and particularly the flooding gap between the liberals and radicals, which the international media has so loudly proclaimed – and felt an overwhelming sense of restlessness. How could the international ...

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Bleeding tears for Pakistan: Where have we failed?

Nothing is more refreshing than an evening jog in the park. The wind in your hair, the moist clods of earth under your feet; the almost tangy smell of damp, green grass and the mellow chatter of birds as they begin their daily rounds of “good-night!” to each other. But today is different. Rather than a gentle caress, the wind seems to lash out at me. The grass smells bitter and the normally rhythmic twitter of the birds is like an ominous chant, resounding in my ears, getting louder by the minute until I can take it no more. I surrender ...

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Slackistan: Not coming to a cinema near you

The Pakistani creative and entertainment industry is in the line of fire yet again. Last week’s cause célèbre is incidental heroine Veena Malik, the Lollywood actress whose participation in the Indian reality television show Bigg Boss, has touched a raw nerve with Pakistan’s self-appointed morality brigade (media and mullah alike). She emerged from Kamran Shahid’s show Frontline as an ambassador for showbiz and entertainment. This week, we have been greeted with the news that Hammad Khan’s feature film Slackistan with an all-Pakistani cast will not be released in Pakistan because of the raft of objections and censorship demands from the Pakistani Central ...

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Liberals then, and liberals now

The lack of pluralism within our society is emblematic of our intolerance in general. I hate to be cynical, but it has always been this way and I fear that it shall remain so. There has been talk on these pages of a ‘liberal movement’ or ‘liberal activism’ as well as ‘liberal fascists/ liberal extremists’. The fact of the matter remains that left-of-centre social and political thought has never been the ‘done’ thing in this country. Ghosts of a leftist past In the early 50’s right up to the 60’s and 70’s, this country had some semblance of leftist thinking. There was ...

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Fighting for the white stripe

On August 11, 1947, the country’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan unveiled the new Pakistani flag – an all-green Muslim League flag with a slight alteration. It included a white stripe that the then prime minister in his address went on to say provided minorities with rights that the Congress party in India was unwilling to give. Standing on the empty front lawn of the Governor House for the first time since the governor’s assassination, I was reminded of Governor Salmaan Taseer’s Christmas day address only a month earlier. The governor, who was dressed in his typical dark sports coat ...

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Who is the real Muslim?

Islam is not complicated, Muslims are. When I say I am Muslim, I should not feel the need to categorise myself as an extremist, moderate or liberal. I either practise my religion or don’t, but as long as I believe in one God and the Holy Prophet (pbuh), I am as much of a Muslim as anyone else. The reaction of several hard-line religious groups at the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, if compared to my reaction and, of course, a very large number of others, confuses me. I claim to be a Muslim and yet I condemn the ...

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