Stories about freedom of speech

The mysterious case of Muzaffar Shahid

It was around 9am when the doorbell rang. Arsalan was having breakfast in the kitchen. Amna had already dropped her three children to school and was standing in front of the freezer, contemplating the day’s menu. “Were you expecting someone?” Arsalan looked at her questioningly. “No,” she answered, as she walked out the kitchen and towards the front door. She peered through the peephole and saw a man and a woman in police uniforms. She didn’t open the door and went back to the kitchen. “It’s the police,” she told Arsalan. “You get the door.” Arsalan was up in an instant. “Good morning,” both the officers smiled ...

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Yes of course, Dr Hunt, your remarks about women in labs were not sexist at all!

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields have always been ruled by men. However, there have been women like Marie Curie, Ada Byron, Rosalind Franklin, Sally Ride and Maryam Mirzakhani, who have proved that women are just as talented as the opposite gender. Yet, the mind-set that women are not professional enough for these fields prevails even today. A Nobel laureate, Dr Tim Hunt, recently commented at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul that, “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls; three things happen when they are in the lab; you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they ...

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Here is why PTI was ‘undemocratic and unconstitutional’ but ANP and JUI-F are not

Who were they? – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). What were they doing? – Protesting on roads. For what? -Against rigging – oh wait, “alleged” rigging – in the general elections 2013. What were their demands? –Resignation of the prime minister, an impartial probe into rigging allegations and, in case rigging is proven, dissolution of the assemblies and re-election. Were they opposed? By whom? -Yes, by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of course, and almost all other political parties including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Awami National Party (ANP). Why were they opposed by PPP, JUI-F and ANP? -These parties believed and opined that it is undemocratic and unconstitutional to ...

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Zehreeli Chummi: The controversial ‘chummas’ Pakistanis need to take

There is one thing that all Pakistanis know about themselves – they can’t stand cartoons or comics. No, I’m not talking about the meek, biscuit or washing detergent company sponsored comics; I’m talking about those that question our beliefs, provoke our preconceived notions about religion, and reveal the corrupt system and politicians. We get so emotional about a drawing that we are willing to destroy our own city, kill our own people and any outsider who comes in our way. It doesn’t matter if he or she had nothing to do with those comics. Photo: Zehreeli Chummi Facebook page We ...

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Planning to study in France? You can’t if you wear long skirts

Recently, Sarah, a 15-year-old French Muslim student, was suspended twice from class for wearing a long black skirt because it was seen as a violation of the ban on religious symbols in public schools in France. Due to this, France is facing a severe backlash against its so-called strict secular policy after the event took place. The justification provided was that if Muslim girls start wearing long skirts in a conspicuous effort to show their faith, then some will argue that is a breach of the secular law. The ban on religious symbols in school was implemented in 2004 but the updated version of the French Constitution ...

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Pamela Geller’s hate for Muslims and blurry standards of free speech

A couple of weeks back, I vocally criticised the direct interference of the state in the academic affairs of my previous university, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), after they were forced to cancel a talk on Balochistan. However, this week, I found myself vocally protesting against the decision of my present university, Brooklyn College, to invite a speaker for an academic talk. On the face it, the positions I have taken in the last fortnight seem irreconcilable, hypocritical even, but what differentiates my two positions is the fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech. Ignoring any discussion on the technicality that in ...

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#ShameOnLums

Eight years ago, on a November afternoon, I stood with hundreds of students at LUMS protesting against a military dictator. The students held placards, shouting slogans, and we were effectively having a stand-off with the police. Riot police with heavy armour, shields and batons was employed by the government to silence our voices. The police had warrants to arrest several students, and professors, on phony charges of ‘wall-chalking’ and vandalism. The scene was set for a direct confrontation. The impasse was broken by the direct intervention of the then Vice-chancellor of LUMS, Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan. The police retreated from entering ...

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May peace win

Al Arabiya: “An Iranian educational and exhibition centre has launched an international cartoon competition around the theme of Holocaust denial, in a response to the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) by the French Charlie Hebdo magazine.” Charlie Hebdo’s immediate publication of an issue of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) with a tear and a message of forgiveness, in response to the January 7 massacre, has fomented protests from Mali to Lahore. Iran came up with a Holocaust cartoon competition, and Pakistani lawmaker Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour offered a bounty to whoever can murder the owner of Charlie Hebdo. Then Copenhagen, in a parallel attack to Hebdo, saw another sociopath fire shots at ...

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How can Muslims fare with the #ChapelHillShooting and #CharlieHebdo?

January 7, 2015 – Paris, France Two deranged men walk into an unsuspecting newsroom and turn the workspace into a warzone. “Allahu Akbar!” The men chant during their attack, scapegoating Islam and Allah in the process. The numbers start piling up: 50 shots fired, 11 injured, 11 dead and one religion to blame. Cherif and Said Kouachi’s act of insanity will now be added to the steadily growing list of horrific deeds committed by a select few individuals that have come to define a community of over 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. January 7, 2015 – London, United Kingdom I’m sitting at home, reading about the Charlie Hebdo shooting online. My thoughts ...

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What separates Charlie Hebdo from The New York Times?

Let’s say you had a new neighbour. You knock on their door and say, “Hey there, welcome to the neighbourhood. I live next door. Oh, and by the way, you look like a pig. And is that your mother behind you? She looks like a fat old donkey. Dinner at my place tonight?” You certainly have the right to say all that. But should you? And what purpose will it serve? And though I would not punch you if you ever said those things to me, I would do one thing other than simply closing the door behind me – I would use ...

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