Stories about intolerance

I stand with Junaid Jamshed

The year was 1990. Junaid Jamshed was at the height of his career when a petition was filed in the Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan that the punishment for blasphemy under Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code is not appropriate under the light of Quran and Sunnah. Until then, the punishment could include life imprisonment, fine or death. The petition suggested that only the death penalty could be the right punishment for a blasphemer. It was a tumultuous time in the Pakistani political landscape.  The year saw a change of three Prime Ministers- the ousted PM Benazir Bhutto, the caretaker ...

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An open letter to Junaid Jamshed

Dear JJ Sahib, First of all, condolences for the recent situation you find yourself in. It is most unfortunate that our first correspondence be in times that are possibly troubling for you. With the formalities out of the way, I have a confession to make – I really could not care less about your situation. Why then am I writing you a letter? Like others from my generation, I grew up listening to your songs. I met you 15 years ago, backstage after a concert. I was a star-crazed teenager and you were, well, a star. You gave me a hug and laughed ...

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The confused case of a ‘liberal’ Pakistani

As the claws of fanaticism have dug deeper in our skin during the last one decade, a parallel phenomenon has taken place among some sections of Pakistan’s urban youth – a shift towards liberalism. In the simplest of terms, the components of liberalism fly the flag of equality and freedom. The whole concept revolves around civil liberties and rights. To a huge chunk sick of conservatism, liberals provide a platform that enables social change and political reform. Not a bad idea looking at the current state of bomb-wrapped, blood-spluttering affairs in Pakistan. What is the problem then? The problem is the foundation of ...

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I’m Sunni and I went to the 10th Muharram procession in Melbourne!

Pakistan, home to 180 million people, saw another deadly Muharram this year when 57 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Lahore. Each time, short term administrative solutions are followed to bandage the plague of ideological intolerance that has infected us for years. Cities are put under curfew, statements of condemnation floated, promises of fool-proof security made and cellular services blocked for as long the government deems fit. Nothing much has changed since last year, when Raja Bazar in Rawalpindi was gripped by sectarian violence. This religious intolerance and administrative failure is in stark contrast to what I recently experienced in a foreign land. I come from a ...

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Ben Affleck, Islamophobia and the Western media

I am a Christian Bale aficionado, especially for his portrayal as Batman. So when it was announced that Ben Affleck is going to be featured as the new Batman in an upcoming movie, I was heartbroken. But putting that aside, in the recent episode between Bill Maher and Affleck that has been stirring quite the hype, I am going to try to pledge my allegiance with Affleck and let my conscience agree to him being Batman. If you have been following the recent clash between Maher and Affleck, then let’s give a high five to Affleck for standing up against Islamophobia. Generalising an entire population is, in ...

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How deep-rooted is religious intolerance in Pakistan?

Statistics have labelled Pakistan one of the world’s premier terrorism affected nations. However the one silver lining in the cloud of an extremist attack is a unified chant of ‘yeh hum naheen’ (this is not who we are). But when a beloved young athlete displays religious bias, can we really comfort ourselves with the same philosophy? Footage showing Pakistani opener, Ahmed Shehzad, making religious comments to Sri Lanka’s player, Tillakaratne Dilshan, has caused a media frenzy and propelled an official Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) probe into the matter. In the video Shehzad is heard saying, “If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no ...

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‘You listen to music? Oh boy, you’re definitely going to hell!’

“You listen to songs, oh boy! You’re definitely going to hell.” No, this pronouncement was not received by me from an adult, neither from any religious preacher or maulvi, but from my eight-year-old nephew, who looked at me with disgust because he had seen a guitar, a piano and headphones in my room. His words froze me for a moment, not because they seemed harsh but because they came from an eight-year-old, who was taught intolerance towards those who do not seem to be on the right track by the source of his learning. In that moment I stood in shock, having been ...

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You realise you’re in a Pakistani flight when…

The sky is dark and you’re airborne, eyes transfixed on the entertainment system. Suddenly the plane takes a gravitational drop downwards, and then picks itself up a second later. The lights in the airplane go up, and the seatbelt sign appears. The flight attendant, passing through the plane, requests all passengers to remain seated, pull up their seats in an upright position and avoid heading to the lavatory for a few seconds. Most of the passengers follow none of these instructions. Welcome to an international flight carrying Pakistani passengers. Air travel isn’t the most comfortable thing in the flight, especially over long distances, unless of ...

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In Pakistan and trying to read the BJP manifesto? Nope, can’t access it!

The right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) recently released manifesto says many things – and newspapers and people all over the world tell me a lot of it is problematic. There’s something about a reversal of India’s nuclear doctrine, apparently. And an Indian friend of mine told me they might be cutting beef production. But I wouldn’t know, because I can’t access BJP’s website, and neither can anyone else in Pakistan. Interestingly, it isn’t our government that banned it; the BJP itself made its website inaccessible to people from Pakistan, citing hacking threats. While the hacking threat may not be entirely ...

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Larkana: Losing our soul, religion and country, one minority at a time

Today is Holi, the festival of colours. Today, Hindus bedeck themselves in the colours of life and love and many other communities join in to mark the start of spring. Alas, the only colour adorning Pakistan is black and red. Our Hindu brethren in the streets of Larkana should be celebrating this auspicious festival. Instead, they hide in their houses, afraid for their safety and worried about reprisals from a community that should be their protectors. Once again, the spectre of bigotry and hatred has raised its head in what is becoming a far too frequent pattern. Once again, we are left wondering about the empty symbols ...

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