Stories about minorities

You can be an atheist, but not on social media and not on your terms

Niloy Neel is the “fourth blogger” to be killed in Bangladesh in less than six months. It is now officially convenient to get by with assigning serial numbers to dead atheists, rather than making the effort of memorising their names. In 2013, radical religious groups drew up a list of 84 atheist bloggers, and submitted it to Bangladesh’s interior ministry demanding them to be unconditionally punished. The list was widely circulated, and so far, four of them have been murdered by extremist outfits. Those who live, do so in constant fear. The police laid bare its antipathy for them when Inspector General Shahidul Haque victim-blamed ...

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Jinnah’s letter to Pakistan: Who do I hold accountable?

My precious, Where do I begin? Where do I end? 68 years ago, you two breathed your first – I remember it like it was yesterday. It wasn’t ideal. They thought you two wouldn’t be able to make it, but you did. I was such a proud father – the effort, the commitment, the resolve, it all had finally paid off. After the euphoria died down, it was time to snap back to reality. The challenges ahead were steep, but both of you had my unwavering support. My health was giving up on me and I knew I did not have a lot ...

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Breaking bread together: An American convert’s take on Eidul Fitr

When I was younger, family gatherings were the highlight of our year. My siblings and I would don our finest clothes, heading out to these events with so much joy and anticipation, you’d think we were meeting the president. Our family get-togethers celebrated an array of life events both planned and impromptu. My parents, my siblings and I would climb into our beat-up car and drive to our destination, gushing about all the ways we were going to have fun. Celebrations like these are a means for humans to get together, and communal gatherings are essential to our survival and wellbeing. ...

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#Justice4Feras: When the US police kills another innocent victim and no one cares

A 20-year-old Muslim graduate of El Camino Real Charter High School, named Feras Morad, was shot dead by the US police last Wednesday for ‘refusing’ to obey the officer’s instructions. Witnesses of the incident reported that the student had been high on ‘magic mushrooms’ for the first time at a party in Long Beach, California. Due to the effects of the drug, Morad jumped through the second floor window which created panic amongst his peers who informed the police out of concern for his safety. Upon arrival, the police tasered him and subsequently, shot him dead. The police stated that he had ...

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Are we a nation of Taliban apologists?

During his talk about terror and extremism in Pakistan, Mohammad Jibran Nasir declared, “I am not a cultural ambassador. I am not here to talk about bhangra.” The point was well taken since he was in the middle of a hard-hitting presentation about the terror threat in Pakistan and was not holding back his punches. Clad in a white shalwar kurta with a Pakistani flag pinned to his lapel, Nasir clearly does not equate patriotism with denial. Photo: Jibran Nasir He emphasised that while we are not all Taliban apologists, our society has become a breeding ground for terrorists. He is on an extensive tour of ...

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If you are a Muslim and wear a headscarf, you cannot work for Abercrombie and Fitch

When I think of Abercrombie and Fitch, the first thing that comes to my mind is the endless list of ridiculously good looking models from the catalogue; shirtless with washboard abs at the entrance, as well as those assisting inside. Mike Jeffries, the former CEO of the company, had succeeded in creating a world that was cool and exclusive; something everyone in their teens wanted to be a part of. As Jeffries said, “In every school, there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.” Jeffries took great pains to explain that his brand was not for everyone, “Candidly, we ...

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Why Pakistan must learn to celebrate Christmas

As December approaches, crazy sales, decorations and preparations flood countries across the world. Hot chocolate, family dinners and wish list presents are the top priorities of everyone. However, it’s not like that in Pakistan. In fact, this year the whole of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) won’t be celebrating Christmas as freely as they had hoped. Instead of celebrating the most holy and festive occasion of the year for them, they will be mourning the tragic massacre of innocent school-going children in Peshawar. This time, our Christian brothers and sisters have volunteered to tone down Christmas celebrations. However, if you think about it, Christmas has never really been a big ...

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Racing towards prejudice: “Those Muslim terrorists are killing innocent people…”

“Those Muslim terrorists are killing innocent people…” I don’t even remember the rest of his sentence. Those words stunned me for a minute. But even as my ears started ringing, I took a couple of deep breaths telling myself,  “He doesn’t know what he is talking about. There is no use pointing out his poor choice of words.” It is ironic that this happened in a class where our 73-year-old African-American Professor, himself a victim of racism, had been teaching us how to recognise the various forms of racism in America that are present even today. “I just want to share an observation”, ...

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180 million hearts broken… again

Jallianwala. Dhaka. Quetta. North Waziristan. Peshawar. Places change but stories remain the same. That doesn’t make the heartbreak any more bearable. The unanswerable ‘why’ still looms over our heads. Why this? Why now? Why us? Today’s massacre in Peshawar reverberates throughout the country. I cannot even fathom what the parents of the children are going through but I write to tell them they are not alone, it is the least I can do. It is the least I can do to at least try to reach a level of catharsis which will make me feel capable of ever feeling again, which will make me ...

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Can the Pakistani education system stop catering to political agendas please?

The issue of school curriculum has been under discussion in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) for some time now. The 18th Amendment devolved the education sector to the provinces but that has yet to bear fruit, since the leaders who have decided to take up the responsibility of planning a ‘better’ future for the youth of K-P still need to achieve some constructive results. Playing its ‘due’ role, the coalition government in the province wants to change what is being taught to children at schools. The changes desired are within the lines of ‘religious’ and ‘national’ teachings, according to the members. They want chapters on national heroes like Bacha Khan ...

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