Stories about religion

I refused a marriage proposal because they demanded dowry

The notion of dowry has always been rampant in Pakistani society. Ironically, it’s been adapted from Indian culture. Living together in the subcontinent encouraged us to adopt each other’s customs, and eventually, they became a part of ours. Now, we are so deep into this mixed culture that we have forgotten there’s a fine line between culture and religion. We fail to realise that dowry is not approbated by Islam. When given the factual argument that Islam sets no example of dowry, the dowry mongers are left with no other argument. All they have to say is, “Baaki jaghon pe tou Islam yaad nahin aata.” (When it comes to other things ...

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Why isn’t anything being done about the 10,000 ghost madrassas in Sindh?

Sindh, the southern province of Pakistan, has always been an epicentre of progressive political parties which keep a close check over the spread of religious militancy and violent extremism in their constituencies. Even though Sindh has been a secular and progressive region, where Sufi traditions have never let the militant mind-set prevail, the province still supports tens of thousands of madrassas (Islamic religious schools). There’s just one problem: many of these supposed madrassas don’t actually exist. A meeting, between the officials of Sindh, held in May at the chief minister’s house in the provincial capital of Karachi, was told by the inspector general ...

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“I hate materialistic people, beta, but I love my designer clothes”

Whilst travelling from Doha to London, I had a 60-year-old Pakistani aunty sitting next to me on my flight. To be honest, it was a rather pleasant surprise to find another Pakistani on board. What came next was a surprise, but not a pleasant one. She began talking to me. Incessantly. Without any breaks. She started off by telling me that she is from a rich business family in Karachi and handed me her husband’s business card right after. She went on to tell me that her only son, who lives in England, recently got divorced. She let me in on the nitty-gritty details about how ...

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Pakistan and India should celebrate independence from the British – not from each other

Sometime back I ran into an elderly man at work. Since I live in an area of Canada that is densely populated with immigrants from Indian Punjab, I knew the gentleman was from India. After I was done helping him out, he looked at my name-tag and asked me what part of India I was from. I told him I was from Pakistan, not India. A wide smile appeared on his face, and he asked me what city of Pakistan I belonged to. After I mentioned that I was from Lahore, his smile grew even wider as he got teary-eyed. ...

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Unity, faith and discipline

Unity, faith, discipline. These three basics I knew, I loved, and I respected. Etched into my heart from Independence Days of the past. These were the principles I’d thrive upon. I didn’t know a lot, and maybe I didn’t know enough but I knew unity and faith and discipline. This year, let’s celebrate our country’s independence. This day is about us, our land, our self-determination, our freedom and everything else we wanted almost seven decades ago. Ever since I was a little girl, my grandparents have been telling me about the struggle they went through to get to this “Independence day”; for themselves, and for ...

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He was only a Buddhist by salutations, just like we are only Muslims by virtue of rituals

If you visit the Tiananmen Square at any given day, you’ll see hoards of people flocking around in large groups. Some can be seen led by a guide, others trying to find an inlet to the tunnels that lead to the main square, turning the entire landmark into a beehive. Besides being the womb of the People’s Republic of China where Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the square also houses the Chairman’s mausoleum. On my 10 day visit to China, I found the Tiananmen Square to be the most religious of all spaces. It ...

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Mommy tips: How to raise a mini activist

When we hear the word “activist”, we immediately think of khadi clad, jhola carrying men and women braving water cannons and lathi charges. But an activist is one who campaigns for social change of any kind, someone who identifies the rot in society and speaks about it. There are various degrees of activism and similarly various ways of showing dissent. Thomas Jefferson said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and any thriving society needs such voices. Such conscientious persons are not born but raised. One might feel that preteens are too young to grapple the socio-political dynamics of a complex society, ...

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Since when does my fasting or not fasting jeopardise someone else’s imaan?

My grandmother used to call it Ramazan Shareef. There was no discussion, debate or argument over its pronunciation. The month would come in its usual cycle without much fuss or ado. Television channels wouldn’t go bonkers except for some increased airtime for naats and religious discussions that were never heavily advertised. People wouldn’t wear cloaks all across. If someone in the house didn’t fast, others wouldn’t raise their eyebrows. The non-fasting family members would comfortably go on with usual daily meals without being given guilt trips. There were simpler, not-so-extravagant iftar dinners where family members would get together without any pressure on ...

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Azealia Banks and our obsession with her attention-seeking “hairy curry scented Punjab” tweets

My niece is a huge ‘One Directioner’ (is that what they are called?) and was heartbroken when the boy band lost one of its key members, Zayn Malik. We insist on a special connection with this young musical icon on account of sharing a nationality and probably having a Zain for a classmate or a Malik for a neighbour. This gives us the inalienable right to judge him of course; from his tattoos to the racy lyrics of his new singles. “Haw Haey! Larka haath sey nikal gaya!” (The boy is getting out of hand!) He should thank his lucky stars he isn’t a ...

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Child-abuse? Oh please, that doesn’t exist in Pakistan!

“I was too young to know at the time; all I knew was that it was uncomfortable and painful.” I froze when I heard my friend say these words. Surely not in our families? Surely not in the lives of my own friends? This was the first instance of a friend opening up about her experience of being sexually abused as a child. She blamed everyone, from her uncle who did it, to her parents who she felt did nothing to protect her, to herself for not knowing better. But how could she have known? She was only 10-years-old at the time. You might ...

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