Stories about religious beliefs

Why is there a religion column in advertisements for sweepers anyway?

Whenever a local body like a municipal or town committee advertises for jobs involving ‘dirty work’ (like sweeping floors or cleaning bathrooms), the religion of those applying for the job is also specified. And the advertisement usually mentions that the applicants should be Christians or Hindus (Dalits). Though why sweepers and cleaners have to be non-Muslims is not clear. Who does the dirty work in countries where there are few, or no, Christians or Hindus (like Saudi Arabia for instance)? One such advertisement went viral recently. But this time the advertisement stated that applicants for the job should be “Shia, Hindu/Balmikis or ...

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Did we make Omar Mateen a self-hating gay man?

What happened in Orlando is a terrible tragedy. Innocent people were massacred and now the blame game begins, with accusations and counter accusations, but some serious soul searching needs to be done by several groups. While the gun lobby is relieved that the shooter wasn’t a white right wing, gay hating, fringe extremist, it is relevant that he had licensed weapons, despite being on the FBI radar. America must question the ease with which it allows people to access such lethal weapons. Is the right to bear arms still relevant in this day and age of dialling 911 and proactive ...

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Why are we as Pakistanis okay with Ahmadis getting killed?

A few days ago, BBC reported that ‘Kill Ahmadis’ leaflets were found at Stockwell Green Mosque, in London. They were authored by a former head of Khatme Nabuwat, and the mosque, expectedly, denied any connection with the leaflets. This follows the murder of an Ahmadi shopkeeper named Asad Shah in Glasgow last month, because he had allegedly ‘disrespected’ Islam and falsely claimed to be a prophet. All this took place in England, but things in Pakistan, home to the most powerful anti-Ahmadi sentiment in the world, are even worse. While hate speech against all religious minorities in Pakistan is common, the ...

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Why sacrificing animals on Eidul Azha is a good ritual

Is everyone noticing the drastic reduction in the number of houses from which the familiar bleating sounds of goats and the authoritarian moo of cows can be heard this year? If television reports are to be believed, there are more animals available in the market for sacrifice than there are buyers. The reasons are many, and some of them are valid. Exorbitant asking prices of sellers are one. The portion you get in a cow is as expensive now as a goat used to be. Not every region of Pakistan is culturally attuned to beef, which remains the more economical ...

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My friend from IBA, an extremist?

I went to school with Saad Aziz. For two years in Lyceum, from 2005 to 2007, I considered him a friend of mine. A shy, lanky young boy always seen with a bag strapped on one of his shoulders – he always looked like he was headed somewhere but had nowhere to be. We lost touch after school. I had forgotten all about him till I was presented with a jolting reminder on May 22nd. When the news broke of him being the alleged mastermind behind one of the terrorist attacks, my initial reaction was one of denial. The story did seem implausible ...

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You might be associated with certain religious beliefs, but your organs are not

If you had a chance to help save lives, would you seek the approval of a religious cleric before doing so? Unfortunately, for a considerably large number of people in our society, the answer is yes. In a recent blog, I urged readers to donate their organs to those in need. In response, many people asked if donating organs was allowed in Islam; a few declared it was not. In a country where people vehemently rely on opinions of religious scholars, it would be naive to expect them to choose rationalism over faith. To promote a culture of organ donation in our country, it is necessary to ...

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Lessons world leaders can learn from the students at Duke University

While Muslims around the world are furious and taking to the streets in protest of Charlie Hebdo, there is another Islam-related story which has caught the attention of many in North America. On Thursday, January 15, 2015, Duke University reversed one of its policies and cancelled the weekly Muslim call to prayer from the campus chapel. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association called on donors and the alumni to support this policy by stating, “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t ...

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Battered and silenced for standing up for education

Munir*, a young man from a poor village of Southern Punjab, is lost in the flow of his erratic thoughts while being bedridden for the last two months now. He starts telling his story, carrying a reminiscent look on his face,  “I decided to join my father after graduating, to help him run the only school in the village. The thing that brought me back was my father’s commitment to the cause of education – which he had been doing so all by himself for so many years.” Munir hails from a shabby village called Akbar Sahu, 216 miles south of Islamabad, ...

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Maligning Islam in the name of blasphemy

Charred remains of two human bodies become a question mark on our humanity. Smoke that rises from their ashes is denser than one that clouds our judgment. It will not vanish into the air; it will instead taunt our silence forever. What burnt was not bodies, but the very fabric of our society. In the presence of the rule of law – as demanded by the Holy Quran and our constitution – blasphemy would be dealt with by the aggrieved party registering a case against the accused under relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. A free and fair trial in a ...

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Karbala and universal truths

There comes a moment in our lives when we realise the ‘Great Truths’ around us and this happened to me a decade back in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, India. I was taking part in a Muharram procession when I stopped to talk to a Sikh cloth seller. His shop’s porch was being used as a pulpit to read a eulogy of Imam Hussain (RA) and when it finished, I asked him why he allows the mourners to block his store’s entrance. “Syed Sahib, it is because of Hussain that we earn our living. If it was up to me I would ...

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