Stories about religious

Namaaz: Not just a personal matter

Call me conservative, call me old, call me a buttoned-down bore or call me whatever you like – in the end I am the only one who can define my identity because I know what I am. I am not a very good Muslim and I don’t belong to a religious or extremist community. However, personally, I would be absolutely mortified to say “No, I don’t pray Jummah“. Once I too used to believe that prayers and religion were a personal matter but I have come to the conclusion that religion is very much shared and communal. Growing up, every Wednesdays after ...

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Blame the West: of inequality and duplicity

Pakistan, in addition to the myriads of socio-economic problems and political instability, is also one of the most unequal countries in the world. Our economic affluence is restricted to a select few – our homes, academic opportunities,  state institutions and overall society cater to a specific segment of populace. Our Gini Coefficient of 68 (according to US state department report in 2006) is a  testament enough to the grotesque inequality in our society. My point of contention, however, is related to how segments of our society have gone about addressing the problem. Specifically, how have the ‘mullah defenders’, so bent on instituting ...

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Niqab, blasphemy and the life of an 8th grader

A shocking example of the severity of ignorance within our society is the blasphemy case against an eighth grade Christian girl, based on something as trivial as a spelling error. Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) colony in Havelian, accidently misspelt ‘naat’ as ‘laanat’ in an Urdu exam while answering a question on a poem written in praise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). While the blasphemy law and its affect on minority rights – who ironically it was meant to protect – has been part a controversy whirlwind this past year, the fact ...

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Can secularism help Pakistan?

The vox populi says “no”, and I understand that most readers would hold fast to this sentiment with earnest sagacity regardless of what I write here. But recognizing that this debate has been re-invoked by a popular article “Secularism does not equal tolerance”  about secularism not being a necessary prerequisite to religious tolerance, I beg to state my own case. Firstly, I must stress (as many secularists do) that secularism is not an anti-religious system. It merely stipulates that the state affairs must not be influenced by religion, in acknowledgement of the fact that a nation is a collection of citizens with ...

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TV hypocrisy: Conveniently religious

The newfound piety of morning show hosts and other television anchors during Ramazan is annoying, to say the least. Why have female anchors started covering their heads in the ‘spirit of the holy month’? Considering that many of these hosts only gingerly place veils on their heads (probably to prevent their backcombed hairdos from getting ruined), this effort at modesty appears rather contrived. Also, why have singers and entertainers suddenly transformed into naat khwaans, who solemnly give spiritual advice and efficiently relay religious maxims? I fail to understand why Ramazan must precipitate such ostensible religiosity on Urdu television every year. The ...

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Fight religious extremism, with religion

Aqib took a sip of cappuccino at a Starbucks outlet in the Canary Wharf area of London. He graduated from LSE last year and is now working as an investment banker at one of the world’s leading bank (albeit a bailed out one after the 2008 economic meltdown). Pointing out the economic prosperity of London, he confidently exclaimed: “We have invested too much in religion whilst the West has excelled in all discipline of sciences. Look, all this development took place in the last 100 year or so when the West shunned religion and secularism took a stronghold in public decision making.” Aqib, ...

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What my 5-month-old taught me

Usually, what goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room. While some progressive hospitals allows dads to enjoy the whole birthing experience, more often than not, us dads and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. Just like in the movies, the father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as he paces the length of dimly-lit corridors, biting his nails, waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news – it’s just like a scene straight out of a movie. It could take hours, ...

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Madness in the madrassa

It was a regular day, I had offered my prayers in the mosque next-door in Rawalpindi. But, as I was about to leave, someone called out to me: “Bhai, one minute, have you come from abroad? Yes, I said. A bearded 20-something guy, named Mujahid asked me with pleading eyes: “Kia aap humein angrezi sikhain ge?” (Would you teach us English?) Perplexed, I agreed. The word ‘madrassa’ to most of us is similar to the words ‘extremists,’ ‘terrorism’ and ‘fear.’ Every other documentary and report tries to prove that the people of madrassas are a threat to humanity. I had a similar belief about them too. Those who have read ...

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Time for the minorities to wake up

Arguably, the communities that have suffered the worst kind of discrimination in Pakistan over the past decade are religious minorities. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and followers of other faiths have been up against not only a ‘silent’ hatred by many Muslims but, in recent years, they have also faced the rage of religious extremists. Several external and internal factors, such as attempts by a powerful civil-military establishment to create a theocratic state and a ‘misdirected’ quest to seek dominance over our neighbours, appear to be contributing to the state of affairs we find ourselves in. But one reason ...

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Top 12 Bizarre petitions in Pakistani courts

While thousands languish in prisons waiting for justice, the Pakistani legal system is otherwise occupied. In between trials of murder, rape and kidnapping are some rather unusual petitions filed in our courts by passionate individuals. Petitioners have attacked everything from lusty pop songs, to forgetful politicians and just plain stupidity: 1. Ban the Bible Addressing a press conference at a mosque, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Samiul Haq (JUI-S) leader Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi appealed to the Supreme Court (SC) to take suo motu notice of  “blasphemous” material – in the Bible. They even suggested banning the book. 2. Is Meera a virgin? Atiqur Rehman, who claimed to ...

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