Stories about Shia-Sunni

When we’re told to “limit ourselves to the imambargah or shift these processions outside the city”

Recently, I came across a post on Facebook which stated the following: “Roads blocked, no mobile networks and markets are closed. Please stop bothering your fellow countrymen and limit yourselves to the imambargah or else shift these processions outside the city, somewhere on highway.” A typical, insensitive and privileged Pakistani comment. But this statement was not the only one. It is not unusual for the Shia community to hear such insensitive comments from Karachiities, whose lives are completely uprooted during 9th and 10th Muharram. Such insensitivity may not be uncommon, but it is hurtful, given the day and the solemnity of the incident being marked in Muharram. The ...

Read Full Post

Four things that Saudi airstrikes in Yemen put into perspective

The unprecedented Saudi onslaught against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has taken many by surprise. As speculation grows over further escalation in the region, so does uncertainty regarding the nature of Saudi’s intervention in the conflict. While a broader Middle Eastern conflict marred by bitter tribal rivalries, petty grievances and a never ending quest for democracy pans out in the coming days, here’s a quick look at four things that the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen help put in perspective. Nothing brings the Arabs closer than Iran Arab unity is a utopian idea, which despite being well-founded in literature has yet to materialise. On rare occasions, this ...

Read Full Post

Muharram in Kashmir: A photographic analysis

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, Indian authorities imposed severe restrictions in different parts of Srinagar city and prevented Shia mourners from taking out a Muharram procession from Shaheed Ganj area of the city. Strict orders, as per section 144 regarding processions, were imposed in areas falling under Kothi Bagh, Shaheed Gunj, Maisuma and Kralkhud police jurisdictions of Srinagar city. The Shia mourners, however, defied the restrictions and continued to take out processions from various areas. Many mourners were seen striking their chests and reciting Noha and Marsia to pay tribute to the martyrs of Karbala. This ban on Muharram processions in Kashmir ...

Read Full Post

Muslim denominations: Are you Shia or Sunni?

It started quite early. I was seven-years-old. That’s when I first realised that there was something called a “Shia”, and people thought I was one; because in Pakistan, certain surnames are associated with being a Shia. ‘Zaidi’, one of them, sounds similar to the surname ‘Zahidi’, so I was and am often asked this question – “are you a Shia?”. So I came home and asked my father, to which Abba replied in a very matter-of-factly that by faith, Shias and Sunnis are both Muslims. He explained to me that it’s like two brothers from the same family, we all love Prophet ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

No Muharram in Kashmir again – 25 years and counting

I recall attending a brief lecture on international law vividly. A learned professor was making a point on the integration of minorities and how nation states often misuse tools like assimilation, accommodation, tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism etcetera to coerce minorities into submission. When everything fails to get the desired results, the law and order argument achieves significance and becomes fashionable. This brings me to the issue that has had Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir in a stranglehold for nearly two and a half decades now; the blanket ban on the historic Muharram processions. The argument usually put forth by the Indian ...

Read Full Post

Za Pakhtoon Yum: A mind-altering foray into Pukhtun life and culture

So far, our dramas have revolved around the vicious circle of poverty, a miserable daughter-in-law suffering at the hands of her evil in-laws, societal customs, dowry issues, giving birth to a male child or the perfect ‘rishta’ (proposal). Indeed these are issues which need to be addressed in dramas or movies, but there are other issues that require our attention as well. With the passage of time, we, Pakistanis, have come across many complex issues segregating our society into small groups, each intolerable for the other. We have issues ranging from the Shia-Sunni to the Punjabi-Pukhtun, anti-women empowerment to pro-women empowerment, even from the pro-Malala ...

Read Full Post

Previously ‘The Arab Spring’, now ‘The Faulty Revolution Bandwagon’

I was once asked by my professor to give a few examples of modern day revolutions. Without pondering for a fraction of a second, I quoted the famous Arab Spring which included a change of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya along with a bloody civil war which is still in progress in Syria. The Arab Spring was an inspiration to many including myself both, in and outside the Middle East. So inspired was I that I even wrote a blog a couple of years ago praising the revolution and change in Egypt which resulted from the Arab Spring. However, it was not ...

Read Full Post

I am a Sunni and I married a Shia

It would be safe to say that I never really believed in love, despite having read a million romance novels, watching the necessary romantic comedies and having the requisite number of crushes during my teen years. I guess you could blame my convent education, my formative years being in the influence of feminists. I prescribed to the theory, ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. I was a love-cynic at best and mighty proud of it. I could never understand how some girls could fawn over the opposite sex, fall helplessly head-over-heels and tie the knot at times to ...

Read Full Post

How is Pakistan doing, you ask? Why don’t you ask the victims of Abbas Town?

“Oh you’re from Pakistan? How is your country doing?”  Asked a classmate here at the London School of Economics (LSE) two weeks ago.  The question took me back to a different time… somewhere in the past, someday not too long ago, when I had gone with a few friends to visit a locality in Karachi called Abbas Town. “This wall will fall unto this wall, this pillar on this pillar and then, we’ll all die…” Said a little boy sitting on a plastic chair in a hall with paints on his hands. That was a normal conversation and imagination for him. He had lost ...

Read Full Post