Stories about tolerance

Ramazan and the ‘holier than thou’ syndrome

The month of Ramazan is upon us. People from all walks of life are preparing for a month of fasting, praying, giving and showing off. I mention “showing off” on purpose to bring to light all those people who become religious only during the month of Ramazan. Not that there is anything wrong with becoming all religious for just one month out of 12. Who am I to judge? However, what becomes irritating is the ‘preachy’ and ‘screechy’ attitude people suddenly adopt. A few days ago, I was having a casual conversation with a friend of mine and just as ...

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Dawkins made it to my sociology class

Growing up in a society that discouraged asking too many questions, I often wondered what it is about modern western education that the conservative right is so scared of.  Reading the news and following politics on television and online has helped me understand how our policy makers think and what issues matter to our general public. If you have done the same, you will know that every effort to modernise our educational system and make it more culturally and religiously neutral has met with stern resistance from political, religious and other factions of the society. But one day, while sitting in ...

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9 stupid generalizations about women who don’t wear hijab

We are a polarized society, and we are not just one set of poles. We’ve got a whole bunch of diversity that ranges from language to religious denominations and ethnicities. The kind of social exclusion that stems from this is nothing short of frightening. You would  think, wouldn’t you, that a diverse society like this would exhibit more tolerance? But surprise, surprise. On the one hand we’ve got people rallying and brandishing roses for Mumtaz Qadri, while on the other, we have those holding vigils for Salman Taseer and Steve Jobs. We’ve got one bunch that celebrates Valentine’s Day and one bunch ...

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Thank you Mufti Sahab, for helping me out of the closet

From every angle, I am your typical Pakistani middle class urbanite twenty-something. There is nothing about my mannerisms, wardrobe or grooming that differentiates me from anyone in my social circle. However, even some of my best friends don’t know my deepest darkest secret, a secret that I have been suppressing for far too many years now: I am gay. This is a story of what made me come out to my best friends: a Mufti sahab. On Sept 6 2011, on the show Frontline, which is hosted by Kamran Shahid some panelists were discussing personal freedom in an Islamic society. The debate touched ...

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The spirit of Ramazan

Ramazan has a unique place in the Muslim faith and that is to educate society on the spirit of coexistence and tolerance. Fasting means not only abstaining from all eating and drinking from dawn to dusk or not getting involved in activities disapproved by one’s faith. Rather, it is a kind of training to lead lives in such a way that we may become better human beings. It is also training us to learn more about patience, humility and spirituality. Muslims commemorate Ramazan as one of the important pillars of Islam because they believe that it was in this month that ...

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Waiting for the moon to shine

Last year, sometime after Ramazan, I was at the Jinnah International Airport, on my way to Lahore. In the boarding lounge, I saw a bearded gentleman with a soft stance, waiting to board his flight too. He looked familiar and he also looked apologetic. I suddenly realized that this was the most popular face of Pakistan’s Ruet-e-Hilal (Moon sighting) Committee. People sitting and standing around me also recognized this religio-celeb, and nudged each other, commenting on him. “Yahee to hai jis kee wajha se Eid ka chaand raat ke gyara bej nazar aate ha.” (He is the one because of whom ...

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Marketing Pakistan: Know your product

On the one hand, it seems that Pakistan doesn’t have much to offer travelers these days with the exception of expats visiting their families, Lonely Planet reading backpackers, Sikh pilgrims and cricket-mad Indians—many of whom have waned from the ‘insecurity’ situation. Then, on the other hand, the ‘Ministry of Marketing’ (let us suppose that one exists) has plenty of underutilised fodder to attract positive international interest, if only they would. From an ancient civilization that’s older than the Pyramids (the Indus Valley along with Buddhist and Gandhara aren’t adequately promoted like the Mughals as they’re pre-Islamic), historical architecture (including pre-Partition buildings that ...

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Kill, in the name of religion

According to a recent news report, an organisation called All-Pakistan Students Khatam-e-Nabuwwat is disseminating pamphlets declaring Ahmadis as wajibul qatl (liable to be murdered) for their religious beliefs. The local police authorities, in their usual style, have swept the issue under the carpet. Pakistan is a boiling pot of sectarian strife. A history of hate Sectarian discord escalated in the 1980s and Pakistan became a proxy battle ground for the Sunni and Shia organisations, heavily funded by Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively. However, the history of sectarian violence in Pakistan goes back to the days of its inception. 1953: When Pakistan was still trying to ...

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Reading for the soul: Helping kids love books

Today was the last day of my self-conceived experiment at a school in Lahore. A few months ago I had offered three hours a week of my precious time to read stories to my daughter’s kindergarten classmates. I was convinced that after months of interacting with these children I‘d be able to flush out and pacify a bully terrorising my delicate daughter. It would also, I reasoned, provide a good opportunity for a bookseller like myself to test that age-old lament that the youth of today lack the attention span for books – although granted, by “youth” most parents ...

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‘My kidneys are not for kafirs’

A Pakistani runs our local mini-cab service in north London. This means we get fantastic rates when a cab is needed to get around. It also means I get an odd assortment of Muslim drivers from different parts of the Muslim world. Sometimes, conversations with cabbies reveal a lot about their community politics and general worldviews. It was one such conversation with an Algerian cabbie that got me thinking about the uniformity of hate and anti-western sentiment across the Muslim world. It also made me realise that I have justified reason to feel angry with the many Muslims settled in the United Kingdom ...

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