Nusrat Rafi is to Bangladesh what Jyoti Singh was to India – a rude awakening

Nineteen-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi should be doing what any other average teenager does in their day: sitting their exams, stressing about their results, surrounding themselves with piles of books, and spending time with their friends. Instead, 19-year-old Nusrat is being mourned by her distraught family after she was doused in kerosene and set on fire. Her crime? She filed a police complaint against the headmaster of her madrassa who sexually harassed her. In Bangladesh, like many other conservative countries, sexual harassment is a taboo subject and women are reluctant to speak out against those who harass them, for fear of ...

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Voting for Modi again? 6 questions every Indian should ask

With India now fully in election mode, only one question reigns supreme in the minds of the people of India as well as the world: should Narendra Modi become the Indian prime minister again? Has he ushered in the “ache din” (good days) he promised five years ago? This question is polarising India. It is, however, a valid question. This is a man who came to power in 2014 with a promise to usher in a new era of development, coined a popular new slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (collective effort, development for all), assured the nation he would address the ...

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Iran and Iraq may not be tourist hot spots, but they offer a spiritual journey like no place else

I was recently invited to a trip to Iran and Iraq by a group of close friends from Lahore, and as I had never been to these states before, I decided to take the opportunity to visit the shrines frequented mostly by Shia pilgrims. After all, how else was I going to be able to travel through war-torn Iraq (where the Islamic State has only recently been defeated) and gain access to the heavily sanctioned country of Iran? Mesopotamia – the cradle of civilisation and home to many Imams of the Islamic world – has been off-limits to most ...

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Erdogan embraced Trump’s politics to stay in power – has it finally failed him?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s embrace of Donald Trump-era populist politics not only appears to be nearing its inevitable end, but apparently has done Erdogan no favours in the long run. In mid-July 2016, an attempted coup in Turkey carried out by a faction of Turkey’s armed forces led to what can only be described as a brutal crackdown, as Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) crushed any potential resistance with an iron fist that made even some of history’s former despots pale in comparison. Barely two weeks after the coup, Turkey dismissed close to 1,700 military personnel ...

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Why is the US making a mountain out of the Masood Azhar molehill?

The United States has introduced a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution to blacklist Masood Azhar as an international terrorist. Azhar is the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (banned in Pakistan since 2002) and has been blamed by India for masterminding February’s Pulwama incident, even though no evidence has been produced which links Azhar to the incident. China has refused to list Azhar as an international terrorist after careful consideration of the definition of international terrorism according to international law. China has made this position absolutely clear and as such, it would appear that the US is looking to transform the UNSC ...

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If India can release the terrorists behind Samjhauta Express, why should Pakistan do more than it already has done?

Over a week ago, Swami Aseemanand, a saffron-wearing culprit on trial for the Samjhauta Express attack, emerged out of the courtroom with a loud chant of ‘Jai Sri Ram’. He, alongside three others, had just been acquitted by the court due to an alleged lack of evidence. Ironically, during the investigation period Aseemanand boastfully confessed to his heinous crimes to sabotage peace. February 18, 2007 was a disastrous day for peace between India and Pakistan when Hindutva followers blew the Samjhauta Express with improvised explosive devices killing 70 passengers, a majority of whom were Pakistani. The incident took place near ...

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Because extremists don’t criticise extremists

Human emotions are really weird sometimes; well most of the time, to be honest. We hate everything we don’t like, fear everything we don’t understand, and blindly love everything we identify with. We let our feelings cloud our understanding of the world, and we unfortunately could not continue thinking rationally even if we wanted to. Before anyone decides to deride my tongue-in-cheek critique of human emotions, I do wish to categorically state that our emotions are a part of us and are essential to our existence. They are what make us human after all. However, our use of our emotional ...

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Questioning Obama and Trump’s policies, Ilhan Omar is bringing accountability to America’s doorstep

Ilhan Omar’s election to the United States House of Representatives earlier this year symbolises the complex nature of the American polity. As the first Somali-American to have entered Congress, her campaign victory is deemed a historic feat against the backdrop of the increasingly polarised and nationalistic political culture that has crystallised under the Trump Presidency. What’s more, Omar’s position in the House Foreign Affairs Committee has propelled her to engage in difficult debates that dominate her country’s political discourse and keeps her from shying away from a number of controversial issues, including the influence of the pro-Israel lobby American ...

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Muslims in India today are revisiting the same fears as they did in 1947

The strength of a democracy is measured by the way it protects its weak, marginalised and minorities. After Partition in 1947, one big challenge before India was how to assuage the fears of the Muslim minority about their well-being in India. Bridging religious faultlines was part of the nation-building process. The government, civil society, film industry, media, and even on an individual level, a large section of the society created an ecosystem where secularism and liberalism were promoted unabashedly. This ecosystem and way of life have been largely sustaining India for the last seven decades. Three generations later, Muslims in India are ...

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I lost my cousin Sabika Sheikh to a mass shooting – gun violence is the new ‘terrorism’ and it’s very real

On March 14, 2019 I gathered with hundreds of students in front of the United States Capitol in Washington DC. These students had walked out of their classes to join the National School Walkout demanding decisive action against the epidemic of gun violence in the US. A few hours later, a gunman entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and shot dead at least 50 worshippers and injured 47 more while live-streaming the massacre. Pakistani exchange student and my cousin, Sabika Sheikh, was killed when a gunman entered her classroom and killed her and nine others at the Santa Fe School in ...

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