Friday, April 30, 2004

"Surprise! We're Human"

An ethnic mailing list in Silicon Valley was recently--as these lists are wont to--going apesh*t over the "secularism" versus religion as a guiding principle issue and gave me reason to say
Surprise! Underneath it all, we're all human!!
Seriously, it does get frustrating when people either talk as if, as Pakistanis, we're politically and constitutionally aboriginal savages and "The West" is some paragon of civilization [assasinations as a tool of war, anyone?!!]--or that, just we because we were born Muslims, we're angelic beings and "The West" is morally depraved.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

On "Secularism"

The problem as I see it, frankly, is that "secular" is too often practised as being "anti-religion" rather than "neutral to religion, ideology and persuasion"--especially amongst South Asians.

Or when self-appointed anti-religion gadflies make it their business to argue against other peoples' faiths, ideologies or persuasions at every available opportunity.

I earnestly wish that more people—on both sides of such—discussions would base their own discussions in matters of state policy, social structure, etc. on what would work with their audience rather than what helps builds they themselves--or strictly on the merits on their case rather than why the other person's point of view is wrong because of what they believe.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The Draft

I mentioned The Draft a couple of days ago, referring to Brian Lehrer's segment on his program about the topic. His blog entry after that segment is very interesting—summing up the thoughts and feelings about the topic for a thinking American. However, I am still not convinced it won't happen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Reinstating The Draft

Another of those thoughts going through my head has been that if GW is re-elected, The Draft will be reinstated. And then today, Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and influential member of the Foreign Relations Committee came out in favour of reinstating The Draft. Charlie Rangel, Congressman from New York, has been in favour of this for a while. You can hear more discussion at:
The discussion is rather interesting. As Brian Lehrer says above in the segment from his show, the Progressive point of view during the Vietnam war was against The Draft; now it is for The Draft.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Hoodbhoy, Sir Syed and Us

In reply to a person disagreeing with me on a mailing list, I had reason to write:

Hoodbhoy, Sir Syed and Us

A couple of points with respect to religion as a political and social motivator and the relationship of that discussion to pure "secularists" like Pervez Hoodbhoy:

Firstly, I am, myself, an engineer by training, but I very strongly disagree that the perspective of someone whose mind is trained as a scientist or engineer—especially in our current set-up—has a good chance of creating or critiquing solutions that would be truly humanist. Rationalist philosophies, in their own inflexible extremes, have given us situations that were just as inhumane as anything inflexible extreme religious forces have done. I invite you to listen to

"NPR : Commentary: The Power of Faith and Religion" <>

Secondly, I respect Dr Hoodbhoy as one of the most cogent and coherent voices coming out of, and most well-meaning and effective activists we have in, Pakistan today. And I think that my previous point does not apply to him as much as it does to most people, frankly, in Silicon Valley that think they know what ails our community. And I have met Dr Hoodbhoy and found nothing to change that opinion. But his take on Sir Syed is not the same as what has been posted here recently and repeatedly. Dr Hoodbhoy's opinion is that "the Sir Syed line" [his words] is not what we need to follow. He is a pure secularist, an agnostic if you will. And please, again, I have the utmost respect for Dr Hoodbhoy as one of the very few Pakistanis that *has* a real grasp on social issues and something real to say on what we should be doing--and the guts to follow up; come hell, high water or death threats.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

one thing going through my head over the last few days was that Iraq might be center stage; but the long term story might still be in afghanistan.

then the events of the last few days happen. which reminds all of us that the iraqis are actually fight much more than most of us expected.

and then the thought going through my head this morning is

"George Bush really has turned out to be a uniter: he's united the democrats; and he's united the shias and the sunnis in Iraq--both feats that are not considered impossible feats under normal circumstances."

Math chhaiR faqeeroN koe...

Starting a blog. the saying goes in south asia, na chaiRh faqeeraaN noo or "don't agitate the dervishes" for, as a guru* once said:
math chaiR faqeeroN ko jo mundh-hay hain aak-hain
daalee jo nigaah hum nay tho rukhsaar jalain gay
*guru. n. from gur, sanskrit/prakrit for skill, tip, trick, wisdom. thus, guru: some that knows something about something; someone from whom one learns. a teacher. an elder

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Whither Muslim World?

The discussion of where Islam and Muslims are coming from and where we need to go is an evolving, gathering and increasingly loud voice in my head that it is becoming more and more difficult to keep suppressed while I earn my daily bread. Existential angst, if you ask me. I will write more later; but for now suffice it to say this:

When we say either that the so-called "Hijab"* is OR IS NOT our most important issue, or when we buy into the mainstream "western" media's saying that to improve the lot of the Ummah it is a matter of either backing the secularists on the one hand or of backing a new set of people who are just now "learning" from the West on the other; when we do either of those we are being trapped into, we are buying into, the world view of the inflexible, rationalist obscuranists on BOTH sides--the Huntington crowd on the one hand and the Taliban on the other.

It is very interesting to see the Rand Corporation's recent report basically say the same thing; that what enlightened "world opinion" should be doing is supporting the "modernists" (as the report calls them; dare I say us) and not the secularists. [The Rand Report is titled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies and can be read at]

*NOTE ON "HIJAB": The reason I said "so-called Hijab" above is that the artifact being discussed is the Right Wing's modernized version of what I believe was called the Djellaba. The Islamic concept of "Hijab", and "to do Hijab" ["Hijab karna"] is wider than one very modern implementation of it. And the moment we--the people that like to think we are enlightened and want to bring the true spirit of our Islamic and Pakistani heritage to the table and make the world a better place for it—call that headscarf a, or worse, the "Hijab", we are buying into one interpretation of how things should be. And I beg to say most humbly that it is not the interpretation I agree with.

My apologies for that rant, but calling the modern headscarf a "Hijab" is a pet peeve of mine; as is the noveau orthodox greeting "Allah Hafiz".