Friday, April 27, 2007

Day to Day; Naeem Sadiq on The Speed of Justice, Mukhtaran Mai, and the Chief Justice

Here's the latest from Naeem Sadiq:
Day to Day

The Chief Justice's fresh petition that his case be heard on a 'day to day' basis has a historic significance. It is a personal acknowledgement by the highest Judge of the land that when an issue is really important, it must be heard on a 'day to day' basis. Thank you Mr. Chief Justice. We hope that you will soon be back on your seat, once again dispensing good justice to one and all. But may I remind you, that an equally important case of a woman who was gang raped on the orders of a 'Jirga' , is lying unheard in your court for the last two years. Her name is Mukhtaran Mai, and she too deserves a 'day to day' hearing.

Naeem Sadiq

Photo courtesy Altamash Kamal.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two Posts: One on Fanatics and Insurrections, One on an Artifact

Of late, I have been posting things on this blog and then cross-posting them on and But a few moments ago, I posted something on that started as a rant in the comments section of another post there. Do check it out if you get a chance.

The other post I want to invite folks over to read is a very different, cultural piece over at titled, there, "Technology: Tribute to a Pakistani Artifact".

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Now you can blog in Hindi--without typing in Hindi!

Being one of the folks that's pushed the use of, and blogging in the Urdu script on the Internet, I am still confused about the display the Devnagri script for Hindi. It seems that the situation is more complicated than we have for Urdu, where the existence of UTF-8 support on Windows, the Mac OS, etc. makes it possible to view Urdu text as long as it's done in that coding scheme.

Anyways, here's some news that might help bloggers and others--from the Blogspot blog, so to speak:

If anyone can explain the situation in terms of Hindi online, please do drop me a line.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Technology versus Humanity

For a while now, I have been wondering about the moral responsibility of people like us (see here and here), who work in the tech industry here in the Bay Area for human rights abuses enabled by our products. Here's the first real effort I have seen to put some legal and real shape to the concerns:

Yahoo! sued over torture of Chinese dissident
Chinese political prisoner sues Yahoo! in a US federal court in what is believed to be first case of its kind
Rhys Blakely
A Chinese political prisoner sued Yahoo! in a US federal court, accusing the internet company of helping the Chinese government torture him by providing information that led to his arrest.
The suit, filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act, is believed to be the first of its kind made against an American internet company.
More here....

The only other story I have noticed in this regards was:

Gag Orders
Is the work of Cisco Systems and other high-tech companies helping China to crack down on dissent?
By DK Sweet
EARLIER this year, on CNBC, business news junkies were treated to another superlative on-camera performance by one of America's foremost business superstars. Donald Trump may best personify the cheesy pop-culture idea of a celebrity businessman, but to the stockholder class, Cisco Systems' John Chambers is the Real Deal. Compare the income, size, growth and influence of international Internet infrastructure colossus Cisco to The Donald's twice-bankrupt real estate empire and Trump might as well be Chambers' pool boy.
More here...

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech: Questions for the Community

As I have said before, on the whole I like Eteraz and's general drift. Which is why I stay engaged there--and try to raise issues I think important. There's a post on the site titled "One Brother Dead"...

Shouldn't that be "at least" one brother dead? There was also mention of at least one female victim that seemed to have a Muslim background: Reema Samaha. She can't be considered a sister?

Other questions:

  • Should our compassion be specifically focused on the "brothers" and "sisters"
    affected? Is going to take the "Islam is my tribe and I am very parochial because my tribe is under seige" attitude so common amongst American Muslims?
  • The President of the student body is a gentleman called "Adeel Khan". Shouldn't he figure in our engagement with the incident? Or is the MSA the only form of "Islam-ic" leadership we will recognize?
  • The Virgina Tech MSA also asks for prayers for everyone affected, by the way.
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Monday, April 16, 2007

Shia-Sunni Unity in the Face of Extremism...

... or what you will

I have been struggling with a post on some of what is happening in Pakistan. And if you're not following it, you should; whether you're a Pakistani or anyone else. Things are bit hectic around me right now, but the thing is, Pakistan's in an interesting phase. And there's more than one thing happening. The subject line above, I have to admit, is one that might have drawn your attention. But it is one of at least three I could have chosen. Let me say a few things quickly and I'll post more later.

There have been quite some words said about how you see well-heeled folks come out on the streets lately. (You can start at my earlier post and follow the links.) But there's more than that afoot.

On the one hand, the ethnic party that started as the political vehicle for the "Muhajirs", the MQM, held a massive (check out the pictures) rally downtown Karachi. And I mean downtown. (I haven't been in Karachi as a resident in about 13 years now, but I have never seen anyone do a New York-style "urban canyon" look for a rally/parade before--but that's the part of the point about the MQM, these are urban kids, with urban sensibilities...) And yes, those who have followed the the MQM and Pakistani politics will have their critiques and condemnations of the MQM--from the philosophical to the inane (Pakistan's leading comic is a supporter and, apparently, now an advisor to the provincial government)--but a rally where Muslims of various sects, and ulema of various sects, gather in their thousands to rally for unity has to be something you want to see. The picture above is quite a statement, isn't it? [It's from a site linked from the MQM site; not sure whose the site is.] People often do not want to hear his name or the party's. But their voice is often one of the clearest about the hypocrisy and other foibles of the "religious right". You can read more at:

The Dawn story at:

The Daily Times' story whose headline translates to "Shia-Sunni; Brother to Brother/"Sharia by Force"; We do not need"

If you can bear to be at their website, you can see more news links there. If you don't want to, do check out the discussions on the Karchi Metroblog and The former is a great way to get things live from the ground, and the latter gives you a taste of middle class expat zeitgeist.

And speaking of the middle class, it does seem like Pakistan's well-heeled folks are starting to push back, stand up and be counted. For example, there's been a petition drive going against the commercial development of the best-maintained part of the seashore in Karachi. And the Teeth Maestro's post is a good place to start. Take a look at the pictures on Flickr, a lot of them by photoblogger Abro and those by Altamash Saahab, starting about here. I am reproducing some here. The protest isn't a big one compared to the other one, but the cross-section of people is interesting...and something I want to talk about later:

Notice with what we in the US would call a "Hijabi" person in this one:And one last one from Altamash Saahab--just for the kids:I really must stop here. Will write more later.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mujahideen, Jihadis, and Other Afghans

In discussions on Afghanistan, it is distressing to see even serious academics with a background in Pakistan conflate all of the resistance in Afghanstan to the Soviets under the "Jihadi" label. Ahmed Shah Masood, for example, was very much one of the Afghan Mujahideen, but was no "Jihadi"...most of the warlords in that war were nowhere near the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or Pakistani Jihadis in ideology. Of course, the US and Pakistani governments had a weakness for Jihadis like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and later found they could best do business with the Taliban, but that's another story.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wired Does a Hatchet Job about Pakistan and its Bloggers

A friend just forwarded a story about Pakistani bloggers. (Thanks Anirvan!)

I am sorry, but I just can't bring myself to be enthusiastic about it. Here's what I vented to Anirvan:

The story's weirdly slanted:

"Like New Delhi, Lahore is a flat and dusty urban sprawl, with several modest skyscrapers and plenty of six-lane highways. But one wrong turn leads to cobblestones, donkey carts and a constant press of humanity that labors on its feet."

WTF?! So Lahore could be like New Delhi if only we didn't have a constant press of humanity that labors on its feet?!! Has this writer ever BEEN to India?

And ... "even" taken a stance against religious fundamentalists...? WTF?

And the mention of pkblogs is there, but to attempt to follow up on the movement behind it...

Sorry about ranting; I know we're supposed to be happy about Gora Saahab giving us airtime, but like I said, I can't bring myself to be, as our Indian friends say, all enthu about this.

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Quoted by Site Hostile to Faith / Islam

So here's a question:

What does one do when a site one doesn't really agree with on a principled level links to you/quotes you?

I have to say, it is reassuring that a group that is so far in the direction of being against religion--correct me if I am wrong--found one of my posts to be something they wanted their readers to read. It's quite a compliment.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

What is a "Progressive Muslim"?

The question keeps coming up. "Why say 'Progressive Islam'?" "What is a 'Progressive Muslim'?" "What is a 'Moderate Muslim'?" Someone asked again, late last week--in an email. I have replied to questions like this before. And I keep replying, because I think it is very, very important to keep talking to each other--as Muslims, and as human beings. Here's what I wrote in reply:

What is an emotional Muslim? Or a Muslim who is very military in his thinking? Was there a difference between the attitude and style of practising Islam by Umar Ibn Al Khattab and Salman Farsi and, say, Ali Ibn Abi Talib? Before Umar converted, everyone--including The Prophet--prayed in secret. But once Umar became a Muslim, he insisted they pray jamaath in public in the Kaaba's "Haram", or sanctuary. He would not practise his faith in secret or compromise on being open and "out" as a Muslim. Were some of these people "regular Muslims" and others not?

There is one universally applicable Islam. But it is a comprehensive "deen", a complete way of existing in this world. It is "jaama'e" (comprehensive) and has a complete code for every human being in every place and time. Each of us understands it and adopts it as a function of our respective personalities, temperaments, and circumstances.

For example, ALL of us cannot practise the rules, principles and attitudes The Prophet transmitted for seeking revenge, and at the same time those for forgiveness. That's what makes us each unique and different. There are those that choose not to forgive everything but seek revenge. If they do it in accordance with Islamic principles, they are still "regular" Muslims. And those that choose to forgive, Allah has said they get hasanaat and sawaab for that--and are also regular Muslims. But they are not the same kind of Muslim. And they can disagree on which path is better--but it will be a disagreement on what is best for a specific Muslim to do at a specific time and place. And lead to very different ways of practising the same, universal, religion.

We need to build bridges and work together--the Qur'an says "hold onto the rope of Allah as a group" but also tells us that HE made us each different. It is when people start saying that anyone who thinks he or she is a "progressive" Muslim, or a "spiritualist" versus a "conservative" one; or one who has great regard for the Hadith versus one who loves the Qur'an so much he has no time for the Hadith is, and so on; when one says that one is wrong and should not believe what they believe; it is one who tries to get everyone to conform to one way--whether progressive or conservative-- who is sowing discord and wants to challenge Islam or rip it up. And that is the root of fitna in the community.

What do YOU think of people who go against all the millineum and half of traditional Islamic practice and change their greetings, and stand outside the community and declare Jihad as individuals?

If I had wanted to live on the crumbs of those who hate Islam, I could very easily have written a book like Irshad Manji or someone and made milions in the last 6 years. But it is us who speak of moderation and don't milk either perceived and real oppression AGAINST Muslims OR perceived and real oppression BY Muslims that get crumbs in terms of attention and so on by anti-Muslims OR by Muslims

Thanks for your email, though. I hope you keep in touch. We should be able to learn from each other. And I sincerely take your email as a reminder that whatever way we choose to live up to Islam, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are all part of one faith community and should never close the doors on anyone within that community because of how they practise that faith.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Pakistan: Crisis Coverage, Expats, and Professionals in the Streets

As a blogger, you don't often to write to a specific audience and to the tight requirements of an editor. But when the current crisis (or are there now two, no, three of them?) in Pakistan started about the Chief Justice being dismissed, I had done a post about the situation. And then I was invited by the SAJA Forum, the South Asian Journalists' Association's Blog to write a piece summarising things for their audience. This gave me a chance to step back and think about how the crisis--or crises--around my home country is being covered, and what the fundamentals are of the issue. SAJA Forum carried my piece on the 20th of March. The actual news might be a bit dated now, but since the piece was targeted to an audience of journalists, it gives you a good round-up of where to go for updates on the crisis.

Since then, there's been a lot of coverage of the lawyer's protests and what's going on in Pakistan--including Ahmed Rashid appearing on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air". He actually talks quite a bit about what he says is Musharraf's increasingly precarious position. But I will talk about that more later--there are aspects of that appearance and issues related to it that I want to discuss. But especially for people not familiar with the ground situation in Pakistan today--whether you are non-Pakistani, or a Pakistani or Pakistani-American who's not lived in the country in a while--that is a must-listen. His point about the people who are usually the last to come out in a revolution now being on the streets actually, I feel makes the point I was making in my original post on the crisis, about the fact that Pakistanis not usually doing the street thing--we've gone straight to that last stage of the process, without the earlier stages of the protest cycle.

On the other issue I covered on my SAJA Forum post, ArR has done a good job of collecting links related to Musharraf's situation.

There's more to talk about this this situation. Like expats getting involved, as I pointed out in my last post. That was the positive side of expats. But then, Athar Osama, an analyst that, paradoxically, has the Rand Graduate School as his doctoral alma mater asked a very relevant question; one that I have asked in relation to Internet Censorship and and the like:

Ref to your condemnation of the mistreatment of Amna Butter, I'd like to know which constitutional right are you talking about? The same constitution that was mercilessly butchered for the last 7 years to support the ambition of power of one individual and PAKPAC and others supported that treatment? Shouldn't we all forget about that constitution and the rights that it grants us? I think it is high time that we either support that constitution in full or not even mention the rights it gives us...

By the way, even today that constitution prohibits General Musharraf to hold the office of the President....

Something to think about--especially for expats...

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Huffington Post, Eteraz and Muslims

As I was saying elsewhere on this site, it is wonderful to have Eteraz now contribute to the HuffPo.

I have been watching the HuffPo since it started and posted the following on my blog a while back--the second half of the post is more relevant and I reproduce it below
"I have been keeping an eye on it since the HuffPo started, and one aspect at the back of my head has been the number and quality of Muslims voices on it. It seemed like a site providing an outlet to voices that one usually doesn't hear would be a good venue to get some different voices out there. (Yes, most of the people are not disadvantaged; but they are not people you hear discussing current affairs and social issues.)

At first blush, maybe because I am as paranoid as the next Muslim, the only name I noticed was the ubiquitous Irshad Manji. And that didn't bode well. You've seen what where I think she sits in this whole discussion. But then, along the way, I noticed what the HuffPo was doing. Their were Muslim voices on there--and ones that were saying the very things most Muslims would like to bring to the table. What follows here are some notes I took a while back, while digging in to the HuffPo:

One writer, for example, is described in his profile as follows: "...a writer based in New York. He is a contributing editor at CARGO Magazine (Conde Nast), and writes the regular 'Classics' column for the magazine. Majd has also written for GQ (Conde Nast), the New York Times and the New York Observer." And I have to say, I am impressed by both the background of this writer, and his writing. Take for example, the post, titled "Karen's First Baby Steps.

Check out the full list of what he's written:

Another write has a similar background. The name is Cenk Uygur, a nice Turkish name. Check out what he writes:

So on balance, I have to say I am impressed by what the HuffPo is doing in this regard."
You can read my full original post here.

And now they have Eteraz. Which can only mean more of the moderate-to-progressive--whatever Eteraz hisself might think of the concept--Muslims voices being heard.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pakistan: An Expat Lends Her Voice

This is just one incident in thousands like this happening in Pakistan on any given day, but the image of an expat raising their head and letting out a full-mouthed shout of protest at a rally actually inside Pakistan--and getting manhandled by the police for her effort--is something that bears notice and mention:

Dr Amna Buttar Protesting alongside Lawyers, on 3rd April 2007, in front of Supreme Court of Pakistan

ANAA, her organization, has been doing some interesting work and raising important issues. It bears a visit if you haven't already heard about them or don't know much.

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Ahmedinejad: Happy Easter!

The news this morning is that Iran will let go of the 15 British servicefolk it's been holding. [Of course, this has nothing to do with the Iranian diplomat let go by "The Coalition" yesterday.] His "reason" for this gesture is interesting--a gift to British People on Easter. Hmmm...I wonder if any of the folks that have been fulminating from the "Islamic" point of view (kidnapping is Islamic?--because kidnapping is what it is, if you're not formally at war) would ever consider giving gifts to friends, neighbours, colleagues and others on non-Islamic religious holy-days...

PS, 4/5/07: Actually, I owe readers an apology. I was basing that comment on something I heard on NPR. The New York Times reports that he was talking about a gift on the birthday of The Prophet...oh, well, I guess he wouldn't think of a gift on someone else's holy day, either, huh?

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Monday, April 02, 2007


As a former New Yorker who once had the honor--I have to call it an honor, having read the article below--of waiting in line for tickets at a cinema in The Village a few places behind him, and a Sunni Muslim to boot, I have to say: Here's my kind of mensch! One who stands up and calls it like it is--even when one of "his own" is the offender:
Jennifer Siegel | Fri. Dec 08, 2006

Former New York City Mayor Edward Koch has called for Dennis Prager to resign or be removed from United States Holocaust Memorial Council, in response to the pundit's recent insistence that a Muslim congressman should not be sworn in using a Quran.

"There is no question that Dennis Prager is a bigot who ought to be repudiated even by his closest supporters," Koch said this morning in an interview with the Forward. "His statements are a disgrace … and I will be down there calling for the council to condemn him, and, if we have the power, to remove him."
Of course, what needs to be said is that this story never did quite make the same kind of waves that the original story of Mr Prager's bigotry did in the echo chamber of hurt, greviance, victimhood, and self-fulfilling predictiions that so dominates mailing lists and other fora that Muslims hang out on so much of the time. Do I have to be sarcastic and say "I wonder why?"

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