Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Inna Lilla Wa Inna Ilaihi Raji'oon

Professor Jamal Ashraf Ansari, RIP. 1934-2007

Please remember us in your prayers. My father passed away today. Apparently fell and hit his head at a shop in the neighbourhood. His passing was painless and in a state of fasting. (He decided to fast, if his blood sugar would allow--my brother, the doctor was literally calling about twice a day to check on his sugar level since Ramazan started a few days ago.) That's the reassuring part.

He was 73. Had a law degree but never practised. (Said he couldn't have lied enough, be devious enough, to be any good in that profession. Which was true.) Brought my brother and I up to be understand politics, law and religion better than most politicians, lawyers, and "clerics" I have ever met. Besides the Kalima, we could rattle off the three branches of government; rule of law; and "innocent till proven guilty" literally before I, at least, could read. All the while living through one empire and almost a dozen military regimes--and one civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator--in India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. (Which is why it isn't even novel for me to think of Muslims not being able to live under a constitutional democracy, for example.)

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Cry of Pain -- or Call to Arms?

Adil Najam's recent post on Pakistaniat is quite a cry of pain and a call to arms; he's not someone that jumps into political frays--least of all on a site he's invested blood, toil, tears, and sweat in building over the last year and a half as an inclusive space. Do read it.

Over the weekend, I got quite an education on the history of violence on Pakistani campuses--most specifically, the one I ended up on in the late 80s-early 90s--at an alumni convention here in Silicon Valley, and will post my thoughts on that as soon as I can. (I am trying to tone them down.)

And the point is not that I think no one has the right to hold the political, theological or social opinions the Taliban, the Jamaat, or anyone else holds. But subverting the writ of the state is not in the tradition of The Prophet of Islam. (SAW) He did not take up arms until a community elected him Head of State and he was at the head of a government.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Today, I am Proud to be a Muslim Journalist

I just heard the anchor--not a guest, the anchor--of a news show confront a member of the federal cabinet on live TV about their attitude towards the press. "Why don't you just go ahead and ban the press--put us all in jail?" he said.

And it wasn't the US of A (sorry folks!) or Western country--but it was in a Muslim country; the 2nd largest Muslim country.

And a lot of people--including Aitzaz Ahsan, the lawyer for the famous Chief Justice case--have been going around they are ashamed of their country today, and that the events in Pakistan on September 10, 2007 lower the moral standing of Muslims in this day and age. I am not.

I am very, very proud of Pakistan and Pakistanis today. And I am especially proud and honoured to have been a member of the Pakistani press; and a Muslim who works in media when I can.

You can watch Talat Hussain and the news organization he heads at:

and and other Pakistani journalists live off Jump TV at:

A lot of them free and a lot of them in English.

[PS: More on pride versus shame is in this post: , specifically, as Adil Najam put it, people see a picture and all they feel is shame for the 5 policemen beating up a lawyer; I feel nothing but pride, for I see one Pakistani putting his self on the line for his principle. People see a media blackout; I see journalists that a dictator has no choice but to ban.]

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Monday, September 03, 2007

The Stuff The Taj is Made Of ...

... lives.

That's the first reaction I had to a piece a young friend of mine who lives and works in Hyderabad sent me. I have been wondering what I can say about recent events in that city, and just as when "my city" was burning, or when a sister city burnt across the sea, I was in pain, this young writer has had to deal with what he has always described as a stab to the heart of the place he loves dearly. And now, he has captured his feelings in a way that is too beautiful not to reproduce in full here; it is the same spirit that has led to great and noble things in that region of the world--from the Taj Mahal, to the deepest, most profound sufi poetry in the world. And it is uplifting to see it alive in those younger than oneself. Here is Manzoor's piece:
The Sultan’s Prayer

Hyderabad is a multi-religious and multi-cultural abode for millions of people, and this is not any recent phenomenon. Multiculturalism is the very foundation of this great city. It is said that some 400+ years back, Prince Quli Qutub Shah of the Qutub Shahi dynasty fell for the beautiful Bhagyamati and rebelled against his father, the King, to marry her. On becoming King himself, he bestowed upon his beloved Bhagyamati the title of ‘Hyder Mahal’. It was this romantic and chivalrous king who—like the emperor who created the more famous monument to love in Agra—built a whole city on the banks of river Musi, and named it after his beloved wife.

That is how Hyderabad happened.

While laying the foundation of this city, the Sultan is reputed to have prayed to his Creator that “Let millions of men and women of all castes, creeds, and religions make it their abode, like fish in the ocean." And truly, the Almighty heard every word of his prayer. For over 400 years, Hyderabad has lived up to the romance of Sultan Quli Qutb Mulk, wherein people of different religions, languages, and ethnicities have dwelled and prospered peacefully. The vibrant, rich, and progressive culture that we see in the air of Hyderabad today is the cumulative love of the 400 years since the Sultan’s prayer.

Love, however, has its enemies everywhere. This romantic and peaceful city was brutally stabbed on 25th August, 2007 by people with no love and no respect for humanity—by those who hate to see love blossom; by people envious of Hyderabad’s peace and tranquil. It was like stoning a lover whose only crime is that he believes in love and compassion.

But the thing about love is, it’s not just brave and immortal–it’s also undyingly optimistic. Hyderabad, the city of love, has always braved incidents triggered by the hate mongers, and persevered with the message – loud and clear – that it will not give up its character. Surely, the Sultan’s prayer has more power than the evil intent of a few hate mongers.

The peace march in which we participated on September 1 was but a fulfillment of the Sultan’s prayer and his wishes. A multitude of us Hyderabadis, with varying ethnicities and beliefs, uniformly clad in white kurta/shirts, with a heavy heart and a message of peace, walking silently over a kilometer’s stretch, and finally lighting candles and praying in front of Lumbini Park – I promise, Sultan Quli Kutub Shah must have been be very proud of his city this day.

I thank all who participated. God bless Hyderabad and God bless you all.

Aadaab Hyderabad!
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