Friday, December 28, 2007

Funeral Services for Benazir Bhutto...and a word on the religious tenor of the Bhuttos

Just learnt that a Ghayabana Namaaz-e-Janaza is going to be held for Benazir Bhutto after/with Friday prayers at the Masjid-e-Farooq-e-Azam in Concord, California. I am told it is off the Clayton Exit, across from the Safeway and near the BART Station and there will be a prayer meeting (Du'a) at the BART Station afterwards.

Sorry about the late notice, but I just found out.

There will most probably be services in other places around the world. Please feel free to post information in the comments section here to inform others.

For those not familiar with the concept, "Namaz-e-Janaza" is the South Asian name for the Muslim prayer said at a person's bier before he or she is interred. There is a tradition of saying the exact same prayer "ghayabana", or "in absentia", in situations like this where a lot of people not physically present at the burial want to participate (or in cases where a body is not found; but that's another story).

As a matter of clarification, I am forwarding this not because I am a fan or follower of Benazir, her father, or the PPP, but for all their faults and follies, both she and her father were in a tradition of South Asian and/or Muslim leaders going back at least to Akbar, who chose to make at least a public connection with the more folksy interpretation of their constituencies' faith(s).

In my book, she gets credit for being the only Muslim leader I have ever heard invoke Ijma, the Islamic concept of consensus as a source of community self-governance .

The discussion on KQED about Benazir's passing and it's aftermath went well and the audio archive is available at:

Photo is an AP image taken off the BBC website.
Cross-posted on the iFaqeer, Wadiblog,, and Pak Tea House blogs.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto, "Daughter of Pakistan, Daughter of the Muslim World", RIP

At least a couple of people have wondered why I haven't posted anything on my blog. Folks have been asking why I haven't posted anything. Been distracted because my wife and kids were en route to Karachi. Finally had them rerouted directly to Delhi from Hong Kong, skipping Karachi for now.

I hope to write and post. For now, you can catch me on The Forum on KQED tomorrow morning.

Notes on the quote on the subject and on the photo above: The photograph above often appears on Wikipedia articles and updates about Benazir. It is an image I captured myself at Chandini Restaurant in Newark California on September 28th, 2004 and made available under GPL License through that site. (See articles on my blog here and here.) The quote is from President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the person she met as her last official appointment.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

What is Civil Society? Just a Nice Phrase?

"Civil Society" has become the new touch phrase in Pakistani politics. And it's gotten to the point where people express the same kind of cynicism about it that is usually reserved for words like "Islamist", and "War on Terror", and, well, "Progressive Islam". A friend on one of our alumni mailing lists was getting pretty disgusted by Nawaz Sharif's piling on to the Civil Society bandwagon.

But words have meanings, and undue cynicism can be self-defeating. In fact, we need to fight the battle of perception and how things are framed. That's been quite a discussion in US politics and thought, particularly kicked off by the book by George Lakoff titled Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

And in our own situation in Pakistan, it is important to keep people honest in their language.I think it would go go a long way towards a better society.

And honestly, I have the same attitude towards "terrorism", "moderate", "Islamist", etc. See, for example, my post on the concept of one man's terrrorist being another man's freedom fighter or other posts on being flip with language, such as this one about terrorists that are "Hindu" or "Islamic".

And to further that cause, here's my definition of "Civil Society":
Anyone who's not affiliated with a political party or a government servant (including military).
What's yours? What's your pet peeve in terms of language?

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