Friday, December 26, 2014

@Khawer_Khan on #Peshawar, #Oakland, and Beyond

History IS the haunting of our nightmares. Lets not forget who created these monsters. Various imperialist powers representing global Capital and the comprador Pakistani state. These monsters are not some organic expression of our people struggling in some distorted way for freedom. This is literally a Frankenstein's monster gone amok. Arms from the Pakistani state, a heart and brain from Capital, legs from various global and regional hegemonic powers, a torso from the remnants of a tribal society confronted with modernity, and blood from it's countless victims.
We cannot begin to slay the beast without naming it.
Today Capitalism in an advanced state of decay delivers dead bodies of our youth in Mexico, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and even the USA. We wake up and everyday and find corpses at our door; an offering from soulless, lifeless, neither living nor undead monsters. Their logic dictated by the very history of blood and carnage that is Capitalism.
Its too late for reformism or cosmetic changes and bandages or behavioral changes. We must slay the beast.
As they say in Oakland... Rest In Power.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

@ARRrafiq on Fighting Back in Pakistan

Ideology of #Pakistan in Four Quotations

"Democracy is not just a new thing we are learning," said Jinnah Saahab to American journalist Margaret Bourke-White, "[o]ur Islamic ideas have been based on democracy and social justice since the thirteenth century."

"... we have proved it to the world more than once. We established Pakistan because of our passion for what we call the Islamic way of life. This is no narrow sectarian, or medieval, or theocratic or intolerant conception. It means no more and no less than this: that we believe in God and atheistic doctrines cannot flourish amongst us. That we believe in the equality of men and the equality of civic rights and opportunities for all, irrespective of their religious belief. That we believe in social justice, ... that we believe in democracy, not as a political creed; but as a part of our religious faith ... the way of life that we have chosen for ourselves, [is] not a new concoction, but one that is based on a body of belief and tradition that have been handed down to us by our forefathers"
—Liaquat Ali Khan, First Prime Minister of Pakistan, gave a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California on May 16, 1950. See, for example,

Maududi on Jinnah & Co.:

“It is worth mentioning that not a single political leader from Muslim League or any resolution from the party have ever clarified that their ultimate goal is to create Islamic type of Government in Pakistan. Rather what they have said and repeated is that they want to establish a democracy with equal rights for the minorities”
—Maududi, Musalman aur Jadeed Siasi Kashmakash; Published in 1941; Volume 3; page 130 via
"You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of manhood in your own native soil."
—Jinnah - February, 1948

Saturday, December 20, 2014

#Christmas Carols in #Karachi for #Peshawar

This is the Pakistan we all want; it takes a tragedy to bring it together. But don't be fooled it exists and has existed all along in our hearts.
Here's the video:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Qadri and Imran--A Match That Just Could Not Be?

Graphic from
The headlines say
"Tahirul Qadri ends alliance with Imran Khan's party"
Qadri parts ways with Imran Khan
and he might have said this more strongly this time, saying things like
“Those who are part of status quo and involved in corruption could not become our allies”.
But despite the "cousinly" coordination they might have had—maybe encouraged by the Third Umpires referred to by The Captain, maybe not—this really was a match that could not have been. Several reasons come to mind:
  • One could invoke the old Urdu proverb about two swords in one scabbard ("aik miyaan mein dho talwaar") and implying/accusing the two leaders of being all about ego; 
  • One could take the Allama's words at face value and notice that his is a demand for ripping out the whole constitutional system while the Khan is talking the talk of democratic change, albeit on his terms;
  • ...and one could also notice that while Imran Khan has been playing footsie with the neo-purist parts of our faith community, namely the Jamaat-e-Islami (see discussion on Facebook here) and the Further Right, so to speak, Allama Qadri comes from a more traditionalist, albeit revolutionary place. In that regard, what really jumped out of the articles this morning was this line:
"The cleric called for capital punishment for those involved in spreading sectarian hatred and claimed that the situation could be improved only after the "execution of some people."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Haroon Moghul (@hsmoghul) on the Islamic State and the 7th Century Canard:

Haroon Moghul; Twitter
Profile Photo
Whenever anyone takes the line that neo-purist fanatics of any ilk are "taking us back to the 7th--or 13th--century", I would like them to read this rather intellectual piece from Haroon Moghul. It's from back in June 2014, when the IS declared itself a Caliphate, but it's a good introduction.
There is a new declared Islamic State–and Caliph–what does that mean?
He asks. Then goes on to explain that
[T]o call a radical Muslim a transplant from the seventh-century may sound comforting to our Western ears, but it is profoundly offensive to the Muslim’s. What are you saying except that Islam’s founding generation was violent, nasty, brutish, short-tempered and narrow-minded?

For Muslims, however, seventh-century Arabia is not a long time ago in a desert far, far away, a very moving story with no contemporary consequences. It’s what we aspire to realize in our quotidian circumstances. It is the template. In the Muslim worldview, to be brief, God gives Muhammad revelation and Muhammad, in turn, embodies revelation, so we his successors know how to live it. Of course, in the absence of Muhammad, individual Muslims must struggle to apply their reasoning to understand what to make of that legacy in different circumstances. To call the Islamic State “seventh-century” is to say that they somehow reflect what Islam was, and is meant to be.
It’s giving the Islamic State the legitimacy it craves and does not deserve.
Read his whole argument at The Islamic Monthly (where Haroon is identified as an editor) at:
An earlier Storify of tweets I posted on a related thought can be seen here:

Friday, November 14, 2014

"The Means of Information": Freedom of the Press and Control of Social Media

Freedom is guaranteed only to
those who own a (Word)Press?
One of the most relevant--and trenchant--things I have heard on this topic is the quote:
Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.
That quote is from an older age, and I feel that in this day, age, and point in our technological evolution, you should read that with "media" instead of the first "press" and think of the second "press" as the platforms—Facebook, et al, so to speak.

Which to me overlaps or parallels Marx and his crowd's observations about the means of production. In the Industrial Age, he who owned the mean of production ruled the roost; in the Information Age, it is the platforms and the networks.

Definitely stuff to think about.

Thanks go to Mike Cherba for making me sit down and have to sort this out enough in my head and write it down during an exchange on Facebook.

Friday, Juma, Prayers at the Washington National Cathedral

Thursday, July 10, 2014

APEX Express Radio Report on Taking on the Pakistan Taliban: Context and Prospects

Filed a radio report recently for APEX Express, a weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders that airs each week on KPFA 94.1FM in the San Francisco Bay Area. Starts about exactly 23 minutes into this (with a pashto song):

Here's a direct link to the audio file for the program

[Background on the song is on this blog at:

There's a lot of info that had to be cut out; going to ask the producers if I can put it on here for background, etc.]

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mr Modi, Let's End Colonialism in India—and Elsewhere

 San Francisco Demands: “Modi, End 377!”
For SF Pride this year, Trikone (, the oldest South Asian LGBTQ organization in the world, and ASATA, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, a San Francisco Bay Area group working to educate, organize, and empower the Bay Area South Asian communities, have teamed up to put out a press release calling on India's new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi of the BJP, to "End 377". You can read the full Press Release on ASATA's site:

What they are referring to is Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which has become an urgent legal and social issue in India, being declared by the High Court of Delhi (the highest provincial court) in July 2009 and then re-instated by the Indian Supreme Court in December 2013, saying that the matter should be sorted out by parliament. Thus the appeal to Mr. Modi as the highest elected leader of India's ruling party.

One thread in my thinking, writing, and speaking for a while has been that a lot of the social wedge issues and problematic institutions, laws, and social groups that plague so much of the "Third World", the post-colonial countries, have at their root colonial shenanigans. To me, this includes a lot of the things you see in headlines related to such varied countries as Singapore, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Uganda. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan; the armies and military-trained despots that have kept politics and polities from evolving in healthy ways; and, yes, what the Colonial Authorities instated as "sodomy laws".

Section 377 makes my point perfectly. Here's the full text of the article on "Section 377" from the Wikipedia; not the Indian law specifically, but the general case of the sodomy law that is part of the penal code of many former British colonies:
Section 377 of the penal code in 42 former British colonies criminalizes anal sex between men and other homosexual acts.[1] The provision was introduced by British colonial authorities in the British Raj as section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and was used as the model for sodomy laws in many other British colonies, in many cases with the same section number.
The prohibition of homosexual acts is provided for in section 377 of the penal codes of IndiaMalaysiaSingapore (seeSection 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore), PakistanBangladeshBurmaMaldives and Jamaica. It is the model for similar laws that remain in force in BhutanBruneiKiribatiMarshall IslandsNauruPapua New GuineaTongaTuvalu,SamoaMalawiMauritiusSeychellesSierra LeoneSomaliaSudanSolomon IslandsSri LankaGhanaThe Gambia,BotswanaKenyaNigeriaTanzaniaUganda and Zambia. It was the model for since-repealed laws in AustraliaFiji,Hong Kong, and New Zealand.
 So, Mr. Modi—and as challenge to other champions of their nations, communities and faiths—if you really want to take India in an independent direction and make it stand on its own, self-confident and independent, let's get rid of these odious vestiges of colonialism!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why "dan Boko"?

Several friends have asked why my Facebook name currently says "Dan Boko" (and my Twitter name is "S. danBoko Ashraf". Here's the original Facebook status that I put up when I switched:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

@HillaryClinton is right: "Sunnis" aren't the problem in Iraq; they are (part of) the solution

Several times in the last few days, I have had reason to chafe at the use of the word/phrase "Sunnis" for the ISIS. It's like using the word "Christians" for the KKK. For example, just yesterday, a friend posted an article by the "War Nerd" on Pando titled "Like it or not, what’s happening in Iraq right now is part of a rational process". My comment was that On the one hand, articles like that, and many, many more have nuanced statements like:
"As long as the Sunni jihadis focus their revenge on fellow Sunni Arabs, their truly scary potential for pogroms is limited..."
but then you get to statements like this:
"the Sunni of the center, Saddam’s tribe, back to doing what they do best"
which, excuse me for saying so, is just plain bigotted.

IMHO, Hillary Clinton, speaking on the PBS Newshour today, has it right when she says:
"The problems that we're seeing in Iraq...are primarily political, but of course, they are manifest in this very dangerous extremist group being able to grain ground and hold it. That is only possible, in my opinion, because the Sunnis, who had partnered with the United States, and even with Maliki, to drive out Al-Qaeda in Iraq feel as though they have been isolated and excluded."
Which is not to say that the US and Western Powers don't have blame to share (for picking and backing a person like Maliki to head up a post-occupation government--or for imposing folks like Bremer and Wolfowitz); or the extreme autocracies of the Middle East ("our SOBs", again); or ... on and on. But as I was saying yesterday, let's not peddle self-fulfilling prophecies like conflating the ISIS with "Sunnis".

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Islam vs. Culture; Islamic Republic vs. Community of Muslims

These two topics came up in a conversation on social media again. And I had occasion to write the following to a group of very close and dear friends

Frankly, I think the whole issue of Islam vs. Culture and condemning all of our historical culture is a red herring put up by those who want be the ones to decide what Islam should look like. Though to give you credit, you said "Quran and Sunnah"; the true fanatics say "Quran Only; even sunnah is all fake".

And we can discuss what one should follow personally, etc. For which you can take the simple question of how and on what do you give Zakat; the answers to that question varies much more than you think and has to do with 1400+ years of history and, yes, culture.

The difference between whether Pakistan (or any other community of Muslims) is an "Ummah" (and that word is important) in which the majority are Muslims and decide based on their own values and culture how to govern themselves, or whether we want to give the state a religion and then have it impose it on everybody by force.

And to that end, I have one simple question: "What kept Umar up at night?" Was it that some woman, some where in his rule was wearing a sleeveless shirt, or that there was someone dancing somewhere without an abaya, or was it that someone would go to sleep hungry under his stewardship? Please just take one minute to think about it; the history has a clear answer to that, and our current crop of those going around exhibiting worried about society's morals give us another.

And as for reading the Quran for answers, let's go back to Zakat. Tell me; what parts of your income and assets do you give Zakat on? When General Zia forcibly imposed a mandatory scheme of Zakat he made it on your checking account balance. Which conformed very well to what his sponsors in Saudi Arabia practice, but goes against almost a thousand years of practice in South Asia where half of all Muslims on the planet live. For we Hanafis--alone amongst the 4 Sunni Schools ("madhaheb"), never mind the 2,3 Shia ones and the Ebadis--practice Zakat as a wealth tax, not an income tax. Find me an answer to that in the Quran and tell me whether Gen Zia was helping us Muslims live our lives as we wanted to (the original idea of Pakistan) or whether he was imposing his idea of an Islamic Republic.

As our elders ALWAYS said after a religious opinion--untill the current crop of holier-than-thou, absolutely-sure-of-their-opinion Islamists came along:

WAllahu Aalam; (only) Allah has (all perfect) knowledge.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Pakistani Left Says No to Talks with Taliban/TTP

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Liberty cannot depend on…good intentions"

"Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power."
[Barack Obama, 44th President of these United States, January 17, 2014,
Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence]

Official Senate portrait of Senator John Edwards,
via Wikimedia
Important point that way too many people--especially Americans--forget. Take for example the guy--supposedly a top lawyer, no less--who told us he supported the Patriot Act because:
"The attorney general told us that he would not abuse his discretion."
[First posted on Facebook.] 

Apparently the Brown Sahibs think "stupid" is a humane, sensible comment

Apparently, "stupid" is considered a cultured, sensible comment by the Brown Sahibs of Pakistan. First the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf [they who want "To establish a just society based on humane values" and work towards "political and economic options in accordance with our social, cultural, and religious values."] claims to posts a comment from one of their members (?) that describes people who don't agree with the party as "stupid" and then Newsweek Pakistan ["Sensible. Reliable. Authoritative." they describe themselves as] editorializes on the recent social media campaign against the foreigners-only French restaurant in Islamabad as "stupid". [How I wish there'd been a campaign to open the "French Beach" in Karachi back in the day to us "bloody gareebs". But I digress.]