Accepted Selective Prejudice, Identity Crisis and the Threat of Arabianization

Source: camaare.com

Source: camaare.com

I encountered a hilarious article on my facebook feed, which was so pointless, I could hardly believe it found space in print. But then again, it was Daily Mail.

Nevertheless, it is blurted out of a columnist attempting to propagate one of the greatest fallacies in the popular secular-liberal, but not-so-secular-liberal viewpoint. The fallacy being that Persianization of an already Persianized Urdu culture is something secular and that Arabianization of it could threaten its secularism. When it can be safely said that there is hardly any difference linguistically as long as you are looking at the secular aspects, unless it is a choice of aesthetics.

This brings you to the contentious Ramadan Kareem greeting, Ramadan being the more widely recognized transliteration of the fasting month, known in the Indian sub-continent as Ramzan. As the Arabic “dwaad” is pronounded as “zwaad” in Persian and Urdu, which sadly makes Ramadan technically correct if you are speaking Arabic.

It is indeed a borrowed novelty for the natives of the sub-continent which is widely used in English and Arabic media outside Pakistan, qualifying it to be immediately considered a threat to the “Persian” roots of our Urdu speaking population in the sub-continent. As for the myriad of other happily adopted novelties, well let us choose to ignore at the moment.

This is kind of hilarious because it is the educated English speaking urban population which uses it anyway instead of the more religious and conservative circles. Therefore, those adopting the rather alien greeting immediately become a target for ridicule. Ridiculed for adopting something foreign to their usual culture, mind you.

However, the joke is also on the people making fun of it in the first place because their complain is one about Arabian and especially Saudi imperialism and its adverse effects on the sub-continent culture. This is so as apparently, they are perfectly fine with the Persian and Western imperialist influences. So apparently, it is a political matter rather than merely linguistic and semantic. And of course it is also about which cultural invasions you open your arms to and accept.

Are we not supposed to be Indians when we are threatened by the ills of the foreign culture and become defensive of our own? So when Muhammad Bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh is condemned, it would only make sense to hold the Delhi Sultanate invaders, the Afghan and Persian raiders and the Central Asian Turkic Moguls in contempt as well. Likewise, it would also make sense to have little respect for the oppressive Muslim nobles and their culture and language. Why embrace their culture when rejecting that of another?

I understand most of our liberals’ racism against anything and everything Arabic. Its closest analogy is the hatred of Muslim population of Jews for political reasons concerning Israel, as Saudi Arabia is the primary source of this emotion. And there are number of reasons to hate Saudi Arabia, such as their brand of the destructively extremist Wahabi Islam and its malicious infiltration in India, as well as the alleged funding of the Taliban and the alarmingly growing anti-Shia terrorism. All valid reasons.

Perhaps, it is a Sunni-Shia thing after all. And I do share their frustrations about the growing religiosity, which only means violent trouble in Pakistan’s case, but the sort of proposals that are put forth in the article, and are widely endorsed among our enlightened crowd, are simply stupid to an audience which has already not committed to condemn or root for any one side for whatever reasons. To me as an Indian, both Saudi and Persian cultures, are foreign. However, I do not find a reason to hate either of them, except for their equally oppressive political regimes.

What is so good about Persian, Turkish, or Urdu even, I would go on to say, while acknowledging the rejection of Arabic? Urdu being the language developed in the times of the Persian speaking Mogul emperors, heavily borrowing from Persian and Turkish. Is racism of the more enlightened members of our society only reserved for Arabs?

But while I could consider their objections on Arabs (how cruelly and unjustly synonymized with Saudi Arabian) pretty valid, I’d have equal contempt for our Persian and Turkish invaders, and therefore, their culture. Personally I don’t have problem with any one of them though. But it is not about individuals, right?

And what in the world is so secular about “Khuda Hafiz”? Even when the greeting does not involve the Muslim Allah, as your fanatic conservative Muslim would insist on including anyway, it still involves some sort of God. That is not secular last time I checked what secular things are supposed to be. While using the word reason here is an insult to its very spirit, but all of this really shows some twisted reasoning.

But here is the real problem which many native Indian Muslims, who are proud of their motherland culture, forget. Why are they following an imperialistic, oppressive Arabian religion, if they were not to take its cultural dictation? I say this because Islam precisely requires you to do so, at least if you are practicing and religious. It is not just a religion, it requires you to change your lifestyle with a variety of soft and hard threats. It requires you to become a pseudo-Arab.

But of course there are things we still could have amended over the centuries, especially the more “secular” of rulers in Indian history. Why do we offer the namaz, oh wait, salah in Arabic? Even the most devout of Christians in the American South say their prayers in English. Surely. we could have at least done this much. Ideally speaking, had we not accepted Hinduism as our religious heritage, we should have at least come up with our own version of Islam. Oh wait, we have. That branch of Islam is a condemned cult now. Good effort though.

Let’s admit. Indian Muslims, yes especially the secular Pakistani ones, are culturally and even intellectually bankrupt. And it is nothing more than their cultural bankruptcy and badly confused identity, which makes them propagate these absurdities and to end up looking ridiculous. No matter how politically enlightened and self-sufficient they appear to be, they have hardly anything to call their own.

Let it be their faith, their language, whatever ideology they claim to follow, their high claims of ancestry or hilariously even their names. Many of the folks would actually go to great lengths to find a genetic connection outside the sub-continent, especially when it coincides with the Prophet’s lineage. They have a history of worshiping foreign cultures. What a painful identity crisis. 

I have much greater respect for the Hindus who at least pray to their own deities in their own language, despite their tendency of worshiping anyone from outside India too, and who name their children after the adjectives in Ramayana, Vedas and Gita instead of some Arabian book, or after some Persian or Turkic warlord.

The complains of cultural insecurity by our enlightened are not only conceding they have an inferior culture, but also makes them look like the very people they criticize. They remind me of the insecure Pakistani conservatives who would complain of cultural invasions from India and other foreign cultures corrupting their society. Honestly, I hardly see any difference between the two. Both idiots of the highest order.

You know, I would like to propose to the religious-conservatives, the secular-conservatives, the religious-liberals and the secular-liberals among the Muslims of India a better option. Drop all the Arabian and Persian and Sunni and Shia crap, and adopt English as their language of choice. At least, it is completely secular in the context of regional history and has no sectarian politics associated with it.

Considering that the British and the Americans have been and still are our most recent and current masters, let us free ourselves of these hassles by adopting a language which is recognized the world over. And while there is no harm in making fun of each other’s accents, coming up with new dialects is a great way of celebrating diversity. Down with Arabianization and Persianization, let us Anglicize our culture.

Ramzan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, the sub continent is not under the threat of Arabic cultural invasion. It is merely under the threat of the cultural and intellectual bankruptcy of Indian Muslims. As it has always been.

And by Indians, I mean the natives of the sub-continent, especially Pakistanis, the self-hating Indians.

Day 2: Kissa Khwani by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan – “PTV & Radio Pakistan”

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a platform dedicated to documenting oral history, organized a three day event called “Kissa Khwani” in Islamabad, named after the famous Kissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar, which was meant to promote the tradition of preserving oral historical accounts and storytelling. On June 21, 2013, the second episode of the three day event, “PTV and Radio Pakistan” was held in Islamabad.

The panelists included Agha Nasir, veteran broadcaster and producer, the pioneering director of Radio Pakistan and the former Managing Director of PTV, Muhammad Zubair, the former Director International Affairs of PTV and the first director of PTV Academy, and playwright, screenwriter and former columnist Ahmed Saleem, who created plays like “Amaawas” and “Kaala Pul“. Kanwal Naseer was also supposed to speak at the event but did not show up for some reason. The event was moderated by journalist, columnist and news anchor Farrukh Khan Pitafi.

A sister event was held in Lahore in which the panelists included Seemi Raheel, Salman Shahid, Naveed Shahzad and director and producer Ayub Khawar and was moderated by Adeel Hashmi and Alizeh Khalid. I really wish I were in Lahore to hear these brilliant speakers. The headline from the more interesting Lahore event was “Zia dictatorship ruined it all“, which was also discussed in Islamabad and immediately brought to mind the hazards of state-imposed censorship.

The Islamabad event kicked off with Agha Nasir presenting a historical account of the formative years of All India Radio. He was actually the only panelist in the entire three day event that mentioned the tragic Kissa Khwani Bazaar massacre, an Amritsar massacre like carnage, at the hands of the soldiers of the British Raj. Nasir mentioned that All India Radio was modeled after the BBC itself and was launched in 1935.

Remarkable pioneers such as Z. A. Bokhari, A. S. Bokhari and Patras Bokhari were engaged for establishing the state radio. Radio stations in present day Pakistan were established in Lahore at the YMCA on the Mall and in Peshawar. According to him, the Peshawar station was donated radio apparatus by Marconi himself. The monthly budget of a radio station used to be Rs. 1,500 per month and its main purpose used to be educational programming.

Agha Nasir expressed great satisfaction over his work at the Radio, despite the fact that it offered low income. According to him, the satisfaction of the work was the greatest factor why great names such as Saadat Hassan Manto and Z. A. Bokhari , apart from many prominent actors and stars, were attracted to the medium.

Muhammad Zubair lamented that the present day media is directionless and has become excessively moralistic and sardonic in its approach. He observed that radio was a medium that empowered him with the faculty of visualization during storytelling. He mourned that television was a medium which actually took that ability away from him.

He complained that the mandate of Pakistan Television of “education, information and entertainment” has eroded over time. He expressed his concern over the degeneration of the media and criticized the growing sensationalism and commercialism. He also expressed his concerns over the lack of censorship.

Playwright Ahmed Saleem mentioned producers and writers who pushed the frontiers of tolerance. He mentioned Dr. Anver Sajjad, Agha Nasir and Iqbal Ansari to be some of the most important names in this regard.

He recalled how his play “Amaawas” became a landmark in pushing the limits of tolerance on state television. The play was directed by Iqbal Ansari which portrayed the female lead played by Bushra Ansari demanding a divorce from the male lead played by Asif Raza Mir. The play stirred a great controversy at the time.

He recalled that people wrote to them objecting to the content of the play, worrying that it could corrupt the minds of women. He also recalled that they received threats from religious groups and clerics for airing such a play. However, he paid a tribute to director Ansari for encouraging him to express himself in the play as he pleased, even though the daring director had to offer an explanation and an apology once the play ended.

He also recalled working for the documentation of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of PTV. However, he left disgusted when many producers started claiming credits for things that were obviously were not their contributions. However, he said that he was proud to write scripts for Shireen Pasha’s landmark documentary on Cholistan.

He recalled that government interventions started plaguing PTV during Yahya’s regime when Tagore and Nazar-ul-Islam were banned in East Pakistan while adding more Urdu content, alienating the Bengali population.

Saleem recalled joining the newspaper “Aman” in the 80s as a television critic and used to interview TV stars. His interviews were criticized for being politically loaded such as the one involving actress Marina Khan in which he quoted her of criticizing the construction of Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. She said that many schools could have been built with that money.

Questions and answers session saw someone asking for a direction for the media. Mr. Zubair said that Pakistan was not prepared for freedom of media in its years of infancy and needed stability instead. He also insisted on the importance of following religious guidelines.

Agha Nasir recalled that PTV was issued one directive per week during Zia’s regime. Directives were about things like how the dopatta should be worn on air, that female singer should not gyrate while singing and that duets should be banned. Nazia and Zohaib Hassan’s duet also came under fire, despite the fact that they were siblings. The puritanical disciplinarians responded that not everybody was aware of that.

Moderator Farrukh Pitafi conceded that the media is rightfully criticized by the audience for sensationalizing reporting, distorting facts and commercializing and trivializing information, as well desensitizing audiences. He said that Pakistan was a classical example wherein space was expanding and quality was diminishing.

He said that poetic license of freedom was being used in news in Pakistan instead and that anchors have been guilty of such excesses. However, he also made a point that educated audiences would demand better content from the media and that the population explosion has been making things worse.

Almost unanimously, the panelists agreed that excessive freedom of expression is inappropriate. Ahmed Saleem gave a similar reply to my question why people were so fond of censorship in Pakistan. I found that rather disappointing coming from a writer.

He narrated how a news anchor misrepresented CM Shahbaz Sharif’s medical aid to him for undergoing a liver transplant as an act of corruption. He noticed that it came as a surprise to him since he was a political critic of the Sharif brothers. Yet the generous and praiseworthy deed of the leader was painted as a vile act by a news anchor with a political agenda.

But this story made me doubt his understanding of freedom of speech, which he later mentioned to be a positive tool if used properly. He recalled how they used to wonder what they should play and write about after the death of dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988. But they frequently followed their heroic struggle for freedom of speech with the warnings of the need for discipline and order.

Revolutionaries of yesterday, with the exception of Mr. Zubair of course, have become the conservatives of our times.

But it is hardly a surprise.

Note: This is not a paid post.

Why So Afraid of Love?

Source: Express Tribune/AFP

Source: Express Tribune/AFP

While there is nothing particularly special about Valentine’s Day, a rather irritating tradition, it always becomes a point of debate among Pakistan’s religious and conservatives and the not so religious and the not so conservatives. You can hardly find people here who do not belong to the two groups.

Nobody would even take Valentine’s Day too seriously any more should this conflict come to an end. With defaced billboards and privacy invasions, the conflicting attitude about this “foreign” festival will continue in Pakistan. But underlying this war of morals, is a deep and disturbing behavioral problem prevalent in our society that may be a root to many other of our problems.

Many…, most Pakistanis have a problem with “love”.  I mean they have a problem with people with a romantic association. I mean they have a problem with sex itself. Not really, they like to have it a lot and add to the exploding population of the country. But they don’t like people talking about it and don’t like people showing willingness to have it with each other. It immediately qualifies you for adjectives that are reserved for sex workers, who by the way are humans and surely good members of the human society too.

Therefore, with this obsession of their hatred with love, or sex, or their erotophobia, they raise their children with a guilt about sex that simply does not fade away. I can tell you that because I am one of the millions of children in Pakistan who have been raised on the same lines. The lines of orthodox religious conservatism, though the word orthodox seems almost superfuous here.

The point is that disapproval of sex and its mention have become an unchangeable and unquestioned ethos in Pakistan, which I am not sure would have been the case in India before Islam’s advent. You cannot help but speculate that it would have been to some extent, especially given the vicious culture of the Rajputs.

In any case, this has a lot of benefits as well, as it perceivably reduces the opportunities of strangers, potential rapists and random chchichchoras abusing your women. However, not a lot of thought is given to women abused by the not-so-strangers, since they are like property and must be possessed and jealously guarded. Therefore, one of the greatest objections to Valentine’s Day is women seen publicly around universal but forbidden symbols of love and sex.

Source: sina.com

Source: sina.com

When you have that many grown-up people who cannot have healthy romantic, or even sexual relationships, they turn into psychotics. Maybe that is scientifically, morally, logically and politically wrong. I don’t know. I am not an expert, but it makes a little sense to me. Perhaps psychologists could explain whether such repressed sexual urges could be one of the reasons behind the torture-loving and violent behavior often demonstrated by the members of our society, and by humans in general.

Not sure. But I can tell you that it does certainly brew trouble. And those who are living it, I mean really living it and surviving it every other day, will be able to tell you about it in a better way. You know, people enduring witnessing and themselves being threatened by honor killings and the virtuous and by the immaculate menace of ghairat or “honor” itself. Usually women suffer almost all the fallout, but that is not always true. A lot of men are killed for marrying as per their will too. We must keep that in mind.

If we discard morality for a moment, such killings seem rather intellectual as they block human procreation in general. At least for the perpetrators, it prevents a dirty DNA from merging their pure one. But since everyone, especially the offenders themselves are so concerned about morality, you have to bring it in the picture and what they do seems ridiculously awful. Funny to the point of reducing you to tears. Tragic to the point of contorting you with fits of laughter.

Source: AFP/Dawn

Source: AFP/Dawn

But it is indeed a serious subject and one that requires immediate consideration of people who claim that humans are Ashraf-ul-Makhlookat, or the “Highest of all Creation”, which they are most certainly not by any means. The reason why I say this is that even though they are great believers in sanctity of life, they are content with treating their children like cattle, suppressing their biological and emotional desires and turning them into neurotics. 

But what to do with a culture that supports suicide bombings on the infidents, which supports and cannot deny the support of stonings-to-death for adultery, which garlands murderer Qadri for slaughtering a loudmouth governor and which sets fire to its cities just because some Dane with a sense of humor drew the caricature of their Prophet who lived 14 centuries ago? A culture that loves violence. Violence and hate.

How can a culture that loves violence and hate can appreciate love? It would certainly hate love and would be afraid of love.

Maybe Paksitan needs to get over its erotophobia to recover from its sickness of violence.

A Question About Torture and Justice

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

The December 2012 case of gang rape and (attempted) murder of a young woman in Delhi has come forth as one of the most hideous crimes on an individual level in recent history. The crime involved absolutely unspeakable torture in which the rapists used an iron rod to penetrate the woman, resulting in subsequent organ damage and her unfortunate demise a couple of weeks later.

India is completely outraged by this incident and people have taken to the streets to protest against it and rightfully so. As a matter of fact, the protests have been extraordinary and inspiring because this incident has shaken the whole world, not just the Indian nation.

However, let me dare say that I have noticed a lot of genuine urge to inflict torture, apart from the genuine anger at this crime. I mean really apart from the reactions that stem out of genuine frustration that are understandable.

Of course, I don’t even want to go on discussing the Talibanesque Indian (Far) Right, but not just the public figures.  Even though I tried to stop myself from thinking this way at a time like this, I could not help but find this behavior a little disturbing in terms of the relation between torture and justice at times.

But then again, I am not sure if I am clear about this myself. I mean they have a point. Isn’t that letting them off the hook too easily?

Now let me be clear on this that a part of me wants some sort of torture to be inflicted on the perpetrators as well. You know, like castration and life imprisonment. I don’t want to give the impression that I am at a higher moral ground and am free of violent urges at all, being a low animal. Castration is sort of cruel but intellectual, because it prevents procreation, at least from that individual.

But then again even when I ask this question to myself, I don’t find a clear answer. Especially when it comes to action. As much as I agree with severe punishments, I am not really sure if torture, or maybe even death should be a part of it. Just not as convinced.

What is justice, then? Torture for torture? Murder for murder? Eye for an eye? I know it’s not about compensating the loss at all, if anything at all. What about castration? That seems a mild punishment, or is it? That’s torture, surely. What about public hangings? That surely sounds perfect for deterring the crime. Besides, why worry about the cruelty of the punishment? Only those thinking about committing such a horrid crime would be facing the music. And they deserve it.

Source: India Today

Source: India Today

Go ahead with it by all means but then please never criticize the Taliban ever for their “brutalities”. Because the last time I checked, these are the sort of things that the Taliban do. And yes, they have hanged people too. They don’t just behead people in the good old fashioned “Middle Eastern” manner. But can you really stop such urges from emerging? Tempting.

In a way, it makes perfectly good sense to kill any such perpetrator at the spot, in defense at least. Such as an instance of using a licensed firearm to shoot down someone intruding into your house. At least, within the moral system followed by the rapists, I think they would not be too shocked if someone comes out to kill them, or even brutally torture them. You know, driving steel rods up their asses or burning them at stake.

But would you do that in cold blood? Especially when you do not share the lawless jungle morality of the rapists. This is an important question. But at the same time, I would like to appreciate the fact that the demands for death sentence on behalf of the people are mor or less justified because it is a commonly accepted penalty in the Indian Penal Code for murder. But of  course the matter is much more complex than that.

But I am not sure if it is appropriate to torture those men in more or less a similar manner or much mildly for their crime. And if we do penalize them strictly, would that really deter such crimes? Or perhaps if milder penalties are ensured to be imposed, without violating any human rights? Would that deter the crime still by simply ensuring effective enforcement?

But yes, the question becomes rather meaningless when rapists are hardly ever convicted at all, let alone penalized. And when the rate of rape is as appalling as it is in our part of the world and the society turning a complete blind eye to it. Because not only do we traditionally blame everything about rape on women, but in conservative circles create an environment where there are greater barriers to consensual sex than there are to rape.

I understand that the degree of this particular offense is simply too much and the charge is murder and sexual torture in this case, more than just the milder definition of rape, so probably a stricter punishment is justified in this case. Especially considering the physical and mental implications. Not to mention the mess the traditional patriarchal Indian society creates for rape victims if they survive.

But a stricter punishment is surely justified in this case. I am sure even the most liberal of commentators, politicians and judges would be at least forced to consider it. I mean, think about the precious lost life, and what her life could have been. Besides, think of the cruelty with which these criminals acted. Do they deserve mercy? A stricter punishment sounds more like justice.

But is it? I am not sure. I don’t want to make any secret of my confusion over here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that probably torturing the criminals back is not really the answer. Or probably I would have an answer straight away. Because a part of me feels as if we probably love to see people tortured a bit too much as a species.

I don’t really support capital punishment but I cannot help but ignore the pressure in this case. I do know that capital punishment is the accepted norm in the sub-continent and so I guess I would not mind hanging these criminals.

I mean I expect very few to be upset about it when they even want to deny them defense in the court. But then there is the thought of letting these criminals go too easy. And what if they are at it again?

I am just lucky and relieved that I am not in the position to bear the responsibility of determining penalties on criminals.

I know that does not make me a good human being, let alone a better one.

But I envy the ones with convictions