Six Rupee Bullet

Actors and members of the UW-Madison Pakistani Students Association following the performance of Six Rupee Bullet. From left to right: Rehan Rauf, Rafay Ahmad, Anoushka Chia Syed, Saad Siddiqui, Umar Anjum. Photo: Shoaib Bin Altaf.

This past fall, members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pakistani Student Association (PSA) held an event titled Pakistan ki avaaz, or the voices of Pakistan. The featured event of the evening was a traditional Ghazal music performance from Pakistani legend, Munni Begum, however, the most intriguing portion of the program was Six Rupee Bullet, a short play written and performed by PSA members.

The play offered a variety of perspectives related to U.S. drone strikes, poverty, and Islam in contemporary Pakistani society. In an interview with Inside Islam, Umar Anjum, co-playwright and Urdu instructor at UW-Madison, said that the PSA was inspired to come up with a serious play that draws attention to what is going on in Pakistan. Anjum, a native of Lahore, Pakistan, wrote,

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Sufis Under Fire in Macedonia

Damage from an arson at the Harabati Baba teqe, a Sufi Muslim religious complex in Tetova, Macedonia. Photo: Bektashi Community of Macedonia

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is author of The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism (2002) and The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony (2008). He is the Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.

As an informed global media audience should know, traditions of pluralism that were long established in Islamic statecraft, law, and public institutions today face a mortal threat from adherents to radical, fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni Islam. The latter mainly comprise Saudi-financed Wahhabis, who masquerade as “Salafis,” and South Asian Deobandis, who support the Taliban. In the Balkans, the front line between Sufism and Wahhabism runs through the Albanian- and Muslim-majority – and in the past, Sufi-identified – city of Tetova in eastern Macedonia.

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Text Message a Security Threat?

Last month, Saad Allami, a Moroccan-born Canadian man, was detained for a day while his home was searched and later arrested for 3 days. According to Allami, a businessman, the Canadian police searched his home and told his wife that he was a terrorist. A text message prompted the investigation.

Allami sent a message to his staff at a telecommunications company that was intercepted. In the text, Allami told his staff to “blow away” the competition at a trade show in New York. This expression prompted the investigation. Allami has now filed a lawsuit against the provincial police because of their treatment of him and his wife during the search and for tarnishing his reputation by treating him like a terrorist. According to Allami, he has no ties with any terrorist organizations and was never charged with anything. Continue reading

Countering Extremism and Highlighting Diversity

MPV President Ani Zonneveld speaks with US Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) at an MPV event.

Exclusion seems to be at the root of many forms of extremism, whether religious, cultural, political, or otherwise. The growing and increasingly influential group Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) hopes to shift extremist attitudes among North American Muslims through their latest initiative, Literary Zikr. Co-founded as a non-profit by Ani Zonneveld in 2007, the group aims to counter Islamic radicalization of North American youth by presenting the work of progressive Muslim scholars in a simple and accessible format.

MPV, law enforcement officials, and academics all agree that Islamic extremists constitute a small percentage of Muslims in North America or anywhere, but MPV and other groups believe that addressing this problem, although small in numbers, is incredibly important and is the primary responsibility of Muslim communities themselves. Zonneveld explains:

We as Muslims should all be working together to counter radicalism… There are many within the [Muslim North American] community that are in denial. You bring up the word ‘radicalism’ and people immediately become defensive. If you’re silent, you’re just as guilty.

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The Taliban in Libya?

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain stumbles on questions related to Libya in a recent interview.

Last week, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain badly stumbled at an editorial meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, displaying his limited knowledge of the current situation in Libya. His campaign blamed the gaffe on 4 hours of sleep and an ambiguous question from reporters. A few days later, Cain asked the media in a rhetorical manner, “Do I agree with saying that Gadhafi should go, do I agree that they now have a country where you’ve got Taliban and Al Qaeda that’s going to be a part of the government?” For the record, the Taliban has never been associated with Gadhafi or Libya.

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Signs of Hope in Egypt’s Sectarian Violence

A Muslim Egyptian holding a Qur'an and a Coptic Egyptian holding a Cross

In the last few months, the Middle East has undergone tremendous change with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt leading to the resignation of Presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. During these revolutions that inspired others across the region in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria, different segments of society united with the goal of removing the leaders. In Egypt, especially, Muslims and Christians stood together, even protecting each other while they prayed.

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Becoming a Pakistani-American

Zehra Imam is an alumna of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is currently designing a course, “The Patterns of Struggle and Triumph” to foster self-development within students. She is also working on “Desegregating Detroit in Delhi,”an experiential-learning fellowship to serve as an avenue for dialogue among student leaders in Metropolitan Detroit.

Painting: Zehra Imam

I’m not going to sugar-coat this complex terrain that is my motherland. My family immigrated to America due to religious and political unrest in Pakistan. I feel like my native land has grown to become a superstar since our family left – always in the news, always getting caught doing something that warrants a comment, always in the limelight. But something else other than natural ties still compels me to call a part of myself Pakistani and retain my dual identity of Pakistani-American. It has taken me a long time to say that I am from Pakistan with pride, and that I am choosing to live in America with gratitude.

I was fifteen when the attacks took place.

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Celebration or Time to Reflect?

Reststop on N-35 Highway near Abbottabad, Pakistan Photo: Colin Christopher

Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.

Last night, President Obama exemplified the dignity, honor, and humility of most public servants around the world when he placed the death of Osama bin Laden into context. While thousands of people shamelessly celebrated outside the White House, some singing “We Are the Champions,” President Obama delivered a speech of humility and perspective.

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Making It More Difficult for Moderate Muslims

As surely everyone knows, this Friday, April 29th, the UK’s Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married at Westminster Abbey. People around the world will be watching the wedding and participating in the celebration. Not all are happy with the upcoming event. An anti-war and extremist Muslim group in Britain called “Muslims against Crusades” (MAC) made plans to protest the royal wedding and the “English Defense League” (EDL) an ultra-nationalist group said that they would counter-protest.

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Extremism Produces Extremism

About three weeks ago, Pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Qur’an. Jones had planned to burn Qur’ans on September 11th of last year but was persuaded against it. However, last month, Jones put the Qur’an “on trial,” found it guilty, and executed it.  The consequence of Jones’ action was violence in Afghanistan that left at least 20 people dead and more than 80 injured.

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