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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Muslim women in India seek equal rights under personal law

Zakia Soman, founding member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Photo: CivilSocietyOnline.com

Muslim women in India are organizing against what they see as unfair laws regarding marriage, divorce, and property rights. Although the Indian Constitution offers all citizens equal rights irrespective of gender and religion, these rights do not extend to personal law. India does not have a uniform civil code; in family matters, legal decisions are based on religious law.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, which defines the scope of Muslim personal law as including all affairs regarding succession, marriage, dissolution of marriage, guardianship, and property rights. Muslim personal law is largely uncodified, and legal decisions are made by courts on the basis of the Qur’an and hadith. Organizations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) see themselves as spokespersons for the Muslim community, and lobby the government in cases where they believe Muslim law is being impinged upon.

Women’s groups have criticized the AIMPLB and JUH for their retrograde views regarding women’s rights. Continue reading

Adaab in a Time of Allah Hafiz

Children motioning Adaab

Indian children welcome onlookers with "adaab," the traditional and universal South Asian greeting. Photo: Firoze Shakir

Samina Mishra is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in New Delhi, India, with a special interest in media for children. Her films include Two Lives, The House on Gulmohar Avenue and Stories of Girlhood. Her published work for children includes Hina in the Old City, The Magic Key series, and The Goat That Got Away.

Some months ago, I was chastised by a woman for saying “adaab,” instead of “assalamaleikum,” the latter being the “the proper Islamic greeting” in her opinion. I grew up as a Muslim and learned to say “adaab” when I met someone and “khuda hafiz” when we parted ways. Originating from a North Indian Islamicate high culture, “adaab” as a form of greeting was imbued with a certain class hierarchy. It was a familiar greeting even in many elite non-Muslim households in North India. Among many other Muslim populations, the Arabic greeting “assalamaleikum,” meaning “may peace be upon you,” was also used. But there was no formal dictum about the usage while I was growing up and there could be overlaps.

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The PashTones

A few months ago I wrote about the musical contributions of Pakistanis, both past and present. From rock and pop to traditional Qawali folk, Pakistani musicians have received acclaim at home and abroad. But music from throughout South Asia has also influenced those without cultural roots in the subcontinent.

Ted Watters and Brian Tilley of the American-based group The PashTones were inspired by the language, poetry, and culture of the Pashtun people of South Asia, creating a distinctive blend of traditional American folk and Pashtun music for their first album, The PashTones.

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Ashura in a Kashmiri Village

Hunza Valley Shi'a Muslims commemorate Ashura near Ultar Peak and other Karakoram Range mountains. Photo: Randy Johnson

Reem recently wrote about the holiday Ashura, the day when many Sunni Muslims and Jews fast in recognition of Moses and the Israelites escaping from the bondage of the Egyptian Pharaoh. For many practicing Shi’a Muslims, Ashura is one of the most important days of the year. Most Shi’a view the sacrifices of Husayn and 71 others during the Battle of Karbala as a crucial turning point in Islam, saving the religion from the indulgence and tyrannical rule of Yazid.

Having taken a few courses related to Islam in college, I was vaguely familiar with Ashura, but was unaware of the significance it holds for many Muslims around the world. My first personal experience of Ashura was in 2007 during a trip to Pakistan, where I witnessed Ashura processions performed by local area Shi’a in a small village in the Northern Areas (Pakistani controlled Kashmir).

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Mixing in Mosques: An Influence of Neighborhood Norms

Tamil Muslim Children Photo: Dennis McGilvray

A few days prior to my departure from India in August, I ventured south from Hyderabad to the old French colony of Puducherry (Pondicherry), situated on the Bay of Bengal. I had a few minutes before my overnight bus journey back to Hyderabad and I decided to take a quick tour around the neighborhood to get a flavor of the area. Upon turning the corner of an old Hindu temple and noticing posters of Hindu gods transitioning to signs in Urdu and other objects marking the Muslim section of the neighborhood, I came across a typical 3-story white and green mosque.

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Islam, Besa, and Pashtunwali: A Seamless Integration

Muslim-Albanian Brothers, Ramadan and Isa Nuza, Saved Two Jewish Families During the Holocaust Photo: Norman Gershman

Last week, I wrote about how majority-Muslim Albania saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Norman Gershman, the renowned American photographer of Jewish descent who traveled over a five-year period documenting the stories of Jews, and the Muslim-Albanian families who saved them. You can listen to my conversation with Gershman below.

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Pakistani Supreme Court Leads the Way

Dawood Ahmed is a lawyer from London. He is a graduate of Oxford University and is currently a doctoral candidate in law at the University of Chicago

Pakistani hijras, or transgendered men, at a function near the army garrison city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan Photo: Declan Walsh

Amidst the commonplace pattern of negative news cycles related to Pakistan, a rather landmark human rights development there passed by largely unnoticed. On April 25, the Pakistani Supreme Court ordered the government to recognize a third gender on government issued ID cards for transgenders (commonly known as hijras in South Asia) instead of the rather inappropriate and demeaning ‘male’ or ‘female.’ To put into context how ground-breaking the change is, consider this: very few countries in the world recognize a third gender in similar circumstances.

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Let There Be Dharmoniropekkhota

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/ Drik News

A native of Bangladesh, Tarik M. Quadir received his doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and currently reside in Turkey where he teaches about the work of 13th century Sufi mystic and poet, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi.

I think it would be wise for us to focus on the notion of dharmoniropekkhota, which signifies “neutrality in the choice of religion,” and not get entangled in the concept of “secularism” as it is understood in European countries. In Bangladesh, we tend to translate dharmoniropekkhota as secularism, though dharmoniropekkhota refers to only one of the many meanings of secularism current in the world today. This problematic translation initiates many unnecessary debates. Continue reading

Charitable Pakistan

A food distribution shop in Lahore, Pakistan. Shops like these are common near Sufi shrines where impoverished citizens receive free meals through the donations of individuals. Photo: Colin Christopher

Mainstream media in the U.S. often focuses on stories of breakdown rather than success, especially when dealing with the world outside our borders. Nowhere is this more apparent than in media treatment of Pakistan, which may have one of the most lopsided ratios of negative to positive news stories of any country in the world. No one can deny the great challenges it faces, but what mainstream media stories about suicide bombings and natural disasters fail to capture is the strong charitable and philanthropic tradition of Pakistani society.

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