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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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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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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Pakistani Musicians Making Their Mark

Arooj Aftab Photo: Natasha Jahangir

Significant parts of Pakistan’s governance and security structure may be crumbling before our very eyes, but the country’s musical arts are anything but dead. Those lucky enough to have been exposed to the creative energy of Pakistani musicians know of the contributions from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farida Khanum, and others. Now, even those outside of South Asia and the world music scene are being exposed to the sounds of the region. Often combined with western influences, and deriving from Sufi traditions, musicians and music from Pakistan are growing in popularity inside and outside South Asia. Continue reading

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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The “Islamic” Republic of Pakistan

Despite its wealth of intellectuals, higher education institutions, and rich arts tradition, Pakistan has become increasingly choked by violent extremist elements. Initially foreign in origin, these elements are now seen as “indigenous” violent fundamentalism.

Inadequate land reform, an ambiguous national ideology, and politically motivated Islamic nationalization efforts by both internal and external forces have separated Pakistan on many measures from its rival and socio-historical “cousin” India. The pockets of social and religious conservatism within Pakistan’s borders are foreign to a majority of regional historical narratives, but extremist influences are rapidly growing.

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The Taqwacores Movement

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A Kominas Poster at SWSC by graphic designer Toufic El Rassi

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about punk Islam in response to the LA Times’Islam, the Koran, and Lots of Questions.” Michael Muhammad Knight’s book about Muslim youth and the American punk music scene, The Taqwacores, as well as a band called The Kominas were mentioned in the last post. Today, I return to these subjects because The Taqwacores will also be the focus of the next Inside Islam radio show, airing this Thursday.

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Ali Eteraz: Pakistan is Already an Islamic State

Today’s guest post is by Ali Eteraz. Eteraz was an Outstanding Scholar at the U.S. Department of Justice and later worked in corporate litigation in Manhattan. He is a contributor to Pakistan’s Daily Times and Dawn newspapers and the author of the forthcoming prose work, Children of Dust. This article was originally published in Dissent Magazine and posted here with the author’s permission.

A recent sharia-for-peace deal between militant groups and the civilian government in Pakistan’s quasi-autonomous Swat region has ignited interest in the status of Islamic law in Pakistan. The U.S. State Department, concerned about terrorist safe-havens, called the deal a “negative development.” Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, trying to look at the bright side of things, argued that the deal might drive a wedge between “violent” radicals and those that are “merely extreme.”

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