Category Archives: The Third World

Pakistan’s peace issues: the Shia genocide

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I once had a friend who told me they felt disrespected and looked down upon by their Sunni friends for being a Shia Muslim.

Now, I am no longer friends with said individual for a few very legitimate reasons. But not one of them has anything to do with religion, race, sex, orientation, or class. Nor do I believe that any of our friends cared what this friend believed in either. However, the fact that they even said this is very indicative of a huge problem the Islamic world has had since the death of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

We have absolutely failed as a collective Ummah when it comes to solidarity and acceptance of each other.

Nearly 50 people were killed in a bombing in Abbas Town, a predominantly Shia area in Karachi, Pakistan earlier this month. The attack is just the latest in a series of recent attacks by Sunni militant groups.

According to an article by the BBC:

“Some activists called 2012 the worst year in living memory for attacks on Pakistan’s Shia community, with rights groups estimating that about 400 perished in militant attacks.

But this year is also shaping up to be among the deadliest: nearly 200 people were killed in two separate bombings targeting Shias in the south-western city of Quetta in January and February.”

I was interning at The Express Tribune (Pakistan’s first internationally affiliated newspaper in partnership with The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times) when several bombings took place in Quetta and the northern Swat Valley on January 10. 130 people were killed and at least 270 were injured. For days, the headlines covered the effects of the blasts as well as the ensuing protests, particularly one in which members of the Shia community and local Shia officials refused to bury their dead for four days until the army took control of security in the city.

The very next month, at least 84 people were killed and 190 injured in yet another attack in Hazara Town, right outside Quetta. Most victims were of the ethnic Hazara community, a predominantly Shia demographic.

Pakistan has a history of Shias being persecuted, as do quite a few other predominantly Sunni Muslim countries. For as long as I can remember, every Muharram (one of the four sacred months of the Islamic calendar, and an especially important one for Shias) I hear about riots and attacks on Shia religious gatherings in my birthplace of Karachi. This past Muharram (November 14- December 14) seemed to have catalyzed something even worse than in years past. Thousands of men, women, and children have become victim to the violence, often caused by militant groups Lakshar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a Sunni militant organization with ties to Al-Qaeda and the Tabliban.

The violence is the work of militant groups with whom the large majority of Pakistanis strongly disagree.  But the fact of the matter is that not enough of the Muslim majority are speaking out against this.  And that stems from the fact that there is bias, there is misunderstanding, there is even hate coming from both Sunnis as well as Shias.

Both sects have a disturbing amount of ill will towards the other. Most of the time it is mild, but it is there. I do not personally know a single Muslim who condones violence in any form against others regardless of who or what they are, yet the subtle prejudices do exist. The aforementioned individual once went on a rant about the differences between Shiaism and Sunnism and literally deemed some of our beliefs “stupid”. This is a person whom always struck me as an intelligent one, yet here they were not only disrespecting their fellow Muslims but actually saying it straight to someone who adheres to Sunni Islam. I know quite a few Sunnis who have said things about Shias such as “They’re not true Muslims,” and “If you’re going to marry a Shia, you might as well marry a Christian.” Both Sunnis and Shias have inflicted violence upon each other, both groups have been discriminated against by the other but in many countries, Shias, as the 10% minority, lose.

I myself do very much disagree with some of the doctrines of Shia Islam. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be Sunni. But that does not mean that I feel I have the right to disrespect someone else for their beliefs. Us Muslims tend to be very intolerant of those who differ in beliefs from us, whether it is on the subject of the oneness of God or how high of a skirt a woman should be allowed to wear. We fight over these petty things and set a horrible example for rising generations when what we should be teaching them is tolerance, respect, and a love of peace and harmony. Without those basics, Islam is not Islam. Period.

And in Pakistan, where a little mentally challenged girl received death threats in a village for burning copies of the Qur’an, where a Christian federal minister was killed by the Taliban for pushing for reform of blasphemy laws, where the Hazara community has lost 800 of its own to terrorist attacks, its people tend to forget the words of a one particular Shia Muslim whom they claim to respect and adore:

You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, also known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader), founder of Pakistan and a Shia Muslim.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, also known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader), founder of Pakistan and a Shia Muslim.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil

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Getting the Peter Parker treatment

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The Express Tribune was launched over two years ago as Pakistan’s first internationally affiliated newspaper. Owned by the Lakson Group (think the Murdochs of Pakistan… or 2nd to the Murdochs of Pakistan), the Tribune is in partnership with The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times. Today was my second day interning at its Karachi office.

I work at the City desk and my boss, the City Editor, is… Well, let’s just say I feel she’s taken the whole tough editor stereotype from movies a little too seriously. Sure, a good editor’s a Perry White, but this woman is channeling J. Jonah Jameson. Of course, having picked out five errors in the leading front page story (Pakistani English isn’t very strict) while waiting in the lobby before my interview a few days before, I’m too cocky to be anything but amused. Seeming to not realize she’s dealing with a kid who’s been going to school in New Jersey for eight years, she’s been throwing the F-word around like it’s a whole new thing. And while I slightly and silently agreed when she called my mother over-protective to her face the day before when Mommy Dearest wanted to come in with me to see where I was working, I couldn’t help but wonder if the woman had ever heard of Daniel Pearl. Turns out my boss hadn’t realized I not only studied in the States but lived there as well until she asked to clarify what I meant when I called in earlier to check whether I should come in today because the Consulate had told us to be extra careful. ( As usual, there’s been some violence on the streets after an assassination attempt of a local political/religious leader which freaked my mom out and led to her forcing me to call ahead.) But all this wasn’t until after my darling boss had already managed to tell me I shouldn’t be in journalism if I was going to be a pansy. Needless to say, I’m no longer involving my mother in any of this. And even more needless to say… I’m definitely going to show her how much I’m not a pansy.

Still, I’m learning some new things, and I like it. After Miss Congeniality made some changes to a piece I had edited, I went to fix it on my desktop when she took the print out she had marked up, turned it over and told me to make the changes from memory. I had to translate Urdu quotes into English and remember to stick to British spellings. (Thank you, Inkheart and UK versions of Harry Potter.) The power went out a few times, and I was handed chai without being asked if I wanted any. Typical Karachi in a typical newspaper office.

Being a journalist,– a proper one, at least– you want to see the world, meet all kinds of people from all kinds of places, experience different cultures, and learn that which you cannot from textbooks and lecture halls. Actually working at a media outlet on the other side of the world is the perfect experience. You learn a different language, different lifestyle, immerse yourself in another culture, see another viewpoint of media (a much more objective one at that). Journalists record history as it happens. We tell stories in the eyes of those who were there. And being in another country, the story is one that never fails to intrigue.

Last year’s wishes; Kony 2012

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If you have not seen it, and you have a beating heart and a living, breathing soul, it is of the utmost importance that you watch this video before reading.  For those of you that already have, please scroll on past and just give me a few moments of your time.

Joseph Kony has been a part of my knowledge since 2007 when Alex (my Jimmy Olsen from MakeWaves) and I found out about the LRA through Pete Wentz’s advocation of Invisible Children and Fall Out Boy’s subsequent featuring of the issue in their music video for “I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)”.

I’m writing this not to say oh I totally knew about this before you, but to tell you.  That film is great and it’s gotten your attention, and I’m so glad… But there are a few details that weren’t mentioned, that you have to look a little bit more for, that you have to know.

Freshman year of high school I wrote a paper on the LRA and Uganda for my World Civilizations class, and our teacher showed us some videos and talked about it in class during our Africa unit.  A couple years later, a friend of mine started a chapter of Invisible Children at our high school, and a bunch of us collected books and donated money for the suffering children of Uganda.  We told people about the cause, we tried to get our vice principal to have Invisible Children (or Pete Wentz, as I kept trying to push for without much hope) come talk to our school, we spread the word where and when we could.

But yet again, it was social media that prevailed.

Alex and I are kind of peeved.  It’s the same feeling we always have when others start getting into a band we’ve known for ages (Alex, I still insist that you are single-handedly at fault for All Time Low’s mainstream popularity).  But just now, when I watched Jason Russell’s new film, I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat.  In a completely genius move, Russell used that utterly adorable kid of his to really seriously paint the picture: these are kids, like ours, being killed, forced to kill, tortured, raped, forgotten.  And they’re starting to become visible.

Kids are being forced to eat hearts.  Literally.  Eat.  Hearts.  When doing my research paper back in high school, I read about the most disgusting, vile things that the LRA officers force those kids to do.  Not only do they force girls to be their “wives” and become pregnant at 11, 12, 13 years old, but they also force them to hurt each other.  They abduct them from their homes at night and their schools during the day and force them to kill their parents or relatives on the spot.  They force them to walk miles and miles and miles on end without food or water and if a boy complains, they force the others to beat him.  Kill him.  Rip out his heart and eat it.  That is the exact story I read in a survivor’s account I came across while writing my paper.

In the video, you see those kids walking at night and all sleeping in the same place, far away from their homes.  Imagine having to walk for miles because you know that if you stay at home, you won’t be safe.  Imagine how scared you would be.  Imagine being six years old and going through that.  My little brother complains after walking at the mall.  For these kids, this is life, another day.

There’s the hopeful notion of returning those kids home at the end of the film.  I learned back in freshman year that those who even had homes to go back to, who even survived and escaped, found themselves being turned away.  These kids are turning into pariahs in their own families, let alone their own community.  Their families are afraid to take them back, afraid of the LRA, afraid of them, the kids themselves.  These kids need shelters, they need more of the rehabilitation programs that are currently working to help them in Uganda and other affected areas on the limited resources they have.

Yes, this is totally the trendy new cause, and it’s a little messed up that the only thing that can get people into this is seeing it on other people’s walls, seeing it as the cool new thing to talk about and be seen doing.  But I’ll take it.  My best friend was going on a rant the other day on the bus about how social media and technology has made us an anti-social, self-centered society…  This is just proof that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  And turn the system upside down.

 

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil

Elmo’s dunya

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Why hello lovelies,

It’s been a pleasant week, apart from an article in the Targum that was published on Monday and which has lead me to really want to do some damage to one of the editors… I’d rather not even address it.  I might later, though.

I’m just keeping it short and simple… I posted this on Facebook (and my Twitter, I think) right when they released the info that they had this idea, and they’re finally going to run with it.

Sesame Street hits Lahore.

I love this. I’m from a family and area in Karachi where I really haven’t been exposed to the illiteracy and extreme conservatism of Pakistan, but I do know that, as my mother often says, what Pakistan needs more than anything is education. And the main Pakistani character is a girl. Love, love, love it.

Kind of wondering why Big Bird isn’t there though. Would have been nice to see him spit some Urdu.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil.

The link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16078217

Why desi parents drive us nuts

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Being Pakistani, especially a muhajir– meaning that my grandparents are all originally from India and then moved to the newly created Islamic nation during the partition–, I have come to absolutely abhor some things about my culture.  Especially values and ideals on marriage.

The “desi”, or South Asian, culture in which I’ve grown up has some very admirable qualities to it.  Other aspects, however, are just downright unhealthy. An article I just found on the BBC makes me want to scream.

Veteran Investigations is an agency based in Mumbai that offers the service of spying and checking up on prospective brides and grooms for families that want to make sure that their current loot is fit for their son or daughter.

I mean, seriously. The desi family’s need for control is getting out of hand. The need to check out a suitor like they’re cattle is debilitating. They can’t handle the fact that they are more and more losing out on any say when it comes to who their offspring marry. Personally, I think it’s a good thing that they are.  When families get too involved, isn’t it just inevitable that something’s about to get screwed up?

It’s choosing a life partner.  At the end of the day, one person is the one living, eating, laughing, sleeping, crying, loving with them. It’s their decision. They may be stupid about it, sure, but they know what they want more than others do.  In desi culture, the parents have a habit of feeling that they have every right to control their childrens’ lives, because they know what’s best.  But this is one place where I have yet to see their judgement be consistently rational.

In other words, these investigators are smart as hell.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil

the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-radio-and-tv-15520929

It’s a girl thing

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Yesterday (or rather, day before) saw my 2nd article in the Daily Targum.  I haven’t posted about it until now, because… well. Exams. Kind of hard to be an awesome blogger chick when you’ve got your education thing going.

Dr. Brumfield of Rutgers University, along with Akdeniz University and a photojournalist by the name of Mick Minard (a woman, by the way), has started this project in Turkey that teaches this group of women farmers business skills that will help them to make a profit off of their livelihood in an efficient manner, making their lives easier.  You can find my article here.

I had difficulty writing this.  Brumfield is all the way in Turkey and Minard’s power went out what with all the snow… I couldn’t get more sources seeing as I was too busy chasing these two down, and literally got my article in at (after) last minute.  It’s just an okay piece for me… I wish I had more.

I wish I could have spoken to them in person.  I would have gotten a different angle out of them.  There’s another project by CARE USA that this reminded me of… Simply put, women’s disadvantages and lack of opportunity has led to one of our biggest epidemics: poverty.  I won’t say too much, because this video says it all for me.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil.

As always, if the links don’t work:

http://www.dailytargum.com/news/university/faculty-cultivates-turkish-women-s-agricultural-skills/article_5c14eec2-08f7-11e1-8bf9-0019bb30f31a.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kxysX4MmOU