Khaab Khayaal Saraab

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I can think of a dozen titles

This Man Was Not a Graduate
One Ex-Terrorist Remembers Another



did I ever post this


I never tire of pointing out how well The Onion does writing on
cross-cultural issues. If *any* mainstream media [American, Pakistani,
even "alternative"] covered issues like with such attention to detail
and understanding of the nuances of the culture and issue being
described; the world would be a better place.

Monday, May 05, 2003

correspondent: OMG, just read the story about the guy who amputated his own arm with a pocketknife
WW: but what *&%$#@ was he doing rapelling in such a place all alone?
correspondent: no idea
WW: and more importantly, sticking his hand where it don't belong?!!
WW: literally
correspondent: but how he knew what to cut and not bleed to death is amazing
correspondent: oh, the boulder moved
WW: that's the kind of thing that scares me
WW: that this country's society is coming to where we're doing weird things like that.
WW: there was a time when Americans in search of adventure volunteered for bravery and courage in faraway lands--The Spanish Civil War, even TR's Rough Riders come to mind
WW: a lot of fuel being used up by helicopters looking for some yuppie that stuck his arm where it don't belong?
WW: you think that's fair to the boys and girls that just lost their lives trying secure our oil supplies from the Gulf?
correspondent: well, I think it's also one of those "it can always be worse -- look what happened to him" things
WW: actually, i had a friend pull that one on me over the weekend
WW: said "Oh, we worry about little things and look at what *he* had to go through."
correspondent: I'll check it out after my nap -- I'm home so I'm going to takae advantage while I can -- is going to be hectic around here tonite
WW: People are dying of hunger; hospitals in Iraq don't have antibiotics; and we're supposed to draw lessons in adversity from some Yuppy that stuck--excuse the repetition--his arm where it don't belong?
WW: the other thing that come sto mind is one of the stories that The Onion did after 9/11
WW: A Shattered Nation Longs To Care About Stupid Bullshit Again
WW: http://www.theonion.com/onion3735/a_shattered_nation.html
WW: Actually, come to think of it, the good news is American might be getting back to business as usual.
WW: We might be finally getting to the point where we are lost in trivialities like we were pre-9/11
WW: which might be a good sign of our national pysche healing
WW: i think the way this story about the climber just grabbed everybody's attention is the first sign of normalcy
correspondent: nah, it's gruesome
correspondent: just the kind of thing we like
WW: exactly
WW: when we're not distracted by more important things
WW: ahem
WW: thanks for listening
WW: i feel much better now

being a South Asian Muslim who was educated in the Western mould and brought up as what I have taken to calling a "Constitutional Muslim". Let me try to explain what I mean by that: we are not "secular"; we are not "fundamentalist". We believe that a multi-cultural constitutional republic is very much something that I, as a Muslim of conscience, accept as a valid social contract, one that not only does not clash with, but which is very much something I *want to* (not I am not saying "can") live under and make a contribution to. My religious principles inform my politics, but I want to (again, not "can", but "want to") work within a system of written laws operating within the framework of a constitution to build a society that looks the way I think it should.

What's the Nassarite political group?

Friday, May 02, 2003

[The prolem is that m]ost people that decry Jinnah seem to assume
that he was some mid-century religious fireband. At least in how they
refer to him, even if they *have* read Wolpert.

Think about it. Really, really, think about it. *All* of the people
that were the absolute vanguard of thinking up and implementing
Pakistan--Jinnah and Iqbal come to mind foremost--had, as their first
choice, a united South Asia. Then they changed their minds.

Think about it. Really, really, think about it.

I am not saying Pakistan was inevitable. But, for better or for
worse, it happened for some reasons. And blaming the British is not
good enough. Even if one buys into the theory of (colonial)
manipulation, in situations like this, there *is* always some pre-
existing internal issues that the outside force manipulates to
achieve their aims.

And I am not just trying to make a point to justify my own point of
view. I think that it is only when sane, nationalist, committed
Indians who love their country and want it and its people to have the
best lives they can have think about what it was in the socio-
political mix of British India that caused the creation of India,
Pakistan and, eventually, Bangladesh, that we can really have a
conversation that leads to Peace and Prosperity. The same things that
made it an explosive mix then and made it impossible to create a
singular nation-state to succeed the colonial dispensation make it an
explosive mix today that includes Pakistanis at each others' throats;
Indians at each others' throats; and the two countries threatening
the world with nuclear holocaust.

Here's some food for thought from someone who I, at least, have grown
up regarding as one of India's most ardent nationalists; a Pakistani-
basher amongst Pakistani-bashers.


>Veteran Indian journalist M. J. Akbar wrote very recently in the
context of the anti-Muslim riots in India:

>"We have demonized Jinnah so much because of Partition, that we do
not understand what his career truly represented.

>Muhammad Ali Jinnah was an utterly brilliant man; on that at least
there is consensus. He was also incorruptible, liberal, democratic,
straight, and a thinking politician, as ready to see the faults in
his own community as to criticise anyone else. He wanted at one point
to become an actor and join the stage, but set aside early
romanticism for theater for a life in law and public service. He rose
very quickly to eminence.

More important, he was the most ardent of India's emerging
nationalists. He rejected the Muslim League when it was born, and
only came onto its platform when it promised to be at most a
sectarian rather than a divisive voice. He bludgeoned the League into
the famous Lucknow pact with the Congress in 1916 that could have
formed the basis of a constitutional settlement between the
Hindus and Muslims, a pact that was welcomed enthusiastically by Bal
Gangadhar Tilak as much as C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru, from their
different perspectives.

Jinnah broke with Gandhi because -- and this will probably astonish
people -- of his abhorrence for Gandhi's deliberate concoction of
religion and politics. Keep the two separate, Jinnah warned Gandhi at
the last Congress session he attended, in Nagpur in 1920, or this
mixture will explode in your face. Jinnah did so against the tides of
Muslim opinion, because he was ranged against the passions of his own
community, then swept forward by the Khilafat movement. Gandhi
sniffed that Jinnah did not understand Indians, and the Muslims, who
were totally with Gandhi then, threatened Jinnah with violence and
political excommunication. Jinnah preferred self-imposed exile. But
the point I am making lies a little askance. Why did Muslims respond,
first in bits and pieces, and then overwhelmingly, to his call for
Partition in the 1940s? It is when this same Jinnah, the man who had
rejected everything that Muslim fundamentalists had fought for, who
had stood alone and firm against the fire of the Khilafat struggle,
who was in his personal habits and convictions totally secular --
when such a man finally decided that Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus
needed separate nations, then those who were undecided were swayed in
his direction.

If a Muslim as non-communal as him found it difficult to live in a
united India then what hope was there for the others?"

Need a Blog for Cemendtaur Raw

We need a fiction section in AzSA.

Blogs for Cemendtaur & Zaib?

Thursday, May 01, 2003

The old slogan of "Unity in Diversity" and "E Pluribus Unum" can only be successful when we work with people in an accepting fashion of who they are comfortable being, rather than trying to make them all get with the program, so to speak, of a unifying nationalism/community feeling/etc.

On "South Asia"

Here are a few points from the point of view of a Pakistani who works with at least one organization with the phrase "South Asia" in the name; almost a chronology of my experiences with that prh

* Before I started working with an organization called "Friends of South Asia", I was myself *always* suspicious of most things with the phrase "South Asia" in their name; they almost invariably turned out to be Indian organizations either with ulterior motives, or with good intentions but 100% Indian membership and therefore no chance of gaining a truly South Asia-wide perspective.

* The reason we picked "Friends of South Asia" (FOSA) for the name of the organization was that we wanted to protest war drums from the point of view of war being bad for the whole of the region. And the phrase "South Asia" was one with the way to describe which had the least baggage. The rather small group i was working with at that point was almost 100% Pakistani in citizenship.
* We promptly found *another* group of people pursuing almost identical aims and activities and who had hit upon the same name (who'da thunk it!) but which was--to give them credit--Indian-heavy, but not purely Indian. We merged to form an organization that has lots of different voices from across India and Pakistan. (We are working on the rest of South Asia--see next point but one.) The interchange has been wonderful for all of us. You can follow up at http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org

* The position I bring to the table in FOSA is this: "I am a pretty nationalist Pakistani/Jinnahite/ who *wants* to work with Indians for the betterment of all our people. We have enough commonalities and common problems (like a nuclear arsenal primed to wipe us all out) for it to be useful. We have a bunch of countries in our region. Had history been different, we might have ended up with one country between the Shomali Plains and Arunachal and between Kashmir and Kanyakumari or we could have ended up with ... how many are there in Europe? Either way, our problems would have remained. Nation-states area fact of life--and in the really long term, they change borders; or people move. Let's talk about how to make a better life for our people."

* One thing I myself am constantly on the look out for within FOSA is to make sure that we had enough of a cross-section of the variety of "voices" within South Asia to make it truly respresentative and live up to our name. For example, for a long while we did not have any active Indian Muslims. The Indian Muslim world view--and I am talking about one that represents views and attitudes held by the mainstream of the 130-150 million people of othat description; not the "voice" of say APJ Abdul Kalam, or, to be frank Umair Muhajir--is *very* different from that of an ethnic Hindu Indian, or a Progressive Indian or Pakistani, or a mainstream Pakistani.

I read the book "Marco Polo, If You Can" recently. It is a spy thriller based in the Eisenhower-Khruschev era. While that might sound trivial, part of the premise of the novel is the discussion that the U2 spy plane will become obsolete once spy satellites come online and therefore the protagonists use the planes to make a point one last time. If you really want to get into both the technical issue and its legal implications, they include:

a) the U2s are still being used for things like monitoring Iraq, bringing up the issue that some "old" technologies don't die, their usage model evolves which is interesting when I see too many Pakistanis saying--or implying--that all we need to do is adopt the latest, hotest, greatest technology and we will become an "Advance Country" and so on.

b) it is very interesting how the legal issue of overflight has evolved in the Space Age. Up to the time of the U2s, overflying a country was a violation of their air space and considered, in every way, shape and form, an act of war. But the first chapter in Space Law was written very differently as soon as the USSR sent up Sputnik without first checking with the multitude of countries it would fly over and most of humanity just stood up and cheered instead of considering themselves at war with the USSR. The other player in the Space game at that point, the US of A, just smirked silently because the USSR had just made it okay for them to send up spy satellites without the USSR being able to complain. Of course, the USSR then did the same.

Amazing what one can get from a spy thriller if you think about it. :D