The Humble Bishop

It was an unusual mix. Two priests, a nun, two devout Catholics, and me, a heathen. We cooked and cleaned and shared small tasks, and important for me, I paid a rent of only eight pounds a week. I was never sure on what criteria I had been accepted into the ‘community’ but as I was working my way through university, I was happy to accept. We lived in the Catholic chaplaincy of Liverpool University, just opposite the Students Union Building. Living smack in the middle of campus also meant I had no transport costs.

There was no way my schoolteacher mum and government servant dad, could pay for their son’s overseas education, so I was on my own and money was always tight. I worked weekends, holidays, and evenings to pay for my student fees and my keep.

Vincent Malone (11 September 1931 – 18 May 2020) the Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. We used to know him as Vin. He was the chaplain at the catholic chaplaincy of Liverpool University when I was studying there.

Continue reading “The Humble Bishop”

Embracing the Other

Shahidul Alam’s new show combats Islamophobia, extremism: The Punch

Interview by Ina Puri

For celebrated Bangladeshi photographer, writer and curator Shahidul Alam, a just world is a plural space where many thoughts can coexist. His latest show, Embracing the Other, opens in Dhaka on May 8

“If you’re not making certain people uncomfortable by your presence, you are probably doing something wrong.” Bangladesh’s best-known photographer, writer and curator Shahidul Alam, 61, has lived by that adage, which, by and large, sums up why he does what he does.

For Alam, who has been actively involved in the movement for democracy in Bangladesh for over three decades, photojournalism was a corollary of being an activist on the streets, seeking to see himself on the edge, so as to constantly “feel the heat”, questioning, going beyond the obvious, not settling  for safe options.

Shahidul Alam in the thick of things at anti government protest. Photo: Md. Mainuddin

In Bangladesh, Alam is credited with many “firsts”: Among other things, he set up Drik Picture Library, the country’s first picture agency, in 1989; Pathshala, its first photo school in 1998; and the first email network in the country in 1994. He also founded the first photo festival in Asia, Chobi Mela, in 2000. Continue reading “Embracing the Other”

Do Goats Go To Heaven?

The last meal. Dhanmondi. Rd 9A. 12th September 2016
The last meal. Dhanmondi. Rd 9A. 12th September 2016

Awake, quiet, in the deep of the night
I dread the sound, you bleating tonight
Your tiny toes, tied tight with twine
Your tiny body, pinned by people fine
Children circling, in fright, in glee
Butcher with knife, crouching on knee
You’ll struggle in vain, a muffled cry
Blood spurts on floor, who questions why?
Is someone out there, a baby even?
Who wants just you, cares not for heaven?
What God needs blood, as proof of love?
Who swaps money for blood, for life above?
A shopping spree, stars on TV
What’s one goat less, for you and for me?
It is quiet again, respite from heat
The sound remains, I’ll remember your bleat.

Shahidul Alam
Original 12 September 2016. Edited 31 July 2020
Dhaka

Grand Shia cleric Sistani issues powerful statement to Shia Resistance defending Iraq

The original site: http://www.digital-resistance.com/insight/grand-shia-cleric-sistani-issues-powerful-statement-shia-resistance-defending-iraq/ appears to be down

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq

Do not indulge in acts of extremism, do not disrespect dead corpses, do not resort to deceit, do not kill an elder, a child, a woman. Pay heed to the example of Imam Ali and follow his path. He said: “set your sights on the Family of the Prophet. Make them proud.”

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Do not condemn others to heresy. Do not accuse them of blasphemy which could then lead to their death. Do not imitate the Kharijites. Never inflict harm on non-Muslims, regardless of their religion and sect. The non-Muslims are under the protection of the Muslims. In fact the Muslim must protect his non-Muslim neighbours in the same manner and vigour as he would when he protects his own family.
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Do not steal the money of others. Those who steal from others will find themselves seated in the flames of the fires of hell. Do not disrespect the corpse of the dead, and if you defeat the men of your enemies do not violate the sanctity of their women and houses. Do not enter their [defeated enemies] homes.
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Don’t take anything from their houses. Take only what you find in their military encampments. Do not verbally abuse their women. Do not insult their honour, even if your enemies abuse your women and insult your honour. Do not deprive any people, who do not fight you, of their rights.
Know that most of those who fight you are victims who have been led astray by others. Let your righteous actions, your just conduct, and your sound admonition, serve as an example for them. Do not resort to oppression.
Everyone must let go of sentiments which carry hatred and bigotry. Follow the noble manners. Do not be overcome by narrow-minded views.

You take my water

You take my water
Burn my olive tree
Destroy my house
Take my job
Steal my land
Imprison my father
Kill my mother
Bomb my country
Starve us all
Humiliate us all
BUT
I am to blame: I shot a rocket back
You take my water

The rose is my qibla

POETIC VOICES of the MUSLIM WORLD
I am a Muslim:
The rose is my qibla.
The stream my prayer-rug,
the sunlight my clay tablet.
My mosque the meadow.
I rinse my arms for prayers
along with the thrum and
pulse of windows.
Through my prayers streams
the moon, the refracted
light of the sun.
SOHRAB SEPEHRI (1928-1980, IRAN), FROM WATER?S FOOTFALLTRANSLATED FROM THE FARSI BY KAZIM ALI WITH MOHAMMED JAFAR MAHALLATI

The Dark Side of the Moon

By Saroop Ijaz Published: August 31, 2013

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

The passing of the first death anniversary of Neil Armstrong last week is an opportunity to reflect on our own connection (admittedly flimsy) with the first man on the moon. Two years before Armstrong landed on the moon, Ghulam Abbas wrote Dhanak, one of the best satirical short stories (The short story has been ably adapted by Shahid Nadeem into a play named Hotel Mohenjodaro) of all times, and unnervingly prescient. Written in 1967, the story begins with the first man landing on moon, not Armstrong, but a Pakistani PAF Captain, Adam Khan. Local and international dignitaries gather on the rooftop garden of the 71-storied Hotel Mohenjodaro in Karachi to listen to Adam Khan’s message from the moon. His brief message is, “I am Captain Adam Khan. I come from the district of Jhang in Punjab … I have landed safely. All praise to Allah … Pakistan Zindabad.”

Pakistan is congratulated all over the world and celebrations begin all around the country. However, like most good things, the triumph is short-lived. In a small town, outside of Karachi, a local imam terms the journey to the moon un-Islamic and satanic. The call of jihadtravels from one mosque to another and in a jiffy, the whole country is engaged in the holy battle, chanting for Adam Khan’s death for trespassing into the forbidden domain. Briefly, the government loses the fight and an Amirul Momineen takes over. Sharia is imposed. Foreigners are driven out. All languages other than Arabic are banned. Beards are mandatory. Women are forbidden to leave the house. All technology and ‘Western’ medicine is declared haram. The construction of any building higher than the Jamia Mosque is unlawful. This descent into piety happens in just one month from the sanctimonious landing on moon.

All is not well, still. The initially overlooked question of which sect’s Sharia would be implemented rather violently rises up. Blood runs in mosques. Muslims kill Muslims, both sides fighting in the name of faith. Medievalism descends into chaos. The story ends with foreign aircraft bombing Karachi to rubble.

The date of writing is worth mentioning again — 1967. There might be very few writings in all of world literature that get the trajectory of the future so spectacularly, accurately right. Hotel Mohenjodaro, despite being on a par with anything that Orwell or Huxley have ever written on the subject, is not taught in curriculum in Pakistan. That is unlikely to change in the near future, very particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The K-P government has decided to reintroduce the verses mandating jihad into the syllabus. The K-P government is also firmly against the Muslims fighting Muslims business, even if the other side of the Muslims has no such qualms about blowing up schools and buses filled with schoolchildren, etc. Women were not allowed to vote in many constituencies in K-P and Punjab. Agents of Western medicine, polio workers are still attacked on a regular basis. Adam Khan’s Jhang is not known today for producing top rate astronauts or PAF officers.

Till present, Mian Sahib has not made a serious effort to be appointed Amirul Momineen. However, in Mian Sahib’s Punjab, the Al-Bakistan licence plates are all the jazz. What we lack in the fight against the Taliban is made up by increasing the intensity in the war on technology. The reports on what the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) seeks to ban are contradictory and murky. However, one thing remains clear — that the PTA is extremely concerned about our morality and decency. The Supreme Court has also, in the past, expressed grave apprehension on the issue of late night telephone call packages, no doubt the evil at the centre of all our ills. Websites are blocked to protect us from sin and being led astray. Prime television programmes discuss jinns at length. Economists argue for the virtues and efficiency of ‘bonded labour’. The one point solution that solves our economic problems is to get rid of ‘Riba’, don’t ask how, and just have faith.

The closest thing that we have ever come to landing on the moon is Dr Abdus Salam winning the Nobel Prize. Like, Adam Khan, Dr Salam lost, and the small time, violent Moulvi won. In a country of water kits, the grave of Dr Salam stands vandalised. Ahmadis are being told to leave ‘Muslim’ areas, and the tricky bit here is that all areas are Muslim areas.

Krishn Nagar in Lahore is now renamed Islampura, Dharampura is Mustafabad. Bhagat Singh’s birth and death anniversaries pass unnoticed, while Ghazi Ilm Din is remembered. To use ‘Hindu’ while intending ‘Indian’ is acceptable practice, even in ‘educated and polite’ society. Using condescending terms and tones while referring to ‘minorities’ is not frowned upon. After an attack on ‘minorities’, the educated and liberal feel ‘ashamed’ at not being able to protect ‘them’, noble sentiments, however blatantly exclusionary. Not outraged, like when ‘we’ are attacked.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui is one of ‘us’ never mind the US citizenship and conviction on terror charges. Aasia Bibi is someone that some of us feel sorry about to discharge our civic responsibilities, of course when she is uncomfortably and occasionally brought up. What is happening to Aasia Bibi is at best (or is it worst?) a ‘shame’, whereas Dr Aafia Siddiqui is when our blood really boils, in ‘how dare they’ tones.

We already live in Ghulam Abbas’s, “Hotel Mohenjodaro”, yet worse, the landing on the moon never happened neither the rooftop garden on the 71st floor. We nosedived even before take-off. No high point, not even for false nostalgia.

What is the point of all this, we already know that? Yes, we do. However, the lesson of “Hotel Mohenjodaro” is that not only can it get worse, but it will get worse; inertia. Once the almost twin Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed, it was only a matter of time before other twin structures were hit. What the PTI and Mian Sahib need to wake up to is that appeasement and surrender does not work with those who ask for the entire world, perhaps ponder over Ghulam Abbas’s warning, cities and countries are sometimes reduced to rubble.

P.S.: As August comes to an end and the mighty seek to restrict freedom of expression, while at the same time fumbling with their own speech, WH Auden’s “August 1968” predicting the Prague Spring because of the inability of those in power to speak to the people bears rereading. “The Ogre does what ogres can, Deeds quite impossible for Man, But one Prize is beyond his reach, The Ogre cannot master Speech, About a subjugated plain, Among its desperate and slain, The Ogre stalks with hands on hips, While drivel gushes form his lips.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2013.

Losing my religion for equality?by Jimmy Carter

By Jimmy Carter. Women’s Press


Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I HAVE been a?practicing?Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention?s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be ?subservient? to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. Continue reading “Losing my religion for equality?by Jimmy Carter”

Shahbagh online response

By Dr. Christian Prokopp on click Ittefaq

Dr Christian Prokopp
Dr. Christian Prokopp
follow him on twitter@prokoppGoogle+ and read his blog
The news is fresh and details are only emerging about the murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider Shuvo, a blogger involved in the Shahbag protest. In today?s world we can view immediately online the outcry this provokes. Last week I wrote about the online echo on Twitter the Shahbag protest had. This time I am taking a snapshot of Twitter just after the news of the murder broke to illustrate how quickly such an event spreads. Continue reading “Shahbagh online response”

Communal attacks in Ramu: of family feuds and corporate culture

by Rahnuma Ahmed 

SUPREME Court lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, 39, initiated a writ petition immediately after the violent attacks of September 29, 2012 when innumerable Buddhist monasteries, temples and houses in Ramu, Cox?s Bazar district, were set on fire, pillaged and looted by Bengali Muslim men, mostly youths. The attackers included both locals and outsiders, angered at the news that a picture defaming the Holy Qur?an had been discovered on a Buddhist youth Uttam Kumar Barua?s facebook account. Investigative reports reveal that the allegations against Uttam were manufactured since the picture had been tagged to his account; credible news reports also reveal that the attacks were pre-planned and pre-meditated, a view subscribed to by both the ruling party and the major opposition party, who, however, blame each other for the attacks.

Jyotirmoy Barua returned to Bangladesh last year after completing his Bar-at-Law; he lived in the UK for nearly nine years, partly financing his studies as karate instructor. He has filed the writ on the basis of being personally ?aggrieved? since he belongs to Ramu. It challenges the ?inaction? of the police; hearings have begun
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The interview is based on transcripts of recorded conversations held with Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua on four different occasions totaling more than fifteen hours. I am grateful to him for having taken me into his confidence, for having gone through the draft and suggested modifications.
Continue reading “Communal attacks in Ramu: of family feuds and corporate culture”