Friday, September 28, 2012


By Rabia Ahmed    The Express Tribune  27 September 2012

Please help me; I’m all alone

September 27, 2012
As I write this, they both lie dead on either side of me, in this bountiful place we found.
When the ship sank, we swam ashore onto a beach, six of us men, and three women who quickly moved away.
Conferring amongst ourselves we agreed that we should set off immediately to explore the place and see how best to return home.
Even by climbing a tree and squinting into the distance we saw no sign of land or ship anywhere on the sea that surrounded us, nor any sign of life on this little island: no smoke, no huts, nothing. But there were trees all around.
It was a bountiful land.
Like a gigantic orange vitamin-C the sun sank into the water, trailing indigo, deep blue and finally a rich velvet black, and still the women sat on the very edge of the beach.
Alone on an island, three women with six strange men, it was a dishonourable situation.  Sometime in the night when three shots rang out, we realised that honour had been restored. We were not allowed to touch them, so it was the tide that carried them away.
We scattered in silence to look for food.
The oldest among us was quickly successful. He caught three birds, and two of the men volunteered to prepare them.  The rest of us scattered again to look for water.
I had barely left when I heard shouts, and returning saw two of the birds dead on the ground, and next to them one of the men, also dead. The other man stood over him, a rock in his hand.
‘The dirty infidel!’ he spat, his voice a breathless snarl.
‘He twisted their necks in his filthy hands.’
He looked fiercely around at us.
‘We cannot eat these birds. They are not halal.’
We lifted the dead man and dropped him over some rocks, and threw some sand onto him. Then once again we walked away to search for water.
I pushed through some trees and found myself at the edge of a slight drop below which a stream flowed over some rocks. Soon I was joined by another man, the youngest.
‘You found it!’ he exclaimed, and together we slid and slipped down the slope right into the stream.
Laughing, we splashed each other for a while.
Then we found some large leaves, and scooping up some water, carried it carefully up the slope. When we got to the very top, my companion slipped and dropped his leaf.
‘Ya Ali!’ he exclaimed ruefully.
‘What a careless fellow I am! You go on,’ he said with a nod towards our camp.
‘I’ll get some more water and follow’.
He returned to the stream, but I didn’t move from my spot.
It was a while before I returned with the water. My companion remained in the stream, his body floating face up where I had left it.
The four of us ate only some berries and roots.  When two men got up to relieve themselves, the rest of us lay back and talked quietly among ourselves. Suddenly we heard a shout, and a loud report. We ran in the direction of the noise, and found the man (he who had shot the women) holding a gun, the other man at his feet, a small dark hole in his chest.
The uncircumcised ba***rd!’ hissed the man with the gun, and turned the dead man over with his foot.
A thin silver chain swung across the man’s shirt, its ornate crucifix coated with the owner’s blood.
We heaved the man over the rocks into the sea, and returned to our camp.  Nobody spoke, and when we settled down to sleep we lay isolated, each man within himself, rigidly estranged from his neighbour.
Early next morning we awoke for prayers. I noticed the man on my left shooting covert glances at me, so when I had turned my head to either side with a quick ‘Peace be on you, and the mercy and blessings of Allah,’ I asked him bluntly why he was looking at me.
‘You raise your hands to your shoulders before you kneel,’ he said, and I didn’t like the look in his eyes.
I looked at our third companion for support, but it was obvious where he stood.
We each of us moved, but I moved a little faster than either of them. Even though one had a gun, my knife was quicker.
As I write this, they both lie dead on either side of me, in this bountiful place we found. I shall cast this letter into the sea in a bottle I took from the pocket of one of these men.
If anyone reads this, help me please.
I am all alone.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


By Rabia Ahmed   Pakistan Today      24 September 2012

A day of love, but clearly no love for the Prophet (pbuh)

An affirmation of belief in Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the messenger of God is an integral part of the shahada, the basic declaration of faith for all Muslims, who also recite the durood five times a day as part of their daily prayers to confer salutations and blessings on their Prophet. Those who subscribe to milads organise and attend them to celebrate the birth of the Prophet. Clearly all this is insufficient as far as the powers that be were concerned, who felt an additional expression of devotion was required. And so the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has, as it were, been made to ‘join the club’.

There’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day and St Valentine’s Day… and now… Ishq-e-Rasool Day mubarak to everyone. Did you have a happy Prophet’s Day?

It appears several people didn’t, certainly not a Haji sahib from Hyderabad, who refused to close shop on Friday in expression of devotion. He was accused and booked under the anti-blasphemy act, and his house was attacked by a mob. When he tried to defend himself he was also accused of attempted murder. Haji sahib is now on the run, and a certain Majlis-e-Tahfuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat, already taking part in the protest against that stupid video, has threatened to launch another protest next week unless the Haji is found and brought to ‘justice’.

In fact it was generally not a good day for this entire impoverished country, for which this unplanned shut down spelt a (further) massive loss of revenue. To give some idea of the scale of loss, closure of business in a single area of Karachi alone on the 18th of September following the call for a strike by the Jamaat-i-Islami was calculated at approximately five billion rupees to the exchequer.
Pakistani demonstrators react beside burning tyres as they block a main highway during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Rawalpindi on September 21, 2012. PHOTO: AFP / AAMIR QURESHI
Protestors burning tyres, blocking a main highway.   Photo: AFP/Amir Qureishi
The human cost far outweighed the economic: scores of people died, hundreds were injured and as many arrested; the injured included members of the police and fire fighting authorities. Without doubt the Muslims of Pakistan bear a great love for the Prophet, but you have only to see the expressions on the faces of rioters photographed breaking and looting on the day to realise that this affair was about settling old scores for most protestors, and even a ‘fun day out’, and no expression of love, since violence and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have nothing in common.

Most governments would be disturbed by such a drop in its economic figures, but in Pakistan such drivel originates from the government itself. Any doubts on that head should be dispelled by an announcement made by the Federal Minister for Railways, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who offered a $100,000 reward for the capture or death of the maker of the offensive video. The minister issued a statement saying that although ‘he was aware that it was a crime to instigate murder, he was ready to commit that crime because there was no other way to instill fear among blasphemers.’

Ishq-e-Rasool Day henceforth joins the long list of things confused with the religion itself such as the anti-blasphemy laws of this country, and as some would add, milads. Interesting that people forever ranting against ‘bida’at’ (religious innovation) should not recognise a bida’at when it is flung so openly at them. Obviously they lack something essential in their understanding.

Which is a problem shared by those who have made It a punishable offence to deny the holocaust. You’d think they’d understand the sentiment aroused in the Muslim world when the Prophet of Islam is denied the courtesy and respect owed him, but, apart from pockets of thinking individuals, that does not appear to be the case.

According to Robert Fisk writing in The Independent earlier this month, ‘A New Zealand editor once proudly told me how his own newspaper had re-published the cartoon of the Prophet with a bomb-filled turban. But when I asked him if he planned to publish a cartoon of a Rabbi with a bomb on his head next time Israel invaded Lebanon, he hastily agreed with me that this would be anti-Semitic.’

‘There’s the rub, of course,’ Fisk continued. ‘Some things are off limits, and rightly so. Others have no limits at all. Several radio presenters asked me yesterday if the unrest in Cairo and Benghazi may have been timed to “coincide with 9/11”. It simply never occurred to them to ask if the video-clip provocateurs had chosen their date-for-release to coincide with 9/11.’

Which leads to the question, of course, whether the declaration of an Ishq-e-Rasool Day has been as opportunely timed to coincide with the elections?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


By Rabia Ahmed  Pakistan Today  18 September 2012

Why exactly Hindus, or for that matter any other minority, should migrate from Pakistan

When the Hajr-e-Aswad was placed on a sheet it was lifted by representatives of all the tribes of Qureish. Only when it was at the right level did the Prophet (pbuh) put the stone into its place himself. With all tribes equally involved, sensibilities remained unruffled. The obvious lesson is the importance of even handedness and an all round concerted effort in handling issues. After all, had the sheet not been lifted equally from all sides, the stone, inadequately supported, could not have been raised.

The myriad problems of Pakistan cannot be blamed on corruption alone or on a lack of or poor education. Politicians alone are not responsible, nor does responsibility lie individually with the absence of law, order, justice, or accountability, the widespread poverty of the Pakistani people or their fallacious interpretation of religion. All these factors compound the situation together, and the only solution is a joint effort to bring about change on all these fronts, by everyone involved to the exclusion of no community.

Minorities in Pakistan face abuse which is at best marginalisation, at worst a threat to their beliefs and existence. The problem has been identified many times over, but it persists and has worsened, because no measures have been taken against it. Instead, these and other issues are used for political mileage.

Hundreds of workers died as a result of a factory blaze in Baldia Town, Karachi, a heartrending tragedy for which blame can be laid at many doors. Following this event Mr Nawaz Sharif chose to visit Karachi to offer his condolences to families of the victims, point a few pudgy fingers at the Sindh government, and gain some points in the process. In the Punjab, meanwhile, another factory went up in flames, claiming several other lives.

Mr Sharif asked the Hindu community in Sindh not to leave Pakistan (it is terrible how the government is ignoring the minorities in Sindh, he said), while back in his own province an entire Christian community was drummed out of its homes by a violent mob, and Rimsha, a minor girl, was arrested for alleged blasphemy. His other remarks on the occasion ranged from a criticism of Sindh’s Local Government Ordinance (it doesn’t make sense, it won’t work, it wasn’t discussed with everyone) to the monsoons and the havoc wrought by the rain in Sindh (the provincial government should concentrate on this rather than on the Local Government Ordinance).

In the Rimsha case which also made no sense, neither the political nor the religious leadership lifted a finger to help her community, displaced because of a mob that went unchecked by the law enforcing authorities. The public and the police, no doubt continues under the impression that such behavior is sanctioned by Islam. The sentiment is, after all, ratified every Friday, reinforced in schools, and sanctioned by a law that everyone is too scared to criticize or amend, much less discard. Understandably so, considering what happens to those who try.

The repercussions have spread. An unemployed Christian man was wary of accepting employment in the home of a lady who wears hijab in spite of repeated assurances that she was not ‘like that’.

Like what, exactly, is ‘like that’? ‘Like that’, sadly, is the rapidly growing misconception that Muslims are a rabid, monstrous, violent lot. Once again, understandably, given the worldwide reaction to worthless videos put together by puerile minds.

Even though some NGOs and individuals work bravely to tackle the issues on the ground, religious institutions and schools continue to promote divisiveness and intolerance. The back of every rickshaw sports a rogue’s gallery of bearded individuals who collected recently to condemn the Ahmadiya community and demand that they be ‘monitored’. Mr Sharif’s brother, the Chief Minister, is also promoted on the back of rickshaws as the patron saint of the ‘green CNG scheme’ or some such thing, but neither Sharif appears to be taking measures to change the status quo on the minority issue, to mention just one.

On Pakistani passport forms, for some inexplicable reason, there still is a field for ‘religion’, where all                                                                           Muslims are still required to declare their rejection of the Ahmadiya belief. In the Punjab, some official forms still contain fields for the caste status of applicants. There is no public awareness campaign targeting divisions of caste in this, supposedly a Muslim, country.

So, for now, the stone remains on the ground, in which case, why should the Hindus (or anyone else) not migrate?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


11 September 2012 Express Tribune  

How can you make complete use of the Holy Quran when you can't touch it at certain times of the month when you’re ‘unclean’? PHOTO: REUTERS
If you had a step-by-step guide on how to build a bookshelf, you’d be silly not to use it before cutting your planks or handling your tools.
It would show you the most effective way to wield that saw, use a spirit level and, and hit those nails on the head and not yourself. It would be one of those well thumbed hands-on books, kept in a handy spot for easy reference where you can reach up and pull it down every time you need to check something.
So what’s all this about using the Holy Quran only when you’ve washed, shaved and picked your nose, and then not at certain times of the month when you’re ‘unclean’? If ever there was an instruction booklet, this is it ─ the ultimate DIY book, community bulletin board and hazard warning sign, all rolled into one. So why treat it like an artefact that mustn’t be handled?
I’m really not sure where all this stuff is coming from, except maybe it’s another great Western conspiracy (well, why can’t I join the conspiracy hunt? Everyone else is doing it) led by Zionists and the CIA, a bid to stop people from using the book as much as the book should be used. Ha!
There’s a lady I met who says it’s okay to read the divine verses on an iPod screen but not on paper at the aforementioned time of the month. Sweetheart, those pages have come out of the printing press from Taj Company or something, not hot out of Paradise Press. It’s the Being they come from and not the paper or the screen that we worship. But if you disagree, and His verses are untouchable on paper, then so must they be untouchable on screen. Your cells shed everywhere, unfortunately.
Someone must have pointed this out to her because now she wears gloves. Clearly she needs a microscope to view the warp and woof and the holes in between her holy little black gloves, not to mention the germs unseen by the naked eye – excuse the ‘n’ word.
Anyway, the prod that produced this rant was the news on the Daily Mail Online headed: ‘London’s Olympic Park Toilets to turn away from Mecca out of respect for Islamic law’.
Oh, come on! There are actually people out there who subscribe to placing toilets so that the user/seated person/patron/pooper is facing at an angle to the Ka’aba? Believe it or not, there are.
Has it occurred to anyone that given the round earth we live in, we face into space at any given time, and never at anything that is over the hump of the earth between us and an object, a long distance away? This means that if you draw a line between me here and the Ka’aba in Mecca, the line would travel straight over the structure on towards Mars or Neptune or whatever else is out there in the sky. That doesn’t mean we worship Mars or Neptune and neither do we worship the Ka’aba or in any other way ascribe powers to the building. One ‘faces’ it only to enforce the sense of unity among the Ummah.
Poopers, facing this way or that, or anywhere but the Ka’aba, are simply an exercise in absurdity, not an expression of unity, so help me God.

 Posted byRabia Ahmed


By Rabia Ahmed
Pakistan Today 11 September 2012

It is important to understand the spirit of justice before implementing its laws

Richard Rochford, a burglar and a junkie in Britain, acquired his drug habit during one of his several stints in prison. Following his most recent burglary, he was brought before Judge Peter Bowers, who did not send him to prison again, saying that ‘prison very rarely does anyone any good.’ Instead he gave Rochford a drug rehabilitation sentence, ordered him to put in two hundred hours of unpaid work, and disqualified him from driving for one year, in other words punishing and offering an opportunity for Rochford to correct himself.

Judge Bowers’ sentence included the remark that it takes ‘a huge amount of courage as far as I can see for somebody to burgle somebody’s house.’

It would be na├»ve to expect a judge to get away with these remarks, and he didn’t expect it, because he added that he’d ‘probably be pilloried’ for uttering them, and he was. Public outrage caused an investigation to be set in motion by the Office of the Judicial Commission, and Prime Minister David Cameron himself came on air on a television show to say that he was sure that burglary was a cowardly, rather than a courageous act.

A few days ago, I was fumbling around with an outside door. It was dark, and I was alone and afraid. I realized then that scared as I was of being burgled it must also take a certain amount of guts to burgle a strange house equipped with an unknown number of traps and danger for an intruder. But I prefer to call it guts rather than courage, because courage implies something more positive and pure, such as the force that drives those who lay down their lives to defend their country. The judge used the wrong word. In fact he ought to have refrained from saying any such thing in his judgment. There is a responsibility placed on the shoulders of public servants whose words and actions are heard and often acted upon by the public (highlighting the importance of gagging persons such as our Interior Minister who has a penchant for making foolish and harmful statements at every opportunity).

The negative aspects of prison are obvious, but if it can be considered unjust in Britain where the state looks after its underprivileged citizens by means of child care and unemployment support, how much more so in this country where the state provides all of nothing at all?

In this country, crimes are commonly committed because of sheer callousness and malevolence, but much more often due to sheer desperation and genuine need. The imams of many mosques in their daily rants teach members of their congregation to hate, and instigate violence. If reports are accurate, the culprit and the actual blasphemer under the anti-blasphemy law in the Rimsha case for example, is now allegedly the imam of the mosque, and maybe also another ‘religious’ leader the imam supposedly took orders from, who appears to have had an interest in the piece of land that the Christian community occupied. In this particular case in fact, many persons are guilty, including the ineffectual police of the area, the unauthorized person who registered the FIR, the neighbours who threatened the Christian community, etc, etc. There can surely be no alternative to punishment (prison or more), for such people. The same goes for persons in other positions of trust who use their rank to snatch at greater wealth and benefits, for no reason beyond a love of power.

For the common man on the other hand, even the basic necessities of life are an unattainable luxury, nor can he better himself unless a wealthy patron supports him. Who is to blame if such a person commits a robbery?

It is an act of bravery to try to feed one’s children against insurmountable odds. And then to be cast into prison, leaving the remaining family even more helpless; even more likely to resort to similar acts of desperation, where is the justice in that?

If Pakistan, as an aspiring Muslim state, is to implement Islamic law and system of justice, it must first learn to understand the spirit of the justice and its laws without which the punishments prescribed by Islam cannot and must not apply. I beg to differ from those who persist in calling Europe ‘kafir’. It may once have been, but it no longer is. Sadly, justice is far more likely to be applied in countries which do not call themselves Islamic. Ironically so, because that is the last label that they would choose to apply to themselves.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


By Rabia Ahmed        

Pakistan Today  03 September 2012

Poverty: it’s a terrible thing
Some people will sell anything if it isn’t bolted to the floor, even their mother, and it looks as though a certain hapless mother in Hafizabad wasn’t bolted to the floor, because two of her sons sold her, for a mere Rs30,000 just recently.

It’s a lowering thought. You’d think a lady would fetch a higher price than that. After all, what can you do with a paltry thirty thousand these days? A cook, a decent one, doesn’t come for less than eight or nine thousand a month, generally more. So given that Pakistani males aren’t about to do any cooking in a hurry, the motherless duo would have to employ a cook, which is thirty thousand gone in three months or so, and no more mother to sell. They’d also have to send their laundry out, which isn’t cheap, so that’s thirty thousand gone in less than three months. Plus the shopping, the mending… nope, they’ll go for the marriage option, which should cost them several times that sum, and serve them right too, but that is another story. Selling mom wasn’t a good bargain whichever way you look at it. No wonder Pakistan is where it is. Its men have no head for business.

Deals such as these are not uncommon in Pakistan, particularly in the remote (and not-so-remote) areas of the country. Illiterate and downtrodden, women there are far, far away from a world where their sisters agonize over which major to choose, biology, engineering, or the law. Their choices tend to hover around the highest bidder mark. It’s either that or stay at ‘home’ and be hounded to death by a draconian sister/daughter-in-law or two, but that, like above, is another story.

In this hapless lady’s case, she was sold to a man who kept her tied for three days, during which time he raped and tortured her before she escaped. Staying at home with sons who were always sizing up her market value couldn’t have been much better. The other choice of course was to move out and support herself, but by doing what? Women’s literacy or the lack of it is a major issue in this country. Without the ability to support herself, a woman will always be at the mercy of men who take advantage of her. Word Bank figures place Pakistan’s female literacy rate at an appalling 42 percent, and the ratio of basically literate females to males (in the 15-24 group) at 74.85 percent.

The going rate for the prettier, taller girls of nomadic tribes is said to be rather higher than 30,000. They’re apparently quite chuffed the higher it is, and it is often upwards of Rs 300,000 (or else a hundred sheep).

I can honestly not remember the last time I evaluated my worth against a single, much less a hundred sheep, and I hope my husband never did either, but that sounds like quite a smart exchange, much better than being exchanged for a cow, anyway. I just checked, and three hundred thousand is equivalent to only about four fully grown cows; a heifer on the other hand would cost about what mom did, around thirty to forty thousand, but that would be with a life time of fecundity ahead of the cow/heifer. Mom, unfortunately, had outlived her use-by date with nine sons and daughters to her credit…or discredit, as far as the two who sold her are concerned.

I’d just like to stop at this point, and ask the mother of nine a rather delicate question: ‘Ma’am, you aren’t Catholic by any chance, are you?’ But come to think of it, even the Pope has conceded a point there (although only just recently, and quite grudgingly) and conferred his pontifical blessings on certain prophylactics, outstripping our mullahs by a score of a few million in that respect (going by the number of souls saved a life of misery in the process)…Gloria in excelsis Deo! Of course women hereabouts don’t have a choice, which is the real problem. Interviewing some young people a few months ago, I discovered that almost to a man (or woman, in their case) none of them had less than six to seven siblings.

What choice do people in such families have except to sell their mothers?