Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ashura tragedy in Karachi

I have been trying to come to terms with what tragedy has transpired in my dear city two days ago. I mentioned in my previous post about how the violent Kharjiites of old remind me of the Taliban of today, having the same misguided principles of La Hukma La Illah, willing to go to great lengths to impose their way of thinking on others, and not hesitating for a second to take innocent lives. As I write this, reports are coming in that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed responsibility for the heinous attack. May God curse them all, and hasten their removal from our country at the hands of our troops. Amen!

It was interesting to see how quickly CNN branded these attacks as having been carried out by Sunni extremits. True, we've witnessed a lot of violence against us in the past courtesy of Sipah e Sahaba and the like, but the fact that they were so quick to label the perpetrators of this crime reekes of something else. BBC were not far behind either, claiming that sectarian strife is extremely high in Karachi since the attack. Clearly, they haven't been looking around the same city I have. Nothing could be further from the truth and let me state it very clearly: There is no shia-sunni split in Karachi right now.

And to all those people questioning the very reason for taking out such processions in times of such distress: My friends, you clearly have no idea how resilient we can be and have clearly not read up on the history of the tragedy of Karbala. We, the azadars, have persevered over the ages in the face of the most violent oppressors. There was a time when going to Karbala or taking out a procession meant certain death, yet people still did it. That spirit will never change. And as proof you shall see the remainder of the processions this year and for years to come in Karachi and across Pakistan. There is no greater honor than to die in the cause of Hussain (A.S).

As I was entering the Ashura procession that day, and being frisked by security I remember thinking about how easy it would be for a suicide bomber to claim 40-50 lives just by detonating right there at the entrance where everyone was being frisked as it was jam-packed at the time. Sadly, this fear is nothing to new for us Shias in Pakistan as several of our masajids and imambargahs have been the target of such attacks in the past, but that does not mean we will stop going to masajids or imambargahs as events that have been inside compounds didn't discourage these animals attacking us.

I also feel bad for the hundreds of scouts and security personnel who were working hard to ensure everything was smooth in and around Nishtar Park, and later in the procession. I would like to pay special tribute to the brave Ranger (Abdul Razzaq) and scout who reportedly stopped the bomber from entering the main procession, eventually saving many lives. A lot of people owe their lives to those guys.

The mood in the city since the attack has been expectedly somber, and there is great anger at the losses suffered by the traders at the hands of miscreants. The need of the hour is action, and swift one at that. It is too soon for us to forget incidents like May 12th, December 27ththat now we have to live with this one as well. We need to ensure that this does not happen again. And the only way that can be done is to capture the people behind it in the short-term, and in the long-term develop a disaster management system that actually works. Also, law-enforcement agencies must cope with such situations right there and then. I would even propose firing warning shots or, as a last resort, shooting people setting public property on fire on such a large scale. This must not be allowed to happen at all.

Lastly, I'd like to pray for the souls martyred in the attack, and the swift recovery of those that were injured. Peace.

Related Links:

Ammar Faheem - Karbala-e-Karachi

Ammar Yasir - Are you ready to surrender your life to Terrorism?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review: After the Prophet

After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
(available on Amazon)

I was told about this book by my brother, who had heard the author (Lesley Hazleton) being interviewed over the radio for this book. The title naturally seemed intriguing, and after listening to the interview myself, I decided to buy the book because the author seemed extremely well-informed and had obviously done her research on the early history of Islam. You can listen to the entire hour-long interview yourself on the radio station's web site here.

So I bought the book so I could read it during this trip home, and I just finished reading it yesterday. I think it makes for excellent reading for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The British author does an excellent job in my opinion of presenting the historical facts of Islam's early history in an objective manner. Too often when we Muslims look at that history, we glorify and exaggerate a lot of the characters and portray a larger-than-life image of the people of the time when, in fact, they were normal people with normal problems. The same goes for the society and the power struggle that ensued once Islam had started making its presence felt in Arabia as as real as anything we see today.

The author presents the facts from the point-of-view of the central characters that helped shape Islam's early history. Starting with Muhammad (PBUH), Ali, Ayesha, Omar, Abu Bakar, Usman, Muaviya, and Marwan (to name the major ones). Shes does a good job of conveying the story of a religion that was plunged into crisis following the Prophet's demise, and had the potential to self-destruct as a succession crisis materialized between the people. As she aplty put it, no one denied the Prophet's actions, but debated what they actually meant (for one reason or another). The schisms that were eventually led to the tragic events at Karbala only 50 years after the Prophet's demise, a shameful stain on the religion of peace. These schisms still exist today, and to say anything else would be naive. Another observation I couldn't help but make was the sparkling similarity between the Kharjiites and the Taliban of today. I had not read about the particular act of violence done by Kharjiites that is described in is, and suffice it to say it was sheer barbarism on their part (something we associate with the Taliban today).

For the historical facts presented, the author relies heavily on hadith accounts from the renowned historian Al-Tabari. I have personally always been a critic of the glorified version of our history that is taught to us in schools and colleges. That history paints everything in a positive light, from Islam's early period to Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs to Muhammad bin Qasim. How conveniently they forget to mention how these dynasties came to power, and how they left no stone unturned in asserting their rule through violence and tyranny. The sooner we are at peace with our shortcomings, and accept the history for what t is, the sooner we can ensure that none of it is repeated.

As one commentator on Amazon said, the book should be required reading for all journalists covering the Middle East or for anyone remotely interested in knowing more about Islam. So, whether you're a Muslim or not, I would highly recommend getting your hands on this book.

Related Links:

The book on Amazon

The author's interview on KUOW

The book's website -

Seattle Times Article on the book

Home, no place like it

I realize I haven't updated the blog in almost 2 months. It's been that kind of a semester. Anyhoo, I arrived back home last week for spending the semester break here. Needless to say, it's been awesome as always. Despite the extremely long journey and a hefty ticket price you have to pay, in the end it is always worth it.

Some of the best things about coming back home to Pakistan for me are:

Meeting friends and family (of course!)
Those endless meetups, get-togethers with family members, school friends, college friends, online friends, co-workers, ex-coworkers, visiting your school and college, meeting your old teachers etc. etc. The list is endless.

The Food
Oh boy, there is no comparison when it comes to food. Absolutely awesome. Considering I'm
something of a forced vegetarian abroad, Pakistan is akin to heaven for the meat-lover in me.

The Premier League
I don't get to watch my favorite football (soccer) league in the US :(, and it's only when I'm back here that I get to see it. I miss the excitement of it, and even though the Toon are not in it this season, football is, well, the best sport in the world by far.

The Religious Spirit
Be it Ramadan, Muharram or Eid. There is a certain religious fervor that is associated with each occassion that one gets used to if you've grown up in Pakistan. And you get to miss that dearly abroad. Especially, the sweet voice of the AZAAN. It is surreal.

Having said that, things are not so rosy on the political and geopolitical front. I will write more on these topics soon, but for now all I can say is that the only way we can assure our salvation is by being strong, steadfast, and willing to stand up for what is right (especially in the wake of all the wrongs that have been done against us in the past) and not budge to threats by anyone. Nuff said.