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People in Shahbag are indeed asserting the importance of secular politics. This is evident in their slogans and in the absence of informal obeisance to this religion or the other, which take place in many other 'secular' scenarios. Apart from brief Namaz [prayer] breaks, I noticed nothing that had any particular stamp. What was interesting that most of the assemblies were not talking of 'true Islam' or 'true Hinduism'....

We are waiting for them to bring about change - women are ready but men have fallen into the trap of religious fundamentalism. It suits them in certain ways to keep women suppressed, i guess. Activists are trying to help. There are some organisations that provide help and assistance such as the Pannah group, War against Rape and Rozan. ....

 

A Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohamed al-Arifi, issued a fatwa that permits fighters to marry few hours with girls as young as 14. What we know is that there are girls being attracted to go to Syria for jihad, and therefore we must stand up against this problem. When news first emerged about young people going to Syria for jihad, many slandered the media and the figures who called for attention to this point, and accused them of lying....

 

The president was heckled and his address to Parliament on Monday was repeatedly disrupted. We passed a Bill to abolish his party as it doesn't have the required number of members - 10,000 - to exist as a legitimate political party. This angered him. The majority of parliamentarians do not recognise him. Nasheed's arrest has been carried out in retaliation to our party's relentless campaign…

Afia Aslam:  One Witnesses a Pseudo-Elitist Culture At Literary Festivals
Afia Aslam Editor of Online Literary Magazine, Pap
Afia Aslam: One Witnesses a Pseudo-Elitist Culture At Literary Festivals
Aroosa Shaukat

Aslam says Pakistani readership for English literature has grown only recently, that too owing to the prevalence of mobile phones and the internet. She says what bothers her most is the writers’ choice of themes. “Everyone is trying to write classics focusing on big social and political issues,” she said.  ...

 

“So many people have their own baseless judgments about Qur’an and Islam and they criticize the religion, but they have never read the Qur’an,” she noted. “It absolutely surprises me how people make judgments on something they have not read,” she added….similar ideas and approaches to our faith. Once I realized that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was preaching to all people of the Book, I realized that I, too, was part of his community,” …..

 
A Peek into the Afghan Taliban Mind
Munizae Jahangir
A Peek into the Afghan Taliban Mind
Munizae Jahangir

“We have never invited Pakistan or Afghanistan for talks. Afghan Taliban is a reality and we do not feel a need to sit across the table with Pakistan. We will hold peace talks with the US. The Afghan people or government can be taken on board at a later stage,” he added. Influential Pakistan politico-religious leader Maulana Fazl ur Rehman travelled to the Qatari capital earlier this month to facilitate talks with the Taliban, albeit the two sides officially denied the Doha rendezvous....

 

I decided I wasn’t going to read them. My wife did read them and called me in tears over the way people attacked our son and family. (She’s used to the attacks on me.) I must say that I have gotten a great many private messages from leading evangelical and even charismatic leaders who want me to know that they do not endorse or share the venom expressed in the published comments. Many progressive Christians have sent kind and supportive messages, too. .....

 

As for the Islamic Bomb, as yet it is not a reality. The bomb that Pakistan made was, at least initially, purely in response to India's 1974 test. Growing radicalization in Pakistan could change that, and some religious-political parties do claim the bomb for Islam. They want to terrify Pakistanis into believing that we are under constant siege and thus create a climate where the right-wing ideology of hate and violence can flourish....

 
Mohamed Morsi: ''We Don't Want a Theocratic State''
President Mohamed Morsi
Mohamed Morsi: ''We Don't Want a Theocratic State''
President Mohamed Morsi

I'm doing my best. I am pleased that there is diversity of opinion and am glad that we have an opposition. We are still learning how to cooperate in a fully democratic environment – with real freedom – for the common good of all Egyptians so that we can move forward together. No one has the right to use force. At the moment, we do not have a parliament, but that will soon change….

 

What this means for Israel in the region, regardless of the United States, is that the Muslim Brotherhood whether they have the support of the Egyptian people, or not, will be extremely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Although the Muslim Brotherhood has made it clear since coming to power that they will respect the Camp David agreement, they have slowly started to show that perhaps they will seek a revision of the established relations with Israel.

 

There was a terrific story to be told here: the journey from neglected orphan to acclaimed leader—from marginalized outsider to the ultimate insider—made all the more dramatic by the tension between idealism and pragmatism, faith, and politics. I wanted to be able to see Muhammad as a complex, multidimensional human being, instead of the two-dimensional figure created by reverence on the one hand and prejudice on the other. I wanted the vibrancy and vitality of a real life lived....

Hamas is Israel's Creation
Farooq Sulehria
Hamas is Israel's Creation
Farooq Sulehria

After Sept 11, and even before that, the images of the Arabs have been negative: If he is a man he is a terrorist or a wife-beater. If she is a woman, she is pictured as a veiled victim. After the fall of "Communism", the western world needed a new enemy. The way Mossad created Hamas, CIA created Bin Laden and al-Qaida. In the beginning of the second Intifada the typical story in Israeli and international media was: Palestinian mother sending her child to an Israeli checkpoint to become a martyr....

How worried are you about this phenomenon in France? How big is it? After all, France with some five million Muslims has the largest Muslim population in Europe.

In France the problem is probably huge. It’s a new phenomenon, we have little knowledge of it and it is growing because the geopolitical environment is not under control. By that I mean that on the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea you have countries like Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya where weak, pro-Islamic governments have come to power after the Arab Spring. They are no longer in control of society and more importantly, they are not in control over the internet propaganda machine. This uncontrolled terrorist, Islamic fundamentalist internet propaganda is spreading across the world and given the proximity between the two banks of the Mediterranean, this propaganda has begun infecting French society. That is why the influence of this trend is growing and could lead to more radicalisation in the near future….

The 19th girl child born to her father’s sixth wife, Fawzia Koofi was left out in the punishing winter of Afghanistan’s Badakshan province to die. She survived and was taken back in. When she was three, her father was killed by the Mujahideen. Imprisoned by the Taliban, her husband died of tuberculosis. The Taliban has also tried, several times, to assassinate her. Fawzia has endured all this to become the first woman Speaker of the Afghan Parliament....

Christianophobia: Christians Persecuted Throughout the World by Islamic, Hindu Extremists
Grand Mufti of Libya Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani
Christianophobia: Christians Persecuted Throughout the World by Islamic, Hindu Extremists
Ashraf Abdul-Wahab

Libyans from different backgrounds are being constantly invited to make free trips to Iran. Yes, we had some calls from families informing us about the conversion of their sons into the religion of the atheist Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani [founder of the Ahmediyya sect] who claimed he had received a divine revelation and who had also claimed that he was a reincarnation of God!  His doctrine has been widely followed in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India....

The village, which sits on the edge of the Himalayas amid tall Chinar trees and flowing streams, is home to over 100 Muslim families but has only five families of Kashmiri Pandits, a Hindu community that for the most part fled the region in the 1990s under increasing threats of violence. Only some Pandit families, including Mrs. Bhat's, chose to stay behind. Mrs. Bhat's election was celebrated as a sign of growing tolerance in the region, although some of the initial euphoria has died down since then.....

'If This Were a Civilized Land, Faith Would Be Private': Uzma Aslam Khan
Awais Aftab
'If This Were a Civilized Land, Faith Would Be Private': Uzma Aslam Khan
Uzma Aslam Khan speaks to Awais Aftab

We can't even get our passport renewed without 'confessing' to not being Ahmadis. I've even been asked my religion while registering for a blood test. And to whom are we always in need of confessing? Not to God, but to a bunch of people who call themselves the state. If this were a civilized land, faith would be private and proof against those we know are playing God would be public. But in Pakistan, it's the other way around: Faith is public and proof is private....

Well, speaking of Punjabi music particularly, this has its own special beat and mood. Its beat has been popular across centuries - and it's no different in Pakistan today. The popularity of this form of music stems from its roots embedded within folk culture. Also, anyone who is a follower of Punjabi music usually has a Sufi temperament, which is part of the craft and adds to the experience of appreciating this music. ...

 

It is not easy for women to work in any country, and particularly for those who are pushing for equality. Naturally, it is more difficult in countries in conflict. But so far, we are much better in terms of women's participation in the government and politics than most countries in Asia. As to making an impact, we have a strong independent human rights commission in Afghanistan, where using the word 'human rights' was counted as a crime few years ago. ....

Religion and secularism, truth and falsity, friendship and enmity, hope and despair, bravery and cowardice, love and betrayal, collide in the pages to form a highly-charged battleground of ideas about a world poised for an uncertain future. In this phone interview, Salman Rushdie talks about the novel that robbed him of a decade and the lessons it has taught him about free speech, religious fundamentalism and the importance of standing up for what you believe in....

Freedom To Criticize Religion Is A Touchstone Of Free Expression
Gilbert Achcar
Freedom To Criticize Religion Is A Touchstone Of Free Expression
Gilbert Achcar and Farooq Sulehria

In Europe, when you feel you have been a victim of hate speech, you can resort to legal action. The question of Western double standard is usually raised with regard to Jews there, as it is much more difficult in Europe to articulate an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic speech than an Islamophobic one. But this state of affairs owes to two factors. The first is Europe’s sense of guilt with regard to the Jewish genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the Second World War with much European complicity....

The idea of a world government that may assure peace in the world is empty of meaning. It makes no sense because, first of all, a world government should express the will of all countries in the world by a universal parliament, hierarchical and unipolar, in which the great powers should live side by side with the poorest countries. It has no meaning because the so-called five BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are....

 
‘It Is Very Lonely To Fight For Justice’
Shoma Chaudhury
‘It Is Very Lonely To Fight For Justice’
Shoma Chaudhury

Why was the critical evidence produced by senior Gujarat policemen like Rahul Sharma and RB Sreekumar not produced in court in time? If the Rahul Sharma CD (with call records of those fatal days) had been investigated by the CBI in 2006, and authenticated, it would have produced so much material. But the analysis was left to NGOs. First Jan Sangharsh Manch did some of the analysis; then we filled the gaps when we found the phone records of Modi and others have not been examined.

Today being Akbar Bugti’s death anniversary, am sharing an autobiographical interview of him published in HERALD about 30 years ago. (Have misplaced the only copy I have, so can’t give the exact month and year or include the photos.)

 One may or may not have liked Bugti, and although I heard various negative stories about him, I could understand what it is like not to have control over one’s own life, to be persecuted in one’s own land, and the pain and humiliation of endless subjugation. In fact, I got to like him. And I share this as a matter of history. - Najma Sadeque (spelling wrong in the printed version)

Excerpts: “In the last few years, foreign money has been pouring into Baluchistan. The Western and Arab World have suddenly discovered a place called Baluchistan and its importance ever since the Russian presence in Afghanistan. But most projects are ‘pocket’ schemes – they go into the pockets of officials and blue-eyed notables. The sizes of the ‘pockets’ have increased, they’ve become gunny bags. Little trickles into ‘development’, but no government consultations are held with tribal elders on projects. It doesn’t win the loyalty of the locals or gratefulness to foreigners, whatever their intentions are. You can pour in millions, but you can’t buy Baluchistan and the Baluchis.”

 
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