Category: Learning

Seven years ago when I was here, all I saw were the dirt strewn, littered streets. I saw girls getting married at a sadly young age; I saw how women were limited to indoor activities. I saw families with more children than they could afford to raise. Most troubling of all, I saw a severe lack of education. Words like ambition and individualism were foreign concepts here. It seemed like the people here were unaware of man’s progress and achievements. Clearly, they were not living in the 21st century.

I realise now, that it was my perspective that was wrong. I looked at everything with a pre-conceived bias, with detest. I only saw what was on the surface. I saw what I had already decided I would see. Today, it is those same things that harbour my curiosity and encourage me to go back and understand; to take a look at the same scene with a new perspective; to be the harbinger of positive change.

Today is my first day in the village. We arrived here from Islamabad last night, that’s where we land and spend a couple of days before heading to Bebe’s house in the village. I saw the little girl who comes to help out at the house with chores and errands twice a week. She is older than she looks. My aunt told me she’s an 11-year-old, and has 12 siblings. She walks all the way from the neighbouring village to ours early morning, and helps out in several houses in this neighbourhood to earn some money in order to put food on the table for her ridiculously large family. Her father has another family and does not contribute much. Her mother and her siblings work in other houses in villages nearby.

To read the rest click here


Reading Quran with Meaning

The wonderful Mezba has shown his creative flair by creating a blog that uses LEGO to explain verses from the Quran. I think its a fantastic idea and provides a very visual interpretation to a written text.

The use of LEGO not only makes it appealing to children and easy to understand, but is equally suitable for adults too!

Do check it out over here

Recently France has been the centre of media attention what with it banning hijaab, followed closely by the outright ban of niqab in public spaces. In a form of protest against the dictatorship style role of the state, 2 French women (ethnicity of whom has remained largely unknown and refer to themselves as “NiqaBitch”) have taken to the streets in protest.  They, as with many others largely focus on clothing. But there is a twist.

They don a niqaab but bare their legs by wearing a miniskirt and sashay heels. The video is very tongue in cheek with the girls walking around Paris, posing outside buildings like the Ministry of Defence whilst wishing everyone peace – V hand gesture. Some people walk by pretending not to look, some praise them for their effort and others ask for them to pose and click away with their camera’s!

The statement these two ladies are making with regards to a piece of clothing that is considered repressive (niqaab) and the other which some would equate to as being immodest (miniskirt – lots of flesh on show) blends both the “sacred” and the “profane”.

Some may find the video distasteful, mocking the “sanctity” of niqaab (a piece of clothing cannot be sacred – the niqaab and to a certain level hijaab may for some encompass values, idea’s and beliefs which they believe manifest in it and may demonstrate a certain ideal but that ideal is a symbolic intepretation, one cannot apply those ideals to a piece of fabric!) but I feel it is an attempt to ridicule the French ban purely because their appearance is contradictory  and seems to be sending the popular message of “I am oppressed – niqaab” and I am a liberated, free woman “bare legs.

It is pertinent to note in the video that the passerby’s responses are generally of a good natured one primarily due to being aware that these girls are not donning the niqaab for religious reasons, that it is a stunt, a joke – all of which gives more weight to the islamphobic nature of the niqaab/hijaab ban. There is also the “orientialist fetish” aspect to the two ladies appearance – the veiling of the face, but the bare skin eliciting the notion of a sexual being who is “unreachable”, a mysterious being – much of which has been pandered about for a long time (and is hard to avoid it seems!)

After reading the review on MMW about the movie “The Stoning of Soraya M.” I decided to give it a bash, it’s been a while since I’ve watched something worth the reel its embedded on.
[This post contains spoilers, although the title of the movie is a spoiler in itself]
((Please excuse the untidy layout of  this entire post. I have tried to fix it a number of times but it won’t budge))

The movie is based on a book by the French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjami, who stumbles upon a small village in Iran in 1979, shortly after the Revolution. His car breaks down and whilst waiting for repairs Zahra notices he has a tape recorder and recognises him to be a journalist. She beckons him to her home to narrate the incidents which occured only the day before in the village.
And this is where the movie begins. A true life account of Soraya Manutchehri, 35 year old woman married at the age of 13, a mother of 6 children with a husband who actively works at turning their sons against her and is physically, emotionally and sexually abusive with a hankering for prostitutes. Her husband, Gorban-Ali, wishes to marry a younger girl of 14, the daughter of a doctor who is on death row at the prison where he works as a prison guard. However Gorban-Ali cannot afford to keep 2 wives and wants to avoid paying Soraya her dowry if he divorces her so wants her to divorce him.
Soraya on the other hand doesn’t want to divorce Gorban-Ali since she would not be able to provide for her children without his financial contribution and would be prone to being harrassed or propositioned, as does the mullah who visits her on saying of Gorban-Ali, to propose she, over time, become his sigheh – temporary wife, or as Zahra, Soraya’s aunt, calls it “his holy whore”.
Zahra is an outspoken woman who see’s the religious mullah for what he is; selfish and corrupt and drives him out of Soraya’s home with a good earful of insults. Gorban-Ali knows the Mullah from his days as an inmate, where he was detained for child molestation charges. Zahra is Soraya’s confidante and her well-wisher.
When Gorban-Ali’s cousin, Hashem, mourns the passing of his wife, Zahra see’s this as an opportunity for Soraya to generate some income in order to feed her daughters, as her husband refuses to provide any further financial support unless she divorces him. So Soraya goes to Hashems house and does the cleaning and cooking. This is where the trouble begins and the plot her husband spins starts. Her husband, with the support of the Mullah, begin to accuse Soraya of adultery and with abit of co-ercion and threats of causing harm to Hashem’s son, he contributes to the web of lies and soon enough the village comes to hear the rumours.
The Mayor of the village, who propositioned Zahra for marriage once but she refused, is advised of the moral crime and holds a tribunal, the panel of which consisted of Soraya’s father, the mullah, her husband and 2 sons. They find Soraya guilty of adultery and put her to death by stoning. Zahra tries to escape with Soraya, but they are trapped in her home as guards have been placed outside to prevent her from absconding.
The final scene plays out the long stoning scene,  Soraya is put waist high into a pit and then the stoning begins. The first stone is cast by her father, the second by her husband, then Hashem and her sons – after which the rest of the villagers join in. She lies there, after what seems like an eternity of pelting stones at her, bent over in a pool of her own blood. Zahra takes the Soraya’s body but is refused permission to bury her.
The stoning scene is long and drawn out, harrowing and disturbing. I personally couldn’t watch the stoning, so decided to just listen attentively to that portion of the movie.
There is a strong sense of injustice as Soraya is being stoned, despite being an innocent woman – a woman who was told to prove her innocent and to disprove her guilt, the onus being on her despite the accusations coming from her husband who was known to be a philanderer and of dubious character. Some of the characters are typical, such as the husband – he personifies evil, but Soraya is not the meek quiet woman despite giving off such airs when being taken to the freshly dug pit. You do wish however that she had tried harder to protest her innocence, though would probably have made little difference to such an unforgiving crowd.
I noticed a few discrepancies which to me quite jarring. They were:
  • In the book Soraya has 6 children, mostly in their late teens. In the movie Soraya has 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys – all young, the oldest being 12.
  • Zahra – an ignorant village woman, who speaks perfect English to the journalist. Why, since the journalist spoke Farsi anyway?
  • The undubious character of Soraya’s husband – why no-one spoke out about his infidelity and sleeping around when he accused Soraya of adultery?
  • The calibre of witnesses and their reputation – surely if witnesses are known to be of shady characte thenr their accusations or testimonies would be put to scrutiny even more so? This wasn’t the case in this movie.
  • The application of punishment – the villagers were seen picking up stones from all over the village. They are only meant to use those available in the vicinity of are where punishment is to be carried out
  • The un-veiling of the woman before stoning – they removed her burka and she is dressed all in white, as one is for burial.
  • Refusing to bury the body – you bury the body regardless of what they died of or for.
  • Her being stoned for adultery when she, in the end, was accused of trying to seduce Hashem. In this case, as far as I’m aware, it would be lashings not stoning.

I personally don’t think the movie was remotely about the application of Islamic law with regards to stoning, it wasn’t a critique of it, nor was it about showing how barbaric stoning can be. The stoning was simply a medium for darker, sadistic intentions. The movie was about the abuse of power and position by those with vested interests (the mullah), the selfish motives of the husband and how a desire can result in destruction. The main message imparted was about patriarchial and mysogynistic attitudes, how the voice of some (the women in this video) is not always loud enough against those who know how to twist the system.

I attended a book reading/Q&A hosted by Fatima Bhutto based on her new book Songs of Blood and Sword on Friday in London. She read a few excerpts based on violence from her book and then proceeded to answer questions, whether they were related to her book or not.

I am not an entirely political type of person, the current election campaign for the general elections in May don’t interest me the slightest since nothing and no-one is ever who and what they appear to be. But because a few of my previous posts relating to the sorry state of Pakistan got me wondering, I decided to go and hear what Fatima’s POV on the countries situation is.

I havent had the chance to read her book though some are ambivalent about it and her, others deem is to be a personal account of the chequered history of the Bhutto dynasty (nor did I manage to buy one at the event and have it signed by her either! Something I regret now!) but her loud criticisms of the Zardari government and placing the blame of her fathers death at the foot of her aunt Benazir have attracted an audience and followers who cannot fathom why people do not see what appears to be glaringly obvious when it comes to the unstable and tumultous state of Pakistan.

She may be ultra liberal for some, but the insights into Pakistan which she provides make a change from the usual puppets on a string show that many others put on in order to save face. Though she vehemently denies having any interest in going into politics, as her passion is for writing onlyand of being counted on her own merits only – this doesn’t deny her the opportunity to speak about Pakistani politics as a member born into the country’s most well known political dynasties – and it is her name which draws people to her first and perhaps her opinion on issues second.

Filled with much murky water and struggles within, one wonders whether the only thing the Bhutto families have in common is a shared surname and a sad and blood filled history.