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A Young Pakistani Physicist Who Loves Nuclear Reactors

Last week, I was in Dallas, Texas to speak on a panel regarding the elusive peace between India and Pakistan – two neighbors that have yet to acquire the ability of living as responsible adults. The event was organized by Project Pakistan – a budding network, which aims to work on peace-building between communities and nations. It was during this hullabaloo that I met a young Pakistani student Ahmad Shabbar who is currently studying Mechanical and Energy Engineering at the University of North Texas.


Shabbar is a mild-mannered young man of immense talents. As a student of Physics at Reed College, Portland, Oregon he became an ardent student of the science behind nuclear reactors. By a stroke of luck, and obviously academic performance, he worked at the Reed Research Reactor. It is a small reactor facility that caters to various thesis needs of science students, and can tell what a substance is made up of by using a technique called Neutron Activation Analysis. This facility is run entirely by undergraduate students, and it trains young scientists on how to move forward with their careers. […]

October 26th, 2015|Published in The Huffington Post, science|0 Comments

Pakistan’s beleaguered Hazaras

The attack on the Hazara community in Quetta last month, which left 10 dead and many injured, comes amidst the recent spate of violence against an intensely vulnerable and ghettoised community. Pakistan’s new theatre of sectarian killings, the troubled province of Balochistan, is turning into a parable of disastrous policies that are being pursued ostensibly to bolster Pakistan’s national security. Since 2009, such attacks have become the norm and the worse impunity of attackers underlines state complicity.

In early 2013, two bombings targeting Hazaras in Quetta killed over 180 people. The community sat in freezing cold for days with the dead bodies of their loved ones, waiting for effective action by the state. Nothing came out of that except assurances, token arrests and high-sounding platitudes by opportunistic political parties. The truth is that the infrastructure for sectarian hatred has grown right under the nose of security agencies. This terrorist infrastructure is inextricably linked to militant bases in Punjab, patronised by a spineless provincial government and a fast radicalising state apparatus that has accepted the power of those who preach hatred and execute their brazen agenda through target killings. No judge or prosecutor has the courage — and why should they put themselves in the line of fire — to curb and punish these networks. The political class, eager to appease rabid clerics and right wing business lobbies, continues to build metro buses or hold rallies while graveyards fill up with lesser citizens of the Shia, Ahmadi or Christian variety.


Understanding Contemporary Muslimness

A review of Naveeda Khan’s  book Muslim Becoming published in “The Book Review

I wanted to learn what it meant to know Islam in Pakistan and why this knowing was so easily brushed  aside.

It is a welcome addition to the rather scant literature on  Islam, identity and Muslimness in contemporary Pakistan. Khan begins by presenting a debate between four librarians of differing religious persuasions. Deep within the stacks of the Provincial As- sembly Library, four men take part in a dis- cussion that highlights the marked differ- ences in their belief systems. Of the four, one is a Shia and the other three Sunni. Among the Sunnis, one identifies himself as a Deobandi, one as a follower of Ahl-e-Hadis sect, and the third as a Barelvi. Akbar, the follower of Ahl-e-Hadis school of thought, speaks at length of the superiority of their mosques as ‘they allowed laymen to give ser- mons and encouraged women’s participation in congregational  prayer’. Despite his reverence for mosque culture, Akbar is derisive of the thought of praying at the Prophet’s mosque in Medina.

It  is  commendable to  pray at  the Prophet’s  mosque, but it isn’t  necessary. Some among us have made it into a re- quirement by saying such things as, the Prophet is alive there, he can hear your prayers and he can grant you your wishes. Such claims are bid’a. One cannot pray there until such time as this bid’a has been vanquished… […]

November 1st, 2013|books, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistani Literature|2 Comments

Saints who ruled India

Book Review

The War that Wasn’t: The Sufi and the Sultan By Fatima Hussain Publisher: Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi Pages: 245

Last year I had a chance to meet Dr Fatima Hussain, a thoughtful and inspiring academic based in Delhi. We had all congregated in Agra for the SAARC writers’ summit and Hussain’s facility with subcontinental history, especially Sufism, was most impressive. This is when I found out that her book had just been published and my curiosity to read the book knew no bounds. The title of this book was even more intriguing: “The War that Wasn’t: The Sufi and the Sultan”. Essentially the title summarises a millennium of the societal resistance offered by the Sufis against state power as well as the embedded social relations in the Indian subcontinent.

Hussain teaches History at Delhi University and was educated at Lady Shri Ram College and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has also authored The Palestine Question: A Historical Perspective (2003) and several scholarly articles. An interesting volume that she edited – Sufism and Bhakti Movement: Contemporary Relevance (2008) – perhaps explains the relative fluency of her familiarity with the subject. After her marriage to Pakistan’s leading Punjabi writer and activist, Fakhar Zaman, she is now delving into documenting the history, culture and morphology of Lahore. […]

‘Throw Away the Books’ – Bulleh Shah

Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) of Kasur in Central Punjab is an extraordinary voice that provided a mystical message beyond caste, institutionalized religion and ideologies of power. Born in 1860 and named Abdullah Shah in a Syed family, he found a Murshid (spiritual master) in Shah Inayat who was an Arain

First woman to lead Friday prayers in UK

This is such an interesting development. Much as it is preaching to the converted syndrome. But as such scattered reformist acts occur within Islam is a welcome development. Debate and dialogue is important for a dynamic religion such as Islam which has been maligned and stereotyped in this age of corporate media and gross generalisations.

Story and picture from the Independent (By Jerome Taylor): A Canadian author will become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation through Friday prayers tomorrow in a highly controversial move that will attempt to spark a debate about the role of female leadership within Islam.
Raheel Raza, a rights activist and Toronto-based author, has been asked to lead prayers and deliver the khutbah at a small prayer session in Oxford.
She has been invited by Dr Taj Hargey, a self-described imam who preaches an ultra-liberal interpretation of Islam which includes, among other things, that men and women should be allowed to pray together and that female imams should lead mixed congregations in prayer. […]
June 15th, 2010|Islam, Religion|6 Comments

Lahore – a nightmare that is still not over

Updated: my quotes in Tehran Times

Today’s events in Lahore have shaken the entire country. The zealots and the bigots aside, an ordinary Pakistani is baffled at the scale and impunity of the violence. A terrorist has been captured – perhaps more as events unfold. But will they be punished or we will find more lame excuses that the Ahmedis by worshipping in their mosques were provoking the believers.

The Taliban want to eliminate all diversity and pluralism from Pakistan. The process alas started in the 1950s and Bhutto’s tragic actions and Zia years have planted bigotry and intolerance. Fundamentalism is now a cancer that has widely spread in the body politic. Yet, no one wants to tackle it. For the past two years, get Zardari debates have dominated Pakistan’s public discourse punctuated by the anti-Americanism of the Right. […]

May 29th, 2010|Lahore, Pakistan, Politics, terrorism|3 Comments