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What if Bulleh Shah were alive today?

Another tragic day. A mob attacks a Christian couple after accusing them of desecration of the Holy Quran and then burn their bodies at a brick kiln where they worked. Religion, class, bigotry and exploitation all mixed up.
Reminds me of another piece that I wrote in 2012 on the burning of a blasphemy accused and the inability of law/state/police to salvage the situation.

The chilling news of a man burnt alive in Bahawalpur on alleged charges of blasphemy has escaped the national media as well as our collective conscience. Other than a token condemnation by President Asif Ali Zardari, no major political leader has bothered to talk about this ghastly incident.

After the brutal assassination of Salmaan Taseer in January 2011, we had given up the hope of even holding a debate on man-made colonial laws on blasphemy. The voices that were asking for a review of the legislation had to retreat as the majority Sunni-Barelvi interpretation captured public discourse. Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri was defended by the same lawyer who viewed ‘rule of law’ as an articulation of a personalised, anti-democracy and Sharia-compliant version of justice. The fact that a former chief justice of Lahore is Qadri’s lawyer reflects the inherent biases and indoctrination that have spread in our society. If a billionaire, liberal politician could be murdered on the streets of Islamabad, what hope does a supposedly deranged man in the deep south of Punjab have?

The rise of vigilantism is also indicative of state failure. Not long ago, we witnessed the inhuman lynching of two young men in the Sialkot district where the state machinery stood by and extended tacit support to ugly scenes of dead bodies being paraded around. A few months later, I was invited to a television talk show where, to my surprise, I was surrounded by a lawyer and a so-called aalim (religious scholar). During the show, the cheerful aalim continued to find obscure and irrelevant references to justify mob-lynching as a kosher form of justice. […]

Indus Valley School of Learning: The school which teaches Humanism

On Pakistan Day, I was invited by the Indus Valley School of Learning in Rawalpindi. I tweeted about my visit and the pleasant experience. There is so much about Pakistan that remains invisible – many people who are working hard to make it a plural and tolerant place. Whilst I complain about our […]

On Kabir, Bulleh Shah and Lalon Shah

Not a great recording of my talk at Kuch Khaas, Islamabad.

Kuch Khaas_ Raza Rumi on Kabir, Bulleh Shah and… by razarumi1

 

October 22nd, 2011|Arts & Culture|2 Comments

Sufi rock by an immensely talented band

This video is from the band Da Saaz. Dhruv Bilal Sangari is singing and Raoul Amaar Abbas has directed, produced and shot all the trippy light

December 19th, 2010|Arts & Culture, Music|8 Comments

Baba Farid’s shrine and the barbarians within us

This morning arrived with the shocking news of the recent barbarity played out in Pakpattan (formerly known as Ajodhan) when two criminals left bombs outside the shrine of Baba Farid. Eight innocent people, returning from morning prayer, lost their lives and about 2o were injured.baba farid

Baba Fariduddin Ganje Shakar’s shrine was the latest victim of terrorism. We have now entered into a decisive phase of the ongoing battle. What is the purpose of attacking a shrine other than the fact that it defines the historical reality of a peaceful and secular Punjab. Baba Farid is revered by Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus of the subcontinent. He is the leading light of Chishti school of Sufism in Indo-Pak subcontinent. Other than his status as a mystic, Baba Farid is the pioneer of modern Punjabi language as it was innovated and refined in the 12th century. The Punjabis across the world consider him as a cultural and spiritual master.

We condemn this brutal attack, this sheer cowardice and barbarity. It is time to fight against this menace of sectarianism and scaring the people of Pakistan. We have lunatics – now dangerous criminals – who are hellbent to destroy our centuries’ old culture.

I am reproducing sections of an article from Manzur Ejaz which narrates the contribution of Baba Farid to the Punjabi language and how times were a commentary on the changing social contours of the Punjab. […]

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. […]

Lahore attack strikes Sufism, a tolerant blend of Islam

A France24 story By Leela JACINTO (where I was quoted)
The attack on the landmark Data Darbar shrine in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, which killed 41 people, was an assault on an ancient, traditionally syncretic form of Islam that is under siege in a fast radicalising country.
The attack, when it happened, was an assault on so many fronts, a calculated onslaught on the very soul of a centuries-old, flexible form of Islam.
On Thursday night, when militants stormed the landmark Data Darbar shrine in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, killing at least 41 people, it sent a bone-chilling message to a populace growing lamentably accustomed to violence.
The oldest and grandest shrine in Lahore, Data Durbar, also known as Data Ganj Baksh, houses the remains of the revered 11th century Sufi saint, Abul Hassan Ali Hajwery. His burial site attracts Sunni and Shia Muslims – as well as non-Muslims – from across the subcontinent. The shrine is particularly packed on a Thursday night, a traditionally sacred night in Islam.
A day after the attack, Raza Rumi, a Pakistani expert on Sufism and a native Lahori, was reeling from the shock.
“This is a tragedy on multiple levels,” said Rumi in a phone interview with FRANCE 24. “It’s a human tragedy, it’s an attack on the future of Pakistan, and it’s an attack on Islam, a lived Islam.”
July 3rd, 2010|Arts & Culture, Islam, Islamophobia, Lahore, Pakistan, Sufism|5 Comments