Why Criticizing Islam is Not Islamophobia


Written by Randeep Singh

Writing in the wake of Charlie Hebdo in Al-Jazeera, Abdullah Al-Arian argues that Islam has been “unfairly criticized and ridiculed” by the West for centuries. Such a history, he writes, has prejudiced the West into into painting Islam as illiberal and intolerant.

Islamophobia is a reality. So too are problems within Islam and the Muslim world. Islamophobia should be condemned; but not criticizing or questioning Islam or Muslim societies.

If I criticize Islam for engendering patriarchy, the persecution of minority groups and its smug, supremacist view of itself, it’s because I have criticized Christianity for the same reasons. I oppose Christian organizations for their homophobia, without hating Christianity. I criticize Israel without hating Jews. I criticize Islam without hating it. I am not hating or fearing anyone: I am striving for equality, inclusion and justice regardless of who or what we are.

The fight for freedom of expression is not a clash between civilizations. It has been happening within the Muslim world for centuries. Mansur Al-Hallaj (856-922) became a martyr for proclaiming “I am the Truth (God).” Sarmad (1590-1661) too was martyred for his “heretical” views. Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) challenged the mullah for his sectarian views. In modern times, Nazim Hikmat (1902-1963), Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984) and Naghuib Mahfouz (1911-2006) have all been imprisoned, exiled or censured for their art and political views.

Criticism of the Muslim world as illiberal and intolerant today is likewise vindicated. Just ask Raif Badwai, the blogger who recently received 50 lashes in Saudia Arabia. Or ask Aasiya Bibi, the Christian women who languishes in prison on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan. Or how about Salman Rushdie?

Without change, the Muslim world will become progressively more intolerant and creatively barren. Denying any criticism of Islam produces a culture which is afraid to ask questions and unable to find answers.

Film Review: “Haider”

haider 1
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Narendra Jha, Irrfan Khan
Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj

Reviewed by Randeep Singh

This third adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedies by Vishal Bhardwaj is not a tragedy in the same way as the play from which it is adapted. The tragedy in “Hamlet” comes from the hero’s fatal flaw, his indecision whether to avenge his father’s murder and the needless deaths which result along the way. In Bhardwaj’s “Haider,” the title role (played by Shahid Kapoor) is unwavering in his determination to murder his uncle, Khurram (Kay Kay Menon), contending only with chance and circumstance. There is no fatal flaw in the character of Haider and no tragedy as such.

The tragedy in Haider is the tragedy of Kashmir, the backdrop against which this modern-day Indian adaptation is told. It’s no irony that we see elections being conducted in a land where the day’s rhythms are determined by curfews and where the call to prayer is drowned out by army loudspeakers. The tragedy is most poignantly rendered in Haider’s search for his father, one of the many “missing” fathers, sons and husbands in Kashmir. It is realized visually too through the film’s stunning cinematography, the pure snow of the valley speckled with blood, veiled by smoke, partitioned by barbed wire.

Kapoor captures Haider as a sensitive young poet in the earlier part of the film, but gives a less nuanced performance when Haider experiences episodes of madness. The stand-out performance in the film is that of Tabu as Ghazala who hauntingly portrays a woman torn by loyalty as a mother, a widow and a new wife. Kapoor and Tabu are supported by an excellent supporting cast, particularly Menon as Khurram and Narendra Jha as Haider’s father, Dr. Hilal Meer.

The film isn’t entirely stellar. The climax, while effective, almost turns comical with the transformation of three elderly gravediggers into militia men. The madness and suicide of the Ophelia-adapted character, Arshi (played by Shraddha Kapoor), is also so rushed that it never really sinks in. The tragedy though as Bhardwaj makes clear is not that of Arshi or even of Haider. In closing the film with Faiz Ahmad Faiz’ poem “Intesaab” (‘Dedication’), Bhardwaj’s “Haider” becomes a dedication to the congregation of mourning that is Kashmir, a tragedy awaiting its final curtain.


Poet Romantic Revolutionary – Faiz Ahmed Faiz – Bradford July 16/11

Tribute to Legend in Bradford
Poet, Romantic, Revolutionary – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

We cordially invite you to attend a centenary event to pay tribute to one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, even in death, Faiz’s extraordinary ability to bring together nations, often entangled in bitter disagreements, persists. His continuing importance, to the 21st century, as a major literary voice whose words continue to have the power to move peoples’ hearts and minds the world over cannot be overstated.

7.00 p.m.
Saturday, 16 July 2011
Kala Sangam
St. Peters Squire, 1 Forster Square, Bradford BD1 4TY

Introduction: Laiqa Shiekh & Dr. Geetha Upadhyaya (7/8 minutes)
Message from Councillor: (5 minutes)
Talk on Faiz ahmed Faiz: Helen Goodway (15 minutes)
Poem of Faiz: Mehmooda Hadi (5 minutes)
Song: Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Khan(5 minutes)
Talk on Faiz: Professor Nazir Tabbasum (7/8 minutes)
Poem for Faiz: Tasneem Hassan (5 minutes)
Recitation of Faiz by other participants: (10 minutes)
Song: Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Khan (5 minutes)
Discussion and Contribution from the floor and Questions and Answers (20 minutes)
Thanks: Lala Younis, Bradford Faiz National Centenary Organising Committee
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Mohsin Zulifqar, 07540 829564
Prof Nazir Tabassum, 07828 174854
Lala M. Younas, 07878 996658
Ajit Singh, 07720 400242
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986
Pervez Fateh, 07958 541672
Sarwan Singh, 07989 062965
Khalid Saeed Qureshi, 07869433475
Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, 01274 303340
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986

Jointly organised by Faiz Centenary National Organising Committee and Kala Sangam Bradford.


FAIZ AHMAD FAIZ Centenary Celebration 2011
SATURDAY JULY 16th, 2011
1590 Oakland Road, Suite B213
San Jose, CA 95131

DEAR HEART (Staged reading)
A Short Play
By Sam Litham & Munib Anwar
Stage Adaption by Saqib Mausoof
Jessica Risco as Alys
Kashif Maqsood as Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Produced by:
Ijaz Syed
Presented by:
Faiz Centenary Celebrations Committee

FAIZ was one of the most acclaimed poets of South Asia, born in Sialkot, Pakistan, writing in Urdu & Punjabi. He allied his poetry and person not only with the aspirations of Pakistanis but also with the international movement for peace and human rights. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

FAIZ’s outspoken condemnation of injustice and inequality led to the charges of high treason and was imprisoned. A romantic revolutionary poet kept writing, conventional theme of love & beauty submerged in larger social & political issues, Dast-e-Saba & Zindan Nama, two collections of modernist poetry blended with classical Urdu & Farsi tradition.

He was friends with Nazim Hikmet and Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Laureate.

FAIZ’s poetry is a message of hope for the people longing for peace and freedom, a source of inspiration for those seeking to build a just society.

ABID MINTO is currently the elected President of National Workers Party (NWP) of Pakistan, Abid Hassan Minto Minto (born 3rd February 1932, Rawalpindi, Pakistan) is a constitutional expert and senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is also a literary critic and a leftwing civic and political leader. His legal career spans over 50 years during which he was elected member of the Pakistan Bar Council from 1966 up to 1983; President, Lahore High Court Bar Association (1982); Chairman, National Coordination Committee of Lawyers (1981 to 1985) and President, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBA) (1997 to 1999).

Minto became a member of The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in 1949 and remained with it until it was banned in 1954 after the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case along with the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) which was also co-founded by Minto in 1949 while at Gordon College.

For More Information:
Home: 408-629-5157
E-Mail: syedi@sbcglobal.net
E-Fax : (413) 604-2161

Download PDF Poster.

Tribute to revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Bradford UK, June 15/11

We cordially invite you to attend a centenary event to pay tribute to one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize. Although imprisoned for his political views in the 1950s, Faiz continued to fight against oppression and exploitation. Even in death, Faiz’s extraordinary ability to bring together nations, often entangled in bitter disagreements, persists. His continuing importance, to the 21st century, as a major literary voice whose words continue to have the power to move peoples’ hearts and minds the world over cannot be overstated.

We are delighted to announce that
Abid Hassan Minto, a veteran politician, life-long campaigner, progressive writer and thinker, human rights activist and the president of Workers Party Pakistan will be the main speaker in Bradford.

4.30 p.m.
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Council Chambers, City Hall
Centenary Square, Bradford BD1 1HY

Other contributors include
Raza Ali Abadi, Mohammad Ajeeb, Ghazanfer Khaliq, Kevin Donnelley, Dr Geetha Upadhyaya and Sarwan Singh

Cultural Programme will be presented by
Mehmooda Hadi, Amal Podder, Karl & Gloria Dallas.

Mohsin Zulifqar, 07540 829564
Lala M. Younas, 07878 996658
Ajit Singh, 07720 400242
Sarwan Singh, 07989 062965
Khalid Saeed Qureshi, 07869433475
Prof Nazir Tabassum, 07828 174854
Pervez Fateh, 07958 541672
Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, 01274 303340
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986

Jointly organised by
Kala Sangam
Bradford & Leeds Faiz Centenary National Organising Committee (UK)

Best regards
Pervez Fateh
Secretary, Fational Centenary National Organising Committee UK
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
E-mail: pervezf@yahoo.com

Download PDF

‘Faiz: Putting Poetry in Context’ by Farooq Bajwa

Presented at the Faiz event organised by Poet in the City London 17 January 2011

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is not just a poetic genius; he became the voice of the unseen and unheard and the conscience of a nation. As the first half of twentieth century of Urdu poetry belonged undoubtedly to Muhammed Iqbal, the latter half belonged to Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Iqbal even awarded a poetry prize to a young Faiz while the latter was still a student but even Iqbal could hardly have guessed how another son of Sialkot was soon to inherit his mantle and with what distinction. Between Iqbal and Faiz, Urdu poetry developed from being viewed as a language of love to one of action and politics. Iqbal became the poet philosopher urging an Islamic renaissance and Faiz became the poet of the people, irrespective of creed or nationality.

Faiz Ahmed was born in a small village in Sialkot in 1911 during the time of the British Raj and received a traditional Punjabi Muslim education for the time. He was first sent the local mosque to study the Quran which gave him an excellent grounding in Islam which stood him in good stead for the rest of his life.

Faiz graduated from Murray College, Sialkot and later credited his command of Urdu to the teachers of this college and especially Mir Hasan, who had previously also taught Iqbal Arabic. Faiz then completed his higher education in Lahore where he studied for Masters in both English and Arabic Literature.

Faiz’s first published collection, Naqsh-e-faryaadi The Lamenting Image, uses the typical themes of a young Urdu poet – the themes of love, beauty and loss. It is a commonly held perception that a poet creates his best work in youth but this was not to be the case with Faiz, whose first collection begins with what he calls the ‘emotional preoccupation of youth’ – love, a phase which stayed with Faiz from 1928-29 till about 1934.

A pivotal move for Faiz came in 1934, when he took up a teaching post in Amritsar. It was here that he was exposed to left wing writers and teachers who persuaded Faiz to join the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) and his outlook and poetic leanings were transformed forever.

Inspired by the PWA, he now began the second phase of his first poetry collection with the now legendary Do not ask of me, my beloved, that same love. This was Faiz’s first experiment with blending love for the ‘beloved’ into love for humanity, of turning the pain of separation into pain for all those who suffered as Faiz wrote, under the ‘dark, bestial spells of uncounted centuries’, in which he declares with his now found empathy:
Aur bhi dukh hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke siva
There are other sorrows in this world apart from that of love

Faiz believed passionately that all art had to have a social purpose; art for art’s sake for him was not worthy of being deemed art. He remained committed to the ideal of beauty, but wanted to translate that into a beautiful society was something worthwhile. As he said, ‘How can one sing praises to the beauty and fragrance of the rose while ignoring entirely the careworn hands of the gardener?’

British colonial rule was now facing a strong challenge in India and Faiz was inspired by his the anti-British sentiment by writing Bol Speak which became seen as the poetical motto of Faiz’s life written immediately upon his return from the first PWA conference in Lucknow in 1936. In it, Faiz captured beautifully the longing of the oppressed people wanting freedom urging people to speak out.

While now a committed socialist and anti-imperialist, Faiz joined the British Army’s propaganda wing during WW2 as he believed that Hitler and fascism presented a greater threat to India than the British.

Faiz longed for freedom and the departure of the British colonial structure but wanted that freedom to be coupled with social change; not just the exchange of the one set of rulers for another. His moving poem ‘Independence Dawn’ in 1947 records his disillusionment, leading to the first wave of official disapproval within the new state of Pakistan.

Now back in Lahore in the state of Pakistan, Faiz became the first editor of the Pakistan Times. Using this position, Faiz took the lead in trying to highlight the rights of workers, peasants and the poor.

His first of many arrests was in 1951 when a group of left wing military officers were rounded up in a failed coup attempt; known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy. Faiz was to send the next four years in jail; facing the possibility of a death sentence. Far from breaking him, the time in jail was to inspire Faiz to even greater literary heights. His second collection of poems resulted in two collections, Dast-e-saba The Breeze’s Hand and Zindan Nama the Prison Journal. Faiz also used his time in jail to help teach the Quran and Islamic education to some other prisoners, much to the confusion and consternation of the jailers who had been told that all the political prisoners arrested were communist atheists!

After his release, as his fame grew, so did the fear of successive governments in Pakistan about what Faiz represented and his growing fame and popularity. This was especially true after he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962. He was warned by the military government not to accept the award since, by this time; Pakistan had become a military ally of the US with membership of SEATO and CENTO, Asian equivalents to Nato. All progressive voices were now silenced or heavily censored. Faiz proceeded to Moscow anyway to receive his award, and his acceptance speech is worth recalling:
Human ingenuity, science and industry have made it possible to provide each one of us everything we need to be comfortable provided these boundless treasures of nature and production are not declared the property of a greedy few but are used for the benefit of all of humanity…I believe that humanity which has never been defeated by its enemies will, after all, be successful; at long last, instead of wars, hatred and cruelty, the foundation of humankind will rest on the message of the great Persian poet Hafez Shirazi: ‘Every foundation you see is faulty, except that of Love, which is faultless.’

His quotation of Hafez was no coincidence as Faiz was now to increasingly fuse the traditional Sufi poetry so ingrained and loved in Pakistan with the revolutionary socialist rhetoric he so passionately advocated. Faiz saw absolutely no contradiction in this; the great Sufi poets who wrote in Persian and Punjabi had traditionally spoken of the need of love, dignity and respect for all men irrespective of wealth and status and Faiz often used Islamic phrases and references in his writing.

Faiz was released by 1955 but then again arrested several times during the martial administration of General Ayub Khan. Faiz faced a dilemma when the India-Pakistan war broke out in 1965. Faiz was a patriotic Pakistani but one who recognised the futility and senseless death of war. Almost the whole of Pakistan was overtaken with the patriotic fervour of an all out war with India over Kashmir; a subject dear to almost every Pakistani heart. He was under immense pressure from even other progressive writers to join in with the composition of ‘patriotic’ songs. Faiz was one never to bow to the popular or the easy; instead, he wrote the haunting Lament for a dead soldier:
Utho ab mithi se utho
Jaago mere laal
Get up from the dust now
Wake up my dearest

The poem made no distinction between Indian and Pakistani soldiers and instead focused on the grief of all families who sons were now buried under mounds of dust while their brides, parents, children and siblings waited in vain for their return. It was a very brave poem for the time; the equivalent of a British poet writing a lament for all German and British soldiers in 1940. Faiz was fortunate not to be imprisoned because of it but was forced to go into hiding for a period following its release.

After the trauma of Pakistan’s ‘second partition’ in 1971 with the bloodshed in East Pakistan culminating in the creation of Bangladesh, Pakistan’s first elected civilian government came to power, and Faiz was appointed its cultural advisor. In that position, he created the Pakistan National Council of the Arts as well as the Lok Virsa, the Institute of Folk Heritage. These are lasting legacies which today are doing much to protect and promote Pakistan’s folk culture. In 1974, he visited the new state of Bangladesh, to repair relations and composed the famous Hum ke thehre ajnabi – We, who became strangers – expressing his sorrow at the events of 1971 though the simile of two former lovers or friends who have now gone their separate ways.

After another military coup of 1977 in Pakistan, Faiz chose to go into exile to Beirut rather than face the almost inevitable arrest. Faiz was now increasingly drawn to international issues such as Palestine, apartheid in South Africa and was in Beirut even as Israel helicopter gunships were pounding the PLO’s strongholds there. Faiz managed to leave Beirut just ahead of the tanks of the Israeli army in 1982, and returned to Lahore where he was able to spend the last few years of his life before passing away in 1984.
Just before he died, Faiz went returned again to his ancestral village. There, in a final act of defiance to his detractors who had branded him an atheist and Russian agent – he led the prayers at the local mosque. Today, outside the mosque is a stone on which is currently inscribed his one and only Persian na’at, or ode to the Prophet:
The rulers on their thrones are slaves to anxieties of land and wealth
Upon the dusty earth, Oh envy of the rulers of the age is thy mendicant!
If proof were needed, however, of the inspiration that Faiz provided to the people of Pakistan when facing military dictators, it came in 2007/9 when Pakistan’s last military ruler, General Musharraf, removed an irritatingly independent Chief Justice of Pakistan. In the mass rallies to restore the chief justice, it was Faiz who provided the inspiration as only he could.
Wa Yabka Wajho Rabbika. This title was taken from a Quranic verse,
Kullu man aalayha fanin,
wayabqa wajhu Rabbika Zul Jalali waal-Ikram.
Everything on this planetary existence is ephemeral,
Only the Majestic and Glorious Countenance of Your Sustainer is Eternal.
– The Quran 55:26, 27

The poem is popularly known in Pakistan as Hum DekheiN Ge We shall see, which became the defiant voice of the lawyer’s movement throughout Pakistan which galvanised civil society behind it. The speakers at rallies the length and breadth of Pakistan would recite one line and the crowd would chant back the next until the end of the poem. With each rally and each recitation, the military grip of power weakened and in 2008 Musharraf lost power and the following year the Chief Justice was restored to his post.

If and when Pakistan does come through its period of turmoil and becomes a country that Faiz had envisaged and suffered so much for, his contribution will have been immense. Through his 73 years he lived through British imperialism, a world war, independence and partition, two martial law administrations in Pakistan, a government position, the separation of East Pakistan and international events which both inspired and saddened him. Faiz did not die a rich man but financial wealth was never his goal. He did not live to see the social democracy in Pakistan he longed for but he left Pakistan a richer and better country. Whatever happens in the future of Pakistan, the only certainty is that poems of Faiz will be the inspiration for all its people seeking a better life. Faiz would undoubtedly have considered that riches enough.

About the author
Historian Farooq Bajwa PhD, author of ‘Pakistan and the West: The First Decade’, (Oxford, 1995); ‘Pakistan: An Historic and Contemporary Look’, (Oxford 1999 and the forthcoming, ‘From Kutch to Tashkent: a history of the 1965 India-Pakistan War’ has lectured at a number of universities and institutions and now practices law in London.

‘Rabba Sachiã’ by Faiz in English

Rabba Sachiã My True God

A Punjabi poem by

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

My true God, it was you who said:
‘Go Man. Go forth and be King of the World’
All my bounties belong to you
You shall be my anointed and appointed on Earth.

Having given false promises
Have you ever stopped to ask
What happened to this poor soul?
What this world has done to your king?

Here, the excesses of Police and State
There, the extortions of Revenue collectors
My bones shake in this tortured frame
Like the shrieks of a crane, ensnared.
What a great King you made of me Lord
Insulted, humiliated, beaten with shoes

I don’t hanker for a kingdom my Lord
Just a piece of bread with dignity
I don’t need castles and mansions
Just a nook to shelter my head

Let’s strike a deal
If you heed me, your every command I’ll obey
And if this bargain doesn’t suit you
Then I’ll go and seek another God.

Translated from the original in Punjabi by
Sudha Bhuchar and Amarjit Chandan

For Poet in the City event, London. 17 Jan 2011

Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Conference on Faiz, Woodbridge, Feb 5/11

Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Shomali Amrika
(Literary Friends Network of North America)
61st meeting
To celebrate the 100th Birthday of Pakistani Revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz
– Time: 1:00 PM
– Day & Date: Saturday, 5 February 2011
– Location: Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building (Cafeteria)
– 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22191 USA

Subjects of Discussions
Pakistani Urdu poet, journalist, editor, author of books and human rights defender
– Videos of Faiz’s Revolutionary Poem ‘We Will Witness’
– Pakistani Singer Iqbal Bano
– Pakistani Singer Masooma Anwar
– TV Video Biography of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Pakistani journalist, translator and author of books

Pakistani journalist, editor, ex-VOA Urdu radio broadcaster and author of books
Pakistani journalist, professor and ex-VOA Asia Director
Pakistani/Indian poet, professor and author of books
4. Other eminent persons

Pakistani-American singer and music composer Omar Waqar will sing his English poem about Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Other Pakistani singers will recite the poetry of Faiz

Admission to this public event is FREE

For more information
Pakistani journalist, VOA Urdu radio broadcaster and teacher/educator.
Program Coordinator
Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Shomali Amrika (HAZSA)
E-Mail: abidaripley@gmail.com
Telephone: 703-799-6666

Faiz: Slide Show Images

Cover page of a collection of essays and other writings by Faiz Ahmed Faiz titled ‘Coming Back Home’, Oxford University Press, 2008.

The following two images are created by Faiz’s elder daughter Painter/Educator Salima Hashmi for a collection of his poems in English, translated by his elder son-in-law Educator/Cultural-Activist Shoaib Hashmi.


The three images are a part of a slide show being created by ‘Poet in the City’ event scheduled to take place in London UK on January 17. More information on this event is here.

British Punjabi poet, Uddari’s own, Amarjit Chandan will present a selection of Faiz’s Punjabi poems, and i can tell you, he is a spirited reader of poetry.

Also view this for additional Faiz Centenary events in UK.

Faiz Centenary Celebrations in UK 1911–2011

Progressive activists, writers, poets, artists of Brittan and of South Asian origin form a broadbased National Organising Committee to celebrate Faiz Centenary in the UK. National committee members of each region and town will involve local organisations and activists form local committees. Due to the size of the committee, NOC will meet on the regional basis.

Calendar of Events
Date: 12 March 2011
Co-ordinators: Anis Zaidi, Riaz Khokhar
Date: 2, 3, 4 June 2011
Co-ordinators: Abbas Malik, Parkash Singh Azad
Date: 7, 8 June 2011
Co-ordinators: Mohsin Zulifqar, Lala Mohammad Younas
Date: 11 June 2011 (Full day event)
Co-ordinators: Ayub Aulia, Munib Anwar, Tanweer Zaman Khan
Date: 18 June 2011
Co-ordinators: Sabir Raza, Basir Kazmi
Date: TBA
Co-ordinators: Sarwan Singh Zafar, Harsev Bans
Date: TBA
Co-ordinators: Dr Alina Mirza, Dr Surjinder Singh, Parmjait Bassi
Date: TBA
Co-ordinators: Dyal Singh Bagri, Avtar Sadiq
Date: TBA
Co-ordinators: Gurnam Singh Dhillon, Jatinder Singh Pattar
Date: TBA
Co-ordinators: Darshan Dhillon, Dr Iftikhar Mahmood

We are also planning events in Nottingham, Derby, Wolverhampton, Oxford, Edenborough, Luton and a last event in November/ December in Central London.

Issued by National Organising Committee UK on January 01, 2011

Pervez Fateh
Coordinator – South Asian Peoples Forum UK
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
E-mail: pervezf@yahoo.com
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Pakistan’s famous ‘misfits’

Every system has its misfits but the religion-based political structure of Pakistan seems to have generated more than its share. Here is a list of a few famous writers, musicians and other creative people who were hunted down in Pakistan instead of having been recognized for their contributions.

I am presenting it here in the hopes that this list will grow with more information from Uddari readers about Pakistan’s ‘misfitting’ famous and non-famous creative people.

By Waseem Altaf

Today i.e. on Sunday 25th July, I was watching a program on Qurattulain Haider on a private channel and I recalled that she had come to Pakistan in 1949. By then she had attained the stature of a world class writer. She joined the Press Information Department and served there for quite some time. In 1959 her greatest novel ‘Aag ka Darya’ was published. ‘Aag Ka Dariya’ raised important questions about Partition and rejected the two-nation theory. It was this more than anything else that made it impossible for her to continue in Pakistan, so she left for India and permanently settled there.

Sahir Ludhianvi, one of the finest romantic poets of Urdu language settled in Lahore in 1943, where he worked for a number of literary magazines. Everything was alright until after partition when his inflammatory writings (communist views and ideology) in Savera magazine resulted in the issuing of a warrant for his arrest by the Government of Pakistan. In 1949 Sahir fled to India and never looked back.

Sajjad Zaheer, the renowned progressive writer Marxist thinker and revolutionary who came to Pakistan after partition, was implicated in Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case and was extradited to India in 1954.

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was a Pakistani citizen, regarded as one of the greatest classical singers of the sub continent, was so disillusioned by the apathy shown towards him and his art that he applied for, and was granted a permanent Indian immigrant visa in 1957-58. He migrated to India and lived happily thereafter.

All of the above lived a peaceful and prosperous life in India and were conferred numerous national awards by the Government of India.

Saadat Hassan Manto a renowned short story writer, migrated to Pakistan after 1947. Here he was tried thrice for obscenity in his writings. Disheartened and financially broke he expired at the age of 42. In 2005, on his fiftieth death anniversary, the Government of Pakistan issued a commemorative postage stamp.

Zia Sarhadi the Marxist activist and a film director who gave us such memorable films as ‘Footpath’ and ‘Humlog’, was a celebrity in Bombay when he chose to migrate to Pakistan. ‘Rahguzar’, his first movie in this country, turned out to be the last that he ever directed. During General Ziaul Haq’s martial law, he was picked up by the army and kept in solitary confinement in terrible conditions. The charges against him were sedition and an inclination towards Marxism. On his release, he left the country to settle permanently in the UK and never came back.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz, one of the greatest Urdu poets of the 20th century was arrested in 1951 under Safety Act and charged in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case. Later he was jailed for more than four years.

Professor Abdussalam the internationally recognized Pakistani physicist, was disowned by his own country due to his religious beliefs, went to Italy and settled there. He could have been murdered in the land of Islam but was awarded the Nobel prize in the West for his contribution in the field of physics.

Ustad Daman, the ‘simpleton’ Punjabi poet had a flair of his own. Due to his unorthodox views, many a times he was sent behind bars. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru offered him Indian citizenship which he refused. The reward he received here was the discovery of a bomb from his shabby house for which he was sent to jail by the populist leader Mr.Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

I was wondering, had Mohammad Rafi the versatile of all male singers of the Indian sub-continent chose to stay in Pakistan, what would have been his fate. A barber in the slums of Bilal Gunj in lahore. And Dilip Kumar selling dry fruit in Qissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar.

Ustad Salamat Ali a bhagwan in Atari turned out to be a mirasi in Wahga all his life. Last time I met him at his rented house in Islamabad, he was in bad shape.

This state was not created and is not meant for these kind of people. Put on a sherwani and recite nahmadahu wa nussali ala rasool e hil karim if the spirit of times so demands. Or put on a designer suit with puppies in both hands and talk of enlightened moderation. Don’t ever defy the status quo, be a part of it, promote it and therein lies the perfect recipe for success.
From Socialist Pakistan News (SPN)

I know, i can add more names to this list including my own. There are many artists living in Pakistan who have dedicated their lives to their art but have to live through ongoing harassment. Kathak dancer/teacher Naheed Siddiqui in Lahore, Bharat Natyam dancer/teacher and an activist Sheema Kirmani in Karachi have performed miracles by surviving in Pakistan as women creative artists. Fahmida Riaz had to leave with her family to live in India during General Zia’s period.

If you know of another ‘misfit’, please add their name to this list via Comments or send us a message at uddari@live.ca.

Fauzia Rafique

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‘Straying with Ahmad Farāz’ by Amarjit Chandan

I did this interview in Punjabi with the Urdu poet Ahmad Farāz for my book Humsukhan – conversations with fellow writers which never saw the light of the day. Farāz used to be in London in transit to western Europe and North America where so many Pakistani political exiles had sought asylum and were leading reasonably easy life. Those were the optimistic days.

18 October 1985. When I meet Ahmad Farāz in a pub in Piccadilly London, we both talk of the news just in of hanging of a South African poet Benjamin Moloisi at the age of 30.

Switching on the tape recorder I ask Farāz: From where shall we start? He starts with a quote from his poem: Qalam surkhroo hai/ ki jo mai ne likha/ vohi aaj main hooN/ vohi aaj tu hai…My pen is placated/ I am what I have written/ I am still the same/ and you too haven’t changed.

Does that mean a poet is answerable to himself primarily; society and ideology come later. Farāz has also written: Merey qalam ka safar raigaaN na jayeyga…The journey of my pen shall not go in vain. He goes on in chaste Punjabi: ‘The journey which involves commitment and some noble cause is not in vain. You can’t get the reward in your life time. In South Africa Benjamin has been hanged to death. They can’t stop people’s unrest with such atrocities. People’s journey never goes in vain. Tears shed in blood or in ink are never lost for nothing.’

But the commitment with what? With the political movement or with the Party or with the ideology? Farāz being close to the PPP has to say: No man is isolated and no individual is important. His only strength lies in his thinking, which takes concrete shape in the form of the movement. You are in it in the front line or in the back seat. You get the feel of a vast multitude. Otherwise no individual is great for me, how great he may be. A poet is not confined to his own experiences; he recreates others’ experiences as well.

But no politician is honest; they keep on changing their colours. They have to. That’s the name of the game. To this Farāz replies: In spite of his simplicity and sincerity a poet knows where political leaders deviate.

Is it a necessity or sheer opportunism? ‘In fact a poet is always the leader. He is with the vanguard leadership and with the rank and file as well. He plays dual role at the same time. When there is something wrong, he’s followed by his inner voice. So there is no need to feel disheartened. One can be silent to observe, to recoup. But personally I have no guts to lead the movement.’

I did not know that Farāz did not write in his mother tongue Pashto. I don’t want to put him on the spot and instead ask him indirectly: whose language is Urdu in Pakistan? He does not like my ‘strange’ question but goes on: ‘Urhdu’ (he pronounces Urdu as Urhdu and the word likhari –writer– as Likharhi which sounds to me as Khilarhi – player) doesn’t belong to any specific region of Pakistan; it’s the language of some inhabitants of Karachi. What follows is what I really want to know: ‘My father Agha Barq was a Farsi poet. His friends who visited our house wrote in Urhdu and the girl I first met knew some romantic Urhdu couplets. I started writing couplets in Urhdu for her. I had to work in Karachi Radio where all the staff was from Lucknow and Delhi. I didn’t speak Urhdu well enough, but my written Urhdu wasn’t bad though. It can’t work in Pashto. Now it is quite hard to go back.’

Farāz defends the feudal poetic form ghazal thus: It is naïve to think in terms of nazm or ghazal. The bread is bread whether it is triangular or round-shaped. All the progressives have written ghazal. What’s the point being against the form? The fault doesn’t lie with the form but with the poet. Then why Josh Malihabadi didn’t write ghazal? Farāz answers: He was against it from a literary viewpoint. The ghazal is self-contradictory – the clichés are inherent in it e.g. sāqi, qafas, bulbul. That way it is just a formula. Bad poetry is written both in the nazm and ghazal forms. Josh and Noon Meem Rāshid were weak ghazalgos. The progressives gave a new life to ghazal. It had become stale. A genre loses its vitality, if it doesn’t get new blood. In ghazal you have to say all in just two lines. It didn’t suit Josh. He keeps on filling words in his nazms without any imagination. The poem doesn’t rise vertically. Faiz and Rāshid brought great themes in ghazal. It is not limited in itself, the poet makes it so. A good ghazalgo writes good nazms. No epic poem surpass this couplet by Ghalib: kahāN tammanna ka doosra qadam… It was Ghalib who wrote: Safeena chāheeye iss bahr-e-bekrāN ke liyey/ Beqadrey zaraf nahiN hai ye tungnāyey ghazal… [A vessel is needed in this endless ocean// the unbounded ocean cannot be contained within the narrow bounds of the ghazal. Interesting that bahr is used for both ocean and metre] and Punjabi is not that developed yet to reject any poetic form. You write in all the forms. One day a Mir will appear in Punjabi. (Majid Sadiqi’s Punjabi translation of Farāz is titled PartāN – Layers).

The people’s poet comes up with a sexist example: ‘Ride the ghazal like you ride a woman. Take up the reins in your hands. As the Prophet said: Your wives are a tilth (for you to cultivate). Go to your tilth as yee will.’

Then we travel a long way to Southall in west London where he is staying with his brother. The house is deserted though whiskey and later food appears mysteriously.

Now Farāz is a bit high and stands up abruptly to bring a framed colour picture showing him shaking hand with Faiz and a femme fatale is standing by Farāz. The picture makes me sad. I have never seen Faiz so old as he appears in the photo. Farāz says that it is the last photo taken of Faiz. Then he goes into its minute details. He is eager to talk about the woman. To change the subject I ask him whether he has written any sensual poetry. He recites his couplet: vo ik rāt guzar bhee chuki magar abb takk/visāl-e-yār kee lazzat se toot-ta hai badan…That night passed long time back/But my body still aches with the relish of my lover…and declares that he believes in the intensity of life. ‘Poetry is like manhood. Never separate the ethics of poetry from the beauty of life.’ Then he picks up the collected poems of Faiz and reads his Punjabi poem aloud: ajj rāt ikk rāt dee rāt jee ke/ asāN jug hazārāN jee kia e/ajj rāt amrit de jām vāNgu/ inhāN hoThāN ne yār nu pea liaa e. Living to the full just one night/I have lived a thousand years/I sipped the body of my lover with my lips/as if it was the goblet of nectar. He adds: you can’t find such sensuality in the whole of Urdu poetry. Faiz becomes his own māshook lover in his poetry: Subah hoyee to voh pehlu se uThā ākhir-e-shub/ vo jo ik umar se āyā nā gayā ākhir-e-shub. The dawn approached and the one who woke up lying next to me// Had not arrived/nor left me for ages.

I see some sense of estrangement and frustration in visāl –meeting with the lover– in Faiz’s poetry. Farāz doesn’t want to listen to me and starts talking again about that woman in the picture. Now he tells me that she is a Sikh and is an air hostess. I interrupt: Faiz or Farāz? He tells me: I won’t talk about my self. Then Faiz or Jalib?

‘Yes, on the one hand you talk to the people face to face. That way Dāman and Jalib are very close. On the other hand is Faiz – subtle, soft with new Farsi-tinged imagery. He is poets’ poet.’

Most of Urdu progressive poetry seems to be written by the same poet. It’s full of clichéd imagery – zulm, jaddojahad, dār-o-rasan, shaheed, khoon and zakham. Farāz himself is heavily influenced by Faiz and Sahir. Without dropping names I raise the question of evolving new imagery and style. He likes the idea and fully agrees with it. But, he says, ‘there is one problem – we can’t frog-jump. We like to continue the tradition because our readership is still uneducated.’ Is it?

About the sound of language, he says: ‘Urhdu’s beauty lies in its plasticity inherited from Farsi and softness of Hindi. No word is soft or crude. It all depends on its usage. A poet has got very few words in his stock. I was in prison for a while. After the release, I had search for words while talking to others. If you don’t converse, words tend to leave you. Words are birds, who don’t like to perch on dry trees.’ He confides: you can’t write every day. You feel drained after writing a poem. Faiz used to translate Iqbal during his dry periods to ‘keep his weapons in shape’. A ghazal can be written while sitting in a moving tonga, but a poem needs much more meditation!

Farāz has also written nātiā qalām. ‘If Faiz could write on a man like Suhravardy, why can’t I write on the Prophet?’

Then why was the Rasul against the poets? The poet gives comes up with this face saver: Because he said: it is those poets straying in evil, who follow them; sees thou not that they wander distracted in every valley? And that they say what they practise not?

Our conversation comes to an abrupt end which had started with the notion of poet’s commitment. We both are drunk. I switch off the recorder.

Translated from the original in Punjabi by the author. September 2008. The recording can be availed in the Sound Archive British Library

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