‘Tellers of Short Tales’ – Fauzia Rafique with Nasreen Pejvack – Feb 16 New Westminster


RCLAS presents
Tellers of Short Tales
Featured Author Fauzia Rafique
Open Mic.
Host Nasreen Pejvack

Thursday, February 16
Anvil Centre
777 Columbia Street
New Westminster

Fauzia Zohra Rafique writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She has published two novels: ‘The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’ (Libros Libertad, Nov 2016) and ‘Skeena’ (Libros Libertad 2011); an ebook of poems ‘Holier Than Life’ (Purple Poppy Press 2013), a chapbook of English and Punjabi poems ‘Passion Fruit/Tahnget Phal’ (Uddari Books 2011), and an anthology of writings of women of South Asian origin, ‘Aurat Durbar: The Court of Women’ (Toronto 1995). In Pakistan, Fauzia worked as a journalist and screenwriter. She is the coordinator of Surrey Muse, an art and literature presentation group. At Tellers of Short Tales, Fauzia will present short fiction from her published work. More is here:

Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS)
A New Westminster arts organization offers Tellers of Short Tales, a program of monthly readings designed to engage fans of the short story genre with emerging and published short story writers. Also, an open microphone will be available for writers who would like to share their stories. The program is free for fans.

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Organized by
Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS)

Contact Nasreen Pejvack:

‘The Business of Burying is Booming’ by Fauzia Rafique

03Oregon-SS1-superJumbo-v3‘Community members at a vigil in Stewart Park to honor the victims of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Thursday’ October 1/15.
Photo by Gosia Wozniacka/Associated Press.

So sad, 45 mass shootings in nine months, state violence permeates all levels of society. It’s not just the ‘gun laws’ that need changing.

The Business of Burying is Booming

This ode is Daddy
-cated to NATO, our Unified Protector.


1949 to the Present, Daddy
is busy keeping ‘the Russians
OUT, the Americans
IN, and the Germans
The OUT changes
The DOWN changes
But the IN stays the same, and
The IN stays the same, and the IN
Stays the same. The same,
Once and for all:
America brings Dear
-Daddy Democracy and Pretty
-Pink Progress to the
-Third World (People).

NATO’s first progress: Vietnam war
4,257,282 civil, mostly Vietnamese
2,447,087 military, mostly Vietnamese
I won’t count
the dead of Kosovo or Yugoslav
Wars, Iraq Wars, Afghan
Wars or Pakistan Wars.
I’ll go
To NATO’s latest progress: Capture
and kill Gaddafi. Only six (includes my Heartbreak
Harperized Canada) of the
28 countries
in support, still 9,500 strikes.
And wow, how
(in Vietnam Bosnia Yoguslavia Kosovo) how the
Business of
Burying is

Daddy my Sharp Guard Super
Man Hero, spends 70% of
world’s defence budget,
owns the most
of all the weapons of
mass destruction, with ‘possible first
use of tactical nuclear weapons’.
Daddy got navy warships, global
hawk surveillance drones, maritime
patrol aircraft, medium-range nuclear
missiles, radar and interceptor missiles
helicopters, ships, submarines, with
‘No reductions
foreseen in
NATO’s nuclear
And see how
(in Vietnam Bosnia Yoguslavia Kosovo
Iraq Afghanistan Pakistan) how the
Business of
Burying is

Daddy has this huge (oops)
video game
collection, and
You are a part of Daddy’s
games. So am I, check
again, Daddy’s heroic adventures and quests:
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Ocean Shield, Training Mission – Iraq, Operation Eagle Assist, Active Underwear, Operation Essential Harvest, Deny Flight Operation, Deliberate Force, Operation Joint Endeavor
There’s more, including ISAF-KFOR-IFOR
-SFOR-ACE-ALTHEA, but no more
space on this page
‘cause I am going to
count those
to see how
(in Vietnam Bosnia Yoguslavia Kosovo
Iraq Afghanistan Pakistan
Egypt Lybia Syria) how the
Business of
Burying is

To ward off Daddy’s colonial jok:
My mantra, a bit long
a little tedius
like all mantras.
It will work,
like all mantras.
‘In Your Name, the People of:
Albania (2,834,667), Belgium (10,827,519), Bulgaria (7,351,234),
Canada (34,447,000), Croatia (4,425,747), Czech
Republic (10,515,818);
‘In The Name Of:
5,560,628 Danes, 1,340,122 Estonians, 65,821,885 French
81,802,000 Germans, 11,306,183 Greeks,
10,014,324 Hungarians, 318,452 Icelanders, 60,605,053 Italians;
‘In Your Name, the People of:
Latvia: 2,229,500, Lithuania: 3,249,400, Luxembourg: 502,100, Netherlands: 16,667,700, Norway: 4,937,900, Poland: 38,092,000, Portugal: 10,636,888, Romania: 21,466,174, Slovakia: 5,435,273, Slovenia: 2,046,510, Spain: 46,148,605, Turkey 73,722,988;
‘In The Name Of:
62,008,048 Britishers and 311,328,000 Americans!
All together = 906,002,051 (White majority) people
(i am included even when Brown)
‘In Whose Name, In
My Name, In
Your Name, In
Our Name, In
My name, In
Your Name
Business of
Burying is

NATO: 28 member countries, two in North America (Canada and the United States) and 25 in Europe while Turkey is in Eurasia. NATO missions have taken place in countries located in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Remembering deaths of Palestinian people, and others, not mentioned here.

From Holier Than Life by Fauzia Rafique

Contact Uddari

‘An insurgency…’ Shikha Kenneth on Holier Than Life by Fauzia Rafique

Book Review by Shikha Kenneth
Holier Than Life
E-Book by Fauzia Rafique
Purple Poppy Press, Vancouver, 2013
Pages 85

South Asian Ensemble (SAE), Summer/Fall 2013

South Asian Canadian writer Fauzia Rafique’s new literary offering is a digitalized anthology of poems. The poems are interspersed with Rafique’s views on varied matter such as love, violence, happiness, melancholy, feminism, current events, socio-cultural politics, etc. The poet displays her flair for effectively capturing the painfully personal, the brutally cultural, and the deceitfully socio-political experiences of the South Asian populace. Each poem presents Rafique in her various moods – optimistic, sarcastic, bitter, bemused, aggressive, etc.

The opening chant ‘Let It Pass’ is portent of her diverse reflections on violence which creates, interweaves, and subsumes the human body, its ‘self’, and society. Rafique creates vivid imagery in ‘Waiting’ by comparing the intricacies of her pessimism to the multi-hued cacti spanning the sandy expanse of her heart (8). And she reiterates her gloom by comparing it to a bird that re-emerges – carrying a “restive little fish” in its beak – from within the poet’s “ocean of joy” (45). But she contradicts the above mentioned metaphoric sentiments by stating her knack for sifting, finding, and focussing on the “bright shades of…undying green” within “each gray day” (8). It is reflected in ‘Breeze’ where Rafique romanticizes the “ice breeze” of February capering around her neighbourhood (13). Or in ‘Outcome’ where the poet attains happiness from the simple act of putting a yellow tape at the edges of a blue chart for it reminds her of the burnished rays of sun adorning the sky (33).

Rafique’s poetry is mottled with her vision of love. In ‘Sparrow of Love’, she innovatively highlights the universal predicament of coping with the contradictions of love. The poem points to an individual’s multiple approaches to love – nurture it gratis, or embellish it to flaunt, or guiltlessly devour it for one’s gratification (11). Rafique echoes the Sartrean ideology of love in ‘Guilt’ for it turns an individual into a beggar who shuns the act of self-examination and gives in to one’s need for the gaze of the ‘other’ (28). Yet in ‘Possibilities’ she favours the masochism of love as displayed in the act of carving out a “single bud of rose” from her heart than protecting it (23). In her translation of Shah Madhulal Hussain’s poem ‘Kafi’, Rafique resonates Hussain’s ideology that love is a “wild elephant,” and, when teased awake shall trample all the other existing violent ideologies (14). In ‘The Extreme Labour of Love’, she opines that human beings are often incapable of deriving pleasure from the fruition of their love, in any form, because they are haunted by the promise of tomorrow (25).

Rafique also focusses on the profundity of the connection between the human body, violence, and pain. She creates cryptic images showing the dying body writhing in pain, being drained out of life, meanness coagulating its blood from within. Moreover, she seems to be preoccupied with the desecration of the female body. For instance, ‘Shariah Compliant Bra’ highlights the transformation of the female body into a hegemonic construct, redefinition of its identity, and forcible sanction as the conventional image of femininity. Rafique continually refers to the breasts and “anonymous body parts” of a Muslim woman as “bits, blits, kits, lits”. She shows language to be a patriarchal construct that exercises control over a woman by shaping her identity according to the dominant ideology. And if a Muslim woman refuses to be the recipient of such discursive violence, her body is forced to undergo the physical trauma of being violently “cut and clip” by the representatives of prevailing oppressive belief system, that is, patriarchy (51-3).

Patriarchy is a pervasive and power-based structure that manifests itself through all social institutions. Patriarchy is inherent in discourse; it is an intrinsic element of the prevailing ideology. It enforces the biological and cultural suppositions that are responsible for the subjugation of women. The anti-patriarchal theme is, in fact, predominant in Rafique’s verse. Her poem entitled ‘Hadd: Limit’ connotes the Derridian premise of différance emphasizing the acts of estrangement from and murder of the woman as being crucial for preservation of the symbolic order (23). ‘Vulnerability’ alludes to the financial capitalization of a woman’s worth before she begins to “swim across the moonlight glint of death…to a brand new exotic destination of life”, that is, marriage (36). ‘Familial Promises’ outlines an honour killer’s code which operates through the violent methods of control, discipline, and punishment meted to a woman as described through the use of words like “smack”, “bash”, “rap” “smash” and “whack” (54). Here, the woman becomes the embodiment of virtue that defines a code of patriarchal honour. And this honour gets violated when a woman decides to exercise her personal, social, and constitutional rights.

Rafique’s poetry can, in fact, be viewed as an insurgency against the legitimate sanctioning of horrific acts of violence against Muslim and South-Asian women. Through her poems she accounts the legally authorized dehumanization of women thereby highlighting the interminable bond between law and anomie. ‘Porn Creation’ relates the incident of a thirteen year old girl named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow who was labelled as “adulterous” after being gang raped by three law-enforcers and stoned to death for lodging a complaint against perpetrators of the crime (55). Rafique describes the day of Bibi Aisha’s execution where fifty impotent men surrounding her become the embodiment of the “Žižekian pervert” (The Plague 135). Their limp erections suddenly bloom into life as they witness the girl being punished for raising her voice against the heinous crime of rape. It shows that the conventional notion of the phallus as the siege of aggressive, penetrative, essentially masculine, potency/power is, in fact, contingent upon the terror that is evoked in the gaze of the woman. Patriarchy is, in fact, the fight of an “ignorant chauvinist man” using such tactics as “extreme violence, disfigurement, irreparable damage to body and spirit” in order to “restrict, control, contain, possess, subdue” the woman in his life (Rafique 63). In other words, the existence of the patriarchal male relies on inflicting violence on the body of woman to maintain his illusion of power. Similarly, ‘Mirwah’s Unnamed Girl’ depicts Rafique’s angst over the killings of several unidentified Mirwah women who, according to the fanatical oppressors, had the audacity to seek the right to choose their own bridegrooms. She declares the legal and political system of such nations to be emasculated and fit to wear all the adornment attributed to femininity (46-9).

Rafique is infuriated by the manner in which social organizations such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Amnesty International have usurped the struggles of several South-Asian natives who have lost their lives to their passion for fighting for women’s rights. In ‘The Jolly Trinity’ she castigates the way in which the Western celebrities and politicians – leading a rich and pampered existence – exploit the plight of the violated South-Asian women for photo-opportunities and news bytes. These organizations are, in fact, multi-million dollar enterprises seeking to spread their web of power, control and violence over the world under the guise of defense and security against the human rights violation. Such socio-political corporations indulge in the cunning use of public relations policy to camouflage their “drone fire aggression into noble democracy”, transform “war-lording action into exodus of decency” and convert “dirty dollar into charitable currency” (70). In ‘Drone-Dead Lover’, Rafique assails the Obama administration which authorized the continuation of drone attacks being made on Pakistan for the past several years. These attacks were meant to eradicate terrorism but have deprived thousands of Pakistani civilians off their lives (62).

The poet interprets religion – hailed by many as the bedrock of ethics – to be a patriarchy-infested institution that operates on the underside of law. In ‘The Clowns of Blasphemy’, religious extremism is shown to play out like a Senecan tragedy where divinities are manufactured in order to satisfy the zealot’s craving for slaughter and deliberate spillage of blood. She illustrates a fascist regime where innocent men, women, and children are labelled as “Kafirs, women and witches, bombers and terrorists” (78). Such a regime operates on the “excesses of torture” in order to stun and subdue both its victims and the audience (Discipline and Punish 35). These violent excesses include “bullying…skinning…hanging…burning” which are meant to stoke the “self-righteous leaders” hunger for power, violence, and “brand-new riches” (Rafique 79). ‘Holier than Life’ is Rafique’s insurrection against the bigoted ideology transmitted by all patriarchal institutions – social, cultural, religious, educational, political, and economical – and its representatives. She considers all these agencies of power to be the breeding-ground of violence, and, she wants to engrave the moniker of “MURDERER” on them (82). She condemns the “violent expositions” of all species of fanatics whose contrived creations like religion turn individuals into eternal victims in their quest for social, material, and existential transcendence (83).

In this anthology, Rafique displays an unapologetic and intractable stance against the aggressive jingoistic fervour that has been adopted by patriarchy. It manifests by inscribing itself on the bodies of women in multifarious ways. The poet believes that patriarchy can be rendered powerless if the violated woman refuses to cover her scarred and mutilated body. In ‘Shame’, She informs the guardians of both social & feminine propriety to stop being concerned about her disgrace and forcing her to shroud it in silence. Rafique declares that she is going to display her shame with as much aplomb as she would her achievement. In ‘Nangi Naked’, she cites the example of a Kashmiri poet named Lilla Arifa who ventured out of her house without the protection of clothes (58). This single act of defiance became more effective than Arifa’s entire body of literature. In other words, woman needs to disassociate herself from the norms for respectability and modesty mapped out by the patriarchal custodians, for it is the only way to weaken the enemy and gain freedom from the clutches of patriarchy.

In ‘Need for Social Self’, Rafique states that the need for cultivating a social self is imposed on every individual. It requires existing as a “zombie”, that is, the state of being “perfectly natural, alert, loquacious, vivacious behaviour but is in fact not conscious at all, but rather some sort of automaton” (Dennett 73). The poet recalls an event when she donned the attire of her social self and experienced the sensation of being choked into silence. Subsequently, she has never been able to accept the falsity underlying one’s social self and openly shuns it. Holier Than Life thus can be viewed as Rafique’s fearless and candid attempt to assail, hemorrhage, and rupture the normalization and legitimization of patriarchy. The poet realizes that such an act requires her to immerse body and soul in “the flow of pain” (7). Rafique’s poetry is a blend of three languages namely English, Punjabi and Urdu. It highlights both the universality and specificity of the multi-faceted forms of violence experienced by women especially in Third-World nations. Her poems are sprinkled with metaphors; the language is potent and descriptive; the verse seems staccato at times but seems to be styled to correspond with the requirements of digitalized literature. In Holier Than Life, Rafique successfully manages to expose and critique those dynamics of oppression and resistance that are generally problematized through gross and calculated misrepresentation.

Works Cited
Dennett, Daniel C. Consciousness Explained. New York: Back Bay, 1991. Print.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: Birth of Prison. Trans. Allen Lane. London: Peregrine, 1979. Print.
Rafique, Fauzia. Holier Than Life. Vancouver: Purple Poppy Press, 2013. Web.
Žižek, Slavoj. The Plague of Fantasies. London: Verso, 1997. Print.

From South Asian Ensemble (SAE), Summer/Fall 2013, Vol 5, 3 & 4
Editors Rajesh Sharma & Gurdev Chauhan
www.southasianensemble.com: )

More by Shikha on Uddari
‘Capturing the Essence of Patriarchy in Skeena’ by Shikha Kenneth

‘Nangi Naked’ by Fauzia Rafique

From Fauzia’s eBook of poems ‘Holier Than Life
(Purple Poppy Press, Vancouver, June 2013)

Nangi Naked
To the woman who ‘dares to bare’.

When a woman
dares to bare
i listen
listen with my gut, the womb
she says more
than the words
can tell

Listen, not miss
nothing, embed
her messages
in the genetic code
of my memory
for the generations
to come

My generations will know
in their gut, the womb
the messages of the woman
who dared to bare
anywhere, everywhere
she said more
than the words
could tell

In Kashmir
Lal Ded/Lilla Arifa, the poet,
left ‘marital home’ going
naked on the street
Lal’s poems remain
but her actions
say more
than her words
can tell

In America, Russia,
Egypt, Tunisia
the woman who dares to bare
and shouts:
‘my body
is my body, my life
is my life
I’ll rule control use
my body, my life
everywhere, anywhere’

A woman who dares to bare
declares war
means rebellion, means terrorism
means armed struggle
armed with the body
presented by the gods of religions and wars
as a formidable despicable sinfully
weapon of
mass destruction.

To own buy sell
kill fire repair resell reuse
the woman who dares to bare
says no.
my body
is my body, my life
is my life
I’ll rule control use
my body, my life
anywhere, everywhere

or carefully covered
No is No, and
which part of any no
do you not understand
Or is it that
the naked no
says more
than the no
can tell


‘Dare to bare’ is the title of Ramabai Espinet’s article in ‘Aurat Darbar: The Court of women’ (Three O’Clock Press, Toronto 1995)
‘Which part of no do you not understand’ is a slogan.


Buy it here


Holier Than Life Web Page
Fauzia’s Web Page

‘Holier Than Life’ by Fauzia Rafique

To protest the sectarian slaughter of 19 Shia Muslims by Sunni Muslims in Babusar, and the blasphemy arrest of Rimsha Masih, an 11-year old Christian, in Islamabad.

Yes, I will stamp, today
A page of the Quran
To write the name
Of the innocent
Who was murdered
For desacrating
It, by the zealots of Islam,

The inspiration for it
arrived today with the
(killing of 19 Shias)
arrest of a child,
a girl, 11.
(Hindus, countless departed Ahmadies)
it was the lynching
of an adult Christian male.
Both known to be
a bit soft
in their heads,
crystal clear
in their hearts.

Lo and Behold,
we are not sure
about the heart
but i am
known to be
a bit soft
in my head
as well.

I will not burn it, i don’t
believe in burning
pages of books.
I will not tear it, i don’t
believe in useless tearing
of things.
I will stamp it, ‘MURDERER’
in black with
the name of the victim
in red.
To see, how many more
book-based murders
we register
on this Book
of Murders.

After, there will be
to know which
Won The Book of Murders
Award, is it
in Palestine
in Pakistan and Iran or is it
in Vietnam,
and Afghanistan or
the new entrant
in Myanmar.

Yes, I will stamp, today
A page of the Quran
To write the name
Of the innocent
Who was murdered
For desacrating
It, by the zealots of Islam,

You, the Zealot!
Don’t fool me
with your violent
to make believe that
you have the righteous
right to kill
and to harass us
for the socalled sanctum
of a book,
a name,
place or thing.

Nothing is holier
Than life
A heart that beats, hopes
for a joyful
future, loves,
and lives.
A flower, a bird,
a shoot of grass.

Don’t fool me
with your violent
expositions, Fanatic!
Nothing is holier
Than life


Urdu rendition by Shamoon Saleem

Now published in

Buy it here


Holier Than Life
Fauzia’s Web Page
Update: June 2013

Related Content at Uddari
The Clowns of Blasphemy by Fauzia Rafique
Aahr 2011 by Fauzia Rafique
Blasphemy vendetta: Pakistan 1990-2009
Stop Violence in the name of religion: Signature Campaign – Karachi April 14, 2012‏
For more, search Uddari with keyword ‘blasphemy’.

Fauzia Rafique
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