Politics / 29.11.2008

Making South Asia safe from the kind of terrorist attacks that have hurt Mumbai and Islamabad calls for an intelligent response from South Asian citizens. The first step is to understand the nature of terrorism. At a very broad level, we can identify two types of terrorism. The first is the terrorism practiced by relatively small, marginalized groups that wish to achieve some utopian vision of society. The classic exemplars of this type were the Red Brigade in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany. Both emerged in the 1970s led by alienated students and professors radicalized by the brutalities of the Vietnam War and supported by the client states of the USSR in the context of the Cold War. The second type is the terrorism practiced by large groups that have lost hope in having their voices heard by the political process. At one point or...

India / 28.11.2008

Mumbai is big but not as big as New York. 11/26 is huge but not as huge as 9/11. India is powerful but not as powerful as America.  What does this set of propositions tell us about how we should respond to 11/26 in Mumbai? Think it over. There are two choices. We can root out terrorists or we can root out terrorism. They are not the same. Powerful America responded to 9/11 in New York by vowing to root out terrorists. Pledging to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, it launched the War on Terror. Seven years later, there are more terrorists than ever before, more Americans have died than in 9/11, the number of innocent victims has been lost count of, the entire world is in turmoil, and the economic and financial...

Ghalib / 24.11.2008

Only Ghalib could pack so much meaning in a mere ten words: saltanat dast bah dast aaii hai jam-e mai khaatim-e Jamshed nahiiN the kingship has come from hand to hand the glass of wine; the seal of Jamshed is not Even the well-known Ghalib scholars have pondered over the many possible meanings as mentioned in A Desertful of Roses and in our companion blog Mehr-e-Niimroz. In this post, we use the verse as a mirror to reflect on the state of governance in South Asia today. Ghalib has tossed three balls in the air for us to ponder – the metaphors of kingship, the glass of wine, and the seal of Jamshed. If we translate dast bah dast as hand to hand, an interpretation would be that both kingship and the glass of wine are passed from hand to hand while the seal of Jamshed belongs to Jamshed alone. But it would...

Religion / 16.11.2008

The loss of religious faith (or deviation from the true path) is amongst the commonly cited reasons for the absence of economic or social progress in Pakistan. Is this another easy answer, a gross simplification of a complex reality, or does it capture some aspect of our predicament? There are two components of this claim: faith and progress. Taken separately, they are relatively unproblematic. Most people consider progress to be good and a laudable goal for both individuals and societies. Faith is a matter of individual choice exercised freely. It is the link between faith and progress that is controversial and in need of examination. I doubt if even diehard believers would suggest a one-to-one correspondence between the two because that would result in odd contradictions and unacceptable conclusions. Western countries are all more developed than Pakistan. Does that mean that their citizens are all more religiously...

Modernity, Religion / 11.11.2008

By Bettina Robotka  The question of whether there is any positive role for Islam or for religion as such in a modern world is gaining urgency in the light of an ongoing "War against (Islamic) terror" and the spread of militant and conservative interpretations of Islam. The picture which this Islam tends to paint of an ideal Muslim society is that of a patriarchic, male-dominated community inhabited by intellectually unquestioning Muslims who live in closely knit kinship relationships including tribal, biradri and caste units, who accept existing society as given, and who are supposed to follow what the state defines as right or wrong through its laws. There is limited place for individuality, no place for questioning of the basics of social, political and economic life and the task of moral, political, economic and spiritual guidance seems to be left to a small group of Islamic...

Ghalib / 09.11.2008

This week’s verse requires us to remind readers that on The South Asian Idea we do not aim to provide an interpretation of the selected she’r. Rather, we use it as a point of departure to discuss the contemporary relevance of issues suggested by the verse. Of course, for the sake of completeness, we do provide links to the most complete and accessible literary interpretations at A Desertful of Roses and to ones that explore related themes on Mehr-e-Niimroz, our companion blog in the Ghalib Project. This week’s choice is the following: kyuuN nah chiikhuuN kih yaad karte haiN mirii aavaaz gar nahiiN aatii why should I not scream because I am only remembered if my voice is not heard Let us use this to explore relations between the rulers and the ruled in our land today. The majority of the ruled are voiceless. When they do raise their voices, they are either...

Ghalib / 31.10.2008

Last week we left off with the comment that Ghalib did not have a high opinion of people who thought they would go to heaven. Here is the she’r we had in mind: kam nahiiN jalvah-garii meN tire kuuche se bihisht yihii naqshah hai vale is qadar aabaad nahiiN it’s not less in splendor than your street, paradise – the layout is the same, but it is not as flourishing The following interpretation by Faruqi explains it best: “Those who long for paradise, and those who enter it -- the poor things are dried-out ascetics. Little do they know that paradise is present in the world itself. Only a handful of fools follow them on the road to paradise. The axis of the people is the beloved's street.” The underlying question is: Who goes to heaven? Ghalib is quite consistent in voicing his opinion that those who are absolutely sure they would go...

Development / 29.10.2008

By Anjum Altaf  This essay was written after the last Asian Games in December 2006. When it was first submitted for publication the editors returned it as too pessimistic. Pakistan was at the time in its ‘enlightened’ phase and clocking high rates of economic growth – the writing on the wall was there even then but people wished not to see it. Many complained that the essay had simplified complex issues by using a trivial indicator of development. It was finally published in Chowk on July 30, 2007 with a sign of interrogation at the end of the title. Now that the lights have gone out and the country is bankrupt, we can take out the interrogation sign and finally face up to the reality. Hiding our heads in the sand is not going to get us anywhere.  With a major election coming up, we are likely...

Ghalib / 25.10.2008

This week we use a popular she’r by Ghalib to explore some ideas about paradise: ham ko ma’luum hai jannat kii haqiiqat lekin dil ke khush rakhne ko Ghalib yih khayaal achchhaa hai we know the reality of Paradise, but to keep the heart happy, Ghalib, this idea is good  The tension in the verse is created by the play between haqiiqat and khayaal, between reality and imagination. The fundamental question being asked is: What is Paradise? One can think of paradise as a home – one of the possible homes after death. Just as the feeling of being without a home on earth can be very unsettling, the thought of being without one after death could be equally so. Thus it is not a surprise that it could be comforting to imagine a home after death. Is paradise then an imagined reality? Or is it a reality? When Ghalib says, “we know the...


Fatal error: Uncaught wfWAFStorageFileException: Unable to save temporary file for atomic writing. in /home/um3oouldabhf/public_html/thesouthasianidea.com/wp-content/plugins/wordfence/vendor/wordfence/wf-waf/src/lib/storage/file.php:35 Stack trace: #0 /home/um3oouldabhf/public_html/thesouthasianidea.com/wp-content/plugins/wordfence/vendor/wordfence/wf-waf/src/lib/storage/file.php(659): wfWAFStorageFile::atomicFilePutContents('/home/um3ooulda...', '<?php exit('Acc...') #1 [internal function]: wfWAFStorageFile->saveConfig('livewaf') #2 {main} thrown in /home/um3oouldabhf/public_html/thesouthasianidea.com/wp-content/plugins/wordfence/vendor/wordfence/wf-waf/src/lib/storage/file.php on line 35