Archive for the ‘ British Muslims ’ Category

Valentine’s Day in Islam?

By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong Co-Director, Association of British Muslims

I was asked to share my views on Valentine’s Day. Personally, I really don’t see what’s the problem that some people seem to have with this celebration. The fact that it’s a Western, originally Christian festival is in all honesty, completely besides the point. We should celebrate Love everyday!

Many cultures have something similar, a day to celebrate love, to send a message of love to your beloved – a person whom you would like to marry or is already your husband or wife. Seriously, what’s wrong with that? What could possibly be wrong with that?
The only argument I’ve heard against Valentine’s Day, is the same one I hear about every other festival besides the two Eids – it’s not part of Islam. Well, sorry, if that’s the best these people can come up with, it’s a pathetic argument – cars and aeroplanes aren’t technically part of Islam either, but we still use them!

More to the point, a Muslim can celebrate any festival, even the social aspect of those of other religions, as long as this doesn’t mean they end up committing shirk – i.e. worshipping another deity besides God or associating partners with God – and this is the position of the mainstream scholars of Al-Azhar University in Egypt.

Indeed, for the vast majority of people who celebrate it, Valentine’s Day isn’t even that religious, rather it’s just a wonderful opportunity to show loved ones how much you appreciate them – which is something every Muslim should do anyway, even if they do not celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Finally, a Muslim perspective on Valentine’s Day that we can agree with! As compared to many other articles that decry Valentine’s Day as a pagan holiday and it is shirk to celebrate it, Paul has succinctly yet effectively given a great differing Muslim angle on this day as compared to the Orthodox Muslim view.

Lamont Peterson, Amir Khan Set Fight

By Dan Rafael for Espn

Unified junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson and former titleholder Amir Khan will meet in a rematch at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on May 19, a little more than five months to the day after their all-action first fight went down as one of the most controversial bouts of 2011.

“Everyone is very pleased that this is Lamont’s next fight,” attorney Jeff Fried, who represents Peterson and Barry Hunter, Peterson’s trainer/manager and father figure, told ESPN.com on Thursday after the deal had been signed. “It was challenging for a variety of reasons, including some of the post-fight antics undertaken by Khan. But at the end of the day, Lamont and Barry had a singular focus on what is in the best interest in Lamont Peterson and his family, and that is what drove this deal getting done.”

England’s Khan (26-2, 18 KOs) came to Peterson’s native Washington, D.C., to defend his belts Dec. 10 and lost a split decision in a fight filled with great action but marred by questionable officiating, issues over the scorecards and an unauthorized figure at ringside.

“Both sides are signed, but this has been one of the most difficult negotiations I have had for any fight I have ever been involved with,” said Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer, who has negotiated dozens of major fights. “There was a lot of back and forth, but it all ended good in getting this fight done. I think it’s one of the most anticipated rematches. It’s the right fight for Lamont and the right fight for Amir, and I’m really excited both parties agreed to do this fight.”

Peterson accepted the deal from Golden Boy, which handles Khan, for the rematch even though Top Rank’s Bob Arum had been wooing Peterson, a promotional free agent, for a fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, which he hoped to put on at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Peterson, who earned $650,000 for the first fight and rejected a $1 million offer for the rematch shortly after the first fight, will make “substantially more than $1 million,” Fried said, although he did not divulge the terms.

Khan, who has a contract with HBO in the United States and Sky in England, brings substantial money to the fight but wanted the rematch so badly that he gave 50 percent of the worldwide revenue that the fight will generate to Peterson.

“We offered 50-50 because that was how much Amir wanted this fight,” Schaefer said. “There were times where it looked like we were close to getting it done, but it was a drawn out process. But in the end it was not a sanctioning organization, a TV network, the media or fans who made this rematch. It’s the fighters who wanted to get the fight done. It was Lamont Peterson saying he didn’t want to fight anybody else except Amir Khan and it was Amir Khan saying he wanted to fight only Lamont Peterson. That is what makes fights.

“The truth is both fighters had other options. But it really came down to what they wanted most. For both guys, other options might have been more lucrative, but it was not really only about the money. They realized the right thing to do was to fight each other again.”

The refereeing was the most controversial aspect of the December fight. Khan had two points deducted for pushing — an almost unheard of foul call — in the seventh and 12th rounds by Washington-area referee Joe Cooper. Without the deductions, Khan would have retained the belts via unanimous decision.

Khan complained that while he was docked points for pushing, Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) was never warned for leading with his head. Golden Boy also raised questions about judge George Hill’s scoring of the seventh round, which appeared to read 10-10 but was crossed out to read 10-8 in Peterson’s favor.

Then there was the much-publicized issue of the so-called ringside “mystery man,” who turned out to be Mustafa Ameen, who is affiliated with the IBF and had a credential arranged as a courtesy from the organization, but was not at the fight in an official capacity. However, he was seen on video at ringside apparently touching the scoring slips, which is against the rules, and distracting a judge. He was later seen in the ring apparently celebrating with the Peterson team after the fight.

It all led to Khan protesting the decision to the sanctioning bodies and harsh words were exchanged between the camps. But now all of that should only add to the interest surrounding the rematch, which will headline HBO’s “World Championship Boxing.”

“May the better man win,” Schaefer said. “It will be one of the most talked-about fights of the year. This is one of those fights people wanted to see and I am happy we can deliver it to the fight fans. I will say this, Jeff Fried deserves a lot of credit for helping us get this done.”

Schaefer said he is close to finalizing the co-featured bout for the card, which would also take place in the 140-pound division: Lucas Matthysse (29-2, 27 KOs), the hard punching contender from Argentina, against former lightweight titleholder Humberto Soto (57-7-2, 34 KOs) of Mexico, who is now fighting as a junior welterweight.

“I am almost done with that fight and HBO is licking their chops on this fight,” Schaefer said. “Those two fights as a doubleheader is probably the best 1-2 punch HBO boxing has delivered in a long time.”

Boxer Amir Khan and Faryal Makhdoom getting engaged on January 29th, 2012

By Ahmed Babar for News Pakistan

Amir Iqbal Khan is undoubtedly one of the top sports face of the current decade. The lightweight division champ although represents Britain in the ring but his Pakistani ethnicity is the main reason behind his immense popularity in this region.

The former unified WBA and IBF light welterweight champion has finally decided to settle down with his to be fiancee, Faryal Makhdoom. The couple are planning to get engaged on January 29th, 2012 as the boxer revealed that he has spent an amount
of £100,000 on a diamond-studded ring for Faryal.

The 25-year-old who is quite active through his twitter page has also briefed that almost a thousand guests are expected on the wedding. Some of the top names on the guest lists read, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ricky Hatton and David Haye.

Khan commented on Faryal “A lot of girls back home have said to me, ‘Your girl is beautiful’ — and that’s great because people can be so jealous. But Faryal is so humble. Anybody who meets her is going to fall in love with her. She’s
got no edge; she’s just a terrific person”.

Faryal, 20, on the other hand also holds high traditional values, ” I’m very family oriented even though I was born and raised in New York but my grandparents are in Pakistan – and a lot of my dad’s family are there”, she briefed.

She will be flying to England on Friday for the engagement party and will also spend a week with her husband-to-be and Amir will be more than happy to show her around Bolton.

He quoted, “I’m going to introduce her to a pasty barm, fish and chips – maybe even an ice cream if she’s lucky! I might also try to squeeze in a Bolton match just so that she cans see the venue before the big day – and make sure she likes it”.

Faryal revealed that the relationship went through the toughest phase in the beginning as she found it very hard to understand Amir’s Bolton accent.

She cited, “In the beginning I really couldn’t understand him. I was used to London accents and thought that’s how everyone spoke in Britain. But when Amir opened his mouth it was as if he was speaking a foreign tongue – so I just used to nod, agree with
whatever he was talking about and say, ‘Yeah’. “

She also briefed that Amir used the words like ‘daft’ and ‘innit’ and she had no idea what they meant. The gap between the two broke when Faryal visited Amir’s family in Bolton and spent time with his cousins.

One little difficulty that Khan might face is that Faryal does not like him inside the ring, “I never want to watch him fight live. I just couldn’t because I wouldn’t want to see him get hurt. After his last fight I started crying when I saw him. I just
can’t bear to see him like that and I don’t think I ever will”, she explained.

The couple are planning to settle down in Bolton and Faryal has no problem in leaving New York to spend the rest of her life with the youngest British World Champion ever.

By Ahmed Babar for News Pakistan

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Marriage is a huge undertaking that requires a lifelong commitment and bond. When the love and understanding between two people is such that they become one, then it is truly one of the most rewarding relationships that a person can have with another human being. We wish Amir and Faryal much happiness in this new journey as a soon to be married couple and joined together as husband and wife in sacred matrimony.

Amir Khan Was Mugged By Dubious Judging

By Jeff Powell for The Daily Mail

Not only the politics stink here. Amir Khan must have felt like going out to join the Occupy Washington protesters in their tents after his grand design for global supremacy was set back for at least a year by some of the most controversial officiating decisions the sport has witnessed.
The only consolation for Britain’s unseated world champion, after he was mugged in the darkness near Capitol Hill, is that he will be given an immediate chance to regain his unified light-welterweight title from Lamont Peterson — the local hero who benefited from the latest of the charitable donations which are another feature of life in this power-crazed city.

A referee who deducted two points from Khan for the obscure infringement of pushing off his opponent and a pair of judges who couldn’t — or wouldn’t — see straight have also put on hold the mega-millions of dollars Khan is hoping to bank from a super-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Now, instead of challenging Manny Pacquiao’s rival as the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth next May, he can expect to face Peterson for a second time on March 31, probably in more neutral Las Vegas.

And Mayweather can now conveniently ignore Khan, at least until he regains his WBA and IBF belts from Peterson and then goes on to beat one or two more world-class boxers.

Khan’s plans have been knocked so badly awry by this split-decision defeat in a real thriller — the excitement of which has been lost in the controversy of yet another of the injustices which have plagued boxing of late — that his career may have to be prolonged beyond his nominated retirement age of 28. Khan reached his 25th birthday last Thursday and is unlikely to land his bonanza fight before 2013, at the earliest.
Trainer Freddie Roach insists: ‘Yes, Amir can get back on track by beating Peterson and still become the next pound-for-pound king.’

But the road to that summit is even steeper now.
Instead of going straight to Mayweather or easing himself up to welterweight against a manageable British opponent like Matthew Hatton, Khan is obliged to stay at 10 stones and strive to regain — and then defend — his light-welter titles.

That may be a blessing in disguise. Although Khan’s courage and relish for battle contributed to another Fight of the Year candidate, he does not look as ready for Mayweather just yet as he and Roach had imagined. Not that Floyd Jnr will be willing to accommodate him for a while now.

This defeat, however unfair, moves Khan back in the queue for glory. It also puts more testing obstacles in his path.
Although my scoring was within a point of the one judge, Nelson Vasquez, who voted 115-110 in favour of Khan on Saturday, he must expect another tough night against Peterson.

And although he says ‘I hope Lamont has the nerve for coming to England that I showed in giving him this chance in his home town,’ the reality is that the rematch will go to Las Vegas, not least on economic grounds. This first fight was a real barn-burner and HBO will be as keen as Sky in Britain to do it all over again. That is a somewhat enriching consolation for Khan as he nurses his wounds and his grievances.

But then, assuming he beats Peterson, the most logical fight will be against Timothy Bradley in a bid to become the undisputed world champion at light-welter. And it was Bradley who stamped the only loss on Peterson’s record, with a hefty points victory two years ago.
Bradley is like Peterson — albeit a superior version. He is a hungry street-fighter who uses his head as a third fist and Khan reasoned how that tactic obliged him to push Peterson back ‘to avoid a head coming in lower and lower’.

That does not explain local referee Joe Cooper’s decision to penalise a professional prize-fighter for pushing, something rarely if ever witnessed outside the amateur ranks. Nor does it excuse judges George Hill and Valerie Dorsett giving Peterson the verdict by a single point, 113-112, following the deductions.

Although Peterson was mightily persistent, there were periods when Khan boxed his ears off. Even as he intensified the ring-quartering pressure in the middle rounds, there were spells when Khan boxed almost as beautifully as Muhammad Ali to stay away from trouble and land his combinations.
And when Khan was caught by Peterson’s big shots, he proved once again that his supposedly suspect chin is as punch-resistant as any in this hard old game. Scoring a fight is a subjective business but there is a growing need for boxing to take steps to make judging and refereeing as fair and impartial as possible.

It was a mistake by Team Khan to accept the hometown referee who not only gave Peterson his two-point advantage, but who ruled that the local homeless boy made good was knocked down only once, not twice, in the first round.
Every little point counts in fights like this.

Neutral, scrupulous officials have to be the first part of a solution to the decisions which are not only cheating honest fighters like Khan, but are damaging boxing’s credibility in the eyes of the public. From Watergate to Khangate, Washington has much to answer for in the political and sporting arenas.

Jacksonville Jaguars- Allah’s NFL Team?

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

The last few days have not been easy ones for me. I have had to watch as my adopted homeland, the United States, is accused by Pakistan, the nation of my forefathers, for being responsible for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers by “friendly” fire.

So it wasn’t hard to imagine that once again I would be hurting for being both American and Muslim as I was on 9/11, and now I am once again feeling the pinch of being both Pakistani and American as well. Believe it or not, you can love two countries; just ask Italian or Irish Americans. I am sure you know that this is not the first time and certainly will not be the last time that as a Pakistani American I will be reeling from news concerning Pakistan. Yet the covert attack and neutralization of Osama Bin Laden in May of this year in Pakistan, a country long suspected to be his hiding place, have all but shattered any remaining doubts to the American public regarding which side of the fence Pakistan finds itself. As President Bush so famously said “You’re either with us, or against us” to President Pervez Musharraf immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2011.

At least since Bin Laden’s killing on May 2, 2011, as far as the average American, John Q Public is concerned, it appears that Pakistan was against us all along, and merely only was paying lip service the last 10 years. However staffers at the US State Department, all the way up to Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Obama will rightly admit, that this simply is not the case. Pakistan has been a difficult ally to be sure, but the country has been an ally nonetheless and has proven time and time again to be invaluable not just in this current fight for the strategic direction of Afghanistan, but also was critical in the last great fight involving this land against the former USSR in the ‘80’s.

One can go even further back and talk about the historically strong US and Pakistan relations that go all the way back to at least President Eisenhower and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a security pact similar to NATO, but for Asia and parts of the Pacific, it was an organization of which Pakistan and the US comprised membership, along with six other nations namely Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand. This was an eclectic bunch of nations to be sure, but a defense pact tying Pakistan and the US, this once brought the two together in a treaty of mutual defense and cooperation going back as early as 1954.

One would also be remiss if we forget that the famous US Air force pilot Gary Powers flew on a U-2 secret mission from Pakistan’s Peshawar airbase at the request of Eisenhower and at Pakistan’s acquiescence. He had been doing a reconnaissance mission against the Soviets at the height of the Cold War when his plane was shot down causing the then famous 1960 U-2 incident. Amazingly, it was less than just a couple generations ago when President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously called Pakistan America’s “most allied ally in Asia. Wow, as the old Virginia Slim’s cigarette ad tagline used to go “ You’ve come a long way baby!” Haven’t you, Pakistan?

I suppose before we get lost on another few paragraphs on US-Pakistan alliances of old and their longstanding history of cooperation and friendship, whether from the days of the Cold War or the far more recent war on terror, let me get back to the original purpose of this article. So, there I was, in my now seemingly regular funk, on account of all the rapidly downward spiraling US-Pak relations, and then, there it was, a glimmer of hope for a bit of positive news. Maybe a chance for something unrelated to terror, bombs, Taliban, Shiite-Sunni violence, blasphemy laws, honor killings or anyone of the myriad of utterly negative topics that so easily and regularly grace the top of the headline news on any cable news channel on any given day regarding Pakistan.

So here finally was some positive news regarding this nation. Initially I wondered if perhaps this feel good story would be along the lines of the usual sports filled beacons of hope for the otherwise unfortunate Pakistani masses such as in the form of when an Amir Khan gains world boxing glory or when an Imran Khan led cricket team of old wins a Cricket World Cup or maybe it was similar to the legend of the Khan boys, Jahanghir and Jansher Khan who were busy conquering the world of squash (racquetball) for decades. Perhaps this news I so eagerly awaited to get me out of this rut was related to a scientific or professional endeavor that highlighted Pakistani achievements and success stories such as that of Pakistani born neurologist Dr Malik M Hasan, the man who single-handedly helped change the medical industry in the US for the better, when over the course of a few years through a process of mergers and acquisitions, he helped eventually form HSI, a multi-billion dollar healthcare provider that in 1993, which was an organization with about 1.4 million members, 40,000 doctors, and nearly 400 member hospitals! His innovative and entrepreneurial management style led to the very first modern Health Management Organization (HMO) in the United States, and thereby brought more affordable healthcare to the vast majority of Americans in the 1980’s. Dr Hasan eventually grew the business to be worth more than $10 billion dollars and countless thousands jobs for professionals through many midwestern and western states.

Maybe a boldly similar idea or solution in today’s rapidly increasing costs of healthcare and lack of insurance for over 40 million Americans can come, if not from a Pakistani American like Dr Hasan, then perhaps from another of the world’s brightest who still yearn to come to these shores with their dreams and aspirations for success and achieving a piece of the American Dream that millions of their countryman from Europe had done years before them. Along the way, people like Dr Hasan employed hundreds and thousands of Americans and become a mega job creator, kind of like the ones that Republicans say they love.

It could be that the Pakistani American feel good story bringing much needed good news to the Pakistani global diaspora, and indeed by that realization, at the very least, to a Pakistani American like myself was going to be similar to a fellow Lahore born compatriot like Tariq Farid, the founder of the wildly popular Edible Arrangements, a US based international franchise that specializes in fresh fruit arrangements for special occasions and gifts. With nearly a 1000 locations in the US and a few countries abroad, I am sure many a Congressman from both Red and Blue states would love to attract job creators like him to their state and lure his growing and profitable company, during these economically depressed times, to their state from their Headquarters in Connecticut.

I suppose I could go on and on at the long list of distinguished Pakistani Americans from the renowned NASA physicist, Dr Bashir A Syed, to Gibran Latif Hamdan, the first person of Pakistani descent to play in the NFL. Other major contributions not in the field of science, sports or business, yet still as inspirational to Pakistani Americans could have been the story of the American hero of Pakistani descent, Sgt. Wasim Khan, the first Purple Heart winner from that nation who won the award for valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom, costing him numerous injuries while fighting for our freedoms.

Certainly no one to date has better demonstrated a greater sacrifice to this nation than the story of Cpl. Kareem R Khan, another Pakistani American, one who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved country, the United States, when he gave his life for American freedom, liberty and ideals dying on Iraqi soil during combat there. He also earned the Purple Heart and has the honor of being buried at the resting place of fallen American heroes, the venerated Arlington National Cemetery. One can do their own Google search for a list of Pakistani Americans to find out that this list comprises far more accomplished and good citizens of Pakistani descent than the occasional delusional individual like Faisal Shahzad, of the Times Square bomb fame.

So you bet it was good news for me to hear a few days ago that a successful and hard working American businessman and multi-millionaire from the midwest, Shahid Khan, a Pakistani American owner of a large automobile parts manufacturer, Flex-N-Gate, had just bought an NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars! My rare good optimism however seems to perhaps been ill placed though because it seems that even a positive and notable news story like this can quickly turn into something far more twisted and sinister as witnessed by the scores of Islamophobic and racial comments being left on the Jacksonville Jaguars Facebook page and other sports blogs and boards, hours since the sale and the origins and national background of the new owner became public. The deal which still has to go to an NFL owner’s vote would only then be complete and final. Whether the NFL owner’s vote affirmatively on the deal or not, the rancid and clearly Un-American comments on the team’s fan page demonstrate that a majority of the local fans of this NFL team seem only to care about his Pakistani background and not of the fact that he is committed to staying and keeping the team in the small Jacksonville market and that he is a genuine fan of football and by all accounts would make a great manager/owner of the franchise.

The sad fact remains that there is a possibility that despite all the countless contributions to this great nation made by Pakistani Americans, many of these die hard football fans have no problem with risking losing their team to a different owner who would take the team out possibly west to the vacant Los Angeles market than to have a “Paki” keep the team in Florida’s small Jacksonville market and try and build a contender there.

Maybe its his IRS troubles that Shahid had a few years ago that prevented him from buying the St Louis Ram’s majority ownership stake last year or maybe it really is his very interesting moustache that scares people away. Regardless, I will gladly take either reason for his bid not being approved than anything that points to his national origin or racial makeup. Afterall, us Americans should never forget the words of the late great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr when he said that we should ”not judge a man by the color of his skin, but rather by the content of his character.” All I know is that this Pakistani American still keeps alive Dr King’s dream. So no amount of paranoia should let the die-hard Jaguar fans fear that Muslims and Allah are on their way to taking over their beloved NFL franchise. Now gentlemen, let’s play ball!

-Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is a former US State Department Foreign Service Officer Management Selectee, and the founder of Pakistanis for Peace. He is also an often tormented fan of the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL as well as having the good fortune of being a lifelong fan of Kansas Jayhawk Basketball.

Seeking Solace in Sufism

By Renuka Deshpande for Daily News & Analysis

The city’s metamorphosis from a sleepy town to a metropolis has left most of us long for peace and contentment. This is why Punekars are taking to Sufism as a quest for harmony and the need to seek refuge in the promise of hope and love.

Sufism or Tasawwuf, the mystical arm of Islam, which is inwardly directed, deals with the soul’s relationship with god. It advocates oneness with god and urges that everything men do, be driven by one sole motivation — the love of god. The word Sufi means ‘clothed in wool’, reveals Dr Zubair Fattani in his article The Meaning of Tasawwuf, and is metaphoric of the inwardness of Islam wrapped in its exterior expressions.

Over the centuries, it has found expression in the ecstatic and reflective poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi, Baba Bulleh Shah, Hafiz, Rabia and Moinuddin Chisti and others, which is increasingly popular in the city.

Bookshelves laden with books on Sufism and its various expressions in poetry, music and dance are a common sight, as are the collections featuring Sufi music maestros like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Kailash Kher and the Sabri brothers, among many illustrious others.

Jyoti Mate, a city Sufi music and dance therapist, uses this mystical dimension to heal all those who seek solace in it. The whirling dervishes, the most iconic symbol of Sufism, are the basic element of Sufi dance and represent the earth rotating around the sun, also symbolic of the universe.

“Sufi dance helps stir pent-up and suppressed emotions within oneself. The hands are outspread while whirling and the head is thrown off-centre. A lot is metaphorical in Sufism, dance being no exception. The raising of the right hand and facing it skyward indicates absorption of knowledge from the heavens and the left hand which is pointed downwards, palm-down, passes it on to others.The head thrown off-centre is an urge to be non-egocentric, so that the ego doesn’t grow further. The cap used by Sufis is made of camel hair and is of a specific height, again symbolising the curtailing of the ego,” she says.

Mate adds that response to her therapy sessions has steadily grown since she first started in June 2008 and people often break into tears after the session is over.

On the music front, there is Ruhaniyat, the all-India Sufi and mystic music festival presented by Banyan Tree, which has been coming to Pune for the past eight years. The seven-city festival brings with it Baul musicians from West Bengal, comprising Sufi Muslims and Vaishnav Hindus, the Manganiars from Rajasthan singing Sufi folk music from the state, qawwals like the Sabri brothers and Turkish Sufi musician Latif Bolat, among others. Nandini Mukesh, director of Banyan Tree, who also emcees Ruhaniyat, says that the festival has elicited phenomenal response in the city.

“Last year, our attendance read around 1,800 people. We found ourselves continually adding chairs,” she says adding that the audience in Pune is very evolved and sophisticated and comes with an understanding of the music played at the festival.

Speaking of the musical response she receives at Ruhaniyat, Nandini says, “Baul songs are incredibly symbolic and metaphorical and touch a chord within people. Qawwalis comprise incredibly powerful musical compositions and progressions, but the Hindi and Urdu lyrics are simple to understand. Beyond a point, however, words cease to matter and the musical experience turns mystical and takes precedence.”

The popularity of Sufi rock bands like Junoon from Pakistan, along with Coke Studio, has also led to the emergence of Sufi rock bands like Chakra in the city, which does a lot of covers of Pakistani Sufi music songs, along with some original compositions featuring dohas of Baba Bulleh Shah and Kabir.

The Osho Meditation Resort in Koregaon Park, has whirling meditation sessions every Wednesday. Ma Amrit Sadhana of the resort, says the eyes are kept open and unfocused while whirling, which forms the first stage of the meditation technique, the second being rest.

“The response to these sessions is great. Watching so many people be a part of the session, and the sight of them totally engrossed in whirling is beautiful,” she adds.

Sheetal Sanghvi of The Urban Ashram, which hosts many Sufi music and dance workshops, is bringing Sheikha Khadija to Pune in November for a whirling meditation workshop. Khadija is a Sheikha in the Mevlevi Order of America.

“Sufism promotes unity and love and the response to our Sufi workshops is really growing. This is because orthodox systems of religious beliefs sometimes don’t narrate to the soul as well as they should. Sufism, with its teachings, gives hope to people,” he adds.

Islamic scholar Anees Chishti, who isn’t a Sufi but has studied it, is skeptical of this current trend of what he feels is pop-Sufism.

“Sufism requires penance and meditation. Sufi rock and dances are nothing but a Western concept. They call the whirling movements dervishes, but the term, is durvesh, dur meaning pearl and vesh meaning hanging, in Persian. So the composite means ‘hanging like a pearl’. In Turkey, during the time of Rumi, the head of the khanqah or mystic hall, was a durvesh. When he played the daf and sang mystical poetry, people listening to him would go in a trance and start whirling. So ‘durvesh’ refers to a person and not a bodily movement. All this pageantry is a marketing tactic,” he says.

Opinions on the topic are many and varied, but most will agree that Sufism in its numerous interpretations in literature, music and dance does feel divine.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Amongst literally hundreds of favorite Rumi quotes, one of our top one sums up life very well when he said: “All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.”

Players Get Prison Terms in Fixing Case

By John F Burns for The New York Times

The judge in London’s monthlong cricket corruption trial imposed prison sentences Thursday on the four men involved, including a 30-month jail term for Salman Butt, the captain of Pakistan’s national team.

The longest term, 32 months, went to Mazhar Majeed, the agent for the three players sentenced. Butt’s teammate Mohammad Asif drew a one-year sentence, and another teammate, Mohammad Amir, received six months. Amir, 19, is to serve his time in a institution for young offenders.

The judge, Jeremy Cooke, who admonished the men for “the insidious effect of your actions on the international game,” said that if they behaved they would be released under supervision halfway through their sentences. He ordered the players to pay compensation toward the cost of their prosecution, with the highest sum, about $49,600, imposed on Butt.

The scene in Southwark Crown Court, close to the Thames in South London, was tense. Butt, 27, and Asif, 28, appeared stunned as the judge read out the sentences. Afterward, security guards led the men to their cells. The lawyer for Amir said his client planned to appeal.

The trial, which rocked the cricket world, centered on a sting operation conducted by the now-defunct News of the World newspaper during Pakistan’s tour of England in summer 2010. It followed years of suspicions that powerful gambling syndicates based on the Indian subcontinent were bribing players to fix parts of high-profile matches, or even to throw them entirely.

The case hinged on a secretly recorded meeting at a London hotel at which Majeed took £150,000 in marked notes, or about $240,000, from a reporter posing as an agent for the syndicates. The three players were found guilty of a scam that involved bowling three so-called no balls — foul deliveries — at predetermined points in a test match between Pakistan and England at Lord’s, the London ground that is the spiritual home of cricket.

Majeed also boasted at the meeting that he could fix matches involving Pakistan outright in return for about $1.6 million.

Much of the concern has focused on Pakistan’s national team, but a special corruption unit of the International Cricket Council, the Dubai-based governing body of the world game, has been investigating the possibility that other teams have been involved in similar scandals.

Cricket experts have said corruption has the capacity to destroy the game unless policing is expanded, perhaps to the extent of posting officials from the unit, which includes former police officers, at all top international matches.

Amir, 18 at the time of the match, entered a guilty plea to the corruption charges early in the trial, a fact that was sealed on Cooke’s orders until the trial’s resolution. At sentencing, Cooke, addressing Amir through an Urdu interpreter, said that in determining his punishment he had taken into account Amir’s age, his vulnerability to pressure from the older players and his plea. “It took courage,” he said, to plead guilty, according to a BBC account. “You come from a village background where life is hard.”

Earlier this year, the players were barred from all forms of cricket for five years by the International Cricket Council, which had conducted its own inquiry. Cooke said he took that into account in passing sentence, but some powerful figures in the game have said publicly that the punishment, especially in Butt’s case, should be reviewed in light of the evidence at the trial and extended to expulsion for life.

Cooke scolded Butt at the hearing, saying he deserved the heaviest sentence of the three players because the evidence showed that he was “the orchestrator of this thing.” Cooke also said Butt had done “a terrible thing” in corrupting Amir, who was regarded by many as a natural successor to the legendary fast bowlers in Pakistan’s past.

In 1992, Pakistan won the sport’s World Cup, and it has continued to be an international power. For many of the nation’s 170 million people, cricket has been a source of pride in a society plagued by a history of military coups and political corruption. Pakistan has also been accused by the United States of conniving with the Taliban in mounting suicide bombings.

Inevitably, cricket fans will compare the penalties imposed on Butt with the fate of Hanse Cronje, the former South African captain who until now had been the most prominent player caught in a corruption scandal.

In 2001, after a lengthy inquiry in South Africa into match-fixing between South Africa and India, Cronje was barred from the sport for life. He died the next year, at 32, in a plane crash in Johannesburg. Two other South African players were suspended for six months but later resumed their international careers.

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