Archive for the ‘ Sufism ’ Category

Getting To Serenity: 10 Daily Habits For Inner Peace

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By Meerabelle Dey for The Huffington Post

We all want serenity, that elusive state of calm that seems to belong solely to Tibetan monks and yoga instructors. People with serenity are better equipped to enjoy life. Their small problems remain small and don’t become magnified into huge catastrophes. And when real crises arise, they react with steady, clear thinking.

However, serenity isn’t achieved without effort. Just as we need proper exercise habits to have healthy bodies, we need good mental habits to have peaceful minds. To that end, here are some daily habits to get you on your own path to serenity.

1. Give Thanks Continually. When your alarm goes off, before you even get out of bed, close your eyes and think about the ways in which you’ve been blessed. Consider the most basic gifts that you have: a job, good relationships, your home, your clothing, your health. Then continue to give thanks throughout the day. If someone lets you in their lane when you are driving, give thanks. When your paycheck is deposited into your account, give thanks. When your child comes home from school safely, give thanks. Make a point of acknowledging every good thing that happens to you.

2. As Soon As Your Mind Wanders Off in The Wrong Direction, Get It Back on Course. We know when we are getting mentally off course. We get irritated over minor things. We decide it’s our job to correct other people’s bad behavior. We obsess over past slights. These are all symptoms of the mind going down a path toward wrong thinking. Like a car that has shifted into a lane with on-coming traffic, our minds also can shift into the wrong lane. As soon as that happens, stop what you are doing. Walk away from the person who isn’t acting properly. Then do whatever it is that helps you get your mind back on track. For me, it’s reading something spiritual. For others, it may be listening to inspiring music or talking to a good friend. By re-directing your mind, you can more easily return to clear thinking.

3. Practice Acceptance. Practicing acceptance doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be treated poorly by others. It means that you accept others for who they are. If someone is a jerk or manipulative, that is who they are. It’s your choice whether or not to spend time with them, but accept that you can’t change them. Likewise, practicing acceptance doesn’t mean that you don’t try to improve your life. For instance, you may not like your current job or home. Accept your situation for what it is today. Do your best at your job, and make your home as beautiful as possible. Appreciate that you have work and a place to live. Then do what you can each day to get your dream job or home in the future. Acceptance isn’t stagnation. Acceptance is understanding what you can and cannot change.

4. Be Kind To Others. There is no scenario in which being unkind to others will benefit you. So be careful how you operate. The ugly things that you say and do to other people may affect them, but those actions will poison you. If you are unhappy, take a long, hard look at your behavior. If you spew mean comments or take advantage of people, you will be miserable. I can’t sugarcoat that. Instead, be consistently kind. Build others up. Be helpful. You will find that by doing those three things, you’ll be at peace with yourself because you will actually like yourself.

5. Be Careful What You Drink. Some things we drink can affect our minds. Coffee, tea and some soft drinks have caffeine. Caffeine affects each person differently. Evaluate how it affects you. If it makes you jumpy or irritable, then either reduce your consumption or eliminate it altogether. Alcohol affects people differently as well. If drinking wine, beer or hard liquor makes you anxious or depressed, again, limit your drinking or cut alcohol out of your life altogether. Being happy is more important than your Starbucks or your nightly glass of wine.

6. Get Enough Sleep. Our minds cannot think clearly if they aren’t rested. Small children need copious amounts of sleep in order to be happy. Adults are no different. While we may not throw ourselves on the floor and scream if we haven’t had a nap, we function only slightly better without sleep. Develop good sleep habits. Go to bed early. There is nothing wrong with going to bed at 9 p.m. The television shows you are missing aren’t nearly as important as your serenity.

7. Watch and Read the Right Kind of Books, Movies and Television. What we watch and read affects how we think. Choose your entertainment carefully. There is a lot of violent, pointless junk out there which is deemed to be “avant-garde” or “creative.” If you want to have a relaxed mind, spend your time watching and reading things that have a positive message or that educate. Don’t spend your valuable free time filling your mind with garbage just because it’s popular.

8. Keep a Clean, Uncluttered Home. There is a reason why spas don’t have dirty towels on the floors and shelves covered with knickknacks. You can’t relax in a place that is messy. A cluttered home or room is a sign of a cluttered or unstable mind. Make your home a place that is tidy and beautiful. You should breathe a sigh of relief when you enter your home. It should be a refuge for both your mind and your senses.

9. Spend Some Parts of the Day without Noise. There is nothing wrong with television per se, but there is something wrong with the television being on all the time. People tend to turn on the television to avoid being uncomfortable. We are either uncomfortable with our families, or we are uncomfortable with ourselves. So we distract ourselves from that discomfort with a lot of racket. The problem is that noise impedes you from truly relaxing. Make the choice to give your ears and mind a break, and enjoy the silence.

10. Spend Time with the Right Kind of People. There are people who can’t help but be a problem. Everywhere they go, they create drama. Someone has always done them wrong, or they are continually upset about something. Or they just can’t say anything nice. Give those people wide berth. You can’t necessarily eliminate those people from your life, but you can limit your contact with them. It is a matter of self-preservation. When you allow people into your life who bring chaos, it is very hard to maintain your serenity. It isn’t your job to make their lives better. It is their job to not spread their brand of drama.

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Legendary Ghazal Singing Legend Mehdi Hassan Dies

As Reported by Maimoona Shoaib and Mohammad Ashraf for The Gulf News

He worked in a bicycle shop. He repaired cars. And when he would sing a ghazal, he would mesmerise a continent.

Pakistani ghazal legend Mehdi Hassan, who suffered from lung, chest and urinary tract ailments for ten years, died of breathing complications at a Karachi hospital on Wednesday at the age of 84.

His famous ghazals (ballads) include “Patta patta boota boota,” “Abke bicchde khwaabon mein mile”, “Zindagi mein sabhi pyar kiya kartein hain,” “Dekh tu dil ki jaan se uthta hai,” and “Ranjish hi Sahi”.

“My father’s funeral will take place Friday in Karachi,” son Arif Mehdi said, adding that the family was yet to finalise the burial location. “We have asked for the permission from the government to bury him at Quaid-e-Azam mazar [near the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan] in Karachi, but we are waiting for approval,” he said.

Born into a family of musicians in Loona village in undivided India (now in the Indian state of Rajasthan) in July 1927, Hassan had a modest beginning, mirroring the situation of the new country he migrated to at age 20 after the partition of India in 1947.

The family sank into penury after moving to Pakistan, and eking out a living was difficult. Young Hassan worked in a bicycle shop and later became a car mechanic, even as he was initiated into music by father Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Esmail Khan, who were dhrupad (Indian classical) musicians.

In his book “Mehdi Hasan: The Man & his Music”, Pakistani author Asif Noorani writes that his humility during this phase stood tall against the fame and greatness he had achieved later.

“He had earned his living by repairing automobiles during his younger days. During his years of stardom, his harmonium broke and he started repairing it himself, wittingly replying to the people surrounding him that this was a piece of cake compared to the number of engines that he had repaired in the past,” Noorani writes.

Eventually, Hassan found his real vocation in the ghazal.

Mehdi is said to have given his first performance when he was eight, in sync with tradition where musicians started early and were paced through various levels of public performance before they graduated as accomplished vocalists.

The hardships of life notwithstanding, Hassan stuck to his music and continued with his rigorous practice, relying on the extreme discipline he lent to his style of constricted-throat singing as opposed to the full-throated version.

He was well into his twenties when he was first noticed as a singer of some merit. The break came when he was invited to sing for Radio Pakistan in Karachi in 1957 — first as a thumri singer and then as a ghazal exponent.

Hassan had to work harder than many of his younger colleagues but his innovative approach earned him fame.

Traditionally, ghazals were sung in a thumri-like manner. They were set to Indian classical ragas such as Khamaj, Piloo and Desh. The classical format stymied the scope of the compositions — preventing it from innovating. However, Hassan pioneered a ghazal “gayaki” (manner of singing) that played upon the mood of the music rather than on the classical nuances. A composer of rare brilliance, his style combined classical and Rajasthani folk music to create a new realm of ghazals whose magic spread beyond Pakistan to India and the rest of the world.

He was one of the first Pakistani ghazal singers who charmed Indian audiences and won impressive fan followings — former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee invited him for a private performance at his residence.

But many more years were to pass after 1957 for Hassan to get his opportunity to sing for films.

As Hassan arrived, the ghazal stage was dominated by greats as Khan Sahib Barkat Ali Khan, Mukhtar Begum and Begum Akhtar. Among Hassan’s contemporaries were Farida Khanum, Iqbal Bano and Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, with Gulam Ali and Jagjit Singh followed not too far behind.

According to an estimate by Arif, Hassan sang more than 20,000 songs and apart from Urdu, also sang in Bengali, Punjabi and Pashto.

It’s not uncommon for a singer whose career spanned over 50 years to churn up 20,000 songs. But given the quality and the unfailing discipline which were the hallmarks of Hassan’s songs, it will go down in the history of music as a gigantic superhuman effort. And the way Hassan sustained himself until health issues made it impossible for him to carry on, is a remarkable story that parallels the struggles of his homeland.

After shining on the musical firmament from the 1960s to 1980s, Hassan’s career started fading as frequent illnesses took their toll. The death of his first wife in 1998 followed by an attack of paralysis restricted Hassan to bed and he lost the power of speech. His health deteriorated further over the past 12 years.

His home country honoured Hassan with several awards and honours — from Tamgha-e-Imtiaz to Pride of Performance and Hilal-e-Imtiaz — while India honoured him with the Sehgal Award in 1979. The Nepal government too honoured him with the Gorkha Dakshina Bahu.

Hassan, who married twice, is survived by 14 children — nine sons and five daughters. His second wife also died before him.

His death brings the curtains down on a journey in music that lasted more than 50 years and crafted a new era of lyricism, melody and poetry in ghazals.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Pakistan has had a few stars that transform their industry across all borders. One of them was surely Mehdi Hassan, a supernova so bright that he was considered living legend for the last several decades. His passing has dimmed the night sky over Pakistan and indeed over the entire Indian subcontinent as many in the neighboring country are mourning his loss as of one of their own. RIP Hassan sahib, thank you for all your songs and ghazals, through which you will live on forver.

Rick Santorum, Meet Hamza Kashgari

By George Packer for The New Yorker

President Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious freedom makes Rick Santorum “throw up.” “What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum says. It’s a central part of his campaign strategy to distort such things as a Kennedy speech, or an Obama speech, to whip up outrage at the supposed war on religious people in America. Here’s what Kennedy said:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President—should he be Catholic—how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him… I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair.

Kennedy said much more, but this is the strongest passage of that famous campaign speech to a group of ministers in Houston, in which he argued that the election of a Catholic President who believed in the Constitution shouldn’t concern any American who believed in the Constitution—and, Santorum says, “That makes me throw up.” Santorum’s rhetorical eloquence is about equal to his analytical skill. Kennedy had nothing to say against believers entering public life, or believers bringing their religious conscience to bear on public policy. He spoke against any move to make religion official. The Constitution speaks against this, too—Article VI establishes an oath to the Constitution as the basis for public office, and explicitly prohibits a religious test, while the First Amendment forbids the official establishment of religion and protects its free practice. Santorum claims to be a constitutionalist, but that’s just rhetoric and opportunism. Santorum believes in a religious test—that may be all he believes in. (Mitt Romney believes in a religious test of a slimy, halfway, Romneyesque variety: in 2007, he reportedly dismissed the idea of appointing a Muslim to his Cabinet, saying, “Based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position would be justified.” So does Newt Gingrich, who has made atheist-baiting a central part of his political business.)

Kennedy seemed to have someone like Santorum in mind when he warned, “For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been—and may someday be again—a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you—until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.” In 1960, it would have been hard to imagine how thoroughly religious sectarianism and intolerance would infect American politics, and especially one major party. The outcry over Obama’s policy on health insurance and contraception has almost nothing to do with that part of the First Amendment about the right to free religious practice, which is under no threat in this country. It is all about a modern conservative Kulturkampf that will not accept the other part of the religion clause, which prohibits any official religion.

Santorum, like most conservatives these days, says he is a constitutionalist. Jefferson wrote, and Madison worked to pass, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which held that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” Jefferson included an even stronger phrase that was eventually struck out by amendment: “the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction.” Presumably, all of this originalist nonsense makes Rick Santorum heave, gag, vomit, and puke.

What makes me throw up is the story of Hamza Kashgari. It’s a shame that every American doesn’t know his name. He’s a young, slender, philosophical-minded columnist and blogger from Saudi Arabia who, earlier this month, dared to tweet phrases of an imagined conversation with the Prophet Mohammad: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you…I loved the rebel in you…I will not pray for you.” Within twenty-four hours, more than thirty thousand furious replies had been posted on Twitter. Within a few days, more than twenty thousand people had signed on to a Facebook page called “Saudi People Want Punishment for Hamza Kashgari.” (So much for Arab liberation by social media.) One commenter wrote, “The only choice is for Kashgari to be killed and crucified in order to be a lesson to other secularists.”

Kashgari backed down, apologized profusely, and continued to be attacked. He went into hiding. Clerics and government officials threatened him with execution for blasphemy. He fled to Malaysia, hoping to continue to fly to New Zealand, where he would ask for asylum. But Malaysian officials, behaving against law and decency, had him detained at the airport and sent back to Saudi Arabia, where he was promptly arrested. Since mid-February there’s been no word of Kashgari. The Saudis have said they will put him on trial. What a pity there’s no First Amendment to protect him.
If only he had more powerful friends—if only Christopher Hitchens were still alive—Hamza Kashgari would be called the Saudi Rushdie. There would be a worldwide campaign to pressure the Saudis into releasing him. The United States would offer him asylum and quietly push our friends the Saudis into letting him go. But we’ve come to expect these things from our friends the Saudis.

We’ve come to expect these things from the Muslim world. We expect Afghans to riot for days and kill Americans and each other because a few NATO soldiers were stupid enough to burn copies of the Koran along with other objects discarded from a prison outside Kabul. Yes, those soldiers were colossally, destructively insensitive. Yes, we should know by now. Yes, the reaction has a lot to do with ten years of war and occupation and civilian deaths and marines urinating on Taliban corpses. Still, can we have a little outrage at the outrage? Can we reaffirm that human lives are more sacred than books? Can we point out that every time something like this happens, there’s a manufactured and whipped-up quality to much of the hysteria, which has its own cold political calculation (not unlike the jihad against secularists by Sean Hannity and other Salafist mouthpieces)?

Saudi Arabia needs an absolute separation of religion and state so that Hamza Kashgari can say things that other people don’t like without having to flee for his life. Afghanistan needs it, too, and so does Pakistan, so that mob violence and political assassination can’t enjoy the encouragement of religious authorities and the tolerance or acquiescence of government officials. And America needs it so that our Presidents’ religious views remain their own private affairs, and Rick Santorum and his party can’t impose dominion of one narrow, sectarian, Bible-based idea of the public good over a vast, pluralist, heterodox, freedom-loving democracy.

Welcome To The First Annual Celebrity Religion Swap

By Wajahat Ali for Salon.com

Muslims worldwide groaned upon hearing the news that Oliver Stone’s son, Sean, converted to Islam while filming a documentary in Iran.

Although we — the collective 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide — assume Sean Stone is a fine, upstanding man and sincerely wish him spiritual contentment, we earnestly ask Allah why Islam only attracts controversial celebs (in this case, the son of a controversial celeb) who further tarnish our already toxic brand name?

We plead to the heavens for an answer as to why he converted in Iran, of all places, which is currently the most feared and loathed country in America and about as popular as herpes.

We have patiently endured, oh, Allah.

We miraculously survived Mike Tyson, who converted to Islam while incarcerated, and then angrily threatened Lennox Lewis in an infamous interview: “I want your heart. I will eat his children. Praise be to Allah.”

Awesome.

Islam has the lowest favorability rating of any religion in America. If Islam were a world economy, it would be Greece. If it were a professional athlete, it would be San Francisco 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams, who muffed two critical punts, which helped the New York Giants reach the Super Bowl. If Islam went to the prom, it would be the ugly girl with freckles and an overbite standing in the corner with a bucket of pig’s blood teetering precariously over its head. If Islam were a Republican presidential candidate, it would be Newt Gingrich.

A diverse jirga of American Muslim leaders decided “enough was enough” and held an emergency meeting at Lowes’ Home Improvement store in Dearborn, Mich., to strategize how to bolster Islam’s faltering image.

A consensus emerged that we needed to draft popular, mainstream celebrities whose successful addition to our starting lineup would boost our international brand name. After all, 1,400 years of civilization and the religious practices of 1.5 billion solely rest on the tanned shoulders of the rich, famous and beautiful.

Inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, one of the few Muslim converts who could be considered a net gain, the Muslims held a “Religious Draft” this week, inviting major religions to participate on hallowed ground: McDonald’s.

The following is a summary of the proceedings.

THE FIRST ROUND PICK

Since it was universally accepted Islam was the 2011 Indianapolis Colts of world religions, they had first pick.

Predictably, the Muslims drafted free agent Liam Neeson, who recently said, “There are 4,000 mosques in [Istanbul]. Some are just stunning and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim.” The Irish actor is experiencing a pop cultural rebirth as the 21st century embodiment of uncompromising, kick-ass masculinity and sage paternalism. On behalf of Muslims, he took revenge against France, which recently caved into hysteria and banned the burqa. Neeson single-handedly destroyed the entire country with his bare fists in the blockbuster action film “Taken.” Muslims believe Neeson will help rebrand them as Jedi Knights, due to his portrayal of Jedi Qui-Gon in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” and replace their current image as Dark Lords of the Sith.

Rumors circulated that many Evangelical Christians felt slighted by this pick since Muslims stole their digital Avatar of Jesus: Neeson voices “Aslan the Lion” from the “Narnia” movies.

The rest of the day’s picks were organized according to different types of celebrity.

ATHLETES

In a surprise move, the Buddhists requested Mike Tyson from the Muslims. Exhausted from voluntarily suffering for the past 2,500 years, the Buddhists decided Tyson’s crushing right uppercut could “really eff up China.”

In turn, the Buddhists decided to offer the Beastie Boys — the aging, versatile, hip-hop trio from Brooklyn – sensing they peaked with their 1998 “Hello Nasty” album. The Muslims accepted, acknowledging the songs “Sabotage” and “Shake Your Rump” as perennial favorites in Egypt and Lebanon.

The Buddhists selflessly threw in Richard Gere and DVD copies of “American Gigolo” to sweeten the deal.

The Jews intervened and said they wanted the Beastie Boys back on their team. They offered the Muslims Ben Roethlisberger, two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having read about Big Ben’s dubious history of sexual impropriety, the Muslims passed, but decided to donate Mike D of the Beastie Boys to the Jews as a truce offering. Allegedly, the Muslims could never forgive Mike D for the horribly weak rhyme “Everybody rappin’ like it’s a commercial, acting like life is a big commercial” on the song “Pass the Mic.”

The Jews accepted the offer.

The Muslims, feeling emboldened, made an ambitious pitch to the Christians for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who “just wins.”

Muslims offered former NBA all-star Shaquille O’Neal, who fell from their graces after he acted as a giant genie in the box-office bomb “Kazaam.” They also threw in Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, the controversial Denver Nuggets star who converted to Islam and refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games. The Christians were initially enticed, seeing this as a perfect “born-again” moment, but they passed.

The Muslims went aggressive and promised they wouldn’t supplant the Constitution with Shariah and replace the White House with minarets unless Tebow and Mel Gibson crossed over.

The Christians, anxious to excommunicate Gibson, agreed. For the 2012 NFL season, Tebowing will now consist of prostrating and praising Allah after every touchdown. The Christians asked the Muslims to preserve Tebow’s chastity and not introduce him to Miss USA Rima Fakih or hot Arab women from the reality TV show “All-American Muslim”; the Muslims said they’d try, but they promised nothing.

COMEDIANS

The Jews made a play for comedian Dave Chappelle, a Muslim, citing his hit series on Comedy Central “Chappelle’s Show” as a creative juggernaut that still influences the masses — especially several rabbis, who apparently love saying, “I’m Rick James, bitch!” after performing circumcisions.

The Muslims immediately rejected the offer, saying Chappelle is perhaps the only living proof that Muslims can be intentionally funny.

Instead, they offered Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an example of an unintentional comedian and provocateur in exchange for Israel cooling down its dangerous rhetoric of a preemptive strike on Iran.

Furthermore, the Muslims offered the newly acquired Mel Gibson straight up for Jerry Seinfeld.

The Mormons tried to intercept Seinfeld by playing one of their highest cards: “Napoleon Dynamite” actor Jon Heder. The Jews pretended not to hear this mockery and allowed the Mormons to slink away with some shred of remaining dignity.

The Jews finalized a deal with the Muslims and rumors have circulated since that Mel and Ahmadinejad are under house arrest in Tel Aviv, forced to watch “The Chosen” and “Fiddler on the Roof” on repeat while listening to Jerry Lewis perform comedy.

MUSICIANS

Sensing friendly relations, the Jews humbly approached the Muslims for rapper Ice Cube, citing his immense street cred and respect from the hip-hop and African-American communities. The Jews conceded the Matisyahu experiment, although initially promising, had failed, as the Hasidic reggae rapper never lived up to his “King Without a Crown” potential.

The Muslims mulled it over for a considerable time. The jirga decided they would retain eternal rights to Cube’s 1993 hit single “It Was a Good Day” from his multi-platinum album “Predator,” but ultimately release him because he inexplicably starred in the awful family comedy “Are We There Yet?”

Muslims in return asked the Jews for Kabbalah-worshipping Madonna, sensing serious comeback potential after her excellent Super Bowl halftime show.

Catholics made a request for multi-talented actor and hip-hop artist Mos Def from the Muslims, who soundly rejected any and all future offers, stating the entirety of the Middle East and North Africa could never bear to part with Def’s song “Ms. Fat Booty.”

Instead, Muslims counter-offered with alternative rock artist Everlast, whose 1998 single “What It’s Like” has made a surprising comeback on radio stations due to the economic recession. The Catholics still remember Everlast as the lead singer of the hip-hop band House of Pain, who produced the classic party anthem “Jump Around,” before his conversion to Islam. The Catholics accepted; South Asian Muslims danced to “Jump Around” one last time; and the Muslims in return received Taylor Swift and her legions of pubescent female fans, along with her former boyfriend Taylor Lautner, who played the ethnic werewolf in the “Twilight” movies.

The Muslims had finally secured their most promising young-adult celebrity.

POLITICIANS

The Mormons halfheartedly offered Mitt Romney. The Evangelicals promised Michele Bachmann and her lifetime supply of blinks. The Catholics, out of sheer desperation and embarrassment, bartered Newt Gingrich and his third wife, Callista.

The Muslims decided to stick with their boy, Barack Hussein Obama, in hopes of retaining the White House in 2012.

MISCELLANEOUS

Muslims threw a Hail Mary and asked fundamentalist Christians for Chuck Norris, who so thoroughly kicked the Middle East’s entire ass during the ’80s. The Muslims respected Norris for his ability to fire an Uzi, perform a roundhouse kick and wave an American flag at the same time. In return, Muslims offered the infamous WWF wrestler the Iron Sheikh and even agreed to teach the Christians the impregnable camel clutch. Norris, humbled by the offer, respectfully declined, and admitted that although he enjoyed killing hordes of fictional Arabs in jingoistic action movies like “Delta Force,” he currently fancied himself an intellectual and activist committed to exposing the nonexistent threat of Shariah infiltrating America. The Muslims were saddened, but collectively agreed to watch Norris in the summer action film “Expendables 2.”

The Hindus decided to play their strongest card, actress Julia Roberts, and made a request for journalist Lauren Booth, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sister in law, who converted to Islam in 2010. The Hindus saw her as the perfect revenge and giant, henna-painted middle finger to England for the British Empire’s previous colonization and exploitation of India’s resources. The Muslims thought this was reasonable and now the “Pretty Woman” flashes her million-dollar smile behind a burqa.

THE CHOSEN ONE

Finally, the draft ended with all the religions coveting “the chosen one,” who would single-handedly redeem their public image both at home and abroad.

The Mormons offered former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, highlighting his excellent Chinese and fine hair. The Muslims initially offered NBA Hall of Famer and current cultural ambassador Kareem Abdul Jabbar. They sweetened the deal and threw in President Obama. The Jews presented Steven Spielberg and his entire film library. The Hindus humbly offered Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachan, Aishwarya Rai and a picture of Gandhi signed by Ben Kingsley. The Buddhists presented Tina Turner, Herbie Hancock and Tiger Woods.

But, it was sadly to no avail.

The Christians and Church of New York decided to keep NBA superstar and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. Rumors circulated that they were talking to China about a potential trade to ensure the ambitious superpower does not ask the United States to repay its debt, thus financially crippling and utterly destroying our great nation.

All in all, “it was a good day” for the Muslims in the first Religious Draft.

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, attorney, journalist and essayist. His award winning play”The Domestic Crusaders,” was published by McSweeney’s in 2011. He is the lead author of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” He is currently writing a pilot for HBO. He is co-editing the anthology “All American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim” published in June 2012. More Wajahat Ali

For Many in Pakistan, a Television Show Goes Too Far

By Declan Walsh for The New York Times

One morning last week, television viewers in Pakistan were treated to a darkly comic sight: a posse of middle-class women roaming through a public park in Karachi, on the hunt for dating couples engaged in “immoral” behavior.

Panting breathlessly and trailed by a cameraman, the group of about 15 women chased after — sometimes at jogging pace — girls and boys sitting quietly on benches overlooking the Arabian Sea or strolling under the trees. The women peppered them with questions: What were they doing? Did their parents know? Were they engaged?

Some couples reacted with alarm, and tried to scuttle away. A few gave awkward answers. One couple claimed to be married. The show’s host, Maya Khan, 31, demanded to see proof. “So where is your marriage certificate?” she asked sternly.

This hourlong spectacle, broadcast live on Samaa TV on Jan. 17, set off a furious reaction in parts of Pakistan. Outrage sprang from the Internet and percolated into the national newspapers, where writers slammed Ms. Khan’s tactics as a “witch hunt.”

“Vigil-aunties,” read one headline, referring to the South Asian term “aunty” for older, bossy and often judgmental women.

Now, the protests are headed to court. On Friday, four local nongovernment organizations will file a civil suit against Samaa TV in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, hoping to galvanize the country’s top judges into action.

“Journalists don’t have the right to become moral police,” said Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia, a media development organization that is among the petitioners. “We need to draw a line.”

Images of moral vigilantes prowling the streets have an ominous resonance in Pakistan, where many still recall the dark days of the Islamist dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, when the police could demand to see a couple’s nikkahnama — wedding papers — under threat of imprisonment.

But the strong reaction is also drawn from a pressing contemporary worry: that the budding television media, seen as a force for democracy and greater social freedom for much of the past decade, have lost their way as part of a cutthroat battle for ratings.

“It really aggravates me that the media is using their power to intrude and invade our privacy, often with no good reason,” said Mehreen Kasana, a 22-year-old American-educated blogger from Lahore, who wrote a widely circulated protest against the Samaa TV show.

The controversy has rekindled a debate about the direction of Pakistan’s TV industry. Since liberalization in 2000, the sector has exploded from one channel — the state-controlled one — to more than 80 today, 37 of which carry national or local current affairs.

The media revolution has transformed social and political boundaries: in 2007, feisty coverage played a central role in pushing Pervez Musharraf toward the exit; in recent weeks it helped guard against a possible military coup.

But television is also a lucrative business controlled by powerful, largely unaccountable tycoons. Last year Pakistan’s television stations had advertising revenues of more than $200 million, according to Aurora, an industry journal — 28 percent more than the previous year.

Amid stiff competition for viewers, channels have relied on populist measures — rowdy political talks shows and, in recent times, vigilante-style “investigative” shows modeled on programs in neighboring India.

Some have a noble objective: holding to account crooked public servants, police officers and even fellow journalists. But others have veered into territory that could be described as Pakistan’s answer to Jerry Springer — voyeuristic, mawkish and intrusive.

In recent months, one reporter screamed at a man accused of child rape as he awaited trial outside a courthouse; another hectored a man said to be a self-confessed necrophile inside a jail cell; and a TV reporter “raided” a gathering of whisky drinkers, even though alcohol flows freely at many media parties.

Abbas Nasir, a former head of Dawn News television, said he was “nauseated” by some coverage.

“Hosts are under pressure to bring in ratings, and there is carte blanche to do the most bizarre things,” he said.

Another critic derided such reporters as “pussycat vigilantes” because they avoided challenging rich or powerful Pakistanis, whose Western-style lifestyles go unexamined.

“They only go after the people they know will not bite back,” said Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a culture writer.

Ms. Khan’s show touched a raw nerve because it combined simmering concern over media ethics with wider fears about society’s conservative tilt. Even General Zia’s son was appalled. In answer to a question on Twitter, Ijaz ul-Haq, a politician from Punjab Province, said he was “still in shock by what I’ve heard about her show.”

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Ms. Khan rejected her critics, calling them “an elite class that don’t even watch my show,” and said the show merely intended to highlight the dangers that unaccompanied youths face in Karachi.

She also denied that there was anything unusual about asking couples for their wedding certificate — even though she does not carry one. All of “Pakistan knows me and my wedding pictures,” she said. “So I don’t have to.”

But on Wednesday, Samaa TV issued a formal apology for her show, followed by a short clip of Ms. Khan, sitting on a bed, offering an apology of sorts. “I never intended to make you teary-eyed or hurt you,” she said.

The furor has renewed long-standing demands for media regulation. With the state-run Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority seen as ineffective, the organizations approaching the Supreme Court on Friday hope the judiciary can help. “We need to hold the media to account,” Mr. Rehmat said.

But others argue that involving the courts, with their history of heavy-handed interventions, could open the door to state licensing of free speech. “It could backfire,” said Beena Sarwar, a journalist who helped rally protests against Ms. Khan’s show. “The media needs to do this themselves.”

Amid the polemic, there is one bright spot: the use of Twitter and Facebook to stoke debate has shown how, even as social space contracts in a turbulent society, the virtual space is opening up new possibilities.

But so far, the use of social media has been largely confined to the country’s English-speaking minority. It was striking how little attention Ms. Khan’s show received in the Urdu media, which is read or watched by the vast majority of Pakistanis.

“My real worry is that Pakistan is moving rightwards, and this time the face won’t have a beard,” said Mr. Nasir, the former head of Dawn News television. “And before people know it, they won’t know what’s hit them.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Samaa Tv and host Maya Khan ought to be ashamed of themselves for calling this program journalism. Vulture reporting is more appropriate. Highly intrusive and showing a complete disregard for private citizens who are meeting in a public place is no place for a TV channel.  This certainly strengthens the religious extremists in Pakistan, shoving their brand of austere Wahaabi Islam down the throats of the majority Barelvi/Sufi population of Pakistan.

Meanwhile the Pakistani Telecom Authority is curtailing freedom of speech by mandating mobile phone operators to ban certain ‘dirty’ words, as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority lacks the moral and legal mindset to stop a television channel on trampling citizen’s privacy and freedoms. They should shut this show immediately and get this so called ‘reporter’ off the air.

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.”

11/11/11: Luck, Mysticism and Conspiracy of Rare Perfect Palindrome

By The National Post Staff

Regardless of how you keep the date — year/month/day? month/day/year? — 11/11/11 is a rare day on the Western calendar when six of the same number line up, capturing the fancy of numerologists, conspiracy theorists and textile lovers (more on this later) alike. Below, some of the ways the world is marking November 11, 2011.

Remembrance

The most solemn meaning of November 11? Remembrance, as much of the globe pauses in honour of those who fought — and those who fell — in various conflicts around the world. As most who paid attention during their school’s Remembrance Day ceremony know, the date’s origins come from signing of the armistice ending World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — November 11, 1918.

Luck

In China, couples flocked to registry offices to marry on Friday in the belief that the “11/11/11” date is the most auspicious in a century. November 11 has been celebrated as an unofficial “singles’ day” in China since the 1990s — as the date is composed of the number one — and it is seen as a good day to marry and leave the single life behind. But this year is viewed as particularly special because the year also ends in the number 11. More than 200 couples packed into a marriage registration office in downtown Shanghai Friday morning, some having lined up for hours before its doors opened to ensure they were among the first to marry.

Shanghai alone had more than 3,300 couples who booked to marry on Friday, but the final tally could be higher as it does not include people who walk-in unannounced, a civil affairs bureau spokeswoman told AFP. Other Chinese cities reported a similar mania for marriage. In the eastern city of Nanjing, more than 3,000 couples planned to marry on Friday, ten times the usual daily average, the official Xinhua news agency said. More than 1,300 pairs will tie the knot in eastern Hangzhou city.

Conspiracy

Egypt will close the Great Pyramid of Giza on Friday to avoid any rituals by a group rumoured to have plans to mark the date of 11/11/11 at the site, an official said. The decision came “after much pressure” from Egyptian Internet users that strange rituals were going to be held “within the walls of the pyramid on November 11, 2011,” Atef Abu Zahab, head of the Department of Pharaonic Archaeology, told AFP.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities confirmed the closure Friday of the tourist site, in a statement that only referred to the need for maintenance following a busy period during Muslim holidays.

The Pyramid of Cheops is the biggest and most famous of the three Giza pyramids. It houses the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu, and is the only surviving one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Mysticism

Thousands of people plan to meet at the time around the world for ceremonial dances, and several pages devoted to the date have appeared on social networking website Facebook.

Some attribute the number 11 to paranormal powers that provide a channel of communication with the subconscious, others see a mystical connection between the number and disasters, like the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Corduroy

It’s not just a day for solemnity and subconscious-channeling — what about the fabric that has given so much plush joy to the world? The folks at the Corduroy Appreciation Club havedeclared November 11, 2011 The date which most closely resembles Corduroy, EVER. In honour of this extremely important occasion — the culmination of an 11-day celebration that includes protests against that sinister, smooth rival, velvet and a “mass waling” — members are assembling in New York. They will be required to don at least three (not two!) items of corduroy. Activities will include “Dark Secret Rituals,” “Presentation of Awards for Exemplary Usage of Corduroy,” “Singing, Dancing and Poetry inspired by Corduroy,” and, we suspect most crucially, an open bar.

 

Marketing

Much like 9-9-99, 01-01-01 and 09-09-09, 11-11-11 is a great date for marketers. Several companies, including Taco Bell and Energizer had huge promotions based around the easy-to-remember date. Probably the most notable North American promotion was the release of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a massive role playing video game, which switched its launch date from the traditional Tuesday to Friday to get the 11-11-11 date. The fact that the date is an American holiday, Veteran’s Day, is also fueling ad dollars. From the NYT:

Ads that hinge on a special date are an example of a marketing tactic called borrowed interest, in which advertisers try to involve themselves in big, topical events that the proverbial “everyone” is talking about. It is the hucksters’ equivalent of candidates far down on the ballot attempting to win by riding the coattails of those at the top of the ticket.

Births

Marketers aren’t the only ones looking to cash in — several Des Moines, Iowa women hope to get a refund on their obstetrician’s fee by giving birth on 11/11/11. Reports the Des Moines Register:

Dr. Ross Valone announced last February — nine months ago — that he would put the fee money into a bank account in the baby’s name, with the stipulation that the child could withdraw the money upon turning 21. His fee usually runs from $900 to $2,000, depending on the case and the insurer. Valone said Wednesday that he is scheduled to perform cesarean sections Friday on two women who delivered that way in the past. He also is scheduled that day to deliver a baby for a woman who plans to have an induced birth.

With files from Agence France-Presse

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