Pakistan

The hijab and the Saudi factor

Sadia Hameed is a spokesperson for the Council of ex-Muslims in Britain, and a director of Gloucestershire Sisters, a women's organisation working in minority communities, particularly around tackling harmful traditional practices. She was interviewed by Sacha Ismail for Solidarity. See here for wider debate in Solidarity on the ban of the hijab in schools. We need to question the idea of multiculturalism. Diversity of culture is a great thing, but harmful ideas and practices need to be challenged and criticised. Multiculturalism should be about taking the wonderful parts of all cultures and...

The Satanic Verses thirty years on

It is thirty years since the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, partly based on the life of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, sparked protests across the Muslim world, with riots in India and Pakistan in which dozens of Rushdie's fellow Muslims were shot dead, book burnings on the streets of Britain, and ultimately an Iranian death sentence which sent its author into hiding under armed police guard. In BBC Two's The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On, radio presenter and journalist Mobeen Azhar travels around the country, speaking to protagonists in what became known as the...

Satanic Verses, thirty years on

Last month saw the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Rushdie’s sprawling novel defies summary: interlinking stories meld scurrilous fantasies, dark humour and cutting political satire directed not only at Islam, but British racism and Indian immigrants’ attempts to adapt. It is an honest attempt to deal with the warping pressures of racism, religion and cultural dislocation. When it was published in September 1988 there was no spontaneous grassroots opposition. According to Kenan Malik in From Fatwa to Jihad, one early move against the book was in...

Pakistan: Khan is no alternative

Pakistan can be added to the list of countries whose politics have been dramatically shaken up in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The Movement for Justice party — PTI from the initials of its Urdu name – led by former cricketer and multi-millionaire Imran Khan, got 0.8 percent of the vote in 2002, boycotted the elections in 2008 and rose to 16.9% in 2013. This time it got 31.9% and a near majority in the national assembly, with Khan looking set to become prime minister. The traditional parties of the Pakistani ruling class, the openly conservative Pakistan Muslim League and the...

A discussion with Pakistani socialists

In December, Farooq Tariq, a leader of the Awami Workers’ Party in Pakistan, visited London, and during his visit talked with activists from Workers’ Liberty. Martin Thomas reports. We started by saying we appreciated the strong socialist line he had taken against Islamic-fundamentalist politics in his speeches during his visit, but questioning the uncritical praise for Fidel Castro in AWP statements after Castro’s death on 25 November. Farooq replied straightforwardly that it was an AWP decision to be uncritical of Castro and Cuba. For that decision, he gave two reasons. One, that politics in...

Kashmir repression boosts sectarianism

On 8 July 2016, a young Kashmiri commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) was killed by the Indian Army. The killing of Burhan Wani has become a symbol of Indian repression in Kashmir, the major Muslim-majority area kept by India in the 1947 India-Pakistan partition. The HM receives much of its support from the Pakistan government and has strong links to the Pakistani secret service ISI and the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami. Unlike the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, HM is for Kashmiri secession to Pakistan and promotes the further Islamisation of Kashmir. Wani had a strong social media...

Abolish the death penalty!

Saudi Arabia has executed 99 people during 2016, more than at the same point last year. Crimes punishable by beheading, stoning or firing squad in Saudi include blasphemy, drug offences, adultery, murder, and “false prophecy.” Excluding China – whose regime keeps the number of state killings a close secret – 90% of known executions during 2015 were carried out by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Iran executes more people than any other state. Last year Iran killed nearly one thousand prisoners, many for drug-related convictions. Iran also executes juvenile prisoners. In the US 28 prisoners...

A fighter for freedom

When it was revealed on 11 October that Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl that captured the world’s imagination after being shot by a Taliban rifleman, was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it came as a relief. Malala no doubt deserved it more than any other person in the world, but to tarnish her name by giving her the same prize given to such renowned peacemakers as Henry Kissinger and Menachem Begin would have been a disservice to everything she had stood for. The memoir of the young girl who had been standing up for her and her schoolmates’ right to an education since she was 11 is not...

Capitalism: a murderous system

At least 314 garment workers burned or suffocated to death in two factory fires in Pakistan on 12 September. Twenty-five people died in a shoe factory in the city of Lahore, when chemicals caught alight; 289 died in a garment factory in Karachi. In the Karachi fire, workers were trapped inside the burning building because exits had been locked and they could not open security grilles at the windows. Factory bosses and government officials, who have turned a blind eye to the flouting of health and safety regulations, are being prosecuted in the wake of this national scandal. But, equally, as...

Pakistan: abolish the blasphemy law!

A young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, has been arrested and her family placed under protective custody after a Muslim mob in a poor part of Islamabad threatened to set her alight for allegedly burning pages of the Koran. Nine hundred Christians living in the slum neighbourhood, where they have lived for almost two decades, have been forced to leave. A local Mullah told reporters: “We are not upset the Christians have left and we will be pleased if they don't come back. They have done this to provoke the Muslims, like they have with their noisy banging and singing from their churches.” A large...

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