Friday, 6 June 2014

The weekly round up

These are the articles and memes that have caught my attention these past few weeks. 

Timbaktu's libraries may yet be saved "The book rustlers of Timbuktu: how Mali's ancient manuscripts were saved:"
In 1325, the fabulously wealthy emperor of Mali, Musa I, travelled to Mecca carrying a tonne of gold as spending money. "[He] set off in great pomp with a large party, including 60,000 soldiers and 500 slaves, who ran in front of him as he rode," one of the Timbuktu chronicles relates of Musa's hajj. "Each of his slaves bore in his hand a wand fashioned from 500 mithqal [about 2kg] of gold." On his return to Mali, Musa ordered the building of a grand mosque at Timbuktu. Another great mosque was added in the Sankore quarter of the city a few years later, and the surrounding area became a centre for Islamic teaching. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that by 1450 Timbuktu had a population of 100,000, a quarter of whom were students. Even if these figures are wildly exaggerated, Timbuktu was a thriving centre of learning, and manuscripts were highly prized: the traveller Leo Africanus, who visited in 1510, found books sold for more money than any other merchandise in the city's market.

Books reached Timbuktu by caravan from Fez and Cairo, Tripoli and Córdoba, and what the scholars couldn't afford, they would copy. Other documents were written in Timbuktu. The vast libraries that resulted included every subject: astronomy and medicine, law, theology, grammar and proverbs. There were biographical dictionaries, diaries, letters between rulers and subjects; legal opinions on slavery, coinage, marriage and divorce; the lives of Muslims, Jews and Christians; there were histories and poetry.

Photographs that show emotional abuse as physical scars "Powerful Images Show A World Where Verbal Abuse Leaves Physical Scar."

Talking Movies

I love this review of a new Adam Sandler flick "Adam Sandler's 'Blended' Is a Failure for the Ages" because of these few lines:
"In an earlier age, when the theatre was centered on heroes of myth and history, it was the actors who were small, who had to raise themselves up on tiptoes and expand themselves to fit their roles. The riot that actors ran, the uninhibited emotional voracity that rendered them odious to staid burghers (plus ça change), helped them feel the authority and cavalier freedom of the mighty. In movies, for the most part, actors have to scale themselves down, even as they render their everyday heroes hyperbolic, lending ordinary people grand and tragic emotions."
Did you know George RR Martin uses Dos? "Game of Thrones author George RR Martin: 'Why I still use DOS'

How we all came to love Nutella: "Nutella: How the world went nuts for a hazelnut spread."

Modi comes to power

See this article from Al Jazeera: "From tea boy to India's leader."

An opinion piece from The News by Shahzad Chaudry "Managing Modi:" 

"Two glass ceilings got broken in the first two decades of this century: a black man’s son became the president of the United States – the oldest democracy in the world and a chaiwala’s son was elected in a sweeping victory as the prime minister of India – the largest democracy of the world. A third such occasion is likely in 2016 when a woman just might become the first ever female president of the US. This is paradigms being shattered.

If you want to really celebrate democracy as some in this country are prone to do simply by seeing one civilian government transition to another, note the speed at which from mid-1960s both the ‘coloured’ and the women, and the weak, have been able to find their place in the real democracies of the world on their merit alone.

Kudos to India for such an election; not a murmur of rigging or absence of fair-play. To win in such an election and with the margin that Modi has, is simply too big a landmark in contemporary political history. It was a ‘wow’ moment for India and the country needs to be applauded for it.

To the dismay of many in Pakistan, let me suggest that if Modi gets his act together, he will take India places. India will change, perhaps finally realising its dream and potential, as will its polity. India will never be the same again; this remains my considered opinion. He is that kind of fellow. "

Karachi in a 100 rupees

I love this video featuring an intern at the Dawn and how she explores Karachi in a 100 rupees: "Karachi in Rs 100."

Inspiring stories of women's lot on God's earth

Bodies of babies were discovered in a septic tank in a home for unwed mothers from long ago. It is an intensely depressing story "Bodies of 800 babies, long-dead, found in septic tank at former Irish home for unwed mothers."

This is an article about caste and rape in India "India's Feudal Rapists" and here's an excerpt: "We will never be able to address India’s rape crisis if we remain blind to the machinations of caste discrimination. In the past, it has taken gruesome cases of violence to ensure coverage of rape. Indeed, perhaps the only reason the Katra Saadatganj hangings attracted attention was that grisly photographs of the dangling bodies were published in Indian newspapers and circulate

d on social media, despite complaints by Dalit activists that this was disrespectful.

But we cannot rely on the shock value of particularly horrific cases to lead to change; we need structural solutions."

See this article about a Sudanese woman's plight "Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy gave birth with her legs chained, her husband says."

MQM's Alftaf Hussain or is it Alftaf Hussain's MQM? 

The hint of arrest of MQM's Alftaf Hussain in London and its reaction in Karachi "Karachi reacts to arrest in London."

On Weed being legalised in the US

Imran Khan's Isloo Tsunami

Imran Khan came to talk in Islamabad. Yawn, here's an article about it "PTI rally ends with demands of ‘new Election Commision'." 

And, here's a great cartoon about it that was featured in Dawn.

Bring Back Our Girls

The story of the 200+ kidnapped girls in Nigeria filled the news, the internet for a good couple of weeks. It was a good example of how one piece of the puzzle can fill the airwaves and, can come suddenly out of nowhere. And, of course, there was a lot of backlash at the #Bringbackourgirls campaign. And, of course, like always, this kidnapping was part of a larger story about the Boko Haram and their activities in the northern part of Nigeria for years now.

This article lists all the names of the girls "These are the names of Nigeria’s kidnapped girls."

I really loved this column "#BringBackOurGirls" by Ifran Hussain, one of my favourite writers. I think this is a great Pakistani perspective that needs to become more common thought in our country. See this excerpt:
"YOU don’t have to be living abroad to get a sense of the white-hot anger people around the world are feeling towards Boko Haram, the Nigerian equivalent of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

 in Pakistan, we are so busy contemplating our collective navel that the event has barely registered.

Whether we like it or not — and most of us don’t — the grim reality is that Muslim extremist groups have killed and maimed across the world, shouting Allah-o-Akbar.

In our misplaced desire not to criticise groups that fight under the banner of Islam, we refuse to examine closely the cause they say they are fighting for. Boko Haram, led by a madman who wants to sell the girls he has kidnapped, is surely not worth defending, and must be condemned in the most forthright language
This article from the Guardian criticises the social media uproar for its naivete: "Dear world, your hashtags won't #BringBackOurGirls'."

Another satire: "AlterNet Comics: Matt Bors on #BringBackOurGirls."

This article talks about social media's comparison of drone attacks and bring back girls. I'm not sure
how the two relate but see this article's discussion about it: "Netizens to Michelle Obama: #BringBackYourDr.

This excellent article traces the rise of Boko haram in historical context: "Boko Haram and the crippling of Islam in Africa." An excerpt from the article: 
"As in most other colonised African countries, Muslims shunned the new educational institutions set up and run by Christian missionaries. They did not want their children to fall under foreign Christian influence, and kept them at home or sent them to traditional religious schools.
As a result, a huge gap opened up between Muslims and their non-Muslim compatriots, who became proficient in the new languages of the administration, monopolising government jobs and key professional positions.

Like its counterpart in Afghanistan (the Taliban), this movement seeks to opt out of modernity and herd Muslims back to metaphorical (and sometimes actual) caves, where they were supposed to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that modernity has never happened.

Muslims in Africa have been caught into this vicious circle for generations.

These radical movements offer the young a false sense of empowerment, the thrill of "action", a new sense of identity and a vent for their frustration. However, they also divert youth energies from constructive engagement in dealing with the new challenges of modernity, and trap them into the cul-de-sac of violence. They physically devastate Muslim countries and regions, setting them back decades.

If this trend continues, it could be an even bigger disaster for Islam in Africa than colonialism. Islam was the dominant religion in Africa before colonialism, and by some miracle, it still is in spite of it. It continues to thrive precisely because it urges its adherent to seek knowledge. The word know/learn and its derivatives appear 856 times in the Quran, and its synonyms and related terms many times more.

One of the most unforgivable acts of so-called 'Islamist' rebels who occupied Timbuktu last year was to set fire to a library containing priceless manuscripts that embody the valuable contribution of African Muslims to learning."

The word legendary is thrown around a lot. If there ever was a true legendary folk singer of Pakistan, Pathane Khan would be one. Even a fake Pakistani like me whose grasp of Urdu or Punjabi is quite weak, was awed by the incredible pain and beauty of Pathane Khan's voice. 

We grew up in our various homes abroad listening to Pakistani classical, filmi and folk music. 

See this article about Pathane Khan's songs "The searing songs of Pathane Khan, Pakistan's much loved folk singer."

See this sublime collection of "12 songs from Pakistan’s mountains, deserts, shrines and streets" compiled by Nadeem F. Paracha.  

Great quotes and wisdom

I had no clue that Bob Hoskins had died until I saw this article " 11 Life Lessons from Bob Hoskins" on my Newsfeed.  These are the lessons summarised by his daughter:

1. Laugh.
2. Be yourself.
3. Be flamboyant; it’s who you are and always have been.
4. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions.
5. Get angry; it’s OK to lose your temper now and then.
6. Whatever you do, always give it a good go.
7. Be generous and kind because you can’t take it with you.
8. Appreciate beauty, take pictures and make memories.
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
10. Never, ever, ever, ever give up.
11. Love with all your heart.

One often gets so caught up in one's self righteousness or immediate need to react that one can often lose one's sense of kindness and level-headness. This article has a great piece of advice on how to construct criticism "How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently by Maria Popova."

Can we apply to this to religion? YES!

                                Can I buy you a book?

Lego does the desi truck

Big bad Nestlé

Apparently Nestlé wants to patent an extract (Nigella sativa) that has been always freely available as local knowledge for remedies since always. See the petition to stop Nestle here

The modernisation of Mecca

This article has some amazing contrasting photographs of "then and now" pictures of Mecca. See them here: "Then-and-Now Photos of Mecca Show What's Happening to Islam's Most Sacred Site."

Political memes

A photo from the Zia regime when public beatings
and lashings were meted out as justice


I absolutely love this quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

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