Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Western Labels

I have a problem with labelling and when it comes adhering to the 'western system'. That is one of the things I cannot appreciate the Greeks for, that and democracy. Western civilisation has been heavily influence by Greek philosophy, science, politics, language, everything. Greek science was the first of science to use rigorous labelling techniques in creating systematic formuales to analyse things of science, including social and political. At a meeting today in discussing the Maqasid Al-Shariah (the Objective of Islamic Law) this debate of adopting the 'western system' created a lot of discussion. The argument was it was not a natural progression for Islam or Muslims to adhere to the western systems like, the Human Rights Charter, Rule of War and things of those nature which, dominates our social and political sphere in current times, but rather there should be an alternative system that is borne out of Islam.

However, living in western society can we be sure to have a completely authentic Muslim advancement in Al-Shariah? I think not. We have already been constructed to think and act the way our society intends us to. We may not recognise the "western values" we perpetrate but they are deep within us. Not necessarily all bad but you cannot argue against a 'western framework' in my opinion.

On the other hand, I do protest against in forcing something that is not the natural progression of our society and religion (ummah and Islam). There is no question that the ummah needs greater advancement in all spheres but we need time. Muhammad (pbuh) did not change Arabia over night, it was a long process of education and time to complete the message of Allah to the people of Arabia; it took 27 years and even then not everyone came to Islam. The expansion of Islam took time; people's understanding of the religion needed to mature. This process however, was obstructed by the advent of western empires, who unlike their predecessors did not assimilate into the societies that they were ruling. When these nations got independence they were left confused, their identities wiped and miscontrued, they were left with nothing but what their colonials had preached and that had been their mode of advancement. Secularism, democracry, rule of law, borders, nations etc. was suddenly seen as an integral part of running a society. And with that they ran and failed...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Muslims in the Media

Earlier this week, Channel 4 in partnership with Muslim News, held a panel debate on the Muslim perception in the media. This was a follow-on from the Dispatches docu - 'It shouldn't happen to a Muslim' presented by Peter Oborne highlighting the prejudices that Muslims and Islam face in the media today.

The debate was carried out by Ziauddin Sardar (Journalist), Adam Kemp (Arts and Culture, BBC), Mehdi HAssan (News and Current Affairs, Channel 4), Yvonne Riddly (Press TV), Inayat Bungawala (MCB) and Chaired by Akhil Ahmed (Commissioning Editor for Religion, Channel 4).

The debate all in all was very shallow; nothing thought provoking. It was agreed that Muslims were facing discrimination from the Media, we lack Muslims in the Arts sector, we need more Muslims in the Arts sector, it would be good for Muslims to be out of the news and so on.

Yvonne as always, was biased. Why she was on the panel I do not know. She reminds me of Yasmin Alibhai Brown who also has nothing decent to say. Seeing her at Islam Expo on Friday just reconfirmed how bad a journalist she is, making sweeping generalised statements, making inadequate arguments that did not hold the depth of the other panellists, such as Tariq Ramadan and Karen Chouhan. With Yvonne and Yasmin everything is taken on the religious and ethnic lines and they cannot go beyond playing the Muslim victim. This is where Tariq fits in so well with his push for Muslims to recognise themselves as citizens of the countries they live in and not distinguish themselves as just Muslims facing Islamophobia but rather citizens facing racism perpetrated by their government and media. This also ties in with the Panel's view that Muslims need to be more active in the matters of what the media do. If you find it offensive write in, if you like it, write in. That is the message Akhil was driving forward. Akhil no doubt is one of the very prominent Muslim media representatives we have along with Hassan Mehdi and they know how the media works and I suppose if they suggest something we should take it on board.

Click on image to access the report

Channel 4 are current hosting a series of mini documentaries starting Monday titled The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World, the first one being aired tomorrow after the news. Then follows a two hour documentary on The Qur’an. One of the questions presented to the panellist was ‘why not do an in-depth documentary on the life of the Prophet?’ It was disappointing to hear that such a documentary could never go ahead because of the restrictions the TV company faced in accessing the historical sites needed to carry out the research. Akhil made an attempt but ended up losing a seizable amount of money in doing so.

One of the questions posed by Akhil was what do Muslims want to watch on telly? My mind went blank at that point. I could not think of anything that I wanted to watch. Not that I am satisfied with what we have currently, I would like to see the likes of Big Brother and Eastenders off our screens but all in all I didn't really care except that I would like less of 'Muslim things' and more fairer news and docus with regards to all things.

What would you like to see on telly?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Palace of the Nawab of Moorshedabad

This makes an interesting read and says a lot about the attitudes of the Colonialists and their motives in India. Written in 1858 it describes the Palace of the Nawab of Moorshedabad as the title suggests. Interesting points to note: didn't realise that having a dome on a building actually made it cooler; India was indebted to the Company somehow; Indians could not be brought to be civilised; they liked the architecture but not the people; their goodly deeds is not appreciated by the 'Hindoos' - in fact, I think this is a reference to the Mutiny of 1857-1858 which was more of an Indian affair and not restricted to the Hindoos as the writer puts it. I have copied the extract as it is in the journal with the original spelling. It's taken from The Illustrated London News - see what you make of it.

Click for a larger image
Page 4.

Jan. 2, 1858. Page 3.

IN one particular Oriental architecture is greatly superior to European – that of having a picturesque sky lines. In fact, the most picturesque of all the public places of Europe, St. Mark’s of Venice, owes its distinction to the church having a roof on the Oriental principle. In the edifice presented on this occasion to our readers the charecteristice of this style of building are shown in a most agreeable manner, the outline being symmetrical without the smallest monotony; the whole forming a palace of which the most prominent part is the mosque. Nor are those domes merely for ornament: they are the best inventions for the exclusion of heat. Long experience has shown that when an edifice has its roof composed of an agglomeration of vaulted domes the radiation of heat is effectually broken. The coolest place in a Moslem town is invariably the mosque, and in India we find many of the places and pavilions on this principle. Nor can we omit drawing attention to the superb towers at the angles. Originally meant for defence, they show by the elegance of their architecture that they have been drawn in by the designer to contribute – all were for real use and resistance to climate or enemies before the luxuriant fancy of the artists appropriated them to the domain of the beautiful.

The juxtaposition of architectural splendour and the charms of external nature with the misery and meanness of popular life is quite characteristic of the East. With all this show of superb architecture we see the domes blistered or peeled off, and bungalows of the meanest construction thrust close to the very walls. But yet this shows us the every day life in an Indian market place. Under the shade of the lofty sycamore we find the female fruiterer chaffering with a purchaser, and the primitive buffalo-cart unloaded and its animals reposing. The water-carrier is seen swinging his load, like our milk-carriers, on the shoulder; and in the front centre we have the distended goatskin of refreshing liquor poured into the mouth the thirsty passenger. The hookah, or, as we call it, hubble-bubble, solaces the sedentary with fumes less exciting and more agreeable than those of tobacco; and the stipendiary trooper is seen strutting about with is antiquated defensive weapons, a soldier in appearance and name rather than in reality, but an appendage to those decayed Courts which pride still retains – thanks to the liberal pension fund of the Company.

The moral suggested by our Engraving is that the residence of the native Princes a decayed barbaric magnificence is accompanied by the primitive rudeness of the indigenous populations, with very little tincture of the civilisation of Europe. That a great change is approaching few can doubt. Henceforth the measures of the Government must be more trenchant. Without the commission of injustice, British supremacy must assert itself with decision; and, although we are not sanguine enough to say that India can be Christianised, it undoubtedly may and must be more Europeanised, and politically more centralised. Railways covering the great plains of Bengal and the Punjaub, and threading the ghauts of Southern India, will enable this large empire to be kept better “in hand;” and a large emigration to the healthy mountain districts is clearly practicable after what we know of Ceylon, and the large and prosperous British community in the upper country of this island, which is now one vast sanitarium. With the hill countries partially settled with British, our tenure of the low country would be all the more secure. Some populations never permanently tame down in submission; but we have seen that a misplaced philanthropy makes the Hindoo rise. We have had a great lesson, and, as the smoke of crashing empire dies away, foundations of solidity are still discernable. The result we look on as the beginning of the extinction of the more barbaric magnificence of Old India. Let the barbarism go, but let the picturesque architecture remain, nay, be extended and revived, by the future Pugins of the Eastern Hemisphere.

On the same page there's news of Austria, Earthquake in Naples, Switzerland, Russia, US, Persia, China, Australasia, Mexico and others.

The Persia section reads:

The following telegram has been received: "The Shah of Persia has invited the various Ambassadors to be present at the coronation of his son. The English Minister, it is said, has refused to attend, making a reservation in favour of the rights of another heir to the throne, now a refugee at Bagdad."

Not sure of the story behind this* but reading old stuff is quite fun and quite fascinating, no?

*[British Policy in Persia, 1858-1890, A. P. Thornton The English Historical Review, Vol. 70, No. 274 (Jan., 1955), pp. 55-71 - could be a clue?]

Saturday, June 14, 2008

ye jo Jeff Buckley hai...

Jeff Buckley's cover of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's - Yeh Jo Halka Halka Saroor Hai from the album 'Live at Sin-é'

The title song is a bit hard to translate but it's something on the lines of 'that ecstasy feeling' - terrible translation. I suggest you learn Urdu but for now here is a little breakdown: [Yeh Jo = that is, it is; Halka Halka = (very) light/little/slight; Saroor = exhilaration/ecstasy, Hai = is]

Here is a link to the original by the ustaad: Link

Below is an interview by the late great Jeff Buckley with the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the Interview magazine (Jan 1996):

Pakistani Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan drives people wild with his music, which is an unbelievable combination of rich, soaring, complex sounds including something that is hard to describe but reminds us of yodeling. His music has been featured on movie soundtracks and in concert halls around the world, and his ecstatic voice haunts all who hear it. Here, the sensational singer Jeff Buckley talks with the man who has, for so long, inspired him.

Born in a region where music is as much of a birthright as breathing, singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is held to be the brightest star in Qawwali, a form of Islamic devotional music, in all of Pakistan - "bright," that is, as in blinding. A vocal art over seven centuries old, Qawwali is passed down orally from father to son (in rare cases to daughters) by Sufi masters. Sufism is a Muslim philosophical and literary movement dating back to the tenth century. Borrowing tenets from other world religions, including Buddhism and Christianity, this mystical order stresses the personal union of the soul with God through poetry and symbolism. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has single-handedly transformed this art from a static antique into a brilliant explosion of light. Through his ecstatic performances, Khan's Qawwali acts as a living testament to music's power to link all humans, unashamed of emotion, to the divine. At once soaring and penetrating, these sounds seem to rip open the sky, slowly revealing the radiant face of the beloved. Qawwals don't sing, they are born to sing, and the men who accompany Khan in his ensemble do not just play music, they become music itself. Every Qawwali performer is excellent, mind you, for they all, by definition, must sing from a heart burning with a passionate love for Allah (God), the prophet Muhammad, and the saints, and must be totally open to the divine. For them, there is nothing else. Six years after first discovering his music, I was able to meet the man whose voice has healed the fuck out of me. We talked in a vast hotel room in New York City, through his interpreter, Rashid Ahmed Din, who knows Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's story better than anyone. I wouldn't lie to you, this is the man.

JEFF BUCKLEY: The first real Qawwali I ever heard was called "Yeh Jo Halka Halka," from the album The Day, the Night, the Dawn, the Dusk on Shanachie Records.

NUSRAT FATEH ALl KHAN: You liked it?

JB: It saved my life. I was in a very bad place.

NFAK: Where were you?

JB: Just depressed.

NFAK: I see.

JB: Like many people in America, I was first introduced to Qawwali through you. I didn't understand any of the words, but your voice carried the message to my heart, which is all that most Western listeners can rely on because we don't know the language. For Instance, few people know that halka means "drunkenness."

NFAK: It is not drunkenness in terms of alcohol. It is like when somebody is in love and is drank in the eyes.

RASHID AHMED DIN: He's not talking about the whiskey bottle, he's talking about . . . the beauty.

JB: Yes, but it's impossible for English speakers to tell this from the translations of the Sufi poetry, which are always very dry. If one has any sense of Urdu [an official language of Pakistan], one knows that the English translations lack a little soul, they're like wood. But the Qawwalis [the ceremonial songs] aren't written, they're sung by heart.

NFAK: Yes, you've got to sing from the depths of the heart. Without heart you cannot be a Qawwal. You sing the songs every day, so even though there is quite a lot, you remember it.

JB: It must be hard to withstand the feeling you need in order to inhabit the poetry properly.

NFAK: That's right.

JB: You once had a dream that is now very famous. Can you describe it to me?

NFAK: My father [the Qawwali singer Ustad Fateh Ali Khan] died in 1964, and ten days later, I dreamed that he came to me and asked me to sing. I said I could not, but he told me to try. He touched my throat, I started to sing, and then I woke up singing. I had dreamed that my first live performance would be at my father's chilla [funeral ceremony], where we would all sit together again and read prayers from the Koran and so on. On the fortieth day after his death, we held the ceremony, and I performed for the very first time.

JB: How old were you?

NFAK: About sixteen.

JB: What was life like before the dream?

NFAK: I was just studying with my father, a very difficult task for me since he was a great, great Qawwali singer. He didn't want me to become a musician, he wanted me to be a doctor, because he said singing was too hard. You see, many people can sing without any basic background. But this [improvisational] style of Qawwali is what my family does, and to do it well, we have to go through many difficulties.

RAD: Nusrat was the most beloved child in the family. The whole town used to take him around, and play with him and so forth; in other words, spoil him. His father thought, "He will not be able to concentrate." They wanted him to carry on studying to be a doctor. But he used to listen to his father teaching his students and secretly, he would go and practice, hiding his gift. One day, his father discovered him while he was practicing and he got a bit cross, but he found out that Nusrat had a talent, and then he started teaching him, too. Unfortunately, his father died not long after that. After he did though, he said to Nusrat in the dream, "This world will hear a new voice, which will surprise them all." But he didn't know whose voice it would be.

JB: Until it happened.

RAD: That's right. Can you imagine? He started so late and picked up so quick.

JB: There are no recordings of your father available in America.

NFAK: No, he never made records. We have some recordings off the radio in Pakistan, but no commercial releases. He said, "I don't want people to pay a little money and listen to my voice." [laughs]

RAD: His father was a man of dignity. He won many awards. Once the Shah of Iran came to Pakistan and his father performed in fluent Persian. The Shah was so stunned he gave him his car, a Chevrolet. You see, his father brought Qawwali music from the shrines into everyday life, like to weddings, parties, and to the high people in the government.

JB: I had a similar struggle, because I started very late.

NFAK: When did you start?

JB: My first performance was at about age fourteen. And I also hid from my father [the late singer Tim Buckley]. He had died by the time I started, but I hid from him a gift that I was born with. There was a period when I was frozen for about three or four years, starting when I was eighteen. In my dream at that time, the ghost of my father came smashing through the window. It doesn't take a dream to make a singer, but yours was a beautiful gift. When did your own style begin?

RAD: He was well known from very early, but when he recorded a song called "Haq Ali Ali Maula Ali Ali" he became even more famous. What was required was turning the style and making it a little bit softer for the audience.

JB: You made the rhythm softer? Impossible, that rhythm is hard.

NFAK: I made it softer than my father used to do. In his day, the audience was well aware of the music, of the classical beat. Everyone used to listen to the real music. But as the times change, people change, and so do their tastes, so I try to understand what the public wants, what they require. I have tried to make the music a bit easier for them to understand.

JB: Did you make it less complex?

NFAK: Yes, I tried to change the classical style in a way that people who don't understand it can enjoy.

JB: It's also very Sufic to do something unseen. To reveal a deeper meaning.

NFAK: Yes, but Qawwals cannot change the form. Slight variations can be made but you cannot change the whole performance ritual. You must sing the Hamd [praise to Allah], the N'at-i-sharif [praise to Muhammad], and the Manqabat [praise to the saints]. These three elements are called Qawwali, and they've got to be there. Only minor technical changes can be done and improvisation all depends on the artist.

JB: I've never heard anything like what you produce.

RAD: With other Qawwals, whatever they perform today, they will perform the same way tomorrow. But with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, what he performs today will be completely different tomorrow.

JB: It surprises me that those other Qawwals are so static. Nusrat is wild, I mean wild.

RAD: But I haven't heard anyone say, "This is unorthodox." Whatever work he does, nobody can go against it, because of the number of recordings [over 100] that he has done. He doesn't look like a major star when you come to meet him. He's a natural man. It's very unusual for a Qawwal to be a classical singer, or for a classical singer to be a Qawwal. It is particularly different to be commercial, like a pop star. He can do anything you ask him to do.

JB: Are you a Sufi?

NFAK: I am not a Sufi, but I follow the Sufi [tradition]. I will tell you one very famous story that will show you something about Sufis. A man came to my father and said, "I want you to perform for me." The man said, "I only have one rupee, that's all I'm going to give you." And my father said, "O.K., fine." So they went to an open field, just him and the old man, and when they started singing, suddenly there were people everywhere. They never knew where they all came from. That is a Sufi. He wasn't in love with his money, he was in love with the music and was totally lost to it.

JB: Do you have a family?

NFAK: I have a daughter, she's twenty years old.

JB: I don't know If that's important, but I like to know that you're happy.

NFAK: Yes, I'm very happy.

JB: In America, sometimes there is no dancing allowed at the live shows. At the last one I attended, the cops came and took away anyone who danced. It seems that when American people go to these concerts they are bothered by people basically losing their shit.

NFAK: Yes, the audience goes crazy. In qawwali we have this effect, even back home. When people start dancing, they dance like they don't know they are doing it. So they just get lost in it and it is very difficult to calm people down. It's like something inside them is pushing them.

JB: The same thing happens in gospel churches here. Have you ever thought to perform, not only with accompanists from other places, but with singers?

NFAK: Yes, I have sung with Peter Gabriel, Shankar, and Yossou N'Dour. There is no recording, it was live, onstage.

JB: What do you listen to? What music do you love most?

NFAK: Indian classical music. I also like Western classical music and jazz.

JB: There seem to be parallels between Qawwali and African-American forms of music. Your styles are so close to jazz. Do you listen to any rock music?

NFAK: We don't have such things in our country. I do listen to other music though, and try to pick up what is good.

JB: I heard a story about you, and I would like to ask if it is true. When you were in England, you were having some problems, so you went to see a doctor. The doctor said, "What does this man do?" And the assistant said, "He is a famous Qawwali singer in Pakistan." The doctor said that if you stopped singing your heart would stop.

RAD: No, no, Nusrat is good. He's still got the same force.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'Islamic' fashion comes to Bangladesh

Front Cover

Muhajjabah means 'one who hijabs' and hijab means 'to cover', is the new Muslim women fashion magazine launched in Bangladesh. First of its kind to promote 'Islamic' dress in the country.

Not sure how I feel about this, as a Muslimah, one would expect me to be thrilled at the prospect of promoting 'Islamicness'. I suppose my problem comes with the term and the image of hijab, it is made into solely a physical attribute. 'Hijabbing' of the innerself is just as important than the outerself in Islam but we're so obsessed with the latter that the former gets brushed to the side or rather it is not emphasised as much as I would like it to be i.e., just as equally.

Aside from that, looking at other images in the magazine it is pretty apparent that it is not just focusing on fashion but rather on the diversity of women in Bangladesh who dress differently and for differently occasions, whether that be the work place, a wedding or just casual wear - bringing to the fore the traditional saree and salwar kameez but also, the contemporary skirts, trousers and suits. It definitely identifies the needs of a whole wide spectrum of women living in Bangladesh. Although, most of the fashion are not to my taste, but then it is not aimed at me, I do commend the effort in filling a gap that perhaps needed filling and the editors for not being afraid to be "more Islamic" in a country that has often prided itself to be 'secular'.

Monday, June 09, 2008

ulta falta #1

How is it that people have time to call you but only to tell you how busy they are and that they can't chat to you...?

you. called. me.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

hok kolorob

Means 'silla silli' if you know Sylhetti otherwise it translates, roughly to 'scream and shout/make some noise'.
Arnob's got a new album out titled Doob, haven't heard it yet, anyone want to send it my way...?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Much Ado about Women...

I always cringe when there is an event on about women; discussing women issues by women for women. Yet yesterday I gave such an event the benefit of the doubt, thought perhaps I could learn something from it and cure the sceptic in me, a little. The event was the Radical Middle Way Question Time for Women, titled Spiced Spare Ribs. Admittedly it took me a while to figure out what the title meant, forgive me, I'm slow...

The event started off with the criticism of the poster and the title of the event. Where I thought the title was a bit tongue and cheek (post realisation of what it meant), Humera Khan begged to differ, her stance was that we needn't go back to reducing women to be just the spare rib of Adam as that was retrogressive. Second issue was the image, it was of a Muslim girl in a jilbab epitomising what a Muslim woman should looked like. This bothered me also, symbolism is a very powerful medium, you go around claiming Muslim women are women who dress a particular way and that immediately alienates an overwhelming number of Muslim women who do not dress the same. Katherine on the other hand, had no qualms with the image claiming that it would be hard to represent all women. But I think if there were images of women in hijabs and no hijabs that would have sufficed as that was clearly the main focus and difference here - those who wear it and those who do not.

I liked how Fathima and others highlighted points on advice; that we needn't always go to an imam for verification, this is something we can do ourself - use our intellect and own understanding to justify things which was quite refreshing to hear. The rest of the debate was concentrated around women's access to the mosque (largely due to Katherine) and guy/girl stuff - Can a man and woman have a platonic relationship? The overwhelming panel agreed they could but if the relationship is within the bounds of Islam. Seriously, some of these questions could people not answer for themselves?? But, I suppose the bounds of Islam needed clarification which was not given.

Aside from that, I did have favourites on the panel; I liked Fathima Zohra and Khola Hasan. Fathima being East African threw in some interesting perspectives on issues such as the mosque and access to women. For those who visit the mosque regularly would actually see the women section is overwhelmingly East African (in some parts of London). East African women have a very strong tradition of going to the mosque unlike the South Asian womenfolk so some of the questions about access to women to mosques became more of an issue of how South Asians practice Islam and how East Africans practice Islam. Khola I liked because she was the most learned of them all and on the subject of theology and I am sure she would have given some very interesting replies but alas things did not progress that far.

Katherine on the other hand hijacked the stage to promote MPAC and the Mayoral elections in favour of Ken, which I thought was extremely cheeky! And every opportunity was used to talk about revolutionising the mosques to let women in (i.e. promoting one of the MPAC campaigns) . Whilst the aim is amiable, there is something about MPAC that is quite aggressive that ruins their objectives. Humera Khan, disagreed with Katherine on the matter of mosques and access of women. Humera was of the opinion, if you're unhappy create your own, mosques are not as central to the Muslim community as Katherine claimed. I agreed, sort of. I think it is too much to wait for the mosques to change and be more women-friendly, need a century at least! There is nothing stopping women to create a mosque of their own and become a leading exemplar of the community. Why isn't that happening??

The turn out of the event was surprising, it was pretty full and with quite a number of the male-kind in the audience too (woot!). Although it was disappointing not to see any men on the panel. I found the debate superficial and covering subjects that were in part self-answerable (sorry Fareena and Mr. Malik). There was no real debate or things did not get deep enough to become interesting. I'm thinking, there needs to be a ban on so-called "women issue", 'cos really it is not, it is a problem of the ummah....no, humanity. Says she very wisely....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines

Been walking past this poster for a few weeks now, and finally it has some use! :)

Monday, February 04, 2008

What is in a Question?

Recently speaking to a friend on the question of finding the suitable 'suitor' she told me her mode of choosing someone. She's decided to ask some questions;* religion-related, lifestyle-related - types, reasonable. Except two of her question came down to answering 'what is your concept of God?' and 'How do you know Islam if the right religion?' Of course, she isn't looking for a full proof answer but rather how the person reasons themselves. And not that they are unreasonable questions to ask but I think mine (if a time should come) would be more general and may entail a are you salafi?-question when it came down to religion :)

So, how would you feel answering such questions? Would you love the challenge? Think odd of her? Or simply like her a bit for asking it?

And, what would your Questions be?

*In the Asian/Muslim circle relationships are formed commonly through intermediaries who find you your suitor and through them you communicate and give your criteria and ask your questions and stuff...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

64 = 65 ?

Could it?

It could...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Delhi, 1857

Delhi before the rebellion of 1857.

Printed (1860)

click for a larger image

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy 2008 and Bilawal

Happy 2008! Hope all your new years was as good as mine, yup 11 glasses of water, Jools on telly and fireworks - can't beat it!

It's hard to blog these days, blogging is something that can be only done in leisure it seems, although not in leisure now, but posts with not a great deal of input from me does not take much effort...

The recent Bhutto fiasco brought about, what is typical of Southasia, and really most of the world, the emphasis on hereditary ties. It was truly comical to see Bilawal Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's only son, be announced the natural successor to his mother and to the Pakistan's People's Party (PPP). And naturally, his father was made the deputy leader, who will in the meantime run the party while his son finishes off his education. The greatest moment came when Bilawal gave his speech and in the heat of the moment roared (well, quoted), "democracy is the best revenge!". So naive and so paradoxical...

Here is a post epitomising my sentiments of the whole situation. Musab Bora on Comment is Free (Guardian):

In Bilawal's footsteps

Just as Benazir Bhutto's son is stepping into her role as party leader, I am following the path my father once took: to Sheffield

January 5, 2008 10:00 AM

Dear People of Sheffield:

It is time for me to take my rightful place in the heart of your community. It has been my destiny since I was born. My father served your - I mean, our - community well by being an imam at the mosque and advice worker at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Many knew him well, and I hope to do him, and you proud.

I claim my hereditary right to do the jobs my father did, having the good fortune to share half of his genes. In fact, like most of their generation, my parents were related before they were married, so you can be confident in the knowledge that I probably have more than half of my father's genes, making me even more qualified to work as he did.

I have been on a momentous journey, yet that journey is only beginning. Last week, I was walking in East London, smiling at the foreign throng, when a sign appeared in front on me: "There is no hard work, no education, just luck." I took this sign as a sign that I should look to my birthrights and see how the fortune of my birth would bring me here, to take my place with you and your northern ways.

I have been groomed for these positions since my birth. Some of you may remember how proud my father was that he finally had a son who could take on his role after he had died. Though we moved away from Sheffield when I was still a child, it was merely to expand my cultural and social horizons and make me truly deserving of the momentous role I am about to play in your lives. Since getting married, I have been further groomed - as has my hair, with my beard neatly trimmed, putting clear distance between me and others, whose lower mandibles are more hirsute.

Now some of you may think in this age of democracy, meritocracy and digital piracy, that these values may be outmoded. I say to these naysayers, I nay back at your nays, for your nays are negative feedback that must be neutralised. Forget your Bilawal Bhuttos and your Prince Charlies, this principle is as old as Cain and Abel, and runs through our society, from George W Bush, to James Murdoch, to Norah Jones and Liza Minelli.

Now to those who rightly ask what meaningful change I can bring to the mosques and advice bureaux of South Yorkshire, I say this. Any gaps in my considerable, if not directly relevant, life experience will be enhanced by my strong team of close friends. These are people who through stupidity, desperation, bad luck or a perfect storm of all three, have stuck by me through these years. Their loyalty to me shows how imaginative, creative and hopeful they are.

In my new role as co-chairman of Sheffield Sons of Sermonisers and Symposiarchs (SSSS), I aim to bring my fresh perspective and clean slate to the myriad of problems brought before me. Having obtained the required mediocre Oxbridge degree, I am now taking further lessons in the Yorkshire accent, by listening to Ian McMillan and William Hague on YouTube. In the near future I shall also be visiting a coal mine for a fact-finding mission. Until my education is complete and things become more settled, my mother is taking on my role in the SSSS for the time being.

Although our family home has been in Leicester, my links with Sheffield remain as strong as ever. I frequently drive past Meadowhall shopping centre on the way to visit relatives in Scunthorpe.

So, when my education is finished, what will be my vision for the future? I am a safe pair of hands, and in the light of my appointment, you can be secure in the knowledge that it is not an individual who is joining you, but a lineage. I promise you all that should anything happen to me, my six-month-old son has been groomed for over a year to lead you all through the 21st century.