Thursday, 8 July 2010

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Dr. Farhat Hashmi: The Rise of Al Huda International

By NAHAL TOOSI (AP) – Jun 26, 2010

ISLAMABAD — To its detractors, the Al-Huda chain of Islamic schools across Pakistan (and the world, with a branch also in Glasgow) is a driver of conservative Islam, especially among the secular elite. But to the thousands who attend its classes across the country, it is a blessing.



Take Mariam Afzal, who says she was once so selfish she would take up two spots in a parking lot without a second thought. Back then, she knew little about Islam beyond the basic rituals. A decade later, the 30-year-old credits Al-Huda with turning her into the veil-wearing Quran teacher she is today.

"It has really helped me become a better person," she says.

Al-Huda's popularity and rapid growth — and the criticism of it as a promoter of intolerance and gender segregation — is a sign of Pakistan's swing away from the moderate, Sufi Islam-influenced sphere of South Asia toward the more conservative, Saudi-influenced Middle East.

That swing comes as religious observance is on the rise in many other Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Indonesia, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. put a magnifying glass on Islam and its adherents.

The appeal of conservative Islam to the Pakistani elite — the same elite that gave Pakistan a female prime minister, Benazir Bhutto — has been brought into focus following the attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square on May 1. The would-be bomber and most of a dozen others held were from educated, wealthier segments of the mostly impoverished country.



Founder Farhat Hashmi started Al-Huda (Arabic for "guidance") in her home with a small group of students in the early 1990s. Now it caters to women and girls in Pakistan and in elsewhere, including the U.S. and Canada, where Hashmi now lives.

Al-Huda is distinct in several ways from other groups in Pakistan offering classes on Islam.

It offers a structured curriculum and a range of programs, a strong brand name and administration, and it was conceived and run by women from the start, instead of being a branch of a male-dominated institution.

At its main campus in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, women wearing uniforms of head scarves and long robes sit in rows and take notes as teachers lead lessons on the meaning of the Quran. Children scamper through the multistory facility. There's a library, concession stands, a range of pamphlets, books and audiotapes and even an 80-year-old member who acts as a therapist of sorts.

Women can sign up for full-fledged diploma courses, taught in Urdu and English, or they can be "listeners," just stopping by now and then. Schedules are flexible to attract working women, housewives and the young. Students can live on campus, and a bigger facility is being built on the edge of Islamabad.

Al-Huda administrators are vague on numbers, but Faiza Mushtaq, who is writing her dissertation on the movement, estimates at least 15,000 women have earned diplomas from Al-Huda in Pakistan alone since 1994.

Tuition fees are just a few dollars for three months of lessons, according to Mushtaq, and less for women who can't pay that much. Most of Al-Huda's revenue appears to come from sales of its materials and donations.

The school is particularly appealing because it teaches the Quran using Urdu and English translations as opposed to Arabic, which most Pakistanis don't know.



Its graduates, many of whom cover their faces and hair outside class, often return to their homes in distant cities and villages and start their own chapters of Al-Huda. Regular Al-Huda classes are held at dozens of branches in Pakistan, many of them run by a single graduate.

"My vision is that the Quran reaches everyone, because it is Allah's message to humanity," Hashmi, 52, said in an interview during a recent visit to Islamabad. Al-Huda is "a kind of women's empowerment program, and I think knowledge is the best way to empower women, especially spiritual knowledge."

Critics disagree.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear scientist and critic of hard-line Islam, has written about the spread of religious conservatism in Pakistan, and has pointed to Hashmi as one of its principal forces.

The face-covering burqa, once a rarity in Islamabad, now has stores specializing it, he notes. Hoodbhoy says Al-Huda is engendering a mindset of segregation and submission for women that is shredding Pakistan's cultural fabric.

"Through ceaseless proselytizing and subtle pressure tactics, Al-Huda has brought a majority of my university's students under the burqa," Hoodbhoy said in an e-mail. "In comparison with students of earlier decades, they are less confident, less willing to ask questions in class, and most have become silent note-takers. To sing, dance, play sports or act in dramas is, of course, out of the question for these unfortunates."

People who have studied Al-Huda say it promotes a literal, conservative approach to the Quran, but that it is not as rigid as it could be. While women are taught that covering their hair and avoiding music is what Islam requires, they also are encouraged to earn professional degrees.

Mushtaq, who is earning her Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Illinois, said she never heard Al-Huda condone violence, but that it could at times promote intolerance.

"I've heard some classroom discussions where they were talking about how to deal with Christians and Hindus. They weren't advocating violence, but just how one should stay away from them or convert them — a very, very patronizing and superior attitude," said Mushtaq.

But she noted that Hashmi and Al-Huda had also been criticized by conservative male Muslim scholars who question the teachers' credentials and rebuke Hashmi, a married mother of four, for traveling without a male guardian and lecturing on TV and radio. They even cast aspersions on women studying outside the home.

Several Al-Huda participants said they joined to know more about Islam.

"We don't know anything about our religion, actually, and I wanted to learn," said Salma Khokhar, a 40-year-old housewife who is one of the most active students in Afzal's English-language class. "Al-Huda has changed me a lot. I've lost 43 pounds. I feel very focused. I pray. I talk to Allah."

Uzma Azmi, 46, who grew up on the secular side of a family with mixed degrees of religiosity, used to think Al-Huda was too rigid. But after months of sitting in on classes, she now says the school's critics are uninformed and unwilling to look past the veils.

Azmi drapes a scarf over her hair during class, but not in her daily life.

"I'm not going to cover my head right now, and these people don't force you. It has to come from within," she said, adding, "I don't think I'd be willing to give up music." (She likes classic rock and early reggae.)

Critics complain that Al-Huda is silent on subjects such as violence against women, attacks on non-Muslims or Islamist terrorism wrecking the country. Al-Huda says it is not a political organization, and that it's more effective to foster a better society through teaching Islam than issuing press releases.

Hashmi, who has a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, expressed dismay about the violence in Pakistan, and said the people who carry out suicide attacks were "misusing the name of Allah."

Some say it may be that as Al-Huda's reach grows, Hashmi's more moderate views aren't transmitted that well by graduates who set up their own classes, especially in less affluent, more remote areas.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

French burqa debate is a smokescreen


The Islamic burqa is being used by Sarkozy and his cronies as a distraction from the real issue of allegations of state corruption

by Nabila Ramdani
www.guardian.co.uk
Thursday 8 July 2010 14.30 BST

You may except the impassioned rhetoric surrounding France's so-called "burqa ban" to come from the women who actually wear them, but in fact it's mainstream politicians who are making all the noise. President Nicolas Sarkozy describes the full Islamic veil as "a sign of enslavement and debasement". Immigration minister Eric Besson calls it a "walking coffin". Even the usually restrained prime minister François Fillon accuses wearers of "hijacking Islam" and displaying a "dark sectarian image".

This kind of melodramatic language will dominate the debate currently being carried out in the national assembly in Paris as deputies consider a banning bill. The venomous soundbites will lead TV and radio bulletins, with newspapers and internet sites competing to come up with equally contentious headlines. The images used to accompany the scaremongering will be a combination of sinister figures clad in black; if possible set against the background of the kind of rundown council estates that blight France's reputation for civic élan.

But why the anger? What's the point of it all? There are only around 2,000 women in France who actually wear a burqa (the cloak that covers a woman from head to foot) or a niqab (the more genuinely Islamic veil that conceals a woman's face). If the bill is passed next week, and then approved by the senate in September, then all can expect a nominal fine of €150 if they're caught wearing the garments. "Re-education" about republican values and civic responsibility is a more likely sanction.

The fact that husbands or fathers who force women to wear them face a year in prison and a €30,000 fine under the terms of the bill will be welcomed by all who believe in equality of the sexes. But, again, the number currently complaining about this kind of coercion is all but insignificant.

France's highest court, the council of state, has already suggested the proposed ban may be unconstitutional, with European human rights lawyers suggesting that you can no more prevent someone wearing an Islamic veil as, say, a skiing balaclava, fancy-dress mask, or even a motorbike crash helmet.

To understand why burqa rage is such a common failing of big name politicians, we need look no further than the Liliane Bettencourt affair, another hot topic which has seen Sarkozy's government effectively accused of helping the billionaire L'Oréal heiress to evade tax. This week it was even claimed that Bettencourt made illegal cash donations to Sarkozy's election campaign in 2007 – claims which the president vehemently denies.

Against this background, what better way to forget about state corruption than through an utterly artificial national identity debate, with the dreaded Islamic veil anchoring it? It was Sarkozy who started one a year ago, as he pretended to revive Gallic patriotism by getting people talking about what makes them feel good about being French. Sadly, thousands who took part in badly organised discussions in town halls and on internet forums chose – like the president – to concentrate on the negative, and especially veils. It was as early as last year that Sarkozy helpfully described both the burqa and the niqab as "an affront to republican values".

Sarkozy and his allies say a ban will reinforce France's secular values, or laicité, with an extension of the legislation that saw all religious symbols, including the Islamic headscarf, banned in state schools in 2004. In reality, it will help the increasingly unpopular head of state to win votes among supporters of the Front National, the overtly racist party that views the very presence of some 5 million Muslims in France as the greatest of all threats to '"national identity". There is no doubt that Sarkozy and his cronies place Islamic veils alongside all of the other deeply negative cliches surrounding Islam, from anti-western fundamentalists threatening terrorism, to disaffected youths rioting on the kinds of estates where burqa and niqab wearers invariably live.

As countries such as Belgium and Spain prepare their own burqa bans (along with oddballs in Britain including members of the UK Independence party and, inevitably, a determined Tory MP), what better way for Sarkozy to try to revive his popularity than with a bit of disingenuous Muslim-baiting? And how convenient it would be for the president if a parliamentary debate focusing on the dressing habits of some of the poorest women in France should take attention away from a growing scandal involving the richest?

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Malaysia appoints 1st female Islamic court judges



By JULIA ZAPPEI – Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's Islamic Shariah courts have appointed their first female judges — a move praised by women's rights activists Thursday as a boost for a judicial system often accused of favoring men.

Suraya Ramli and Rafidah Abdul Razak, formerly officials at the government's Islamic judicial department, were named Shariah court judges for Kuala Lumpur and the administrative capital of Putrajaya in May, but the appointment was only announced in the past week by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib said the step was meant to "enhance justice in cases involving families and women's rights" in Malaysia, where nearly two-thirds of the country's 28 million people are Muslims.

Women have long complained they face discrimination in cases involving divorce, child custody rights, inheritance, polygamy and other disputes in Islamic courts, which handle matters involving family and morality for Malaysian Muslims.

Rights activists have said they receive hundreds of complaints each year from women because Shariah courts are slow to penalize ex-husbands who fail to pay child support. Men are also known to find it relatively easy to divorce their wives while taking a greater share of the couple's property.

Norhayati Kaprawi, a prominent Malaysian Muslim women's activist, said the appointments were long overdue.

"What they must focus on is ensuring that they deliver justice and take into consideration ... the realities of Muslim women's lives," Norhayati said.

Meera Samanther, president of Malaysian group Women's Aid Organization, said fair representation within the justice system was "a necessity."

Suraya, 31, could not immediately be contacted Thursday, and Rafidah, 39, declined to immediately comment. Court officials could not be reached to elaborate on what cases the judges have handled so far.

Female judges are common in Malaysia's secular courts, though most top posts are held by men.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Islamic Dumbness?


"One of the greatest difficulties I encounter as a teacher of Islamic Law is to get law students, since I teach at a Law School, to apply normal legal critical reasoning to the doctrines of Islamic Law that they are learning. Whenever 'Islam' is invoked it is as if you find students immediately, instantaneously lose about 20-30 IQs, where it is not just what they understand that is dumbed down but they seek what is dumbed down! They actively create what is dumbed down. At an even larger scale, at a social scale we embrace what is dumbed down and reject what is layered and sophisticated.”

Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl
Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles, USA


Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is one of the world’s leading authorities on Islamic law and Islam, and a prominent scholar in the field of human rights.

Conversations With History: Islam and the Secular State

Host Harry Kreisler welcomes legal philosopher Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Candler Professor of Law at Emory University, to discuss the challenges facing Muslims as they seek to reconcile tradition and modernity. Professor An-Na'im reflects on his intellectual journey and lessons of his own career as a scholar, advocate and activist and discusses the importance of Islamic reform which negotiates notions of human rights, constitutionalism, and citizenship while respecting tradition and culture.

Professor Dr. Muhammad Khalid Masud: Islamic Norms in Secular Public Spheres



Born April 15, 1939, Dr. Muhammad Khalid Masud holds Masters and Ph.D. degrees from McGill University, Montreal, Canada and is a renowned scholar and academician with knowledge of English, Arabic, Persian, French(R), German(R) and Spanish(R) languages.

He has worked and taught at the following institutions as:

* Professor: Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad.
* Senior Lecturer: Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.
* Fulbright Fellow: Pennsylvania University, USA.
* Lecturer: École des Haute Études Sciences Sociales, Paris, France.
* Professor: Collège de France, Paris.
* Professor: Leiden University, The Netherlands.
* Academic Director: International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden, The Netherlands.
* Visiting Professor: Faculty of Law, International Islamic University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Authored, edited and co-edited a number of books such as:

- Muhsin-i A‘zam (1963)
- Islamic Legal Philosophy (1977)
- Iqbal’s concept of Ijtihad (1975)
- Shatibi’s Philosophy of Islamic Law (1996)
- Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Ijtihad (1995) and
- Muslim Jurists’ Quest for the Normative Basis of Shariah (Leiden : ISIM)

He has edited and coedited:

- Islamic Legal Interpretations (Harvard, 1996)
- Travellers in Faith (Brill, 2000)
- Dispensing Justice in Islam (Brill, 2006) - Atharwin sadi men Barri Saghir men Islami Rahnuma - (2008) - Islam and Modernity (Edinburgh)

Nasr Abu Zayd, Who Stirred Debate on Qur'an, Dies at 66


New York Times: July 5th 2010
CAIRO (Reuters) — Nasr Abu Zayd, an Egyptian scholar who was declared an apostate for challenging mainstream Muslim views on the Qur'an, died here on Monday. He was 66.

The official Egyptian news agency, MENA, said he died at a hospital where he was being treated for an unidentified illness.

Dr. Abu Zayd’s liberal, critical approach to Islamic teachings angered some Muslim conservatives in Egypt in the 1990s, when President Hosni Mubarak’s government was combating an uprising by armed Islamic militants. Dr. Abu Zayd criticized the use of religion to exert political power. He argued that the Qur'an was both a literary and religious text, a view that clashes with the Islamic idea that the holy book is the final revelation of God.

Islam, Dr. Abu Zayd said, should be understood in terms of its historical, geographic and cultural background, adding that “pure Islam” did not exist and that the Qur'an was “a collection of discourses.”

In 1995, an Egyptian Shariah court declared Dr. Abu Zayd an apostate from Islam, annulled his marriage and effectively forced him and his wife into exile. The couple moved to the Netherlands after he received death threats, notably from the Islamic Jihad group led by Ayman al-Zawahri, who has since become deputy leader of Al Qaeda.

But Dr. Abu Zayd quietly returned to Egypt in recent years, first for lectures and later for health reasons.

In reviewing his book “Voice of an Exile: Reflections on Islam” (2004), many Western academics praised his scholarship.

“Nasr Abu Zayd is a heroic figure, a scholar who has risked everything to restore the traditions of intellectual inquiry and tolerance that for so long characterized Islamic culture,” wrote Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Abu Zayd compared Arab rulers unfavorably with leaders in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere in the Muslim world, where he said religious debate was comparatively free-flowing.

“Religion has been used, politicized, not only by groups but also the official institutions in every Arab country,” he told Reuters in 2008. The distinction between “the domain of religion and secular space,” he said, had been eroded.

“I’m sure that I’m a Muslim,” he said. “My worst fear is that people in Europe may consider and treat me as a critic of Islam. I’m not. I’m not a new Salman Rushdie and don’t want to be welcomed and treated as such. I’m a researcher.”

Monday, 5 July 2010

Hadiya Masieh: How 7 July bombings made me question my beliefs


Hadiya Masieh was recruited by Hizb ut-Tahrir radicals, but 7/7 bombings five years ago opened her eyes

Sarfraz Manzoor
The Observer, Sunday 4 July 2010

On Tuesday, the eve of the fifth anniversary of the 7 July bombings when 52 people died at the hands of Islamist terrorists, 100 orthodox Jewish and devout Muslim women will come together to try to foster closer ties between the two communities.

The women will gather at a west London cinema for a special screening of Arranged, a film about inter-faith friendship, before talking and learning about their respective lives. That the event is taking place at all is surprising, but what is even more startling is that the woman who has organised it was once a senior figure in a radical Islamist organisation.

Hadiya Masieh, a 32-year-old mother of three, spent 10 years as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the controversial group that seeks an Islamic caliphate and has been accused of encouraging antisemitism. But then the terrible events of 7 July 2005 transformed her outlook. "I feel like I was a pawn," she told the Observer. "Led down the garden path when I didn't know better." Today Masieh devotes her time to speaking out against Islamist extremism.

As the anniversary of Britain's worst terrorist atrocity approaches, the story of her radicalisation provides a grim reminder of how a young person can lose her bearings. The way she managed to turn around her life in the aftermath of the bombings, even becoming an adviser to the last government on Muslim women's issues, is one of the few positive outcomes from a horrifying day.

In the autumn of 1996, Masieh was just another teenager leaving her home and family to start university. The boarding school-educated daughter of middle-class Mauritian and Ugandan parents, she had been raised as a Hindu but even before leaving to study in London she had begun to question her faith.

In the months before she left home, Masieh had begun to read and learn about Islam, and the more she studied it the more certain she became that Islam was the path she wanted to follow. Within months of arriving at Brunel University, she had converted to Islam and begun searching around at university for fellow Muslims. "I went looking for people who were religious," she says, "and they were the most prominent ones."

"They" were the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the radical Islamist organisation which rejects democracy and campaigns for a single Islamic caliphate. "They would be in the prayer rooms and they seemed very religious," Masieh says. "I was a clean slate and I was impressed by how well they spoke. What they said seemed to make sense to me."

They told Masieh that the entire western world was out to destroy Islam and that the west feared the rise of Islamist ideology. "Because I was so ignorant and naive, what they said seemed persuasive," she says, "and it appealed to my political side. So before long I was spending every night with members of HT, getting more and more brainwashed."

The radical Muslims with whom she was spending ever more time became her substitute family. "We would talk and it wasn't just religion that we were discussing – it was about building a perfect world and establishing an Islamic state. My studies were secondary to what I was doing. I felt I was doing God's work."

After leaving university, Masieh became a full member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and it was through the organisation that she met her husband. "I was really into the thick of it by then," she says. "I was spending so much time trying to recruit people, going on marches, giving out leaflets, organising bazaars in Muslim areas as a way of getting people to join the organisation."

On 11 September 2001, when the United States was attacked by Islamic terrorists, it was evidence for Masieh and her fellow radicals that there were others who shared their anger at America and the west: "9/11 was great publicity for our cause," she reveals. "We found that more people were listening to our cause and when George Bush made his speech about being either with us or against us that just reinforced what our organisation had been saying."

But for Masieh 2001 was not only the year that the twin towers fell – it was also the year that she had her first child. "Having a baby meant I had less time to be active in the organisation," she says. "And I also moved out of London, so I wasn't mixing with the same crowd."

Once she was out of the Hizb ut-Tahrir cocoon, Masieh began to slowly question some of the certainties they had been preaching. It was during this time of doubt that Masieh, then heavily pregnant with her third child, went to her local hospital to check on the progress of her pregnancy. The date of her appointment was 7 July 2005. "I was in the hospital room having nurses doing tests on me but watching the television screen," she recalls. "It was then that it suddenly hit me that this was not a film – this was happening in London, the city I called home."

Two weeks later, on the day of the foiled second wave of terrorist attacks on the London underground, Masieh gave birth. The synchronicity of attempted murder and of new life left her convinced that she had to abandon any vestiges of her radical thinking and embrace a more tolerant version of Islam.

"The 7/7 bombers and the people I knew at HT were two sides of the same coin," she says. "HT says it does not believe in violence, but the violence was never condemned; they just didn't think it would achieve anything." She told the organisation that she no longer believed what it preached and she left.

These days Masieh works for the Three Faiths Forum, an inter-faith organisation that seeks to build bridges between religions. Her campaigning has led her to speak at universities, where she meets young Muslims who could be tempted to embrace radicalism.

"Because I have been there, I can counter the extremist arguments at a drop of a hat," she says. "I know how they work and operate and I can dismantle their arguments. If I had been offered alternatives, I would never have followed the path that I did."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Sectarianism has poisoned Pakistan



The violence seen in Lahore last week was aided by a bigoted constitution. How has stock in our nationhood plummeted so?

The recent attacks on a prominent shrine in Lahore demonstrate how the unrest in Pakistan is caused by a minority of few who cannot tolerate the plurality of beliefs in Pakistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban are lying through their teeth when they claim that they do not attack public places. It's becoming more and more apparent that these militants aren't resisting American hegemony; this a war to determine Pakistan's future and, by proxy, the future of Islam.



Whether the Tehrik-e-Taliban actually arranged the bombers' suicide belts is irrelevant; they have created a domino effect that's likely to spread from commercial capitals such as Lahore to cities with historic shrines and Pakistani historical sites, such as Multan, or Taxila.

Unlike Baghdad, where violence between Islamic sects is a product of the war America is waging, the onus of last Thursday's blasts falls squarely on us, the citizens of Pakistan. We have been complacent about sectarianism for too long.

A good friend who works for a transportation company told me in 2007 that in villages along the highways to Waziristan where the Taliban had seized control were the bodies of butchered Shia Muslims. That year, Lahore's public was too busy mobilising about the judiciary and President Musharraf to pay the violence any mind.

Sectarianism has a brutal history in Pakistan that existed long before militants in Afghanistan began calling themselves the Taliban. I remember as a child in Lahore the broadcasts of gun violence outside Shia houses of worship during the early 1990s.

Many Pakistanis feel that the attacks on two Ahmadiyya mosques last May, where gunmen unloaded bullets and grenades on Friday prayer-goers, were unprecedented. Certainly the Ahmadiyya community doesn't think they are.

To have a Pakistani passport requires citizens to assert that they are not part of the Ahmadiyya community. In a sense, holding that passport also makes you complicit in the blasts that killed dozens in Lahore's most famous Sufi shrine last week. Our inability to understand that this war is about national identity is rooted in the same complacency.

We are OK with the state deciding for us who is or isn't Muslim. In this regard, the Pakistani government has the weakest moral fibre in taking on this growing strand of extremism. It is hypocritical to fight the Taliban in Waziristan if we are okay about denying citizenship to millions of Muslims born in Pakistan.

It may sound extreme of me, but we should be jailing clerics in Pakistan that give edicts declaring believers to be non-Muslim or anti-Pakistani. It may seem extreme to an American that writers who deny the Holocaust are imprisoned in Europe, but extreme contexts call for extreme measures.

Pakistanis must stress how being born or raised in their country is enough to be Pakistani; laws preventing Ahmadis from referring to themselves as Muslims were amended to the constitution by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s.

I remember being uneasy at my desk in middle school when I was studying at Aitchison College in Lahore, and some of my classmates were getting bullied for having marks on them after returning from Shia processions during Muharram. Pakistanis themselves are the only ones capable of stamping out this discriminatory culture.

Some proactiveness is necessary on our part to make it clear that mystics, Shias, Ahmadis and Christians are all fellow Pakistanis. When you are pulled over by street police in any major Pakistani city, the first bit of information the police ask for is your family name. From one name your caste, religious beliefs and affluence is determined.

This came as a shock to all of my family who have emigrated away: that collectively our stock in our own nationhood has plummeted so. In a sense, these problems are all accrued debt we've accumulated for being so complacent. In the light of our bigoted constitution and deterministic culture we have to – for ourselves – decide that being Pakistani is enough to make us all countrymen. Otherwise, we might as well just refer to ourselves as Taliban, Muslim extremists, Islamic militants, and so forth.

Basim Usmani is a punk rocker from Lahore. He plays in the taqwacore group, The Kominas. They are currently touring the UK and will be playing the Hoxton Underbelly in London on 10 July.