Good on you Mahira Khan-Kapoor – now please stop playing the Virgin

Mahira Khan is of course Pakistan’s biggest actress and she seems to be dating Ranbir Kapoor (in this picture he looks the spitting image of his Dad Rishi).

Of course Twitterstan is going mad with calling Mahira an infidel and what not for betraying her country for a Hindu Indian (no matter that the Kapoors, like so many of their caste, are sons of an Indus soil).

My only take in all this is that good on Mahira for expressing herself and living life to the fullest. However kindly stop playing the Virgin in Distress (Hum Safar, Bin Roye, Sadeqay Tumhara & Sheree Zaat). It’s that hypocritical strain in Pakistani culture that we must constantly project this hyper-idealised version of reality where women have no autonomy or sexual freedom apart from their role as good Muslim mothers.


In Hum Safar she accepts her treatment at her mother-in-law Farida’s schemes. In Bin Roye she punishes herself with a tortuous (and unconsummated) marriage while in Sheree Zaat she atones for her arrogance by becoming a good Namaazi. While Sadeqay Tumhara (which is a truly fantastic show along with the groundbreaking Hum Safar) she allows her future to be ruined by her mother.

Mahira has created a dangerous template for a female lead in Pakistani dramas; Kashaf (played by Sanam Saeed) in Zindagi Gulzar Hai is a much more autonomous and forward looking character but even in that brilliant show the central message was on the Mother’s Sacrifice so shall the Good Life be built. Pakistani culture needs to start giving our Women Room to Breathe and allow them to make their Mistakes/choices the way the Menfolk are given that Carte Blanche.

Good luck Mahira, Mahira Khan-Kapoor has a good ring to it & with your Star Presence you will smash Bollywood (you were the best thing in Raees, maybe I’m being jingoistic when I say that but Paki pride still runs deep lol).


When all you have is postcolonial theory everything is about the white man

Recently I read a piece, Confronting White Supremacy in Christianity as a Christian South Asian, which is interesting from an anthropological perspective. After all, I don’t know what it’s like to be a progressive South Asian Christian, which is the perspective of this author. But as I read the piece I felt that it elided and conflated so much. A much deeper and richer story was being erased so as to serve up another illustration of the primacy of white supremacy.

If you read From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East you know that how white American Christians treat non-white Christians can be rather ridiculous. One of the stories I recall is of an Arab Christian waiter in Jerusalem who wore a cross, and was very irritated with white Americans with strong Southern accents would inquire when he had converted to Christ. This person of course privately scoffed, and reflected that when his ancestors had been Christians for centuries his customer’s ancestors were still worshipping pagan gods.

Here is a passage from the above piece which I think really confuses:

Christianity in India highlights a violent history of white supremacy through colonization and mass conversion by Europeans including, the Portuguese, Irish, Dutch, Italian, French, and English many of whom hold cultural influence that has remained to this day in places like Kerala, Pondicherry, and Goa. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference in the diaspora. For instance, my family converted to Christianity while living under the Apartheid regime in South Africa, an entire system of white supremacy supported by ‘Christian’ values.

The writer is a young Canadian woman whose family is from South Africa of Indian heritage. Additionally, though she never is explicit about it, her family seems to be evangelical Protestant. This is an interesting perspective, but it is a totally different one from that of South Asian Christianity.

Bracketing Kerala with Pondicherry and Goa is simply misleading. Christians are nearly 20% of the population of Kerala, and most are St. Thomas Christians, whose origins predate European contact with India by many centuries. Originally part of the territory of the Persian Church of the East, modern St. Thomas Christians have splintered into numerous groups with varied affiliations, in part due to the trauma of contact with Portuguese Catholicism. But through it all they maintain an indigenous Christian identity which is distinct from any colonial imprint.

Second, large numbers of India’s Christians are converts from Dalit populations, or, tribal peoples in the Northeast who are racially and culturally distinct from other South Asians. The framing in the piece is that South Asian Christianity has to bear the cross of colonialism, but a good argument can be made that for Dalit converts and tribal groups in the Northeast Christianity is the vehicle for resistance to oppression, assimilation, and colonialism on the part of the dominant South Asian cultural matrix.

This is not to say that the piece does not speak to a real dynamic. North American white evangelical Protestantism is inordinately freighted with racialized baggage. And it is easy to reduce into the Manichaean framework of postcolonial theory, where whites are the sole agents of action in the world. But to the generality, Indian Christianity has many disparate threads, and this sort of reduction is misleading.


Clash Of Civilisations – Samuel Huntington

After Ukraine, China asserting itself, Turkey – Rise of Erdogan, Myanmar (Burma) crisis, Even India with rise of Modi . I think this book deserves a revisit. Perhaps all his works deserves a visit.

collection of his quotes .

“This changing international environment brought to the fore the fundamental cultural differences between Asian and American civilizations. At the broadest level the Confucian ethos pervading many Asian societies stressed the values of authority, hierarchy, the subordination of individual rights and interests, the importance of consensus, the avoidance of confrontation, “saving face,” and, in general, the supremacy of the state over society and of society over the individual. In addition, Asians tended to think of the evolution of their societies in terms of centuries and millennia and to give priority to maximizing long-term gains. These attitudes contrasted with the primacy in American beliefs of liberty, equality, democracy, and individualism, and the American propensity to distrust government, oppose authority, promote checks and balances, encourage competition, sanctify human rights, and to forget the past, ignore the future, and focus on maximizing immediate gains. The sources of conflict are in fundamental differences in society and culture.”

“In the post-Cold War world flags count and so do other symbols of cultural identity, including crosses, crescents, and even head coverings, because culture counts, and cultural identity is what is most meaningful to most people.”

“ability of Asian regimes to resist Western human rights pressures was reinforced by several factors. American and European businesses were desperately anxious to expand their trade with and their investment in these rapidly”

“The dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness.”

“The philosophical assumptions, underlying values, social relations, customs, and overall outlooks on life differ significantly among civilizations. The revitalization of religion throughout much of the world is reinforcing these cultural differences. Cultures can change, and the nature of their impact on politics and economics can vary from one period to another. Yet the major differences in political and economic development among civilizations are clearly rooted in their different cultures. East Asian economic success has its source in East Asian culture, as do the difficulties East Asian societies have had in achieving stable democratic political systems. Islamic culture explains in large part the failure of democracy to emerge in much of the Muslim world.”

“The prevalence of anti-patriotic attitudes among liberal intellectuals led some of them to warn their fellow liberals of the consequences of such attitudes for the future not of America but of American liberalism. Most Americans, as the American public philosopher Richard Rorty has written, take pride in their country, but ‘many of the exceptions to this rule are found in colleges and universities, in the academic departments that have become sanctuaries for left-wing political views.’ These leftists have done ‘a great deal of good for . . . women, African-Americans, gay men and lesbians. . . . But there is a problem with this Left: it is unpatriotic. It repudiates the idea of a national identity and the emotion of national pride.’ If the Left is to retain influence, it must recognize that a ‘sense of shared national identity . . . is an absolutely essential component of citizenship.’ Without patriotism, the Left will be unable to achieve its goals for America. Liberals, in short, must use patriotism as a means to achieve liberal goals”

“What, however, makes culture and ideology attractive? They become attractive when they are seen as rooted in material success and influence. Soft power is power only when it rests on a foundation of hard power. Increases in hard economic and military power produce enhanced self-confidence, arrogance, and belief in the superiority of one’s own culture or soft power compared to those of other peoples and greatly increase its attractiveness to other peoples. Decreases in economic and military power lead to self-doubt, crises of identity, and efforts to find in other cultures the keys to economic, military, and political success.”

“The argument now that the spread of pop culture and consumer goods around the world represents the triumph of Western civilization trivializes Western culture. The essence of Western civilization is the Magna Carta, not the Magna Mac. The fact that non-Westerners may bite into the latter has no implications for their accepting the former.”

“There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are.”

“reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique not universal and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges from non-Western societies.”

“These transnationalists have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations”

“the situation between Ukraine and Russia is ripe for the outbreak of security competition between them. Great powers that share a long and unprotected common border, like that between Russia and Ukraine, often lapse into competition driven by security fears. Russia and Ukraine might overcome this dynamic and learn to live together in harmony, but it would be unusual if they do.”

“One grim Weltanschauung for this new era was well expressed by the Venetian nationalist demagogue in Michael Dibdin’s novel, Dead Lagoon: “There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are. These are the old truths we are painfully rediscovering after a century and more of sentimental cant. Those who deny them deny their family, their heritage, their culture, their birthright, their very selves! They will not lightly be forgiven.”

“God and Caesar, church and state, spiritual authority and temporal authority, have been a prevailing dualism in Western culture. Only in Hindu civilization were religion and politics also so distinctly separated. In Islam, God is Caesar; in China and Japan, Caesar is God; in Orthodoxy, God is Caesar’s junior partner.”

“Collective will supplants individual whim”

“People define themselves in terms of ancestry, religion, language, history, values, customs, and institutions. They identify with cultural groups: tribes, ethnic groups, religious communities, nations, and, at the broadest level, civilizations. People use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define their identity. We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against.”

“Hypocrisy, double standards, and “but nots” are the price of universalist pretensions. Democracy is promoted, but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power; nonproliferation is preached for Iran and Iraq, but not for Israel; free trade is the elixir of economic growth, but not for agriculture; human rights are an issue for China, but not with Saudi Arabia; aggression against oil-owning Kuwaitis is massively repulsed, but not against non-oil-owning Bosnians. Double standards in practice are the unavoidable price of universal standards of principle.”

“It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

“Becoming a modern society is about industrialization, urbanization, and rising levels of literacy, education, and wealth. The qualities that make a society Western, in contrast, are special: the classical legacy, Christianity, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, civil society.”

“Every civilization sees itself as the center of the world and writes its history as the central drama of human history.”

“In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous.”

“Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”

“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”

“Democracy is premised, in some measure, on majority rule, and democracy is difficult in a situation of concentrated inequalities in which a large, impoverished majority confronts a small, wealthy oligarchy.”
The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991)

“Cultural America is under siege. And as the Soviet experience illustrates, ideology is a weak glue to hold together people otherwise lacking racial, ethnic, and cultural sources of community.”
Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004), p. 12

“Many more people in the world are concerned with sports than with human rights.”

“In the emerging era, clashes of civilization are the greatest threat to world peace, and an international order based on civilizations is the surest safeguard against world war.”

“In Eurasia the great historic fault lines between civilizations are once more aflame. This is particularly true along the boundaries of the crescent-shaped Islamic bloc of nations, from the bulge of Africa to central Asia. Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines. Islam has bloody borders.”

“Religiosity distinguishes America from most other Western societies. Americans are also overwhelmingly Christian, which distinguishes them from many non-Western peoples. Their religiosity leads Americans to see the world in terms of good and evil to a much greater extent than most other peoples.”
“Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite,” The National Interest, November, 2002, p. 16

“It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

“The balance of power among civilizations is shifting: the West is declining in relative influence; Asian civilizations are expanding their economic,military, and political strength; Islam is exploding demographically with destabilizing consequences for Muslim countries and their neighbors; and non-Western civilizations generally are reaffirming the value of their own cultures.”

“Some Westerners, including President Bill Clinton, have argued that the West does not have problems with Islam but only with violent Islamist extremists.Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise. The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. Th e twentieth-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity. At times, peaceful coexistence has prevailed; more often the relation has been one of intense rivalry and of varying degrees of hot war. Their “historical dynamics,” John Esposito comments, “. . . often found the two communities in competition, and locked at times in deadly combat, for power, land, and souls.” Across the centuries the fortunes of the two religions have risen and fallen in a sequence o f momentous surges, pauses, and countersurges. ”

“Some Westerners […] have argued that the West does not have problems with Islam but only with violent Islamist extremists. Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise.”
Clash of civilizations


Inter Services Public Relations; ISPR (Pakistan)

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Some questions came my way about ISPR and following was the response. Every officer posted to ISPR should read Brig. R Siddiqi’s book. It is out of print but I’ll be happy to lend them my own copy.


Battle of Narrative – Public Relations of Pakistan Army
Hamid Hussain


“The expansion of its image gradually cuts the military establishment adrift from its professionalism, and it succumbs to a kind of narcissism, loving its media-contrived image too well to brook any rival image”. Brigadier ® A. R. Siddiqi; Former Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Army is the dominant and most powerful institution of Pakistan. Every conflict between army and civilian institutions results in a competing narrative from each party. Armed forces manage its narrative through Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). There are few officers from air force and navy but ISPR is mainly manned by army officers. During direct military rule, army chief is also President and information ministry is used for communication. ISPR is the main channel for communication when army is not directly controlling the levers of power. Public opinion in Pakistan is very positive about armed forces and any criticism on professional grounds is usually very limited. Unfortunately, any criticism is viewed by armed forces as challenging its authority and equated with anti-state activity.

ISPR has evolved over seventy years into a huge media machine with a large bureaucracy. It was a small entity headed by a Lieutenant Colonel rank officer and today headed by a Major General rank officer. Previous Director General (DG) ISPR was a Lieutenant General rank officer. It was backwater for officers not destined for further promotion. This changed in the last two decades. The importance of a stint as DGISPR can be gauged from the fact that DGISPRs have been posted to important combat formations. One DGISPR became Chief of General Staff. In the past, a brief statement was given to DGISPR to pass it on to the press. Now, DGISPR sits in important high level meetings and travels with army chief on foreign travels. The horizon has also expanded from brief press statements to frequent press conferences and extensive use of print, electronic, digital and social media as well as big budget productions. Continue reading “Inter Services Public Relations; ISPR (Pakistan)”


Review: The Hajj, by FE Peters

Francis Edward Peters (F.E. Peters) is Professor Emeritus of History, Religion and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University (NYU) and he has written a great review of the Haj through the ages, from its pre-Islamic beginnings to the way it was in 1926. He ends the book in 1926, so the current hugely enlarged, incredibly safer, more convenient, and in may ways, totally transformed Haj is not covered in this book.
The most intetesting part of the book for me was the first; the discussion of what pre-Islamic Haj looked like and how its rituals were modified (and combined with another pre-Islamic pilgrimage, the Umrah) to creat the current Islamic Haj. This is also the most frustrating section of the book, but that is not FE Peter’s fault. We just do not have a lot information about what happened before Islam. Pagan Arabia was completely converted to Islam within one generation, and the attitude of the new religion towards the past was generally negative and dismissive. A mostly illiterate culture, it has left us with almost nothing except a few poems (preserved, ironically, because the later interpreters of the Quran felt that their language could help unlock the meaning of words and phrases in the Quran that these later generations had difficulty understanding) and whatever (generally negative and dismissive) references survive in Islamist historiography. Of course, we can learn some things from the Quran itself, but these frequently tend to be in the form of “answers without a question”, which must have been completely transparent to the first generation, but whose meaning required some explanation and interpretation by later generations. Most of this is supplied by the exegetical and historical works written in the next 2-400 years, but it can be impossible to separate fact from posthoc mythmaking. Anyway, this is what we have, and FE Peters makes a heroic effort to sift through it to find what can still be found. Continue reading “Review: The Hajj, by FE Peters”