RSS Feed

Tag Archives: peace

Women and the peace process

SHARES

The writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune and tweets @FarahnazZahidi

They lose their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers in acts of terrorism and violence. They themselves are injured and killed. Yet, the women of Pakistan do not have a voice in the peace processes in the country. They are stakeholders and direct effectees of terrorism but have no say in how it should be handled. If there is one thing that glared out at the (in)famous All-Parties Conference (APC) post the Army Public School attack, it was this: there were no women present. With the exception of perhaps, Sherry Rehman, women have hardly ever been included in the most important discussions in the country. As we gear to celebrate the International Women’s Day tomorrow, it remains a bitter truth that Pakistan’s women are considered good enough for things that we call ‘fluff’. They have a voice in health, education and other developmental issues. But there is a deafening and forced silence when it comes to their perspective on peace-building and conflict resolution strategies at all tiers, whether it is the aman jirgas or the National Action Plan (NAP).

In the year 2000, the UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security was adopted. This resolution recognises the need to increase women’s role in peace-building in conflict-ridden countries. However, the scope of 1325 is much wider. It not only calls for women to be included in peace talks, it also presses for a more gender-sensitive perspective to consider the special needs of women and girls during conflict, repatriation, rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction. The UNSCR 1325 focuses on issues of gender-based violence and refugee camps covered in Articles 10 and 12. Thus, the impact gets wider. Post the October 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods, to name two natural disasters in Pakistan that caused massive damage and human displacement, women trafficking increased.

Since 2000, 48 countries have adopted NAPs on Resolution 1325 to make policies to fulfill the resolution’s objectives. Developing and conflict-affected countries use NAPs to support women’s participation in politics and peace processes, as well as commitments on protection from sexual and gender-based violence. Yet a less than one-fourth of UN member states have implemented these NAPs.

Pakistan has not implemented 1325. Neither has India. It is rather curious that a resolution is unanimously hailed as a step in the right direction, yet is not implemented by the government. While many activists and proponents of women’s rights in Pakistan agree in spirit with 1325, it is not without reservations. The human rights’ camp remains discretely divided over the issue. And the reason is simple. Accepting a UN Security Council resolution comes with its share of possible consequences — consequences in the form of the proverbial ‘boots’ and sanctions. Many feel that such resolutions have other ‘agenda’, which is why Pakistan, among many other countries, remains sceptical of it. Other peace and gender activists strongly assert that Pakistan has no national action plan on 1325 not just because it is afraid of sanctions but because the much-needed political will is missing. These activists regularly urge the government to implement 1325.

The reasons can be debated. But the fact remains that across the globe, from 1992 to 2011, only four per cent of signatories to peace agreements and nine per cent of negotiators at peace tables were women. In Pakistan, the numbers would be even lower. The pandemic of violence against women and girls affects one in three women worldwide, and conflict zones are the worst hit. This correlation is often missed out.

Perhaps, a less controversial and more effective way would be to go via the CEDAW Committee’s landmark General Recommendation (GR 30) on Women in Conflict Prevention, Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations. This was adopted on October 18, 2013. Pacifist and more realistic voices from the civil society feel that implementing GR 30 could also have the desired results. But even if these resolutions and recommendations are implemented, will the Pakistani woman at the grassroots level have a say, alongside the men, regarding how peace should be achieved? It is time this conversation starts, and a narrative around this is built.

Published in The Express Tribune, March  7th,  2015.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Music for peace: Of dolls, dreams and a girl-child in Sindh

By Farahnaz Zahidi
Published: April 16, 2014
http://tribune.com.pk/story/696359/music-for-peace-of-dolls-dreams-and-a-girl-child-in-sindh/

meena 1

Meena, the latest offering of the Jamshoro-based Sindhi band The Sketches, brings forth the issue of education for the girl-child as well as peace and harmony in a soft package.
KARACHI:
Soft music, vocals, pretty cinematography and the moving image of a little girl-child from rural Sindh clutching her doll on her journey to school. Whether or not you understand the Sindhi language, this song’s video will strike a chord. Meena, the latest offering of the Jamshoro-based Sindhi band The Sketches, brings forth the issue of education for the girl-child as well as peace and harmony in a soft package that will tug at the heart strings of viewers.

meena 2

As Saif Samejo, the lead vocalist for The Sketches, croons in the backdrop of the scene of a child’s journey between dreams and reality, the seriousness of the problem hits home. And for once in a post-Malala world, the girl-child from a part of Pakistan other than Swat is the focal character.

This is the band behind the Lahooti Music Aashram, the first ever formal music school in Jamshoro and Hyderabad. The band became famous via Coke Studio 4 with the song Mand Waai.

It is encouraging that a song sung in a regional language is inspiring interest and making viewers think about the plight of the child who both wants, and deserves an education, but finds an empty ghost school staring back at her when she and her doll reach school. However, this sadness is coupled with hope at the end. This child grows up to be a teacher in the same school, teaching other little girls like her. One would hope that Sindhi language channels, as well as mainstream prime channels, will give this song its due acknowledgement.

meena 3

While being simplistic in its approach and trying to squeeze in more than one social message in a single song makes it a bit heavyheaded, the effort is one that needs to be lauded. Both the messages tackled in the song are important ones. With some 5.5 million Pakistani children out of school, according to the latest UNESCO report, Pakistan has the second highest number in the world for out of school children. Equally important is the sensitisation of people towards pluralism. “There is a dire need to provide a counter narrative,” is what Saif Samejo had said in an earlier interview with The Express Tribune, talking about the powerful impact of narratives that lead to extremism and sectarianism. He had added that “Sindh is a place where Ramdas and Allahdita are buried together, and nothing should threaten such pluralistic values.”

The stereotypical image of the people of Sindh as complacent and not into full-throttle social activism may be changed through the work of Sindhi musicians of today. They are out there with their messages, proactively talking about what they believe in, whether through satire like Ali Gul Pir, or through message-laden music like Saif Samejo. These musicians deserve a pat on the back for throwing a pebble in still waters. A ripple effect may well have begun.

Sindhi language and music stemming from the culture of Mehran already have an advantage when it comes to mysticism and spirituality. The message of peace thus comes naturally to them. It is also interesting to note that the message is coming from a province, the inherent history and culture of which boasts of harmony and peaceful co-existence. Thus, The Sketches have drawn upon the province’s inherent reservoir that brims with the message of peace.

Watch Video:

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2014.
Like Life & Style on Facebook, follow @ETLifeandStyle on Twitter for the latest in fashion, gossip and entertainment.

Collaboration, not Sufism, answer to Pakistan’s violence

 

by Farahnaz Zahidi

01 October 2013

Karachi – The notion that one faith, philosophy or idea alone is the answer to stopping violent episodes like the tragic suicide attack at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan last week is hard to swallow. Still, recent decades have seen an interesting surge in the view that Sufism is a solution to violent extremism in Pakistan.

Sufism is most simply described as Islamic mysticism or spirituality, but like most things it is too vast and deep a concept to be described by simplistic definitions. Without a doubt though, messages of love, peace and acceptance are at its core.

But is Sufism actually a feasible solution to violent extremism in Pakistan? Can it be the missing link in the internal peace process we need? In these troubling times, many Pakistanis find sanity in the ideology of our Sufi saints who believed that serving humanity is the surest way of getting close to God. Belief in the core messages of our saints reeks of much-needed hope. However, thinking that Sufism is the antidote to extremism in Pakistan may be too simplistic, especially when juxtaposed in opposition to stricter interpretations of Islam, as many who are inspired by it do today.

In Pakistan, which is complicated and far from monolithic, we have those who practice faith through the hard-line dos and don’ts of religion, and those who are more inclined toward spirituality than jurisprudence. With growing polarisation, centrists who respect both schools of thought are becoming a minority and feel pushed to the margins.

The problem lies in the fact that those who tilt more towards Sufism and those who focus more on the do’s and dont’s in Islam are considered adversaries by Pakistani society today.

There is an irony in all of this – while Sufism is about acceptance at its core, some of its unseasoned proponents seem to be increasing the already wide gulf between those who follow strict or hard-line interpretations of Islam and those who feel Sufism is the answer.

It feels contradictory to Sufism’s core messages.

Thus, we risk losing out on the central point in Sufism— to bring everything in its fold and accept all kinds of people, irrespective of ethnicity, language, caste and even creed.

Part of the solution could be for liberal proponents inspired by Sufism to recognise the efforts of some middle-ground Islamic scholars and give credit where it’s due. The recent show of flexibility by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), the constitutional body responsible for giving Islamic legal opinions to the Government of Pakistan, is a case in point. Scholars on CCI, such as Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, are clearly trying to build bridges between segments of society when it comes to blasphemy laws, by strongly opposing false accusations.

Imam Ghazali, the 11th century Persian jurist, theologian and mystic, seems to have gotten it right. He became the bridge between more orthodox Islam and adherents of Sufism. Followers of both schools of thought, via Ghazali, developed a mutual understanding by utilising established Islamic theology to reconcile Sufism with orthodoxy, and Sufism to enrich theology.

Rather than one philosophy being the solution to violence, which has the propensity to make others wrong and put them on the defensive, perhaps reconciliation and collaboration is a better method. If not the solution, this may at least be a step in the direction toward peace.

###

* Farahnaz Zahidi is a Pakistani writer and editor. Her areas of focus include human rights, gender, peace-building and Islam. She currently works as Features Editor for The Express Tribune. She blogs at Chaaidaani and her photo-journalism can be seen here. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=33241&lan=en&sp=0

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 1 October 2013,www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Ali (ra) – The eternal hero of a Sunni Muslim woman

For me, he is the emblem of heroism. Of wisdom. Of passion. Of love of Allah.

He accepted Islam as a ten year old child, when very few were willing to risk their life. He grew up, literally, in the house of Allah’s beloved (saw). He resembled Rasool Ullah (saw) in mannerism and action. On the night of the migration from Makkah, he slept in the bed of the Prophet (saw) with the risk that the enemies may kill him in place of the Prophet (saw).

Our beloved (saw) trusted Ali (ra) with his treasure, his youngest daughter Fatima (ra). He was the Prophet’s (saw) kin.

While Rasool Ullah (saw) breathed his last on the chest of our mother Ayesha (ra), Ali (ra) was the one to bathe Rasool Ullah (saw) after his death.

Ali was a lion in the battlefield and most humble in private life. In worship, such was he that he told people to pull out an arrow lodged in his body during salaat (namaz) because when in the presence of his Rabb in prayer, he focussed on nothing else.

Ali (ra) is my hero, forever.

They are all my heroes: Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) and Uthman bin ‘Affan (ra) and Ali (ra). Each a sparkling gem warding away darkness and showing rays of light. Each with their own beautiful unique personalities. Each chosen by God for special work. Each guiding us in their own way.

Yet, with the mention of Ali (ra) the heart softens with the realization of how beloved he was to the Prophet (saw) of Allah. He is the father of Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra), and the love of Fatima’s (ra) life.

These glimpses from ahadith and seerah remind me even more why Ali (ra) is who he is to me:

 Abu Turaab

So many incidents are recorded about the beautiful way the Prophet (saw) used to solve disagreements between Ali and Fatima.

One such incident resulted in Ali getting the title Abu Turaab – “The man covered with dirt” – this title was one of the dearest to Ali. For once the Prophet went to visit his daughter Fatima & he did not find Ali home. He asked about him, so Fatima told her father that she had some argument with her husband so he left home angry in the afternoon without taking his usual nap. The Prophet told someone to go & look for Ali. He came back saying that he is in the mosque. The Prophet went to him to find him lying on the floor with his dress falling off his flank which was covered with dirt. The Prophet woke him up clearing the dirt off his body & addressing him with a smile: “Wake up you who is covered with dirt”.

The Prophet’s (saw) Kin

When the verse 3:61 was revealed to the Prophet (saw): “Now that you know the facts, say to them ‘Come, let us summon our sons and your sons, our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves and pray Allah and beseech Him to accurse those who intentionally assert falsehood’”; he summoned Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain and said: “O God, & these are my kin”.

How can a believer not love Ali (ra)

Zirr reported: ‘Ali observed: By Him Who split up the seed and created something living, the Apostle (may peace and blessings be upon him) gave me a promise that No one but a believer would love me, and none but a hypocrite would nurse grudge against me.
Reference: Book 001, Number 0141: (Sahih Muslim) 

The strength of Ali – in fighting the enemy and fighting anger

I love the incident where Ali (ra) was fighting with an infidel on a battlefield. Ali was about to thrust his sword into the other man’s heart when all of a sudden the infidel raised his head and spit at him. Ali immediately dropped his sword, took a deep breath, and walked away. The infidel was stunned. He ran after Ali and asked him why he was letting him go. “Because I’m very angry at you,” said Ali.
“Then why don’t you kill me?” the infidel asked. “I don’t understand.”

Ali explained, “When you spit in my face, I got very angry. My ego was provoked, yearning for revenge. If I kill you now, I’ll be following my ego. And that would be a huge mistake.”
So Ali set the man free. The infidel was so touched that he became Ali’s friend and follower, and in time he converted to Islam of his own free will.

He whom Allah and His Messenger (saw) love

Narrated Salama: Ali happened to stay behind the Prophet and (did not join him) during the battle of Khaibar for he was having eye trouble. Then he said, “How could I remain behind Allah’s Apostle?” So ‘Ali set out following the Prophet . When it was the eve of the day in the morning of which Allah helped (the Muslims) to conquer it, Allah’s Apostle said, “I will give the flag (to a man), or tomorrow a man whom Allah and His Apostle love will take the flag,” or said, “A man who loves Allah and His Apostle; and Allah will grant victory under his leadership.” Suddenly came ‘Ali whom we did not expect. The people said, “This is ‘Ali.” Allah’s Apostle gave him the flag and Allah granted victory under his leadership.
Reference: Volume 5, Book 57, Number 52: (Sahih Bukhari)

He was to the Prophet (saw) what Haroon (as) was to Musa (as)

Sa’d reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying to ‘Ali: Aren’t you satisfied with being unto me what Aaron was unto Moses?
Reference: Book 031, Number 5916: (Sahih Muslim)

For whosoever is Prophet (saw) Mawla, Ali is Mawla

Sayyidna Abu Sarihah (Radhi Allah) or Zayd ibn Arqam (Shu’bah is uncertain about it) said that Prophet (salallaho alaihi wasalam) said: He for whom I am Mawla (friend, beloved, helper), Ali is Mawla
Reference: Sunan al Tirimdhi Hadith No. 3733 – Imam Abu Isa Tirimdhi (rah) said: This Hadith is “HASAN SAHIH”

Published at: http://www.mybitforchange.org/2013/ali-my-eternal-hero/

Salam Namaste

Salam Namaste

Published: January 31, 2013

The writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune and tweets @FarahnazZahidi

It is said that there’s enough religion in the world to make men hate one another, but not enough to make them love. But what if religion were to become a common ground where shared religious and ethical values are celebrated? Perhaps, too far-fetched a dream for the world that we live in. Especially for Pakistan. For we do not unite in the name of God. We dissent, for God’s sake. Quite literally so.

But this might be a good time to take a closer look at the possibilities of an inter-faith understanding, if nothing else. Tomorrow, we embark on the World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated in the first week of February each year. What does this even mean? And what does it mean for Pakistan in particular, a county ravaged by polarisations. We are divided in the name of faith — we are Muslims and Christians and Hindus; we are majorities and minorities; we are the green and the white; we are the crescent and the star. Tier two of being poles apart: division in the name of denominations within the framework of the same faith — need I even say Shia and Sunni? It stares us in the face, way too close for comfort.

Hence, there is a need for not just interfaith dialogue, which ensures empathy, tolerance and understanding between followers of different faiths, but also inter-religious (bainal masaalik) dialogue.

Yet, this seems an under-celebrated and under-emphasised concept today in the post 9/11 world, and in present-day Pakistan in particular. Often, in interfaith fora, experts sit proselytising others to their own, in desperate attempts to convert and convince the others to ‘our’ way of thinking. And if not that, at least establish the supremacy of our faith over the others. An attempt at hegemony.

One reason we see resistance against sincere interfaith dialogue is that it is seen as a conniving, insidious attempt at syncretism — something that will take away my religious identity from me and make society a melting pot where all ideologies are conflated into one, basically leaving us with none at the end. Something like what John Lennon was trying to say in his song ‘Imagine’.

In reality, however, the interfaith dialogue process actually helps us understand and strengthen our own faith better, and also learn to respect other ideologies. If it involves all stakeholders, it helps get rid of stereotypes. It helps a nation get over the ‘us vs them’ phenomenon.

If these efforts were made with the genuine intention of understanding one another, the benefits for Pakistan, a religio-centred nation, would be immense. Consensus-building does not do away with agreeing to disagree. What if followers of different faiths and different religious denominations come together on things all religions believe in — peace, justice and sustainability. Practical implications can include things that give a huge push to Pakistan’s developmental issues. To cite one example, we are 180 million strong, and the world’s fifth most populous nation has no hope of population control unless this is discussed by faith-based representatives and a consensus is built. Indonesia has achieved it by bringing all Muslim denominations, as well as Catholics and major religious leaders on board.

Interfaith dialogue is linked closely to human rights. Which brings us to the third tier at which this discourse needs to be fostered — dialogue between the seculars and the religious. In a society which cannot realistically do away with either element, it would be a good idea to create spaces where commonalities can be celebrated for civic and national stability.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/500566/salam-namaste/