South Asian Unity: A Priority for India and Pakistan


Like everyone, Muslims are saddened and horrified by the recent Mumbai attacks. However, unlike everyone else, Muslims find themselves defending their religion from stereotypes, misconceptions, and bigoted accusations. It’s not an easy burden to live with — especially in Western countries like the United States — when the media not only scrutinizes and vilifies your religion, but also criticizes you for “not doing enough” to speak out against radicalism.

What’s worse is the division I’m seeing within the South Asian community, Indians and Pakistanis in particular. I was shocked and appalled at the excessive amount of anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistani bigotry written in discussion boards of South Asian internet forums and group pages on Facebook. Not only are fingers being pointed at Pakistan, but also at the religion of Islam, which has been accused continuously for teaching “hatred” and “waging war” on non-Muslims.

First, why is Pakistan being blamed when there is hardly any evidence? As we have seen in the last eight years, jumping to conclusions has resulted in foolish and deadly consequences. The fact that Indian authorities almost immediately accused Pakistan of being behind the attacks indicates that they deny and dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism. Tariq Ali, who is a Pakistani novelist, historian, and political campaigner, recently pointed out that the Deccan Mujahedeen — an extremist militant group based in India — made a claim to the Mumbai attacks. In his article on “Counter Punch,” Mr. Ali writes:

“The Deccan Mujahedeen, which claimed the outrage in an e-mail press release, is certainly a new name probably chosen for this single act. But speculation is rife. A senior Indian naval officer has claimed that the attackers (who arrived in a ship, the M V Alpha) were linked to Somali pirates, implying that this was a revenge attack for the Indian Navy’s successful if bloody action against pirates in the Arabian Gulf that led to heavy casualties some weeks ago.”

When I looked at my local newspaper, the article on the Mumbai attacks used the following words to describe Pakistan: “volatile,” “rival,” and “archrival.” And I’m sure many of us remember President-elect Barack Obama warning Pakistan that if they are “unable or unwilling” to fight terrorism, then the U.S. will invade the region (which they already have under the Bush administration).

This hostility and antagonism towards Pakistan is irresponsible. For one, Pakistan has been fighting Taliban militants in North-Western Pakistan since 2004, and according to “Times Online” Pakistan has lost about “1,000 soldiers fighting militants in border mountains that have never come under the control of any government.” Thomas Houlahan wrote a brilliant piece for “The Middle-East Times” titled “Pakistan: Separating the Facts from the Myths” where he criticizes the media for reporting a lot of misinformation about Pakistan. He writes:

“Pakistan has lost more civilians in the war on terror than the United States; Pakistan has lost more troops killed in fighting insurgents than every foreign contingent in Afghanistan combined. These facts fly in the face of the misinformation bandied about that Pakistan is soft on terror.”

Houlahan has also pointed out that “more than one in four insurgents killed in the Afghanistan/Pakistan insurgency (4,500 of 16,500) has been killed by Pakistani security forces.” Last night, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Asif Zardari, appeared on Larry King Live and stated that Pakistan had no involvement with the Mumbai attacks. Furthermore, Zardari insisted that he looked forward to building peaceful relations with their Indian neighbors. Despite these facts and condemnations by Pakistani officials, one must question why the media and even the newly elected President of the United States are skeptical about Pakistan’s commitment to the “War on Terror.” Pakistan has been doing America’s dirty work since September 11th, 2001, and has suffered on several occasions for it. We seem to have forgotten about the recent Marriott Hotel bombing in Pakistan on September 20th, 2008.

To see this kind of division and hostility take shape among every day Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others is discouraging and unsettling. None of us are responsible for what happened in Mumbai and none of us are trying to justify what happened, but when the media starts to influence our fellow South Asians into thinking that “Islamofascisim” or “Islamic Jihad” is simply about killing non-Muslims, particularly Hindus and Jews, then it is imperative for us to engage in mature and civilized dialogue. Because of the fact that a Jewish Center was attacked in India, many perceive this attack to be an “attack on the West,” but what’s so problematic about this assertion is that it completely ignores and overlooks the real factors involved.

Before I continue, it is important to understand that I am not justifying what happened in Mumbai or anywhere else. It’s not about justification, it’s about understanding, and only through understanding can we find the root cause of the problem and develop real strategies to solve them. Rather than chanting war slogans like “Bomb Pakistan!” why don’t we ask intelligent questions as to why an atrocity like this happened? If there is anything that I expect the West and other nations to learn, it’s this: Bombing another nation will only make matters worse; it radicalizes people and creates more violence. This is evidenced clearly in the Iraq war.

Has anyone bothered to ask, “who were the militants” or “who was in that hotel” or “what drives such people to attack innocent people?” Many right-wing pundits will simply say these militants are driven by the teachings of Islam. This kind of ignorance generates mythologies. Mythologies such as “Hindus and Muslims have been fighting for centuries.” Really? Since when? Widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims didn’t start until the 19th century. Prior to that, Muslims, Hindus, and others enjoyed coexistence in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. This is not to say there wasn’t any violence – of course there were under particular Muslim rulers – but for the most part, large scale violence between the communities occurred after British colonialism. Other mythologies formulate, such as “Jews and Muslims have been fighting forever.” Again, since when? Much of the antagonism and wars between Muslims and Jews started during and after the creation of Israel. Prior to that, Muslims and Jews coexisted for centuries, especially in Jerusalem. Before Muslims ruled the city, Jews were exiled out of Jerusalem. Muslim leaders like Umar ibn al-Khattab and Salah Al-Din invited the Jews back into the city (may God be pleased with them).

Without understanding the struggles of Muslims in regions like Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even India, we won’t be about to solve the problems. But what’s frustrating for many Muslims is that the media only uses the word “terrorism” for one group of people: Muslims. In 2002, over 2,000 Muslims were massacred in the Indian State of Gujarat, while hundreds of Muslim women were gang raped. The worst part is that the government was complicit in these horrible crimes and many of the victims have yet to receive justice. Where was the mainstream western media when those atrocities were committed? Did we hear the media call the assailants “Hindu extremists?” Over 200,000 Muslims were butchered in the Serbian genocide against Muslims in Kosovo, but the Serbians were never called “Christian terrorists.” When over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcefully evicted out of their homes by the Israeli military, the Israeli soldiers were never called “Jewish terrorists.” When Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, the media neglected to report that he was a member of the extremist “Christian Identity Movement.” The Columbine and Virginia Tech school shootings never provoked people to point fingers at a religion or even use the word “terrorist” to describe the shooters, but if the perpetrators were Muslim, you could count on the media to label them “Muslim terrorists.”

So why does the media ignore horrible acts of violence when they are committed against Muslims? Why does our government refuse to make efforts to understand why terrorism occurs in the first place? What is probably more disturbing than anything else is government-sponsored terrorism because it hides behind the guise of “freedom,” “liberty,” and “justice.” When things are made more systematic and acceptable, the more chances it has of being unnoticed.

Lastly, more than anything, Indians and Pakistanis have to stop pointing fingers and blaming each other. We can’t allow that kind of hatred and prejudice to present itself in our communities. We have to stand together, ask the right questions, and find the root cause of the problems. Only then will we be able to effectively prevent horrible atrocities – committed by all groups of people – from happening again.

Salaam, Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, Peace.

~Broken Mystic~



UPON the lonely minaret
She sat and watched as the moon wept in sorrow
Cowardly armies marching on her beautiful fields
Colonizing her land, frightening her people
Brandishing their swords, pounding their shields
Beheading sweetly scented tulips
Ignorant to the ancient history beneath their feet
They are deceived by the mission
The agenda of modern-century Crusaders

Blessed is the poetess
Who lived her joyous years
With the company of romantics and storytellers
Sharing the smiles and easing the fears
Giving peace and displaying wisdom
Like Shabistari’s Rose Garden
Radiating and shining with timeless Beauty
She brings light upon the lonely faces,
And like petals dancing in the wind
Her words gently float and glide
Landing upon even the darkest of places
Where a cold-hearted stranger runs into the street
And becomes maddened with song and dance

But war erupted one night
And mayhem surrounded our innocent friend
She saw the army roam through the land
And soar through the sky
She feared for her Loved ones
Frightened by the thought of never seeing them again
She ran from village to village just to stay alive
But nothing in her power would stop the invasion

She will never forget the day
When she heard the explosion
When olive trees and peaceful cities were blown to pieces
When she held her murdered father in her arms
What does this army know about her story?
What do they know about her family?

They march over the blood stained hills
Obedient to the orders of their leaders
Hunting for labels
They once said “Saracen” and “Barbarian”
They say “Towel-head” and “Terrorist” now
Ya Insaan (O People!) when will you tear down the flags?
So-called Muslims, Jews, and Christians
When will you start believing?
When will you have the courage to journey within
And listen to the Soul that sings: Human Being?
When will you have the courage
To burn down the walls of separation?

Behold, the courage to believe:
She kisses her father’s grave farewell
And marches to the front lines
She says: I am not a knight in shining armor!
They won’t allow me on the battlefield
With my Persian drums and flowers
So I will charge into the crossfire
And bring with me an orchestra
One like that of a mystic song

Enigmatic horns, passion drums, Arabian strings
Gregorian chant, wailing of Souls, ancient tongues
A symphony of Angels, fantasia bells, cinematic splendor
Words like shooting stars and exploding into musical rapture!

And when she stood before a thousand soldiers
She was unarmed and fearless
Snipers cannot fire upon such a display of Love
Bullets cannot kill what cannot be seen
Leaders cannot defeat such devotion to ideas

“Who are you?” they ask
And she responds:

I am Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan
I am Kashmir, Chechnya, and Bosnia
I am Lebanon, Palestine, and Pakistan

Point your rifles at me as long as you want
I don’t care

Because I know, and God knows:
You have no right

You have no right

~ Broken Mystic ~

A Few Words On Those Who Have Passed On…

Salaam everyone,

I just wanted to briefly share some thoughts that I’ve been having lately. This is not an entry exclusively about the death of Hollywood star Heath Ledger (pictured above) who passed away last week; it’s actually more about reflecting upon the loss of all human beings.

The other day, I was standing in line at my local Border’s bookstore and a particular magazine cover caught my eye. I’m not sure if it was People or Time magazine, but the headline read something like: STARS GONE TOO SOON. And there was a collage of pictures of young celebrities who passed away too soon. Actors and celebrities like River Phoenix, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, etc. I was standing there and immediately thought about how we don’t know these people personally, yet we grieve for them as if we do. We see their faces on television and silver screens, we admire their talents, their good looks, their performances, and although do not know them, we’re strangely able to make a personal connection. Then I thought about the countless number of Iraqis, Afghanis, Kashmiris, Chechens, and Palestinians who have been either bombed, shot, stabbed, poisoned, or God knows what other kind of horrible death they experienced. My thoughts continued; I thought about how some old man in Japan could be passing away right now in his hospital bed, or some old grandmother kissing her children goodbye as the hour of death comes near. I thought about that beautiful young Kurdish girl who was brutally stoned to death by heartless extremists, and then about the poor children who starve to death in Somalia. I thought about the children in Gaza who are without food and electricity. I thought about downtown Philadelphia where some desperate thieves rob a store and accidentally shoot the clerk behind the counter. I thought about the Indian Sikh who was mistaken for an Arab Muslim and murdered by an ignorant bigot. I thought of those who are murdered and forgotten by humanity itself. Who are these faceless people? Who are their families? Who are their loved ones?

Then it was time for me to pay for my book, but I couldn’t stop thinking. As I drove home, I looked at the cars driving by and just meditated on the thought that each and every individual has a story, each person has value, each human being has something special to share in this world. What happens when these fellow beings — our fellow travelers in life — pass away? Are their stories broadcasted on the news? Do we ever give them any thought? Their friends, family, and Loved ones would grieve their losses and hold a funeral, but the world just keeps moving. Everyone outside that circle is playing their video games, partying with friends, going out to dinner, buying tickets for a new concert, debating about who should win the election, chatting online, going to school, going to work, and etc. Yet when a celebrity dies tragically like Heath Ledger, the whole nation (or even world) acknowledges it. While we return to the daily functions of life, we begin to discuss his death. We pick up the phone and call our friend or our brother or sister, “Oh my God, did you hear what happened?” What about your neighbor who just lost his/her mother, or that little boy who died of cancer? I’m sure their families, friends, and Loved ones would Love for the rest of the world to know how special those people were/are to them. I’m sure they would Love to tell us how righteous, friendly, or compassionate those people were, or tell us how that particular person meant the world to them. Imagine if we all could hear the stories of these people, imagine the teenager who says proudly, “my grandfather built this place,” or the widower who says, “she may not have been on billboards, but she was the woman of my dreams,” or the grieving mother who says, “my son gave his best to the world and I’m very proud of him.”

I once read that the Universe is not filled with stars, but with stories. Everyone has a story. Mr. Ledger was one of my favorite actors and I believe he has shared an enormous talent with the world, and may have touched the lives of many people. I also believe that the countless other human beings who have died should not be forgotten either, even though we’ll never know their names, their stories, or their faces. They, along with Heath, can be remembered through prayer, through meditation, or even through a mere thought.I just thought it would be nice if we could remember all those people who have passed away the next time we pray or the next time we hold a moment of silence. Think about how so many people in this world mean so much to another person or another group of people. Think about how special we all are to one another and how precious this life truly is. Let’s make sure no one is forgotten. In Islam, we are taught to never underestimate the power of prayer and that those who have died are not dead, but they actually live on in spirit. I know that there are many of you in this note who devote much of your time to helping people and I honestly cannot think of anything better than that. Many of us help without even knowing it. Even a smile, said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), can be charity. May God bless you all, keep us happy, and grant peace to those who have passed on.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi Raje’un
From God do we come, and to Him do we return

Thanks for reading. Salaam/Peace.