Thus Alone, and Always, Have People Resisted Tyranny: Remembering Faiz on his Birth Centenary

Today is the first birth centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: one of South Asia’s most beloved radical Urdu poets. Today is also, just two days after Mubarak’s resignation as a result of the inspiring revolution in Umm al-Duniya, Mother of the World, Egypt; and almost a month after Tunisia’s courageous revolution. How ecstatic would Faiz have been today?!

by Huma Dar

Today is the first birth centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: one of South Asia’s most beloved radical Urdu poets.  Today is also, just two days after Mubarak’s resignation as a result of the inspiring revolution in Umm al-Duniya, Mother of the World, Egypt; and almost a month after Tunisia’s courageous revolution.  How ecstatic would Faiz have been today?!  Faiz, who had lived in Beirut, in exile from Pakistan — when ruled by the US-bolstered military dictator, General Zia-ul Haq.  Faiz, who wrote a beautiful lullaby for a Palestinian child, and a poem for those who were martyred outside their beloved Palestine.  Faiz, whose poem commonly mis-titled, “Ham Dekhenge,” is a battle-song for people fighting for social justice from Sindh, Pakistan to Kashmir to Chhattisgarh, India.

The title of this particular poem of Faiz is in Arabic: “Wa Yabqaa Wajhu Rabbika.”  It is most often brushed aside as it does not fit the simplistic profile of the “avowed atheist” assigned to Faiz.  Being a socialist does not preclude belief in Islam, but this nuance is lost on many who cannot easily imagine Faiz being a Muslim, leave alone leading a prayer in the mosque of his ancestral village, especially given the subtle Islamophobia that pervades élite political and literary discourses, both within and without South Asia.  For some, even more difficult “to reconcile [is] the glowing tribute [that Faiz wrote] to Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” but this has to do with the rigorous demonology of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in Indian historiography, and the hegemonic status of India and Indian academics, even those who vigorously critique nationalisms of all kinds, within South Asian Studies.

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The ‘First Wives Club’ or the Politics of Visibility and Invisibility

by Huma Dar

In her article in The Observer, ‘The First Ladies Of The Arab World Blaze A Trail For Women’s Rights’, Helena Smith waxes eloquent about a very exclusive, seven-year-old club, called “Arab Women Organisation” with only fifteen members so far: the first ladies of Jordan, the Emirates, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Oman, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Yemen.1

The first wives of the other seven Arab countries with “some of the more traditional societies” have also been invited and there are “tremendous hopes” that they, too, will join up, Smith gently reassures the reader.  This article carries the tag line: “A large and powerful alliance of leaders’ wives is making huge strides in breaking taboos and getting feminist issues on the political agenda.” The list of issues being “sexual slavery,” “trafficking,” “child exploitation,” “prostitution” and “rape” in the Middle East,” and, of course, this is duly prefaced by an obligatory, pious declamation that these “societies [are] not known for their commitment to feminist agendas.”

One wonders if this particular set of issues has indeed been adequately dealt with in any part of the world, and immediately thinks of the epidemic proportion of violence against women in the United States of America, which happens to be one of the more violent places for women as far as the proportionate rates of rapes, assaults, and murders are concerned, with every two minutes a woman being sexually assaulted, and every eight minutes a woman being raped.2

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‘Going Deeper’ Not ‘Muslim’: Islamophobia and its Discontents

Photo by Ridwan Adhami

by Huma Dar

I deeply missed June Jordan today. Back in Fall 1995 (or was it 96?) the acclaimed poet read not her own poems, but those of her Arab students, at the first ever Berkeley “Poetry at Lunch” event. I adored her, and adored her even more when she courageously asserted that Arabs/Muslims were one of last groups it was explicitly kosher (read: not un-PC) to be racist or prejudiced towards in any given circle. Way before 9/11…

Tunku Varadarajan, a professor at NYU’s Stern Business School and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, recently wrote a piece “Going Muslim: America after Fort Hood.”(1) He coins the phrase “Going Muslim” to “describe the turn of events where a seemingly integrated Muslim-American—a friendly donut vendor in New York, say, or an officer in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood—discards his apparent integration into American society and elects to vindicate his religion in an act of messianic violence against his fellow Americans.”(2)

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