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Saturday, April 19, 2014


March was not a good month for religious minorities in Pakistan. But now days it can be said without fear of error that no month is safe for religious minorities in Pakistan -- it’s just that some months are worse than others. Here’s a sample of what should not have happened in March in Pakistan:
March 15th - A Hindu allegedly desecrates a Holy Quran in Larkana, Sindh province. Within hours a mob of enraged Muslims storms the Hindu temple where the reported desecration occurs and sets the temple on fire -- after first looting and vandalizing it, of course. Luckily, no one is killed. . .
March 27th - Yet another Christian is sentenced to death for blasphemy by a Muslim judge in Pakistan. The sentence is delivered to cheers from a courtroom packed with fanatic Muslim clerics and their zealous followers. Had the Judge ruled differently, the cheers would have quickly turned to howls of outrage and the blasphemy accused -- and the Judge -- would have most likely been murdered at the hands of vigilante Muslim mobs or assassins.   
March 28th - In Islamabad, Pakistan’s capitol, an Ahmadi Muslim college professor and his mother are viciously attacked and stabbed to death in their home by unknown assailants. The fact the murder victims are well-known Ahmadis, that there are no suspects, and no police investigation has begun leads observers -- especially the victims’ Ahmadi family and friends -- to the sad realization that these latest inhumane atrocities against Ahmadi Muslims will go unpunished, as usual. . .
March 31st – In Tando Allahyar, a town near Hyderabad, an Ahmadi prayer center is attacked and vandalized by a mob of Muslims on allegations of desecration of the Quran. The Ahmadi missionary in charge of the prayer center, Imam Tahir Ahmed, is brutally beaten by the mob, and when the police eventually arrive, the Ahmadi missionary and another Ahmadi man are promptly arrested on blasphemy charges. No one is arrested for viciously assaulting the Ahmadi missionary. . .
The common elements of cruelty, injustice and blatant disregard for the human rights and lives of others that characterize all four of these incidents can be summed up in one word: “blasphemy.”
Since 1974, when Pakistan’s Constitution was amended under pressure from the Muslim ulema (scholars) to officially declare Ahmadi Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam, the lives of Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and anyone else deemed an apostate or enemy of Islam (as determined by the Muslim ulema) have been in jeopardy from religious extremism and intolerance. And this situation is only getting worse.
Virtually all secular and religious scholars in Pakistan acknowledge it was the government’s 1974 Constitutional 2nd Amendment declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims, along with the 1984 penal codes known as Ordinance XX, that created and now foster the draconian environment of religious hatred, persecution and violence directed against Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and others.
The fact that the vast majority of Pakistan’s Sunni Muslims don’t seem to have a problem with this sad state of affairs is a tragic barometer of both the denial and often deadly consequences of the growing fanaticism, intolerance and persecution directed against the country’s religious minorities. It’s like someone being told they have terminal cancer who insists they are perfectly healthy and have never felt better!
A fitting analogy is the “boiling frog” scenario, where a frog is placed in a pan of cold water on a stove. The heat is then turned on very low, so the frog thinks the water is only getting a little warm. The frog accepts and adjusts to the gradual rise in water temperature without realizing -- until it’s too late -- that his warm home is also his execution chamber.
This is exactly what is happening in Pakistan to those who support or deny or ignore the persecution and murder of the innocent, be they religious minorities or not. And this is exactly how Hell becomes an accepted way of life and how (like the frog in hot water) very few people wake up and recognize the seriousness of their plight. By the time the fire is raging at its hottest, it’s usually much too late to escape the inevitable.
Not everyone is waiting patiently in their ignorance or denial while they slowly get cooked. Some are trying (with varying levels of commitment and success) to stand up and fight against the barbarism of the blasphemy laws. This array of people includes the surviving victims of the blasphemy laws, secular and interfaith human rights workers, journalists with both conscience and backbone, and anyone else who can clearly see the moral, social, cultural and spiritual extinction that awaits Pakistan if the cancerous evil resulting from its blasphemy laws is not dealt with forcefully and soon.
The million-dollar question then becomes: how do you reverse Pakistan’s ever-increasing downward spiral into social chaos, religious intolerance, persecution and the state-supported extermination of the “infidels” -- a label with an ever-widening definition of who that is? And if this downward spiral is not reversed, the outcome for Pakistan and its people will be a sad but predictable social, political, moral and spiritual collapse into chaos. Some would argue that such a fate is well on its way to fruition.
 But I have not lost hope, in spite of all that I know about Pakistan, its history and its people. This is because I am an Ahmadi Muslim who still believes that Pakistan and its citizens can become what its name promises: the Land of the Pure. And I also still believe in a living God Who has all Power to change Pakistan and its people into an expression of the highest Good instead of a manifestation of the lowest Evil.
But, as God Himself says in the Holy Quran, He does not change the condition of a people until they change their hearts. This seemingly impossible requirement actually reflects our God-endowed ability to willingly choose to do good rather than evil. Unlike Christian doctrine, which teaches that man is born in sin with no ability to overcome its influence and effects, Islam brings the good news that man is born pure and sinless and can return to that state with sustained effort to love God and His creation, and by striving to become more and more righteous.
In short, it means that reformation and redemption from evil is possible -- in fact, it is God’s fundamental purpose for our existence here on Earth. We are designed by God to be capable of embodying most of His divine attributes so we may attain righteousness and nearness to God in this very life.
All that is needed to start this process is for us to want that reformation and redemption -- for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our country and for the world. We can start by praying for the people of Pakistan to want one thing: that God should love them and that, by their actions, they become deserving of God’s Love. We can all start with that one, simple step -- seeking God’s Love by repeating regularly this prayer of the prophet Da’ud (David):
O God! I ask for Your Love and for the love of those who love You,
and love of the actions that bring me close to Your Love. My Lord!
Make me such that Your Love is more pleasing to me than myself,
and my wealth, and my family, and cool sweet water.
                                                                                [ Tirmidhi Kitabudda’wat ]
          In this modern age of the internet and the ability to communicate with almost anyone anywhere in the world, let us use the power of social media and the power of prayer to start a positive change in the world by changing ourselves: “O God, I ask you for Your Love…” Pass it on.
[ with Imam Shamshad A. Nasir; appeared online at April 25th, 2014 at this link: and in print in the May issue of Asia Today newspaper (; and an abridged version ran in the Al Akhbar Newspaper on April 16th, 2014 ]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

STILL SHINY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS [My first attempt at "Firefly"-inspired lyrics]

(Sung to the tune of Paul Simon's “Still Crazy After All These Years” but with more verses 'cuz Paul's original is kinda short – 3 verses and a bridge. This one's got 2 bridges and 9 BD verses. Oh, and it's from Mal's POV in case you hadn't sussed. Here's the link to the original post:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ---
“Still Shiny After All These Years”
I met my old nemesis on the street last night
He sang out “Mister Reynolds!” -- I just sighed
Man was nutty as a Reaver from all that torturin' and tears
but I'm still shiny after all these years
yeah, still shiny after all these years

       I'm not the kind of man who tends to socialize
in Alliance bars unless it's on U-Day
with my “on sale” brown-ish coat on and a few too-many beers
I'm still shiny after all these years
Oh, I'm still shiny after all these years

       My Companion is unveiled -- if you can pay her price
But I won't bother trying, 'cuz she won't
When she sleeps I look upon her, whisper 'nothings' in her ears
Still shiny after all these years
She's still shiny after all these years
     (1st bridge)

       Four in the mornin'
Inara's. . . out whorin'
breakin' my heart again
Why can't I tell her. . . how I feel?
It's all in the Black
 Now I sit in Wash's old chair and I watch the stars
and I imagine he's still flyin' this old Fei
and Zoe's raising their son –- he's a natural “born-to-steer”
and they're still shiny after all these years
yeah, still shiny after all these years

       Gave Zoe's job to Jayne after she left the ship
They say “Feed a dog – won't bite you” -- guess we'll see
River's got him by his chain here: “I can kill you with my brain, dear.”
Jayne's still shiny after all these years
Yeah, still shiny after all these years

       Y'know my Kaylee got a husband in that starchy Doc
Would've happened sooner, weren't so dense
Now there's critters underfoot here an' some smelly baby smears
But that's still shiny after all these years
Loud but shiny after all these years
     (2nd bridge)

       I do the job of. . . robbing – get paid
Is that all my life has been?
Feel like an Object. . . in Space. . .
Drifting. . .
I'm all Out of Gas
     (2nd instrumental, longer)

       Sometimes I think about the shepherd and I wonder why
God'll take the ones who love Him – but not me
Wo bu-dong wei-shemma Tian*. . . that's a train ain't never near
Am I still shiny after all these years?
God. . . Can I be shiny after all these years?

       Been so long at war with You -- don't know if I can quit
My enemy's been mostly just myself
So I smile into the Black and raise a glass to all my fears
I'm still shiny after all these years
Yeah, still shiny after all these years

       Now I got me one fine lady -- she won't never keen
My love for her's what keeps her in the air
And she ain't no fool for love songs that whisper in her gears
Still shiny after all these years
Yeah, still shiny. . . my Serenity. . .
Still shiny after all these years
(* wo=I, bu-dong=don't understand, wei-shemma=why, Tian=Heaven/God.
Wanted to put some Chinese in there so it'd be like the show, and the Chinese really fit the meter well, I thought. Hope it makes sense to all Native speakers out there, otherwise my apologies. My Mandarin is only “restaurant quality.” I let it trail off with the ellipses for poetical import, see? Anyway, hope y'all like. --M.A.Ghaffar)

Thursday, April 3, 2014


There’s a well-known saying that goes: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” It comes from the first line of a poem written in the 1930s by German playwright and author Bertolt Brecht. It became a catch-phrase to protest the Vietnam War during the 1960s. Ironically, the actual “message” of Brecht’s poem is not about pacificism but joining the “good fight” against political despotism and its inevitable military adventurism. The entire poem reads:

“What if they gave a war and nobody came? / Why, then, the war would come to you! / He who stays home when the fight begins / And lets another fight for his cause / Should take care: /
He who does not take part / In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid battle. / Since not to fight for your own cause / Really means / Fighting on behalf of your enemy's cause."

And while Brecht’s point is borne out by the rise of Nazi Germany and the Second World War, it’s the sentiment contained in the first line that speaks to something timeless and morally significant: human beings do not like killing and do not, of their own accord, desire war. Fear of death is the usual cause cited in a person’s reluctance to go to war, and this is perfectly understandable.

But war has, as its primal reality to the soldier involved in actual combat, only two possible outcomes: being killed or being the killer. The destructiveness of the first event happens only once. The destructiveness to a person’s mental, moral and spiritual makeup caused by “being the killer” in the war equation is well known to all who survive it, and in many ways, those killed are considered the lucky ones, compared to those who have to live with the consequences and memories of war.

So why is it we seem to always be killing each other in so many conflicts in the world? Every cry by a government for war has always been met with reluctance unless the people are first motivated to support the war. And history shows that nothing rallies people to war as effectively as a horrific, unprovoked attack. Like 9-11, for example, or the Tonkin Gulf incident that catalyzed America’s massive troop commitment in Vietnam, or Pearl Harbor which resulted in our involvement in World War II.

The latest call to war has Iran and its nuclear weapons threat as its focus, with Israel leading the charge and America and Europe slavishly in tow. It’s been pointed out that Iran hasn’t attacked the U.S. or anyone else in well over a century and has no nuclear weapons or proven capacity to produce them. (U.N. inspectors monitored Iran’s nuclear program for two years and came to that same conclusion.)

Let’s review America’s recent war history. After 9-11, we invaded Afghanistan in search of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. Ten years later, Navy SEALs found bin Laden well-kept and safe in Pakistan, our supposed ally in the War on Terror. We also invaded Iraq in March of 2002 under the pretext of neutralizing Saddam Hussein and his “weapons of mass destruction” we were told beforehand didn’t exist and which we have yet to find. Cost in American lives: more than 5,000 so far. Cost in U.S. taxpayer money and borrowed money from China: $4-$6 Trillion and counting. (Iraqi and Afghani civilian deaths are difficult to estimate but are conservatively believed to be 2-3 times the number of American deaths.)

Which brings us conveniently to the big question: who benefits from all this killing for God and country? Principally, two camps: the people who loan the money to wage wars (often lending to both sides at the same time) and the makers and sellers of the implements of war. And as the revenues of war-funding institutions and war-profiteering industries readily attest, war is an immensely lucrative business. And therein lies the essential obstacle to “curing” the cancer of war -- if you are in the business of war, the last thing you want in the world is peace. And if the people in government are the same people in the war business (or are intimately connected with such people) then the levers of political power are effectively in the hands of those with a vested financial interest in having wars and not peace.

Just before leaving office, President Eisenhower warned America (and the world) about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” But knowing about a threat is not the same as having the ability to resist it or defeat it. There are legitimate reasons to go to war. But those reasons never coincide with financial or political interests, only humanitarian and moral ones. In the long history of warfare, such valid reasons are few and far between, and most certainly absent in the case of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and what looks likely to be Iran if we don’t wake up and say “no” to the cancer of war for profit and power.

(Originally appeared March 2nd, 2012 on at this link: