Writing from London

It all finally worked out, my wife’s hard work bore fruit, and she got a job in Surrey, more than two years ago. We also got pregnant at the same time as we moved to the UK, and life is been pretty fucking sweet since then.

There are those nasty bits from time to time, but for the most part, it’s been pretty fucking sweet.

Healing, in fact.

I’m finally becoming my own person.

And it looks like I am on my way to realizing my full potential.

I haven’t been writing though, so there’s a lot that I’ve contained within myself. I was just reading my old post The Evil Within Islam and was surprised at how angry I used to be. At the world, at Pakistan, at Muslims and at Islam.

Now I guess I just don’t care that much anymore? But I do still care.

It’s really nice to live in London, have multicultural friends, and have your own family with no bullshit to deal with on a day to day basis.

Perhaps this would be a good place to be (mentally) to start writing again. So here we are. It’s a start.

I will try to make it a habit to share a few thoughts every day and let’s see how it goes.

The Curse of Intelligence

Is it possible to choose a spouse with a different set of intellectual abilities, I wonder.

chaos section

“Ignorance is bliss” ~ Thomas Gray

Intellectual capabilities are by far the greatest of gifts that a human being can possess. No matter what your personal flaws may be, the ability to be analytical, creative, rational, logical, and to see through what is arbitrary and trivial about human behavior and society is more valuable than any material possession, bar none. In many ways, possessing intelligence is true freedom. However, it may be a curse in many ways as well.

Almost everyone considers themselves to be “intelligent”- nobody likes to feel or be called unintelligent, but there is a clear distinction between people who “have it,” and those who “don’t.” I consider myself to be an intelligent and articulate individual. By no means does that mean that I am a genius. Nor do I hold the arrogant notion that people who view the world differently are somehow less (or more) intellectually capable…

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Support Manifesto for Secularism

A secular Pakistan? I’m afraid most Pakistanis will say ‘never!’

Here’s to dreaming of a day when common sense prevails in this godforsaken land.

Secularism

Our era is marked by the rise of the religious-Right – not because of a “religious revival” but rather due to the rise of far-Right political movements and states using religion for political supremacy. This rise is a direct consequence of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism and the social policies of communalism and cultural relativism. Universalism, secularism and citizenship rights have been abandoned and segregation of societies and “communities” based on ethnicity, religion and culture have become the norm.

The Islamic State (formerly ISIS), the Saudi regime, Hindutva (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) in India, the Christian-Right in the US and Europe, Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka, Haredim in Israel, AQMI and MUJAO in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria are examples of this.

For many decades now, people in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora have been the first victims but also on the frontlines of resistance against the religious-Right (whether religious states, organisations and movements) and in defence of secularism and universal rights, often at great risk to their lives.

We call on people everywhere to stand with us to establish an international front against the religious-Right and for secularism. We demand:

  1. Complete separation of religion from the state. Secularism is a fundamental right.

  2. Separation of religion from public policy, including the educational system, health care and scientific research.

  3. Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes. An end to discrimination against and persecution of LGBT, religious minorities, women, freethinkers, ex-Muslims, and others.

  4. Freedom of religion and atheism and freedom to criticise religions. Belief as a private affair.

  5. Equality between women and men and citizenship rights for all.

Reposted blog from http://www.freethoughtblogs.com by Maryam Namazie

 

The Evil Within Islam

The first time I stepped out of a Muslim country (on my own, that is, and after reaching some level of maturity), I was a Muslim apologist. I defended Islam by quoting the good examples from my (limited) personal life, ignoring the bad ones.

Once I was aboard my university shuttle talking to two girls – one Vietnamese and the other Chinese – we were talking about our cultures and I was answering questions – like why we didn’t let women step out of the house. I told them my mother had a job (no, her second husband had made her quit) and that women in our family didn’t cover up (yes, but the dupatta was compulsory, still).

I was caught off guard when they asked me why my Prophet had married a 9 year old (referring to Aisha, obviously). Coincidentally that’s when I arrived at the science faculty stop where I had to get off, but I did my research later.

I considered myself to be an Agnostic even then, but I was sympathetic towards religion, especially Islam because I thought it was better than all the other religions out there. Yes, I had a strong bias.

Then again, my maternal family was very nice. They believed in Humanity before God – that Rights Of The People was a concept more important than Rights of Allah, so I had a very decent upbringing from them.

These days I am stuck with mostly Muslim company (family and friends). There is Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics (PAA) but I don’t meet up with them often – they’re either too rich or too poor to meet up with a middle class person like myself. Which is why I can get influenced by genuinely good people who believe they are Muslims but they hardly ever study their own religion.

So to allow myself to not get swayed by these good Muslims in my midst, I am compiling a list of Quranic verses that I used to regret back when I was Muslim, and now I use as fuel to fire my hatred of the religion’s evil teachings that have all combined to ruin my life (in the past as well as now). I hope I get out of here soon.

#1. Islam is violent.

If they did read their book with translation, this would be how they’d like to treat me or my apostasy – if I ever told them about it openly.

There are 75 verses in the Quran that hint towards beheading, if not recommending it explicitly.

Maybe they could make violent video games exclusively for Muslims so that they can fulfill their lust for blood and gore? Oh, and with messages like “Sorry you can not take a slave until you kill some enemies first”.

#2. Islam believes in revenge.

Forget Gandhi’s ‘eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’. These people think if you sleep with their sister they can sleep with yours. Or any other version of it. (Like, if you sleep with their daughter, they will try to even the score by sleeping with your sister. I’m not kidding!) And then they’d go a step further to malign her character regardless of whether she refuses or accepts. I’ve witnessed this so many times in my personal life.

#3. Islam punishes brutally.

I had a phase in my life when I began stealing to buy rechargeable batteries (very expensive in third-world countries back in those days) for my dated remote-controlled cars, and stuff like that. Now when I look back, it was a dangerous trait and I’m glad I got caught, but it was still quite innocent as I was still in my mid-teens. Thankfully, when I got caught I wasn’t reported, or I would have had one hand missing my whole life. (I was simply kicked out of the house.) I am also thankful we had moved to Pakistan by then (I was born in Saudi Arabia).

#4. Islam hates sex for pleasure.

If you’ve ever wondered why Muslims are so perverted or horny (usually both), it’s not just because they’re missing a part of their penises (they’re circumcised), but because they keep fighting their biological urge to copulate. The more devout Muslims often have wet dreams (they’re probably imagining paradise), while the slightly less devout ones masturbate and live with the guilt of having done so. Most of them, however, give in to their desires secretly and live in denial publicly. They carry on like this even after they get married.

#5. Islam is a patriarchy.

So what happens when these men are not so righteous, oh noble Quran? What if they don’t spend from their wealth and treat their devoutly obedient wives poorly, O’ Allah?

No response.

Men are essentially the bearers and implementers of Islam, and even if it could be said that Islam is fair to all humanity (which it is not), what could any woman do to seek justice and fairness? What will she do when she goes to her father for help and he forces her to return to her husband, only to be beaten up by him for going to her dad in the first place? What’s that? Exalted and Grand? Grand indeed! Grand inhumanity is more like it.

Consider the options a prostitute has in a typical setup when her pimp treats her unfairly. They’re no different from the options a Muslim woman has, in most cases: No legal help. No help from family. No help from the government. No organisation who will like to help her. And no foreign country to give her a visa.

#6. Islam loves booty. (Plundered booty.)

You might, by now, understand the perversion with which they view, say, a girl in tiny shorts, or a low-cut top. Why, that must be booty ready to be plundered! Because see, maal-e-ghaneemat (plundered booty) could be applied to anything as a concept. And if she isn’t covering it up like the Exalted would have women cover, then she must be ripe for the taking. See, God said it clearly in his book! He even used the word ‘booty’!

At least, that’s how I imagine their ability to reason. Just imagine a bearded guy with lustful eyes saying “maal-e-ghaneemat!”. The perversion is intense!

#7. Islam doesn’t believe in adoption.

Not really, at least. Why would Mohammad marry his adopted son’s wife, but to prove that adopted children are never to be treated like your real children? I still remember when I got out of the car to open the gate to the driveway so my stepfather could park the car inside the house, when he said to himself, “Mashallah! Nokar ka nokar, sawaab ka sawaab!” Meaning: “Praise be to Allah. I get a servant and I also get a spiritual reward (for taking care of him).”

I wish I could elaborate more upon the Evils Within Islam, but what we have here is quite the list – my top 7 reasons to hate Islam. I hope that I will be able to move to a non-Muslim country some day, and these memories will stop haunting me every day.

Note to fellow ex-Muslims: Please don’t fall in love with a Muslim, unless you have the energy to continue to bear the Evils of Islam for the rest of your life. I really love my wife, and treat her as well as I can – against my teachings of Islam. But sometimes she doesn’t appreciate what I do for her, because she is still Muslim at heart. However, she gives me her all, and loves me selflessly so I have no reason to complain – perhaps the most ‘Muslim’ thing about her is that she can’t drive, ha!

Rape, Football Matches and Us

My friends – graduates of ‘elite’ schools such as LUMS and IBA couldn’t help but (mis)use the rape analogy as they discussed the Brazil vs Germany FIFA Football World Cup match.
“What a rape. 33 minutes and 0-5,” said one.
“Rape is an understatement,” declared another.
“Balatkar. Nazreen.” said another.
This is how I found out the result for that particular match. As I tried to correct them about how they used the word ‘rape’, I was told how I’m “such a woman” and a “feminist”. Our group is all about leg-pulling for fun, so one even went on to ask me about what did they do to me when I was young – suggesting I got raped as a kid and hence the sensitivity. Of course I didn’t entertain them with my stories – these friends of mine are obviously beyond reason when it comes to their inherent sexism and they won’t understand how they’re only upholding traditional patriarchal values.
What I fail to understand is, how did a bunch guys with a great ability to reason – so much so that they all passed the SATs or the LUMS admission test to get in – which uses tons of analogies in its verbal sections – not be able to understand why the rape metaphor is damaging for our backward society? These are the people who should be leading the awareness campaign in Pakistan – if not them, then who else?

The Best Tool For Sexual Exploitation

When you think about it, it’s a fairly simple technique that doesn’t require any degrees or in-depth knowledge about hypnosis. And once you learn how to brainwash, it doesn’t take much time to bring out your evil side.

I still remember that evening when I showered and decided to wear a white shalwar kameez, before heading out to the grocery store to grab something for my mother. There was a mosque on the way. When I crossed it on my way back, a senior maulvi standing right outside stopped me and asked me for a lift.

As he initiated the conversation, he used his religious authority to ask me where I lived, what my father did etc. I answered truthfully. Maybe he wanted to figure out if he knew someone from my house? I don’t know.

I was riding a locally manufactured mountain bike that had a frail carrier installed at the back that could hardly carry my school bag. I motioned towards it and told the maulvi it couldn’t carry his load. So he continued trying to converse with me, and I didn’t know any better.

He spoke briefly about hell, and then turned towards heaven. He talked about working for Islam and told me about the hoors awaiting us in heaven. As he touched this topic, he also started touching my penis, gently moving his fingers around it and applying gentle pressure.

I quickly shifted the topic back to how it started off, and told him my bike carrier couldn’t carry his weight. Still touching me, he told me he could just sit on the rod connecting the handle and the seat. I told him I couldn’t balance the bike like that and bid him farewell, before making a quick dash home.

Allah Hafiz.

I never went for another Friday prayer again.

I guess this is what happens when you oppose nature and isolate women in society so much that men begin engaging in what is commonly known as “bacha bazi“. Most people who exploit young boys sexually are based in places like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. They are straight, but an asshole has no gender as far as these people are concerned.

Thank you for reading this rather intimate story I’ve shared from my life. I have never been able to openly discuss these things, but I am starting to heal now. The patriarchy doesn’t allow me to share these things. Even my wife attempts to emasculate me if I become too sensitive about things – that scene in Kite Runner made my eyes wet, but I didn’t cry.

Also, it may not be much, but you can actually save some Afghan Orphans who might be sold as sex slaves just by making a small donation to AfghanOrphans.org – a friend shared their Facebook post which is what inspired me to write about my first inappropriate sexual encounter as a child, living in Lahore, Pakistan (in a rather upscale setting, that too). I was lucky that time but there was another time when I wasn’t so lucky. I will write about it some other time.

In case you’re still wondering what the best tool for sexual exploitation is, it’s religion.

The Arabization of Pakistan and Identity Crisis

So this is how I understand it. Up until two months ago, Pakistan was neutral in terms of the Sunni-Shia conflict – at least politically. As the days go on, we see more and more Arab influence in Pakistan as the state tries to, erm, readjust its position on Islam.

We started out as a secular country under Jinnah with a white portion of the flag dedicated to non-Muslims. Back then, saying you were ‘Muslim’ was more than enough for people and the government to know you were on the green side of the flag, and it was fine if you weren’t.

Then came Zia and he just changed the course of this nation by taking us from ‘Pakistan’ to the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ some time around 1971. From his point of view, this was necessary as he needed the support of the masses (as if the minorities wanted their tyranny) to send militants to Afghanistan, which was a Muslim country fighting against Russia – a land of infidels.

So we took the funding from Saudi Arabia, and later the US too, to fund religious institutions aka ‘madrassas‘ in Pakistan where they pushed young boys to memorize the Quran without understanding a word of it, and also taught them to fight and die in the name of Islam, before being recruited by a militant outfit that was most likely being run by army personnel to ensure proper training.

Religion has a tendency to polarize society and today, Muslim society around the world is divided between Shia and Sunni lines. Today, we see how Pakistan is taking the Sunni side in Syria, by accepting Saudi Arabia’s funding once again and sending militants there, along with arms and surface-to-air missiles.

These will most likely be used to knock down Assad’s planes, who is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. And they’re not just up against Saudi Arabia – almost all Sunni Muslim countries are aligning with them. What we have at our hands in Syria is an international Islamic sectarian war. Only time will tell who’s God is right. (Ahmedis’ Allah was wrong, according to all of them though.)

On the one hand...

On the other hand…

Meanwhile, the West has pulled out all its support (after giving the rebels some in the beginning only) and is, perhaps, silently watching the Islamic world crumble over itself.

Here in Lahore, Pakistan, where I live, I notice more and more signs of Arab influence everyday. The Al-Bakistan car number plates, seeing ‘Ramadan’ in print almost as much as ‘Ramzan’, more people saying ‘Wudu’ instead of ‘Wuzu’ and a lot more. You see, they want to emulate the Prophet’s ‘sunnah’ (not ‘sunnat’) or practices in every possible way, and that includes arabizing Urdu words that have already been derived from the Arabic language. Funny.

A culture resides in its language, or languages, but Pakistanis have a lost identity. The fact that the culture of Muslims in Pakistan is similar to that of Hindus in India upsets many if not most Pakistani Muslims, and when they get exposed to Arab culture and identify the language of their religion, they don’t look any further. They simply adopt.

The rise of blasphemy cases in Pakistan and abroad by Pakistan (such as the ban on YouTube and filtered Tweets), only goes to show that Pakistan is unable to comprehend what modernity, equality, pluralism mean to a nation state. We are incompatible with the modern world in this state.

Copyright http://burkesenglish.wordpress.com/

The foundations of Pakistan may be built upon hatred of ‘others’, and we fear it might be climbing up the pyramid, day by day, slowly.

The identity crisis of Pakistani citizens is carried forward from its rulers, who are probably just as confused, seeing as they almost always settle their families abroad as soon as they can.

What Pakistanis need is a return to their South-Asian identity, where the bearded mullah and his shuttlecocked wife and children don’t feel any guilt whatsoever as they strut off to the cinema every week just to watch Katrina dance his takhnay-say-ooper shalwar off.

Otherwise, I worry we will push Pakistani Shias off to the white portion of the flag and perhaps move on to alienate sub-sects within Sunni Islam too, one by one, all in good time.

The Business of Gaslighting

I’m a terrible, terrible, terrible person.

She has been working really hard lately, but unfortunately, my income hasn’t kept up with hers, and now things are off-balance.

For the past 5 days in a row, she talks about money for at least 3 hours everyday, ruining the little time we have for each other, and causing me to feel inadequate at the same time. What I understand so far is that she wants me to comfort her, and make promises about how my income is going to increase, so that she can do all the things that she wants us to do.

I began a new business about five months ago, and it looks very promising. The returns are great – unfortunately I don’t have enough assignments yet. We’re still in the startup phase.

Yesterday was the fifth consecutive day that she began talking about money – her salary is right around the corner, and we’re broke right now.

It was perhaps the worst conversation to have had at dinner time. This time though, I had had enough. I did not entertain her thoughts and considerations. She took out a piece of paper and started doing our finances – out of her paycheque. Here she was assuming I wouldn’t contribute a single cent, and then demanded me to give her a number, at least.

She even said, “why do I have to pay the price for your father not being there all your life?”

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I wanted to tell her how privileged she was to have a father who invested in her career unconditionally. I wanted to try and have a logical conversation with her, but here she was throwing fire at me – touching sensitive topics over what could’ve been a peaceful dinner. My survival instincts wanted to kick in but I remained calm, and reminded myself how physical abuse can never be productive – yes, she said things that made me want to strike her. So I pictured my father hitting my mother and reminded myself about the superiority of words and just faced the attack on my whole life.

But she wanted answers. She had never had to pay her bills, and when she married me, she thought I would take care of it for the rest of our lives. And I would’ve if I was still pursuing a job, but after thinking hard about the future, I realized my own work would be much more rewarding – financially as well as mentally. It is.

I work in the creative industry – I write articles and copies, draft digital campaigns, work with business strategies, and work with visual artists and programmers of all sorts. I enjoy my work. That is, when I can.

To put it simply, I am passionate about what I do, and money has never motivated me. Sure, it’s a great by-product, and a necessary one, but it isn’t my primary aim when I set out to finish a product. Unlike her.

On the other hand, she’s a surgeon – she chops out body parts when they go bad, and she is good at what she does. When these surgeries get carried on for longer, she works overtime and gets paid for it. She fights with herself to find focus when she’s working more than she expected, because it is a tiring job. Then she motivates herself by thinking about the compensation she will receive for every extra hour worked. Therein lies the difference in our personalities.

After moving in together, I provided for both of us for more than two years before she began making a substantial amount of money, but she climbed up the payroll ladder very fast, probably because she works very hard (and is smart too).

However, what was once a partnership has now turned into a competition.

I never wanted this. I never thought it would affect us this much, but it does. It affects her a lot. Me, I’ve lived most of my life barely surviving, but this is all new for her. And we’re not even ‘barely surviving’ now – we got a new car and a house this year, and those things cost an arm and a leg – of course there is pressure!

She complained about how she will not be able to upgrade her phone or computer this month, or those summer dresses she wanted to get. The list wasn’t very long, but lacked the sense of partnership I thought we had. No, she doesn’t want to cover up for where my income lacks.

So I did what a self-proclaimed male feminist like myself should never do.

Gaslighting.

I told her I thought she needed to see a doctor because she’s chronically depressed. I told her I don’t have the energy or the patience any more to do this everyday AND fulfill the role my startup requires of me. I need to sleep for 7 hours and work 12 hours everyday to take my business to the next level, which would also increase OUR income, but I am unable to do it because she gives me a downer EVERY night. Most creative work is done at night, and I need my loved ones to instill positivity in me when I socialize with them in the evening – if anything, and she was doing the opposite. And then I told her I had shown her the door a few times when we had similar fights but I wouldn’t leave her myself because she herself told me her father wouldn’t welcome her back. (Why, hello there patriarchal dad.)

Needless to say, she’s not a feminist. She doesn’t think it makes women worthy. (As if what makes a woman worthy is what a man spends on her, ha!)

Yes, she did tell me I made her feel worthless.

I want to tell her she’s being crazy when she keeps obsessing over the same things over and over, but I don’t, because that’s gaslighting. I want to tell her how life is a bed of stones but together we can make it right, but she’s adamant when it comes to her sense of entitlement.

So I left the room, put my headphones on, and travelled to the planet of rock and hard metal as I usually do in desperate times. I opened some work-related windows on my computer and tried to get some important things done. But I couldn’t.

She came to me after a while to tell me she was going to shift to her dad’s place tomorrow, and I didn’t react or even acknowledge the message. “Go wherever you wanna go,” I told her, and turned towards my computer screen again.

So she took one of my headphones off and shouted, “Didn’t you hear me? I am leaving you! You understand that right?!”

I told her she can do whatever she wants. Nobody is forcing her to do anything, and I need to get some work done, so please excuse me. She left.

As you can imagine, I got nothing done. In fact, I couldn’t even work today, which is Monday, the most important workday of the week. I am really troubled by all this.

I wish we could go back to the times when we were a perfect couple together. We’ve been seeing each other since some eighteen years – she’s my high school sweetheart – and we began living together a little over three years ago.

I am convinced that she might be depressed and that I should help her through it, and I really hope I’m not gaslighting when I say that. But how can I help her at my own expense? Especially since I have been attending to her emotional needs every single day for so many years. Maybe I spoiled her? I just want her to understand my perspective, sometimes.
At one point in our discussion I even told her, “When your salary arrives, go get your iPhone – first thing.”

“But how will we manage the bills then?”

“I’ll manage. I always have.”

“I don’t want us to be broke again by the end of next month. I will not take it.”

“Well, this is your house. If you don’t want to pay the bills even when you can, that’s something you have to decide for yourself. I do whatever I can.”