JULY 8-14 2012
20 Big Apple Blues Contrary to what mainstream US media would have us believe, many Pakistani-Americans have not adopted a zealously religious identity
30 Gung Ho Desis South Asian participants of the largely-White Occupy Movement have brought a lot more to the protests than just diversity
34 A home for Pakistani literature Tired of a futile search for Urdu literature books in America, a Faisalabadi couple in Chicago decides to open their own
36 Living by the Book No matter how determined new converts are to reconcile their past lives with Islam, it is a daunting task
38 Small-town girl with big-time dreams From a local Sialkot school to Wharton School of Business, Maheen Suleman Sheikh has learnt that dreaming big always helps
Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistanâ€™s beautiful people 40 Reviews: Do the Sid Shuffle and hunt some bloodsuckers 42 End Of The Line: Saeen tou saeen
Magazine Editor: Zarrar Khuhro, Senior Sub-Editors: Batool Zehra, Zainab Imam. Sub-Editors: Ameer Hamza and Dilaira Mondegarian. Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Maha Haider, Faizan Dawood, Samra Aamir, Sanober Ahmed. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: firstname.lastname@example.org Printed: email@example.com
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Mehak and Usman
Sarah and Bilal Mukhtar
Umar and Anum
6 JULY 8-14 2012
Humera, Rameesha, Anusheh and Sara
PHOTOS COURTESY BILAL MUKHTAR AND EVENTS
Cine Star organises the premiere of Snow White and the Huntsman in Lahore
JULY 8-14 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Savvy PR holds a two-day event to showcase the works of top Pakistani designers in Singapore
Oxford University Press launches the summer activity “Dosti Kitabon Sey” in Karachi
Nadia and Shezreh Fatima and Madiha
8 JULY 8-14 2012
PHOTOS COURTESY TAKEII
Uzair, Sabeen, Munaf and Ayman
Aamir and Sara
PHOTOS COURTESY SAVVY PR AND EVENTS
Farhan and Sana
JULY 8-14 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Simky launches the fashion label Javandi in Lahore
Kuki and Rabia
PHOTOS COURTESY SAVVY PR AND EVENTS
Saim and Amina
Hamza, Natasha and Ahsan
Maheen and Sadaf
Mehreen and Ubab
10 JULY 8-14 2012
Simky and Fizza
JULY 8-14 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Resham and Mehreen Syed
Saira and Maha
Ayaan and Asad
PHOTOS COURTESY SAVVY PR AND EVENTS
Saba of la Chantal launches her flagship store in Lahore
Amna, Simky and Alizeh
Kiran and Nehal
12 JULY 8-14 2012
Nazi and Fatima
Imtisal and Natasha
JULY 8-14 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
L’Oréal Professionnel introduces Fiberceutic, a treatment for fine hair, in Karachi
Destination Eventz organises a Sunday brunch for Rani Taj, in Lahore
PHOTOS COURTESY DESTINATION EVENTZ
Rani Taj and Samra
14 JULY 8-14 2012
PHOTOS COURTESY LOTUS PR
Meher Najeeb and Saba Ansari
JULY 8-14 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Ruby Hasan and Jennifer Liu
PHOTOS COURTESY LOTUS
Garnier celebrates its Colour Naturals range in Lahore
Samsung launches Galaxy S III in Lahore
Asma Khan and Uzma Abdur Rauf
16 JULY 8-14 2012
Selina Khan and Anam Toseef
PHOTOS COURTESY FAISAL FAROOQUI
Sehr and Haroon Latif
JULY 8-14 2012
JULY 8-14 2012
JULY 8-14 2012
BY IBRAHIM SAJID MALICK
20 JULY 8-14 2012
Contrary to what the mainstream US media would have us believe, many Pakistani-Americans still refuse to take to a zealously religious identity 21
(Continued on page 24) JULY 8-14 2012
JULY 8-14 2012
JULY 8-14 2012
A Pakistani-American who considers himself a native New Yorker was shocked the other day when I asked him to tell me if he could spot a single Pakistani worker in the restaurant where we met. We were having lunch at Haandi, a busy Pakistani restaurant in midtown Manhattan — a place frequented by Pakistanis who demand authentic halal food. You know, the type who eat paya for breakfast, biryani for lunch and nihari for dinner. Yes, that authentic type!
Not finding any Pakistani worker in a hardcore Pakistani res-
taurant, my friend was puzzled, to say the least. To confirm
nificantly over the past several decades. This city used to be a melting pot, where people from all parts of the world ‘melted’ to form a homogeneous society with a common culture. But this ‘melting pot’ experiment was challenged by proponents of
multiculturalism, who asserted that cultural differences with-
in society are valuable and should be preserved, proposing the alternative metaphor of the mosaic or salad bowl — different cultures mix, but remain distinct. I remember Mayor David Din-
kins telling Pakistanis in 1989 that they were part of the great ‘salad bowl’ and they could celebrate their ethnic identities yet fully participate in the culture of New York City.
Whether we talk about a ‘melting pot’ or a ‘salad bowl’, the
that it was not an aberration we drove to Jackson Heights, a
use of metaphors to establish ideology is extremely important
City borough of Queens — a neighbourhood known for its di-
with it is the charge of affect. In the aftermath of 9/11 as Mus-
neighbourhood in the northwestern portion of the New York versity. South Asians think of it as the South Hall of New York.
We went to another famous Pakistani restaurant and I tasked my friend with finding any Pakistani worker there as well. The only person he could spot was the owner of Dera, a Pakistani indeed!
In the process of compiling the
ethnography of Pakistani-Americans in New York I have interviewed individuals, followed numerous families and surveyed several groups and, among many other things that an
anthropologist looks for, I found a noticeable change in the past 10 years — poor and undocumented Pakistanis don’t live here anymore.
I have adhered to the cannons of
reliability by validating my observations with data collected by the US
because what figurative language communicates and carries
lims in general and Pakistanis in particular became the sub-
ject of scrutiny — the uniqueness of each culture in the salad bowl backfired for Pakistanis. Like rotten tomatoes in the salad
bowl, they became easy target for
“Nobody ever teased [me] because I never announced that I am a Pakistani. People think I am Indian or Dominican,” says a student of Pakistani descent
Census Bureau, reports on immigra-
and mainstream media.
By poor, I mean those desperate enough to accept any work,
at any wage; vulnerable recent immigrants who are easily ex-
to New York used to make Midwood, Brooklyn, their home. This was an enclave often referred to as “Little
Pakistan” which, on September 11,
2001, was home to nearly 50,000 Pakistanis. And that unfortunate
day in America’s history saw the beginning of Little Pakistan’s undoing. In 10 subsequent years, the once
thriving community had to deal with legal repercussions, surveil-
lance and raids by federal and local pressures leading to the structural
and organisational adjustments and
ploited by those who had arrived before them. The undocu-
The USA PATRIOT Act in October of 2001, by some accounts
has taken risks and ignored security, favoured effort over com-
Congress like a breeze following the terrorist attacks. The law,
mented immigrant who, simply by virtue of crossing a border, fort, and innovation over stability; the cannon fodder of the American growth machine for decades. The undocumented new immigrant, at least from Pakistan, no longer lives here.
Most of the Pakistani newcomers
agencies, and strenuous financial
tion by Homeland Security and spo-
radic news reports in both vernacular
picking and discarding.
But that’s not all.
New York City and Pakistanis who live here have changed sigJULY 8-14 2012
a most draconian piece of legislation, passed through the US
among other things, introduced a special registration sys-
tem for non-immigrants from designated countries, which included Pakistan. The special registration system, in addition to tracking entries and exits of those subject to it, also
required that designated individuals periodically report to the
Homeland Security Immigration Services and keep the agency
outside a small restaurant diagonally across the mosque to
in the US.
supposedly, because everyone knows that these are undercov-
informed of any changes in their situation during their stay Every Pakistani who was not a permanent resident (a Green
Card holder) or United States citizen had to report to the immigration offices. It was a game-changer for undocumented Pakistanis — they had a choice, either to register and face deporta-
keep an eye on the people who come for Friday prayers. I say
er agents — why else would two American men in black suits wait outside a mosque in the hot summer afternoon? Maybe they just love watching jumma prayers.
Munir, a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School, isn’t in-
tion hearings or voluntarily leave the country. Within a year of
timidated by these men and says: “I think it’s funny, to be
10,000 of its estimated 120,000 residents — many of them flee-
cause we are not doing anything wrong.”
9/11, the New York area Pakistani community had lost nearly ing America in pursuit of liberty and opportunity elsewhere. Moreover, a large number of Pakistanis were deported often
honest. Everyone knows who these guys are. We don’t care beMunir may not care, but I do.
I have always argued that identity is fluid and contextual.
leaving behind part of their families.
I am a Pakistani when someone in New York asks me ‘where
my alma mater the New School for Social Research, used to say
am from Karachi. I am a ‘man’ when around women — I am
Professor Stanley Diamond, an anthropology professor at
that culture defines the marketplace. Professor Diamond was right — Little Pakistan in Midwood, Brooklyn, that once was
a busy, bustling marketplace where sweet shops sold lassi in
are you from?’. When the same question is posed in Lahore, I
a ‘straight man’ around gays and an ‘old man’ around young kids.
But here is the sticking point — whether I practice religion
traditional fashion, a neighbourhood where you couldn’t walk
or not, in the US I am Muslim because of my name, place of
Pakistani could feel at home — the very essence of that market-
Faced with ideological profiling, discrimination, devalua-
a block without someone speaking Punjabi or Urdu, where any
origin and possibly because of the clothes that I wear.
place had changed. Streets became deserted, stores lost their
tion and disparagement, religious identity has become the key
day prayers thinned dramatically.
young Pakistani women who were born and raised in New York
glitter and the lines outside the Coney Island mosque for Fri-
Politics of Identity When listening to the gossip of elderly men in the barbershop
marker for a few young Muslim men and women. I met some who not only cover their faces with the hijab completely but also do not show picture IDs to male security guards.
I asked a young woman behind the veil where she was from
or several small restaurants along Coney Island, you realise
— she said “Brooklyn”. No, she didn’t say Pakistan. She was
in the media and every social scientist (very few indeed) that
father who used to be a lecturer in Pakistan has driven a cab
how little we know about Pakistani-Americans. Every pundit has written about Pakistanis in America tries to explore the
complex and diverse reasons for the foregrounding of religion in the identities of their object of study.
It is true that post-9/11 policies of the US government and
fear mongering by the conservative American media has led to an increased sense of in-group solidarity and identification
on the basis of religion for some Pakistani-Americans, but to
say that Pakistanis who live in New York have taken to a rabid religious identity is far from true.
“Munday namaaz nahee parthay (boys don’t offer prayers),” com-
plains Chauhdry Abrar, in his native Punjabi at a barbershop on the corner of Coney Island and Newkirk Avenue in Brooklyn. Another elderly gentleman chimes in and reminds me that none of us were that religious in our youth.
born in Coney Island Hospital to parents from Pakistan. Her for the past 20 years on the streets of New York. She has lived
“I think it’s funny, to be honest. Everyone knows who these guys [undercover agents] are. We don’t care because we are not doing anything wrong,” Munir says
But the irony is that while these elderly Pakistani men worry
that the younger generation is losing interest in religious ac-
tivities, two FBI agents, who are supposedly under cover, wait
JULY 8-14 2012
on the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Newkirk Avenue all her life. From Kindergarten to college, she attended the public education system.
defining one’s relationship with the world that usually takes place without necessarily leading to ‘radicalisation’.
Radicalisation requires an interpersonal interaction with
But she is an anomaly. The majority of Muslim women dress
other actors who stimulate and influence the process. And,
consistent with their American peers. During my research I
ideological profiling, lack of equal opportunities for career ad-
modestly. Some wear scarves and plenty dress in ways that are have also met several young Pakistani girls who cover themselves so they don’t have to worry about what clothes they must wear to school — or whether they have a boyfriend or not. It simply relieves them of peer pressure. And, yes it is plausible.
this is where the rub lies. Devaluation, disparagement and
vancement and integration with mainstream society are those factors that can stimulate and influence the process of radicalisation.
Pakistanis, however, confront a number of atypical factors,
For many it is more than not having brand name jeans with
which can alter the course of this process. Spooks who stand
mensely intelligent women to wear the hijab. It is a sign of
Police Department surveillance of Pakistani-American com-
matching socks and bra-straps that force these bright and imdissent, of courage — a sign of protest and yes, of course, for many it is their religious duty. These young women use the discourse of religion and identity for personal empowerment.
A handful of boys in high schools
and colleges in New York accentuate their religious identity by praying in public places and wearing
religion on their sleeves. But again this is a very small minority.
During the trial of Dr Aafia Sid-
diqui in New York, I met a few
young Muslim men with beards flying all over their faces and prayer
beads in hand. There was one who
outside the mosque on Coney Island Avenue and New York munity are among those ‘external actors’ who stimulate the process. And then there are the ‘internal actors’, the moles, members of the community who
“Who doesn’t get discriminated against? We should respond to it for what it is — a violation of civil liberties,” says Mateen
had a miswak. The Marshal who had
searched his bag was puzzled to see
this miswak and asked, “What do you do with it?” It is important to note that although a majority of her supporters in the
courtroom did appear to be Islamist, most of them were not
Pakistanis. “Where are all the other Pakistanis?” commented one Islamist supporter in obvious disappointment. In fact,
most of her supporters in the gallery were African-American
cases, as provocateurs. They are often themselves victims who are
then forced to spy on and entrap fellow Pakistanis. Both have become part of the landscape. A fixture one learns to walk around.
Let’s face it: Pakistanis today are
facing a crisis that has few parallels in history. They are caught between the forces of extremism from within and the crushing onslaught
of the West. Many Pakistanis find
previous explanations of injustices
— rich and poor, class-based economic systems, etc — inadequate to explain their current situation.
For Pakistanis living in the US this experience is compound-
ed by religious discrimination, ideological profiling, and a lack of confidence in the government.
Rules of Averages
young man was born in Queens. He has lived in New York and
knowledge that they have felt discriminated against at least once,
And although an anomaly that day in the courthouse, this
studied at several American schools and colleges. But he feels his religious identity provides a positive role model, compared
A majority of the young men and women I meet in New York acbut they take it in stride.
“Who doesn’t get discriminated against?” asks Mateen, a pre-
to his parents’ under-employment and is an alternative to the
medicine student at New York University who participated in a
Many scholars have argued that the search for identity
panic communities to protest ‘stop and frisk’ by the NYPD. “We
street and drug cultures in his neighbourhoods.
makes these impressionable young men and women vulner-
act as informants and, in many
able to radicalisation. But this search is part of the process of JULY 8-14 2012
silent march organised recently by the African-American and Hisshould respond to it for what it is: a violation of civil liberties.”
Tauqeer, a student of a public middle school in Manhattan, says:
“Most of the kids who teased me in school were black, Hispanic or
Chinese.” But his friend, also of Pakistani descent, tells me: “Nobody ever teased [me] because I never announced that I am a Pakistani. People think I am Indian or Dominican.”
But of course these narratives of the majority are never inter-
esting enough to make the news. It is commonly understood that
mainstream media creates, processes and disseminates information which determines our beliefs and attitudes and, ultimately,
our behaviour. Consistently displayed messages create a false sense
of reality and produce a consciousness that cannot comprehend or, even worse, willfully rejects the actual conditions of everyday life.
Many have argued that these manipulative messages become the
‘instrument of conquest’, by which the ruling elite tries to conform the masses to their objectives. By using ‘talking heads’ that explain, justify, and sometimes even glamourise the prevailing conditions of existence, mainstream media secures popular support for a social order that is not in the majority’s long-term interest. In the
cacophony, which is often masked as intelligent debate, what remain unconsidered are the alternative social arrangements.
Talking about Indian writers in England, author Salman Rushdie
“I make a lot more money driving a taxi than I would working in a restaurant. I am my own boss. I decide when to work and when not to work,” a Pakistani cab driver
suggested that individuals who are neither completely English nor
100 per cent Indians have “access to a second tradition”. He argues that this tradition is one of cross-connections, not roots. He writes:
“The cultural and political history of the phenomenon of migra-
tion, displacement, life in a minority group,” constitutes its own community “cross- and intra-culturally.”
tus. Now those Pakistanis who live below the poverty line have
themselves in the “cross-connected” community and do not as-
be exploited for minimum wage work or do something more en-
For a majority of successful Pakistani-Americans who locate
sign much value to the “roots”, it becomes much easier to grasp and
respond to the post-9/11 identity crises that has put a handful of young men behind beards and a few young women behind veils.
choices — rely on government-offered security net and refuse to
terprising like driving a cab — an opportunity that was not avail-
able to them before. In other words, Pakistanis who live here are not vulnerable enough to take any odd job that comes their way.
Goodness of the Ordinary
Saif, the owner of Dera, an authentic Pakistani Restaurant in
When I requested an interview with an aging Pakistani man who
do odd jobs anymore, but claims, “It is a matter of pride. Paki-
lyn, he insisted that I ask my questions in English. Mo (short for
Jackson Heights, Queens, agrees that Pakistanis do not want to stanis don’t want to wait tables in restaurants.” But a cab driver,
a patron of this restaurant disagrees: “I make a lot more money
driving a taxi than I would working in a restaurant. I am my own boss. I decide when to work and when not to work.”
owns and operates a grocery store near Church Avenue in BrookMohammad) said, “Please talk English. No problem I speak.”
I gathered all seriousness and asked: What do you think has
changed for Pakistanis in Brooklyn in the last 10 years?
With a pensive face and a sober demeanour, Mo leaned back a
However, it would be wrong to say that Pakistanis are finan-
bit. He thought for a minute, his face indicative of the internal
that cater to Pakistanis in New York accept food stamps — part of
lated with his hands. In a very theatrical tone, he said: “Same
cially better off than before. The majority of the grocery stores a public assistance programme for financially struggling families and individuals. This is a recent phenomenon because earlier Pakistanis usually did not qualify due to the lack of legal sta-
deliberation that must be going through his mind, he gesticuold, same old.”
This article is part of a forthcoming book by the author on the eth-
nography of Pakistani-Americans in New York.
27 JULY 8-14 2012
JULY 8-14 2012
JULY 8-14 2012
Immigrants of South Asian origin may be few and far between in the Occupy rallies, but some stand out for their valuable contributions BY ANNIE ALI KHAN
Thirty-year-old Mohammed Malik was a face that inevitably stood out. Among the hordes of people pitching camps on busy thoroughfares, shouting slogans and holding out banners against corporate greed and unfair state practices, the South Florida resident was one of the few South Asians who dared to stand up at the Occupy Miami pro30 tests and did not retract. JULY 8-14 2012
After all, according to him, he was the one who “sparked off”
the Occupy Miami movement on October 1, 2011, with a group of
friends when he got unemployed. “We had our first meeting at a statue at the main plaza in the centre of the town where most traffic in Miami is. So we occupied that place,” he said.
During later rallies, says Malik, people of colour — Latinos,
African-Americans and South Americans — far outnumbered
whites in general but the presence of South Asians was sorely
lacking. Even the dominant agenda of immigration reform at
Occupy Miami failed to drive South Asians out of their homes,
South Asians in the Occupy
da, including Occupy Wall Street in New York, where the gather-
between but believes that
which was in stark contrast to some of the rallies outside of Flori-
Movement were few and far
ings comprised predominantly white people.
is not because they don’t
“South Asian youth would get involved, but they would invari-
want to be there. “People
ably find themselves unable to attend because their parents were
are actually afraid of com-
afraid that the controversial nature of the protest could affect
ing out to these protests,”
their children’s future prospects,” he says. That was when sup-
he explains. “If you wear
port came from unexpected quarters: a segment of the older gen-
a hijab and go to a protest
eration — Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants — who
you are going to stand out.
owned convenience stores and cabs.
If you are a brown person, a
“Those convenience store guys would come by and give food.
Pakistani or an Indian, and
There were people who were cab drivers, who would help me get
you show up to a rally you
rides,” said Malik. They usually came from lower-income homes in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, he said, and struggled as im-
migrants in the US. “They understood many of the immigration
are going to stand out.”
jarat, Ibrahim’s family had
issues discussed in the Occupy Movement.”
moved to Chicago when he was 14. Ibrahim helps organise Oc-
who struggled to establish themselves in the US, was intimately
the movement, including making what he called “critical con-
It was a topic that Malik, himself born to immigrant parents
familiar with. In the last 30 years his father had worked as a cab
driver, bus boarder and waiter before finally being able to put together enough cash to buy his own restaurant. Now in his seventies, he was planning to sell the restaurant so that he could retire along with his wife, who works as a nurse.
Malik was born in the US, but he experienced first-hand what
cupy Chicago meetings and events, and does outreach work for
nections” — relationships between activists both young and old
and everyone in between. The movement has seen phenomenal
growth, starting from 15 to 20 members and quickly rising to a size of almost 500 in one of the earliest general assembly meetings that he attended.
Mass deportations, immigration reform and anti-terror-
diversity of views in the US could lead to. He worked at the Coun-
ism laws may be some of the reasons that have deterred South
erties organisation, while pursuing a Masters degree in Human
to protest. But despite low visibility in street protests, Ibrahim
cil of American Islamic Relations, a prominent Muslim civil libRights, but soon ran into problems for being outspoken about his political views.
“South Florida is probably the most reactionary in the US. We
have the most reactionary groups that are in power,” he said. “You have the Cuban right wing and then you have these Jewish
Asians, and Muslims in general, from coming out on the streets
saw greater political consciousness and civic engagement among South Asians of his generation. “In part, [that was] due to the
realisation that political decisions affect them both in their adopted country and the ones they have left behind,” he says.
This political awakening was what inspired 33-year-old Ali
right-wing Zionists. They may be ideologically liberal, at least on
Hayat, a native of Sialkot, who decided to take part in Occupy
outspoken about that you can find yourself in different kinds of
in October last year. The idea of a people exercising their right to
social issues. But when it comes to foreign policy, if you’re very problems here,” he said.
Malik went on to work for the American Civil Liberties Union,
but budget cuts in the organisation left him unemployed. And so by late September, he was directing his energy into helping initiate Occupy Miami.
Twenty-six-year-old Indian-American Haris Ibrahim has a
similar story to tell. He became a part of the Occupy Chicago
movement when he learnt that many issues raised by the move-
ment resonated with his own concerns and beliefs, and that many people of colour were actively involved. They were people
“that we didn’t see in the news because what was apparent was mostly white people,” says Ibrahim, who has a Political Science and Philosophy degree from the University of Illinois.
New York when the movement was steaming ahead full throttle assemble and express their demands appealed to Hayat. It resonated with the political actions of the 1980s when the progressive
movement in Pakistan was under way. He had immigrated to the
US in 1995, and after completing a PhD in Political Science from City University, New York, Hayat committed to full-time applied
research in 2008. Much of his work focused on gathering statistics from developing countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Armed with the expertise of collecting and crunching
data, Hayat went to Zuccotti Park, New York, with a question-
naire in hand and an objective to give voice to the protesters. He went on to conduct surveys both in New York and Washington, DC, and thus began his OWS Public Opinion Project.
“I thought of the idea for an OWS Public Opinion Project after JULY 8-14 2012
Harish Patel getting frustrated listening to news media and so-called experts
isers hesitated, her group stood their ground. “The language of
any empirical data,” he said.
thing we could agree [on], and so we blocked it based on the lan-
talk about the movement without basing their statements on While he may not have directly taken part in the protest, his
aim was to disseminate information. “I agreed with some of the demands of OWS but, most importantly, I was genuinely inter-
ested in discovering what these demands were and sharing this information with the general public,” he said.
A clearer picture of who the occupiers were, in his opinion,
would help the movement achieve clarity. “All these stereotypes were being assumed that this group comprises hippies and peo-
ple who don’t have jobs are bums, and all that,” said Hayat. But
the proposal was insensitive and not inclusive, and not someguage and ended up rewriting it,” Manissa would later relate.
The declaration now reads: “As one people, united, we ac-
knowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members...”
According to Manissa, it was a minor change in text but impor-
tant in terms of what it signified. The “issues of inequality and
corporate control … the idea is that they are everyone’s issues,” she insisted.
For Manissa, Occupy Wall Street encapsulated the rage against
the project revealed the high level of college education among the
all that had gone wrong with America, and her own experiences
Manissa McCleave Maharawal fits that profile perfectly. An
er, an American, was visiting when she met Manissa’s father,
protesters in these cities.
Occupy Wall Street activist of South Asian descent, who is pursu-
ing a PhD in Anthropology, she was present late September at a General Assembly meeting in Zuccotti Park with a small group of friends, all South Asians, who had started attending the sessions
to learn more about the movement. The Call to Action committee, a core group of facilitators and organisers, had put together
a manifesto for the movement called The Declaration to Occupy
testified to that. Manissa’s parents had met in India. Her mothan Indian, and they fell in love. After she was born, her family made the decision to move to the US — a country where “people
could change and be whoever they wanted to be, and rise up from their conditions.” But her father, who started out as a cab driv-
er, never stopped feeling like an outsider and saw the American dream as an illusion.
Manissa and her brother grew up in a household barely able
New York. It was a guiding document to be used by anyone and
to meet expenses, and despite the fact that she is now in gradu-
The group held a copy of the declaration as it was being read,
her. In her words, the “the American narrative” is fraught with
everyone who cared to know what the movement was all about.
and a line about race caught their attention: “As one people, formerly divided by the colour of our skin, gender, sexual orienta-
ate school pursuing a PhD, her family’s struggles came to define income inequality and racism — a constant theme.
However small the footprint of South Asians in the Occupy Move-
tion, religion, or lack thereof, political party and cultural back-
ment, the contributions some of them are making are important.
the human race…”
of suffering in silence. It may or may not bear fruit but at least the
ground, we acknowledge the reality: that there is only one race, Immediately Manissa’s group knew there was a problem with
the text and it had to be changed. Were the people responsible for
They are speaking out against injustices meted out to them instead dialogue for change has begun and they are a part of it.
“In a city that is so ridiculously segregated people were hav-
drafting the resolution oblivious to issues of oppression and rac-
ing very passionate, real conversations and working together to
ment in his hometown Florida. “For the first time, I saw people
ism that had been around for centuries and were still practiced,
“South Asian youth would get involved, but they would invariably find themselves unable to attend because their parents were afraid that the controversial nature of the protest could affect their children’s future prospects,” he says
Manissa and her friends demanded change. Even as the organ-
JULY 8-14 2012
figure out how we were going to occupy,” says Malik of the movepassionately speaking about their lives.”
JULY 8-14 2012
apakistani home for literature For a Faisalabadi couple living in Chicago, no bookstore was good enough for Urdu literature — so they made one
When 73-year-old Chicago resident Naseem Sarwar was retiring from his job with the American government, he and his wife Ijaz Nasreen realised exactly how sorely they missed the company of the colourful, relatable characters from Urdu literature. Originally from Faisalabad, the couple has been living in the US for over 40 years.
Their relationship with Urdu literature has lasted for more than 35 years and, hun-
gry for distinctly Pakistani writing in their adopted home, they decided to go out in search of a shop that sold books to satiate their appetite.
“There were books being sold on Pakistan, but none of them were in Urdu,” says Naseem.
TEXT BY HUMA IMTIAZ PHOTOS BY AZIZ AHMED
“We would ask people to send us Urdu newspapers because you couldn’t find any-
thing here,” adds Ijaz.
Eventually, in 2000, they took it upon themselves to change things around and
established their own bookstore. Tucked away in a Pakistan-ised part of Chicago’s
Devon Street, Kitab Ghar is perhaps the only bookstore of its kind that sells Urdu literature in the US.
“The reason for opening Kitab Ghar was that there was no store for miles around us
that was selling Urdu literature,” Naseem says. “Secondly, I was retiring from my job,
and we wanted a business jis mein desi bhaag bhaag ke aana na shuru kardein (where too many desis wouldn’t come). That’s why we opened a bookstore.”
Ijaz, his lively and energetic wife who hails from a literary family, says her hus-
JULY 8-14 2012
“Urdu is our national language. I always speak Urdu — even when I met Hillary Clinton I spoke to her in Urdu!” says Ijaz Nasreen band found the space for the bookstore while she was on vacation
But despite decreasing demand, Naseem and Ijaz see some
in Pakistan. “It was a surprise!” she laughs.
signs of hope. According to Naseem, “There is now a trend where
ently of the store, whose shelves are laden with biographies, fic-
Pakistanis and Indians who have lived in Chicago speak rever-
tion and non-fiction books and basic Urdu learning guides. The
parents are buying basic guides on how to learn Urdu for their He also feels that the language is considered a part of their Pak-
couple gets these books through reputed Pakistani publishing
istani identity by many younger parents raising their children
“We wanted to open a bookstore so we could introduce Urdu lit-
write in Urdu, they try and talk to them in the language. They
houses like the Lahore-based Sang-e-Meel Publications.
erature here. We also sell Pakistani dramas, speeches of Quaid-eAzam and DVDs of films here,” Ijaz explains.
But while we spend time in the store, not a single customer
in the US. “Even when parents here can’t teach their children to
feel that Urdu is part of their identity and that is how we try to promote it too.”
Following the September 11 attacks, Naseem feels, even for-
walks in. Naseem says they get many orders through their web-
eigners appeared to develop an interest in understanding Urdu
certain how long the couple can sustain the business.
ter 9/11, there were Urdu classes being held in Chicago, and some
site, but with the diminishing number of Urdu readers, it is unTheir clientele is mostly from the older generation, says Nas-
eem. “There are fewer youngsters coming in.”
and they have the occasional foreigner visiting the store too. “Afforeigners used to come buy books and maps,” he says.
For the couple, however, their main goal in running Kitab Ghar
Living in the US, young children rarely have the chance to
is to promote Urdu. “There is this belief that Urdu is a dying lan-
family. “It is painful when we see children here who can’t speak
ated from a process so it cannot die. I call it the language of Asia.”
speak Urdu in public and are restricted to speaking it with their Urdu,” he says.
The couple tries to encourage reading.“In fact, if a kid reads one line
of Urdu in our store, we give them Lailo Nahar for free,” Naseem says.
guage,” says Naseem. “I consider Urdu as a language that was creIjaz seconds him. “Urdu is our national language. I always
speak Urdu — even when I met Hillary Clinton I spoke to her in Urdu!”
JULY 8-14 2012
living by the book
As believers born into Muslim families, we often take many things about religion for granted. But for newer converts, even a small ritual can be a life-altering experience
My first experience at a Muslim community gathering in Chicago was when I attended the screening of a documentary film at the American Islamic College. A Facebook page, promoting a film called Wayward Son: The Jordan Richter Story, had caught my attention. The film was about a professional skateboarder who quits skateboarding after converting to Islam, only to come back 15 years later to skate again. I was intrigued and immediately bought a ticket to the screening. The film, released in the summer of 2011 in California, is
directed by Mustafa Davis and produced by Usama Canon, co-
founder and founder of the Ta’leef Collective in California. So
far, this film has been screened in various parts of the globe,
including South East Asia, Canada and the United States.
The night started off with a series of short video clips titled
JULY 8-14 2012
ILLUSTRATION BY JAMAL KHURSHID
BY MANAL SHAKIR
Reflections, which Usama used to discuss the concept of the “third space.” He talked about how in our daily lives there were
particular spaces — personal, sacred, public or non-religious — that we were accustomed to utilising. However, this “third space” is a space that can be used as anything that people need,
without being pre-defined as religious, public, personal, etc. This space could be a place to meditate, to have coffee, to have a discussion or to hold a lecture, and is meant to help people reflect, relax and engage in some downtime with friends or by
themselves. At first I was unsure of why the clips were being
shown before the movie and what this discussion even meant,
As I saw the film, I was touched by Jordan’s experiences and
but it was more than clear after I watched the film.
saddened by the fact that such a genuine and vulnerable per-
the get go, the music, the cinematography, each shot and the
practices and ideals that I take for granted. Yet, while I could
With these ‘reflections’, the tone of the night was set. From
use of photographs put you in the emotional place you needed to be in to fully understand this movie.
The documentary tells the story of Jordan Richter, born and
raised in Florida, who had a troubled youth from the very be-
son had gone through such hardship as a result of the same
see Jordan’s pain, his faith in the religion and what he discovered to be an important part of what made him a whole person was inspiring.
I wasn’t alone, and others were as touched as I was. When
ginning. Jordan’s parents abused drugs and could neither be
the movie ended, a question-and-answer session with direc-
ing up. Unable to cope with the situation at home, Jordan
ence a chance to reflect and reveal even more personal stories.
the physical nor emotional support Jordan needed while growdropped out of the ninth grade and moved to San Diego.
In San Diego, Jordan met a man who made skateboards and
through him discovered his love for the sport. By the time Jordan was 16, he had become a professional skateboarder. Skat-
tor Mustafa Davis, and producer Usama Canon, gave the audiOne woman, who had converted to Islam 27 years ago, stood
up and talked about how she gave up studio singing after she converted because she had been told that it was un-Islamic. An
attempted to follow Islam like his fellow Muslims did and
I was touched by Jordan’s experiences and saddened by the fact that such a genuine and vulnerable person had gone through such hardship as a result of the same practices and ideals that I take for granted
African-American man also stood up and talked about how at
Muslim, constantly redefining himself to try to fit the mould
a white man skateboarding, but then admitted that he was
ing with the likes of skateboarding stars such as Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and Steve Caballero, Jordan won many amateur awards and was featured in major skater magazines. He
ended up into hardcore drugs and was even considered men-
tally unwell for his use of acid, but he eventually got his act together. One day, he comes across a group of young Muslim
men who introduce him to the mosque. Just two days after meeting them, Jordan converts to Islam.
He then talks about how after conversion, although every-
one helped him in his Muslim community, he was thoroughly confused by the different and, at times, conflicting advice he’d
receive. Being stripped of everything he knew before, Jordan along the journey felt that he had to end his skateboarding caOver the next 15 years, Jordan struggles to become a ‘good’
of being the ‘best’ Muslim. He is almost like a fish out of water because he’s always afraid of doing something that is not in line with his new religion and, at the same time, missed
the one thing he loved and felt most comfortable doing: skate-
first he had thought he would not connect with a movie about pleasantly surprised when he did. Another Muslim man stood up and even apologised for the pain he may have caused others by enforcing his views on them.
As people reflected on the film and their own experiences,
boarding. After all those long years, however, Jordan eventual-
I understood why Usama spoke about the “third space” before
attempting to make up for the lost time.
could have used to talk about how he felt while on his journey.
ly comes back to skateboarding and talks about how he is now This was definitely not your typical ‘convert story,’ or at least
not one I had ever heard. What struck me as I watched the
film was that the problems Jordan faced were problems I never knew existed in the Muslim community. When you are born
and raised Muslim, especially in the Islamic world, it is not
the film started. The “third space” was a space that Jordan
It could have been used as a platform for Jordan and his peers to discuss what he was comfortable and uncomfortable with. If Jordan was ever confused, the “third space” could have been used to help him clear up his confusion.
It was truly an eye-opening event. All in all, I was inspired
very difficult to start taking religion or its rituals for granted
and impressed by Mustafa for this brilliant film and artistic
been taught to practice. Sooner or later you feel that as a Mus-
flections, and Jordan for sharing his story and being so genu-
and for accepting the religion and its limitations as you’ve
lim individual you definitively know what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ and you go about life, living within the boundaries you and your ‘people’ have created for you.
outlook, Usama for his welcoming and thought-provoking reine. Through this film, these men managed to touch every sin-
gle person in that room, regardless of race, culture, religion or past experiences.
JULY 8-14 2012
cracks in the ice BY NOMAN ANSARI
There is a quality four-minute ‘Simpsons’ episode in 3D, starring the baby Maggie Simpson, which precedes this film. It is cute, original, clever, amusing, and all the things Ice Age: Continental Drift strives to be, without quite making the drift. This being the fourth installment in the Ice Age franchise, one can forgive Continental Drift for lacking in complete originality but the film on the whole, aside from a few genuine laughs and some well animated scenes, feels quite stale with the usual cast of animal characters getting involved in their overly familiar shenanigans for the umpteenth time. Worse still is how annoyingly dumb some of these characters are, to the point where you hope they meet the euthanising end of a syringe soon. The film, of course, is set in the cataclysmic closing stages of the ice-age and features Manny (Ray Romano) the wooly mammoth, Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth, and Diego (Denis Leary) the saber-tooth cat. These characters, along with Sid’s grandmother who inexplicably sounds like an irritating AfricanAmerican stereotype, drift apart from their herd when there is a break in the ice, leaving them floating a vast distance away. The herd left behind, agonisingly for Manny, includes his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and their teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer). As Manny and his team try to find their way home, they battle Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), a prehistoric ape who fashions himself as a pirate, riding
abe-omination BY NOMAN ANSARI
By the time Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter came to an end, I was ready to take an axe to my own head. In this fantasy/horror mashup, Abraham Lincoln slinging his axe like a gunslinger, slices and dices vampire creatures in kitschy action sequences that lose their novelty halfway through the film. This is partially because the fight scenes go from slick to absolutely gaudy, with non-stop slow-motion effects that are piled on till they become intolerable. It is also because the film’s visual stylisation is strangely cartoony, diluting any horror the film tries to establish. Worse still are the afterthought 3D effects, which add to the overproduced feel of the film. But the largest flaw in this bleak and humourless picture is how seriously it takes its own premise. This on some level is to be admired, but here it clearly doesn’t work for the film. Perhaps director Timur Bekmambetov wasn’t watching Robert Downing Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder (2008), when he sincerely advised, ‘Never go full retard.’ The film very solemnly expects us to believe that Abraham Lincoln was actually a vampire hunter, and that his entire presidency, including motivation and policies, were dictated by his desire to avenge his mother’s murder. 40 But the silliness doesn’t end there. In what is quite insensitive to JULY 8-14 2012
an iceberg that functions as a ship, complete with a crew of goofy animal shipmates, some of whom are quite amusing. This crew also happens to include another sabertooth cat, Shira (Jennifer Lopez), who immediately finds chemistry with Diego. Here, our heroes are assisted by a huge army of hamsters, who are as cute as they are little and add some humor to the film. There is a social message in Continental Drift for teenage girls about staying true to themselves rather than giving in to peer pressure. Peaches struggles with her attraction to another teenaged wooly mammoth named Ethan (Drake), who, and I kid you not, socialises with friends that sound exactly like the cast of Jersey Shore, which for the unfamiliar is the most numbskulled reality-show on television. Continental Drift is unfortunately quite formulaic and lacks the subtlety of the first film, with an overabundance of modern American cultural elements designed to appeal to the masses. This unfortunately is also true for the film’s voice acting, with the cast sounding like their celebrity selves without doing much ‘acting’. For them, like for 20th Century Fox, it seems that Ice Age 4 was a cheque in the bank and little else.
the actual American civil war that lead to the abolishment of slavery, the film explains that it was all, including the actual practice of owning slaves, influenced by the underground vampire community in some manner. Even the death of Lincoln’s own child is explained to be an act of revenge by the vampires. The ridiculous narrative would have worked had the film presented it with a wink and a nudge, which it regrettably did not. There are some decent performances on display however. Benjamin Walker is fairly convincing as Abraham Lincoln, a big hearted and well-meaning individual, who went from a modest background to becoming a nation’s leader. Meanwhile, the makeup to transform him into the older looking iconic president in the later stages of the film is quite phenomenal. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was produced by Tim Burton, who at one point was known for great moody films, but seems to have lost his edge somewhere along the way. This film is as dead as the soulless vampires it portrays.