Looking for ‘Popular Religious Culture’ in Pakistan

Popular culture in Pakistan is a hodgepodge of colorful triviality, which may not be seen as absurd much in the same way as South Asian popular culture in general has been described as ‘an embarrassing mixture of the rational and the irrational’ (Narayan 2008). Infact the diversity of popular thought and expression as reflected in the popular culture comfortably allows for the ‘coexistence of contradictions’ that exist everywhere in Pakistan in the form of every day idiosyncrasies . These contradictions and irrationalities that exist in society also reflect in the media as the Pakistani media is a microcosm of ‘the society it reports on, reports for and reports to’. (Lieven 2011 : 230). As Durkheim points out, ‘Far from ignoring and disregarding the real society, religion is its image, reflecting all its features, even the most vulgar and repellant’ ( Durkheim 1995: 423)

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‘The Liberal’s Education Myth’

This article by S. Akbar Zaidi was originally published here 

Of all the myths the Pakistani liberal spews most ardently, the one regarding education reform stands out the most. Liberals argue that they (or we, when they decide to speak for all Pakistanis) need to ‘educate’ everyone in Pakistan, and this will take care of the ‘problem’ of radicalisation/talibanisation/militancy in Pakistan. One hears this at every conversation table one passes by, in every column by every morally upright overly-earnest ‘liberal’ contributor one reads in the English press, on TV talk shows – everywhere. Continue reading

An interview with Afia Nathaniel

This interview was originally published in The Friday Times.

Many years ago as a young college graduate in Lahore, Afia Serena Nathaniel was faced with the onerous choice to either join a prestigious software firm and earn lots of money or risk becoming an artist and do something different and meaningful in her society. Willfully she chose to do the latter.

She chose to become a filmmaker. ‘I have chosen to make films because if we are not going to tell our stories to the rest of the world, no one else is going to do it for us. I have chosen to tell stories about a country which has made headlines for all the wrong reasons and remains largely misunderstood’, she says.  As an internationally acclaimed filmmaker today, Afia hopes to bridge ‘the cinematic divide between Pakistan and the rest of the world’ through her work. ‘Cinema has a way of bridging the divide that exists between Pakistan and the rest of the world,’ Afia says. ‘This is especially relevant in a post 9-11 world where there is a need to understand our worlds so different, so divided and so devoid of tolerance’. Continue reading