Friday, November 03, 2006

my article: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

I wrote this when my parents and sister left the USA for Pakistan. It happened this past week, so I knew it would make for interesting reading if I penned it down as soon as I could. It's pretty gut-wrenching and raw. Very unlike my writing for my column, but something I have no shame about in sharing. We are human, after all.

Happy reading...

New York Diary : Out of sight, out of mind?


This past week, I have been on one emotional rollercoaster after another. While such rides are usually exhilarating and exciting, they leave one drained of much-needed energy and sometimes even dazed and confused. Such moments are seldom and far in between, and so one would think that they are a pleasant surprise. Not in my case.

I moved into a new apartment last week. I was lucky enough to have closed the deal during Ramadan and spent my first night there on Eid. How auspicious! God has been very kind. But while I celebrated my first night of liberty, freedom and independence, my parents and siblings were slaving away at my erstwhile home, packing things up so they could set sail for the Land of the Pure. What a paradox! I was sleeping in such comfort and worked in a comfortable office during the day, while my family had no respite from the madness they found themselves in.

Upon further thought, I realised that even though they were all hard at work and in the midst of a lot of tension and frustration, they at least had each other. They were among loved ones; among people who cared for each other, sometimes even more than themselves. I was not the one who should have been celebrating that fateful night when I spent my first extended period of liberation; instead, I should have been remorseful over the newfound loneliness I found myself in.

During my first days in my new bachelor pad, I pondered over these varying notions of independence and individualism. I thought about what it meant to be a young American and then a young Pakistani. What made these two groups of people so different? For one, young adult Americans rarely stay at home once they start earning money. Society reinforces this by pushing them to earn money from a young age, all the while stressing self-sufficiency. While the concept is great, primarily because it teaches self-reliance, it is also a harmful one, because it is misconstrued as being a point in one’s life where boundaries are drawn between parents, siblings, friends and people in general.

In my many years of residence in New York, there are a few times I can remember when I may have actually seen the interior of our neighbours’ residences. Just imagine, we lived but a few feet from one another. They were good people. But they could have been better if they did not value their privacy so much. But I guess my family and I were just as guilty. We never really introduced ourselves when the new Japanese couple moved in next door. Nor did we invite any of the families on our floor for dinner.

It is only now, as a single bachelor in his own little studio apartment, that I realise how comforting it is to hear the sound of siblings quarrelling amongst one another, how the smell of daal chaawal puts one at ease after a long day of hard work, how the support and cooperation of a loving mother and father can do wonders that no psychiatrist or social circle can. A family unit is indeed such a beautiful thing. I am stupefied why Americans cannot appreciate such a system where children can live with parents, while paying zero rent and eat free food!

By the time this piece is published, I will only get to hear my parents’ voices every so often, and will probably receive an e-mail from my sister a few times a week. No hugging or embracing anymore. Now I must survive on memories. While I might write as though they are – God forbid – not with us in flesh and blood, I do feel as though a piece of my flesh and blood has definitely been taken away from me. Coming from a family who showers love upon me like one showers rose petals at a wedding, their absence is conspicuous, to say the least.

When I saw my family for the last time (in what I hope is a short time!), I was expecting my mother to cry me a river. Instead, she was not as miserable as I thought she would be. My father also embraced me lightly and gave a few words of practical advice. My sister, too, was not overly sentimental and did not express much emotion. Was there a conspiracy lurking somewhere that I had not caught on to? Were these the same family members I had known so well? I knew there was something wrong. I arrived at the conclusion that they had prepared well for this day. They knew, as did I, that parting words and emotions are always hard to express. Perhaps saying less was the best – and easiest – way out.

It sure was not the easy way for me. When one deals with such crucial lifelines, a simple goodbye and hug or kiss on the check just does not cut it. Maybe it is better if we cry our eyes dry. I am fairly certain it is healthy and cathartic. Sometimes, the most important things in life are left unsaid. It is up to the heart and soul to comprehend. What a difficult task we leave to these hidden organs of our bodies!

I thought about those last moments after my parents left me to start what will probably be a truly independent life. I wondered why they did not present me with a sermon urging me to the best boy in the whole wide world. I pondered over why parting is said to be such sweet sorrow. I contemplated over the beauty of our relationships.

While my family might be out of sight, they are surely not out of mind. As with all those who we come to cherish and love, these people are thought of – constantly and lovingly. As I begin this crazy journey, for some odd reason, formulas of physics come to mind. I hope the strength of the special bond we share is inversely proportional to the physical distance between us. I am confident we have good times to look forward to. The sun might be setting here as I conclude this piece, but it is rising on the other side of the world. Let us hope it brings good tidings for everyone.

Article: British believe Bush is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il

Wow. These sorts of articles and studies really make for a good weekend, partly because they validate some of my fears and deep, inner thoughts. And also because they bring much-needed information in front of the world's eyes. Thanks God for a truly free press.

Some excerpts of the full article from the British newspaper "Guardian" below:

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.

The survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country.

s a result, Mr Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Mr Bush.

The US leader and close ally of Tony Blair is seen in Britain as a more dangerous man than the president of Iran (62% think he is a danger), the North Korean leader (69%) and the leader of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah (65%).

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Center for International Research, Understanding and Security presents



Monday, November 13

th, 2006: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Altschul Auditorium, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA),

Columbia University

Since 2003 reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have indicated that there is no indication of undeclared materials or of a nuclear weapons program by Iran. On April 28

th, the IAEA released its report on Iran: “the Agency cannot make a judgment about, or reach a conclusion on, future compliance or intentions.”

The United States, has been accusing Iran of trying to develop Nuclear weapons and Iran has been insisting that its intentions are peaceful and that it is only interested in peaceful use of the nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Iran asserts its inalienable right under the NPT to nuclear technology and is now being threatened with a UN Security

Council resolution under article 7 with economic, political and diplomatic sanctions, including military strikes by the U.S. if it does not abandon uranium enrichment.

With Iraq and Afghanistan in chaos do we need a new confrontation in the Middle East? What is it about Iran that US finds so threatening? What are the real reasons and motives behind US accusations? Are we reliving Iraq all overagain? What is the difference between Iran and other countries such as: Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Pakistan, India, France, UK, US, China and Russia? Which one of these countries has abided by the NPT treaty?


Dr. Javad Zarif,

Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Zarif has spent a total of 12 years at Iran’s Mission to the UN. In the past two decades, Ambassador Zarif has played an active role in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Most recently, he was appointed by the UN Secretary-General as a member of the Group of Eminent Persons on Dialogue among Civilizations. He has also served as chairman of numerous international conferences including the Asian Preparatory Meeting of the World Conference on Racism, the UN Disarmament Commission, Political Committee of the12th Non-Aligned Summit in Durban, and the OIC High-Level Committee on Dialogue among Civilizations. Ambassador Zarif serves on the board of editors of a number of scholarly journals and has written extensively on disarmament, human rights, international law, and regional conflicts. Scott Ritter, Former United Nations Special Commission weapons inspector. Before the United Nations Mr. Ritter served as an officer in the U.S. Marines and as a ballistic missile advisor during the first Gulf War. He is the author of many books including, Iraq Confidential and Target Iran.
Moderated by: Massy Homayouni Center for International Research, Understanding and Security
Co-Sponsored by: The Arab &Iranian Students Association, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

NY event: Israeli and Palestinian youth speaking engagements - 11/6-11/12



Our campuses are overflowing with literature and speakers about the Middle East conflict. But all too often, people and groups spend their time fighting for sole ownership of history and suffering or choose to stand up for their ‘side’ by attacking ‘the other.”

We’ve heard endless lectures and seen editorials from politicians, professors, advocates and others. We know the frustrations and critiques, but what do average Israelis and average Palestinians really think? Do they want to end the conflict? Are they able to compromise?

Leading OneVoice youth activists Palestinian Aya Hijazi and Israeli Yosef Kedmi will be speaking with YOU, their U.S. counterparts, throughout the New York area during the week of November 6th through 12th, galvanizing support for their work in the Middle East and giving young people the opportunity to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Yosef and Aya will use their personal experiences to shed light on several key questions: Is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict intractable? Can mainstream Israelis and Palestinians actually agree on what they want the future of their region to look like? What is the current pulse of the young generation and what are they doing to make a difference?

Refreshments will be provided!

Town hall meetings will take place across the New York area:

Sunday 11/5 10am Private brunch Westchester, NY

Monday 11/6 12pm Cardozo Law School 55 5th Ave at 12th Street Room 423

Monday 11/6 6:30pm NYU Wagner School of Public Service Puck Building 295 Lafayette

Tuesday 11/7 12:30 Baruch College 55 Lexington Ave at 24th Street Room VC 10-150

Tuesday 11/7 7:30pm Stony Brook College Student Activities Center Auditorium

Wednesday 11/8 1:30pm Hunter College West Building 68th and Lexington Ave Room 415

Wednesday 11/8 8pm Rutgers NJC Lounge at Douglass College

Thursday 11/9 12pm CUNY Location TBA

Thursday 11/9 6pm Columbia University SIPA International Affairs Building, Room TBA

Friday 11/10 8pm Brit Tzedek V’Shalom Young Adults meeting at The Olive Press, Park Slope

Sunday 11/12 OneVoice meets with Jewish and Muslim communities in Rochester, NY

Sponsors across North America include: Americans for Informed Democracy, Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, American Task Force on Palestine, the Arab American Institute, Hillel, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, the Union of Progressive Zionists, and National Jewish Campus Life/UIA Federations Canada.

For more information on these or other events, contact -

Miriam Asnes:, 212 897 3985 ext.124; mobile 617 775 6427 or

Jake Hayman:, 212 897 3985 ext.122; mobile 917 701 8726.

The OneVoice Movement is a mass grassroots movement in the Middle East that empowers moderates to stand up against extremism and to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution. For more information, please go to

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Event: Breakthrough Benefit Gala - Friday, 11/10

Breakthrough's 2006 Benefit Gala
November 10, 2006


Countdown to the benefit! If you haven't already, do send in your check or buy your tickets online. We can only accommodate table seating requests if we get your payment in on time. Donations of any amount would also be welcome.

Thanks so much,


shot of audience with projection
Where & When

The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street
New York City
November 10, 2006
Let's Breakthrough Together!

A benefit for building human rights culture

Friday, November 10, 2006

6:30 pm Cocktails
7:30 pm Dinner and Program

John Sykes, Keynote Speaker – President Networks Development MTV Networks

The Miles Akazagi Group will play during the cocktail hour
Pooja Kumar, MC - Winner of Screen Actors Guild Emerging Actor Award
Dean Obeidallah, Comedian - Winner of Bill Hicks Spirit Award
A Live Auction with Sandhya Jain of Christie's
DJ Kucha Company will spin the night away

4 West 37th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York 10018

For table sponsorships, please contact Ellen Luo at

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Article: Dubai tours offer positive view of Islam

This is an interesting concept that i'm sure Saudis and Israelis are using, and is one that Pakistanis should use too - especially because of their high profile in the media. I've been giving a lot of books on Pakistan to interested friends recently, and have seen their facial expressions change vivdly as they peruse the different sections of the books. Reliance on mainstream media must be changed. Thank God for alternative media!

Dubai tours offer positive view of Islam
The Associated Press

Updated: 12:51 p.m. ET Oct 24, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - With tensions high between the Western and Islamic worlds, Dubai's leaders are trying to help with an unusual new form of tourism in this Gulf Arab boomtown best known for shopping and sunbathing.

Dubai's leader, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is funding mosque tours for Western visitors that aim to clear up misconceptions about Islam, especially that the religion condones violence. The ultimate goal is defusing strains between Muslims and Christians that rose after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and the war in Iraq.

The hope is that tourists can spread understanding of Muslims in their home countries.

"They are our messengers," said Abdallah bin Eisa al-Serkal, a 40-year-old real estate salesman who moonlights as director of the Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.

The tours of Jumeirah Mosque have grown over a decade from irregular gatherings of a dozen people to five-times-weekly tours of a hundred or more.

Now, the government-linked center wants to expand inside the United Arab Emirates and beyond with an eye on the more than 1 million Westerners, mostly Europeans, who visit every year.

It has budgeted $2.7 million for a multimedia center devoted to Islam and Arab culture at the mosque. The center is also expanding tours to seven more mosques in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates.

On a recent Sunday, about 100 Western tourists reclined on perfumed carpet under the soaring dome of the Jumeirah Mosque to listen to al-Serkal describe the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims, with references to common themes in Judaism and Christianity.

He explained the idea behind Ramadan fasting — sacrificing things you like — and demonstrated Muslim prayer technique: standing, bowing, kneeling, sitting and then pressing his forehead to the carpet.

Then he revealed the contents of his prayers. Standing, he cleared his mind of anything related to work. Kneeling he recited a bit of the Quran. Prostrate, he whispered "glory to God in the highest." And sitting he prayed for his parents.

Tourists had plenty of questions, asking about the differences between Sunni and Shiite sects, and between Christianity and Islam, as well as Islam's problem with violent extremists. Two of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were from the Emirates.

Briton Steve Smith, 53, who works for the London Underground train system, said al-Serkal's message didn't explain how suicide bombers could use Islam in 2005 to justify killing 52 commuters.

"This message is all peace and happiness. As an English person I see the bad side of it. How can you equate one with the other?" Smith asked.

Al-Serkal said Muslim lands suffer from extremist "psychos and crazy people."

An American woman asked why men and women worship separately. Al-Serkal responded by separating men and women on opposite halves of the mosque and aligned them shoulder to shoulder, like Muslims at prayer.

He asked a Belgian man, "If a strange woman has her shoulder pressed against yours, are you going to be able to concentrate?"

"No," the Belgian replied.

Separating men from women prevents distractions, al-Serkal said.

It isn't just tourists who seek answers about Islam in Dubai. The Jumeirah mosque recently hosted 180 U.S. Navy sailors and an American businesswomen's group.

The center has managed to turn its Ramadan fast-breaking dinners into a vogue event for Western diplomats and dignitaries.

Eventually, the center wants to open branches in Europe and North America. Al-Serkal stressed that he wants only to improve the West's view of Islam, not chase converts.

Al-Serkal's message did make some headway. Belgian Lode De Busscher, 43, and his Slovak wife Zdenka Ochodnicka, 33, said they now questioned their "very negative" opinions of Muslims in Belgium.

Ochodnicka said she was scared when arriving in Dubai seeking women veiled and men in traditional Arab robes. After a few days, she realized Dubai was safe and that her negative impressions stemmed from television.

"When anything is Muslim, it's automatically negative," Ochodnicka said. "Maybe it shouldn't be that way. That's why I'm glad I came here. Now I'm open to this."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



please join the peace education center for this FREE public lecture

the FINAL in our series on “educating for global peace”


Lloyd Professor of Peace Studies and World Law, Antioch College; Visiting Professor, School of International Service, American University; Co-founder and current President, Global Education Associates

Saturday, November 4. 1-3pm
Location: The Riverside Church (room 411 MLK) Click here for directions

RSVP KINDLY REQUESTED (not required) send to:

”Warfare and strife show no signs of abating. . . . if education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of humanity’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind? Instead, we must take into account a psychic entity, a social personality, a new world force, innumerable in the totality of its membership, which is at present hidden and ignored” (Maria Montessori)

It is not the illiterate and unschooled who wage wars and genocide; more often it is those with rational and technical know-how who but who lack commensurate affective, ethical, and spiritual development. This presentation seeks to respond to the question: How can we awaken and facilitate learning at the level of our deep humanity? How can we nurture the understandings, wisdom, values, experience, and commitment needed to advance and sustain peace and full human development in ourselves, our children, and in our communities at local and global levels?

Patricia M. Mische is the Lloyd Professor of Peace Studies and World Law at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She has taught in the Peace Education Program at Teachers College Columbia University and has been a visiting professor at several universities, including Notre Dame, Georgetown, Seton Hall and American.

She is also the co-founder and President of Global Education Associates, a network of men and women in 90 countries who collaborate in research and educational programs for the advancement of ecological integrity, peace, justice, human rights, and democratic participation. Dr. Mische has conducted more than 1000 programs related to peace and world order in more than fifty countries around the world. She has also collaborated with United Nations programs, including with UNESCO's program on the Contribution of Religions to a Culture of Peace, and with UNICEF on its Education for All program in East Africa where she has been helping to develop partnerships for sustainable development involving rural women’s groups, nongovernmental organizations, and UN agencies. She serves on the Boards and Advisory Councils of a number of peace and human rights groups and was an expert consultant to former heads of government in the InterAction Council at their high-level meeting on Global Interdependence and National Sovereignty: In Search for a New World Order (Lisbon, 1990).

Dr. Mische’s numerous publications include the books: Toward a Global Civilization? The Contribution of Religions (co-edited with Melissa Merkling, Peter Lang Publishing, 2001); Ecological Security and the United Nations System: Past, Present, Future (Global Education Associates, 1998); Star Wars and the State of our Souls (Harper and Row/Winston Press, 1985); and (with Gerald Mische) Toward a Human World Order: Beyond the National Security Straitjacket (Paulist Press, 1977). She has also published more than 100 articles and chapters in periodicals and books on topics related to peace, social justice, economic development, human rights, and ecological security. She is currently working on a book on global citizenship with the help of a Rockefeller grant.

The Peace Education Center seeks to provide learning opportunities to inform wider public and academic audiences about critical and timely peace
related issues. Peace related concerns are the concerns of all members of the human community. The Peace Education Center is pleased to work with several co-sponsors, from various disciplines and vocations, in the planning of this lecture series. Please take the time to introduce yourself to the work of our co-sponsors by clicking the links below.

Barnard Education Program; Biosophical Institute; The Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society; Fellowship of Reconciliation; Fordham University's Graduate School of Education; Global Education Associates; International Center for Tolerance Education; Peace Boat USA; Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding; Teachers College - Forum on the Role of Religion and Spirituality in Education, Office of Diversity and Community, and Office of the Vice President and Dean of the College; Temple of Understanding; The Riverside Church Mission and Social Justice Department

Web: email: Tel: 212.678.8116

Performance: PULLING THE LEVER - 11/5


To celebrate every person's right to vote and express their opinion
the 2006 Election Year,

Theater for the New City
Crystal Field, Executive Director
in collaboration with
SALAAM Theatre
and the
Rising Circle Theater Collective

Invites YOU, THE PEOPLE to
a FREE reading of

an award winning original play by the Rising Circle Theater Collective,
Lead writers Deepa Purohit and Sanjit De Silva

with a stellar cast that includes:
Geeta Citygirl, Sanjit De Silva, Catherine Jhung, Ephraim Lopez, Lethia
Nall, Arlando Smith, Jeff Pagliano, Tijuana Ricks, David Sajadi, &
Ragini Shah

Sunday, November 5, 2006
Theater for a New City
155 First Avenue
(btwn E.9th and E. 10th Streets)
East Village, NY 10003

no reservations necessary.

Post-performance moderated dialogue to follow!

Pulling The Lever, an original play created by the Rising Circle Theater
Collective, is based on real interviews from a unique cross-section of
Americans—an Ecuadorian restaurant worker, a white, Republican single
mom, an African-American actor obsessed with politics, a young South
Asian activist, a successful Jewish entrepreneur (to name a few)—about a
pivotal time in our country’s history and its effect on their personal
lives. Pulling The Lever captures those voices that were not heard in
the media during the 2004 election—everyday people in America spanning
race, class, religion, age, gender and politics to create a bold,
humorous, surprising and truthful theatrical piece that draws the
curtain to reveal how a diverse group of Americans really feels about
pulling that lever.

Co-sponsors (list in formation):
Alter Ego Productions
Blackout Arts Collective
Cardozo Students for Human Rights
Connection Theatre Company
Cool Grove Press
LAByrinth Theater Company
Nirali Magazine
Q-Entertainment and Films
Rising Circle Theatre Collective
SAATh (South Asian American Theatre)
SAHI (South Asian Health Initiative, NYU)
SALAAM Theatre
Shaun Singh Productions
South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!)
Theater for the New City