Archive for January, 2009
The Saints of Ayodhya: Sufis In The Hindu City
The Saints of Ayodhya: Sufis In The Hindu City

The Sufi dargahs of Ayodhya are easy to miss. Not only are they rather simple structures, often no more than a few graves surrounded by a some stones to demarcate an area of worship, but are obscured by the many dominating and magnificent mandirs that define the landscape of the city itself. So it was […]

A Mosque Too Far: Rusafa On The Barbarian Plain
A Mosque Too Far: Rusafa On The Barbarian Plain

The first time I saw the image I did not realize that it would significantly change the way I looked at the world around me. It was a drawing of an 8th century shrine to a Christian saint somewhere deep in the Syrian steppe, then known by the Greek speaking world as ‘The Barbarian Plain’. […]

The Persistence of Ayodhya: Wounds & Resistance
The Persistence of Ayodhya: Wounds & Resistance

I was asked to remain confined to my room.  The men from Indian intelligence were polite but firm, and as they questioned me in a small tea shop in a neighborhood adjacent to where the Babri mosque once stood, I could see that they were unsure about what precisely it was that I represented. I […]

On Samuel Huntington & The Use of History
On Samuel Huntington & The Use of History

Samuel Huntington, author of the book ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order‘, died on December 28th 2008. In an obituary in the New York Times, in a typically fawning obituary, thought it ‘uncanny’ i.e. a reflection of his brilliance, that in that book he had written (predicted?) that ‘Somewhere in the […]

Unraveling Bitter Threads: Faiz & Seeing The World
Unraveling Bitter Threads: Faiz & Seeing The World

The only man I have ever felt envious of was a ‘celebrity’ documentary filmmaker who once told an interviewer that his success was a result of his complete lack of introspection! Introspection has been the bane of my existence. I heard Faiz Ahmed Faiz before I ever read him.  His poem ‘Don’t Ask Me for […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part I of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part I of VI)

A few months ago I was asked by an editor in Europe to speak about my work, in particular my work in the Arab world.  She had seen some of my photographs from Northern Iraq that focused on the struggle of Iraq’s Assyrian Christian community as it confronted a resurgent Kurdish nationalism and a raging […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part II of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part II of VI)

EDITOR: In your opinion, is it possible for Islamic states to adopt secular systems of government, and to allow non-Muslim minorities to integrate in Muslim dominated political structures? Put another way, given the history and tradition of these areas, Iraq in particular, did the Americans have any choice other than to work with sectarian structures? […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part III of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part III of VI)

EDITOR:  By Islamic states I mean the countries that are majority Muslim and whose power structures are in the hands of Muslims. Iraq is not an Islamic theocracy, but it is surely an Islamic state. It’s history, tradition and values are shaped by Islamic religion and culture. Let us narrow the discussion. Let’s focus on […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part IV of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part IV of VI)

EDITOR: Whereas I agree with you that there is nothing inherently ‘Islamic’ about laws in many nations i.e. your statement is prima facie true. However, the question is what is the source of the common law of the land in Pakistan, in Iran, In Saudi Arabia? You will, of course, find examples of secular law […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part V of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part V of VI)

AR: I think you are being very liberal in your belief that European law begins with the Bible and that Islamic law begins with the Koran. To claim that Europe takes from the Bible and Morocco from the Koran is to indulge in a terrible simplicity that can only be achieved by suspending genuine intellectual […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part VI of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part VI of VI)

EDITOR: Spanish, French Portuguese and Italian derive from Latin, yet can one argue that today these are the same language? They have diverged to the point where they are mutually unintelligible and hence different languages. All Indo-European languages derive from Sanskrit (including Farsi), yet can one claim they are the same as Sanskrit? Christianity, Judaism […]

Distorted Histories And Holy Warriors
Distorted Histories And Holy Warriors

In the last few decades we have become accustomed to news of sectarian violence on the Indian sub-continent. In particular, there is a widening and violent rift between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. But religious and cultural pluralism is a prominent feature of Indian life and has been her heritage for centuries. I am documenting […]