Dialogue Between Bigots; Part IV of VI

This is Part IV of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

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 or behavior, but the common law springs from the Koran, just as the common law in Christendom (the West) springs from the Bible. Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part III of VI

This is Part III of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

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 Iraq and it’s history since 1800 — though we must keep in mind the 1400 year weight of Islamic history and tradition in Iraq. I will rephrase the question. Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part II of VI

This is Part II of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

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?

AR: Sorry, i don’t mean to be rude but i do not understand your questions because 1) I can’t tell what ‘Islamic’ states you are talking about, 2) what is the time frame that you refer to as when you speak of the ‘history and traditions’, 3) what do mean when you say ‘these areas’ and 4) secular governments do exist so why would you want to know if they can? Details »

Dialogue 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 Iraqi militant resistance.  The editor wanted to discuss not just the specific issues related to the Assyrian Christian community, but broader issues related to the ‘Muslim’ world. Details »

Photo Project: The Idea of India

Rabindranath Tagore once argued that the “idea of India” itself militated against a culturally separatist view—”against the intense consciousness of the separateness of one’s own people from others.”

This argument is the inspiration of a new photo project that I have already begun that explores India’s heritage of religious and cultural pluralism and syncretism.  The project is a one-man civil society initiative to counter and correct the simplistic and reductive historical narratives that pit India’s religious communities against each other,  color the debate on the issue of Kashmir, and were the basis of the separation of the state of Pakistan from India. Details »

Only Interesting If It’s Madness

Read: Edward Said’s “Covering Islam: How The Media And The Experts Determine How We See The Rest Of The World”

I have been stereotyped: my life and lived experiences negated by photo editors in the USA in particular.  I am nothing but my ethnicity, a man from my country of my birth 42 years ago.  My name marks me as a ‘Muslim’, my ethnicity marks me as a ‘South Asian’, my birth marks me for work within the confines of the geography of the country of my birth. My birth on an unexceptional day in Karachi nearly 42 years ago was of greater interest and relevance than the nearly 18 years I spent studying, working, learning, and becoming in the United States of America (a country of which I am a citizen).  I am the ‘Pakistani’ photographer and never allowed to be anything else, or asked to be elsewhere. Details »

Reading David Foster Wallace

Read: ‘Oblivion’

Read: ‘Infinite Jest’

Read: ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again’

10 years ago I made the mistake of trying to read David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’. Talk about trying to play above your skills.  I failed miserably to get past the first 50 pages, lost as I quickly was in trying to keep track of the trajectory of the book and the complexity of the many constructions that emerged so early in its pages.  The attempt did nothing more than to remind me of the sheer intellectual mediocrity that I bought to the book.  For many years then it sat on my bookshelf in New York until one day I realized that the book had disappeared! Details »

Why I Never Graduated From College And Other Joys

Read: Martha Nussbaum’s “Cultivating Humanity”

I never invited my parents to my college graduation. I remember their confusion at my lack of enthusiasm towards the idea of their coming to the city and attending this event that was meant to signal the ‘completion’ of an education and the entry of a learned and prepared mind into the world.  I never quite felt any sense of ‘completion’, nor was convinced of bring prepared to face anything outside the environs of the university.  Details »

The Meaning of Ayodhya: A Question of Beginnings

The destruction of the Babri mosque is a wound that continues to fester within the very heart of India.  For many, in India and in Pakistan, the city evokes nothing but memories of those dark days when the mosque was stormed and torn down with fists and hammers.  Mention Ayodhya and an uncomfortable silence surrounds a gathering because this once quiet, gentle and holy city has today become a synonymous with violence, division, sectarian hate, and unresolved matters of history. Details »