Shehzad Ghias Shaikh

Stand-up comedian/Writer/Trainer

Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, the founder of Cogito Productions and Room for Improv-ment, has a decade of experience working in the theatre and television industry of Pakistan. He is also a journalistic scholar on theatre in Pakistan.

Shehzad performs stand up comedy all over Pakistan, the United States and Canada. He also tours with his improvisational comedy troupe and writes comedy and satire for various organizations.

Shehzad has degrees in law, arts and theatre. He offers workshops, trainings and speaking sessions on confidence building, communication, personality development, idea generation, team building, writing, acting, directing, improvisational and performing.

For Bookings/Inquiries: Please contact at

shehzadghias@gmail.com

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Responding to the 8 most popular arguments against Malala Yousoufzai

On Thursday night Malala Yousoufzai appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the theatrical trailer for a new documentary, ‘He Named Her Malala’ was released. As always her appearance on the show led to universal support and acclaim. As always it also attracted massive amounts of vitriol from people in Pakistan.

I have been subjected to copious amounts of hate messages personally for posting messages supporting Malala on my page. I made an earnest effort to engage with all the Malala haters but none of their arguments held any weight. I have compiled the eight most popular arguments made by people who dislike Malala Yousoufzai and I wish to address why none of them hold much logic.

 

1. Why just Malala?

By far the most popular sentiment against supporting Malala is based on the opinion that she gets an undeserved amount of attention from the west. “Hundreds of children die every day in Pakistan, why do they not appear on television shows?” cry out the masses.

Malala is much more than simply the girl called Malala Yousafzai. She has become a global symbol for all those children, and many more around the world. Thousands of people died during the partition of Pakistan, why are all their names not plastered over our currency? It is because Quaid-e-Azam symbolizes all their sacrifices. When a person becomes a symbol for a cause, the symbol is always greater than the life of the person itself. A lot of people suffered a lot more than Martin Lurther King during the Black civil rights movement in America but MLK has become a symbol for non-violent protest around the world. What Martin Lurther King did, or did not do, during his lifetime becomes irrelevant. For the world Martin Lurther King is a symbol, and every time his image is reproduced it represents non-violence, not the life of the man.

Malala is now a global symbol for children’s education, not just children in Pakistan. We should be proud that she is a Pakistani. The ‘I am Malala’ campaign does not refer to Malala the person but it includes every single girl fighting for their right to education around the world. The hundreds of children in Pakistan may not be able to logistically appear on television shows but Malala speaks for and represents every single one of them.

2. Why Malala?

The naysayers and conspiracy theories then question why Malala Yousafzai was specifically chosen to be the symbol. If Malala Yousafzai was not a Pakistani, I am convinced most of Pakistan would have adored her just like the rest of the world.

Malala was thrown into the global limelight after the shooting but she was already a well-known activist and advocate for the right to education by then. In fact, she was specifically targeted because she was speaking out against the Taliban. Two other girls were also sadly injured during the attack, which is a travesty but the Taliban were not targeting those girls. Malala has been blogging against the Taliban since she was 11. By 2009, she had also started appearing publicly to fight for the right of girls to go to school. Long before the Noble Peace Prize, she was the proud recipient of the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan on December 19, 2011.

Hundreds of children have sadly suffered in our war against the Taliban but few of them made a conscious effort to take a stand against the Taliban, Malala did. She was fearless against all the threats on her life.

3. The assassination attempt is a hoax.

The official account of her getting shot by the Taliban is accepted by the state of Pakistan, the military establishment and all credible news agencies around the world. It is also worth noting that after getting shot Malala Yousafzai was shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar and the ISPR released a statement about her medical tests at CMH. If you believe every single institution in Pakistan, and around the world, is lying and is part of a global conspiracy then there is little I can say to convince you otherwise

If the doctors who operated on her have testified about the bullet wound and other surgeons around the world have not questioned their narrative, what expertise do people on Facebook possess that they can decide for themselves she was not shot based on simply looking at her face?

After the APS tragedy, every single person who claimed the Taliban would never shoot a child should have a serious look at themselves in the mirror.

4. The shooting incident is highlighted because it paints Pakistan in a negative light.

It was hoped that after the worst tragedy this nation has suffered in its history on 16th December last year that the narrative of the nation would change. Unfortunately, we might have changed how we phrase the problem but our core sentiments about it remain the same. We have problems that we continue not to acknowledge. It is always problematic to hypothesize but it is possible that had the nation heeded Malala’s warnings early on and changed our policies against the terrorists, the military operations against them would have begun much earlier and they would not have had the capacity to carry out many massacres that we have suffered from since.

The world has been reporting against the Taliban regardless of Malala. She is actually one of the only positive things about Pakistan for most westerners. She is the counter-narrative against the idea that everybody in Pakistan is a terrorist. She is the softer image of Pakistan for the world that we have been struggling to achieve. She is a god-send for the country.

Nobody has highlighted the Taliban issue more on the global stage than the state of Pakistan and the military establishment of Pakistan. Our wars against terrorism are the reason we are being funded and receiving massive amounts of military aid from the world. There is now no difference between the public position of our army and the position Malala took years ago against the terrorists.

5. Why are the APS shahuda not equally highlighted by the world?

The brave Shaheed of the APS tragedy did not go to school that fateful morning as an act of defiance against terrorism. The absolute travesty that followed is a failure of us as a nation, the little angels suffered due to no fault of their own. It is extremely unfair to compare them to Malala Yousafzai; her heart was equally broken that morning as the entire nation wept.

All the people who think the Malala incident misrepresents Pakistan by suggesting all school going girls get shot in Pakistan should logically also be against the world highlighting the APS incident since it misrepresents Pakistan by suggesting all children who go to school in Pakistan get shot. The reality is that both these incidents do not completely represent Pakistan but both of them are grim realities that our nation may not want to accept but are forced to combat.

No single story can possibly represent a diverse country of over 200 million. Malala is as much a daughter of the nation as any child that we have lost in our fight against terrorism in the country. If there are more stories that you feel the world should know, what is stopping you from highlighting them for the world to see? Rather than criticizing the world for what they are doing, why not do something yourself? You cannot berate anyone else for their choice of subject for their movies and documentaries. However, if you do disagree with them, you can go out and make your own movies and documentaries.

6. Malala is a CIA agent.

Most people do not have issues with what she says but rather question her motivations and her she truly is. It is impossible for me to falsify all the conspiracy theories.

It is true that the CIA has done covert operations throughout the history of Pakistan but there has never been any evidence linking the CIA to MI6 to Malala Yousafzai. However, what possible influence or power can any intelligence agency exert on the Pakistan state from a teenage girl?

Malala Yousafzai and her entire family have suffered tremendously. It is no privilege to be forced into a defacto exile after living for years under a constant threat for your life. She is not living a life of luxury instead she is using the resources available to her to head a global initiative to promote education around the world.

7. Why does she not come back to Pakistan?

The sad reality is that most people who say this would take the opportunity to move abroad in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the decision for Malala is not that straight forward. Pakistan is currently embroiled in a war against terrorism. There are terrorist outfits who still continue to threaten Malala’s life. She continues to speak about her longing to return and her love for Swat but no one can objectively think it is safe for Malala to return. There are mass protests against her in the country; it would take one crazy person to do something rash for her to lose her life. There has already been a failed assassination attempt on her life; she may not be that lucky the next time.

She is a teenage girl. Our love for our country should not force a young girl to die just to prove that she loves this country as much as all of us.

8. What has she done for Pakistan?

We are very territorial, even about philanthropy. We are not particularly moved to see Malala build schools in Nigeria or help Syrian refugees. All we are concerned about is her work in Pakistan. She does not need to be in Pakistan to continue to inspire thousands in the country. Even if we disregard all the positive work done by people inspired by Malala, the Malala fund has used a 45,000 thousand dollar grant to build schools in Pakistan. All her work for girls’ education in Pakistan is not highlighted either due to security or political reasons.

If you do not listen to the maliciously motivated speakers against her, and actually read what she says or listen to her interviews, you will realize that she always talks about Pakistan in glowing terms and attempts to give a positive image of Pakistan for the world to see.

 

If we continue to disregard all of this, and believe in conspiracy theories, If you are secretly convinced that she is being groomed to come back to Pakistan twenty years later to destroy all of us, If you believe that she will marry Bilawal Bhutto and become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, then there is little I can say to convince you otherwise.

However, if you do have a rational reason to hate her, I would strongly recommend at least attempting to read and research the other side to see whether the argument against hating her holds any weight. If all reason and logic tells you otherwise but you continue to hate her simply because she is Malala, please show some compassion and give this young girl a chance.

Even if you do not believe her, believe in the message she is promoting and promote her as a symbol for that message. Every time you insult her, you insult our country and you demean the cause she is fighting for. Do not hate her because she seems too good to be true. I am a hopeless optimist, much like Malala Yousafzai, and I do believe in Malala. I hope after reading this, you will too.

Pamela Geller’s hate for Muslims and blurry standards of free speech

Originally appeared here:

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/27330/pamela-gellers-hate-for-muslims-and-blurry-standards-of-free-speech/

A couple of weeks back, I vocally criticised the direct interference of the state in the academic affairs of my previous university, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), after they were forced to cancel a talk on Balochistan.

However, this week, I found myself vocally protesting against the decision of my present university, Brooklyn College, to invite a speaker for an academic talk.

On the face it, the positions I have taken in the last fortnight seem irreconcilable, hypocritical even, but what differentiates my two positions is the fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech.

Ignoring any discussion on the technicality that in the first instance, the state interfered in a private institution’s affair, and the decision was taken solely by the institution in the second, my decision to stand on either side of the fences in the two debates is based on the fact that freedom to speech is not absolute.

An academic institution has a duty to encourage critical thinking, promote ideas and evaluate both positions. It is important for an effective education to inculcate the ability to critically asses an opinion that differs from your own. All aspects must be evaluated on their merits before taking a position.

It is important to not shoot down any opinion different than yours; just because somebody differs from you does not mean that that person does not have the right to speak. The other person has an equal amount of freedom to express their opinions.

However, that person does not have an absolute right to express their opinions. Hate speech cannot be allowed under the pretence of freedom of speech. Where the Orwellian state of Pakistan has repeatedly violated the fundamental right in favour of crushing dissent, on the other end of the spectrum is the United States of America that is too afraid to even curb hate speech, afraid of violating the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

A district judge in New York on Tuesday decided that the decision of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York to refuse to run ads that they felt could incite violence was against the principles of freedom of speech. Judge Koeltl wrote in his judgment,

“There is no evidence that seeing one of these advertisements on the back of a bus would be sufficient to trigger a violent reaction. Therefore, these ads — offensive as they may be — are still entitled to First Amendment protection.”

The controversial ads read,

“Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah. That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?”

 

The pro-Israel group funding the ads intends to gain support for Israel in the US by these anti-jihad messages.

It baffles me how the court could find that these ads do not have the potential to incite imminent violence. It baffles me even more that the woman asking for these ads was invited by my college to give a talk.

On Wednesday, April 22nd, Brooklyn College held a talk by Pamela Geller, a woman who has compared Muslims to pigs and savages. Geller is not expressing an opinion different than mine, she is simply spewing out vitriol and hate without any academic standing.

The president of Brooklyn College, Karen Gould, was inundated with emails from Muslims criticising the decision of the college to provide the platform for such opinions. However, she abject any responsibility by writing,

“While I do not support or agree with Ms Geller’s positions, the Constitution’s First Amendment protects even the most controversial speech.  As a public institution of higher learning, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and allow our students and faculty to engage in dialogue and debate, even on the most sensitive of topics.”

The words sound principled on paper but in practice, by allowing Geller to speak on campus, Gould has sown the seeds for potential religious violence on campus. Brooklyn College has a large Muslim population, a population that made itself heard by protesting at the event and openly disagreeing with her. It was heartening to see most students at college rejecting Geller’s frankly crazy opinions.

 

However, Geller labelled these students protesting against her as being ISIS sympathisers, even going to the extent of putting their pictures on her Twitter feed claiming that they are performing the Islamic salute. It simply reflects how ignorant this woman is, if she feels putting one finger in the air is akin to being an ISIS supporter.

 

The ignorance of this woman combined with her intent to incite violence, and the extent of her hate speech is why I stood against the organisation of this talk. Similarly, I would be against LUMS organising a talk by Maulana Abul Aziz or even Aamir Liaquat, who has been responsible for inciting religious violence leading to deaths in the past.

However, this was not the case with Mama Adul Qadeer; he simply wanted to give his side of the story without a national call to arms.

Therein lies the fine line between freedom and hate. Your words are not worth more than my life. Your tongue cannot take away my breath. You have the freedom to talk and I have the freedom to live. If both cannot live together peacefully, surely mine must prevail.

#IAmSabeen: “This is the time to say Bismillah and march forward”

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” – Banksy

Sabeen, the person, is no longer with us.

Sabeen, the idea, will live on.

Sabeen will never die twice.

Sabeen is dead, long live Sabeen.

Every society has people an entire generation looks up to; these pillars of society make it what it is. Sabeen was an institution. Her contributions to the country are monumental, and they will never be forgotten.

In a country that does not even have words for the concept of a public space, Sabeen created a place for people to come talk, debate, discuss, perform and love. Her enthusiasm and self-determination pushed us all in believing in our dreams; believing in a better future for tomorrow.

I started a fledgling youth-based theatre company with aspirations for social change in 2010. It may seem only half a decade ago but there was no bustling theatre scene in Karachi back then. Only the biggest corporations could afford to put up shows at the Arts Council, thus the only shows being performed were mega musicals. I tried competing with them for turf space, and I failed.

My dream was in tatters, and then I was introduced to Sabeen. I sent her an email as a complete stranger asking to use her space to put up socially relevant plays. She said yes. And for eight weeks, we put up theatre workshops and performances discussing gender discrimination, blasphemy laws, and terrorism amongst other things. Through theatre, we were able to have conversations around issues traditionally considered taboo in our country.

How much did I have to pay to do all that?

Nothing.

Today, as I sit here in Brooklyn completing my Masters in Theatre reading the outpour of love for Sabeen on my news feed, I realised how many ducklings were allowed to flourish in the space Sabeen created. Under her mentorship and support, an entire arts scene started flourishing in the city. The Acting Wheel, the Debating Circuit and countless other ideas would have been relegated to the shelf if it weren’t for Sabeen.

The entire stand-up and improv comedy community in Pakistan owes so much to Sabeen. She allowed us to perform shows when we could not afford to book any other space.

It is not just the arts; T2F has served as a cultural institution to impact all aspects of the lives of the people of Karachi. The Lyari Youth Cafe is just one example of how brightly Sabeen’s light shone across the city.

We believed we could do things because Sabeen told us we could. A friend of mine was able to go to university because Sabeen spoke to her parents. She wasn’t just a mentor; she was a friend, a confidant, a comrade in our battle against the ills of our society, leading from the front. We were comfortable because we knew we could walk in her shadow.

Hope – that is what Sabeen gave all of us. In a Facebook message shared on Facebook, Sabeen tells an individual inquiring about safety at the ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ event that,

“Ab ye hai ke Bismillah kar ke qadam bharanay ka waqt hai.”

(Now is the time to say Bismillah and march forward.)


 

Welcome to Pakistan

#IAmSabeen: “This is the time to say Bismillah and march forward”

By Shehzad Ghias Published: April 25, 2015

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Sabeen was not targeted after “attending a seminar” at T2F. She was targeted and shot dead for organising a talk on Balochistan. PHOTO: TWITTER (@q_nida)

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” – Banksy

Sabeen, the person, is no longer with us.

Sabeen, the idea, will live on.

Sabeen will never die twice.

Sabeen is dead, long live Sabeen.

Every society has people an entire generation looks up to; these pillars of society make it what it is. Sabeen was an institution. Her contributions to the country are monumental, and they will never be forgotten.

In a country that does not even have words for the concept of a public space, Sabeen created a place for people to come talk, debate, discuss, perform and love. Her enthusiasm and self-determination pushed us all in believing in our dreams; believing in a better future for tomorrow.

I started a fledgling youth-based theatre company with aspirations for social change in 2010. It may seem only half a decade ago but there was no bustling theatre scene in Karachi back then. Only the biggest corporations could afford to put up shows at the Arts Council, thus the only shows being performed were mega musicals. I tried competing with them for turf space, and I failed.

My dream was in tatters, and then I was introduced to Sabeen. I sent her an email as a complete stranger asking to use her space to put up socially relevant plays. She said yes. And for eight weeks, we put up theatre workshops and performances discussing gender discrimination, blasphemy laws, and terrorism amongst other things. Through theatre, we were able to have conversations around issues traditionally considered taboo in our country.

How much did I have to pay to do all that?

Nothing.

Today, as I sit here in Brooklyn completing my Masters in Theatre reading the outpour of love for Sabeen on my news feed, I realised how many ducklings were allowed to flourish in the space Sabeen created. Under her mentorship and support, an entire arts scene started flourishing in the city. The Acting Wheel, the Debating Circuit and countless other ideas would have been relegated to the shelf if it weren’t for Sabeen.

The entire stand-up and improv comedy community in Pakistan owes so much to Sabeen. She allowed us to perform shows when we could not afford to book any other space.

It is not just the arts; T2F has served as a cultural institution to impact all aspects of the lives of the people of Karachi. The Lyari Youth Cafe is just one example of how brightly Sabeen’s light shone across the city.

We believed we could do things because Sabeen told us we could. A friend of mine was able to go to university because Sabeen spoke to her parents. She wasn’t just a mentor; she was a friend, a confidant, a comrade in our battle against the ills of our society, leading from the front. We were comfortable because we knew we could walk in her shadow.

Hope – that is what Sabeen gave all of us. In a Facebook message shared on Facebook, Sabeen tells an individual inquiring about safety at the ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ event that,

“Ab ye hai ke Bismillah kar ke qadam bharanay ka waqt hai.”

(Now is the time to say Bismillah and march forward.)

 

Upon hearing the news, I was devastated. All hope was gone. There was not going to be a better tomorrow. We had lost the lighthouse, and now we were destined to be lost souls at sea.

As I read back Sabeen’s words, I find my courage again. Even after leaving us, Sabeen has a way to inspire us. Sabeen would not have wanted us to give up now. We will never be able to fill her void but “ab ye hai ke Bismillah kar ke qadam bharanay ka waqt hai”.

We can either sit in silence, let them dictate and let the terrorists win. Or we can make a vow to ourselves to honour Sabeen’s memory like she would have wanted to.

Let us be under no illusions, we all know why Sabeen was targeted. Let us first have the courage to unequivocally state that Sabeen was not targeted after “attending a seminar” at T2F. She was targeted and shot dead for organising a talk on Balochistan. The same talk that LUMS was forced to cancel.

She was silenced for trying to un-silence Balochistan. While we sit in the National Assembly and debate the merits of a Cyber gag bill, we see the price of freedom of speech in our country; the blood of the ones we love. We pay for our freedom with our lives.

If this is a glimpse of what life is like for people in Balochistan, I admire the courage of every single Baloch that continues to live, breathe and speak in this lawless land. One loss has left me broken. I can only imagine how you find the courage every day to assemble yourself to have enough breath left to take the next step; just enough.

My mother called me after the incident and told me to be careful.

“Being courageous in Pakistan is foolish”, she said.

I agree, it is foolish, which is why we must do it. If it was easy to be courageous, we would all find our voices. It is hard, which is why we need the courage to un-silence the unspoken of, the unheard of, and the unseen.

Sabeen Mahmud, this is my promise to you, and the people who targeted you – I will not let your light shine any less bright. I will not cower in fear. I will not be silenced. They threatened you, they targeted you, they tried to silence you, but you showed courage. Now, I must do the same. If I ever feel myself losing hope or courage, I will remind myself #IAmSabeen, and for that I must carry on.

Thank you so much for everything. Your existence has meant so much more than you could have imagined. If you could only come back for a while to see the outpour of love, courage, and hope you left behind, you will know that everything you did meant so much to all of us. If only you could see everything, you will know that you did not die in vain.

Today, we mourn, but from tomorrow, we will hold the flag you left behind and keep marching on. We will continue to fight on. We will take on those who we are not allowed to criticise. We would amplify our voices after every gag order.

Waise bhi, ab darne ka waqt thori hai. Ab toh Bismillah kar ke qadam bharanay ka waqt hai.

(After all, this is not the time to be scared. This is the time to say Bismillah and march forward.)

And this is my Bismillah.

 

Aao Parhao – A teacher can use all the help they can get

Originally appeared here:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/27474/aao-parhao-a-teacher-can-use-all-the-help-they-can-get/

A school is so much more than just a series of classrooms. A school is so much more than just a number of lessons. And an educated person is so much more than a literate person.

Education entails all the different facets that are crucial to the mental and physical development of a person as a responsible citizen of society. At the fountainhead of western civilization in ancient Athens, education included the arts and physical education as part of the curriculum rather than extra-curricular activities.

Far too often, schools in Pakistan are focused on grades and memorisation of lessons over a wholesome education. Teachers, feeling the pressure of producing results, may feel compelled to compromise on education to appease the demands of parents. An education is so much more than mere learning, or memorisation.

The teachers, alone, may not be able to see the bigger picture. Often, teachers have specific expertise, and are focused on their own subjects. The role of the school administrator becomes crucial in these circumstances to balance the need for students to score grades with the necessity of a complete education.

The school administrator, working in conjunction with the curriculum developer, should formulate an overarching plan for teachers, which focuses on learning crucial skills and developing abilities and talents, as well as expertise in particular subjects. Developing an overall curriculum is a specialised job that is often left to the whims of each school branch, or the teacher. However, a specially trained curriculum developer should be employed by each network of schools to develop curriculum for their private schools and by the government for public schools. It is their jobs to design what teachers teach, and take broader policy-based decisions.

The curriculum developer should create a plan for teachers that allows the breathing room in their schedules required to inculcate a more wholesome education and lays down goals for the teachers to achieve, other than simply grades; a great education cannot be quantified.

A grade does not define a student. The crucial role of the curriculum developer is to use the limited resources in a way to maximise benefits; a good yearly plan seeks to develop the personality of the student than simply teach lessons or concepts. The school has a vital role within the state structure to build up the character of its citizens. It is not necessarily the responsibility of the school to tell its student what is right and what is wrong but instead the school should train students to think critically and be able to differentiate between the two on their own. It is the school’s responsibility to equip a student with skills rather than provide prescriptions for behaviour.

Artistic activities cultivate the emotional intelligence of people. In a country like Pakistan, the first thing the upper echelons of school management must ensure is that schools are a safe space for children; a space where children can talk about issues which they might not be able to do so at home. All schools should have the ability to provide adequate mental counselling for all its students.

Psychological experts would be able to assess the behaviour of different students to deduce the reasons for it. If a student is acting due to any trouble at home, the school can provide an outlet for the student to receive the support required to deal with their issues.

Through debate and drama, the school may be able to tackle issues that might be hard to approach directly. The school administrators need to get more creative about getting through to the students.

All school administrators should not only encourage students to be forthcoming about their own problems but should also adequately train teachers to better counsel students in need.

It is the role of the school administrators then to ensure there is adequate teachers’ training. A list of creative ideas presented to teachers and using simulations to teach them on how to deal with problems would better equip them to deal with different issues.

All students should be allowed to dream and made to believe in their dreams but the most effective way to ensure a student stays on the right path is for that student to receive a personal goal path with small goals along the way. It is all well and good to use clichés like ‘aim for the moon, if you miss, you may hit a star’ but it is a more effective strategy to build a step-by-step guide towards the moon so a student sees immediate rewards for their work through a method of positive reinforcement, and encouragement.

The 2006 movie The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry, follows the true life story of Ron Clark, who left his suburban North Carolina hometown to relocate to a New York inner city school, where he felt he was more needed. Clark takes up the most disadvantaged class at the Inner Harlem Elementary School, a school with segregated classes according to test results. In a fascinating story, Clark realises the only thing holding the students from realising their potential was a mental block and a lack of teachers who believed in them. If a student is to succeed, they must be told that they will succeed.

A school teacher is a fundamentally different job than a college professor. An expert in the subject or the specific field may not necessarily make the best teacher. The teacher should possess the emotional intelligence to not get frustrated with children and teenager; they should also be able to asses all the socio-political factors affecting the children rather than focus on the mere subject matter.

The most important thing for any school is to create a healthy community where all stakeholders constantly communicate. The teachers, the administrators, the students and their families should foster a community environment providing constant support systems for each other. The school acts as a microcosm for the entire society. A strong school support system would inspire students to follow the same principles of help and support after graduating.

Everyone should share their problems, answers and experiences with each other to ensure that we all learn from each other. Effective communication also ensures there are fewer misunderstandings and we are able to understand the reasons behind the decisions of people, rather than jumping to conclusions.

The key to creating this community, effective communication and an efficient system in schools lies with the school administration. The trends set by them would permeate throughout the entire school. If the school administrators are able to create a safe space that fosters creativity, encourages learning and inspires students and teachers to perform, then in the words of Rudyard Kipling,

“Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it”.

If Game of Thrones was a Bollywood Movie

Social media is full of news of Game of Thrones being adapted for as an Indian television show. Am I the only one who thinks that the plot lends itself perfectly for a Bollywood movie instead of a TV Show? I would pay good money to see a Karan Johar directed Kabhi Games, Kabhi Thrones.

The story would begin with Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon riding together on a motorbike merrily singing a song together.

The evil sautaylee ma would ask Jon Snow to be banished from the kingdom, and the Stark jayaydaad.

Jon Snow's storyline would become even more contentious in a Bollywood setting with the word 'Bastard' repeated multiple times with the echo sound effect.

Lord Varys losing his manhood would be a much more dramatic sequence.

This famous Salman Khan dialogue from the movie 'Wanted' might just have a completely different context in the Game of Thrones world.

Prompting a bad ass response from Tywin lannister.

tywinloin.jpg

Brevity and Bollywood do not get along too well, the tagline Valar Morghulis will need to change.

vlarmorghulisbollywood.jpg

As will Hodor's lines, unless they cast Tushar Kapoor and ask him to equate dumb with retarded.

Stannis might have an easier job proving he is the one true king of Westeros. Whether he later decides to become bread ka badshah aur omelette ka raja Bajaj, Humara Bajaj, is up for debate.

stannisteja.jpg

Poor Sir Jorah Mormont, the embodiment of the word 'friendzone, he still believes that 'Pyar Dosti Hay.'

Tyrion's trial will not be as simple as demanding a trial by combat.

If anybody deserves a song encapsulating her existential dilemmas in the comforting arms of Naseeruddin Shah, it is Arya Stark.

aryanaraz.jpg

Especially after all that the Starks have suffered at the hands of the Lannisters.

But hey we still have hope in the mother of dragons!

Why I feel the controversial drawings by Charlie Hebdo were not satire

Understanding Satire in light of Charlie Hebdo

(Let me predicate this article by saying I condemn the brutal killings of civilians in any terrorist attacks and the killings at the Charlie Hebdo office on January 7th cannot ever be justified.)

 

It has been over a week since the violent attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Rallies have been held, protests have been organized and debates have been conducted. The battle lines have drawn between terrorists and the supporters of the Freedom of Expression. However, now the dust is starting to settle and the magazine has even come out with a new issue, I want to explore an avenue that has been left largely ignored; ‘how satirical is Charlie Hebdo really?’

 

In answering that question, you need to first have a brief understanding of what satire is and how it has been used over the years. Etymologically the word has its roots in the derivatives for the Greek word ‘Satyr’. At the fountainhead of western civilization in ancient Greece Satyr plays were organized during the festival of Dionysus as a way for the Athenians to release their emotional sides. The satyr plays were dominated by drunkenness, sexuality and most importantly mocking.

The performances inversed the traditional roles; the amusement was caused by things in the satyr not being in their correct place in society. The same inversing of social roles can be found throughout the history of performance culture in many European countries. The Roman comedies of Horace and Terrance, the Carnivalesque form and much of Commedia dell’arte used the same idea to create comedy.

Despite taking place under kingships, these performances were sanctioned by the state as a way for the common people to release their anger. They served as an exit valve within the system which allowed the system to breathe potentially restricting the chances of revolution. For one day the common people were allowed to mock Kings and Gods.

It was through theatre that satire became a part of the western culture. The rejection of grand narratives by post-modernity brought satire and irony center to the western traditions; in an age of self-reflexivity and rejection of universal ideas, satire became a natural way to attack ideas of antiquity and modernity. Samuel Beckett’s classic ‘Waiting for Godot’ perfectly encapsulates the attitude of many authors of the post-modern age towards the grandiose ideas of days gone by.

Despite Waiting for Godot becoming an English classic, it was originally written by Beckett in French, ‘En attendant Godot’, Beckett lived in Paris for most of his life. Paris is at the center of the world once again post Charlie Hebdo. Millions of people did not come out on the streets for the 12 people murdered in the terrorist attack but rather for the right of the people to express themselves, even if they did not agree with them or the editorial policy of the magazine. The attack was not seen as an attack on Charlie Hebdo, it was seen as an attack on France.

Satire is central to the French culture. The French revolution is regarded as the model for a democratic revolution but even prior to the revolution, the kings maintained buffoons allowed to mock the king. Satire writers such as Moliere and Jean de la Fontaine are a part of the fabric of French literature. It has become such an acceptable medium that most French people are baffled as to why even some people would take offense at certain drawings by Charlie Hebdo. They do not regard it as an attack on Islam or Muslims at all; infact the magazine has targeted all major religions of the world with its cartoons.

In isolation academically speaking the position take up by the French on the issue forms a perfectly jigsaw puzzle but where the pieces start coming apart is the reality of the matter. Any situation cannot be looked at devoid of its economics and social realities.

The truth of the matter is satire by design is created to target the powerful. It is against the state, or the powers that be. In many cases it is organized religion or ideas about God where satire is used as an active form of resistance to the acceptance of these ideas.

However, France is not a Muslim majority country. The state is not Muslim. The government is not Muslim. And Islam is hardly a widespread influence in their daily lives. The most impact anything to do with Islam has on their daily lives is the possible threat of Islamic militant terrorist groups but the magazine did not choose to satirize them in particular. It chose to satirize the most respected figure in the history of Islam devoid of any poignant remark on any Islamic militant organization.

 In fact, the only time Charlie Hebdo even manages to draw attention to them is on the cover of its latest issue which shows a bearded man weeping for the deaths of those killed in the terrorist attack. The cover does not allude to who the bearded man is but it serves as a timely reminder that for those who believe that Islam is a religion of peace and the killing of one person is equal to the killing of all humanity in Islam, the loss of innocent lives in the name of Islam is worth weeping for. It takes the narrative used by the terrorists and inverts it against them, which has all the elements of satire.

However, all their previous covers do not fulfill these criteria. I am going to make the controversial claim that covers depicting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo were not satire. A quick look on the demographic of France will make it clear as to why it is not.

Muslims make for less than 10% of the population of France; they are effectively a minority in a largely Christian country. The state itself may be secular but once again you cannot look at things theoretically without acknowledging the ground reality. The ground reality is making fun of a minority religion is not satire. You are not targeting the powerful but you are targeting the weak. Inversely, making fun of Christianity in Pakistan would not be considered satire in my book; you are simply worsening the life situation of an already impoverished and suppressed minority group.

A large portion of the Muslim population of France is the immigrants from African countries such Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Algeria was occupied by France for over a century from 1830-1962. The country gained its independence after a violent uprising; an Algerian revolution for independence. The Algerians were never considered equal citizens by France, they had limited social and political rights and were often targeted militarily by France.

Tunisia was another colony of France which gained independence from France in 1956 whereas France has gone to war with Morocco twice. Despite the improvement of relations between these countries and France in the modern era the impact of the colonization and the repercussions of the psychological impact of the post-colonial mentality cannot be ignored.

 Even if the law in France treats everyone equally, the Muslim immigrant population has been disenfranchised for so long that it is impossible for them to compete on an equal footing. The fallout of the civil rights movement in America and post-apartheid experience of South Africa proves that equality is not equity, and equality is not justice. A population treated as subjects for centuries completely robbed of their identities cannot compete with their perceived masters on an equal footing after gaining independence. The inferiority complex engrained into them by the colonial mindset persists.

Much of the Muslim population in France works at the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Despite having an equal amount of social and political rights as French citizens; they are not seen as their equals. The dialectic of the master and slave caused by centuries of war and occupation manifests itself in different ways.

The 2004 law passed by the French parliament banning outright visible religious affiliations was not specifically targeting at Muslims but it robbed them of another form of their identity; the veil. The law has been controversially referred to as the veil law. Despite the French experience with colonization being over, the forced assimilation purported by the law has elements of the colonial philosophy of stripping subjects of their identities.

Despite the intentions of the French parliament being completely different from the intentions of military leaders during the occupations, the law was seen as an attack on Muslim identity.

Muslims in France have had a historic cultural, social and economic disadvantage. The attack on Charlie Hebdo shows that the possibility of an attack motivated by a misappropriated sense of religion is possible but I would like to really step back and question, how brave was it for a magazine to satirize the most respected figure of a minority portion of the population in the country which has been historically disenfranchised by the country?

I do not know the answer to that. The repeated threats in the past and the tragic loss of lives on Januay 7th show that it must have required courage but I am still apprehensive to categorize the cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as satire. They might not have been intentioned to worsen the social, economic and political condition of Muslims in France but the cartoonists should have been reasonably aware of those realities of the Muslim population in the country and used their platform to satirize the powerful, rather than the weak.

Satire is making fun of the guy sitting in an air-conditioned imported car, not the guy begging on the streets. To apply the rule that ‘either you can make fun of everything or nothing’ may sound principled academically but looking at it devoid of the social, political and economic realities, it is only a hollow statement that sounds powerful on a placard at a protest but in reality means further disenfranchisement for the weak.

Je Suis Charlie but let us not picture the magazine as saints; they did not some good and some bad. Not every joke is satire, some of it is bullying.