The importance of representation: “Put us in the news!”

Morse School students use ribbons to express their support for immigrant families.

I wrote this piece after a discussion with fourth and fifth graders at a public school in Cambridge MA; slightly different versions published in the Cambridge Chronicle and The News on Sunday. The students’ desire to be “in the news” reflects what I believe is one of journalism’s key roles – to ensure that the voices of the under-represented get heard. The selfie-culture sweeping the world isn’t just about narcissism. It speaks to the human need to be affirmed and remembered. I was here. See me. Hear me. 

PERSONAL POLITICAL

By Beena Sarwar

“Did you see our ribbons? They are for immigrant families,” says Emma, one of half a dozen 9 and 10-year olds I’m talking to about journalism on a bitterly cold weekend in March.

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Movies to watch out for: Rahm (Mercy) and Forbidden Steps

Sharing details of two very relevant films by Pakistanis whose work I’ve seen and liked:  Rahm (Mercy), the movie, in London and Glasgow this Friday

Rahm

…And upcoming, seeking support: Forbidden Steps – a feature film that aims to humanize a faith and a people that have long been misrepresented; writer/director Iram Parveen Bilal’s earlier work includes Josh based on Karachi’s Khana Ghar, and The PHD Movie.

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Salute to a stellar actor and courageous humanist: Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – Jan. 6, 2017)

I’m not a great film follower but this is something I felt compelled to write yesterday. Published in the Aman ki Asha website and crossposted here.

Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – January 6, 2017)

Om Puri: Principled stand for peace

The legendary Indian actor leaves a legacy of humanistic and compassionate values and peace aspirations

Legendary actor Om Puri’s untimely death has saddened film and peace lovers not only in India but in Pakistan and around the world. Like his long-time friends and colleagues Naseeruddin Shah and Mahesh Bhatt, and younger colleague Nandita Das, he had a special relationship with Pakistan due to his desire for better relations between the two largest countries of South Asia. Continue reading

Binge-watching desi films

My article in The News on SundayJan 1, 2017, on two film festivals in New York recently showcasing work from Pakistan and India. I wanted to write more about some of them but didn’t have space. Below, with additional links and pix.

mah-e-mir

Mah-e-Mir director Anjum Shehzad and producers Badar Ikram, Khurram Rana with Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Desi audiences thronged to two recent film festivals in New York showcasing films from Pakistan and India

Many of the films in what is being heralded as a revival of Pakistan cinema feature the sprawling megapolis of Karachi. The multifaceted city’s historic sandstone buildings, sandy beach, traditional tiles, boundless energy emerge in these films… dreamily romantic under a perpetual full moon (Mah-e-Mir), wildly eclectic (Mailay), effervescent, multi-cultural (Actor In Law), violently revengeful (Gardaab), creative, musical (Ho Mann Jahan), a playground for street dancing (Dance Kahani), a tangle of underworld sewers and space-age factories (Teen Bahadur, animation). Continue reading

Lifting the veil: Queer life undercover in South Asia

AMZ-photo

“Secret” – fine art photo by Ali Mehdi Zaidi

The struggle of Muslim homosexuals in Pakistan, South Asia, or as expatriates is not just about LGBTQ rights but part of the larger fight for inclusion and pluralism within Islam. My essay published in The Boston Globe Ideas section (July 31, 2016)  on South Asian and Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality, reproduced below with additional links, info and photos, as well as parts not included in the final published version. The attack in the Orlando gay nightclub put the spotlight not just on the perpetrator, but his victims — Muslim gay (queer) folk who are particularly vulnerable to homophobia besides facing as Islamophobia in the West, and receiving little or no support from the Muslim community at home and abroad. Plus they are now increasingly being targeted by extremists claiming legitimacy from Islam. Thanks to all those who took the time to speak to me, gave me feedback and entrusted me with their stories, and to the Boston Globe editors for their empathy and openness.  Continue reading

Remembering Poppy and Sabeen: Support inclusive cultural spaces

flood-relief-concert-kuch-khaas-14

Kuch Khaas, 2011: Flood Relief concert featuring folk artists from interior Sindh (Thar) along with musicians Todd Shea, QB, Arieb Azhar and Yasir and Jawad. Photo courtesy – PakiUM

My oped published in The News, April 24, 2016

I sit down to write this on April 21, the birthday of one of my oldest, dearest childhood friends, universally known as Poppy – Shayan Afzal Khan, to use her full name. On Feb 21, 2015, Poppy lost her second battle with cancer, which she had fought with her characteristic grace, courage and humour. One of Poppy’s enduring legacies is her book ‘Unveiling the Ideal: A New Look at Early Muslim Women’, published by Musawah-Sisters in Islam, Malaysia in 2007. For this book, she drew on her writing skills, faith, feminism and history degree (Girton College, Cambridge, 1985). Continue reading

Ways of seeing: Imagine, South Asia

Something I wrote for The News on Sunday, published Feb 14, on a thoughtprovoking series of discussions and Anila Quayyum Agha’s stunning installation ‘Intersections’ at the cornerstone of ‘Imagine, South Asia’ at the historic Peabody Essex Museum

Intersections

Intersections by Anila Q. Agha: an immersive, mesmerising experience. Photo: Beena Sarwar

In an age of divisiveness and conflict, with media attention focused on power politics and high profile acts of violence, Imagine, South Asia, a weekend-long series of events at the Peabody Essex Museum was a welcome reminder of the healing and inclusive power of the arts.

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