Thursday, February 26, 2015

All the Amreeki glitter is not Gold

All the " Amreeki Glitter " may not be "Gold "

I am a big fan of a Pakistani drama "Jackson Heights " being televised currently on Urdu -1 network, maybe because I am a Pakistani immigrant myself , maybe because I have seen immigrants struggling around me or maybe because this drama focuses on real life issues rather than the typical Romeo Juliet story quite popular in our dramas .

In one of my other blogs I wrote about Pakistani dramas : Pakistan"s most precious export . Yes it is true Pakistani dramas which are watched by people all over the world are very close to reality and are beautifully made . These dramas are our finest export products.

 Jackson Heights tells the story of Pakistani Americans living in USA.
Jackson Heights is a Desi corridor in the Queens borough of New York City . It is a blue color area where you can find many Indians and Pakistanis walking across the streets lined up with Desi restaurants , clothing shops , immigration lawyer offices , salons and cafés .

Like Devon Street , Chicago or Gerrard street Toronto it is a " typical Desi muhala" outside Pakistan.
Such cross cultural areas has a big immigrant population living there .

Director Mehreen  Jabbar and writer Vassey Chaudhry have done a great job uptil now unfolding the stories of main characters which are Imran Bhatti a local taxi driver, Michele a restaurant owner , Jamshed a young Pakistani who has come to America after getting his visa ,Salma a hard working lady who works at a salon and Sikander her abusive husband who just want to become rich very easily and very quickly .

All these characters live or work in Jackson Heights , NY . Being a Pakistani American myself who has enjoyed a Pakistani meal several times in Jackson Heights,NY and who is well aware of problems faced by Pakistani immigrants I think the writer and director have done an awesome job . The characters and their stories are very close to reality .

It is a common belief in Pakistan that life is very easy , very luxurious in America ......or Amreeka as it is called in its Desi version .
It's true the United States of America
is one of the most developed countries in the world which offers free education up to high school for its residents and medical assistance to the elderly . There is relatively very few issues of power outages or shortage of water "But "there are so many other hurdles faced by immigrants .

Adjusting to life in the U.S. can be difficult for any newcomer .......learning the language , the way of life , finding a job , feeling of home sickness when you are away from family and friends can be highly excruciating for a human being .
The character of Mr Bhatti which is beautifully played by Nauman Ejaz is of a Pakistani taxi driver who migrated to USA in search of a better life . He has been living in NY for 15 years is still not a legal US citizen even though he married a much older American lady to expedite the citizenship problem. His daily routine is hard work during day time and listening to sarcastic remarks and criticism of his wife in the evening .
On the other hand Salma a character played by Amina Sheikh is of a very hard working salon worker who migrated to the US after marrying her cousin .She is the sole bread earner in her family which compromises of an abusive husband , a fussy mother in law and a step daughter who is the only one who loves Salma in the family . Salma is a victim of verbal and physical abuse .

I have been living in the United States , I have heard many of such stories of hard working immigrants who work two or three odd jobs a day to survive in this country . Many of them have been living in suburbs of New York or Chicago or San Francisco for 15 to 20 years but still are not US citizens . According to a recent survey there are approximately 3.5 million illegal Pakistani immigrants in United States . Most of these people work two or three odd jobs at a time so they can financially help their family members back home . They all are heros in the eyes of their aging parents but it is very hard to imagine the hardships endured by them .
There are also many women who have been victims of domestic abuse in America which is a foreign land for them . Such women may have problem speaking and understanding English  language and the social and judicial system.

Among all these characters there is another powerful character that of "Nani Amah ", who is Bhatti "s mom . She doesn't care about money or gifts she just want her child to be happy . She is happy in Pakistan , is not interested in going to America and like any other mother she prays that her sons and her grandson live a happy and healthy lives.

Even though racial discrimination is not very common in America yet some people face it .
I think the drama Jackson Heights is written beautifully , well directed and wonderfully acted .
The drama which will end next week depicts beautifully the struggles , the frustrations faced by immigrants .

Nothing  is as easy as it sounds. America maybe one of the best country in the world, but it's not heaven on earth. It's still filled with real people and real problems.

The character of Mr Bhatti summed it beautifully in the beginning of the drama when he talks about the immigrants and their problems ".... in sab main  eik cheez common hai, majobori…kisi ki majboori behter zindagi, to kisi ki majboori hai inkey  khawb......"

Equal pay for Women , Why not?

Equal Pay Rights for Women .......
Why not till now ???

Patricia Arquette injected a lot of political color into the 87 th Academy Award ceremony last Sunday by calling for equal pay for women at the end of her acceptance speech for best supporting actress.

Arquette won the award by playing Olivia the troubled twice divorced mother of two kids in the movie Boyhood which was filmed in 12 years and was a major hit at the box office.

Her speech concluded with the charged up comments:  “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

The speech received wild cheers from the audience, the camera focused on Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez getting out of their seats , clapping and waving their arms.

Equal wage has been a controversial a subject in Hollywood as in the rest of America.
A very recent Sony hacking scandal exposed the inner workings of the studio, one stunning surprise was the unequal pay between women and men in Sony’s huge 2013 hit American Hustle.

Hacked emails revealed that American Hustle‘s female stars, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, were paid 23 percent less than male stars Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. This was a disturbing rather alarming piece of information based on the fact that Amy Adams had been nominated for four Academy Awards, and that Jennifer Lawrence had won an Oscar for Best Actress in Silver Linings Playbook in 2012. Lawrence is the star of The Hunger Games franchise, which had already earned hundreds of millions of dollars.

How ironic ? It is after all the United States of America we are talking about people not a third world country !

My point of concern is why female A list actresses have not fought for equal pay rights . It is their right and some of them are recognized by the public way more then their male counterparts.

Actress Charlize Theron the star of 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman reportedly negotiated a salary equal to her male costar, Chris Hemsworth, for Universal’s forthcoming prequel, The Hunstman, slated for release in April 2016.
“Charlize insisted that she get paid the same money as Chris,” a statement released from an anonymous source.
Named one of the highest-paid actresses of 2013 by Forbes, Theron successfully negotiated the deal (the salary inequality exposed by the Sony hack certainly didn’t hurt her case).

South African–born Theron has been an outspoken activist for an number of causes. She founded the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project in 2007 to combat HIV/AIDS among young people, served as spokesperson for the United Nations’ Stop Rape Now program and PETA’s anti-fur campaigns.

Her latest pay negotiation sends a message to Hollywood executives that it is "OK "to pay equally to both male and female actors.

If one actress can fight for her right why can't many others.Bravo to Patricia Arquette for that rousing speech in front of a world wide audience and kudos to Charlize Theron for showing others how it is done  ........... I assume that movie executives and Hollywood is ready for a revolution !!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The filmi raang of drama sadqey tumharey

The " filmi raang" of Sadqaey Tumhare

Popular tv drama Sadqey Tumhare which is being aired these days on hum tv is the quite adventurous romantic real life story of the writer Khalil ur Rehman Qamar. He writes about the emotional and spiritual attachment of him and his fiancé Shanno (Mahira Khan) . Shano and and Khalil are cousins but know very little about each other. Shanno is a quiet girl who was brought up in a small village of Balghan and Khalil is an outspoken , cricketer from Lahore. After many years, they meet each other at a family wedding and immediately fell in love . Problems arise for the young couple when Shanno's parents break the agreement of marriage for their daughter.

Shanno and Khalil"s life turns into a continuous struggle to be together in this classic tale of forbidden love, bitterness and prior grudges among family members.
The young love birds story has taken so many twists and turns that it has transformed the drama into a movie with the story lines of both Lollywood and Bollywood .

Shanno "s mother is the evil conspirator with a touch of " Gabbar Singh" from the popular Bolly classic Sholey. She just can't see the two get married , uses all sorts of evil tactics to keep them apart .
Her father is a crazily naive person who is manipulated by his wife.
He is fun to watch along with his car which stops after every 3 miles.

The couple has a furious warrior on their side .....their grandmother "Bejee "who is good at yelling . She can be compared to a female Maula Jatt minus the gandasa .

Khaleel and Shano live in the Punjab of 1970 yet they are awkwardly bold for that time . They spend a lot of time gazing at each other and are not shy in expressing their love for each other.They have jumped walls , fought police walas , sneaked out on a motor bike late at night in the true spirit of the movie Qiyamat se Qiyamat Tak and Dhoom combined .

The entire village knows about their affair from the tonga driver to the Imam Sahab .......after all it is 1970 the pre Taliban era.

Khalil and Shanno "s best friends are their true " jiggari Yaars " ( extremly close friends).

The audience is somewhat intrigued that how long this ordeal will last ? Will Khalil and Shanno will eventually get married ?

I wonder if the women in the villages of Pakistan are really so bold and outgoing ?

To the love birds : dekha Khawab tu silseley howey .........

To the writers : enough of the melodrama please move towards the end........

Monday, February 23, 2015

Academy Awards

Hollywood is a strange place people want to visit it, people read about it, people are fascinated by it .
Hollywood movies are enjoyed by people in Africa to the citizens of Middle East to people living in Ice land.
Hollywood actors and actresses are the biggest celebrities in the planet.

Academy Awards are the biggest and ultimate award show of Hollywood when all of its royalty comes together to watch the award ceremony of the year watched , by millions across the world.

Academy Awards 2015 was a night of suspense , wage equality and appreciation of the " Mexicano talent".
The much awaited suspense over the best picture ended when the dark comedy Birdman won the best picture. The Academy was highly criticized for lack of diversity this year.
Neil Patrick Harris hit the controversy right at the beginning: "Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry, brightest.”
The Academy took steps Sunday to quiet the criticism  fueled by the snub of “Selma” in the directing and acting categories — over a lack of diversity among its membership voters. Among the black stars lined up to present were Terrence Howard, Kevin Hart, Oprah Winfrey, Zoe Saldana and Viola Davis. The musical performers included Common, John Legend and Jennifer Hudson.
Lego Oscars were presented to many attendees somewhat a sarcastic act in reference  to the omission of Lego Movie from the list of best animated movie nominations.
We already knew from the recent leaked Sony Pictures e-mails that women were paid less than their male counterparts ......supporting-actress winner Patricia Arquette, who played a struggling single mother in Boyhood, took that issue to heart and to the podium "We have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's time to have wage equality," Arquette said in her acceptance speech, calling for "equal rights for women in the United States of America".

Academy Awards 2015 were a tribute to Viva Mexican with Alejandro González Iñárritu
winning Best Director At The 2015 Oscars For 'Birdman'

Last year, Alfonso Cuarón won the Oscar for Best Director for "Gravity."
"Maybe next year the government will inflict immigration restrictions," said Innaritu, recalling last year's best director winner, Alfonso Cuaron. "Two Mexicans in a row. That's suspicious, I guess."
The Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki became the first to win best cinematography twice in a row.

Best documentary went to “Citizenfour,” director Laura Poitras’ feature about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked government "s secrets .
“The subject of ‘Citizenfour,’ Edward Snowden, could not be here for some treason,” joked Harris.
The presentation of the song Glory from the movie Selma was the most breathtaking moment of the ceremony .
Eddie Redmayne won best actor and thanked Jane and Steven Hawking for their inspirational life story. Julianne Moore won best actress for portraying a woman suffering from Alzheimer's in " Still Alice".
Polish drama "Ida" won for best foreign language film.

The complete list of winners here:

Best Picture: "Birdman"

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"

Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Birdman"

Best Original Screenplay: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo, "Birdman"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore, "The Imitation Game"

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"

Best Animated Feature: "Big Hero 6"

Best Original Song: "Glory" from "Selma" - Music and lyrics by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spirit of Patriotism overshadows everything else

Spirit of Patriotism over shadows everything else

I am a huge cricket fan , yeah literary I mean it. My earliest memories of my childhood are watching a cricket match with my parents cheering Pakistan Cricket team during their English tour when Muddassar Nazar the talented opener was able to bowl magnificently and was dubbed " Man with the Golden Arm " . One of my most prized childhood memories is watching  Javed Miandad hit a six off of Cheetan Sharma on the last ball of Australiasia Cup with my mom , brother and grandfather . I agree cricket is the soul food of Pakistani nation and me becoming a cricket fanatic was mainly due to the impact of my surroundings.

Since the start of this year cricket fanatics like me were anxiously waiting for the Cricket World Cup of 2015 . The tournament started last week in Australia and New Zealand last week and me the highly detail oriented human being re checked the schedule of all the matches on dish network and installed the ESPN Cricket app on my phone for instant score cards.

Like all other Pakistani cricket fans I was too heartbroken to see Pakistan got defeated a sixth time in a row by India in their first match of Cricket  World Cup 2015.

The heartfelt emotions of defeat were quite high for me but I saw something during this match which greatly touched my heart.

Mohammed Shami an Indian bowler took five Pakistani wickets during the match , he happens to be a Muslim from Bengal . His team on the field which compromises of mostly all non - Muslim players hugged him and congratulated him . The thousands of Indian Cricket fans roared for him and cheered for him on the ground at Adelaide .
Mohammed Shami "s religion did not matter , he was an Indian playing for India , his performance for his country made him special. He was cheered as an Indian by thousands of his country men present there and millions watching on tv.

I also watched the South Africa / Zimbabwe game earlier that day . The South African team for cricket World Cup 2015 compromises of many talented players out of which there are three Muslim players Hashim Amala , Wayne Parnell and Imran Tahir . Amala is the son of Gujrati Muslim immigrants and Imran Tahir was born in Lahore but later his family moved to South Africa. Wayne Parnell read about and researched about Islam and converted to a Muslim in 2011.
South Africa along with New Zealand are the two favorite teams of this World Cup . I saw the same jubilation among the players and fans of South Africa as I did among the Indian fans while they cheered for these three Muslim players .
I have heard that Hashim Amla is quite a practical Muslim , he has grown a beard , prays five times and his wife also wears hijab .

While the acts of hate crimes against Muslims are very raw in my mind I was greatly moved by these gestures of great respect for Muslim players by their non - Muslim team mates and country men .

During matches played by England I noticed Moeen Munir Ali who is also a Muslim . He happens to be a greatly admired player by his country men . He is representing team England in the World Cup 2015.

As the discussion of Islamaphobia is the talk of town all around me ,  I do admit I could not sleep the night of North Carolina shootings .I read about the critical comments
passed around a lady wearing " hijab " and of the uneasiness of the public around person with a "beard", every day in newspapers.

It was quite an electrifying sight looking at a bearded Muslim men being cheered by people belonging to other faiths . Those sights on the cricket field made me think if these guys can win the hearts of so many by their talent and spirit of dedication for their .......why can't many others like them can acquire that respect ???
I replied to myself in an affirm voice  " yes it can be done ".

I read an interview of Mooen Munir   Ali in the Huffington Post in which he said : " I Am A Muslim, Yes, But I Am Also Very English".

So true , so right !

As Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol, Hashim Amla was permitted not to wear the logo of Castle Beer, which sponsors South African cricket. Also, Pakistan-born Australian cricketer Fawad Ahmed did not wear a beer logo on his shirt during his debut international match against England.
Carlton United Breweries were respectful of the  personal beliefs of these players.

Moeen Ali and Hashim Amala both have beards and are often seen praying in the dressing rooms . Moeen Munir Ali has been compared to the greatest English player of all times W.G.Grace who also had a long beard .

Parnell converted to Islam from Catholicism after doing research about the religion and Tahir is greatly popular leg break bowler.

The sight of all these talented players being cheered for by their hundreds of fans gave me some weird type of happiness , maybe a lot of relief.

There was a controversial remark by Dean Jones, the former Australia Test batsman turned TV commentator in 2006. He said  " the terrorist has taken another wicket" after Amala dismissed Kumar Sangakara during a South Africa / Sri Lanka match in 2006. Ten Sports , Jones "s employers terminated his contract with the company for those remarks and also asked him to issue a public apology .That broadcast was aired around the world, including South Africa, and he was subsequently widely condemned by South African fans, former cricketers and commentators.

I know racial and ethnic profiling has risen in the last decade but if we think it through we will realize that spirit of patriotism is so strong that it engulfs all other human inhibitions.

As Charles de Gaulle said "Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first".

I salute the spirit of Patriotism and the multicultural field of cricket for making this spirit so beautiful.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pathetic state of defeat

God help those who help themselves
and definitely not a bunch of no good , non serious jokers

I am a die hard cricket fan who wakes up all night long to watch my cricket team play a match in the biggest tournament in the world . I live so far away from my birthplace yet my association is stronger than so many , I cannot hear a single word of criticism about Pakistan , it's people and it's cricket team .
I write articles / blogs every day and try to connect my friends in North America with their birthplace Pakistan.

Since the start of this year cricket fanatics like me were anxiously waiting for the Cricket World Cup of 2015 . The tournament started last week in Australia and New Zealand last week and me the highly detail oriented human being re checked the schedule of all the matches on dish network and installed the ESPN Cricket app on my phone for instant score cards.

What I saw yesterday was brutal and pathetic .
West Indies Cricket Team trashed Pakistan ; first they scored 311 runs in 50 overs than they bowled Pakistan for 160 runs all out .
Only three batsmen entered double digits out of the 11.
It was nerve wrecking for a Paki fan that their national team who had been training for 4 years got defeated so badly by another team who themselves are not in good form and have lost their earlier matches.
Pakistan team looked like 10 year old school kids who just stumbled in a major tournament . They were just bunch of men who spent more time getting dresses in the national uniform than trying to stay on the cricket pitch and actually try to score some runs for their team ......their country and their country men.

I believe in the power of prayers , I believe that God listens to our prayers ..........but God listens to those who try , who work hard not just a bunch of "not interested , non serious jokers"......

I the high energy optimist was pulling my hair .....

Cricket is not just a game in Pakistan; it is the blood of this nation. The hopes of 180 million people are placed on the shoulders of 11 men in green shirts .Pakistan is a badly battered nation , suffering in the hands of corrupt politicians, from many socioeconomic and ethnic issues . Cricket is a game liked by everyone young and old , rich or poor. National Cricket Team is cheered by everyone alike . The 11 team members are the greatest superstars of the country. When they are playing the entire nation prays for them .
When the team lost against India it hurt but we still had hope , hope to strive again , try more .......but yesterday the defeat was extremely painful.
The team fielded as if the task is to drop catches not to collect them , batted like lunatics just to come to the ground for a couple of minutes for a photo shoot .

Actually the entire nation , every Pakustani was badly insulted yesterday.
I demand answers from the national cricket team , it's officials and the PCB.........this is what you call " talent ", this is what you call a " team" this is what you could find among the thousands of young cricketers spread all over the country ???
Shame on you......
Flocked , Mocked and Dropped ......story of the day!

Beyond our flaws

Beyond our flaws"

A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction. ~Oscar Wilde

It's honestly a little comforting to know that ,  even the biggest Music Diva of our time wakes up every morning like me or any other regular woman .......with blemishes , grey hair and skin acne.

The internet went totally  nuts  on Wednesday the 18 th of febuary 2015 when fansite The Beyoncé World leaked 224 apparently unretouched photos from the popular music diva "Beyoncé" "s commercial and print shoots for L'Oréal's 2013 Feria and Infallible campaign.

The photos show the diva in striking eye and lip makeup, but with laugh lines, skin imperfections and a few facial hairs ........ technically with few skin flaws which almost every woman her age has . She was also few strokes away from the polished Beyoncé that appears in the final campaigns or maybe those were her pre - photoshopped pictures.

The Beyoncé World deleted the photos soon after, in response to a massive backlash from the diva’s fans, known collectively as "The Beyhive".
I don't know why these fans are so upset on the fact that the world can see that Beyoncé has a bit of an uneven complexion???

People of the world she is a real woman , a real working woman  who has a thriving career , mother to daughter Blue Ivy , loving wife, fashion representative and more than that a woman whose skin is little imperfect !
I believe that women come in all shapes and sizes.
And I don't know who are the Hypocrates the celebrities hiding the flaws from their fans or us the regular people posting pics of " their more than perfect lives " on social media.

Is life just a pictorial contest ?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Best picture nail bitter : Birdman vs Boyhood

The " suspense " over the Best Picture Academy Award

“Birdman” and “Boyhood” present one of the most difficult Best-Picture Academy Award decision in years. The two films vary significantly in style and plot yet  they are the two most creative, compelling works of cinema released in the year 2014.
“Boyhood,” is the coming of age drama of a typical family living in middle America .The ups and downs they faced after the divorce of the parents and how the personalities of their kids alter by the passage of time . It has been filmed in a span of twelve years by its superb director Richard  Linklater. Patricia Arquette  has given the best performance of her career as the emotional somewhat complicated divorced mother of two.
“Birdman,” from Fox Searchlight  stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who once played a superhero, he is trying  to revive his career via a Broadway play. It is a somewhat dark comedy .The director Alejandro González Iñárritu took a unique approach , he filmed the movie using only extended scenes, rarely cutting away.Michael Keaton is excellent in the lead role .
It would be a tough decision by the academy members who were asked to lock in their votes by Tuesday feb 17 th ,2015. Another film nominated for best picture is American Sniper which is a mega success at the box office but the history of the Academy shows that it is highly unlikely that the box office favorite takes the gold statuette home . The "social network" lost to a Kings Speech and Avatar could not win the Best Picture Oscar in front of the Hurt Locker.
This year the films nominated for Best Picture are Whiplash , Theory of Everything , Selma , Imitation Game , The Grand Budapest Hotel , American Sniper , Boyhood and Birdman ( the unexpected virtue of ignorance).
 The  top honor from the Producers Guild of America has gone on to collect the Academy Award for best picture in each of the past seven years. This year that honor went to “Birdman.” The British Academy of Film & Television Arts, which hands out the Baftas, awarded the top honor to " Boyhood ". At the Golden Globe Awards last month " Boyhood" won the award for best picture drama and " Birdman " won for best picture comedy or musical .
The Screen Actors Guild awarded the cast of " Birdman " as the outstanding cast in a motion picture.
I think it was in 1989 when the Academy had another tough decision to vote for either "Driving Miss Daisy" or "Born on the Fourth" of July or in 2002 when they had to decide between "Chicago " or " Gangs of New York". It was the year 2006 when " Crash " created an upset and took the best picture Oscar against " Brokeback Mountain".
It will be a tough call this time around some what not to minimize the other six Best Picture contenders in a strong best picture category.

For the first time in several years, there may be genuine suspense when the best picture envelope is opened at the Oscars on February 22nd , 2015 in Hollywood , California .
The race for best actor is also pretty tight but I think Eddie Redmayne who portrayed a paralyzed Stephen Hawking in the " Theory of Everything"  has emerged as a possible favorite over " Birdman " "s Michael Keaton .
Julianne Moore has somewhat locked in herself as the Best Actress winner for " Still Alice". There will be a tough battle between the Best Director Oscar between Birdman "s Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Richard Linklater of " Boyhood" but Linklater will most probably prevail .Another category to watch will be Best foreign language film category in which 5 films were nominated after the members of the Academy received 83 nominations from all over the world. My personal favorite in this category is Timbuktu which is Mauritania  "s first ever entry.
The scenario, with Boyhood and Birdman splitting best picture and best director, seems quite likely. But
how is it split is the biggest mystery of all , which is why this year’s Oscar race will remain exciting until the awards are handed out during the live telecast this weekend  on February 22nd 2015.

SubhanAllah .....Mr President

Subhanallah ......Mr President

SubhanAllah means Glory to Allah , it can also be used to reflect a feeling of great excitement ...."wow"!!!

I love my adopted country United States but I am also extremely proud of me being a Muslim , a follower of Islam .
I am an immigrant living in the United States for quite a long time .My adopted " homeland " has given me and my family recognition and prosperity .

I have always been proud of my religion , proud of my heritage. I made many friends while living in United States , these friends are Chinese , Arabs , African Americans , Indians and White Americans . We belong to different religions some go to a Synagogue , some to a Church , some to a Temple and some to a Mosque. We enjoy appreciating each other"s cultures.
Our faith has never defined us , our character defines us .
People have difficulty understanding my last name , yet they admire me for who I am.

Life somewhat has changed around me after that cold autumn day in 2001.
No one has said anything to me directly but there is always extra checking at the airport when me or my family members when we fly back from an oversees trip, maybe because our last name is " Akhtar ".
There are reports in media which label my religion as " extremist ".

While the stories about WMDs , about Al - Qaeda , Daniel Pearl case ,movies like Zero Dark Thirty nominated for Best Picture Oscar , media labeling Muslims as " fanatics ", reports about ISIS , Madrid bombing ,Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris and perhaps most haunting, the killing of three Muslim-Americans in North Carolina are very raw in my mind . I worry about my children more than myself . Will they lead a prosperous life , will their faith and their identity become an issue for them ??

I smiled yesterday when our President Mr Obama read from what he said was the first Valentine’s Day card he received this year, before those from his wife and daughters.

It was sent to him from an 11-year-old Muslim - American fifth-grader named Sabrina.

“I am worried about people hating Muslims,” she wrote. “If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn’t mean all of them do. Please tell everyone that we are good people, and we are just like everyone else.”

Repeating “we are just like everyone else,” Obama said to the world wide audience “to remember that 11-year-old girl” and similar children around the world, as they consider how the U.S. fights terror".

President Barack Obama further said that he refuses to describe the Islamic State and al Qaeda as groups fueled by "radical Islam" because the term gives them a religious legitimacy . Actually they don't belong to any religion and they don't deserve it" !

"They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists," Obama said "We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."

So true.......
I smiled for a minute after listening to his remarks on TV.

The President is correct in avoiding "Islamic" labels. This is not an Islam problem. Most Muslims are not extremists just as most Christians or most Jews . All religions preach peace .
He assured not only one American -Muslim girl but thousands of them that they are like any other citizen of this country .

President Obama gave an elaborate defense Wednesday of his refusal to identify terrorists as Muslim extremists, saying doing so runs counter to American values and would empower violent fanatics.

“We must never accept the premise they put forward, because it is a lie. Nor should we grant them the legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists,” Obama said to a thunderous applause at the White House summit on countering terrorism.

“And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

President Obama : helping the West Indies Cricket Team

Former West Indies star batsman Brian Lara has recruited a high profile neighbor US President Barack Obama to help West Indies Cricket team revive their lost glory in the cricket field ........
Growing up I remember the magnificient West Indies team with fast bowlers like Garner, Walsh , Ambrose , Coudrey , Marshall and star batsmen like Richards , Haynes , Greenidge , Lara and Loyld .

50 dark grey shades of abuse

50 dark grey shades of abuse ......

The London premiere of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey the most popular novel of 2012 which was the first chapter of the three part trilogy about Christian grey the overly controlling tycoon and Anastasia Steele the naive college girl , on Thursday the 13 th of feb 2015 was inflicted with protestors campaigning for awareness for domestic violence outside the theaters.

Domestic Violence protestors descended upon Leicester Square in London along with signs and banners to protest against the film’s portrayal of the submissive relationship of a young college girl with a rich business tycoon .
This was during the premiere of the movie when stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan walked the grey carpet.

One sign read “‪#‎BlueAboutGrey‬ – because some Ana’s don’t survive their Christian’s ".

There is a boycott movement taking off against the film with the hashtags ‪#‎50ShadesIsAbuse‬and ‪#‎50dollarsNot50Shades‬, promoting donations to domestic violence shelters instead of paying to see the film.

The movie opened on 11 February in France , Belgium and Norway it posted the highest ever one-day totals for a film from Universal Studios. It was also the biggest ever opening day block buster in the Philippines.
There were Protests organized in the cities of Madison , Wisconsin and San Francisco California who believed that the film promotes violence against women .

Fifty Shades of Grey movie is not only a somewhat dangerous depiction of love but also gives the wrong message to young people . They are growing up with little understanding of real love, mistaking emotions for the sacrificial commitment .
According to a survey the book was highly popular in women over 30 years who are relatively matured women .I personally don't understand why this book got so much acknowledgement by women.
We are living in the 21st century where we the women raise voices for
other women who are being bullied or are victims of abuse. Yet we are enjoying a book where the male character has quite a violent and abuse relationship with the female character.
I guess we the women are the hypocrites .....demanding equal rights on one forefront and liking dominance on the other front

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Don't get disappointed team Pakistan we can still win the cricket World Cup 2015

" Abhi tu party shuru howey hai "
Darney ki kiya baat hey

I rarely quote a Bollywood song as the headline of one my blog but this song from the movie Khoobsurat is the perfect title for my blog after watching Pakis lose their 6 th encounter with India in the cricket World Cup 2015.
They lost it pretty badly but to tell you the truth it was not a disappointing game from a team who can't practice on their own soil ,who is banned from IPL , has fitness issues , few key players are banned from international cricket , has to endure political bickering and above all " they are an inexperienced bunch ". I watched most of the game and I still think they can do it . This rookie team can at least reach the finals and maybe if they will roar as the cornered tigers of 1992 they can win.

I read the review of former English Captain Graham Gooch who analyzed the 3 Asian top cricketing teams and concluded that among the Asian teams, the only team that can realistically challenge the Top 3 favorite teams ( Australia , South Africa and New Zealand )with their bowling is Pakistan.
I somewhat agree with him.

I don't know how many of you remember World Cup of 87 , Allan Border"s Australian team was never the favorite , it was a weak team who came together as the tournament progressed and won the final at Eden Park , India.

As for the 6-0 record against India, one wonders if Pakistan is destined to break the losing streak in 2015 or will have to wait for 2019.
Pakistan may play them again in this World Cup. If both India and Pakistan reach the quarter finals and they both win it then they may meet again in the semi final or if they both defeat other teams in semis and reach the finals then there may still be a chance for Pakistani team to defeat the Indians in their 7 th face off in a cricket World Cup .
I know I get a little carried away and I am a huge optimist but please " keep praying " and players " keep working hard ".........
And to all my super cool friends on social media please take off the sad faces ......
Abhi tu shruat hai friends !!! — with Hina Aslamand 4 others.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My daughter Allana "s article published yesterday in Michigan daily

By ALLANA AKHTAR, Michigan in Color
Published February 12, 2015

A few weeks after 9/11, I remember walking down the playground with my best friends, Maureen and Kathleen, after a tiring day of first-grade arithmetic and grammar.

I was a timid, skinny six-year old with large brown eyes and silky black hair cut to my shoulders; my only thoughts must have been about what food will be served during lunch, the latest episode of Arthur and my newborn sister.

As we walked, I remember sensing Maureen and Kathleen being standoffish. I remember them walking a few steps in front of me, whispering to each other and looking back at me.

As the three of us convened in our usual hangout under the slide and behind the monkey bars, I quietly asked what was wrong. The two looked at each other, and then Maureen, her usually gentle blue eyes glaring at me behind her glasses, her usually pale cheeks and ears a soft pink in the September chill, spat, “Allana, it was your people that killed everyone in New York.”

I don’t remember the exact events of what followed, but I do remember my vision going dark. I remember looking around the playground and not seeing colors, only seeing the trees and sky in different shades of gray.

According to my father and faint memories, I cried throughout the rest of the day. Unable to articulate my shame and fear, and already over-sensitive, I took to quietly sobbing into my sleeve and sitting away from my peers, perhaps fearing retaliation from the rest of the class, perhaps scared I would hurt one of them, too.

My teacher took me aside during class and asked me what was wrong. Repeatedly she asked, and I only responded with more furious crying. Exasperated, she sent me to the principal’s office and called my dad.

When he arrived, I quickly recalled what had happened as the tears continued to fall down my face. He went to go tell my teacher, and they both agreed to devote the last 20 minutes of the day explaining to the group of first graders how not all Muslims are killers, how Islam is not synonymous with terror. Maureen apologized to me after class.

* * *
Years had gone by. Almost routinely we would hear stories from relatives, friends of relatives, friends of friends on their various Islamophobic attacks. One evening, my father told the story of my teenage cousins being taunted and assaulted by their neighbors while playing basketball outside; another day, my mother recounted how our mosque had been vandalized and racial slurs painted on the walls; soon after, my grandmother called my parents anxiously revealing that my uncle had been detained while visiting Chicago.

We were coming back from a family vacation in Mexico. I aged about three years, but remained shy and gangly. My sister was now a rambunctious toddler and my brother walked hand in hand with my mom.

As my family and I slowly made our way through the painfully long line in immigration, tired and hungry from being on a plane for six hours, we ached to go home. Finally our turn had come, and we made our way to the singular glass booth where a large white man, balding and barely squeezing into his baby-blue TSA button down, meticulously watched us approach.

He took our passports and began to analyze. We stood in front of the booth as three, four, five families behind us in line had been approved by other officers and went to retrieve their luggage. My mother’s arms grew tired carrying the weight of my sister.

More agents arrived at our cubicle. They looked over my father’s passport, scrutinizing the profile of his tan skin and black mustache.

Without giving reason, they took us aside and said we needed to stay here a little bit longer than usual. I’m sure they assumed our dark hair and complexion, my parents’ accented English, and our last name “Akhtar” were reason enough for suspicion.

I then watched as my father, the top of all of his classes in high school and college, the first in our family to become a doctor, the owner of a thriving private practice devoted to treating patients with cancer and leukemia, lead away from us to be interrogated for suspected terrorism.

I remember my mom trying to pacify my agitated siblings while waiting patiently to hear back from the TSA. We sat on the floor of the airport (they did not offer us chairs), under the imperious gaze of a self-proclaimed Homeland Security agent (didn’t he understand that this was my homeland, too?).

An officer returned with our luggage. Immediately, he and his friend broke the locks and unpacked every item inside the bags. I watched a strange man pick apart the items in our luggage that my mother painstakingly organized for days; I watched his gloved hands touch her undergarments; I watched the others at the airport look over at us as they walked past, like we were a roadside accident or a circus act.

I watched in rage as they laughed amongst themselves, ignorant to the ostracism and humiliation of my family. Their decision to racial profile was thoughtless and I’m sure they forgot about it soon after, yet they will never know the years and years of shame and embarrassment this inflicted on me.

Eventually my father returned, his search proving null and our luggage of bathing suits and sunscreen verified as bomb-free. We returned home, my mother made us scrambled eggs, and we went to sleep.

* * *

Now I am almost 20 years old, no longer as gangly yet still timid.

As I watched stories unfold reporting the uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, the surge in online threats upon the release of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and, perhaps most haunting, the killing of three Muslim-Americans in North Carolina, these memories of mine resurface and I am forced to reconcile the profound and lasting effects my exposure to Islamophobia had on me.

Some of my most prized childhood memories have to do with my Pakistani-Muslim identity: putting henna on my palms with my cousin on the stairs of her condo for Eid, visiting my grandparents’ house in Pakistan and making roti with their housekeepers, and praying maghrib alongside my father every evening when he came back from work.

However, after 9/11 and into my adolescence, I turned my back on these features of my life that I felt separated me from everybody else. I yearned to escape from the enduring shame after being told “my people” killed nearly 3,000 lives. I ached to forget the humiliation of having to sit on an airport floor for four hours because my dad’s skin was too brown.

I detested my parents’ strict “no dating, no sleepovers, no alcohol” policy. I hid the fact I volunteered at my mosque every Sunday from my peers and soon stopped going when I no longer wanted to associate with religion. I cringed at my mother’s thick Pakistani accent when she would speak to my teachers, or the clothes she bought me that would cover up my legs and arms even in the summer.

With these instances of rejecting my culture, I blamed Islam for my own sense of estrangement in school and society. I felt that by following the culture of my peers, these instances of discrimination would cease to exist and that I could finally feel accepted. I thought that if I could use makeup to lighten my skin, wear more revealing clothing and party more often, I would stop feeling like the only brown girl in the room and being seen as such.

And now, with the onset of these larger attacks demonstrating the existing prejudice people harbor against my identity, I continue to struggle with trying to reconcile with my feelings of self-hate. How am I supposed to love my identity when people exist who vehemently express their rejection of it? How can I stop feeling like an “other,” like an outsider, when I’m constantly being viewed as one?

The truth is I haven’t yet embraced my identity. I still feel the need to use an American accent when I pronounce my last name and disassociate myself from the larger Pakistani-Muslim community.

However, I hope that maybe through expressing my feelings of estrangement, I will one day be able to come to terms with the skin and heritage I was born with.

For me, the worst part about hearing of these racist attacks is knowing they will give rise to another generation of ashamed Muslim boys and girls, who too will cry years later at the humiliation of being stopped at an airport.

I hope through sharing these memories I can reach out to other outsiders who suffer similarly from Islamophobia. In sharing these memories, I hope I can receive guidance from others on how to fight my persisting shame, or so that we may help each other learn to stop hating ourselves.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A mother"s anguish , a mother"s plea

"A mother "s anguish , a mother "s plea

3 Arab Muslim students are confirmed dead near Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill who were killed by a white athiest man. ( via my blog yesterday )

I have read many blogs / articles on social media about the shooting of 3 Muslim Students at the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .People are showing their anguish on twitter and Facebook . A large majority of these bloggers are Muslims they are angry at the American media for labeling this horrific act as a dispute over parking space rather than declaring it a hate crime .
The news media in United States reported that the killings were in response to a parking issue , all the major networks covered the story but it was not a " breaking news ".

Chapel Hill police said a preliminary investigation indicates a parking spot dispute triggered the shootings, several U.S. Muslim leaders said the brutal nature and execution style killing is way more than that . The family of the victims also joined the call for a hate-crime inquiry.A press conference was held at Chapel Hill it was extremely painful to watch the father crying and the shocked mother. May Allah give the parents Sabr. There is no loss worse than losing your child.

The hashtag ‪#‎MuslimLivesMatter‬
spread widely on Twitter.
personally am very heart broken and extremely sad for the innocent killings in Pakistan and the innocent killing in United States , in fact on killing of innocent lives all over the world but instead of just complaining and take anger out on social media my point is slightly different from others .
My point is that we Muslims don't have enough representation in the fields of media and journalism. Our stories are not narrated properly . When we become victims of racial profiling we are unable to response back because we don't have personnel in news media to write our point of view. If we want the media to tell the world our stories then, we will have to become the media.
We just enter professions like medicine , engineering and law . We don't encourage our kids to attend film schools , become journalists , become cartoonists , encourage them to be athletes or children"s book authors , tv producer ,or police officers ?army personnel ? why ? Are we not brave enough ? Do we just look for financially secure professions or do we want to go and explore various fields ?
No we are not we are busy with dinner parties , inviting 900 guests on our kids weddings , our focus is food and clothin and accumulation of wealth. we give so much money to charitable organizations and political campaigns but we don't question those leaders what they are doing for us ?
Few months back Hollywood actor Ben Affleck defended Muslims in front of Bill Maher and Sam Harris because he had a Muslim trainer / friend who informed him about Muslim issues.

The World does not know that our religion teaches forgiveness , it teaches peace and harmony because we are unable to inform the world.

Today’s age is the age of media. Media is very powerful today that through it, every idea is propagated into the minds of people .Media is being used as a tool against Muslims these days , Muslims should also use media as a powerful tool to explain the message of Islam which is nothing but peace.......

I am a mother who has a child in college , I am worried for not only my children but all our children , I try to express my views with my writings which I consider a powerful tool , I am trying what little I can do ........
Please try at your end ........... — with Adil Akhtar and 2 others.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cricket World Cup 2015; infinite prayers, utter jubilation and the association of a nation with " just a game "


Cricket is the summer sport of British who introduced it to the world. They are called the forefathers of the game but it is not them rather the citizens the sub - continent , who idolize this game .Cricket is the " soul food of the sub- continent ". Cricket World Cup is  the Royal Rumble or the Super Bowl of all tournaments which puts a magical spell on the citizens of this area.They eat , sleep and breathe cricket .

Pakistan and Pakistanis have been through a lot in the last 67 years ,they have shed many tears , have few reasons to smile ....... cheering the national Cricket Team is certainly one of them.

Game of Cricket and the Spirit of Victory unifies the Pakistani Nation .........
When many of the other sports have vanished , victory  in any Cricket Tournament is a source of happiness for everyone .

Cricket is not just a game in Pakistan; it is the blood of this nation. The hopes of 180 million people are placed on the shoulders of 11 men in green shirts .Pakistan is a badly battered nation , suffering in the hands of corrupt politicians, from many socioeconomic and ethnic issues . Cricket is a game liked by everyone young and old , rich or poor. National Cricket Team is cheered by everyone alike . The 11 team members are the greatest superstars of the country. When they are playing the entire nation prays for them . Every citizen from rickshaw drivers to college students to business executives to grandparents pray for them.It's funny the " car - snatching " and " burglary " ratio goes down in the major cities during a cricket tournament . Which country makes announcements for group prayers for the National cricket team from local mosques across the country.....only us !
My friend told me about her grandmother who used to sit on the prayer mat till the Pakis win. My grandfather had a slightly different philosophy he never appreciated the players till the moment they win . When Miandad hit a boundary he used to say " ab agli ball per out hojaey gey"( that he will get out on the next ball ). I know he would be praying in his heart for his team but just not to jinx the game he resisted from appreciating .Game of cricket is the soul food of our nation.

To watch their team play is considered a temporary escape from their problems for the Pakistani nation .
Even after 23 years the talk about that spring day on March 25 th 1992 when Pakistani team won the Cricket World Cup brings smile on the face of every Pakistani .

"I remember that day when schools , colleges , offices across Pakistan were closed when everyone huddled around the TV sets or radios . The crowd of 87,182-at the Melbourne Cricket Ground were witnessing an electrifying World Cricket Final.
Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis, the two look set to take  England to victory after a poor start.  England were 141 for 4 out .Pakistani skipper Imran Khan, who was running out of ideas takes a gamble and gives the ball to Wasim  Akram. Akram   ran in and uprooted Lamb's off-stump!
After few minutes later Lewis was his second victim . The score changed to 144/6!

The players were jubilant . The nation going crazy dancing in front of the tv screens and praying " shukrana" to Allah . Youth of the country were praying while watching the game , some were so emotional that they could not even sit. Elders were sitting on the prayer mat , praying for their cricket team . It was as if the country was at war not just playing a game .
Those two wickets by Wasim Akram were a total game changer . Pakistan did win the final and did defy the odds. It was an spectacular sight in Melbourne that night when an underdog team lifted the crystal trophy."

The entire nation bowed their heads in front of Allah to thank Him for this victory , I am a die hard a cricket fan and I like many others believe that victory in 1992 would have been not possible without Allah "s blessings.
What happened during the Cricket World Cup 1992 definitely had to be due some kind of Devine intervention
After the poor performance in earlier games the team suddenly unified liked " cornered tigers " under its captain when they defeated Australia in their last group match.
It was as a joyous occasion but the team and the nation quickly sat down in front of the tv praying for a West Indies win . Yes only a West Indies win in the other match will help them prevail to semi- finals .West Indies won and Pakistan advanced in the semi final .New Zealand were a tough opponent playing on home ground after their spectacular show down in the round robin league matches . Pakistani team eventually won the semi final mainly due to the heroic effort by Javed Miandad and Inzammamul Haq and yes due to the prayers of the entire nation.

Question in 2015 is : Can Misbhah captivate the "cornered tigers "like Imran did ???
Can a chapter from the history books of 1992 can be repeated in 2015.......

No doubt the National Cricket Team compromises of some very talented players . I am not praying for a miracle I am just praying that God grants them a rekindled spirit the spirit of victory !
I think Pakistan is an unpredictable team . The team has talent , experience along with fitness issues and suspension of few players.
Pakistan will need the right team composition and lots and lots of duas.

I just believe that hard work and determination of our players combined with the infinite prayers of the millions of Pakistanis all over the world can unfold a new chapter .....that of victory , that of joy !!!

The National team has embarked on a mission and the mothers , fathers and children of the country are praying for their success , in fact the nation "s success . We don't want history of " 87 be repeated when we lost in the semi - final and the ill - fated loss of "99 when we lost in the final of the World Cup.

God is Great maybe God is listening .......maybe He will watch over the green shirts in 2015 once again.

Inshallah ......