This blog is best viewed with the latest browser and an open mind!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

PH on Steroids [aka "A Tale of Hoods"]

Thursday, October 19th, was a special day for two girls. Ex-Blogger Maleeha and her friend Saima got an opportunity to meet - at close range - their hero, Pervez Hoodbhoy (or Saheeh Pervez, as some now call him). They had arranged an informal evening with Pervez in Lahore. It was held in a hall designated to be a Gym adjoining the Athena Café (situated at 7A Main Boulevard, Gulberg - and a great place, small, intimate, secluded!) despite torrential rains that not only caused a delay in his arrival at the venue and but also affected the numbers who could turn up.

Despite the small group - or, perhaps, because of it - the evening was enjoyable. After explaining, briefly, what Science - especially Physics, the starting point of all sciences - covers, Pervez went on to compare the major role that Muslims had played in the development of scientific thought in the early years of Islam, in contrast to the almost total absence of their involvement with Science in the later centuries, reaching its nadir today.

Citing statistics and examples of how little is spent upon the sciences in Muslim countries and the dismal quality of the people we do produce (an obvious result of the former), Pervez had us all feeling depressed. He also quoted shocking figures for related things, like the number of books translated from Western sources to languages spoken in the entire Muslim world being a fraction of those that are translated in Portugal alone.

Finally, as the main body of his discourse, he offered what, in his opinions, were the reasons for such a decline, a matter that he has covered at greater length in his brilliant book "Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality". [This Pervez wrote his own book, btw.]

The audience had little to debate with him on the main theme of his talk, but he hit a couple of raw nerves - one being that of that delightful 'master of evil genius', Gorpy, who has posted her comments - when he chose to describe wearers of the naqaab as 'abnormal'. Pervez held - not unreasonably at all - that communicating with a person was more difficult if facial expressions were hidden. He compared the effect to talking with someone in a box and opined it was not natural for people to want to hide their faces. For me, this part of the discussion was of special interest. One, because just that morning I had sat in on a debate among some educators on whether teachers (especially at the Nursery and KG levels), with naqaabs or burqahs, should be inflicted upon children. The supporters felt that it was bigotry to exclude someone who was, after all, only excercising her personal 'freedom'. The opposite camp used arguments similar to that of Pervez and also felt that the little children would find it difficult to relate to a teacher who was hooded. While Gorpy has pointed out that it seems to be males who are talking about these issues more, the objections in my morning discussions had come from females. Two, because ever since I've read Sam Harris's excellent book, The End of Faith, I am less given to tolerating the intolerant. I grew up, like many of you, in an environment where, although no immediate member of my family wore a burqah, some fairly close relatives did. I cannot recall, ever, seeing either side raise an eyebrow about the wearing or the shedding of this form of dress. It was a non-issue, at par with some of the women wearing ghararas while others wore saris.

Today, because of the increasing presence of Fundamentalists and Terrorists, and the consequential stupid viewing of all Muslims as belonging to one of those two groups, the reactions of many non-Muslims (and also of some Muslims) is more extreme. The veil has now become an issue, further feeding crazy Huntingdonian ideas, with people often interpreting its rationale in ways that even the wearer may not have considered. What has gotten even more muddled in this heat is the fact that most people assume the veil to be an essential of Islam. This week's Friday Times contains an excellent article ('Ladies as Hooded Bandits' - by Khalid Hasan) - but since the weekly insists on asking for money for its web-based edition (unlike India's Tehelka) - I cannot provide a link. But you know me ... Why would that prevent me from offering you a chance to read it through my favourite device, the free download?

What else was fun for me that evening? Meeting someone I had been anxious to meet for a while: Ms Kauser Sheikh, whom all of her Kinnaird College students have always spoken of in respectful and affectionate terms (and I have met quite a few of them over the years).

You're obviously wondering, what's the steroid connection? So, here it is before I put an end to this post: Pervez had arrived exhausted, stressed, and red-eyed ... with most of us assuming that the last bit was caused by the first two. But things got worse during and after the heavy meal that Saima and Maleeha took us to, at the rather imposing and very elitist Polo Lounge. And Pervez had to see an eye doctor the next morning, who diagnosed a condition that was/is a bit scary. He is now being treated with steroids. Imagine the power with which he would have pushed forth the point about 'abnormality', had he taken his steroids before the lecture. [Get well soon, Pervez. We love you!]

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who sat quiety through the wonderful discussion, since I had sneaked in uninvited, I want to thank the people who arranged this. Hopefully they will make more such sessions happen. Maybe Athena could offer this frequently.

23 October, 2006 16:03

Blogger bluecheese said...

Dear anonymous, consider yourself thanked. Where did you learn of the dicussion?

The Athena's Kitchen people are extremely supportive and I cannot thank them enough for offering the place free of charge for the discussion. If you leave your email address with Zak, or email it to me (maleeha at gmail), I will make sure to send you an invite for future dicussions.


25 October, 2006 02:49

Blogger bluecheese said...

Zak, the Polo Lounge may have been imposing and elitist, but where else would we have had a chance to listen to Pathanay Khan as it neared midnight? ;-)

And thank you. Without you, none of this would have ever happened. I love you :)

27 October, 2006 12:08


Post a Comment

<< Home