Monday, July 6, 2009

Where are Ears to Hear?

Lessons for the US from Pakistan's Literature and from First Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who said in an address May 16, 1950 at USA's University of California at Berkeley: "We hold our freedom dear as you do and we love peace..."

Excerpt about Ibne Safi: "The depth and variety of allusions in his 240 books was greater than any other writer in Urdu except Iqbal – and just like Iqbal, his works seem to be becoming more relevant with the passage of time...In (one) story, people are “disappearing” from Shikral and transported to a far-off island where they are being kept in cages."

IBNE SAFI (1928-1980) Posted Monday July 6, 2009 By Khurram Shafique The Republic of Rumi blogpost here

Ibne Safi is unique among fiction-writers of Urdu. He was equally popular in India and Pakistan (in India his books were also available in Hindi editions with the names of Muslim protagonists Faridi and Imran changed to Vinod and Rajesh).

This was quite an achievement if we remember that unlike some other writers of that time, Safi's purpose was to inspire patriotism (he wasn’t indifferent to religion, sovereignty, national identity and foreign policy, all of which were disputed between Pakistan and India who went on war more than once). That Safi was able to infuse patriotism on both sides of a war-torn border is remarkable (despite the promotional powers of Eon Productions, James Bond could never become acceptable for “political others” behind Iron Curtain).

Safi’s readers included intellectuals, cabdrivers, presidents and prime ministers (PM Nazimuddin and President Ayub Khan are said to be among his readers while Indian politician and later PM Lal Bahadur Shashtri presided over the launch of one of his books). Many who couldn’t read would listen to these stories being read out while the depth and variety of allusions in his 240 books was greater than any other writer in Urdu except Iqbal – and just like Iqbal, his works seem to be becoming more relevant with the passage of time.

In 1975, he wrote a series of novels about Shikral, a fictitious region based on FATA. In the story, people are “disappearing” from Shikral and transported to a far-off island where they are being kept in cages. “A battle of mind is fought alone,” says the hero Ali Imran. “One doesn’t need an army for that.” Can you see the relevance?
See also a much earlier essay on Ibne Safi: "Literature for thrill seekers literati" By Khurram Shafique (The Review - Daily Dawn 10 July 1997) Essays - English and Urdu here
From the Truman archives - Photos here were taken at the time of the following speech

US President Harry Truman with First PM of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan May 1950.

Posted Sunday July 5, 2009 By Khurram Shafique The Republic of Rumi

A Message to America

With feelings, I send this message from my leader as my personal note of felicitation to American friends on the 4th of July. (Khurram Shafique):

I believe that your people earnestly desire peace. We, who have just begun to live, can hardly wish for annihilation to overtake us when we have not yet taken our first few breaths. What can we do to maintain peace in the world beyond keeping our own house in order? It seems to us in the East that only those who can make war can primarily maintain peace. If they are in earnest about it, is their way not clear?

When we find strong and powerful nations boldly defying aggression, we are heartened by their stand but we ask ourselves two questions:

* Firstly, is aggression to be defied only where we dislike the aggressor or is aggression to be defied in all its forms, big and small, and wherever it may appear? If the first, we will be doing no honor to democracy or justice or freedom but to the principle of biological survival. If the second, we will be serving the cause of freedom everywhere and giving hope to new nations.
* Secondly, is defiance, however stimulating it may be, enough? Are there not vast fields for constructive effort by which alone can enduring peace be built up?

Yours is a great country with enormous resources of wealth, experience and technical skill. We, who believe in individual initiative, effort and enterprise do not believe that the era of private ownership is over. But we do believe that we have entered upon an era when capital should come out of its shell and move in the spheres of international social objectives and move on from exploitation to production.

Your country fought for its own independence once. You have been great exponents and the jealous guardians of freedom. Words from your Declaration of Independence and your constitution have inspired men in far-off lands. You have shown to the world what human effort can do for human welfare. You have no colonies and I believe no territorial ambitions. Has not your history therefore equipped you more than most nations to be among the leading architects of the enlightened internationalism of the future?

We Asiatics in general and Pakistan in particular are waiting to see what your answer will be. We do not know what you will say but should you decide that construction is the best way to defy destruction, you will find the people of Pakistan amongst your staunchest friends.

I have spoken to you with great candor and from the depth of my heart for we are a simple and frank people as you are; we hold our freedom dear as you do and we love peace, if possible, even more than you do.

First PM of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan,
University of California, Berkeley, on May 16, 1950.


Connie L. Nash said...

Another Word to the Wise!

I just saw this and were this not a long-time writer I've been following and respecting for years - I would want to wait and check out other articles before posting this...but this is exactly the place this needs to be under this particular set of posts by Khurram Shafique Sahib of Republic of Rumi...

U.S. Occupation of Iraq Continues Unabated

by Dahr Jamail
July 6th, 2009 | T r u t h o u t

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
- George Orwell

On July 4 in Baghdad, Vice President Joe Biden, who campaigned with Barack Obama on a platform of ending the occupation of Iraq, found himself in one of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s lavish buildings, the Al-Faw Palace. While one of Saddam Hussein’s thrones sat on the side of the room, Biden presided over a swearing-in ceremony for 237 soldiers, who were becoming US citizens. Speaking of the ceremony, Biden said, “We did it in Saddam’s palace, and I can think of nothing better. That S.O.B. is rolling over in his grave right now.” Perhaps the irony of both the scene and his statement were lost to Biden. For if Saddam Hussein was rolling in his grave, the reason would have less to do with one of his palaces being used as a naturalization center for US soldiers, and more to do with the fact that the US government has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq anytime soon...

...Let us watch how the Obama administration reacts to the referendum at the end of this month, since President Obama is clearly not interested in withdrawing from Iraq anymore than he is interested in a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

READ REST of article at this site:
**Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches - Visit Dahr Jamail's website **

Dahr Jamail's new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available for pre-order.

Pre-order book here

As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from "supporting our troops," politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

Order Beyond the Green Zone

"International journalism at its best." --Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah's Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

Khurram Ali Shafique said...

Thanks :). And gratitude.

Connie L. Nash said...

History buffs and those who missed the Vietnam era - there are so many roots that were planted during this time via US "leadership" and power - see Robert Scheer's Columns on McNamara (yet find balance because the are all too sobering!)

ReeBz said...

Thanks for this post.Like you i'm also a learner and eager to know more about Ibne Safi by your and Sir's help.For this purpose i'm clicking everywhere,i can find more about Safi.
i'm now planning to read any of his writings in detail to get a detailed idea about his writings.

ReeBz said...

Connie Do you have an account on face book :)?

Rashid said...

The question of Ibne Safi’s literary merit is still unsettled, but it seems as if the tables have already started tilting in his favor. One obvious reason is that those who used to read his novels, hiding themselves from their elders under bed-sheets, are now well into their forties and fifties. They are teachers, professors, writers and parents. But they are also old friends of Safi's like Dr Abul Khair Kashfi (died May 15, 2008), one of the few senior critics of that generation. The sum total of the positive bias of these people is that some of the prejudices against Safi have been lifted but an open acknowledgement of his literary greatness remains to be seen. Mr Kahild Javed (Dehli-India) gave the names of those great western writers who have created detective characters in their novels/works, this includes Edgar Elan Po (1809-1849), Zadig by Voltaire (1694-1778), Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), Human Comedy by Balzac 1799-1850), Adventures of Cabb Williams by William Garden , Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), A Gun for Sale by Graham Green etc. Many literary personnel generously admired Ibne Safi including Poet, Ajmad Islam Amjad, Columnist Hasan Nisar, Writer Bushra Rehman, Indian Poet/Writer Javed Akhtar (in an interview to Ms. Munni Kabir), Dr. Gopi Chand Narang etc.


Connie L. Nash said...

Rashid Ashraf Sahib:

Obviously you are extremely well-versed on international literature as well as Pakistani.
You expand this highlight of one amazingly prolific and compelling writer and bring in some interesting parallels. Now if just one of the genius Ibne Safi's books would be translated into English, perhaps many more would follow. On the other hand - what could possibly motivate the learning of Urdu more than the desire to read detective books of such literary quality - along with ethical, spiritual and prophetic values as well?

Thank You so much for your comment!

Rashid said...

I like to quote Dr. Christina Oesterheld:

You may wonder why of all writers I have chosen to deal with Ibne Safi, an author who is not discussed in any book on Urdu fiction - apart from a short mention in Salīm Akhtar’s Urdū adab kī mukhtasar tarīn tārīkh, (Lāhore, 1993) – a book which in itself is not taken seriously among historians of Urdu literature: “Although the established critics refused to call Ibne Safi a writer, it is difficult to ignore the author of about 250 popular novels. His special blend of thriller and fantasy proved very successful in creating suspense, and this made him extremely popular among readers of all ages and all tastes.”

Dr. Oesterheld further says:

" After all, influences from foreign writers are nothing to be ashamed of and are a common feature in literatures the world over. In the mid-twentieth century Reynolds had become obsolete, but other, more modern models had appeared, fore-most that of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Ibne Safi himself admitted to his admiration for Sherlock Holmes and for the books of E.S. Gardner and Rider Haggard (Ahmed: 1-2). We find tongue-in-cheek references to Sherlock Holmes in the narratives, for instance in Laraztī āg, where cImrān poses as a harmless simpleton who has read all Sherlock Holmes novels, or when Farīdī says to Hamīd in Jāpān ka fatna: “Now you will probably make fun of me again by comparing me with Sherlock Holmes!” (Ab tum ġāliban Śarlāk Homz vālī phabtī duhrā’oge.”, 54) In one scene, Farīdī is also shown to play the violin. There are references to Gardner and to Haggard’s novel She as well."



Rashid said...

Dear Nash!

I also request you to read my recent article on ibne safi published in business recorder on July 25, 2009: