On this crisp morning, I am staring at the partially constructed Freedom Tower. In fact, I look out at that tower every morning from my office window and every night from my bedroom window. Some days, it’s easier to not remember the horrific tragedy that struck our great nation…to just marvel at the soaring height and magnificence of this new tower. But other days, like today, it’s impossible to forget. It’s impossible to forget the countless innocent lives that were lost eleven years ago today. It’s impossible to forget the images of those iconic twin towers collapsing. It’s impossible to forget the grieving family members and friends of the victims. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by that cruel and inhumane act of terror eleven years ago. Om shanti, shanti, shanti.
If you have any interest in minority human rights in Pakistan and have the patience to sit through 30 minutes of mayhem, this news segment on Hindus in Pakistan is worth a watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06cUS2IcN7I&feature=share.
As most of us who stay abreast of the situation in Pakistan know, Hindus and other minorities face serious human rights violations in the country. Hindus are routinely attacked and harassed, homes and temples are looted and desecrated, and young girls are kidnapped, forcibly married off to Muslim men, and converted to Islam. Reports of Pakistani Hindus fleeing to India are becoming increasingly commonplace in the news these days.
Yet, Pakistani politicians, at least the ones on this segment, still have the gall to openly and completely deny that any problem exists at all. The strategy of denial is seemingly twofold on this broadcast. The first tactic is to depict these as isolated and “sporadic incidents” that can happen anywhere in the world, not just Pakistan. Here, I give credit to the anchor who is able to cite case after case of kidnappings that have recently taken place in Pakistan, thus effectively demonstrating the problem on the ground is greater than “sporadic.”
Once the first tactic is rebuffed, the second tactic is to not address the problem in Pakistan at all, but rather point the finger at India and the supposed plight of its Muslims. Granted, there has been communal violence in India. But to compare the situation of Indian Muslims, who, by the way, receive a government subsidy to make the Hajj pilgrimage, have separate civil laws permitting practice of religious and cultural customs, and benefit from state government reservations, to the situation of Pakistani Hindus, who can’t even legally marry under Pakistani laws or find justice in the country’s highest court (see the tragic case of Rinkel Kumari), is both laughable and ludicrous.
But I must say the best line comes almost 25 minutes into the segment when the anchor asks Mr. Naeem ul Haq, representing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, to explain the exponential decline of the Hindu population in Pakistan from approximately 15% during the time of partition to about 2% today. Mr. ul Haq’s response: “I guess Hindus are better at family planning than Muslims.” Even the anchor couldn’t hold back a guffaw at the stupidity of that remark.
In the wake of the horrific attack at the Sikh gurudwara yesterday, I share my deepest condolences with the families of the victims and the Sikh community at large. Last night, the Hindu American Foundation – of which I am a part – released the following statement:
We, at the Hindu American Foundation, join all Americans in shared shock, disbelief, and outrage over today’s tragic events that unfolded at the holy gurudwara, or Sikh temple, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin earlier today. At least six Sikh Americans are dead, several are injured, including a valiant police officer who killed the assailant, and we face another day of catastrophe that is as outrageous as numbingly familiar.
Dharma traditions–the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Hindus–hold non-violence and peaceful co-existence as paramount values. It is a cruel irony that Sikhs, donning the turban as among proud symbols of a spiritual mandate to serve humanity as defenders of dharma against all onslaughts, find themselves sought out and victimized by ignorant assailants on too many occasions.
We call on all Americans today to join Sikhs in mourning a senseless attack and to take this opportunity to not only learn about the sublime teachings of Sikh gurus, the Sikh faith, and the meanings of its external symbols, but also join hands to ensure that the gurudwaras remain sanctuaries of joyous worship and celebrated sharing of langar, or community meals, for generations to come.
Looks like the NY yoga community successfully battled its case. Tax department officials ruled that yoga is not a “true exercise.” Read more here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/yoga-ruled-true-exercise-state-tax-department-article-1.1123779