Saturday, October 31

Food: Tinseltown Click for more info

"But this is old news!" I hear you cry. "Tinseltown has been around for ages, I'm so cool 'cos I go there really late!". Well yes maybe, but what you might not know is that they've only gone and opened up a new bar down the road in Gants Hill.

It is a bit of a weird location to be honest. I'm guessing it was the cheapest place from which to serve an increasingly trendy (and no, that's not a compliment) Ilford massive, but still there's something about having it so far from a more central location that makes it feel a little out of place.

But despite the location it's still the same ol' Tinseltown we've grown to love (and hate). The food is still pretty good if very pricey: I don't think anyone around here will be paying a tenner for a burger and fries more than once a year. The service is okay, but only once you get a seat: for some reason they wouldn't let us sit down until ALL of our party arrived, which was a bit stupid seeing as how some were going to join us afterwards. It's clean and hip - oh and yes, it's still overrun with annoying students who should really be doing their homework or something.

So despite the quality, I don't think I'll be going back. Unlike in Farringdon or Hampstead there's way too many options around here, some within a two minute walk of Tinseltown, each offering better value and attracting a less annoying crowd. In fact that's one reason why I hope it does stick around; hopefully it'll serve to keep the other, much better, places chav-free.

Friday, October 30

Film: Up Click for more info

Up is a pretty sad film. It's even quite dark at some points. This doesn't make it a failure though; quite the opposite in fact, as the film goes a long way to show that Disney-Pixar doesn't have to always be about the happy-happy-joy-joy.

So it's different then, an evolution on the typical stuff these two studios produce? Well yes, although I don't think Disney-Pixar have ever had trouble with being original. Of course we still have the solid (and for me largely unexpected) plot, the funnies and the bits that make you cry (unless you're manly like me). I'd actually say that there's more poignancy in this than there usually is in this genre. This quality follows through to the presentation; the level of animation, although not leaps and bounds over what we've seen previously, certainly shows how CGI is coming into its own. On a related note, the 3D was of the most subtle and effective I've yet seen; I didn't notice my glasses at all, and had no problems with eye-strain like I usually do with the technology.

So yes, once again top marks to Disney-Pixar. Up is brilliant and thoroughly recommended.

Wednesday, October 28

Link of the Day Click for more info

Conflict in Pakistan

Despite being accused of being not very patriotic toward the place I consider "back home", I do like to think I have some sort of connection to Pakistan. I won't argue my case here, but I will admit to feeling a pang of sadness after seeing Boston's current Big Picture.

Monday, October 26

Link of the Day Click for more info

'Younger wife' for marital bliss

In short age (the guy should be at least 5 years older) and intelligence (the girl should be smarter) are factors which contribute to a happy family.

Of course this puts me in a bit of a quandary. Although the age thing is easy enough, finding a 26 year old PhD is less so.

Tuesday, October 20

New Music

Aahun Aahun - Love Aaj Kal

Not sure how I missed this one, but it's so modern filmi I'm happy to have it now.

Kise De Naal Pyar - Miss Pooja

I've been so off the bhangra scene I'm not even sure whether I like this or not. It does the job and I'm sure Rishi Rich knew what he was doing.

Sunday, October 18

Faruk and Fazila

"I can't believe..." has been the most commonly used phrase over the past week or so, albeit in different contexts. First it was "I don't believe you" when Faruk announced his engagement, then it was a "I can't believe Faruk is getting married" which then transformed into a "I can't believe I'm at Faruk's wedding". And to be honest, I can't believe I'm here writing an ode to Faruk and his new wife Fazila.

Faruk is one of my oldest friends. And since I've only known him for four years or so, I mean that in the age sense. But that's not why none of us were taken aback by his awesome news; no it was more to do with his till then attitude towards the whole game of marriage. In short, he was quite cynical about the whole thing and pretty much dead set against it. Well, for himself at least: for the rest of us marriage was something to be pursued (even though he presented it as a rite of passage more than anything else).

But Faruk wasn't (isn't?) just wise with regards to marriage. His words, behaviour and manner all reveal a lifetime of experience in many areas; the most important being when dealing with other people. He'll listen, he'll respond and yes, he'll even manipulate (for good and evil) with an ease many others struggle with. In short Faruk is a people person and in many ways the lynch-pin that binds this particular group of friends together.

We've only known that Faruk was even getting married for a week so I can't say I know too much about Fazila. Initial impressions are that she's an attractive and friendly girl; someone who complements Faruk both in personality and temperament as well as in the practical. Without making it sound too clinical it's clear that they both have the same idea about what a marriage is as well as what their respective roles are in achieving that.

But at the end of the day it's the fact that Faruk is getting married at all that is still the biggest shock to the system. After all: if Faruk can get married then pretty much anyone can.

Food: Zaika Click for more info

A classy Indian right at the start of High Street Kensington, Zaika also made the perfect wedding venue for the 100 or so guests today.

Of course this probably means that this review is a bit invalid; the food was a fixed set menu so I can't really comment on the choice on offer. What we got was superb though with the various curries bursting with flavour and the side naans and rice of a similar high standard. It was all a bit heavy though - it was impossible for me to eat as much as I usually did and even hours later you can still feel it in your belly.

The service was top-notch and the decoration fabulous, although I get the feeling that the place has a somewhat muted vibe under normal circumstances.

All in all a very nice place to dine in - other than that I can't really comment on price or anything... But I guess that just means I'll have to go back one day in order to complete this review.

Muslim Weddings: A Dress Code

Now I would never call myself an expert at wedding planning. Yes, I seem to go to many, but then it's not like I've organised my own or anything. Sigh, moan etc.

There is one thing that I am clear about though, and that's what people should wear to Muslim weddings, particularly those here in the UK.

Muslims are quite lucky when it comes to weddings. Almost by religious dictation they're forced to have two discrete events: the wedding ceremony and on a later day (more often than not the day after), the valima. This natural splitting of the nuptials allows for various logistical practicalities; for example it's usually the girl's side who pays for and hosts the wedding, while the guy deals with the valima. Both groups therefore get to have their own party in the style (and with the cost) they find to be most appropriate.

Most Muslims in the UK have a "home" culture as well as their western one, and the two events also allows us to demonstrate that too, which is where my point about dress comes in. Due to the serene and religious nature of the wedding ceremony it makes sense to make this event more of a traditional affair where guests wear clothes which either demonstrate where they or the couple getting married come from. For most of us from the sub-continent, this means saris, shalwar kameez, sherwanis, lenghas... You get the picture. Men should NOT wear suits.

The valima on the other hand allows guests to show their other side. For men this now does indeed mean a suit; for women it's slightly trickier since not many tend to feel comfortable in dresses. Having said that saris still go with suits so it's less of an issue for them.

Why is this so important? Surely everyone should wear what they're comfortable in? Well put simply it's all about consistency. No matter how hot everyone looks individually, there's something really odd and off-putting about having a photo with some guys wearing suits while the others wear traditional - especially if they're wearing the opposite to what the groom is. But further than that it's also about vibe and appropriateness; trying to establish what particular facet of the marriage we're trying to celebrate. You're supposed to nick the groom's chappal, not his shoes.

Before you write me off as being a total nutcase it's worth mentioning that this has never been a problem at any of the non-Muslim Asian weddings I go to. Unless you're not brown (and therefore excused, but even then not really since you should have been briefed already) you would always - without question - wear traditional at the religious ceremony, and be sombre and muted while you're at it. On the other hand at the reception the men would then be in suits, with the women in dresses (or traditional if that's not an option) and there'll be dancing and music and the rest of it too.

I get that us Muslims are a reserved bunch and I'm not saying that valimas should have dancefloors, but the fact that we can't get something as simple as a dress code right disappoints me - but not as much as the fact that we don't even care about these things. Perhaps it's laziness or selfishness; personally I think it's just yet another indication of how we, as Muslims, uniquely manage to struggle with expressing and consolidating the various identities we own.

My rule of thumb guys? Wear traditional to the wedding and leave your suits for the valima.

Saturday, October 17

Film: Couples Retreat Click for more info

After what seems like laboured attempts at keeping up the film-going, you would have thought I would be a bit more discerning over what I'd watch at the cinema nowadays. Couples Retreat is hardly the best looking flick currently on offer, but seeing as it has both Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis I pretty much had no choice but to check it out.

Call it well deserved, but I did end up suffering for my shallowness. Despite a promising start (one worth watching for the brilliant Colin Baiocchi alone) the film ironically falls flat once all the respective couples land at Eden Resort.

Despite a couple of laughs (most of which are actually following on from previously funnier films by the some of the same crew) the acting is poor and the production and editing flimsy. Definitely one to miss, even if you are a big fan of Kristen and Kristin.

Friday, October 16

Family Orientation

It goes without saying that different people are orientated in different ways. Be it work, friends, some hobby or religion, there is at least one thing which determines the decisions we make and the general way in which we live our lives. Most will know what's important to them and what priorities these various orientations take.

Most people, however, will always describe themselves as being family orientated. In fact I'm not sure I know anyone who wouldn't claim this about themselves. On the other hand the same people would disagree that being family orientated is something as vacuous, latent and so easily shared by everyone. Which in turn leads me to ask: are people as family orientated as they think they are? Is it a case of everyone being too scared of appearing inhuman if they didn't make such a claim? Perhaps being family orientated is something seen as universally good and desirable (when in actual fact it doesn't have to be)? It's be interesting to see how many of us, whether we have have families or not, actually allow family to impress on our decisions. But how do we figure out if someone is family orientated or not?

There are obvious indicators. For example they will spend a lot of time with their own families and treat them as friends as well as relatives and it's also clear where their priorities lie. But I reckon some people can be family orientated without necessarily demonstrating these qualities; perhaps they don't actually have a family, or you don't get to see them all together? What follows is a list of the qualities which I think a family orientated person has:

  1. Need. Being family orientated implies a non-trivial level of co-dependency on others. This means feeling comfortable with leaning on others as well as freely allowing others to rely on you too. This rules out independent people.
  2. Tolerance. Being family orientated means putting up with the bad, letting things slide and not bailing after a disagreement. Preferring your own company to that of others probably means that you're not family orientated.
  3. Consideration. Realising that almost everything you do, no matter how small, has a direct or indirect effect on your family. This means making sure your family is financially and emotionally secure, as well as trivial gestures like making an effort to eat together, keeping the noise down after hours or indeed synchronising your sleeping habits with the rest of the house.
  4. Sharing values. Someone who is family orientated is likely to agree with a lot their family has to say on matters. Likewise they will make an effort to represent them in the best way possible as well as recognise that there is a collective reputation to uphold.
  5. Priorities and focus. Someone who is family orientated will make everything to the benefit of their family. So a man would get qualified and get a good job, but only to provide for his family rather than some personal sense of achievement or gain.
  6. Simpleness. Someone who is family orientated will be content and happy with the simple things in life, especially in a world where there are sexier things on offer. They don't need adventure and excitement to feel fulfilled and neither do they need to be particularly outgoing. In fact they probably prefer nights in than out.
Bear in mind that not having any or all of the above doesn't imply that someone doesn't care of love their families. This is less of an emotional assessment and more of an analysis of how someone who can be considered family orientated behaves and what makes them tick. As I stated at the start being family orientated (at least how I describe it above) isn't necessarily a universal right way of behaving and in my opinion there is nothing wrong with being otherwise.

However I do think that some who claim to be family orientated aren't as mush as they think they are. But rather than accuse them of having misplaced and incorrect priorities, the only real comment I have is that they may be misrepresenting who they truly are both to themselves and others.

Thursday, October 15

New Music

Down - Jay Sean feat. Lil' Wayne

Just to be clear: I'm only listening to represent and support our home boy. Down down down.

Tuesday, October 13

The Lion King Click for more info

The Lion King is a definitive Disney classic. Packed with originality, story, colour song and dance, it's exactly what makes a Disney film a Disney film. It's also what makes it ripe for theatre adaptation, and it was with high expectations that I went to see the live show this evening.

In terms of spirit, they seemed to have pulled it off. Using a combination of acting and puppetry, much like Avenue Q in fact, they portrayed both the animal and human qualities which the Disney characters had in spades. The story was also still there, if a bit extended to fill the time a theatre production needs to. Quite fittingly there was more cultural dance and singing than there would be in other productions of this type, and at times it felt like a bit of a variety show (think Afrika! Afrika!) if not of that particular quality.

The stage was a mixed bag - not in terms of entertainment and imagery, but more in how simple and sparse, yet clever it was. There was no set per se, with most backgrounds either simply hanging from the ceiling or smartly being represented by more actors. The more dramatic times were implemented with an almost magically morphing stage that seemed to have hundreds of sliding floors, hidden panels and structures popping out of the ground. I was quite impressed by the technical achievement.

Overall though I felt that something was missing. Perhaps it's because I'm used to the cartoon but I didn't find the human-animals as likeable as their animated counterparts, and neither did I find myself becoming endeared to the dancing and even, shockingly, the songs. If I'm being honest I'm not quite sure the singing and music were of a high enough standard for any production let alone The Lion King.

But as a technical achievement, what with the puppetry and transforming stage, I liked The Lion King. It didn't quite hit the spot like the cartoon did, but certainly wasn't a bad thing to see on stage. Ultimately though, I do go to the theatre for magic and awesomeness, and in those terms The Lion King was kinda lacking, especially when faced with the myriad of choices London offers.

Monday, October 12

Film: DeenTight Click for more info

I managed to catch the London screening of DeenTight at RichMix, Bethnal Green this evening. The director was there, as was Amir Sulaiman and other faces from the faith music scene.

The film itself was okay: it documented what current Muslim hip-hop stars thought of their practise of the genre, and whether it conflicted with their religion or not. At 74 minutes it wasn't that long and I didn't nod off during any part of it (a good sign I think). The aim of the film was not to provide any formal scripture-backed fatwa on whether hip-hop (or even music in general) was halal or haraam, but to record whether or not the artists themselves were conflicted. A surprising amount were so this was quite an eye-opener, however I felt a bit let down by the shallowness of both the probing of the film-makers and the responses they received. For instance, although music in general (as opposed to hip-hop in particular) was considered by some to be impermissible, we never actually left the realm of hip-hop. I felt this was a bit limiting since the permissibility itself was always tied to the (sometimes anecdotal) effects of hip-hop rather than anything more fundamental.

But on the whole it was a good way to open the debate on Islamic hip-hop if not Islamic music in general, something which seems well overdue if the numerous claims of Islam being fundamentally a part of hip-hop from its inception are to be believed.

Sunday, October 11

Zainab and Mobashir

I like how everyone is different. It's our differences that what makes us interesting and so if we were all the same things would get very boring, fast.

That said, I do wish that there were more women around like Zainab. She seems to come from a time when acting like a woman (you know: polite, understanding, tolerant, giving and patient) wasn't something to be ashamed of or a sign of weakness. It seems that these qualities have no place in this day and age, so it's always refreshing to see them in a person.

But her rare qualities were reflected in the tough time she was having finding a guy worthy enough to receive them. None seemed willing to give back, but worse than that never seemed to appreciate the girl they were interviewing for who she was. But instead of giving in and changing herself, she kept her patience. And you know what? That patience paid off eventually. In spades.

I've not met Mobashir myself, but from what I hear he's pretty perfect and that not in a sleazy dishonest way. But aside from mutual personalities the match up seems pretty spot on, them coming from the same part of the world even though they'll be making their home elsewhere (where they get to walk on beaches of all things. Jeez). I suspect that it's a coupling single people won't help but aspire to.

I'll say it again; if there were more women around like Zainab, particularly in London or even the UK, I'd be snapping one up straight away (provided she'd have me, of course). Damn Atlantic Ocean and all that.

Saturday, October 10

Food: Maramia Cafe Click for more info

Maramia seems to be grabbing a lot of mindshare lately. It's the place to go for authentic Palestinian food, and if not that then for the meat at least. They cater for large parties and are said to be relatively well priced.

Personally I found it to be a bit of a let down. Yes it is cosy: they hosted around 20 of us last night and although we were seated on a long straight table, the layout of the place is such that it's easy to move around and switch crowds. The service is pretty incredible, although something that becomes more of a necessity than favour once the food comes: although the starter of our set meal was buffet the main, a whole lamb roast in rice, pretty much needed someone to carve it for us.

I'm not a big meat eater myself. Well technically I just don't like meat off the bone let along a carcass, so I didn't really see past the initial gimmick of the way the food was presented to us. It was okay but hardly one of the best meals I've had, although the savoury meat pastries were all kinds of awesome. Thinking back I would have been happier just sticking to that.

The biggest disappointment was the price, the whole thing coming to fifteen per head for the starters, main and a soft drink. This is brilliant value for those with big appetites (there was plenty of food left) but for someone who eats a normal amount it's difficult to justify the price.

So I guess I'm one of the few (the only?) who hasn't become an instant fan of the place. That said, as a place to party it's a pretty good place to hang out.

Friday, October 9

New Music

The Blueprint 3 - Jay-Z

I pretty much had to check out the whole album after hearing Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys), but it gave me a chance to grab Run This Town (feat. Rihanna and Kanye West) too.

Knock You Down - Keri Hilson feat. Kanye West and Ne-yo

Despite vowing never to add Ne-Yo to my tracklist this track is so good I decided to allow it. Keri Hilson hasn't been the big hit I thought she'd be but Knock Me Down is more than enough. I love the change of pace.

Mauja Hi Mauja - Jab We Met

Since Bollywood/Desi music is so dire at the moment I thought I'd take the opportunity to look back to any tracks I might have missed over the past few years. The first is this all the way from 2007, a fun track from an OST I had already checked out when the film came out.

Om Shanti Om - Om Shanti Om

Specifically Ajab Si, Dhoom Taana and Deewangi Deewagni. I'm actually surprised I didn't get them back in 2007(!).

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Dance Pe Chance (of course) and Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte. Bollytastic.

Desi Girl - Dostana

Super cheesy but again fun stuff from the hit 2008 comedy.

Marjani Marjani - Billu Barber

Although I didn't get to watch this myself this year, I've heard it at least twenty times at weddings and mendhis throughout the season. A definite floor filler.

Thursday, October 8

Film: Zombieland Click for more info

Hilarious and sometimes scary coming-of-age zombie movie about a boy who meets a guy who then go on to meet a girl (and her sister). Yes it's action-packed with all the ingredients that make a good zombie flick, but where this film really shines is in the laughs and, to a lesser extent, the teen angst (with a totally relate-to-able main character).

It's done with quality too; there's no cheapness or tackiness here, or at least none that I could notice. The script and execution are fantastic, with the two guys Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson pretty much stealing the show.

Anyway there's not much more I can say about the film except that I totally recommend you all go watch it.

Link of the Day Click for more info

The 10 Hottest Muslim Women

First let me thank Mash for the link. Mash sent me this link a few weeks ago, but I've been sitting on it for a while. I told Mash that I would credit him once I got around to posting it here though.

To be fair it's not a very good list both in presentation or content. Some of them are definite eyebrow raisers (in terms of bizarreness rather than anything else), and the fact that they posted a picture of Naomi Campbell instead of Iman kinda says a lot about how quality this list is. Still, there are some surprises: I had no idea Eve was a Muslim for instance. Otherwise the only entries of interest are Fawzia Mohamed (at 5), Yasmeen Ghauri (at 4) and Noureen Dewulf (at 2). My personal pick from the list is Queen Rania (at numero uno), but it's pretty slim pickings all round.

Actually the fact that they seem to have missed out anyone from the Indian subcontinent (Katrina Kaif? Hello?) shows how blinkered and misguided the list is. Perhaps next time they should concentrate more on the respective lifestyles of these women instead of how exotic their name sounds? Give me The 10 Hottest Practising Muslim Women (something like this maybe? Thanks to Mash for that link too) over this tripe any day.

Oh and thanks to Mash for the link. I can honestly say that I would not have seen this link if Mash hadn't sent me it.

Wednesday, October 7

Integrating Islam

As Muslims, we're often told that the fundamental difference between ours and that of more "regular" faiths is that Islam isn't merely a religion but a way of life. Personally I've never really understood in what particular way Islam is more life-encompassing than Christianity (say). In terms of being visibly led by scripture this can (and often is) demonstrated by other religions too; perhaps not as much but I'd say that's more to do with the relative age and exposure to secular influences than any fundamental differences. Generally the separation of religion and state is a subjective decision made in spite of religious teachings rather than because of it.

Regardless of whether Islam is unique or not in this way, I think it's worth discussing the ways in which Islam (or any religion) can be integrated into our lives. As with anything there are different depths and views on what integration actually entails, and I offer these not in any particular order of correctness or iman/faith (although possibly in terms of increasing complexity). Oh, and look: I even have pictures.

Let's say that a normal irreligious life looks something like the following:

It's a massive simplification both in terms of number of boxes and how they relate to each other, but generally we're able to split our lives into boxes like those ones above.

The simplest way to introduce Islam to such a set up is to simply make it another box, in a horizontal manner:

Someone with the above approach would pray and go to the mosque (perhaps regularly), fast during Ramadhan and the rest of it. However when making decisions about work or socialising they wouldn't really consider Islam or allow their practise of it to influence them - so they may miss a prayer if they're busy playing football or watching a film say. Religion is for a certain time and place, although since those times and places could be pretty often and big this isn't necessarily about side-lining Islam.

Next, consider the person who "attaches" Islam to each of these boxes in a more vertical manner:

For those in this group, they try to consciously adapt their lives and surroundings to what their understanding of Islam dictates. So they'll cancel a meeting at work if it means missing Asr, or delay going out till they're done praying. A social event means something visibly Islamic - a talk or Eid gathering say. They're always asking themselves "what would Islam want me to do", and try to answer that question based on knowledge and possibly general acceptability - so for example even if they don't smoke (and find it impermissible) they won't mind having a puff of shisha since their local alcohol-free (and so, halal) hang-out offers it. They're also a pretty visible bunch - they'll dress in a way which might uniquely identify them as Muslim and they'll continually mind their Islamic Ps and Qs and qualify all their interactions with fellow brothers and sisters with pre and post ASA/3As, jazaks and iAs and never forget to text all their Muslim pals with a Eid text on the two big days, and their hobbies almost exclusively include Islamic activities (or secular activities which have been "islamified") with almost exclusively Muslim friends, while their biggest factor in choosing a country to visit on holiday is whether or not they serve halal food or not.

The third group are similar to the above but slightly different in a very important way. For them, Islam is a pervasive force which influences their lives in subtle, yet just as strong manner:

The biggest difference between these guys and that of the previous group is the level of explicitness of God awareness. In this sense any changes made to their lives due to Islam is latent and even subconscious; they don't explicitly ask themselves what's islamically right or wrong but already know based on some kind of internal abstract and finely honed compass guiding them. They won't subscribe to an islamic mortgage just because it's been rubber-stamped by a mufti, and although they'll enjoy the company of their Muslim community that would be just as much as other more secular activities. When they pray they don't necessarily make a point of it - for them it's a standard daily chore just like having three meals a day is and as such they won't allow scheduled prayer to stop them from living their lives but rather find a way to do both in conjunction (by simply and discreetly praying on the street for example). Reading in congregation isn't something restricted to fancy and special occasions but something quite normal and everyday. They may not offer you a literal peace greeting when seeing you but would offer you the stuff in their kind words and conversation anyway. And finally for them pervasiveness works both ways and where their Islam can influence their policies and opinions, they will also allow what would appear to be secular opinion and philosophy (presented by their non-Muslim friends) to influence their Islam, but only within the bounds they understand there to be.

In reality Muslims are probably a mix of all three depending on the need and context:

So perhaps at work Islam takes a more explicit and formal approach, while at home and with friends it's more pervasive and transparent. Nonetheless I think it's important for us to know exactly what kind of influence Islam has in our respective lives, perhaps to know whether or not we're practising in the way we wish to but more importantly so that we're aware of just how much the religion does dictate who and what we are in order for us to make any of the changes if it's not in the way we first thought it was.

EDIT: Although I think most of the above is observation rather than advise, I'll qualify this with IANAS anyway.

Vindicated by Esquire! Click for more info

Once again my awesome taste in women is vindicated by a leading gents mag; this time as Esquire announces Kate Beckinsale as the Sexiest Woman Alive (well in 2009 anyway). For those of you not keeping track, I called her almost three years ago. In some ways her making my list was a precursor to all she's achieved since.

A similar thing happened with Kristin Davis, and it's nice to have my taste in women confirmed like that. So yes, remember ladies: make into Shak's Choice and perhaps you'll be topping charts too. You know you all want to.

Sunday, October 4

Sharier and Syra

Sharier is my oldest friend. By that, I mean he is the person I've known the longest with whom I keep some kind of regular contact with. As such he's one of the few people in my life who I have seen grow and change over a vast range of ages and phases, as has he me.

There are a few constants with Sharier though. The first: that he's a blumming clever chap, and an unashamed one at that. He taught me not to apologise for or to hide intelligence, and that displaying it didn't mean you were showing off or putting other people down (I do that all by myself). Related to this is the importance he places on increasing knowledge; that it's not a waste of time to learn new things. Finally, and perhaps ironically on the surface, that having intelligence didn't imply that you had to use it; that it wasn't a waste of talent to aim for a modest or relatively uneventful (yet totally fulfilling) life. It wouldn't be too wrong of me to blame/thank him for my academic success as well as my lack of world changing ambition.

Seeing him married is, of course, the latest phase I've seen him in. Him and Syra work well together clearly best friends as well as husband and wife. Syra has this uncanny ability to easily be both modest and reserved but friendly also, a balance that many of us struggle to find nowadays.

It's great to see them together, and (if I could make this personal) they both demonstrate an image of what I hope my own marriage one day to look like.

Saturday, October 3

Of Sunni and Shia

In their classically open-minded and quasi-revolutionary style, my local mosque, QMT, invited a prominent Shia scholar (whose name escapes me right now, for shame) in order to open some dialogue, discuss unity and most importantly educate the existing attendees (excursively sunni) on his particualr school of thought.

The pitch was as expected: we were told how the basics were the same (so we have the same obligations, the same Quran and, effectively the same respect for prominent figures) but just differed on implementation. This it turn was due to the more deeper Shia understanding that the opinion of the blood relatives of The Prophet take precedent over that of anyone else.

Although I found the talk to be pretty engaging, it seemed that the theme was more an abstract one about tolerance and understanding rather than one which would tackle some of the more common and concrete misunderstandings those of the sunni persuasion have. Don't get me wrong; I totally believe that tolerance, understanding and evidence backed opinion making are key to defeating any kind of prejudice let alone the intra-Islamic type, and further that most Muslims have to be taught that. I just found the labouring of the point a bit tiring.

The question and answer session was a let down; most people coming forward were more interested in telling us their life stories and how their best friends happened to be Shia than asking anything of any substance. My question regarding whether there were any sub-sects within the Shia who would be considered deviant by the rest was answered by a pretty generic "we shouldn't judge the correct whole by the misbehaving minority", something which I felt kinda went against the message given in the rest of the talk.

But overall it was a good, solid talk and one which feels like the start of a trend being set. Although there's a lot of sunni-shia relations in the professional and social world, it's pretty vital to have the same friendliness in the mosque too if any kind of mutual respect and unity is to be achieved. I'm hoping that there'll be a mirror of today's lecture, one with a sunni scholar talking at a shia mosque, that will not only give balance to today's session but also get us to the goal everyone present this afternoon wanted to achieve.

Friday, October 2

Film: Zibahkhana (Hell's Ground) Click for more info

As part of their current Redo Pakistan series of exhibitions and events, Other Asias hosted a screening of what they describe as Pakistan's first zombie movie. Now I'm pretty sure that this isn't actually the case but since I'd also never admit to knowing much about Pakistani cinema I'll take their word for it.

It was pretty standard fare, which for some reason made it all the more enjoyable and impressive. We were presented with a bunch of delinquent youths (who collectively lied to their parents and got stoned; you know the usual) who get lost on the way to a pop concert (where else?) only to be found by a bunch of zombies. Oh and a murderous psycho in a burka. We're not sure whether he was a zombie also (I don't think he was). Heck we're not sure whether he was a he at all (I think he was).

So we have cheap dialogue (although I did laugh out loud when an aunty character asked whether one of the girls was married yet), cheap makeup and cheap acting all of which add up to a pretty decent, albeit hammy, production. I found the whole thing to be deliciously shallow, although it was explained to me afterwards how it was actually a commentary on particular class issues currently being seen over in Pakistan. I obviously missed out on its hidden depths.

Either way I thought it was quite fun. Recommended, especially if you get to watch it under an intimate (and possibly creepy) railway arch like we did.