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6 Surprises for a Pakistani at Istanbul


Hagia Sophia - Istanbul

Traveling teaches lessons that cannot be learned through books or teachers. Back in October 2013, I stepped out of Pakistan, all alone, for the first time and the feeling was quite similar to that of a young adult asked to find his/her own ways in an unknown maze. It was a journey undertaken to cover the second Turk-Arab Youth Congress at Istanbul, Turkey as a student journalist and to draft reports of the sessions conducted over there. Unlike exchange programs and other international fellowships, during which students travel in a group, I happened to be the only Pakistani leaving for the congress. It was excitingly scary to give myself a chance for self-exploration. At the same time it was a comforting thought that Pakistan has brotherly relations with Turkey. As soon as I landed at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, surprises started to embrace me one by one.

1-Green Passport received with a warm smile
I was amazed to encounter a pleasant smile at the airport as the officer stamped my passport and found out that I was coming from Pakistan. Our passport is stigmatized (usually) and doesn’t receive a positive glare in many parts of the world. A welcoming gesture wasn’t expected, but I was fortunate to find friendly signs right from the beginning of my adventure to explore Istanbul within a week.

2-Turks won’t let you drag your luggage for yourself
Yes! They simply won’t- no matter how much you assure them that you can easily drag your luggage. Even upon my insistence the logistical team of the congress and even the students who were a part of the administration asked me to let them drag my luggage. They go an extra mile to make sure that their scale of hospitality doesn’t get disturbed.

3-They are good at speaking German and Arabic
They are not well-versed in English and other than the native Turkish language they are more eloquent in German and can comprehend Arabic better off. Even at the airport, people find it difficult to speak English. This gave me an idea that shopping wouldn’t be an easy task due to the language barrier.

4-They don’t let you get bored
They accompany you and talk to you while you are waiting for either a vehicle or a person. Turks are curious to know about Pakistanis and Pakistan. The sad part is that most of them don’t know that Islamabad is in Pakistan, but they do know a lot about Islamabad (at least).

5-The traffic – it’s awful
The first thing that came across my mind while sitting in the van and traveling for good 2 hours to reach the hotel from the airport was that – why does the Chief Minister of Punjab want to make Lahore look like Istanbul? In my opinion, Lahore already looks like Istanbul when it comes to traffic jams during inter-city traveling.

6-While shopping it’s a must to visit everyone’s shop if you are a Pakistani (even window shopping)
The interestingly hilarious surprises came my way during shopping. While I was out in the city with one of my friends from Lithuania, I forgot to take off the name identity tag provided by the congress which included my name on it. Shopkeepers started calling out my name to invite me in their shops and that is the perfect pronunciation of my name, I’ve heard from any stranger so for! (Maybe because my name is an Arabic word, they were quite familiar with it) Anyhow, upon knowing that I am a Pakistani they started offering discounts and gave additional nuts along with Turkish tea at a cafe. Almost all the shopkeepers wanted me to visit their shops as soon as they knew about my nationality.

Above all, there was a thumbs up each time I said: “I am from Pakistan!” Istanbul startled me with its unprecedented hospitality along with the amazing feeling generated through the authentic smiles that brightened their faces upon hearing the name of ‘Pakistan’.

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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Random Scape

 

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Reflections 2013


Dear Readers/Blog Visitors

Another year has come to an end. Alhamdulillah! (Praise be to Allah)

I would like to thank all those who have been visiting this small blog . This little effort attracted more than ten thousand views this year and made me a 3 year-old blogger (means three years of blogging). I took refuge in “blogging” as an immature writer who entered the University back in 2010 to complete an undergraduate degree in communication studies. This platform gave me a chance to practice “online journalism” and reach out to people belonging to diverse backgrounds, around the globe. It now has visitors from over 110 countries and around 500 followers.

2013 has been a very exciting year for me and broadened my perspective towards life in a positive way. It took me out of national boundaries for the first time.
This year reinforced my belief in an old adage; “work and worship never go unrewarded”.

I entered into 2013 with a powerful and wise thought by Tariq Ramadan.

TR

 I hope that 2014 unfolds in a better way. I wouldn’t take much of your time as new year‘s eve has evolved into a festivity that is cherished by people in various ways. All I want to achieve via this blog post, is to share some beautiful sayings that I came across or heard.

 The first one is by my teacher at University- Dr Bushra Hameedur Rahman (who is, perhaps, the ONLY teacher that has ever inspired me in life till now).

Dr Bushra

The second one is from a public figure and a writer (Yasmin Mogahed), author of Reclaim Your Heart (the best self-help book that I got my hands on during 2013).

Yasmin Mogahed

The last two quotes are from Nouman Ali Khan ( a person whose perspective towards Islam has helped me to understand my religion in a better way).

NAK

 

NAK-2

 

WISHING YOU ALL A BLESSED 2014! 

Kind regards
Fakiha 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Inspiration, Random Scape

 

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Academic Exchanges and Cultural Perceptions


VIEW : Academic Exchanges and Cultural Perceptions — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

I remember watching the famous British comedy television series “Mind Your Language” when I was about eight-years-old. It was broadcast in Pakistan during the 1990s. The show was set in an adult education college in London and focused on ‘English’ as a foreign language. The classes were taught by Mr Jeremy Brown, a role played by Barry Evans, who had to deal with a motley crew of foreign students. The student body ranged from an Italian chef to an unemployed Pakistani. There was also a stereotypical German, Anna Schmidt, who was so proud of her physical strength and was not afraid to punch her fellows. She was hard working and always bragged about ‘German efficiency’, but had a rigid personality. Anna was the only German that I knew till I was fortunate enough to get selected for a summer school on political communication at the University of Erfurt, Thuringia, Germany.

This summer school aimed at assessing the ‘Changing Role of Social Media in Muslim Countries’. It was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service — DAAD. It was a consequence of mutual cooperation with two Pakistani universities (University of the Punjab and University of Peshawar). This project is a brainchild of the Chair of Muslim Culture and Religious History, University of Erfurt and was initiated in 2012. Apart from its core aim, this academic tour provided a platform for interaction between students of different nationalities (the prime ones being German and Pakistani). I already knew that majority of the Germans do not hold a positive opinion about Pakistanis. Going there along with the scattered media representations of a character in an old sitcom was not rational at all. However, the childhood perception still prevailed. On the other hand, it was just a matter of days after reaching there to dispel the rigidity associated with Germans. During the period of 12 days, I realised that students belonging to other countries also knew little about my country. They were not reluctant to use the terms ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘conservative’ while describing their perceptions about Pakistanis before participating in the summer school. In addition to this, Pakistanis were of the view that bars and pub culture comprises of under-dressed drunkards as seen in movies. As for the Germans, they were not happy with the students who remained at distance from the bars at night. Misunderstandings on both the ends strengthened the case of academic exchanges that give a chance for person-to-person to communication.

Among the long list of inspirational aspects, the tranquil and serene environment of Erfurt was one. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the University of Erfurt provided the ideal ambiance, conducive for studying. Personally, I envied the German transport system and its rejection of automobile slavery. Even most of the professors used bicycles for short trips. With regards to the preservation of cultural heritage, Germany provides an unprecedented example. The visit to the German parliament (Bundestag) and Goethe House was audio guided. One did not have to rely on a tour guide for a very long time and was free to explore parts of the building by himself/herself. The respect for time and punctual behaviour of Germans was also laudable.

On our very first day we received a warm welcome and some goody bags containing pamphlets and other written material about the University of Erfurt. I flipped through some of the material and came across a glossy card that had the following words on it ‘I love Uni Erfurt’. After staring at the card for a while I gathered that students loving their educational institutions might be playing a decisive role in ensuring high literacy rates at Germany. The summer school participants did not get a chance to meet away from the university and discuss their aspirations in life. Luckily, Petersburg (a historical citadel at Erfurt) turned out to be an adequate venue to gain inspiration from each other. After two and a half hours of patient hearing, our bonding with each other had strengthened. During the conversation, I was startled to see how every single person was absorbed while listening to another participant. That was a much-needed activity to establish our association with each other. A visit to MDR television, FREI radio station and Deutsche Welle gave a clear picture of German media systems. Moreover, a visit to the headquarters of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) gave insights about political culture in Germany. With elections around the corner, I could hardly see any political advertising except for A3 size posters on poles in the streets.

Books or Internet was the only source through which I got to learn about Berlin before August 14, 2013. Fortunately, the summer school included a two-day tour of the capital city of Germany. This happened to be the second formal excursion trip of the summer school. Being the capital city, Berlin was quite different from Erfurt. Contrasts between the East and the West (before unification) also made it historically significant.

This summer school reiterated the need for academic exchanges that level the insurmountable cultural barriers. Not only do the students enhance their knowledge and discover new horizons of learning, but the stimulation of dialogue also aids in understanding each other. At least, they do not let us dwell on images like Anna Schmidt constructed by the media.

The writer is a student of Communication Studies at University of the Punjab. She blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com and tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

Originally published in Pakistan Daily Times: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C08%5C25%5Cstory_25-8-2013_pg3_6

Participants of Summer School on Political Communication

Participants of Summer School on Political Communication

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Inspiration, Random Scape

 

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Ramadan Mubarak


Ramadan 1

Ramadan 3

Ramadan 5

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Random Scape

 

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6 Reasons why Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Should Contest Elections


Taliban in Herat.

Taliban in Herat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those brutal savages and protagonists of international media have tagged the upcoming elections in Pakistan as the ones based on hypocrisy. What if they contest elections…

There are 6 good reasons I can think of

1) With the TTP in the electoral process turn out would be around 90%
Unfortunately, Pakistanis don’t like to caste their votes they like spending the holiday in other ‘important tasks’. With the awe and terror of TTP around maybe we’ll not remain the country with the ‘least turn out’ in elections.

2) Infinite security for polling stations
I won’t make exaggerated and ambitious claims about the fairness of the elections if TTP contest them, but I assume that they will guard the polling stations well. A conducive environment or a ‘must-vote’ situation might emerge.

3) Women might not be allowed to vote
Not a very optimistic sign, but this can prevent confident and strong women like Wahida Shah from coming tot he polling stations and creating humour in something as grave as elections.

4) What if you don’t vote for them?
This might have serious repercussions. Anyhow, facing them would teach you self defence against bricks and hand grenades. This exercise will help you throughout your lifespan.

5) An ‘Extremist Election’
Such a ‘term’ must be coined for democracy to get back on track. Only Taliban are eligible to coin this.

6) They’ll also be representing the students
The word ‘Taliban’ literally means ‘someone seeking knowledge’ or a group of students. According to the meaning, Taliban will be the largest student group in the country to reach polling stations on the ‘election day’.

Note: It’s a satirical post!

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Random Scape

 

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Catch them when they are Young!- Chinese Mini MBA Professionals


National emblem of the People's Republic of China

National emblem of the People’s Republic of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine a six year old child studying business administration and all the tactics to keep the accounts in order. This isn’t a mere figment, the Chinese have always been known for generating human capital. The generator of human machinery has left behind all other countries by awarding mini MBA and Finance degrees to children as young as 7 years.

Now the minors will learn how to count piles of money and the mechanics of business transactions. News reports suggest that this unusual course is sparking concerns about ‘money worship’ within the Chinese society and a materialistic mindset of the future generation.

Mini-MBA for Chinese kids-page001

Moreover, the courses are very expensive and only affording parents can allow their children to avail the opportunity. This doesn’t mean that majority of the Chinese population can’t afford these courses. According to the 2013 Hurun Report, a fifth of the world’s billionaires are from China. And now, some of these rich Chinese families are sending their young children to special training programs to help them learn and understand how to manage money, Chengdu Business Daily reported. The statistical trends and the overall scenario depicts the financial apprehension pruning in China. In my opinion the concern can be categorized as a renewed anxiousness because an average Chinese student already worries too much, works a lot and worships money as a consequence. The purpose is a lot different though, they want to work for the economic needs of their country as a whole and not for their individual pockets.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Random Scape

 

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Battered Bangla Blogosphere


The “flame war” within the ‘Bangla blogosphere’ got fierce as atheist bloggers were stigmatized by Islamists. The problem reached a volatile degree when in the month of February an anti-Islamist blogger was murdered. Recently, arrests of four online writers accused of religious insensitivity led to the closure of eight websites in Bangladesh. The issue of blogging fomented in Bangladesh after a group of online activists took to the streets of Dhaka in February to demand the death penalty for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Kader Mullah. He was sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan. Reportedly, the Islamists are demanding the enforcement of Blasphemy laws in the country due to the derogatory remarks passed by the bloggers against Islam. It is impractical on part of both the Bangla bloggers and the Islamists to place such demands even when there are explicit cyber laws present in Bangladesh. Implementation of laws in this context, is more significant than ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘respect for others’ belief system’.

The Bangladesh’s ‘cyber code of conduct’ bars online writers to denigrate any religion. The existing 2006 Right to Information Act prescribes 10 years of imprisonment and penalty up to Taka 1 crore for hurting people’s religious sentiments using the Internet. The century-old Penal Code, on the other hand, suggests two years of imprisonment besides penalty for defaming religion and hurting people’s religious sentiment. According to the Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan, the Bangla government has sprawled in websites to search for those violating the law. The four detainees who tried to defame Islam were among the 11 bloggers identified by the government for ‘instigating hate in the name of religion’.

Bangla blogo sphere -page001

A right act by the government is being assailed by the liberals. The advocates of ‘freedom of speech’ are forgetting the moral bounds and the condition of religious sensitivity while using the internet. Even the ‘netiquettes’ (internet-etiquettes) do not allow online users to remain indifferent to others’ culture, values and belief system. The atheist bloggers are accusing the government of taking sides with Islamists. They also allege that the Islamist bloggers are planning to march towards Dhaka to demand for the death sentence of anti-Islamist web writers as they had committed blasphemy. On the other hand, the atheists themselves had gathered in Dhaka’s Shahbag Square for over a month to demand toughest punishments for perpetrators of 1971 “crimes against humanity”. It is paradoxically perplexing that how will they categorize ‘denigrating other faiths’ if not under the heading of ‘crimes against humanity’. With the government already setting up a panel to monitor blasphemy on social media the Islamists shouldn’t be hasty as well. It is better for the Bangla blogosphere to accept this ‘stand off’ as a legal matter. Resorting to coercive measures is irrational.

Religious mudslinging has gained momentum since the controversial anti-Islam film on Youtube sparked worldwide protests. Bangladesh also joined the bandwagon of those countries that banned Youtube as an online protest against the hate film. This accentuates the need to carve-out a set of rules for ‘online interfaith dialogue’. Bangladesh can set an unprecedented example by implementing its cyber laws and bringing to book online mischief makers.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Random Scape

 

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