Shaheryar Ali

It’s a very sorry state of affairs. For more than 2 years now I have been writing about the dangers of “intellectual hegemony”, “selective radicalism” and “double discourse on Rights” being prevalent in Pakistani corporate media as well in Pakistani blogging community.  The Pakistani blogging community though is generally better than the media corporations but unfortunately is plagued by the same myopic intolerance when it comes to any dissenting views regarding the myths about Pakistan, its origin, its democracy and its national interests as defined by Right-of center media guru or a section of ex-Stalinists now turned liberals or centrists intellectuals.

 

The freedom of expression always is the freedom to express views which are deemed controversial. The demand for freedom of expression always arises for the marginalized opinion, one which is not acceptable to the state, rulers, moral vanguard of the society etc. It’s precisely this very right to differ, to challenge the dominant views that creates the issue of freedom of expression in the first place. Its so because, any other opinion one which operates within the realms of what is “acceptable” to the society or state in never in danger of suppression. Noam Chomsky for example points out that if we conceive freedom of expression as something for opinions which are acceptable than even Hitler was in favor of such freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is explicitly the freedom to be able to differ; to express opinions deems offensive, those which challenge the “fashionable conformities” weather political, nation or social in origins.

 

hamid-mir-media-bullyFew days back we saw one of the most heinous witch hunts in intellectual history of Pakistan. It started with attacks on the section of Pakistani columnist who have a Left wing background and who took a stand in support of democratic transition in Pakistan and tried to put forward a different perspective on Judicial Movement, war on terror and media activism. These people are a very tiny minority within Pakistan’s booming media business. Their view by no stretching of imagination can be called a dominant view in Pakistani media. The friction between these intellectuals and their opponents on the right side of political spectrum are ideological tracing its roots in the right-left polarization in Pakistan during 60s and 70s. The few left wing intellectuals who have survived the McCarthyist witch hunts by state and owners of media houses are now being put on media show trials by Pro-Taliban and Pro-Army TV anchors and columnists. Every abuse and every allegation from being an alcoholic to being a traitor have been put on them.

 

What these people themselves have been doing in media is nothing but shameless propaganda in name of news coverage. Mr Haroon Rashid who is on the forefront of this witch hunt against the tiny progressive element in Pakistani media , has been distorting facts and history in his columns but with a shameless face gives lectures about “modesty” and “tolerance’ to the victims of these witch hunts. I can go on and on about his academic honesty but I find it waste of my time. Simple two things can expose his dishonesty. In one of his Mccathry inspired columns against the socialist/ex-socialists intellectuals he shamelessly wrote that “Reds opposed Pakistan, once it came into being they never get out of shock”. It’s a shameless blatant lie. Communist Party of India and the Progressive Writers Association supported the demand of Pakistan. They even collaborated with Jinnah, the election manifesto of ALIML in 1946 elections was written by a communist Danial Latifi and many communists joined Muslim League as policy. Ironically it was the mother party of Mr Haroon Rashid Jamate Islami opposed Pakistan and Maudaudi compared it to “cooking of Pork” but Pakistani right forgets these historical details. After that I remember reading one of his columns against the great Urdu poets Ahmad Faraz. Every abuse and every label that Mr Rashid could think on was put on the great poet who recently died. In order declare Faraz infidel and traitor Mr Rashid quoted a verse which questioned the validity of divine revelation. Taking on the verse Mr Rashid went on and on to condemn Ahmad Faraz to great extant. What was ironic was the simple fact that the verse was not of Ahmad Faraz but of another progressive poet Mr Zaheer Kashmiri. Mr Aser Chohan wrote a column to clear the facts but Mr Haroon Rashid never had the decency to either apologies or retract the defamatory remarks.

 

Hamid Mir, who sadly has become a stain on the name of his great father, Prof. Warris Mir who was himself a victim of Jamate islami sponsored witch hunt in the 80s has taken this witch hunt to new heights. On his popular programme The Capital Talk he and Mr Ansar Abbasi , the pope of pro-Taliban media establishment  took on the blog “Let US Build Pakistan” and put baseless allegation on it without any evidence. The language they used rings bells of alarm to anyone who is familiar with these crooks and their methods. It was said that the “blog is trying to create misunderstandings between Army and Media”. This is an open threat. It was said the blog is being run from presidential palace .etc etc. This is the most absurd thing which I have ever heard. Who has given these people the right to put baseless allegations without giving any proof? Let US Build Pakistan for the whole period of Lawyers Movement kept supporting the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan, even when the PPP government was using delaying tactics. The photograph of his lordship the most honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Chuadhry was prominently and permanently on display on side bar of the web site with explicit declaration: “This blog supports the restoration of deposed judges”. I bet this also came from the presidential palace?

 

Will Mr Chief Justice take any interest in the law of Press council and rules of engagement by the media barons? Or every ones name, reputation and character is at the will of this anchrocracy? The Pakistani blogging community had previously suffered the attack by state during the 3rd November emergency rule by General Pervez Musharaf . No one knows better about “right to dissent” than the lordship who himself exercised it in front of General Pervez Musharraf. Let Us Build Pakistan is a blog which openly supports Pakistan Peoples Party; it has never claimed to be an “independent news source”. They have explicitly mentioned their ideological ties with the largest and the only federal party of Pakistan. Last time I checked right to support Pakistan Peoples Party was not declared a crime in Pakistan. Anyone has the right to disagree with “Let US Build Pakistan” and “Pakistan Peoples Party” but no one has the right to spread disinformation. What was done on Geo TV was libelous defamation. People of Pakistan have a constitutional right to support and join any political party and to express views in its support. I would appeal to all people of conscience to support right of Let US Build Pakistan blog to express their opinion in a threat free environment

 

What was most insensitive was the reaction of the Pakistani blogging community. Nothing of solidarity was observed. Pakistan Peoples Party and its support many be “out of fashion” in the class which blogs but let me tell my community that if right to have an opinion became focus of media witch-hunting none will be spared, not even the self proclaimed secular nationalists of Pakistan who are rabidly anti PPP and anti Left. The right may be busy focusing on PPP and a wider anti-PPP ideological alliance appears to be in place but as PPP govt goes many of you will be the target as well. Let US Build Pakistan is remarkable blog in many respects. It has shown remarkable strength on issues on which many of us shy away

1)      This blog has took a early and bold stand against Talibanization and sectarianism

2)      This Blog has took a conscientious stand on rights of Pakistani Miniorities

3)      This blog showed a remarkable strength of conviction and conscience when it supported the restoration of judiciary against wishes of many in the Party whom they support. [I for example who is writing this article to support Let Us Build Pakistan was and is critical of lawyers movement and judiciary but this never came in way of either me or Let Us Build Pakistan]

4)      This blog is pioneer in “Media Criticism” and has frequently demonstrated the “ideological biases” of Pakistani media hence upheld the fundamental right of people of Pakistan to un biased and/or alternative news and opinions

5)      This blog has taken a democratic stand in support of marginalized groups and nationalities of Pakistan

6)      This blog has covered the silent anti-Shia genocide taking place in Pakistan which finds no coverage any where,

I want to tell that I am proud of Abdul Nishapuri and the team of Let Us Build Pakistan, for being brave and for writing what they believe in. I also congratulate them for openly declaring them to be supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party unlike their detractors the Hamid Mirs, Shahid Masoods and Ansar Abasais who don’t have the moral courage to openly declare their political allegiance and wear the masks of being “independent” analysts and doing overtly political propaganda. I will only say to them what has been declared “greatest punch line in history of America”, it was in one of the “anti-communist hearings during McCarthy’s witch hunt. “Have you no decency Sir—-”

I would like to salute the bloggers who raised their voice in support of Let Us Build Pakistan,  Rabia Shakoor, Umair Wasi and Pakistan Media Watch.

To my fellow bloggers who are indifferent and silent at plight of a blog which they don’t like because it supports PPP and Zardari and is critical of Army and agencies etc I will just say dear friends, today it is Nazir Naji and Lets Us Build Pakistan, who will be next think about it——–

Ode to Pakistani Bloggers, the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller the poem which has become the greatest indictment of inactivity of German Intellectuals during Nazi regime

 

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me”

The links to various articles on this issue can be reached here, here and here. here

Geo TV and Selective Freedom of Expression.

To what extant these Media Jihadis can Go and scale of abuse read this article in Saudi Gazette.

On April 22, 2009 i wrote an article in my blog on the “thuggery” which was being declared a revolution. “The Black Revolution” a clown called it. Ignorant of the movement of history and the socio-cultural compulsions, many people in Pakistan adopted a dogmatic stand citing ideology and principle in supporting the lawyers movement. They completely disregarded the “evolution” which took place in lawyers movement , from a liberal movement, it became an instrument in hands of Jamate Islami and the reactionary retired generals. In the article, “Delirium: My name is Black” i tried to relate fate of such “movements” in a societies which are in grip of anarchy. In such situations, are the rhetoric of “order” results in “disorder”, i utilized the example of “black shirts” of Italian Fascist movement which also took control in name of “order”, “law” , constitution and “national honour”. Today Nadeem Farooq Paracha has taken a similar line. I am really glad that some people in Pakistan are aware of the dangers

Shaheryar Ali

Nadeem F. Paracha
Sunday, 09 Aug, 2009. With Thanks: Dawn

Recent incidents remind one of the antics of Mussolini’s notorious gangs of rampaging thugs. — File Photo

Recent incidents remind one of the antics of Mussolini’s notorious gangs of rampaging thugs. — File Photo

Thanks to the entirely lopsided media coverage in favour of the lawyers’ movement and the somewhat nauseating superlatives used to decorate the stand of the deposed CJP and his merry band of lawyers, there was always a danger of the lawyers’ community at large seeing themselves as gallant heroes who were above the law — a law which, to them, now meant nothing more than an ugly ogre to be constantly attacked, insulted and spat upon.

Harsh words indeed for a community which played its part in making the country’s last dictator announce his resignation. But the truth is that the lawyers would have remained nothing more than a loud little tassel if not for the overwhelming help they got from an adoring media and mainstream political parties such as the PML (N), and earlier, the late Benazir Bhutto’s PPP.

The recent spat of incidents in which groups of lawyers unabashedly abused and physically attacked former ministers, police officers, journalists, low-grade bureaucrats and civil judges while still in their black coats reminds one of the antics of Mussolini’s notorious gangs of rampaging thugs called the ‘Black Shirts,’ who, too, after tasting populist applause, started considering themselves above the law, eventually becoming one of classic fascism’s most animated expressions.

Isn’t this not what has happened to a movement that (unlike Mussolini’s fascist spurring) actually stood for the rule of law, democracy, constitutionalism and justice?

Well, did it really?

To begin with, there is absolutely no doubt that in spite of the fact that the CJP had agreed to take the oath in 2001 under Musharraf’s controversial PCO, his decision to stand up against what he considered were unconstitutional moves by the General was a laudable act. But a democratic and progressive protest movement by the lawyers bemoaning the CJP’s removal by the dictatorship started to change colour the moment it was turned into an anti-Musharraf bandwagon by the PML (N) and the PPP.

Now, there is certainly nothing condemnable about this, because active mainstream political parties are supposed to make full use of such openings. However, this did turn the movement into becoming a lot more political in nature which in itself created another window, this time for fringe parties such as the Jamat-i-Islami and Tehreek-i-Insaaf and parties from the peripheries of Sindhi and Pukhtun nationalism to tumble in with all of their political myopia and cornered, reactive attitudes.

Add to this mix the overwhelming coverage and praise the movement got from the media, and you have in your hand an explosive breed of highly politicised lawyers with cringing delusions of grandeur that have now emerged in full flow months after the movement officially came to an end with the restoration of the honourable CJP.

The saddest part in this respect is the way even the sanest and most democratic

instruments of the movement have largely tried to simply mumble out their reaction to the acts of violence and harassment perpetrated by some of their colleagues.

They are more than clear and ear-splitting in their condemnation of Musharraf and Zardari, but even after the many acts of violence involving lawyers have been captured on camera and repeatedly run on mainstream TV channels, these once glorified harbingers of justice and rights have at best sounded sheepish or simply decided to ‘vanish’ from the radar of the media.

The leading lights of the culminated Lawyers’ Movement must realise that their movement without the participation of mainstream political parties and the media would have amounted to nothing more than a fly-like nuisance for the dictatorship.

And the (electronic) media, much of which is now rightly questioning the many shameful post-Movement acts of the lawyers, should learn a vital lesson from these episodes. Its over-enthusiasm for sensational coverage and the space that it gives to cranks whose ‘analysis’ are nothing short of hateful fatwas against those they dislike and superlative praises for those they adore, has merely created monsters.

These include certain religious extremists in the NWFP, the Lal Masjid terrorists, and now a big, bad batch of lawyers whose delusions of grandeur — that the media helped create — seem to have made them lose all contact with democratic decency and maybe even reality itself.

13 fell today at Kerbala-e-Tehran after Yazid threatened the freedom fighters in the sermon. Like the Mullahs who gave fatawa against Hossein on orders of Yazid, the Mullahs of Iran have started killing the freedom fighters. Today people burned down a mosque in Tehran, the capital of Islamic Republic of Iran, the message is clear to the Mullahs any thing which becomes home of reaction against revolution will be burned to ashes. The betrayal of the reformist leadership is becoming clear by the moment but victory is inevitable later if not sooner. The sacred moment when the symbol of ignorance and blind faith was burned it lighted a new epoch of  change in Iran as Iqbal said

Sultani e Jamhoor ka aata he zamana

Jo naqash-e-kuhan tum ku nazer aye mita do

[Epoch of people's rule is inevitable demolish every symbol of  past]

Freedom will come to Iran , Khamenei weather you like it or not.

We strongly protest on crackdown on BBC in Iran by Mullahs. These evil tactics will not stop people. For solidarity we are publishing a report by the BBC on Iran

Long Live the People of Iran

Long Live Iranian Revolution

Shaheryar Ali

Freedom craving ‘fuelling Iran unrest’

By Hugh Sykes
BBC News

Supporters of the leading reformist candidate in Iran's presidential elections, Mir Hossein Mousavi, during a election campaign rally on 23 May

The Iranian leadership is falling into the same trap that their arch-enemy the Shah of Iran fell into in the 1970s.

They are not listening to the people.

After a meeting with Shah Reza Pahlavi, the US ambassador William Sullivan complained: “The king will not listen.”

Soon afterwards, the king had to leave the country, and Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in triumph.

Khomeini’s successor as Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed at Friday prayers at Tehran university that “foreign agents” were behind efforts to stage a velvet revolution.

Change

Having spent 10 days in Iran for the 12 June election, that accusation sounds to me like a classic case of blaming the messenger.

We want the freedom to talk, and the freedom to think. We want freedom for our spirit, ok? That’s not very much to ask
Supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi

There is a velvet rebellion taking place. It is not a revolution yet – but it could evolve into one if the Supreme Leader and his associates do not listen to the people.

I heard with my own ears dozens of peaceful, young Iranians saying they wanted change.

Sixty percent of the population are under 30 years old. They have no memory of the Islamic revolution in 1979. Many of them use the internet and watch satellite TV. Their window on the wider world is irreversibly open.

Many of them simply want peaceful change – and in particular an end to the strict laws that govern personal behaviour in Iran.

Double lives

They want to be able to sing and dance. They wonder why the Iranian leadership continue to ban such expressions of human joy – a ban very similar to the rules imposed on Afghanistan during the Taliban regime.

Iranian woman on the internet

Many young Iranians have a wide window on the world

And of course Iranians do sing and dance. I have been to several parties where the dancing was intense. And so was the drinking, though alcohol is also illegal.

Prohibition does not work. Many Iranians simply lead double lives.

An article in a magazine – available at Tehran news stands when I was there last year – carried the headline: “We are all hypocrites now.”

Many women only cover their heads because they would be arrested if they did not.

Several women I met openly complained about the religious “guidance” police enforcing the female dress code of the chador, or the hijab and “manto” coat.

One young student told me: “I like the hijab. My friend doesn’t like it. I should be free to choose to wear it, and she should be free to choose not to.”

Another woman said: “The hijab is not really the problem. The real problem is that men and women are human beings – they are the same, and they should have equal freedoms.”

Embarrassed

Most of the Iranians I spoke to – even supporters of the president – lamented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic performance over the past four years, especially his failure to control inflation.

Others – including two former Ahmadinejad supporters – told me they could not vote for a man who used a live TV debate to level “undignified” accusations of corruption against former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his family.

Supporters of Iran's incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad does not command such support among all Iranians

And others – a significant number – told me they were embarrassed by Mr Ahmadinejad’s goading of the West – especially his hysterical tirades against Israel.

One man referred to a phrase that is often associated with Mr Ahmadinejad, though its exact translation has been disputed.

“Talk about ‘wiping Israel off the map’ is simply not rational. It is not rational,” he repeated several times.

There is widespread opposition to Zionism in Iran – but at the same time most Iranians vehemently deny that they are anti-Semitic.

Two men separately volunteered that they “like and respect” Jewish people. One pointed out that more than 30,000 Jews happily live in Iran, many of them resisting pressure from the Jewish Agency to move to Israel.

The antique dealers who cluster along a small street off Ferdowsi Avenue in central Teheran are nearly all Iranian Jews.

And surrounded by a crowd in a bazaar, another Ahmadinejad opponent said for all to hear: “I believe our uranium enrichment is not only for peaceful purposes. It is bringing us nothing but trouble. And we should stop it.”

What so many Iranians want now is very simple. It’s freedom.

A man in a crowd supporting the main reformist candidate in the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, said: “We want the freedom to talk, and the freedom to think. We want freedom for our spirit, ok? That’s not very much to ask.”

Violence

Since the election demonstrations began a week ago, the official line has been that “provocateurs” were stirring the violence.

The only people I saw “stirring” violence were the riot police and the volunteer basiji militia.

The day after the election, I watched a small crowd of unarmed, and very courteous Mousavi supporters being charged by baton-wielding riot police.

A few minutes later, I was in a larger crowd of Mousavi supporters who were demonstrating entirely peacefully when they were attacked by Basiji militia driving motorcycles and wildly swinging wooden batons at anyone in their path.

I saw who was stirring the violence on the streets of Tehran. It was not the unarmed demonstrators.

Another accusation from the Iranian leadership is that British “meddling” is behind some of the vote-rigging protests.

You can’t prove a negative, but my sense is that the British are doing all they can to avoid meddling.

When the UK (and America) interfered before, conspiring to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953, the law of unintended consequences came fully into play.

The blowback from that case of meddling is still being felt more than half a century later.

The 1953 coup led to more than two decades of repression under the Shah, and sowed the seeds of the Islamic revolution that sent Mohammed Reza Pahlavi into ignominious exile 26 years later.

I doubt the British want to risk anything like that happening again.

“I’m warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade. The result… will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny” Mir Hossein Mousavi

Shaheryar Ali

The dangerous charade it is, the people of Iran for las many years are struggling to break free from the most evil tyranny which the mankind has ever seen:The rule of “Vilayat-e-Fakkih”. This year Iranian elections saw an unprecedented turn out of people especially youth and women. The fascist puppet of Iranian establishment Mahmoud Ahmedinijad was challenged by the reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi. The verdict was clear Mousavi had won with a landslide majority but on orders of Yazeed of Iran Ayotollah Ali Khamenei , Ahmedinejad was declared the winner.

I am Iran

I am Iran

It is not the first time that Khamenei has indulged himself in these kind of practices. Last election was the same story as well. The elections were stolen to install the fascist thug Ahmedinajad. The practices of Ayotollah Khaamenei reminds one of the Shah of Iran.  The great people of Iran are facing his evil ways, there is no freedom of expression, at one time all reformist news papers were closed by his orders, illegal executions are the order of the day, trade unions workers, Kurds, Balochs , human rights activists are tortured and killed.

Most eminent of the Iranian intellectuals, world famous philosophers, writers , journalists find themselves in Tehran prison.

The people have had enough of this tyranny, the gross misconduct of Yazid-e-Aser Ayatollah Khamenei have forced people to rise.

Iran Rises

Iran Rises

Thousands of people are protesting on streets in Tehran, Sheraz,Mashad and other cities. The protests in Tehran have been compared to those during the glorious Iranian revolution [which was destroyed by evil Mullahs]. BBC has called the protests “unprecedented” in the history of Islamic republic. Boys and Girls together are fighting with the riot police and fascist Islamic militias.

Street fighting

Street fighting

It must be clear, what people want,  people want freedom, they want to get rid of Islamic republic and the Mullahs. Those who are fighting on the streets have one slogan on their lips and it is “Death to the Dictator”. BBC is reporting the situation in Tehran as unpredictable and explosive. These protests are against Yazid-e-waqat Ali Khamenei.

The reformist leadership who want to keep the Islamic republic must understand one thing , people dont want it. The betrayal of the movement by the reformist leadership will push them to dust bins of history. The letter which Mr Mousavi wrote to Khamenei what does it mean? He is the one who has stolen the election why he is being petitioned? This is not the time to surrender. Its time to follow the

Bagawat!

Bagawat!

masses and bring this evil regime down.

The protests in Iran so far have been spontaneous and unorganized. The reformist leadership has discouraged the protests and is now moving in tactically to end the movement. The planned grand rally in Tehran have just been called off. Its ture that Mullahs had armed the fascist goons to attack the masses but in final analysis we know no one can stand in front of Iranian masses. The immediate action should be a call for a 24 hour general strike and continuous peaceful demonstrations in Iran. This regime cannot stand the power of people, the only reason it will survive will be the betrayal of Mullahs-in-disguise, the reformists.

Togeather for Freedom

Togeather for Freedom

To understand the scale and power of the demonstrations one should note the unprecedented scale of terror used by the Islamic republic. The BBC websites were blocked, so as the BBC Persian TV transmissions, the evil regime tried to block the citizen websites, the blogs etc so that the movement can be curtailed. The BBC notes

“BBC audiences in Iran, the Middle East and Europe may be experiencing disruption to their BBC TV or radio services today. That is because there is heavy electronic jamming of one of the satellites the BBC uses in the Middle East to broadcast the BBC Persian TV signal to Iran.

Satellite technicians have traced that interference and it is coming from Iran. There has been intermittent interference from Iran since Friday, but this is the heaviest yet.

It seems to be part of a pattern of behaviour by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election. In Tehran, John Simpson and his cameraman were briefly arrested after they had filmed the material for this piece. And at least one news agency in Tehran has come under pressure not to distribute internationally any pictures it might have of demonstrations on the streets in Iran”

Yazid-e-Aser Khamenei

Yazid-e-Aser Khamenei

Stop the blockade now. Despite all these measures the Iranian people have defeated the Yazid-e-waqat in the information war and news keeps spreading in Iran. The evil regime also jammed the mobile networks to stop the protests. We must understand that the Iranian boys and girls who are spreading the news through blogs internet and websites are risking their life. In Iran you can die for writing a blog. Like this young man who was murdered by the evil regime

We must support the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom. we must join them in the slogans of “death to the dictator”. This website has some great live pictures from Tehran. Iran is in grip of revolution for the last 100 years , its completion is near. The great workers, youth and women of Iran will soon realize the Iranian dream of a complete and real revolution which will have freedom and equality. Looking at the revolutionary youth of Tehran i recall few lines by Kaifi

The Islamic Republic

The Islamic Republic

Azmi

“Kahan tuk ye bil jaber , mur mur ke jeena

badalne laga he Amal ka kareena!

Lahu mein he khaulan, jabeen pe paseena

Dherkti hein Nabze’n , sulagta he seena!!

GARAJ ae bagawat Keh Teyar ho’n mein—”

[Till when we will keep living in a tyranny? dying every second? Now change is inevitable, my blood is boiling and my forehead has beeds of sweat. my pulse is pounding and my chest is burning, Rise o rebellion like a thunder because I Am Ready]

Mr Mousavi Iran is ready. Dont surrender and dont betray the people

Long Live the People of Iran

Long Live the Revolution

Down with Fascist Mullahs

Pinko Playwright  Weds Sex Goddess ,[The Culture of the Cold War: by  Stephen J  Whitfield]were the headlines in Bigoted American Press when greatest Playwright  of the century Arthur Miller married actress Marylin Monro and  soon  was called to testify in what we now know was  one of the  worse witch hunts of history after the Spanish inquisition. McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunt was one of the worse and most oppressive times in United States, lots of innocent lives were destroyed. Friends were played against friends, Black listing destroyed the careers of some of the best writers, actors, directors and artists in United States. The conflict of loyalties in the McCarthy witch hunt has been subject of some of the best Art and Literature which has been produced in United States and else where.

Whilst many broke under state pressure and betrayed their friends , who lost their jobs and careers, many committed suicide, some brave people stood up against bigotry. Miller was one of them. He wrote “The Crucible” one of the best Play of all times in which he explains the “Anti communist” mania in United States using the imagery of Salem Witch -trials. Pakistan itself had a very oppressive red scare which started in Liaqat Ali Khan’s time by “Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case” where Urdu’s greatest poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was arrested . Communist Party of Pakistan was banned. Faiz Ahmad Faiz immortalized the moments of his arrest and humiliation for being a communist in his epic Urdu poem “Aaj Bazar mein Pa ba jolan Chalo” “Lets cross the market with chains around the feet”.

Later writer and political activist Shaheed Hassan Nasir was tortured to death in Lahore fort, for being a commie pinko. Numerous writers and artists were jailed and exiled for being communists alleged, real or suspected. Great Urdu poetess Fehmida Riaz who herself had to go to exile vividly describes the sad events in a court room of Karachi where young student leader Nazeer Abbasi was brought as a tortured , broken corpse in her poem “Aewaan e Adalat mein—”. The anti communist hysteria and witch hunt continues , irony is by those who nod their heads in spiritual ecstasy on listening to Faiz Ahmad Faiz “Hum jo Tareek Rahon mein maare gaye” ” We were those who were murdered on dark passages” , the poem Faiz wrote for The Rosenbergs, who were the victims of Anti-communism themselves.

Shaheryar Ali


Arthur Miller, “Are You Now Or Were You Ever?”
from The Guardian/The Observer (on line), Saturday, June 17, 2000

Are you now or were you ever…? The McCarthy era’s anti-communist trials destroyed lives and friendships. Arthur Miller describes the paranoia that swept America – and the moment his then wife Marilyn Monroe became a bargaining chip in his own prosecution

Saturday June 17, 2000

It would probably never have occurred to me to write a play about the Salem witch trials of 1692 had I not seen some astonishing correspondences with that calamity in the America of the late 40s and early 50s. My basic need was to respond to a phenomenon which, with only small exaggeration, one could say paralysed a whole generation and in a short time dried up the habits of trust and toleration in public discourse.

I refer to the anti-communist rage that threatened to reach hysterical proportions and sometimes did. I can’t remember anyone calling it an ideological war, but I think now that that is what it amounted to. I suppose we rapidly passed over anything like a discussion or debate, and into something quite different, a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language. The object was to destroy the least credibility of any and all ideas associated with socialism and communism, whose proponents were assumed to be either knowing or unwitting agents of Soviet subversion.

An ideological war is like guerrilla war, since the enemy is an idea whose proponents are not in uniform but are disguised as ordinary citizens, a situation that can scare a lot of people to death. To call the atmosphere paranoid is not to say that there was nothing real in the American-Soviet stand-off. But if there was one element that lent the conflict a tone of the inauthentic and the invented, it was the swiftness with which all values were forced in months to reverse themselves.

Death of a Salesman opened in February 1949 and was hailed by nearly every newspaper and magazine. Several movie studios wanted it and finally Columbia Pictures bought it, and engaged a great actor, Frederick March, to play Willy [the central character].

In two years or less, with the picture finished, I was asked by a terrified Columbia to sign an anti-communist declaration to ward off picket lines which the rightwing American Legion was threatening to throw across the entrances of theatres showing the film. In the phone calls that followed, the air of panic was heavy. It was the first intimation of what would soon follow. I declined to make any such statement, which I found demeaning; what right had any organisation to demand anyone’s pledge of loyalty? I was sure the whole thing would soon go away; it was just too outrageous.

But instead of the problem disappearing, the studio actually made another film, a short to be shown with Salesman. This was called The Life of a Salesman and consisted of several lectures by City College School of Business professors – which boiled down to selling was a joy, one of the most gratifying and useful professions, and that Willy was simply a nut. Never in show-business history has a studio spent so much good money to prove that its feature film was pointless. In less than two years Death of a Salesman had gone from being a masterpiece to being a heresy, and a fraudulent one at that.

In 1948-51, I had the sensation of being trapped inside a perverse work of art, one of those Escher constructs in which it is impossible to make out whether a stairway is going up or down. Practically everyone I knew stood within the conventions of the political left of centre; one or two were Communist party members, some were fellow-travellers, and most had had a brush with Marxist ideas or organisations. I have never been able to believe in the reality of these people being actual or putative traitors any more than I could be, yet others like them were being fired from teaching or jobs in government or large corporations. The surreality of it all never left me. We were living in an art form, a metaphor that had suddenly, incredibly, gripped the country.

In today’s terms, the country had been delivered into the hands of the radical right, a ministry of free-floating apprehension toward anything that never happens in the middle of Missouri. It is always with us, this anxiety, sometimes directed towards foreigners, Jews, Catholics, fluoridated water, aliens in space, masturbation, homosexuality, or the Internal Revenue Department. But in the 50s any of these could be validated as real threats by rolling out a map of China. And if this seems crazy now, it seemed just as crazy then, but openly doubting it could cost you.

So in one sense The Crucible was an attempt to make life real again, palpable and structured. One hoped that a work of art might illuminate the tragic absurdities of an anterior work of art that was called reality, but was not. It was the very swiftness of the change that lent it this surreality. Only three or four years earlier an American movie audience, on seeing a newsreel of Stalin saluting the Red Army, would have applauded, for that army had taken the brunt of the Nazi onslaught, as most people were aware. Now they would look on with fear or at least bewilderment, for the Russians had become the enemy of mankind, a menace to all that was good. It was the Germans who, with amazing rapidity, were turning good. Could this be real?

In the unions, communists and their allies, known as intrepid organisers, were to be shorn of membership and turned out as seditious. Harry Bridges, the idol of west coast longshoremen, whom he had all but single-handedly organised, was subjected to trial after trial to drive him back to his native Australia as an unadmitted communist. Academics, some prominent in their fields, were especially targeted, many forced to retire or fired for disloyalty. Some were communists, some were fellow travellers and, inevitably, a certain number were unaffiliated liberals refusing to sign one of the dozens of humiliating anti-communist pledges being required by terrified college administrations.

But it is impossible to convey properly the fears that marked that period. Nobody was shot, to be sure, although some were going to jail, where at least one, William Remington, was murdered by an inmate hoping to shorten his sentence by having killed a communist. Rather than physical fear, it was the sense of impotence, which seemed to deepen with each week, of being unable to speak accurately of the very recent past when being leftwing in America, and for that matter in Europe, was to be alive to the dilemmas of the day.

As for the idea of willingly subjecting my work not only to some party’s discipline but to anyone’s control, my repugnance was such that, as a young and indigent writer, I had turned down lucrative offers to work for Hollywood studios because of a revulsion at the thought of someone owning the paper I was typing on. It was not long, perhaps four or five years, before the fraudulence of Soviet cultural claims was as clear to me as it should have been earlier. But I would never have found it believable, in the 50s or later, that with its thuggish self-righteousness and callous contempt for artists’ freedoms, that the Soviet way of controlling culture could be successfully exported to America.

Some greatly talented people were driven out of the US to work in England: screenwriters like Carl Foreman and Donald Ogden Stewart, actors like Charlie Chaplin and Sam Wanamaker. I no longer recall the number of our political exiles, but it was more than too many and disgraceful for a nation prideful of its democracy.

Writing now, almost half a century later, with the Soviet Union in ruins, China rhetorically fending off capitalism even as in reality it adopts a market economy, Cuba wallowing helplessly in the Caribbean, it is not easy to convey the American fear of a masterful communism. The quickness with which Soviet-style regimes had taken over eastern Europe and China was breathtaking, and I believe it stirred up a fear in Americans of our own ineptitudes, our mystifying inability, despite our military victories, to control the world whose liberties we had so recently won back from the Axis powers.

In 1956, the House Un-American Activities Committee (Huac) subpoenaed me – I was cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to identify writers I had met at one of the two communist writers’ meetings I had attended many years before. By then, the tide was going out for Huac and it was finding it more difficult to make front pages. However, the news of my forthcoming marriage to Marilyn Monroe was too tempting to be passed. That our marriage had some connection with my being subpoenaed was confirmed when Chairman Walters of the Huac sent word to Joseph Rauh, my lawyer, that he would be inclined to cancel my hearing if Miss Monroe would consent to have a picture taken with him.

The offer having been declined, the good chairman, as my hearing came to an end, entreated me to write less tragically about our country. This lecture cost me $40,000 in lawyer’s fees, a year’s suspended sentence for contempt of Congress, and a $500 fine. Not to mention about a year of inanition in my creative life.

My fictional view of the period, my sense of its unreality had been, like any impotence, a psychologically painful experience. A similar paralysis descended on Salem. In both places, to keep social unity intact, the authority of leaders had to be hardened and words of scepticism toward them constricted. A new cautionary diction, an uncustomary prudence inflected our way of talking to one another. The word socialism was all but taboo. Words had gotten fearsome. As I learned directly in Ann Arbor on a 1953 visit, university students were avoiding renting rooms in houses run by the housing cooperative for fear of being labelled communist, so darkly suggestive was the word cooperative. The head of orientation at the university told me, in a rather cool, uninvolved manner, that the FBI was enlisting professors to report on students voicing leftwing opinions, and – more comedy – that they had also engaged students to report on professors with the same views.

In the early 50s, along with Elia Kazan, who had directed All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, I submitted a script to Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures. It described the murderous corruption in the gangster-ridden Brooklyn longshoremen’s union. Cohn read the script and called us to Hollywood, where he casually informed us that he had had the script vetted by the FBI, and that they had seen nothing subversive in it. But the head of the AFL motion picture unions in Hollywood, Roy Brewer, had condemned it as untrue communist propaganda, since there were no gangsters on the Brooklyn waterfront. Cohn, no stranger to gangsterism, having survived an upbringing in the tough Five Points area of Manhattan, opined that Brewer was only trying to protect Joe Ryan, head of the Brooklyn longshoremen (who, incidentally, would go to Sing Sing prison for gangsterism).

Brewer threatened to call a strike of projectionists in any theatre daring to show the film. Cohn offered his solution to the problem: he would produce the film if I would make one change – the gangsters in the union were to be changed to communists. This would not be easy; I knew all the communists on the waterfront- there were two of them (both of whom in the following decade became millionaire businessmen). So I had to withdraw the script, which prompted an indignant telegram from Cohn: “As soon as we try to make the script pro-American you pull out.” One understood not only the threat but also the cynicism: he knew the mafia controlled waterfront labour. Had I been a movie writer, my career would have ended. But the theatre had no such complications, no blacklist – not yet – and I longed to respond to this climate of fear, if only to protect my sanity. But where to find a transcendent concept?

The heart of the darkness was the belief that a massive, profoundly organised conspiracy was in place and carried forward mainly by a concealed phalanx of intellectuals, including labour activists, teachers, professionals, sworn to undermine the American government. And it was precisely the invisibility of ideas that was frightening so many people. How could a play deal with this mirage world?

Paranoia breeds paranoia, but below paranoia there lies a bristling, unwelcome truth, so repugnant as to produce fantasies of persecution to conceal its existence. The unwelcome truth denied by the right was that the Hollywood writers accused of subversion were not a menace to the country, or even bearers of meaningful change. They wrote not propaganda but entertainment, some of it of a mildly liberal cast, but most of it mindless, or when it was political, as with Preston Sturges or Frank Capra, entirely and exuberantly un-Marxist.

As for the left, its unacknowledged truth was more important for me. If nobody was being shot in our ideological war but merely vivisected by a headline, it struck me as odd, if understandable , that the accused were unable to cry out passionately their faith in the ideals of socialism. There were attacks on the Huac’s right to demand that a citizen reveal his political beliefs; but on the idealistic canon of their own convictions, the defendants were mute. The rare exception, like Paul Robeson’s declaration of faith in socialism as a cure for racism, was a rocket that lit up the sky.

On a lucky afternoon I happened upon The Devil in Massachusetts, by Marion Starkey, a narrative of the Salem witch-hunt of 1692. I knew this story from my college reading, but in this darkened America it turned a completely new aspect toward me: the poetry of the hunt. Poetry may seem an odd word for a witch-hunt but I saw there was something of the marvellous in the spectacle of a whole village, if not an entire province, whose imagination was captured by a vision of something that wasn’t there.

In time to come, the notion of equating the red-hunt with the witch-hunt would be condemned as a deception. There were communists and there never were witches. The deeper I moved into the 1690s, the further away drifted the America of the 50s, and, rather than the appeal of analogy, I found something different to draw my curiosity and excitement.

Anyone standing up in the Salem of 1692 and denying that witches existed would have faced immediate arrest, the hardest interrogation and possibly the rope. Every authority not only confirmed the existence of witches but never questioned the necessity of executing them. It became obvious that to dismiss witchcraft was to forgo any understanding of how it came to pass that tens of thousands had been murdered as witches in Europe. To dismiss any relation between that episode and the hunt for subversives was to shut down an insight into not only the similar emotions but also the identical practices of both officials and victims.

There were witches, if not to most of us then certainly to everyone in Salem; and there were communists, but what was the content of their menace? That to me became the issue. Having been deeply influenced as a student by a Marxist approach to society, and having known Marxists and sympathisers, I could simply not accept that these people were spies or even prepared to do the will of the Soviets in some future crisis. That such people had thought to find hope of a higher ethic in the Soviet was not simply an American, but a worldwide, irony of catastrophic moral proportions, for their like could be found all over the world.

But as the 50s dawned, they were stuck with the past. Part of the surreality of the anti-left sweep was that it picked up people for disgrace who had already turned away from a pro-Soviet past but had no stomach for naming others who had merely shared their illusions. But the hunt had captured some significant part of the American imagination and its power demanded respect.

Turning to Salem was like looking into a petri dish, an embalmed stasis with its principal moving forces caught in stillness. One had to wonder what the human imagination fed on that could inspire neighbours and old friends to emerge overnight as furies secretly bent on the torture and destruction of Christians. More than a political metaphor, more than a moral tale, The Crucible, as it developed over more than a year, became the awesome evidence of the power of human imagination inflamed, the poetry of suggestion, and the tragedy of heroic resistance to a society possessed to the point of ruin.

In the stillness of the Salem courthouse, surrounded by the images of the 1950s but with my head in 1692, what the two eras had in common gradually gained definition. Both had the menace of concealed plots, but most startling were the similarities in the rituals of defence, the investigative routines; 300 years apart, both prosecutions alleged membership of a secret, disloyal group. Should the accused confess, his honesty could only be proved by naming former confederates. The informer became the axle of the plot’s existence and the investigation’s necessity.

The witch-hunt in 1692 had a not dissimilar problem, but a far more poetic solution. Most suspected people named by others as members of the Devil’s conspiracy had not been shown to have done anything, neither poisoning wells, setting barns on fire, sickening cattle, aborting babies, nor undermining the virtue of wives (the Devil having two phenomenally active penises, one above the other).

To the rescue came a piece of poetry, smacking of both legalistic and religious validity, called Spectral Evidence. All the prosecution need do was produce a witness who claimed to have seen, not an accused person, but his familiar spirit – his living ghost – in the act of throwing a burning brand into a barn full of hay. You could be at home asleep in your bed, but your spirit could be crawling through your neighbour’s window to feel up his wife. The owner of the wandering spirit was obliged to account to the court for his crime. With Spectral Evidence, the air filled with the malign spirits of those identified by good Christians as confederates of theBeast, and the Devil himself danced happily into Salem village and took the place apart.

I spent 10 days in Salem courthouse reading the crudely recorded trials of the 1692 outbreak, and it was striking how totally absent was any sense of irony, let alone humour. I can’t recall if it was the provincial governor’s nephew or son who, with a college friend, came from Boston to watch the strange proceedings. Both boys burst out laughing at some absurd testimony: they were promptly jailed, and faced possible hanging.

Irony and humour were not conspicuous in the 1950s either. I was in my lawyer’s office to sign some contract and a lawyer in the next office was asked to come in and notarise my signature. While he was stamping pages, I continued a discussion with my lawyer about the Broadway theatre, which I said was corrupt; the art of theatre had been totally displaced by the bottom line, all that mattered any more. Looking up at me, the notarising lawyer said, “That’s a communist position, you know.” I started to laugh until I saw the constraint in my lawyer’s face, and I quickly sobered up.

I am glad that I managed to write The Crucible, but looking back I have often wished I’d had the temperament to do an absurd comedy, which is what the situation deserved. Now, after more than three-quarters of a century of fascination with the great snake of political and social developments, I can see more than a few occasions when we were confronted by the same sensation of having stepped into another age.

A young film producer asked me to write a script about what was then called juvenile delinquency. A mystifying, unprecedented outbreak of gang violence had exploded all over New York. The city, in return for a good percentage of profits, had contracted with this producer to open police stations and schools to his camera. I spent the summer of 1955 in Brooklyn streets with two gangs and wrote an outline. I was ready to proceed with the script when an attack on me as a disloyal lefty opened in the New York World Telegram. The cry went up that the city must cancel its contract with the producer so long as I was the screenwriter. A hearing was arranged, attended by 22 city commissioners, including the police, fire, welfare and sanitation departments, as well as two judges.

At the conference table there also sat a lady who produced a thick folder of petitions and statements I had signed, going back to my college years, provided to her by the Huac. I defended myself; I thought I was making sense when the lady began screaming that I was killing the boys in Korea [this was during the Korean war]. She meant me personally, as I could tell from the froth at the corners of her mouth, the fury in her eyes, and her finger pointing straight into my face.

The vote was taken and came up one short of continuing the city’s collaboration, and the film was killed that afternoon. I always wondered whether the crucial vote against me came from the sanitation department. But it was not a total loss; the suffocating sensation of helplessness before the spectacle of the impossible coming to pass would soon help in writing The Crucible.

That impossible coming to pass was not an observation made at a comfortable distance but a blade cutting directly into my life. This was especially the case with Elia Kazan’s decision to cooperate with the Huac. The surrounding fears felt even by those with the most fleeting of contacts with any communist-supported organisation were enough to break through long associations and friendships.

Kazan had been a member of the Communist party only a matter of months, and even that link had ended years before. And the party had never been illegal, nor was membership in it. Yet this great director, left undefended by 20th Century Fox executives, his longtime employers, was told that if he refused to name people whom he had known in the party – actors, directors and writers – he would never be allowed to direct another picture in Hollywood, meaning the end of his career.

These names were already known to the committee through other testifiers and FBI informants, but exactly as in Salem – or Russia under the Czar and the Chairman, and Inquisition Spain, Revolutionary France or any other place of revolution or counter-revolution – conspiracy was the name for all opposition. And the reformation of the accused could only be believed when he gave up the names of his co-conspirators. Only this ritual of humiliation, the breaking of pride and independence, could win the accused readmission into the community. The process inevitably did produce in the accused a new set of political, social and even moral convictions more acceptable to the state whose fist had been shoved into his face, with his utter ruin promised should he resist.

I had stopped by Kazan’s house in the country in 1952 after he had called me to come and talk, an unusual invitation – he had never been inclined to indulge in talk unless it concerned work. I had suspected from his dark tone that it must have to do with the Huac, which was rampaging through the Hollywood ranks .

Since I was on my way up to Salem for research on a play that I was still unsure I would write, I called at his house, which was on my route. As he laid out his dilemma and his decision to comply with the Huac (which he had already done) it was impossible not to feel his anguish, old friends that we were. But the crunch came when I felt fear, that great teacher, that cruel revealer. For it swept over me that, had I been one of his comrades, he would have spent my name as part of the guarantee of his reform. Even so, oddly enough, I was not filling up with hatred or contempt for him; his suffering was too palpable. The whole hateful procedure had brought him to this, and I believe made the writing of The Crucible all but inevitable. Even if one could grant Kazan sincerity in his new-found anti-communism, the concept of an America where such self-discoveries were pressed out of people was outrageous, and a contradiction of any concept of personal liberty.

Is all this of some objective importance in our history, this destruction of bonds between people? I think it may be, however personal it may appear. Kazan’s testimony created a far greater shock than anyone else’s. Lee J Cobb’s similar testimony and Jerome Robbins’s cooperation seemed hardly to matter. It may be that Kazan had been loved more than any other, that he had attracted far greater affection from writers and actors with whom he had worked, and so what was overtly a political act was sensed as a betrayal of love.

It is very significant that in the uproar set off by last year’s award to Kazan of an Oscar for life achievement, one heard no mention of the name of any member of the Huac. One doubted whether the thought occurred to many people that the studio heads had ignominiously collapsed before the Huac’s insistence that they institute a blacklist of artists, something they had once insisted was dishonourable and a violation of democratic norms. Half a century had passed since his testimony, but Kazan bore very nearly the whole onus of the era, as though he had manufactured its horrors – when he was

surely its victim. The trial record in Salem courthouse had been written by ministers in a primitive shorthand. This condensation gave emphasis to a gnarled, densely packed language which suggested the country accents of a hard people. To lose oneself day after day in that record of human delusion was to know a fear, not for one’s safety, but of the spectacle of intelligent people giving themselves over to a rapture of murderous credulity. It was as though the absence of real evidence was itself a release from the burdens of this world; in love with the invisible, they moved behind their priests, closer to that mystical communion which is anarchy and is called God.

Evidence, in contrast, is effort; leaping to conclusions is a wonderful pleasure, and for a while there was a highly charged joy in Salem, for now that they could see through everything to the frightful plot that was daily being laid bare in court sessions, their days, formerly so eventless and long, were swallowed up in hourly revelations, news, surprises. The Crucible is less a polemic than it might have been had it not been filled with wonder at the protean imagination of man.

The Crucible straddles two different worlds to make them one, but it is not history in the usual sense of the word, but a moral, political and psychological construct that floats on the fluid emotions of both eras. As a commercial entertainment the play failed [it opened in 1953]. To start with there was the title: nobody knew what a crucible was. Most of the critics, as sometimes does happen, never caught on to the play’s ironical substructure, and the ones who did were nervous about validating a work that was so unkind to the same sanctified procedural principles as underlay the hunt for reds. Some old acquaintances gave me distant nods in the theatre lobby on opening night, and even without air-conditioning the house was cool. There was also a problem with the temperature of the production.

The director, Jed Harris, a great name in the theatre of the 20s, 30s and 40s, had decided that the play, which he believed a classic, should be staged like a Dutch painting. In Dutch paintings of groups, everyone is always looking front. Unfortunately, on a stage such rigidity can only lead an audience to the exits. Several years after, a gang of young actors, setting up chairs in the ballroom of the McAlpin Hotel, fired up the audience, convinced the critics, and the play at last took off and soon found its place. There were cheering reviews but by then Senator McCarthy was dead. The public fever on whose heatwaves he had spread his wings had subsided.

The Crucible is my most-produced play. It seems to be one of the few surviving shards of the so-called McCarthy period. And it is part of the play’s history that, to people in so many parts of the world, its story seems to be their own. I used to think, half seriously, that you could tell when a dictator was about to take power, or had been overthrown, in a Latin American country, if The Crucible was suddenly being produced in that country.

The result of it all is that I have come, rather reluctantly, to respect delusion, not least of all my own. There are no passions quite as hot and pleasurable as those of the deluded. Compared to the bliss of delusion, its vivid colours, blazing lights, explosions, whistles and liberating joys, the search for evidence is a deadly bore. My heart was with the left. if only because the right hated me enough to want to kill me, as the Germans amply proved. And now, the most blatant and most foul anti-semitism is in Russia, leaving people like me filled not so much with surprise as a kind of wonder at the incredible amount of hope there once was, and how it disappeared and whether in time it will ever come again, attached, no doubt, to some new illusion.

There is hardly a week that passes when I don’t ask the unanswerable question: what am I now convinced of that will turn out to be ridiculous? And yet one can’t forever stand on the shore; at some point, filled with indecision, scepticism, reservation and doubt, you either jump in or concede that life is forever elsewhere. Which, I dare say, was one of the major impulses behind the decision to attempt The Crucible.

Salem village, that pious, devout settlement at the edge of white civilisation, had displayed – three centuries before the Russo-American rivalry and the issues it raised – what can only be called a built-in pestilence in the human mind; a fatality forever awaiting the right conditions for its always unique, forever unprecedented outbreak of distrust, alarm, suspicion and murder. And for people wherever the play is performed on any of the five continents, there is always a certain amazement that the same terror that is happening to them or that is threatening them, has happened before to others. It is all very strange. But then, the Devil is known to lure people into forgetting what it is vital for them to remember – how else could his endless reappearances always come as such a marvellous surprise?

This letter was written to the editor of PTH and my dear friend Raza Rumi. He was kind enough to publish an edited version of this letter.

The basic aim of this letter was to highlight the fact that intellectual and progressive history shows that Fascist, Far-Right and Conservatives have over time built a highly offensive system of “witch-hunt” against those who have stood up for equality. The stereotype was to brand every one who stood up against the system as “Communist”, “Jew” or “Homosexual”. More often all these were part of a wider “stereotype” which in United States where even Liberals were called “commies”. Hilliary Clinton for examples states in her autobiography how she was slandered as a “commie” in deep south. Pinko is one such derogatory term used by American Right against progressive and civil right activist many of those lost their life and honor during McCarthy era. “Pinko-fag” is a term one often hears in USA while talking to bigots. The point of the letter was should a publication which claims itself to be progressive and secular-humanist and liberal allow language of American Right especially one associated with hate crimes during McCarthy era. Weather we should rise above “Niggers”,”Pinkos””commies” and “fagots” or we should celebrate one of the greatest “witch-hunting” by keep associating with it. Its neither about “communism” nor about “homosexuality” , any one who has read history knows McCarthy and Red Scare targeted people who were not all communists. Arthur Miller is perhaps the only writer who has  truly captured the mania of Red Scare and witch hunt in his remarkable and celebrated classic Play “The Crucible”. Its my failure , my personal failure that i couldn’t convey to my friend that i only didnt wanted to live in a “Salem”

Shaheryar Ali

Dear Raza Rumi,

After reading one of the articles on Pak Tea House I have been forced to write this letter of protest to you. The reasons are my great personal attachment to you and Pak Tea House Blog-zine I have always considered you not only a dear friend but also a mentor and spiritual companion in my quest for truth. The importance Pak Tea House has in my life is clear from this simple fact that I wrote my first ever “public article” for this internet publication. I am neither a professional writer nor I intend to be one I like some other people who can be called “dysfunctional neurotics” or “impractical Romantics” etc write only for one reason to voice our conscientious opinion. We neither claim “neutrality” or “impartiality” nor do we believe in “hegemonizing” the opinion. Our commitment to our values could be judged from the fact that the first target of our criticism is “Self”, in my case you are aware that I have always targeted intellectual expression of the “my self”, my country, my religion, my gender and my sexuality. I have been vocal critic of the things which according to the essentialist point of view are very nature of my being. I have been a vocal critic of Pakistani nationalism, despite the fact that I grew up with green flag on my chest and that I love this soil more than anything else in my life, I was born in a muslim family and have a deep emotional attachment to holy family, sufi mystics and other Islamic traditions but I have also been a passionate supporter of those who want to subject Islam to a libertarian critique. I am classified biologically as a “Male” who have XY genotype, but I reject the essentialist notion of Gender in line of philosophers like Bulleh Shah “Kanjri ban.ne meri izzet na ghati , mein ten ach ke yaar manana” Jacques Derrida , Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. I am a “homosexual” but I reject the modern “Gay” label and associate my self with “Queer Movement”

The reasons for elaborating my intellectual history are to show our firm commitment to “Freedom of Expression” and “Right to Dissent”. Having said that, I come to the issue at hand; Mr Yassir Latif Hamdani’s latest article which has been written in response to a critical piece by “Freethinker” . I was shocked to read it. Now , its not that I have no expectations from Mr Hamdani when it comes to petty offenses, the reasons of my shock and outrage are that such a violently bigoted “hate speech” has been allowed at Pak Tea House. I here want to make one thing perfectly clear that Mr Hamdani’s right to express himself remains inalienable and non negotiable. The debate of “Freedom of expression” and “Hate Speech” is an ongoing debate and this letter is not the proper medium to revise it. Pak Tea House Blog is not a “free-publication”, it exercises an “editorial control” which means that it recognizes “Offence factor” or “The Harm Factor” and regulates speech which it considers either harmful or offensive. When Pak Tea House is exercising editorial control, it becomes a matter of “intellectual freedom”, how that control is being asserted. The generally accepted Progressive/Liberal position is to fight bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, and gender discrimination at “social level”, at work place, offices, schools, churches, mosques and publications. The point is raising of consciousness at mass level to bring about “social –change”. The consensus is of protecting the “marginalized” groups, blacks, Jews, gays, transgender, etc for this the progressive establishments adopt “Affirmative actions” and “Pluralistic settings”. The issue of “state regulation” of this offensive speech is controversial amongst Left/Liberal/Civil Rights lobbies and activists. The more advance positions have been to resist any “state control” even if it seems to be protecting “marginalized community”. Because state control has the potential of being abused. This can be elaborated by the position of “American Civil Liberties Union”, which may occasionally plead for a “Neo Nazi” hate mongerer when he has been detained by authority but it will at social level fight hate mongering. It itself will never use its platform to spread hate; will never use offensive bigoted language. Noam Chomsky will sign a petition condemning removal from services of a French Professor who is Holocaust denier but he himself vehemently oppose anti Semitism, holocaust denial and will never use his website or articles to engage in “hate-mongering”. In this way issue of “freedom of expression” and “Hate mongering” are put in perspective. It’s fought at social level, at intellectual level, in streets but state is not allowed to restrict speech.

This principle has been violated at PTH. Mr. Hamdani’s article is titled “Brownies for Pinkos: Freethinking Paki Style”. Being a philosophy student “language” is my obsession and “etymology” my Passion Now this “Pinkos” have a very special significance for us “Commies”, “fags”, “sissies” whose genders is so “indeterminate” that we be addressed as “His/Her”. The term is literally drenched in blood. First appearing in Time Magazine, in 1926. Reference sources will talk bout its contemporary use as a “derogatory term used for those with sympathies with “communism”. A little detail will shed more light: The politics of colour. Those who used and popularized this term are those who saw “communism” in every emancipatory movement. But for “communist” the favored term was “Red”. I will remind you of the Spanish Civil War where General Franco and his “patriotic nationalists” read “Fascists” gave the Slogan “Better Dead than Red”. For them “Red” was every one who was on other side, poets, intellectuals, liberals, Anarchists, Socialists, Trotskyites. And than it all had a complete package “Jews, Fags Commies”. Communism was a “Jewish conspiracy” and their method to destroy a nation was to spread evil, atheism and homosexuality. By making the honour loving brave men of the nation “Homosexuals” the Jews/commies were destroying the nation. You remember Lorca, the Spanish poet, who Neruda laments in his poem on Spain. In Andalusia when he was captured the great patriotic men of Catholic non violent morality tortured him. He was asked to bow and say he was a “communist”. He was shot. Two shots were fired on his butt because he was a “Homosexual sissy” as well.

Now leave these Reds or commies aside, let’s come to Pinkos. Now in United States, those sissies who were not communists because they criticized USSR and totalitarianism but because they use to talk about “Peace”, “non violence”, ”Civil Rights” those long haired, hippies, sociopaths, they had to be commies so they coined the term “Pinkos”. Pink being the lighter shade of “Red” of communism and Pink also the colour of Gay Liberation. Of course who could forget Adolf Hitler the great made us wear “Pink Triangles” before killing us in Gas chambers? Now for American Right the Liberals were all commies and fags. A complete stereotype was created.

The great Time Magazine who coined this term used it in a specific perspective. Joseph J Firebaugh in his “Vocabulary of Time Magazine” says “Term has been used along with “Parlor Pink” for people with Left sympathies with a special implication of “effeteness”.

Now this “effeteness”, the Latin root of this word is “effetus”, fetus, fruitful, “More at Feminine” Impotent, sissy, faggy, Fruit” is yet another term for us “sissy boys” in American High schools.

From Time Magazine we come to Wall Street Journal , they used this term in 1920 , they talked about the “complete package” used the word “Pink” while describing supporter of progressive politician La Follete:

“Visionaries, ne’er do wells, parlor pinks, reds, hyphenates [Americans with divided allegiance], soft handed agriculturalists and working men who have never seen a shovel” so coming to point “Sissy Lefties”

Speaking of bigotry how could we forget another hero of Mr Hamdani , Richard Nixon , who using the same bigoted and sexist line , used this during Senate campaign against Helen Douglas , its one of the most infamous usage of this word “She is Pink right Down to her underwear”. The term was used most frequently during the worse times of United State History known as “The Red Scare” and McCarthy Era” where many Pinkos were tortured, killed, their lives ruined. Ku Klux Klan burned many long haired pinko sissies who stood up for Black Rights

The great Term was also being used In Apartheid South Africa, the ANC after all was “commie” and “Pinko” How many “Pinkos” were murdered and tortured there I leave it to you.

The real assault on the “Pink” happened in Germany with Homosexuals being killed en mass during Holocaust .They were asked to wear “Pink Triangles” to assert their “homosexuality” and “sissy-ness”.

Now let’s come to “Paki”. The great Pakistani “Patriot” Mr Hamdani uses this overtly “Racist” word. “Paki” has been declared by courts in UK to be “racist”. Just 2 days back Prince Harry made a public apology for using this term. Yahoo News says:

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s Prince Harry apologised Sunday for any offence caused after a self-filmed video was released showing him calling an army colleague a Paki and telling another he looked like a “raghead”. Politicians condemned his remarks and welcomed his apology, but Muslim youth organisation the Ramadan Foundation said the comments were “sickening”. The Ministry of Defence said it would not tolerate “inappropriate behaviour” and Harry’s commanding officer would look into his remarks. Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper said the clips, posted on its website, were made in 2006 when the prince was still an officer cadet. footage begins as Harry is waiting with his platoon in an airport departure lounge for a flight to a training exercise in Cyprus. Touring the room with a video camera as his colleagues snooze, he spots a colleague of South Asian ethnic origin and says: “Anybody else around here?… Ah, our little Paki friend, Ahmed.“”Paki” is a racist term for Pakistanis or other South Asians.

Harry’s office issued an apology, but insisted the prince had used the term without malice. “Prince Harry fully understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offence his words might cause,” a spokesman said. Cabinet minister John Denham condemned Harry’s language, saying: “People have changed their attitudes, people realise how offensive it is and I think the fact he has apologised so quickly shows that he’s recognised it.” David Cameron, leader of the main opposition Conservatives, said Harry’s comments were “completely unacceptable” and it was “right” he had apologised, but did not call for him to be reprimanded” Sun, 11 Jan, 2009

This is the normal response to “bigotry” which I feel PTH has failed to show. What I want to remind here is all this fuss is created in UK where this remark “Paki” was uttered by Prince Harry for a friend in a situation which could be dismissed as a “joke”. Prince also pretends to call Queen in the video. But all this was not enough to let him off the hook. What is more important is that all this “did not happen because the person who was called “Paki” complained. He never did. He never was offended. This is also not about “discrimination” because the person who was called “Paki” was a cadet at Sandhurst academy, he Mr Ahmad Raza Khan was Prince Harry’s colleague and friend and was one of the best cadets and was presented with “Overseas Sword” by Queen Elizabeth herself in 2006 for being the best cadet. So there was no question of “legal discrimination”, even than British Society forced Prince Harry to apologize publicly. It was all about Language.

I don’t want to go into the academic merits of Mr Hamdani’s article and his Gandhi bashing. What I find ironic is a man who builds this case on the premise that Gandhi was a “sexist”, “Racist” “fascist” and “castist” thus masking his bigotry and communalism in Liberal ethos and impeccable English will use terminology as overtly sexist, racist and homophobic as “Pinkos” and “Paki”?? The most outrageous part is the nauseously sexist assault on “free thinker”, Knowing very well “freethinke’s” views on Gender and sexuality [His blog] and also knowing “free thinker” is a boy , even than he writes “Freethinker wants to prove “himself/herself” a freethinker” This “him/her shit goes on. Now my dear friend he has seen “freethinker’s” blog, he knows where he is hitting. Freethinker , my self and many others consider the essentialist notion of Gender a very oppressive social construct. The modern discipline of Gender theory is based on this concept. The whole discipline is of course of “pinkos”, feminists n faggots. Its no wonder the traditional Vanguard of all reaction in west Pope Benedict had recently condemned the whole academic discipline of Gender theory. It all may sound not very appealing to you but my dear friend people like us who grew up struggling with issues of gender and sexuality, who have been bullied at schools for being “sissy” and “fags” pushed to the point of suicide and nervous break down this is the matter of our life and death our freedom and liberty. What respectability English language grants to bigotry. This “Pinkos” and “Paki” , “Him/Her” is not very different to us than “Hijra”, “khusra” etc. Cant our ideas be vehemently criticized without judging us for who we sleep with, how we talk and walk and do we wear lipstick? I asked Mr Omair Raza to write for PTH, I was under impression that discussions will be on issues and ideas and not on our race, religion, gender and sexuality.

With this sort of bigotry being allowed what happens that we loose our intellectual freedom, let me give you an example. The techniques by which Mr Gandhi becomes “castist”, “sexists”,” fascist” and “racist” , every known man in history could be shown to be. I for example if uses this methodology could write about Voltaire being racist. If Hindu nationalists want to write on PTH about Prophet of Islam, with respect to Islam and Woman emancipation and sexuality, we all know the age of Hazrat Ayesha mentioned in reputed Islamic texts when the marriage was consumed. Jesus can be demonstrated to be a virulent racist and hate mongerer . What moral justification we have to “control” this hate speech and not control one which favors Pakistani muslim stra8 guy’s bigotry against other marginalized groups??

What should I expect after my post on Homosexuality at PTH that a fellow writer writes “Brownies for Commie Fagot”??

There is a responsibility to protect marginalized groups at work place, clubs etc United Nations has recently passed a resolution to end discrimination against Homosexuals and Transgender people. Criticism and racist –sexist slandering are two very different things. I have been taught to stand up to and oppose bigotry and that I will do. I only expected that PTH editorial policy would have followed normal protective mechanisms against racist and sexist offenses. If PTH chooses to keep allowing racist/sexist and derogatory language in general especially to be used by Writers against fellow writers merely for intellectual difference, I will be forced to consider it as “Abuse” and in that case will not be able to keep associating my self with PTH. My mother taught me that one can criticize Malcom X’s violence without calling him “Nigger” and I think our views can be criticized without us being “Pinkos” “Pakis” and “commies”

I am sure you will understand my pain. At the personal level I am feeling very uneasy after writing this knowing that you personally are not for all this, I want to apologize for any pain and letdown my letter may have caused you. But Raza I will be not be a party to Abuse.

I am waiting for your reply and action. I thank you and Pak Tea House for giving me chance to write and for grooming my thought. For that I will always be in debt.

Yours Faithfully

Sherry

[Shaheryar Ali]

“I thought poetry could change everything, could change history and could humanize, and I think that the illusion is very necessary to push poets to be involved and to believe, but now I think that poetry changes only the poet.”

“We should not justify suicide bombers. We are against the suicide bombers, but we must understand what drives these young people to such actions. They want to liberate themselves from such a dark life. It is not ideological, it is despair.”

Mahmoud Darwish

“Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging…”

Noami Shihab Nye

9 August 2008 , a text message is delivered on my mobile, “Darwish” is dead! In my ears ring the poems of his friend Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ae erz e Watan— Ae erz e watan— kyon Noch Noch keh pehk diye , in aankon ne apne Neelum, chan chan–chan chan chan chan

Palestine is dying, the Palestine for which the progressives had waged a battle with history, from people without history, from people without name , from people without identity, from people without land , Arafat, George Habash, Darwish created everything . History, Name , Identity , land till the thugs came to loot and kill, to plunder and destroy what we had achieved .

Just like Arafat and Habash , Darwish died a lonely man, a man whose ideas died on streets of Gaza with rise of fascist Hamas! The struggle melting into web of imperialism and suicide bombings.

It was no other than Abu Mazen , president of Palestine who announced the death of the greatest of living poets of our times , who was Palestine’s national poet, and one of greatest living Arab and progressive poets of resistance.

Darwish started with “Rakah”, communist party of Israel, his struggle was against capitalism,imperialism and Zionism. He studied in USSR and was stripped of his Israeli citizenship. He continued , listening to call of motherland Darwish joined PLO and became voice of Palestine all over the world

It was the time when world was in grip of the myth that Palestine was “empty” desert when Jews came! Darwish rose to the challenge . He gave Palestine , history and Identity

He was a celebrity in progressive circles all around the world from Cuba to Pakistan. His poetry influenced the thought in Pakistan through Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Ahmad Faraz

When he wrote his famous poem “Identity Card” it created ripples in the world, the whole anguish of Palestine issue came forward

Identity Card

Write down !

I am an Arab

And my identity card number is fifty thousand

I have eight children

And the ninth will come after a summer

Will you be angry?

.

Write down!

I am an Arab

Employed with fellow workers at a quarry

I have eight children

I get them bread

Garments and books

from the rocks..

I do not supplicate charity at your doors

Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber

So will you be angry?

.

Write down!

I am an Arab

I have a name without a title

Patient in a country

Where people are enraged

My roots

Were entrenched before the birth of time

And before the opening of the eras

Before the pines, and the olive trees

And before the grass grew

.

My father.. descends from the family of the plow

Not from a privileged class

And my grandfather..was a farmer

Neither well-bred, nor well-born!

Teaches me the pride of the sun

Before teaching me how to read

And my house is like a watchman’s hut

Made of branches and cane

Are you satisfied with my status?

I have a name without a title!

.

Write down!

I am an Arab

You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors

And the land which I cultivated

Along with my children

And you left nothing for us

Except for these rocks..

So will the State take them

As it has been said?!

.

Therefore!

Write down on the top of the first page:

I do not hate people

Nor do I encroach

But if I become hungry

The usurper’s flesh will be my food

Beware..

Beware..

Of my hunger

And my anger!

Darwish stood as firm believer of ideology. When he wrote his poem “I am Yousaf” one of his best, it was set to music by great Arab composer Marcel Khalife; The Islamic fascists created a storm of hate against Khalife. He was accused of blasphemy because a verse of Koran was used in the poem! Darwish came forward to defend. In a passionate article he gave the progressive position on freedom of arts and expression. The article was named “In defense of freedom of creativity “Darwish wrote what most of us need to understand today

“Globalization besieges our path to future and Islamic fundamentalism besieges present pushing us to past from which bright pages only the margins of intellectual censorship are selectively read. Such fundamentalism does not bother asking what qualifies it to appoint itself a guardian of sacred and a monopoly of faith. we refuse religious oppression as much we refuse the political oppression. our defense of Khalife today is defense of freedom of creativity , unbound and unshackled—”

Such a beacon of creativity, clarity and freedom is no more. When he is needed the most. Palestine is dying ,to quote his own words “suiciding on the streets”

Alwida Dawish, Alwida Habash, Alwida Arafat: Alwida Palestine?

Long Live Palestine: Long Live Freedom

Shaheryar Ali

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