Blinded by Guilt


Refugees during the partition of India (in 1947). Photo: Creative Common 
The immensity of the guilt in perpetrators of crimes does bring wrath of God Almighty. It could be a physical disability caused to these men of evil doings. Divine retribution is a belief and a topic for teachers of religion to expound upon, yet it is the realisation within the misdeed of such men that creates hell in this life for them. 
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GOD STANDS IN CONGREGATION OF THE MIGHTY

AND JUDGES AMONG THE GODS.

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by Salman Rashid

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As you drive through Laliani en route to Kasur from Lahore, you pass by Adday vali Maseet — Mosque of the [bus/tonga] Stand. Today, few know that it was paid for by Zaildar Sardar Anant Singh, a Bhular Jat and a rich land owner of Laliani. The land was donated by the Sardar’s kinsmen, who had converted to Islam and the Sikh paid for the building. (more…)

We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond


“We are not Muslims” hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem.
As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
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WE ARE ALL MUSLIMS

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by Sonny Singh

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The following piece from Sonny Singh reminds me of the pre 9/11 days, when we never had heard of things like suicide bombings, sectarian clashes of the proportion we have it now, or the manifestations of religious extremism as we see in Pakistan nowadays.

When I look to my own self, I have never been a religious man. A firm believer in Allah and his  holy prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and offering prayers off and on. That was my Islam. But ever since 9/11, the world media starting branding every Muslim as a sinister, war monger, religious zealot out to kill every infidel on the street, my secularism started thinning out. (more…)

‘The tentacles of baseless hate continue to entwine’ Reblogged


The mourners were touched when the grief-stricken Sikh community opened the doors of the Brookfield gurdwara to embrace hundreds who came to offer their support in the aftermath of the shooting. “I came with my family to show our support to the grief-stricken people. It was a bad man who did the killings,” a tearful Hope Bailey of Muskego told the local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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WE CONDEMN THE SENSELESS ATTACK IN SIKH GURDWARA OF OAK CREEK

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We at Wonders of Pakistan strongly condemn the senseless and horrific attack on the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, USA. Our hearts go out to our Sikh brethren in Wisconsin and around the world. Khalsa Sajanrho! Assi tuhadhay dukh dard che brabar de sharik haan . (we stand with you in solidarity during this sorrowful time).

Acts of such kinds remind us how the prejudice, fear and hate can lead to violence.  Though its difficult to move beyond this tragedy, our resolve is only strengthened, and we will continue to work towards cultivating harmonious and peaceful coexistence amongst different faiths.

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We call upon our American friends to respond to this tragedy by supporting the families of the victims, and Sikh community members. Over the course of this week, vigils are being held around the US with the message of “We are all Sikhs.” We all stand in support of the Sikh community and the values that bind us as believers in one God. I understand Pakistanis, Muslims and non Muslims alike are also attending these vigils in their respective area in the US pledging support for victims of hate crimes.

The Pakistani community in the US has also endorsed a letter raising  concern about rise in hate crimes and discrimination and violence that Sikh, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have endured (including the recent Joplin, MO mosque arson attack); reaffirmation of inclusion, equality, and pluralism; and asking President Obama  to convene a summit on xenophobia and religious hate in America.

Rabbi David Wolpe of  Sinai Temple in Los Angels penned the following poem about the tragedy.

Writes Wolpe:

Why do you suppose a man

Would kill some Sikhs at prayer?

Could he have suspected that Just Muslims worshiped there?

Imagine how he’d be distressed

To know his aim was true

Yet nonetheless failed to hit

One Muslim, black or Jew.

The tentacles of baseless hate

Continue to entwine

And will not cease until their prey

Are not “them” or “theirs” but “mine.”

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Published in: on 09/08/2012 at 11:43 pm  Comments (1)  

Rediscovering our Sikh heritage


The image of Samadhi above is the mausoleum of the great Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is located near the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. Construction was started by his son, Kharak Singh on the spot where he wa scremated and was completed by his younger son, Dillip Singh in 1848. The tomb exmeplifies Sikh archiecture, it has gilded fluted domes and cupolas and an ornate blustrade around the top. Ranjit Singh’s ashes are contained in a marble urn in the shape of a lotus, sheltered under a marble pavilion inlaid with petra dura, in the centre of the tomb. Photo courtesy Bushra Shehzad for Hosh Media/Dawn.com
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REDISCOVERING OUR SIKH HERITAGE 

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by

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It was my first encounter with the pioneering woman who has made it her life’s mission to document the largely undiscovered subject.

“I was roaming around the Lahore Fort when I came across the Athdara. I got on top of it and started looking around. I found several features that were Mughal but some were very different – a confusing but intriguing mix of materials and motifs,” remembers Dr Nadhra Shahbaz Naeem Khan. This was the moment when her unique journey to documenting Sikh art and architecture in Pakistan began, which in her words, was “serendipity.”

Righ: Naeem Khan teaches History of Art at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan. She is a Charles Wallace Pakistan Fellow 2011. Her areas of interest are Mughal and Sikh period Art & Architectural Ornament. Her research area is Sikh Art & Architectural Ornament. She has traced different influences that have contributed to its flowering during the Sikh rule in Punjab in the nineteenth century. Her main focus though remains the ornamental program of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi.

Dr Khan graduated with a degree in graphic design from the Department of Fine Arts, University of the Punjab (presently the College of Art and Design) and completed her postgraduate in the same. Later, she taught at their Fine Arts Department for a few years before working for an advertising agency, and then joined the Lahore College for Women University, where she set up their Department of Art and Design.

In 2002, while Dr Khan was teaching Art and Design, the Punjab University announced a PhD programme in Art History. It was then that she says, she just “dived into it” without a very clear concept of where it would lead her.

A visit to the Athdara at the Lahore Fort triggered her destiny and took Dr Khan to Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi to discover and learn more. “That was the day when I silently told myself that this was it – my dissertation was going to be on the Samadhi!”

Fresco is in Kharak Singh’s haveli within the Lahore Fort.– Photo courtesy Nadhra Shahbaz Naeem Khan for Hosh Media/Dawn.com

” When I learned that ‘Getting to Know Pre-Colonial Punjab through Sikh-period Frescoes’ was being offered as an actual course at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) last semester, I was ecstatic “.

Dr Khan’s PhD dissertation was a study of the ornamental program of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi in Lahore. This led her to study other Sikh monuments in Punjab. In the process, she has built an impressive photographic archive documenting some endangered sites –an area that needs more people like her to carry out specialised research given  dire need of preserving and conserving heritage sites in Pakistan.

Performing documentation and research on historical sites in Pakistan is quite an arduous task, considering most of the monuments lie dilapidated, on the verge of being erased from history.

“The day I decided that this was what I wanted to take up as my research topic, I had no clue of what I was getting myself into.” The first difficulties of this long and laborious journey started to surface when failed to find any relevant published or archival work on the subject.

“I did not know where it all started from and except for small accounts by various 19th-century historians who briefly talk about Ranjit Singh; his pillaging of Mughal monuments and his Samadhi being a mix of Hindu and Muslim architectural elements, there was nothing else,” she says, expressing the hopelessness she felt at the time.

All the “desperately needed” material was in Amritsar and getting a visa to visit the land of the Maharaja’s commissioned Golden Temple seemed impossible, until she met Manveen Sandhu and Tripat Bains, two charismatic Sikh women who opened the doors of the city, its research material as well as their hearts to Dr Khan.

The eastern facade of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi. It has frescoes of guardian figures that Dr Nadhra Shahbaz Naeem Khan found after scraping thick layers of whitewash. They have since been covered with more layers and lost again. – Photo courtesy Nadhra Shahbaz Naeem Khan for Hosh Media/Dawn.com

Her voyage of research is a story as unique as her area of research. In the field, she is called the ‘scratching lady.’ Dr Khan says her “scratching project started with Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi. The interior has beautiful panels of wall paintings and I was puzzled by the fact that the exterior was completely devoid of any.” This made her think that there was a strong possibility that these white washed walls originally may have had wall paintings. But she says it was almost impossible to pinpoint as to where these paintings might have been. She then came across a late 19th-century black-and-white photograph by Bourne and Shepherd showing male figures flanking the northern entrance of the Samadhi, published by F. S. Ijazuddin in Lahore: Illustrated Views of the 19th Century, which led her to discover them being buried under thick layers of whitewash.

In a recent television news report on the Lahore Fort, the reporter mentioned, “And on this side, right outside the Roshnai Gate is Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi. And for those of you who do not know who Ranjit Singh is…” and she went on. I always thought Ranjit Singh’s depiction in our history books was exaggerated. Before I took up Dr Nadhra’s course, I had this image of Ranjit Singh as some bandit, who looted “our” Mughal buildings and ruled Punjab. I have been her student for a year now and every day I learn to see things from a new perspective. I wondered whether she had similar preconceived notions of these things as well?

“I embarked on my own project with these preconceived notions which were dispelled only much later. It happened gradually, as I met people across the border and studied and analysed history written by various historians giving different standpoints,” affirmed my professor.

Dr Khan feels particularly sad at how we, as a nation, have come to view history. “We look at history with lenses coloured with our bias. We need to take them off and bring in objectivity. We need to start owning our heritage. We need to look at it with pride, whether it is the Sikh period, the Mughal or the British. It is all part of us.”

She says we have developed this habit of looking at history from very specific angles. “This is Mughal, so this is ours; this belongs to another religion, so this isn’t. It should not be like this. We are heirs of an ancient culture and we need to understand it. Starting from the Indus Valley, anything and everything in this part of the world is what makes us who we are,” she adds with conviction.

I had never noticed the narratives from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata beautifully painted in the sunken niches of the Sheesh Mahal at the Lahore Fort before I decided to write my research paper on Draupadi – a woman portrayed in the Mahabharata as the epitome of conviction and resilience. And I wonder how many of us visiting the Lahore Fort know what these frescoes mean and signify – the majority probably just takes them as imaginary male and female figures painted merely for decorative purposes.

In Professor Nadhra’s opinion this is one of the major reasons so little is being done to preserve our heritage sites, “there is so little that people are aware of.” Talking about Naunehal Singh’s Haveli, which now functions as the Victoria School, she says, “This reflects our ignorance as a nation.”

“The building needs to be vacated immediately. The school can operate in any of the surrounding buildings or houses,” Dr Khan adds as she laments over the almost faded Sikh monument. She stresses the need for government intervention, as she adds that of course one cannot deprive the students of their school.

The problem, she says, is that we are not trying to look at the long-term benefits of these buildings. “These buildings can become a source of huge benefit for our own people. They are not for one individual. This is important for our own people, every Pakistani. They also need to be familiar with their own heritage.”

Talking about the importance of conserving and preserving historical sites, she says that political stability comes when it has to come, but “one needs to bring economic stability and for this you have to work on many levels”. She adds, “This is one level where you can actually earn tonnes of millions for your people. The Sikhs yearn to come to Lahore, to visit their cultural heritage. They would do anything for a glimpse.” Why can’t we take this opportunity and develop tourism, a huge industry that could benefit both individuals and the country, she asks.

Dr Khan believes more people need to be trained in this field, because there is so much to explore and learn. Her course at LUMS is an important step to create awareness but there is also urgency to preserve these endangered sites as they are fast decaying.

Bushra Shehzad interviewed Dr Nadhra Shahbaz Naeem Khan for Hosh Media, a volunteer based organisation that mentors & publishes young bloggers and journalists on mainstream media in Pakistan, giving their voice more reach and impact. Bushra is a photojournalist and contributor with Hosh media. 

 You might also like:

1. Heritage – Our Identity – Our Pride 2. Sikh Killings By Militants Confirm Deep RAW-TTP Links 3. India and Pakistan – Apologies should be genuine 4. Sikh Community Waiting for Justice 5. Punja Sahib: The Miracle that Refused to Happen 6. Khota Qabar & the Story of a Lost Battle 7. Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh 8. Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji & His Message for Humanity
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We atWonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

ETPB making preparations for Baisakhi Festival


* Chairman says 4,000 pilgrims had visited Pakistan last year

* Visitors play role of goodwill ambassadors for Pakistan

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HERE COMES THE SPRING, HARVEST AND THE CELEBRATIONS!

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by Afnan Khan

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The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and all the concerned authorities are set to host the Baisakhi festival with around 8,000 foreign guests, mostly Sikh pilgrims from all over the world. The celebrations will start from first week of April.

The number of foreign guests, mostly from India, will be double this year on orders of board Chairman, Mr. Asif Hashmi, who recently chaired a meeting of high-ups of police and other departments to supervise the preparations for the event.

Hashmi said that such events were essential to promote a soft image of the country across the globe. ETPB has increased the number of pilgrims due to requests by members of the Sikh community.

He further said that the visitors not only appreciated the efforts of Pakistan government for facilitating such a huge event but also played the role of goodwill ambassadors of Pakistan in different parts of the world.

The ETBP chairman informed that around 4,000 pilgrims had visited Pakistan during the last Baisakhi and visitors, mostly from India, US, Canada and Europe, were very happy with the decision of the board. Strict security measures had been taken to ensure foolproof security for the foreign guests, said Hashmi.

He added that the board would provide visitors with the facilities of boarding and lodging along with security and medical treatment in case any of them falls sick during the days-long celebrations.

Thousands of Sikh pilgrims visit Pakistan every year on different events, including Baisakhi, Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary and religious rituals associated with other Sikh gurus and personalities. Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore, a number of temples in Nankana Sahib and Hassan Abdal are primary sites of visit for the Sikh pilgrims from all around the world.

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YOUR COMMENT IS IMPORTANT

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.


Published in: on 29/03/2011 at 1:55 pm  Comments (2)