Monday, June 11, 2012




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lyrics: "Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaa Kar..."

This song is from the epic 1960 film "Mughal-e-Azam." The film tells the story of Shah Akbar's son Salim (Dilip Kumar) and the court intrigue which follows him and his romance with Anarkali (Madhubala).
This particular song is known in Hindustani classical music as a "jugalbandi." Wikipedia offers the following explanation of the style:
jugalbandi or jugalbandhi (DevanagariजुगलबंधीUrdu: جگلندئ‍) is a performance in Indian classical music that features a duet of two solo musicians. The word jugalbandi means, literally, "entwined twins." The duet can be either vocal or instrumental. What defines jugalbandi is that the two soloists be on an equal footing. While any Indian music performance may feature two musicians, a performance can only be deemed a jugalbandi if it is neither clearly the soloist and nor clearly an accompanist. In jugalbandi, both musicians act as lead players, and a playful competition exists between the two performers.
The "playful competition" is very apparent in this song. Both Anarkali and Bahaar (Nigar Sultana) are seated in Salim's court and present a musical debate on the merits of being in love. Anarkali is optimistic; Bahaar is pessimistic and mocks people in love.


تیری محفل میں قسمت آزما کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
तेरी महफ़िल में क़िस्मत आज़मा कर हम भी देखेंगे
In your company, we too shall test fate and see...

گھڑی بھر کو تیرے نزدیک آ کر
घड़ी भर को तेरे नज़दीक आ कर
An entire hour spent with you

ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
हम भी देखेंगे
We too shall see


تیری محفل میں قسمت آزما کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
तेरी महफ़िल में किस्मत आजमा कर हम भी देखेंगे
In your company, we too shall test fate and see...

تیرے قدموں پے سر اپنا جھکا کر
तेरे क़दमों पे सर अपना झुका कर
Bowing our heads at your feet

ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
हम भी देखेंगे
We too shall see


بہاریں آج پیغام محبّت لے کے آئی ہے
बहारें आज पैग़ाम ए मुहब्बत ले के आई है
Spring has today brought a message of love

بڑی مدّت میں امیدوں کی کلیاں مسکرائی ہیں
बड़ी मुद्दत में उम्मीदों की कलियाँ मुस्कुराई हैं
In a long time, the blossoms of hope have smiled

غم دل سے ذرا دامن بچا کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
ग़म ए दिल से ज़रा दामन बचा कर हम भी देखेंगे
Saving our skirts from a heart's sorrow, we too shall see...


اگر دل غم سے خالی ہو تو جینے کا مزا کیا ہے
अगर दिल ग़म से ख़ाली हो तो जीने का मज़ा क्या है
If the heart is devoid of sorrow, what is life's delight

نہ ہو خون جگر تو اشک پینے کا مزا کیا ہے
न हो ख़ून ए जिगर तो अश्क पिने का मज़ा क्या है
If there is not a bleeding heart, what is the delight of crying tears

محبّت میں ذرا آنسو بہا کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
मुहब्बत में ज़रा आंसू बहा कर हम भी देखेंगे
Having cried a few tears in love, we too shall see...


محبّت کرنے والوں کا ہے بس اتنا ہی افسانہ
मुहब्बत करने वालों का है बस इतना ही अफ़साना
This is the sole story of lovers...

تڑپنا چپ کے چپ کے آہ بھرنا گھٹ کے مر جانا
तड़पना चुप के चुप के आह भरना घुट के मर जाना
Quietly distressed, breathing deeply, a drunken death

کسی دن یہ تماشا مسکرا کے ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
किसी दिन यह तमाशा मुस्कुरा के हम भी देखेंगे
Some day, with a smile, we too shall see this spectacle


محبّت ہم نے مانا زندگی برباد کرتی ہے
मुहब्बत हम ने माना ज़िन्दगी बरबाद करती है
We've accepted that love destroys life

یہ کیا کم ہے کہ مر جانے پی دنیا یاد کرتی ہے
यह क्या कम है कि मर जाने पे दुनिया याद करती है
What's wrong if the world only remembers us upon our death

کسی کے عشق میں دنیا لٹا کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
किसी के इश्क़ में दुनिया लुटा कर हम भी देखेंगे
Giving up the world when in love with someone, we too shall see

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Facebook Users in Arab Countries

This morning, I came across two infographics by Khaled El Ahmed (@Shusmo) depicting the penetration of the social networking platforms Facebook and Twitter in the Arab countries. The data used in these infographics were gathered from the Arab Social Media Report conducted by the Dubai School of Government. 

This particular study examines the demographics of Facebook usage within the frameworks of the growth rate of users, the gender breakdown, and how individual nations try to regulate access to platforms. In addition, the study considers factors such as income, youth population, and internet freedom. 

The study also looks into the future. What does a large number of young people using social networking platforms mean for cvic engagement, social reform, entrepreneurship, and innovation?

A few notes taken directly from the study:
  • On a global level, the UAE is the top Arab country in terms of Facebook penetration as percentage of the population. It is also among the top 10 in the world, with a Facebook penetration rate of 45%
  • GCC countries dominate the top five Arab FB users as percentage of population, with Lebanon being the only exception.
  • With around 4.7 million Facebook users, Egypt constitutes about 22% of total users in the Arab region.
  • Youth (between the ages of 15 and 29) make up 75% of Facebook users in the Arab region.
  • Gender breakdown of Facebook users indicates an average 2:1 ratio of male to female users in the Arab region, compared to almost 1:1 globally
  • Lebanon is the most gender-balanced of the Arab countries, followed closely by Bahrain, Jordan and Tunisia, while at the other end of the spectrum Facebook users in Somalia and Yemen are overwhelmingly male 
  • The UAE is the most balanced in terms of adult and youthful Facebook users, while countries such as Somalia, Palestine and Morocco have a predominantly youthful Facebook user population
  • Interestingly, a few Arab countries (Djibouti, Iraq) actually have more Facebook users than Internet users, indicating that many Facebook users in these countries rely on mobile access
  • Internet freedom does not seem to affect Facebook penetration in the Arab region. Some countries with lower scores (i.e., more pervasive filtering) have relatively high Facebook penetration. This could be due to the creativity of the youth population in finding ways to bypass filters and censors.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Still Shouting in the Dark #Bahrain

While I followed the anti-government protests closely at their onset, I, like many, became tired of attending countless lectures by professors and guest speakers in Ann Arbor. However, I think the success of Egypt's ability to televise a presidential debate, hold legitimate elections, and the suspense of this month's run-off elections -- has rekindled the interest of many who follow Middle Eastern affairs. When we know that an end is possible -- inshallah --, it becomes worthy to understand the means.

As I found myself more active on Twitter this week, I've noticed many tweets about the continuing situation in Bahrain. I was very interested particularly in the Bahraini protests, because they challenge the reasoning that the wealthy GCC nations have no need to reform their governments, since they are materially content.

At its onset, the Bahraini effort was intent on equality for the Shi'a majority living under the reign of Sunni King Hamad. However, the government was relentless in its approach to the civil uprising centered in Pearl Roundabout. The result was a nation under "martial law."

Better than my words, the Al Jazeera documentary "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark" provides an excellent testimony to this desperate time.

One aspect of this documentary that I found exceptionally provoking was the manner in which the government used the momentum of social media against the protestors. The government aggregated photos available on platforms such as Facebook and used its sources to identify individuals participating in "illegal protests." These individuals were later jailed or killed.

But why am I writing this post today? Even though King Hamad commissioned an independent inquiry  into the happenings, he does not seem to abide by any of the findings. The commission found that the government itself was guilty of human rights violations and various types of torture. The commission also stated that the roots of the uprisings were not from Iran -- which the government accuses of rallying Shi'as in Bahrain as treasonous puppets of the Iranian regime.

Throughout the week, I've been following the tweets of @angryarabiya and @MaryamAlKhawaja (of Bahrain Center for Human Rights). I keep coming across a myriad of accounts of arrests and teargas used on protesters. In particular, I read of a number of children under the age of 16 being arrested for taking part in protests.
As I needed to find out more about this resurfacing of the political crackdown in Bahrain, I checked Al Jazeera hoping to find a story about Bahrain hidden in some corner -- but it was a headline story!
So what does this mean? While the world is busy with election anxiety in Egypt and Assad's daily efforts to transform Syria into a big slaughterhouse -- Bahrainis are still shouting in the dark. No one is holding the King accountable, for there is too much at risk. The Bahraini monarchy's relationship with their fellow Sunnis in Saudi Arabia is close as we saw KSA sent tanks to Bahrain last March. In effect, this creates two camps from a geopolitical perspective -- one centered around Saudi Arabia, the other around Iran.

However, USA Today reports on the United States' attempts to persuade King Hamad to appease Shi'a demands, without stepping on the toes of the Saudis:
Bahrain's rulers have crucial support from neighboring Saudi Arabia, but are under pressure from their U.S. allies to reopen dialogue with Shiite opposition factions. A new government initiative for talks is expected to be announced next week. But main Shiite groups have already signaled that negotiations are futile unless the ruling dynasty agrees to give up its near total control of government affairs in the strategic island, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Finally, Shi'as in Bahrain want to make clear that being Shi'a does not mean association with Iran. Similarly, not all Sunnis see their country as another province of Saudi Arabia. Rather, by protesting they are more intently expressing their desires to participate in the civil culture of their own nation.
"No to the unification of the GCC; Yes to the unification of the opposition powers!"
"Bahrain is not for sale!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lyrics: "Satyamev Jayate" Title Song

Here is my transliteration and translation of the title song Aamir Khan's "Satyamev Jayate" which I previously have written about. It is not clear exactly who the lyrics are addressing -- it could be a lover, God, one's country, etc. In any case, the original lyrics in Hindi are so beautiful, with extensive metaphors throughout. I tried the best to convey this imagery in English -- but it's difficult!

Note: read column-wise, not row-wise!

तेरा रंग ऐसा चढ़ गया
Your color has spread

कोई और रंग न चढ़ सके
Such that no other color may

तेरा नाम सीने पे लिखा
I wrote your name on my chest

हर कोई आँखें पढ़ सकें
Such that every eye may read it

है जुनून है जुनून है
This is obsessive passion

तेरे इश्क का यह जुनून है
This is passion for your love

रग रग में इश्क तेरा दौड़ता
Your love runs through my veins

यह बावरा सा खून है
This is eccentric, crazy blood

तू ने ही सिखाया सचाइयों का मतलब
Only you have taught me the meaning of truth

तेरे पास आके जाना मैं ने ज़िन्दगी का मक़सद
Having come close to you, I've realized life's intent

सत्यमेव सत्यमेव सत्वय्मेव जयते
"Satyamev Jayate" -- Truth alone triumphs

सचा है प्यार तेरा
You're love is true

सत्यमेव जयते
Truth alone triumphs

तेरे नूर के दस्तूर में
In the tradition of your divine light

न हो सलवटें न हो सीखन रहें
There are no wrinkles; there exist no creases

मेरी कोशिशें तो है बस यहीं
My efforts are only such that

रहें खुशबूएं  गुलशन रहे
The fragrances and rose gardens live on

तेरी ज़ुल्फ़ सुलझाने चला
I went to disentangle your tresses

तेरे और पास आने चला
I started to come close to you

जहां कोई सुर न हो बेसुरा
Where no melody can lack harmony

वह गीत मैं गाने चला
I began to sing that song

तेरा रंग ऐसा चढ़ गया
Your color has spread

था नशा जो भी और बढ़ गया
Such that the existing intoxication increased

तेरी बारिशों का करम है यह
These are showers of your benevolence

मैं निखर गया मैं संवर गया
I became cleansed; I reformed

जैसा भी हूँ अपना मुझे
How ever I am, make me yours

मुझे यह नहीं है बोलना
I must not have to speak this

क़ाबिल तेरे मैं बन सकूं
I shall become worthy of you

मुझे द्वार ऐसा खोलना
Just open such a door for me

सांसों की इस रफ़्तार को
This speed of breath

धड़कन के इस त्यौहार को
This festival of heartbeats

हर जीत को हर हार को
Each victory, each defeat

ख़ुद अपने इस संसार को
Even my entire world

बदलूँगा मैं...तेरे लिए
I will change it all...just for you!

मुझे ख़ुद को भी है टटोलना
I must also examine myself

कहीं है कमी तो है बोलना
If there is something lacking, I must admit to it

कहीं दागें हैं तो छुपाएं क्यों
Somewhere there are stains and scars, so why hide them

हम सच से नज़रें हटाएं क्यों
Why should we turn a blind eye from the truth?

ख़ुद को बदलना है अगर
If I must change

बदलूँगा मैं तेरे लिए
I will change just for you

शोलों पे चलना है अगर
If I must walk on flames

चल दूंगा मैं तेरे लिए
I will walk just for you

मेरे खून की हर बूंद में
In each drop of my blood

संकल्प हो तेरा प्यार का
Is a vow of my love for you

काटो मुझे तो तू बहे
When cut, you shall flow out

हो सुर्ख रंग हर धार का
Red shall be the color of each stream

Monday, June 4, 2012

كيف قررت دراسة العربية؟

كيف قررت دراسة العربية؟
بقلم نكهل نندگم

لماذا قررت دراسة العربية؟ في الحقيقة هذا السؤال ممتاز. من البداية ما كانت هناك ايّ علاقة بيني وبين هذه اللغة. لم اختر العربية بسبب اصل عائلتي مثل بعض الطلاب في صفي ولم اختر العربية بسبب اشتراكي في الجيش مثل مجموعة اخرى. فما كان سبب اهتمامي بهذه اللغة وثقافتها؟ هذا السؤال ممتع جدا خاصةً لانّ العربية هي لغة معروفة في الدنيا كلها بسبب صعوباتها – يعني قرار دراسة اللغة العربية ليس مثل قرار دراسة الفرنسية او الاسبانية. بالنسة للغة العربية هي لغة غير معروفة للامريكيين. فكيف سوف نستعمل هذه اللغة وكيف سوف نقرب عن ثقافتها. هذه الاسئلة ليست سهلة بضبط ولكن هي مهمة جدا في نظر الطلاب الجدد. فبعد سنتين في صفوف العربية في جامعة مشيغان اريد ان احكي لكم قصتي

من كل اللغات الموجودة في العالم لماذا اخترت العربية؟ بدأت ان اهتم باللغة العربية في المرحلة الثانوية. كانت عطلة الشتاء عندما تعلمت عن الموسيقى العربية الشعبية. في الحقيقة الاستمع الى هذا النوع من الموسيقى غيّر حياتي. اوّلاً استكشاف هذا الموسيقى غيّر افكاري عن الشرق الاوسط والعرب. في الغرب نظن انّ كل العرب محافظون ودينيون ونظن على خطأ انّ كل العرب مسلمون ايضا. فتعلمت كيف افكارنا عن الشرق الاوسط غير صحيحة

في هذه السنوات كنت ادرس لغات اخرى ايضا. درست الفرنسية في مدرسة واشتريت كتابا وبدأت ان ادرس اللغة الهندية والأردو جنبا الى جنب. استمتعت بدراسة هذه اللغات لأنّها لغات الافلام الهندية. تعلمت انّ هناك علاقة قريبة بين مفردات موجودة في هذه اللغات والكلمات العربية والفارسية. فكانت هذا اللحظة الالى فكرت ان ادرس اكثر عن اللغات في الشرق الاوسط

في هذا الزمان كانت الولايات المتحدة مشغولة في حربين وكنت اسكن في مدينة محافظة بالنسبة للسياسة ومسيحية شديدا بالنسبة للدين. وفي رايي ما عرفوا كثيرا عن الثقافات المختلفة في الدنيا. كانوا يعتقدون انّ كل عرب او كل مسلم خطير وعنيف. لذلك اردت ان اغيّر وجهة نظرهم. اردت ان اقدم لهم صورة مختلفة الشرق الاوسط. عندما قدمت لأصدقاء كليبات اغاني العربية استغربت الاغلبية. ربما هذه الكليبات كانت غريبة لأنّها كانت على العكس من ما يشاهد الامريكيون في الاخبار او على العكس من ما يسمع الامريكيون في خطبة الرئيس الامريكي. فأهم شيء بالنسبة لهذا سوء الفهم هو ليس ان كل الامريكيين يكرهون العرب، ولكن في رايي ليست لهم فرصة ان يفهموا حقيقة ثقافة واجتماع العرب بطريقة مناسبة

لذلك انا فعلا مبسوط ان اتعلم دراسة اللغة والثقافة العربية في برنامج فلاگشب. مع مساعدة هذا البرنامج من السهل ان نقرب من العالم العربي وصوته. مثلاً التقينا اشخاص مؤثرين مثل توكل كرمان وهالة البدري وزهور كرام وبثينة كامل حتى يمكننا الآن ان نتعلم من مصادر الاخبار. فدراسة اللغة العربية تعطينا وصول المعلومات المهمة من اصلها ونصبح مستعدين ان نقرر بين الحقيقة والكذبة. اخيرا في رأيي هذه القوة اللغوية هي قوة كبيرة ومن اللازم ان نستفيد منها لنحقق مقاصدنا 

مع استاذة توكل كرمان --  حاصلة على جائزة نوبل للسلام ٢٠١١

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Mera kalma hai tu, Azaan hai..."

Anyone who is familiar with the Indian entertainment industry will undoubtedly notice the popularity of Sufi-inspired music and settings within Hindi films. And especially to me, as an enthusiast of both Islamic societies around the world and of secular Indian society, the intersection of Islam and the secular institution of "Bollywood" interests me a great deal.

But what's new about this? Absolutely nothing. Urdu and Sufi-inspired art made its way into the Indian entertainment industry since before Independence. Many lyricists, musicians, singers, and actors were Muslim. Moreover, figures like Mughal-e-Azam's cast of Madhubala and Dilip Kumar were originally from Peshawar. At the time of Partition, much of the Muslim talent in the industry decided to remain in India, and some even adopted Hindu names when Hindu-Muslim riots enveloped the region.

But this is a completely divergent - though important - story.

If nothing is new about the participation of Islamic influences in the industry...why am I writing this post? I'm writing this in response to a song  which isn't exemplary or iconic in any manner, but it illustrates the spark in my mind with relevance to this topic.

The song is "Rab Ka Shukrana" from the film Jannat 2. And from this song, I want to highlight a set of lines from the chorus:

तू ही अब मेरा दीन है, इमान है 
تو ہی اب میرا دیں ہے، ایمان ہے 
You are my religion, you are my faith

रब का शुक्राना 
رب کا شکرانہ 
Thanks to God

मेरा कलमा है तू, अज़ान है 
میرا کلمہ ہے تو، اذان ہے 
You are my kalma, you are my azaan

रब का शुक्राना
رب کا شکرانہ 
Thanks to God

So what's special about these lines? In my opinion, four words -- deen, imaan, kalma, azaan. It's normal to hear rich Urdu metaphors in Bollywood songs, but these seemed very direct to me. For example, kalma refers to the Islamic testimony that 'there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger'. Also, the azaan is the famous (sometimes infamous) Muslim call to prayer. 

With such strong Islamic imagery presented in such a sultry song (reference the video) -- one would expect Deobandis or Salafis somewhere in world to have announced a fatwa for likening such sacred concepts to such worldly contexts. It happened with Atif Aslam's "Tere Liye" when the word "khudaaii" was misunderstood to mean "God." It also occurred with AR Rahman's "Chaiyya Chaiyya" when some interpreted the line "PaaoN ke neeche jannat hogi" as slandering the Muslim notion of heaven.

But with "Rab Ka Shukrana" I could only find one lonely voice of protest under the title 'Shirk in Jannat 2 song. 'Shirk' refers to the condemned notion of idolatry and polytheism in Islam.
I was just listening the song Rab ka shukrana .. . i highlighted blasphemous lyrics in the song "rab ka shukrana". i strictly condemn this blasphemous song, it was kind of distorting our beloved religion islam . this pathetic song was sung by a hindu singer mohit chuhan . he and all the crew included in making this song were not suppose to hurt sentiment of billions of muslims . . it should be banned . This film is named as jannat 2 . I just hope that all the Muslims around the world will endorse me. I want all of you to listen this song before posting a comment. Thanks
The fact that neither conservative Muslims, nor right-wing Hindutva parties (like the Shiv Sena) are more opposed to the presence of Islamic rhetoric (or its misappropriation) on the big screen is very encouraging. Perhaps there is greater understanding in society, but I strongly doubt it. I think, at the moment, India's troublemakers have realized that there are more important issues to address as their constituents are protesting the increase in prices and the decrease in the value of the Indian Rupee. 

As for the atheist in me...I couldn't care less about what's idolatry and what's not. It's good music, it's poetry.