All kinds of madness

After a very weird and violent Friday, ‘resilient’ Karachi is back to ‘normal’.

Karachi has no choice but to do so. Ordinary people have to go to work and life must go on, despite the colossal damage to so many lives and property.

Much has been said in the papers, local as well as international, about blasphemy, the film that mocks Islam and the Prophet Muhammed, the protests that have ensued, the demands for a worldwide ban and censorship on anything that ridicules any religion, so I won’t go into any of that.

Suffice it to say that we, along with the majority of Pakistanis, stayed at home and watched helplessly on tv, as mobs gathered after Friday prayers and proceeded to break, burn, hurl stones. The police, outnumbered as they were, tried valiantly to bring the situation under control, but the mobs were too caught up in their own frenzy.

Five famous cinema houses were gutted, and a couple of banks burnt down too. Not sure about the exact number of people who lost their lives, but hundreds of people were injured.

Amidst the pall of gloom and the outrage at being held hostage at the hands of a few and at the State’s complicitness in furthering the aims of the miscreants/protesters, a bunch of people came out of their homes on Sunday and set themselves to cleaning up the mess in the aftermath of what can only be called a storm. Here’s a glimpse of what they did.

And while Pakistan busily loses points in the world in so many different ways, I thought I’d share with you one Pakistani who ploughs on with his brilliant music. Dubbed ‘the guitar prodigy from Karachi’, Usman Riaz began playing classical piano at the age of 6, and took up the guitar at age 16. Now, at 21, he has two albums under his belt, the first being ‘Flashes and Sparks’, and the latest being ‘Circus in the Sky’.

It was his video ‘Firefly’ that caught my attention sometime last year. Unfortunately, since Youtube is banned in my country since last week (a genius move by the government to stop people from watching the idiotic blasphemous film) I cannot link you to it, but if you search for it and have a listen, I promise you a fascinating few minutes.

I also cannot link you to his solo performance at the TEDGlobal 2012 where he got a standing ovation, and where he finally got to jam with Preston Reed, one of the guitarists whose work he learnt from while watching him play on Youtube.

But what I CAN link you to is this very uplifting video of Usman at a Walmart in Florida. I watched this today. Such fun. Take a look at a different kind of mob altogether.


  1. Do you know M…I have always wondered why when there are so many things to be creative about and draw inspiration from, people insist on religious themes! maybe I’m a dunce but I truly CANNOT understand this inexorable compulsion that humans seem to have when it comes to religion. Why is it so hard to accept it as a personal, individual choice and respect it as such? Is it really that hard? It saddens and frustrates me…the combination of which results of course in anger and things tend to go downhill from there šŸ˜¦

    Thank you for focusing on the bright side and I’m glad that there still exists one amongst the bleakness that I sometimes fear will consume our part of the world! And this Usman Riaz – is a genius or what? :)) At such a tender age – such gumption, such resolve! Loved it :)) Thank you for Riaz and thank you for the music :))

    1. Munira says:

      I simply do not get it either H, it fills most of us in despair. But these fellow countrymen of ours….*shakes head*……they’re making it so hard for themselves, as well as proving the world right.
      Gotta stay true to my word and keep my nose out of politics and religion, my friend. It’s all downhill there too. A businessman in Hyderabad was arrested for blasphemy for refusing to protest against the fim! Can you imagine? It’s insane I tell you. What a stupid messed up state of affairs.
      Did you check out ‘Firefly’?? He is really a genius! And resolve is the word! Thank you for reading my dear!

      1. Haven’t had the chance yet…what with the hectic last days of my Goa visit…but it’s on my list of things to do once I regain sanity!!

        You know M…it’s just so unfair sometimes…damned if you do and damned if you don’t…it’s just…….oh never mind, what’s the point?? Who’s even going to listen to us wise women?? Sigh…didn’t mean to get you down…it’s just the subject!

  2. This is a great post, Munira. Thanks for putting it up here and helping to bring to the attention of the world that Islam is peaceful and that the trouble is caused by a minority. It has to be noted also, and it is a shame that the Muslim angry minority don’t see it, that the guy who made the stupid film is in a minority too – just a western one. We don’t give it any credence. Just an idiot with a platform. And, sadly, he is given that platform in a world largely where you can say such things without impunity. I have come across three articles this week on the subject of free speach and what we are allowed to do with it. It’s a topic for a post sometime. But in essence, free speach doesn’t mean that you can inflame or disrespect anyone just because you can hide behind some anonymity.
    As for Usman Riaz, I found him recently on the TED site with Preston Reed. He’s one helluva player.

    Keep telling us what is happening. We need to hear the sensible side.

    1. Munira says:

      I have been reading a lot too and I wanted to be able to write a more detailed yet coherent piece about everything that I have assimilated the last week or so, but I’m afraid it all gets too convoluted and involved and I just can’t put it all together!
      The truth is (or seems to be) blasphemy is unavoidable in a free world. The Muslim world (or the parts of it which are more volatile) just needs to learn to turn a blind eye to it. But Muslims are human, and humans can be animals, and that is the fact that we witnessed the other day. The city was a zoo where the animals were wild and free…and angry. Or were they? I doubt if even 1% of the mobs had even seen the darn film, or had any clue about what the Prophet would think about their senseless violence had he been alive today.
      It also seemed like misdirected anger coming from disenfranchised and otherwise powerless people in a society defined by haves and have-nots.

      Why am I not surprised that you had heard of Usman Riaz already? Don’t you just love percussive guitar?!

  3. Thank you for this post. Thanks, too, for the videos.

    I agree with Al. We need so much to hear what’s happening in your part of the world. Where I am, all sides of the news are spun and spun until it’s like a game show where we have to figure it out ourselves by breaking what seems like code — and there’s no way to know if we’ve got it right. I’m always saddened when anyone thinks violence is a way to address perceived wrongs. Like Al said, we need to hear the sensible side.

    1. Munira says:

      Hey there Re. Thank you for watching!
      And though I try to avoid talking about current affairs, this story was crying out to be told to my community, which is you guys. I’m glad you’re there, tuned in. I’m glad you care. It’s gratifying to think I make a difference in my small way.
      We’re just a few kilometres from the epicentre of the looting and destruction….sometimes events like these just seem to give these mobs justification for everything…..anything goes…..there are no laws. Those cinema halls had been around for decades….they were historic…..and completely ruined now, destroyed. It’s just sickening.
      We couldn’t fathom where all these angry people emerged from…..and where are they now? Went back home after burning things and ate dinner? It was surreal to see the crazed looks on some of their faces. Hooligans, the whole lot. It’s weird and scary to think that these very same people are free and loose on the streets of Karachi….hordes of them.

  4. Usman says:

    Excellent post & great videos! Thank you!

    1. Munira says:

      Thank you for taking a look and reading Usman!

  5. Sherebanou says:

    Really well said and thought!

    1. Munira says:

      I could say a LOT more Sherou……but no. You know it already.

  6. satsumaart says:

    My internet is limited right now so I can’t watch the videos, but I echo what everyone else said. Thank you for writing. ā¤

    1. Munira says:

      Awwww!!! Wish you could see šŸ˜

      1. satsumaart says:

        I’ll come back and check once we get someplace with better internet!

    2. Munira says:

      (p.s. ……now you know why reading about peaceful, beautiful Iceland has been so great this past month Lisa! Can I thank you enough?)

      1. satsumaart says:

        Oh, that makes me really happy to hear. On the flip side of that, I was just thinking yesterday that being in Iceland makes it too easy for me to pretend the whole world is as peaceful and nice as here… I was glad (but very sad) for your post to remind me.

  7. Kathy says:

    Munira, thank you for sharing your view. I always feel at the edge of my soul that I’ve experienced this before in some dim dream or past life or perhaps just imagination, yet it feels so real. Can not imagine sitting inside one’s house as the crowds go mad outside. Just knowing you a little bit helps me feel the edges of knowing what this feels like. And I love that you turn the view toward the brilliant music, the protege, the flash mob celebrating life. Thank you, thank you, for sharing. Bless you and your country and our world.

    1. Munira says:

      Kathy, I loved what you wrote about a rainbow connecting us in your last post. That’s how it has felt, communicating with you this last week šŸ™‚ It was uplifting too, to be asked to write a guest post for you! (Which I will send you soon, I promise)
      It’s not as if we have not known this kind of craziness…..yet somehow it seemed crazier than the usual mayhem last Friday. It was an odd thing to happen, considering Friday is generally an exalted day for prayers. And this Friday was officially even declared a Day of Love for the Prophet (peace be upon him, they say…..but what about us? None for the rest of humanity, eh?)
      The last time the city went batshit insane was when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated…
      So it didn’t make any kind of sense at all. And when things don’t make sense, all we can do is look for something beautiful. That is what you do too in that gorgeous landscape which is your home šŸ™‚
      Curiously enough, things were back to the normal level of madness, which is quintessential Karachi, the very next day, and people stoically picked up the pieces. And we are grateful that it’s over and can get out without being cautioned against it. That afternoon, I wanted to go downstairs in my own courtyard to hang some laundry and a friend told me to be safe. I’m sure he was thinking of stray bullets. Then again, he ALWAYS tells me to ‘stay safe’ every time I go out of the house because the probability of being mugged or caught in a traffic accident is so high.

      Happy to be able to share something a bit uplifting though…I have my hopes pinned on artists and musicians šŸ™‚

      1. Kathy says:

        I like your term “batshit insane”. Describes the world perfectly, at times. Hugs! Glad you will still do the post! Let me know when.

  8. Oh, Mun, I thought of you on Friday when I saw it all on the news here in the US, and I was SO thankful to know I had a friend in you–to know that there is so much good and beauty to be found in your country, as well. Hugs to you, my dear!

    1. Munira says:

      Everything just changes when you know someone somewhere, news from there automatically becomes so much more relevant!
      You indeed have a friend in me Kathy dear….thank you for thinking of me, though I was safe and sound at home, if only horrified and depressed at all that uncivilized behaviour.

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