Friday, October 30, 2009

The Curious Fundamentalist

This is one of the craziest things I've heard in a long time, it involves a relative of my aunt's called S. S is a native of Karachi, she was always quite curious, a tomboy who liked playing with boys but who showed no interest in boys as she grew up. Her liberal parents never pushed her into being a 'typical Pakistani girl', and she was left to explore her identity, and even when this identity entailed 'close friendships' with girls it was left unspoken, never forbidden.

A few years ago, while she was in her mid-30s, S deserted Pakistan and left for America. She soon deserted being a woman and became, S the man. Her family, while taken aback stood by her, they didn't discuss the issue in the open but never disowned her and continued to treat like she belonged to the family. Recently, they were all shocked to see S return with a shoulder length beard, knee length shalwar and a woman by his side, his wife.

S was now a fundo. Not only that S now considered homosexuality a sin, trans-genders an abomination and people who have had sex change operations to have failed in the ultimate test. S now goes around the U.S. telling people how every single day he repents for having changed his sex, his identity crisis was a test from God and he failed.

Its quite apparent to me me that S needs serious help, his family really does need to intervene. At the same time what is interesting is that while S appears to be a Moulvi, he's ideologically much closer to a right wing evangelical christian.

In a recent email with NB we discussed how Islamic ideology which now appears backwards was revolutionary at the time but has since failed to adapt. There is no verve or dynamism to modern Islamic theology, and zealots have been given a free reign to define the religion. Even worse, modern Muslim 'scholars' (i.e. opportunist nut jobs) seem to be borrowing new ideas from their right-wing Christian brethren (i.e. opportunist nut jobs). So now we have people like Harun Yahya entering the Creationism v Evolution debate, offering a Muslim opinion, which really nothing more than a recycled lecture from Liberty University. The Quran is vague enough about the concept of creationism that evolution doesn't pose as much of a problem even for Muslims who believe in the literal interpretation of the Quran.

Then we have abortion regarding which we are getting to a point where most Muslims now believe abortion to be haram and permissible only if the life of the mother is in danger or where conception occurred after a rape (though even this is now being looked down upon). The Muslim pro-life campaign bases most of its arguments on Chapter 17, Verse 31 of the Quran which states:

"Kill not your children for fear of want; it is We who provide sustenance for them as well as for you; for verily killing them is a great sin."

The issue though is complicated by the acceptance by most Islamic schools that spirit is breathed into a fetus at 4 months, therefore before this period a fetus can't really be considered to be a child. This leaves the room open for a theologically sound Muslim pro-choice camp and in fact various scholars agree that while abortion during the first 4 months is wrong, it is not a punishable wrong. (The BBC summarizes abortion in Islam here.)

The stranger than fiction case of S and the Islamic movements on evolution and abortion show how conservatives of different religions are feeding off each other, this can't be a good thing.


zeyd said...

Wow dude, that really is a crazy story. I'd like to post something intelligent and pertinent, but I'm not:

On S's U.S tour did he (!) by an chance appear on the springer show? Would have been hilarious. I wonder what Jerry's final thought would have been?

Tazeen said...

This is some seriously scary shit. A lesbian-turned-transgender-turned-maulvis has a change of heart and the rest of us have to bear how 'he' failed 'his' test.

This is beyond crazy, seriously.

Anonymous said...

when you refer to 'modern muslim scholars' as nut jobs please refrain from using an all encompassing term.

the muslim scholars here in the west are very educated and shine an islamic light on almost every pertinent modern issue within the classical (and superior) framework of islam.

jsut some of these scholars includes:

yasir qadhi
hamza yusuf
abdul hakim murad
tawfique chaudhry

the list is endless and if you bother to read some of their articles- you might actually escape from you extremist anti-islam position (ironically YOU are no different to christian evangelical nutjobs in this respect).

just one of a million such enlightening articles is linked here:

you are, however, fairly representative of a well-educated pakistani brought up with a natural aversion to islam (whether you like it or not). it does not suit you, your family or your lifestyle so you try and discredit it whenever you get the chance.

muslim scholarship in pakistan may be a problem, but people who inherited a post-colonial sense of entitlement like yourself are responsible for it. how many middle class pakistanis with a child who's half good in school think 'i'll send him to learn islam or send him to the best islamic university abroad'?

none. and THEN they complain about the nutjob muslim scholars in their country that do exist. pakistan's 'islamic' problem is a product of it's own middle and upper classes hate of islam.

how many people from aitchison, lahore grammer, karachi grammar, lyceum or any good school go on to learn classical islam? its not like the institutions aren't there - the oldest degree awarding institution in the world is an ISLAMIC university (guiness book of records - look it up).

why don't you or NB aspire that one of your child(ren) attend not only a top western institution but also a top islamic one and reforge the absent islamic scholarship of pakistan??? islamic theology is just as revolutionary as it ever was - 'muslims' like yourself unfortunately are where the real problems lie.

muslims in the west, alhamdulillah, haven't been brought up with this colonial baggage - its not 'cooler' to be western and anti-islam where we were brought up and that's why we don't have an islamic scholarship issue. i've been to pakistan - i've seen wannabe rich kids who try SO hard to live a western lifestyle and pride themselves on being oh so liberal/cool. they go study abroad and come back to complain about a country that they were completely detached from growing up anyway.

nothing could demonstrate this better to me than an educated, pakistani, so-called muslim individual like AKS obtaining his 'islamic' knowledge on a topic from the BBC!

do you know how ridiculous you look?

Anonymous said...

What S badly needs seems to be a peace of mind after going through the violent mental agitations of sex surgery.. It is not surprising that S turned religious because it is the easiest access of mental calm. But what's very weird is how S turned into a fundo..

It's very curious that S couldn't find a non-fundamentalist version of religion to obtain the same redress.

Also the curious shape-shifting of S seems to mirror the very politics of Pakistan.. and its enchantment with USA. Stranger than fiction indeed...

owl of minerva said...

maybe 'anonymous' can go and live in pakistan himself and start a theological revolution instead of complaining about people complaining about the lack of intelligence in their own country. If there is one right people should have it is the right to complain about the idiots in their own countries! After all, they are the ones that have to live with them. Do you have any idea how arrogant and pedantic you sound,'Anonymous'?

Ahsan said...

This guy again. People, please do NOT -- I repeat, do NOT -- reply to Anon1129. It will set off a spiral of accusations and ill-will that we have been through many times before. Just leave it be.

Anonymous said...

i make a difference where i live and don't complain.

most pakistanis of aks's ilk live and complain about pakistan whilst they party it up in london and nyc. even in pakistan they lead a western and elite life, completely cut-off from the rest of society and then complain as if any of society's ills actually affect them.

how can they complain about islamic leadership in their country when their social subset is the very reason that only the dumbest in society attend religious schools?

the british raj awarded position and power to those subjects who disavowed allegiance to anything other than the british. as a result, the more you assimilated with the british, the greater honour you were bestowed with. they particularly wanted to marginalize islam as it required allegiance to other than them and hence the 'best' of society were those least attached to islam.

unfortunately many pakistani family's inherited this colonial mentality and fervertly attach their social standing to how unislamic they can be - i've seen it myself.

the likes of aks are a product of this society and although it might not be their fault - they share the blame when they wrongly point the finger at others.

their professed and dramatic outrage at innocent deaths masks the fact that they only complain because it was perpetrated by those under an islamic banner.

you don't get blogs on here about the scores more (1000x?) innocent civilians killed by the pakistani army and the us army in pakistan and afghanistan do you? does anyone even keep tabs on the allegations of rape in us-run jails in afghanistan?

of course not. but one girl is beaten by the taliban and the whole english-speaking blogosphere of pakistan erupts. both are wrong but there is no moral equivalence. it is hypocrisy to the extreme by aks to take this approach.

the authors of this blog are the type of people when actually probed about what they believe in, face to face when they can't hide behind a mozilla tab, will end up admitting they believe in absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

OR if you are ahsan, even when he can hide behind a mozilla tab, will still end up admitting by proxy that he stands for absolutely nothing.

Wise Bass said...

Sorry about S, man. He/she sounds like he/she needs some serious psychiatric help.

dudelove said...

how does one theologise fairy tales? too much importance to religious books, i repeat. weak, ignorant, impoverished minds are the fodder for the lies propagated as religion. sufis have had the most fun at the expense of these organised religion types like this Anon guy who thinks all wisdom is trapped between the bindings of his quran.

Chai and The City said...

Normally I'd refrain from dignifying the diatribe that anon has unleashed. I agree its full of ill will. But being one of the western born and educated Pakistanis, whose family did make out like bandits post colonialism, I have to say, you're painting the picture as disparately black and white, as the blog whose ideas you're shunning, you allege does. My family and those in their "ranks" (seriously puke) have never shunned Islam for western modernization, there is a place for both. My cousins are western educated, and equally religious as they are progressive and "western." You can’t take a small sample size that you see in “London and New York” as a representation of the whole. Egad man, culture and religion are both holistic.

You cant paint a picture in one extreme or another, the truth is , if there was any unity of mind over our religion, the current state of affairs wouldn’t be what it is. You seem to rebel against a culture that’s birthed you, and the ideals you are clinging to. You cant fault a different outlook, based on a different manner of upbringing. It doesn’t make anyone less loyal to Islam to be able to call out the extremists, think back, the religion was promoted and spread because people questioned the then existing status quo. To not discuss and further ones knowledge, and question things, promotes the same “jahilliyah” from which Islam was originally a deliverance.

In regards to the beating of women bringing out the "blogosphere" its better that SOMETHING unify us all, than nothing unify us. Take what you can get, everything is a sliding scale.

blah now I’m bored of responding quasi intellectually to your lamentations.

onto S, wowzers! that, is truly the craziest thing I’ve heard. I wish i could attend a lecture given by S, just to be able to engage in the post lecture q&a, because I definitely have ALOT of questions.

Happy Halloween!! (nobody pelt me for saying that and promoting a pagan holiday, what can i do, i was raised in the west :-P)

Laila said...

@ Ahsan
wow Ahsan you just took the words right out of my mouth! I was just going to be like "not this guy again!" Here's my version of a conspiracy theory. I think its a whole group of them monitoring your blog ready to jump up your ass as soon as someone says something considered to be even slightly unislamic. Too bad you can't hand out restraining orders on the internet. It'd make life a whole lot less frustrating for you guys (and for us readers who aren't constantly rolling our eyes at being made to feel guilty about being educated and liberal).

Anyway to move on to a different topic, are you going to watch the basketball game tonight? Go celtics! (though I don't know you might be cheering on the Bulls now).

Nasir said...

This is one of the funniest stories i have heard in a while. I want to meet S :)

Naqiya said...

@ aks: oh wow! even this anon guy knows about your shameless lifestyle! if the reason you haven’t been in touch because you are "party[ing] it up in london and nyc" the least you could have done is called when you were in nyc dude

as for S: i feel pretty terrible for him. if people in our society weren’t so apposed to getting psychological help, he wouldn’t be so tortured. its not just as convenient as getting help after you feel messed up, but recognizing that something as extreme as a sex-change has to go hand in hand with psychological support. i don’t know where he got his operation, but as far as i know in america you have to get the green-light from your shrink before you get the operation legally, and with good reason. with the right kind of counseling pre-op, the confusion may not have happened post-op.

either way, turning to religion (familiar, comfortable) instead of getting professional help from someone who would push you to deal with your issues actively (scary, stigmatized by society) seems kind of obvious don’t you think?

Shaun said...

Interesting post Anon. After accusing the author of painting with a broad brush (to which I agree to a limited extent), you then offer a rigorous psychoanalysis of said author and commit the same error tenfold.

Anon_for_good_reason said...

As regards to the root cause of religious pseudo-fundamentalism is testosterone.. man..!! guys are giving ammunition to feminists on a platter who wants to castrate us and create peace in the world..ha ha..
Seriously, is there any connection between sexual frustration/tension and religious pseudo-fundamentalism..? Anyone..? I have heard that circumcision desensitizes shaft's nervous endings..The foreskin I guess works know "thermal sleeve" of tank turrets..sort of..wat u guys think?

Anonymous said...

I don't think homosexuality is natural though I don't care what the other does. A sex change as well is the one of the most unnatural things in the world, can't really be denied, but after all this .. the mullah part is just , like u said , stranger than fiction. I wish a mullah comes out and decides to get a sex change and becomes a stripper which sounds disgusting ... but still It would make more sense than this.

Jaydev,India said...

I don't think homosexuality is natural
Nor is plastic nor concrete nor microwave-d food nor paved roads nor nuclear reactors nor drugs

But we do it dont wat is probs with some part of the population sticking things in other's back or lezbos rubbing against each exactly wat is the problem?..its a fuking victimless "social crime"...leave the guys/gals alone for god sake..
if they will burn in hell or something for their choice..let it be..why persecute them on earth..?

takhalus said...

Much of modern day religion's revival has been a reaction to globalisation and the pre 2008 economic boom.

As far as S is concerned, that sounds like a seriously disturbed individual..I suspect nothing good will come from him/her

karachi khatmal said...


here's what you do. write a fictionalized autobiography of S. publish it abroad. it will make millions. then publish it in pakistan. western liberal wannabes like those in your class will buy it like crazy cuz its big in the west. you will make millions upon millions. then maulvis will discover it, and buy millions more, to burn them. you will now be touching the billion mark. you will win the Nobel prize for literature. make billions more by printing a second edition of the book with the banner "the astonishing nobel prize winning book." get tarantino to make the film, or oliver stone. make billions upon billions.


use the money to buy the internet and ban all anonymous trolls.

somethingrichandstrange said...

or, you know, as blog administrators, you guys could just ban anonymous comments.

ps: 'western liberal wannabes like those in your class"... nice.

AKS said...

Owl of Minerva,

That's a cool name you've got there.


I have in fact been secretly partying it up in NYC!

I understand your point about psychiatric help being a taboo in Pakistan, but S isn't based in Pakistan. He's been living in the U.S. for close to a decade, and his transformation into a man and then a self loathing fundo occurred there.

I have absolutely nothing with people seeking solace in religion but it shouldn't come at the expense of professional help where such help is clearly essential.


You took the words right out of my mouth.

Karachi Khatmal,

Did you know that I have always aspired to win the nobel prize for literature. Sadly work keeps me so busy that I just don't have any time left to write, otherwise I'm thinking the prize would be in the bag!

Screw controlling the internet, if I made millions and billions I'd get myself a nice hut on french beach and chill the fuck out. Maybe get a nice boat, and learn how to scuba dive. I may even go on a holiday to Hunza and Skardu, for a few months!

Something rich and strange,

What do you take us for? We believe that everyone has a right to say what they want, express their opinions without censorship or repercussions. Liberals who espouse freedom of speech sometimes forget this very freedom when it comes to opinions with which they disagree. We at fiverupees shall always uphold this right.

Also, I don't think we really know how to ban anonymous comments!

Farooq said...

Oh bhai PLEASE leave Anonymous' comments on. I love his incendiary contributions. Theyre one of the few things I look forward to after you guys forced ou.. uh... let go of Bubs.

Please humor Anonymous. Lets see tempers flair and mud slung. In fact, i'll give you guys a jumping off point by mixing things up.

Hey Anonymous, Islam is lame and I'm sitting in my house in defense phase 5 after an evening at a zamzama coffee shop with girls who were wearing sleeveless and watching premier league football and not praying Isha. Why am I not praying? Because its lame and I'm western liberalized etc.

And hey Ahsan & AKS, what's it like being cool by virtue of drinking and trashing your culture. Yeah you guys think you're something, eh? Well I got news for you. You're NOT! You're really not. Barack Obama is a bharva and democracy is lame and books suck and Alexander Wendt was raped by Bilalwal Bhutto.

Now GO people! At each other's throats.

somethingrichandstrange said...

aks, that was a joke in reponse to what kk said. but i'm glad you're so seriously serious about freedom of expression :)

Ahsan said...


I love that you dragged poor Alex Wendt into this. If he's one of those people who googles himself, and somehow finds his way to this comment thread, he's going to be VERY confused.

As I'm sure our other readers will be, 95% of whom will have no idea who the hell Wendt is.

Tazeen said...


errr .... you think Bilawal would know who wendt is, let alone know him well enough to want to rape him?

Farooq said...

Yes Tazeen,
I suppose that is a gaping hole in my logic.

Anonymous said...

The taliban are fighting americans, and their slaves in pakistan. if there is a hungry man in pakistani he is hungry because of zardari's hording of wealth. The taliban administered justice, free and fast, while the MQM, PPP, and the landlords of interior sindh and punjab have only abused their people. America kidnapped hundreds of pakistani, and kills thousansd in drone attacks, yet your army not only stands like woman doing nothing, but partakes in the betrayal and killing of these innocent muslims in the tribal belt. You, people of pakistani, in large part, have betrayed anyone who has read the Qur'aan and obeyed, while at the same time are worshipping the same americans who want to neuter your nuclear capabilities. Rather than being proud of the taliban for standing up to the so called "super power", rather than standing WITH them against the bully of the world, you, out of fear and an inferiority complex have made america's war your own, and are now licking america's feet while you slaughter pathaani children. Wake up and realize that these same pathaans always fought for pakistan, realize that you were always at peace with these same Islamic elements until the american's got their. Musharraf out of cowardice made a huge mistake by aligning himself with america, reverse his decision and align yourself with the fighters in the north west. Aafia Siddiqui's rape of 8 years was worse than the spanking on the bum of a woman who was accused of a shameless act. There is none worthy of worship accept our creator, God, Allah, and we obey and worship and fear him and only him, not the americans who are the REAL attackers of that Islamic university which the taliban would NEVER attack. They would never attack a) girls b) the university from which the "father" of jihad in the 20th century graduated (Abdullah Aazam).

Ahsan said...


Absolutely spot on.

somethingrichandstrange said...

hahaha ahsan!
ps: i googled wendt.

Anonymous0809 said...

Uhh ... Gaydev.. sorry to hurt your feelings dude.. I was talking about S and how S got all these things done to herself, which are looked down upon by Islam and here she is now back as a man with a beard, probably something which scared her into homosexuality in the first place.

I have nothing against homosexual people but I just felt like making it clear that I think of it as an unnatural process unlike sex leading to pregnancy and childbirth. Of course people do it, have always been doing it and will continue. Everybody has kinks in bed I guess.Hey toys are not natural either you know .. ;-P

Butters said...

"... here she is now back as a man with a beard, probably something which scared her into homosexuality in the first place."

Ok seriously, wtf? Is this your theory about lesbianism, that it is driven by a fear of beards? Why don't you send that to an academic journal, you clueless lesbophobe.

Serial Kicker said...

I wouldn't exactly disagree with Anon 1129. But those personal attacks were totally uncalled for.

Born in Pakistan and having lived in the US for a while I have indeed noticed the stark difference between the Muslims in either parts of the world. And Muslims in South Asia are indeed delusional. They have absolutely no idea about what is expected of them as Muslims. I am not sure who to blame. Is it the Talibans or the "enlightened" moderates like us?
I don't know about you but there are some scholars i wouldn't call a nutjob. Zakir Naik, Ahmed Deedat and Yasir Qadhi are among those. Its best not to generalize.

Ahsan said...

Serial Kicker:

I did not write this post. We have color coded links and first letters exactly for this reason, so people can identify who's writing what.

Serial Kicker said...

oops! My bad. Then my comments were meant for AKS.

AKS said...

Serial Killer,

Ok fine, I don't think all Muslim or Christian religious scholars are nutjobs. But then most people parading around as Muslim scholars aren't really scholars but preachers and televangelist. This includes Ahmed Deedat and Zakir Naik, both of whom are extremely good at what they do - which is package the message of Islam in a modern manner but provide no critical thinking on the subject. In fact when it comes to Zakir Naik, his use of pseudo science to base his arguments does more damage to critical Islamic thought as it gives a pretense that he is introducing new ideas when all he is doing is embellishing pre-existing notions. Its neither good science or good theology.

Lastly, I really, really dislike the debates that Deedat held with Christian and Hindu priests, an exercise Naik adopted, which were aimed solely at proving that Islam was better than the rest. These weren't debates about ideas but about how the smartly dressed Deedat was proved right while the funny looking Hindu priest was proved wrong. The debates and the lectures by these two great scholars only reinforce the belief amongst Muslims that they are awesome and the rest of the world, the west in particular, is out to get them.

Anon0809 said...

@Butters comments:
Damn it ! damn it ! damn it!

I was merely attempting to lighten the mood .. no intentions whatsoever to mess with anyone .. seriously ... I am certain that you not scared of beards and its not the reason that you are a homosexual... ITS STILL NOT NATURAL ! and I don't understand why its pissing people off when I say that? Its not something that can be debated really.

Ghausia said...

Okay, this entry right here has convinced me to bookmark this blog.

Its so sad that the LGBT community in Pakistan is already treated like scum as it is, instead of sticking with being a dude and being content with it, S turned it into a negative situation. I resent the comments made by anon. Wearing capris and living in DHA, or taking off my dupatta during exams so it doesn't bug me as I write doesn't make me evil or non-Muslim. Talking about giving equal rights to LGBTs and the need for secularism in Pakistan, now that's something you could rage about.