Eid-Ul-Azha: Where’s the Sacrifice in gluttonous slaughter of animals?

Eid-Ul-Azha: Where’s the Sacrifice in gluttonous slaughter of animals?

By Mona Hassan

September 6, 2015

(Photo Courtesy, Rembrandt)

Once upon a few centuries ago, in the desert lived a very old man with his wife, a concubine and kids. He started hearing voices in his head at this very old age and once of those voices told him to sacrifice his most precious possession; kill his own son. LegeUntitlednd has it, that a lamb or a ram miraculously replaced the boy when the old man was about to slit his throat.

Bible says it was Isaac that came under the knife and Quran say Ishmael. Islam also takes it a step further and glamorizes the story by turning the legend into a yearly tradition of celebrating the misery of a child who was escorted by his own father to the mountain to get slaughtered. Muslims call it Eid al-Adha, al-Azha in Urdu.

It is the festival of sacrifice where Muslims are supposed to spend a lot of money to buy a bound and dragged animal, and then foster him for few days, and then brutally decapitate him. I have seen and heard those noises that helpless animal makes when multiple men are holding him down and one of them is slitting his throat. I do not remember being more horrified by anything my whole life.

Some do a half day fast that day and break it with lunch cooked with freshly slaughtered animal’s liver. The evenings follow with feasts made with the same meat and families get together to have a party where people congratulate each other on a successful sacrifice and blessings of Allah. One third of the meat is distributed among the poor stand in line, more like a restless mob, in front of each house whole day to collect some meaty charity, and one third is kept for neighbors and family members.

The bloody madness lasts for three days. Intestines and pools of blood are seen on the street sides and dumpsters. Many NGO’s and social services organizations request the public to donate the skins of those animals to them, the leather industry make shoes and apparel from that skin.

Not just the goats, but cows and camels in Saudi Arabia also get slaughtered in the house of Allah with pools and pools of blood around the holy area. Imagine having those Saudis sitting in UNHRC!!

This festival comes a day after the grand yearly pilgrimage where Muslims from all over the world gather in Mekkah to circle around the black cube called Ka’aba. A pagan tradition that later was adopted by the same old man who tried to kill his son Abraham and Muslims.

The whole idea of dragging a living thing, keeping him bound, kill him, skin him, cut him into pieces and then devour him in the form of specially prepared food is sickening. The eating part is the only step of this ritual that separates us from ISIS or Taliban slaughtering innocent people here and there.

I have always wondered, what “sacrifice” has to do with this festival? The lexical meaning of the word sacrifice is an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. With the usage of Sacrifice in cultural and religious sense, it soon took over the meaning as “an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.”

The latter definition is missing an important component “giving up something valued.” If you are slaughtering an animal, you are taking another life, killing a living being. That poor animal is giving up his life without even gaining anything better or anything at all for that matter, not you, so where is the sacrifice?

Now, I understand you spent money on it; you fostered it for a week. But how is that animal you spend money on, with the intention of killing it after a week is something of a value to you? Its not! It’s pure torture.

Had that money was spent on buying books for a poor school, providing new clothing for the children who do not have access to it or fostering a kid to go to school or even donate it to Edhi foundation that feeds thousands of hungry and foster thousands of people who have no place to go and live, would have fit the definition of sacrifice.

As Mitch Albom said “sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you are not really losing it. You are just passing it on to someone else.” How about donating to the Library for Lyari’s Children inside DCTO Campus for Kiran Foundation.

What would you get in return that is of greater value than that small chunk of money spent in helping another? Well, you feel good about it; about yourself; you sleep better at night knowing you helped someone go to bed with a happy belly or have given another a better chance at better education. If you don’t think you would feel that way, than sacrifices are NOT for you.

The whole idea of taking another life to please your God doesn’t make any one any different than people offering human sacrifices to God in ancient Egypt, or Taliban slaughtering kids in school because their religion calls for it to make their God happy, or some kiln owner burning an innocent couple alive crying blasphemy to hide his own evil doings.

The only reason this horror story is still followed by millions of Muslims because whoever decided to alter it did by replacing a lamb or ram with a child, was to make it more palatable.

Modern researchers state that it is possible that in the original story Abraham does actually kill Isaac. Francesca Stavrakopoulou in “King Manasseh and child sacrifice: biblical distortions of historical realities, (pp.193-194) says that “It may be that the biblical story contains traces of a tradition in which Abraham does sacrifice Isaac, for in Gen. 22:19 Abraham appears to return from the mountain without Isaac”

Richard Dawkins in his book God’s Delusion writes about the binding of Isaac; “A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defense: ‘ I was only obeying orders ‘ Yet the legend is one of the great foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions.”

 Dawkins sums up the exact problem with this ritual and indoctrinating our kids’ little brains with the idea that it is ok to take a life; shed blood and then eat the same being just to please your God. It’s sickening and very immoral to every standard of humanity.

There are many examples of true sacrifices and none involve killing another innocent being. Remember Bhagat Singh? He sacrificed his OWN life, liberty and enjoyment and spent his young days fighting to liberate his homeland, Hindustan and died in the very location called the land of pure, Pakistan, by its inhabitants who curse him for being an infidel.

In 2011 Japanese Tsunami, when the ten meter wave hit, Takeshi Miura and Miki Endo, two government risk management workers tasked with warning and directing people to safety, remained at their posts and kept broadcasting until they were killed, directing people of town to safety.

Richard Rescorla, led the evacuation of 2,500 people until he was killed in the attacks of 9/11. Abdul Sataar Edhi, rather than living a comfortable life, he lives in simple clothing and spend all his time and money to help poor people of Pakistan indiscriminately. Don’t forget Jinnah, needless to mention his sacrifices. He didn’t care about his own health and fought hard to get the Pakistanis their own country while he was still sick.

We have a living-breathing example of Jibran Nasir. He has taken the most dangerous job telling Taliban off and working everyday for the betterment of his fellow citizen and that too all pro-bono.

These and many other examples including pet animals that have put people or their owner’s lives before their own. All of these examples are different from the Holy sacrifice in one major aspect, the lives that are affected or harmed were not of another being whereas, the holy sacrifice calls for taking another’s life. How is that holy? Besides, sacrificing an animal on Eid is a Sunnah, that too of Abraham, not mandatory so skipping it shouldn’t make one feel guilty instead why not do something better, that is less bloody and more beneficial to the society and would supposedly make you god happy?

If you must sacrifice something on that day to please God or feel good, how about give up eating meat for three days of the Eid? Spare the animals’ life, bring inflation down, eat healthy vegetables and fruits and give something to the community.

Despite my few disagreements with Gandhi’s actions, I feel he is sending a powerful message to anyone who puts an animal’s life in danger in his autobiography, the story of my Experiments with Truth; “I could not swallow this. I told him that, if the sheep had speech, they would tell a different tale. I felt that the cruel custom ought to be stopped. I thought of the story of Buddha, but I also saw that the task was beyond my capacity. I hold today the same opinion as I held then. To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. But he who has not qualified himself for such service is unable to afford to it any protection. I must go through more self-purification and sacrifice, before I can hope to save these lambs from this unholy sacrifice. Today I think I must die pining for this self-purification and sacrifice. It is my constant prayer that there may be born on earth some great spirit, man or woman, fired with divine pity, who will deliver us from this heinous sin, save the lives of the innocent creatures, and purify the temple. How is it that Bengal with all its knowledge, intelligence, sacrifice, and emotion tolerates this slaughter?”

Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”. Follow her on Twitter




Janay kab kon kisay mar day kaafir keh kar

Janay kab kon kisay mar day kaafir keh kar

By Mona Hassan

April 12, 2015

BhagatImage Courtesy Lahore Nama

“Kaafir”, a word we hear a lot these days, is directly associated with the concept of blasphemy that dates back to the 1800s, which is still in practice with new amendments and additions in Pakistan and India. Although, the definition of “infidel” doesn’t include anything related to blasphemy but according to Islamic concepts, committing “blasphemy” is tantamount to infidelity.

“Infidel” literally means not faithful or a non-believer, and translates in Arabic as kaafir.According to some sources, it came from the Turkish word gavur meaning the one who covers or conceals. A couple of other words associated with the term are Mulhid and Murtid. Religions loosely translate the word as someone who does not believe in a particular religion or doesn’t believe in religion at all. Islam has the same view about infidels.

It is easy to declare someone as an infidel, a practice that comes with no responsibilities whatsoever. Just a couple of days ago, Abdul Sattar Edhi mentioned in an interview that religious and political groups call him an infidel because he does not offer prayers. Of all the open hate speeches, religious terrorism, blasphemy and murders going around in Pakistan, these groups chose to pick on a humble humanitarian, who is practically feeding and sheltering most of Pakistan’s needy indiscriminately.

This is not something that we have started to experience recently, it has just escalated to its current insane level in past few years.  The message that when you premeditatedly murder an innocent and unarmed man for publishing certain content that hurts your religious feelings and ego, you will be respected more, is now a part of our schools’ curriculum. Ilm Deen, in 1929 killed a Hindu publisher Mahasay Rajpal who published “Rangeela Rasool.” Jinnah defended him hopelessly and reportedly lost only this single case in his entire lifetime, and Iqbal laid Ilm Deen to rest with teary eyes. What was Mahasay’s crime? He was a publisher. Whereas, Bhagat Singh who fought fearlessly against the British Empire as a revolutionary freedom fighter and stood against the discriminatory treatment by the government even in the jail where he went on a 116 day hunger strike, is labeled as an infidel by the religious thugs because he didn’t want to identify himself with any religion.  He was hanged in the heart of Lahore in Central jail where now Shadman chowk is.

Last year on the 23rd of March – the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh – civil society and peace activists stood at Shadman chowk and demanded that its name be changed to Bhagat Singh chowk. A few self-proclaimed religious upholders threatened and tried to intimidate those peaceful protestors, calling them the traitors of the country, and telling them that they will not let them succeed. These disruptors called Bhagat Singh the denier of God, which is why he was deemed unworthy of remembrance. They didn’t consider him a freedom fighter because he was the “denier of God.”

Similarly, Mumtaz Qadri murdered Salman Taseer in cold blood in broad daylight. What was the most voiced opinion? Qadri is a hero, Prophet Lover and Taseer was an infidel who deserved to die. The most disappointing situation in this scenario was when lawyers showered Qadri with rose petals in the courthouse. What was Taseer’s crime? He was helping a Christian woman who had allegedly committed blasphemy, to get out of jail. The same thing happened at Taseer’s most recent vigil: religious thugs thrashed it, harassed and assaulted its peaceful participants and the filming crew, spraying themall with profanity.

Dr. Abdus Salam was labeled an infidel and his grave was defaced just because he was an Ahmadi. A human rights lawyer helping a professor fight the allegations of blasphemy and an Ahmadi doctor providing treatment to people who cant afford it were murdered because they were Ahmedis– the “infidels.”

I can sit here and quote examples of all the victims of the infidelity mafia but it will just be redundant. Everyone knows about it all but only a few choose to challenge this nonsensical attitude.

The way the religious mafia is suffering with and propagating the infidel syndrome, it has turned into an epidemic. They are openly teaching children that human life has no value but, being a “Muslim” only “Muslims” can be the most precious human beings of all; only “Muslims” can be the most moral and only “Muslims” deserve to live on this earth. Everyone else is just too unworthy and insignificant to continue living. What constitutes a “Muslim” is another long debate for another discussion. For now, let’s just say that the louder I can accuse someone of being an infidel, the better Muslim and of course, by definition, the better human being I am.

Pakistani priorities are not Pakistani, they are religious. Heck they refuse to accept Bhagat Singh as a freedom fighter who fought for their freedom despite being irreligious. Edhi is doing their God’s job and taking care of the poor and needy, providing them with food and shelter.  All that these religious thugs need, is a plate full of halwa, a couple of wives, a free home, hujra behind the mosque, a salary provided by the Government, some kids to beat the crap out of for not learning the Quran properly, a basement to store weapons and some followers ready to put the mob together to kill an “infidel”, and they are in business set for life.

A couplet by an unknown poet very accurately depicts this situation. In Urdu, it goes:

Janay kab kon kisay mar day kaafir keh kar

Shehar ka sherah Musalmaan hua phirta hai


Who knows when someone will kill another,calling him infidel;

The entire city is playing Muslim.

It’s a new “weapon of mass destruction” and the rate at which human kind is being killed, we will not have to wait a billion years to go back to the Stone Age.

As Christopher Hitchens said: “This is an enemy for Life, as well as an enemy of life.”




Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”. Follow her on Twitter

The funeral of patriarchy



The funeral of patriarchy

By Mona Hassan

March 24, 2015




“Frailty thy name is woman” was quoted to me when I was too young to understand what it really means and also what actually it is like to be a woman.

Being born and raised in a typical Pakistani society, not having much exposure to the outer world or have my own opinion, indoctrination based on the frailty of female hence she should be subordinate and submissive wasn’t something unusually bothersome at the time. Men in the house and outside were the symbol of fear and they still are. In the house it’s the dad and brother whom sisters must be afraid of and not have a boyfriend or talk to boys out of their own family, be (careful) fearful to not dress attractively, talk or laugh aloud in public or go to store alone or at night cuz’ zamana (boys) bohut kharab hai (times are bad). When matriarchal times are discussed they are discussed as times of ignorance or a myth whereas, pretty much every husband today claims to be living a happy life if he keeps his wife happy.

Two years ago when Jyoti Panday Singh was raped and murdered in a moving bus, the horror of her death shook India pretty badly. A lot of women and men, came out demanding justice. Soon after, the news of Gulabi gang in India made the headlines all over the world. It’s a group of women wrapped in pink saree taking matters into their own hands to end domestic abuse on women. Last week a mob of “honorable” men in Afghanistan took their sweet time killing a twenty seven year old religious teacher, Farkhanda by stomping over her, breaking her body, throwing her off the roof, ran her over with a car and when that wasn’t satisfactory to what their sick senses fancy, she was burnt and then thrown into a muddy river. Reyhaney Jabbari was hanged by the Iranian Government for killing her would-be rapist, Mukhtaran Mai from Pakistan still makes the news despite being controversial and who doesn’t know Malala?

As much the murder of Farkhanda boils my blood, I can‘t help not being hopeful seeing the patriarchy and lunacy of religious rules going six feed under along with her lifeless body.  For the first time in the history, at least in the Afghanistan’s or Muslim history, when Farkhanda’s funeral was lead by women, guess who was the most scared and weak at that time?, hint: not women. Similarly, before Pakistan’s social and secular demise when General Rani was calling the shots guess who was sleeping drunk in the bunk? Well, not the Rani.

Now, I know what you are thinking, oh great! Another feminist on the loose, blaming men for the general state of weak and frail women. I may be a feminist but I am not making a point to degrade men just because I am a woman or a feminist. There are many great people out there highlighting these issues including men. But how many are out there who realize, including women themselves, that they are not same anymore as the society, culture or religion have always wanted them to be. Whether matriarchal society existed or not, its quite evident that at every stage of human evolution since we can trace back the history, people or groups have used various ways to subdue women. Be it with money, physical strength, and social norms of “morality” or religion.

It’s a fact that there are a lot of women out there who are taking this patriarchal society by its horns, women are not afraid to go out, to lift the burnt and broken body of Farkhanda, of ISIS and to liberate their town of Kobane. She is not afraid to sit for months in her innocent protest facing Taliban fearlessly and unarmed taking bullet to her head. She is not afraid laying in bed wanting to live and be happy two days before she dies of her rape injuries or to go to court after court fighting her rapists in a country where rape law protects the rapists.

Although undisputedly brave women making history like Maryam Namazie and Ayaan Hirsi and Malala Yousafzai that need no introduction are around doing amazing things for women and humanity, but there are a lot more who never make the headlines and assumed nonexistent. I am talking about the common women we live with, work with and are friends with, making a difference. They don’t care about the half share of inheritance, or half a witness status and they don’t care about the misconception religion created that they are dirty simply because they menstruate.

Anyone who looked at Farkhanda’s funeral photos and compared it to the mob lynching at her, could easily spot the smarter crowd scripted half intelligence in the holy book. Anyone can spot the more moral, ethical and humane crowd between the protestors demanding justice for Jyoti panday and her rapists. Anyone can easily pick out the braver one between Malala and Taliban and any one, even a blind can identify the veracity of witness between Reyhaney Jabbari allotted just half the testimony by Islam and Iranian Judicial system.

So when people react defensively, from calling them whores and loose character B word to kill a pregnant woman in front of the court house by stoning, burn a pregnant woman with her husband alive in the kiln and in the Ahmadi house, shot her in the head for wanting to get education, stomp on her in a mob until she dies, rapes her with a steel rod till her intestines come out, they aren’t being honorable or brave. They are rather struggling to gain the power back that they fear they are losing to these women.

These women exist in every third household if not all. Some of these are the lovely women I am friends with. Who chair a high rank in a historical university, taking care of her household and being a human rights’ activist while changing the diapers, cooking, cleaning and sipping red wine all at the same time. The woman who is a full time mother, taking care of her household and being a full time human rights activist between successfully finishing fiction novels, regular blogging on social issues and a successful satire writer. The woman who is a very smart (an understatement) feminist activist between her PHDs, full time job, her lip smacking authentic Punjabi cooking and still bringing apologists down to their knees through her intelligence, charisma and her choice of intelligibly sarcastic verbal spanking. I am proud to be their friend and so is humanity.

Farkhanda’s murder and her funeral proves what Eleanor Roosevelt said “a woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” So with due respect and apologies to Shakespeare I will take the liberty here to change his quote; strength, thy name is women.


Just remember, “what you allow is what will continue” Unknown



Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”. Follow her on Twitter



Festivities: the lost culture in Pakistan

Festivities: the lost culture in Pakistan

By Mona Hassan

March 9, 2015


Two of my favorite festivals are Holi (the festival of colors) and Diwali (the festival of lights). Both are traditional Hindu festivals linked with religion and mythology.  Diwali always reminded me of that episode of Mirza Ghalib musical from 80s. In one episode after playing a board game with friends on Diwali Mirza thanked two male helpers of his Hindu neighbor who have sent Mithai (sweets) over to his house. An elderly Muslim neighbor playing a wisecrack, objected over Mirza’s being Muslim consuming Mithai from Diwali festival. Mirza laughed questioning the elderly Muslim man if Mithai was Hindu or Muslim.  It’s a strange notion. We conveniently reject many festivities and celebrations by declaring them Hindu and not Islamic.

Past weekend I went to my very first Holi celebrations with my friends. I have yet to be at a Diwali festival to experience the celebrations of light over darkness, prosperity and wealth myself but I am determined to attend one this year.  I have seen it many times in the Bollywood movies but never had an experience to attend one personally. This Holi event was ticketed. Me and my friends got there about an hour after it had already started. The ladies at the front desk dressed in shalwar qameez, let us in without paying for the tickets, they wished us Holi. Seeing we have no color with us and none was left on the table to sell, one of those nice ladies offered to us the last packet of yellow color that belonged to her. It was a modest size crowd of young men and women, kids and families. They had food and water stalls, DJ was playing back to back great Bollywood songs and everyone was happy and dancing.

All the participants were covered with different colors, going around putting it on each other. As soon as we got close to the crowd, people approached us, wished us Holi and put different colors on us one after the other. There was so much life, energy and happiness in that crowd. We didn’t know anyone there and they didn’t know us either but it is safe to assume that if not all, majority of them were somehow connected to Hindu religion and/or from India.

DiwaliI noticed that each color had its own significant fragrance. Reds and pinks smelled like roses, greens smelled like sandalwood, yellows spelled like Ubtan so on and so forth. I was very intrigued by the whole idea and fascinated particularly by the behavior of people. Being a culturally ignorant myself in many ways, I decided to do some research and found a few things. Originally, Holi used to be celebrated with natural colors such as turmeric, sandalwood, roses or extracts from leaves and plants. As the demand grew with the popularity of the festival, synthetic colors replaced the organic colors. That’s probably why each color had its own fragrance.

Holi is an ancient religious Hindu festival that celebrates spring, colors and love according to different sources. Out of these, one sates that it celebrates unity and brotherhood where people get together albeit differences. It’s a day to forgive and forget, kind of like Thanksgiving. Couple of legends are associated with it namely the legend of a divine dance arranged by Lord Krishna for the benefit of his devotees, the Gopis but most popular one is the Puranic legend of Holika that I found in one of the sources.Holika was the sister of demon-king Hiranyakashipu. The demon-king punished his son, Prahlad in a variety of ways to denounce Lord Wishnu. He failed in all his attempts. Finally, he asked his sister Holika to take Prahlad in her lap and enter a blazing fire. Holika had a boon to remain unburned even inside fire. Holika did her brother’s bidding. However, Holika’s boon ended by this act of supreme sin against the Lord’s devotee and was burnt to ashes. But Prahlad came out unharmed.”

There are many legends associated with this festival and each has different variations but that doesn’t change the fact that Holi is a wonderful festival to celebrate life and its many colorful aspects such as love, brotherhood, unity, spring and harvest. Being a Pakistani and an assumed Muslim in the crowd full of Indian and Hindus, I didn’t feel different, superior or inferior at all. None of that love, hospitality, respect, friendly atmosphere was strange or new to me. Those people embraced us like their own, no one even bothered to ask who we were or cared where we were from. They just invited us in the group dances and put more color on us. There were lots of young girls and boys in the crowd but there was no pushing, shoving or inappropriate touching and no one tried to misbehave. Every male who came to put color on me or my friends, asked for our permission before they did that.

The whole ambiance projected our own culture. Yes, I said “our,” all of ours, Pakistani and Indian culture. The intermingling, the hospitality, the mutual respect and most of all, the celebrations; we culturally celebrate everything. From weather to special occasion, everyday we find a new excuse to celebrate on both sides of the border. This connects us together, not the LOC or that we used to be one country. Whatever is celebrated in Pakistan now is heavily Islamized or whatever we used to celebrate is being prohibited as unIslamic. Everything is tied to Saza and Jaza (Punishment and reward). Now people don’t even wish each other Christmas or Valentine’s Day out of fear of Blasphemy. Your Ahmadi, Hindu, Christian or even Shia friends are now afraid to be friends with you.

ChaiLiving in Pakistan Hindus became minority. The dominant religion of Pakistan pushed them into fear and darkness. Just last week some students formed a human shield to protect Hindu community celebrating Holi in Pakistan just like few days ago around Imam Bargah and Church before that. It’s both very sad and refreshing at the same time. Sad because it has come to this in this country that, citizens had to be protected by the other citizens just to practice their religion or to celebrate spring.  Refreshing because citizens of Pakistan have started to realize that there is a great need to built sense of community, to eradicate religious discrimination and stand up together against the elements killing Pakistanis left right and center.

Our (Indo-Pakistan) culture didn’t come in Quran, Bible or Geeta. It came from our people who used to practice it in all aspects together. It came from the language they speak, Hindustani, now Urdu and Hindi. From the clothes they wore, from the food they ate, from the little street games to colloquial lingo only Desis could understand. From haggling tricks at the local grocery stall to the home décor. Ghazals to bhangra, from Besakhi to Basant, from chai to mithai, from pakoray in monsoon to cold bottomless tubs of juicy mangos in hot summers before Islamists hijacked it. Now, whatever we celebrate has to have a divine stamp on it. It either must be for God, or nothing. It’s either for divine reward or to seek forgiveness of sins or just because Allah knows the best. Pakistanis have stopped celebrating life and happiness since long. Now we only mourn and blame external elements for our misfortunes. It shouldn’t be like this. Life has no religion, happiness is not Muslim, love is not kaafir, and culture is not atheist. It should be exactly how Ghalib said about himself that he believes in all traditions and that’s why he isn’t convinced to just follow one.


Happy Holi to all.



Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”. Follow her on Twitter


Domestic child labor: a crime of a broken society

Domestic Child Labor: a crime of a broken society

By Mona Hassan

February 24, 2015


Growing up I have always seen a masi coming to our house to clean and do laundry. As a matter of fact, most of our Punjabi language skills mature by passively listening to these massis talking. Our masi, let’s call her ‘Cheemaan’, gave birth to a child every year. She often brought her daughters to work with her. Each year when she was gone to deliver a new baby we had to go with a new masi.

Most of these women have young children, often daughters who go home after home and work with them. After a while we moved to a new area and new faces came to clean houses. Then people started to hire full time live-in maids. These maids are young girls who were making money living in people’s house and sending it back home to their family. Some of these kids’ families live in a far away village some lived just a few miles away. All these children started work before they turned fourteen.

In Pakistan and India, it’s very common to have a live-in house maid or a domestic laborer. It is an industry on its own. A typical domestic worker’s house will have a good for nothing husband who in most cases doesn’t work, sleeps all day, smokes pot or heroin at night, beats his wife to get money for drugs and often rapes her. Women are the main bread winners of the family and they often have to put up with all kinds of domestic abuse. They bare a lot of children for the reasons as I am told; the more children they have the more people in the house will be earning.

Most of these child domestic female workers are either sexually abused or lured into giving  sex to the owner or his son  going through puberty in exchange of an imported shampoo. Older men aren’t far behind these horny young boys.  I remember a little girl of one of those masis working in the neighborhood got pregnant as a result of possible rape from the boys in one of the houses.  She was barely in her early teens. She didn’t know any better except that she is throwing up a lot and very sleepy all the time. I still remember her half passed out weak body in a corner while her mother making excuses of her “sickness.”

I recently saw this news aired by Dunya TV about an eleven year old child named Umme Rubab who is a domestic laborer and was reportedly severely beaten and tortured by a government official’s wife for only five thousand rupees per month. She was tortured repeatedly so much that her eyes were closed shut due to swelling. Last year, another ten year old Iram was beaten to death. Fizza and Batool are two other female children who were sent to houses as maids and they were reportedly tortured and abused. Some of these kids died as a result, some taken back and sent to new houses. Pakistan 2013 Human Rights report by US State department confirms abuse on children working in the houses.

What happened to Umme Rubab isn’t just a random crime that just happened to happen and was caught by the media. It has been happening for years. The Institute of social justice reported 29 child house workers’ deaths in 4 years from torture.

Constitution of Pakistan prohibits child labor: “no child below the age of fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.” Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared child domestic labor illegal and unconstitutional as a form of slavery. There also have been a few attempts by some of the provincial cabinets to adopt some regulations against the issue time and again when civil society raised their voice but nothing concrete has been done to protect these children. A report by United States Department of Labor shows worst form of child labor in many different industries including domestic workers. According to the International Labor Organization “Child labor refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.”  A situation that is screaming illegality from every angle is so common in Pakistan that it seems legal. More than half of Pakistan is involved in this heinous crime.

Kids are being sent to strangers for work by the parents and are getting employed by people in exchange for monthly salary. Both parties are the partners in crime. The parents of these domestic workers have an excuse of poverty. Being poor is not an excuse to send your kids away to get abused and raped or even do every day chores. They wash dishes, do laundry, iron the clothing and they are the first ones accused of theft if anything is lost including a cup of sugar or flour.

There is a simple solution to this: do not make so many babies that you cannot feed. Kids are working in the houses, baking bricks in the kilns, tightening nuts and bolts in some auto workshop, weaving rugs and carpets with their tiny little hands. Such abuse of children and laws can only happen in Pakistan. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The society feeds on power and control over others. There is power and control through fear and submission everywhere. From religion to buying a pair of shoes, every single action by the people is conditioned upon Saza and Jaza (Punishment and reward).  It’s time we except the fact that this concept has failed miserably and instead we live in a society where rape, domestic abuse, murder, forcible marriages, (dis)honor killings are common every day news. The society today is not suitable for children of any age.

When we talk about abuse against child domestic workers, we don’t discuss the reasons behind such abuse. We condemn the act while the maid is ordered to bring agaram garam cup of chai. Each domestic worker employed in the house, whether a child or a good ole’ massi ji, it is  made sure that it’s very clear to them that they are less of a human being and that it is ok to treat them differently.  We pay them to work of course and give them left over food but they cannot sit with us or eat in our dishes. I asked my mother this question and she said “beta because they are dirty.”

But mom, dishes can be washed, and they wash our dishes. The problem we can’t seem to get rid of is that we do not treat other people as we like ourselves to be treated.  It has become a second nature; even house workers are used to it and they know the rules.  There is simple formula “would you ever treat your own child that way or would you want your child to be treated the way Umme Rubab or other kids are treated?”

Fredrick Douglas said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” We as a broken society are raising irreparable broken men and women and each and every one of us is guilty of this crime.


Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association)Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”; Follow her on Twitter

A Nation with Confused Motives and a Clear Demise


Pakistan: a nation with confused Motives and a Clear Demise

 By Mona Hassan

February 10, 2015


When I Googled the above-given painting by Pablo Picasso, in an attempt to understand what it meant, I was led to a publication by Kaitlin Tremblay, entitled “Where Art Belongs: The Interactivity and Politics of Video Games.” Her thoughts on the painting were:

“It’s a very moving painting and through the coloring chaos we feel the tragedy and the confusion of the bombing. Not just the confusion on the part of the civilians, but we, as spectators, can feel this also: the painting doesn’t entirely make sense. It is disorderly, chaotic and senseless – the same feelings we are meant to feel about the bombing and war. This feeling is stirred in us, and we have to be ready to see and accept this.”

To me, her description perfectly fits what the Pakistani nation is going through for decades. Bomb after bomb, tragedy after tragedy; each new government brings a new hope that dies soon after and the nation slowly gets closer to its ever-painful demise.

Just a few days ago, while some were celebrating the Super Bowl with succulent hot wings and guacamole, cheering for the Patriots, a father was stumbling through the rubble of Shikarpur Imam Bargah collecting pieces of his children’s’ bodies. Imagine the agony. He couldn’t leave even a single strand of hair behind; he had to gather the whole of his child, all of his children. Following the incident, our very own Jibran Nasir with a handful of civil society members came out asking the government to stand on their own two feet and do something right, for a change. He, with other protestors, sat in front of the CM house in Karachi for 30 straight hours demanding the government to identify banned organizations and repeal any luxury that those organizations are enjoying, including full protocol and security from Pakistanis’ tax money. The group demanded to take that security and protocol back, declare these organizations as terrorist organizations, arrest them and take them to court for cases that are already registered against them. It is appalling to know that our very own government is feeding and protecting terrorist organizations that have terrorized and killed thousands of its own citizens.

Well that was about the government, crippled and impotent. as always. It’s an old news, not worth wasting anyone’s time and insulting anyone’s intelligence. What about the public? It is true that our general public is very kind. When Shikarpur was flooded with blood and body parts, it was the public who started helping people out and managed to get them to the hospital. I noticed how for thirty hours Jibran kept the update going and kept appealing to the people to come out and sit with them and raise their voice against this terrorism. In his video that’s been circling around he said that it’s easier said than done. A very fiery message that sent chills down my spine, he called upon all the Shias saying it’s easy to call yourself a Hussaini but it’s very hard to become one and do what Hussain did, standing up against the tyranny. This should have been a country-wide protest, not just of a handful of civil society members. All of us saw, with dropped jaws, the amount of people who came out after the Charlie Hebdo incident, including French Muslims.  Not just in France, where the streets were packed with vigils, people showed their solidarity for the killed cartoonists and against Islamic terrorism all over the world.

What if Shikarpur had happened in Palestine or Syria, and the perpetrators were Americans or Jews? Wouldn’t the whole of Pakistan have come out on the streets? Why is it that when their own people are killed and butchered right there in their own backyard by their “own” people who are walking around fearless right around them, it doesn’t make their blood boil? Why do Pakistanis lack care and empathy so much for their own people? The same people who took all the wounded to the hospital in their arms and on their shoulders before ambulances arrived, are now quiet. Why do they feel more for the children who are killed in Palestine, than their own who were killed Peshawar and Shikarpur? Well, there is no explanation other than the idea that they have no humanity left; that, or, the idea that they protest for the dead children of Palestine, not for their sake, but to protest against Israel. The preference is different and so is the motive.

Pakistanis have proven themselves to be a dead nation who has gotten into a habit of asking for everything and not earning it. They are indifferent towards everything, but Skipper’s marriage, which makes them dance and play dholkis in their houses and/or slut-sham his wife for being too “westernized.” But when he makes a bad move and keeps protecting the Taliban, they remain quiet, or even support him. How easy it was to come and gather around Imran Khan’s container every day and night, but so hard to gather around the CM’s house in Karachi demanding the Government to stop protecting the terrorists? It wasn’t hard, if the motivation was there.

It is a fact that our government is supporting terrorism. It is also a fact that Pakistanis as a nation passively supports terrorism. They are harboring terrorists in their mosques and in their jails. They are protecting the idea of killing other people on the basis of religion by calling its critics “Islamophobes,” and “infidels.” Neutrality isn’t a choice in this situation and neither is the fight to protect Islam. Elie Wiesel once said “we must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Silence doesn’t help the victim, but the offender – the terrorists, in this case – because it is one less voice against them.

So when Muslims like Mehdi Hassan say that even though it wasn’t right to kill Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, yet the cartoonists shouldn’t have made cartoons that offended Muslims, they are actually putting the blame on the cartoonists and not the killers. Which side are they on: the cartoonists and their free speech, or those “Muslims” who avenged the insult to their Prophet by slaughtering unarmed men? Well, we don’t know.  Similarly, when we say that the Taliban’s terrorist attacks are in retaliation to the military operation in Waziristan, we are not doing the victims of Shikarpur or Peshawar any favour. We are condoning terrorism by not condemning it, and by not condemning the actors directly or indirectly responsible for this. We are also helping the terrorists by not coming out and raising our voice against them, as well as the government that is protecting those terrorist organizations.  France didn’t stand up behind any Jibran Nasir; Paksitan should consider itself lucky that it has people like him who have taken the most vicious of all in the world head on. He has done it and has shown that fighting consistently against terrorism leads to results and you don’t even have to break a single wind screen for that. It’s called “public power” – something that everyone possesses but only the most courageous, the most honorable ones utilize.



Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”; Follow her on Twitter


The Silent Revolution

By Mona Hassan

January 27, 2015

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Electricity, inflation, water and now (gas) petrol crisis; all of these utilities seem to be an urban legend in Pakistan. In the past few days, I have come across a number of excited posts on my Facebook time line about full tanks of fuels. There is an unignorable euphoria seen when a common man finds fuel.

“Rumors” of fuel being sold in black and the riches getting their hands on it without any difficulty are also circling around. An obvious blame on the government for creating “artificial crisis,” usurping public funds for fancy twenty member delegations overseas, lavish lifestyle of the prime minister and other members of the government isn’t a secret.

Bugs infested swamps and ponds, creating serious health conditions in many parts of the country, and food price hike in open market are a few of the hottest topics of discussion for a while. Meat is a rare commodity. Even grains, sugar and lentils are very expensive for an average Pakistani household. Pakistan has been in this chaotic state for over a few decades now and to top it all Thar keeps facing a high death toll due to famine; 47 deaths only for the current month of January. That is more than two deaths per day in Thar and the food aid that was supposed to be distributed was hoarded by the local feudals of the area. Government has obviously repeatedly failed its people who need help the most.

Pakistan is in the most dilapidated condition at the moment and it didn’t happen overnight. With each passing day the situation is getting worse. Each election year we gather around to listen to absurd speeches, claims and promises by the same few religious or family run political parties and chant for their success. Well actually, we chant for the most disliked parties to lose. Some of us have had other reasons to wait for election years as well.

I have to admit that at one point Professor Naeem Bukhari – because he taught me Constitution during my law school days – used to be the only person during election time for special election edition that would get me hooked on national TV. Come elections and we sit through the rigging allegations, disappointments, conspiracy theories and struggle to make ends meet all over again and next election year, same story. Being a Pakistani, it seems like it is a part of the package that you don’t learn anything from your mistakes and habitually repeat them.

Every now and then Pakistan sees a coup or two. A military officer comes into power, things seem to get better or enough to feed Pakistanis’ wishful thinking and then the vicious cycle starts back all over again.

When we don’t get anything from our feudal and business Politicians we run after an all-rounder cricketer hottie turned social worker turned politician and stand up to make new Pakistan. This new Pakistan gave people a great floor plan. It has great ocean views, beautiful gardens with big healthy luscious trees and flowers, fresh grass to roll on, sweet waterfall and… wait… stop!

I got carried away for a little bit over there just like the people who sat in the sit-in protest for 126 days with their Captain and then poof! Everything back to the same state. Captain got married and Pakistanis focused their attention on her new bride and her past.

There is a very clear and obvious pattern here. People keep looking at the sky and wait for the savior to come down and rescue them, hope for the best and go back on with their same lives struggling between putting food on the table and not getting sick every other day.

The problem here is not the government. It is merely running the show as a master and all Pakistanis are accomplices to this crime of self-destruction. Some people create their own storms and get mad when it rains (unknown). Pakistanis are those very people; victims of their own doing. How do they mitigate that? They blame; they blame anyone from their own government to Jews and India.

These days, after clear disappointment from Captain all eyes are on COAS Raheel Shareef. Although the Army hasn’t taken over the country officially but the Chief is calling all the shots and making all important decisions while Prime Minister visited ailing King of Saudi Arabia. People hope that Chief will make things better by hanging the already imprisoned for life “terrorists”.

Pakistani Army has by far kept the most consistent gold star record in the eyes of the masses than any other department in the country. There is not all bad news though. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to see that Pakistan’s “silent majority” is slowly rising against terrorism and fearlessly telling Taliban and their agents operating incognito in the country that is rallying with #IAmNotAfraid. That is by far the only platform where people have stood together as Pakistanis without the religious, sectarian or financial distinctions and/or discriminations.

Thanks to Jibran Nasir who took the first step and the most dangerous job in the world to stand against terrorists and motivated other Pakistanis to come forward. Right step I’d say at the time when this country is fighting war on many external and internal fronts.

People of Pakistan have much more talent and craftsmanship than any handyman in the world. Who hasn’t heard of truck jingle art? Sialkot is the biggest industry for surgical tools and sporting goods. Every kid on the street is a potential cricketer, every third will show how to dismantle something and tell you what each of those parts are. There is no scarce of talent but putting that talent into good use is the question. At least one person in each household knows how to grow plants and almost everyone knows how to ride a bicycle. As a matter of fact Pakistan has its own home industry of Sohrab Cycle which started in 1953 from a little shop.

Speaking of bicycles, China brought reform in the country by introducing a bicycle culture in 1950s. Recently, after the years of this declining culture and now disturbed by the smog emission and traffic Jams in big cities like Beijing – that used to be called the Kingdom of Bicycles – China has decided to bring it back by introducing a bike share program. What changed? Not the government, but people and their perception, their behavior and thinking.

At one time in China, bicycles were a symbol of poor man’s transport or just school kids’ afternoon out door entertainment like in Pakistan. It is now getting popular to become a cool and hipster transport in China despite the fact that there are still some organizations in cities that do not allow bikes on their property.

Denmark, ranked the happiest country in the world has bicycles as their choice of transport. For over half of Copenhagen population ride their bikes to work albeit being the rainy and snowy city.

Similarly, growing up I have always seen some vegetable and fruit bushes and plants in my house. My late aunt had a small area in backyard where she grew different vegetable including okra, spinach, tomato, chili peppers, eggplant, cucumber, lemon and few others that I am forgetting. She would have enough vegetables to feed five people in her household.

What’s the point of all this growing vegetables and bicycle discussion? The point is these countries and people that changed, they weren’t always like that. They changed their perception and attitude towards things and life. No savior came to rescue them they started their own little revolution to make is a “new” life for themselves. They took the matters into their own hands for their well-being instead of relying helplessly on the leaders repeatedly or waiting for the manna dew to drop from the sky, inflation to end or cleaner environment.

At the moment Pakistanis judge each other by the size of the car they drive, the home they live in and how well they can communicate in a fancy English accent and not how much they themselves can do for any betterment – individual or collective. There is a lot of frustration around resulting into stress and anger within people, hopelessness, and rise in crimes or any other way they can satisfy their own human body and mind. Destructive thinking has taken the place of constructive attitude. No jobs, no utilities, terrorism, no food for so many, people dying from terrorism and hate crimes every day.

So why is that we haven’t been able to bring about any positive change in our country? It’s because we haven’t starting riding bikes like Chinese and Danish people and have stopped growing little food in our back yards. Say what? Well we haven’t changed our thinking, perception and attitude towards people and life. We just keep following the same monotonous routine like a herd of sheep that’s either waiting for food or to be sent to a slaughter house.

Finding petrol after a four-hour wait isn’t an achievement; it’s an admission of failure and defeat. If Pakistanis believe that it’s them who can bring change and not the metro, nuclear weapon or sit-in protests, the change will be seen much more quickly and clearly. As Albert Einstein said “The world as we have created, it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

A bike and a few seeds in the back yard can make new Pakistan. Only the silent majority can bring the Silent Revolution.