Rising Islamophobia in the United States of America

“I have never felt more at risk for myself and for others who identify themselves as Muslims,” says Sheikh Ali K Mashhour, Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

Hate crimes against Muslims in America went up by 67 per cent in 2015, according to FBI’s latest report released in 2016. In 2014, this number went up by 14pc.

So, what are the reasons for this increase in Islamophobia? Mashhour blames American politicians and the news coverage of Muslims.

“Journalists are telling us what Islam is, what to think of Muslims,” he complains, referring to the coverage of violent extremism in the US.

President-elect Trump called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings in December last year. Since then, Trump has altered his statement and softened his stance on banning the entry of all Muslims. Instead, he now supports banning the entry of Muslims from “terrorist states”.

Nonetheless, Trump’s statements have only fuelled fears in the American-Muslim community.

Imam Mashhour says Trump was a “lead reason” for this otherisation of Muslims in America. “It has become, ‘If you are truly an American, then you would support these ideas,’” he believes. “One of those ideas is that these people [Muslims] are our enemy.”

Albert Cahn, director of strategic litigation at non-profit CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), sees this as a “disturbing normalisation of Islamophobia by people at the highest levels of American politics”.

Clinton also talked about this polarisation during her unsuccessful run for presidency. “He [Trump] is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” she said in a primary debate last December. “They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit,” added Clinton. She repeated these sentiments this year in the second presidential debate in St Louis, Missouri, on Oct 9.

“Extremists on both sides feed from each other,” says Mohamed Khater, president of the Islamic Society of Central New York. “This rhetoric, when it goes to people like ISIS, they say, ‘See, we told you that the west is against Islam.’”

Khater adds that an “industry of Islamophobia” has begun to rise in the US and that some people are being funded to spread disinformation about Islam.

74 groups were identified as actively promoting Islamophobia according to a report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and University of California Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender. Of these 74 groups, the report alleged that 33 had access to funds close to $206 million between 2008-2013.

To deal with these rising tensions, community leaders and organisations in Islamic centres are making a cautious effort to educate both the Muslim community and the American people to counter negative sentiments attached with Islam and Muslims.

In Syracuse, New York state, for example, representatives of the Islamic Society have gone to multiple churches and three synagogues to answer questions about Islam, jihad and violence.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York City, offers a variety of workshops to educate members of the Muslim communities about their constitutional rights, interactions with law enforcement and responding to discrimination.

The Islamic Cultural Center of New York uses the weekly Friday congregation prayers, where roughly 3,000 Muslims show up on average, to encourage Muslims not to feed into the hatred and instead create a positive impact on a personal level, says Mashhour.

As Trump prepares to take over as America’s 45th president, Muslims in America will have to wait and see if he can counter this wave of Islamophobia—and, indeed, if he has any interest in doing so.

Published on Dawn.com on January 21, 2017.

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Junaid Jamshed

He captured the attention for Pakistanis as a young, charming musician, as a fashion entrepreneur and as a religious preacher but my association with Junaid Jamshed was through his music and that is how I will remember him. His voice represented an entire generation and served as a reminder of happier times for many in the next generation. With his loss, a certain part of that childhood and youth has gone away.

Aao, toh mat jao
Meray pass aao
Toh ruk jao

I was five. Aba got us our first personal audiocassettes. I got Junaid Jamshed’s album. My brother got Ali Haider’s. I don’t have to tell you which one was played in our car. On repeat.

Dil Dil Pakistan
Jaan Jaan Pakistan
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I was born in 1991 so I was sort of late to the Dil Dil Pakistan party. But can anyone really be late to the Dil Dil Pakistan party? I doubt. It is an anthem of a generation, the one before it, and the one after too. Every generation. All Pakistanis. Just like for so many other Pakistanis, the song became a part of my identity as I grew up. It was our unofficial national anthem. Imagine that kind of impact. Junaid Jamshed’s voice was there. Every 23rd March. Every 14th August. Every time Pakistan was playing a cricket match. Every single time you wanted to feel patriotic, to express your love for your homeland, to say that Pakistan was your dil and your jaan.

Milo toh sahi
Raasta koi
Mil he jaaye ga
Chalo toh sahi
Aitebaar bhe
Aa he jaaye ga

The song that provided – and will inevitably continue to provide – invaluable support to millions of people through their heartbreaks. The lyrics seem pretty bland when you read them but Junaid Jamshed made them evocative. His magical voice gave meaning to this almost-perfect expression of love, of a longing that every lover has for his or her beloved, of a human experience that is most natural and yet the most difficult to talk about.

Amn-o-muhabbat ke din de de
Hum ne hai lambi raat guzaari

This came out in the 90s and I always associated it with an image from the song’s video of Junaid Jamshed drenched in fake rain. But the song really hit home 2007 onwards as Pakistan spiraled into chaos and bloodshed. It, quite literally, became my dua. That’s Junaid Jamshed for you once again: adding a million layers of depth to words so simple you might think someone picked them straight from a 7th grader’s notebook.

Yeh shaam phir nahi aye gi
Iss shaam ko
Iss sath ko
Aao amr kar lain

This song actually preceded Aitebaar by about four years and even though these two songs were in the same vein, they still managed to hold their distinct places in the memory of every fan. You have liked someone in your life. You have wanted to say this to them. Life would be less complicated if only guys had the voice of Junaid Jamshed to woo girls.


Tum dur thay
Toh kya hua
Tum mil gaye
Toh kya hua

He did not just sing love songs. There was an equal amount of pain. But he was equally at home with a more negative, indifferent, and darker expression. This is the anthem of indifference. The perfect expression for whenever you feel the need to be with someone and not be with someone at the same time. So, what happened?

There were happier songs too: Mera Dil Nahi Available, Sanwali Saloni, Goray Rung Ka Zamana. These songs remind me of youthful exuberance, of times when you can be careless without any form of guilt, of recklessness so cool that you just want to cling on to it forever.

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How much of this impact was a result of circumstances? Vital Signs came out in Zia’s era; a time many Pakistanis want forget. But the band stands out in their memories even today. Junaid from that era stands on top of it all. Here is this young, good-looking, charming singer you want to sit in front of you and sing all day, every day.

Someone summarised this on Twitter: Vital Signs were our Beatles and he was our Lennon.

Mein apni awaz
Aur apnay saaray geet
Tumhein de jaun ga
Meri sub cheezon ko
Yun he rehnay dena
Jaisay shaam hotay he
Mein laut ke aaun ga

This came up on my playlist today. I froze for a moment when he sang this part. You have left us with your songs and the magic of your voice. But you aren’t returning this evening. Rest in peace, Junaid Jamshed.

Picture credits:
1) Junaid Jamshed’s solo pictures are screen grabs from music videos.
2) The group picture was published in Dawn.

Cyril Almeida, Imran Khan, and the ECL

Earlier this year, I happened to attend an interesting debate at my alma mater, LUMS. A power-packed panel debated whether the prime minister of Pakistan should resign in the wake of the Panama leaks. The debate is now part of considerable social media chatter about Cyril Almeida’s appearance on the proposition bench. As an audience member who did not agree with Cyril’s stance and voted against the motion, I think it is extremely important for me to debunk the lies that are floating around.

At the LUMS debate, Cyril proposed that the prime minister should not resign. The other two members of the bench were Danyal Aziz and Musaddiq Malik, both members of the prime minister’s ruling party, the PML-N. The fact that Cyril was sandwiched between two politically affiliated speakers is being used to claim that Cyril is basically a PML-N supporter.

First, at no point in the debate did Cyril say that he was a member of the PML-N team. This allegation, made by Imran Khan on national TV, is completely false. In fact, Cyril started off by saying that he was not going to defend the prime minister! As chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf or the movement for justice, Imran Khan owes Cyril an apology for this baseless accusation. 
If Imran Khan’s claim is based on who Cyril shared the bench with, then he should also know that Walid Iqbal, the president of his party in Lahore, shared the opposition bench with Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP. Does this mean that the PTI supports the PPP?

Second, while I disagreed with Cyril and voted against the motion at the debate, I feel he made dispassionate and coherent arguments. So, what exactly did Cyril say to defend the motion? His arguments largely focused on maintaining the status quo in civil-military relations through Nawaz Sharif. Cyril said that the prime minister was perhaps best suited to initiating policy changes that could help consolidate Pakistan’s democratic set-up.

One can’t blame Cyril if he is now wondering what went so terribly wrong first with the addition of his name on the Exit Control List for writing his story and then allegations of being a PML-N supporter.

So, what was the government thinking when it placed Cyril’s name on the ECL? To be fair, it has done more harm to Pakistan’s image—the government and the military in specific—than it has to Cyril.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s press conference just added another twist to the government’s nonsensical handling of the issue. Nisar described Cyril’s story as a strike on Pakistan’s “national security paradigm”.

Was the story out of context? Not really. Our history tells us that Pakistan’s military has acted in a duplicitous manner on a number of occasions. The military establishment has fanned violent extremism in its bid to obtain strategic depth and exercise influence. Many people today say that the military has mended its ways.

However, even today, strategic assets such as Hafiz Saeed and Abdul Aziz enjoy freedom. Not only do these gentlemen represent a rotten mindset that promotes violence, but their presence is also extremely detrimental to Pakistan’s national security interests. Add to this the case of Malik Ishaq – it took the state more than 20 years to take care of a known sectarian criminal. The Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat is another extremist organization that continues to operate in Pakistan despite being banned in 2012. In fact the group managed to stage a sit-in in front of the Supreme Court in 2015. How? Why?

If the individuals and the groups mentioned above are not a national security threat to Pakistan- and Cyril Almeida is – then we have got our bearings so wrong that it is frightening to think how we will ever get back on track.

This argument that Cyril and Dawn acted against the national interest by publishing a story at such a critical time when tensions with India are high, begs a simple question about the role of a free press. Is it meant to serve as a tool that advances the interests of the rulers or is it meant to inform the average Jamal about what exactly is going on in our country?

Another allegation against Cyril is that his story had no attributions and the sources are in the background, a journalistic practice when people providing information do not reveal their identities due to potential risks to their lives. Are we that naive that we ignore why the people who sat in the meeting did not go on the record? The story has been corroborated through multiple sources, says Dawn. Even then, if the government wants to say that the story is fabricated, which it can if it wants, then so be it. Issue a rejoinder and close the chapter. The end. Move on.

If basic Facebook metrics are anything to go by, Cyril’s last five stories for Dawn fetched a collective total of 2,691 likes. The story that landed him on the ECL has received 18,000 likes till the filing of this report (this is not an indication of the actual circulation).

All of this aside, the debate boils down to whether the action the government took represents any of the democratic values that it repeatedly champions. Unfortunately, it does not. One of the first things that I read as I walked through the halls of journalism school were these words of Joseph Pulitzer: “An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.”

One does not have to believe in Cyril’s story to say that the attack on free press is wrong.

The writer is an M.S. student at the Columbia Journalism School, NY and can be reached at @imranahmadkh

An edited version of this blog post was published on The Friday Times Blog on Oct. 16, 2016.

70 lives in Quetta

How will I react when something tragic happens back home in Pakistan? Will I feel the pain or will I be able to brush it aside and move on? I had this in the back of my mind when I moved to the U.S. It was almost like I was preparing myself for the inevitable. Every other day, I found myself saying a little prayer for peace. But it had to happen.

I woke up in the middle of the night and checked my family phone chat. There was a killing in Quetta. They took the body to the hospital and carnage struck. 15 dead, I was told initially. The number kept increasing.

70 lives. The end.

The civilian and military leadership is repeating the usual VMS exercise: visits, meetings, and statements. We will not spare the terrorists. We say this every single time.  The same things that were said for Lahore and Peshawar. I have lost count.

The Indians are behind this we are told. Okay. Then? What are we supposed to do with this information? “The Indians did this” has become an escape route. It’s almost as if our state apparatus expends every ounce of its energy on proving this causality. In all of this, why are we failing to stop these acts?

There’s a clear shift in our war against violent extremism. Public spaces are the new battle ground. Peshawar, Lahore, and Quetta – these are three glaring examples of this shift. The state and its functionaries are not the only ones in danger. It’s the society that is getting targeted with greater impunity. It is more open, everyone is more vulnerable, and people are being forced to sacrifice when they don’t really want to. Those who died are martyrs in the national narrative but they never asked for it. They were forced to become martyrs because of our inaction and stupidity.

I feel numb and I am ashamed of this. This is not how I should be reacting to the loss of 70 lives. Will it take a personal loss for my reaction to be more vocal, more action-oriented? I will continue saying that silent prayer for peace.

Featured image: https://specialnewsonline.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/pakistan-flag.jpg

Qadri’s Pakistan or Taseer’s Pakistan?

1060006-ImranAhmadKhanNew-1457199369-596-640x480A radicalised Pakistan’s long-drawn struggle to de-radicalise itself took a key turn when the law of the land took its due course, resulting in Mumtaz Qadri’s hanging. However, it is what happens next that will define the narrative around Qadri and whether his hanging will help Pakistan on its way to de-radicalisation.

The country has been at the cross-roads of an impending ideological shift for a long time now. In a slow move towards realising the trouble that we have engulfed ourselves in, there have been multiple tipping points in our war against violent extremism. Bone-chilling stories of the Hazara genocide, the Mehran airbase attack, the APS attack — on multiple occasions, we have somehow managed to find a small voice to highlight what is evidently very wrong.

But for every protest against the APS attack, there is an Abdul Aziz. For every potential ideological shift against radicalisation, there are calls by the Jamaat-e-Islami to protest against Qadri’s hanging.

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New York diaries, part 1: Goodbyes are the hardest

I have done this twice before. The first time, it lasted for two weeks. I left home right after High School and went to Singapore for my undergraduate degree. It didn’t work out – I was back home in two weeks. Next, I went to Karachi – about 800 miles away from home – for my first proper job after graduation. This time, it worked for a little over five months.

So, here I am on a 14-hour flight to New York City. 14 hours in this uncomfortably crouched position. Am I anxious? Yes. But I can break this down into one hour at a time.

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To the Taliban: stop playing God

You killed 132 children. And when you did that, you killed millions of hearts. You are barbaric and inhumane. Perhaps you are planning to kill more of us. I think we all know that you are going to. Murdering innocents is the only thing you are good at.

Source: http://pakistanifun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/411.jpg
Source: http://pakistanifun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/411.jpg

There will be some who will say that this hatred stems from emotions. Perhaps it does. Who wouldn’t be emotional when you kill 132 children, and 9 faculty members? That has to be the lowest you could hit, no? To ask a girl if her dad was in the army and then to shoot her point blank is what cowards would do. Or may be not. You hit your lowest when you shot the brave little Malala. Or was it when you attacked the Ahmadis as they prayed? It could well be that time when you fired at a school bus and killed four young boys.

You wanted to instil fear in us. Congratulations, you have succeeded. People are scared, yes. Schools and colleges have been shut down, just like you wanted. Every time people fly on a plane, they are scared. Mosques are unsafe. The little angels are traumatised. But you see, I still don’t see why we should talk to you or to your affiliates. Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results is akin to insanity, like Einstein said. I would much rather die today, knowing that I opposed you and yours till my last breath, instead of trying to negotiate a solution with you.

Never try to rationalise your brutality. Some twisted logic might label you as freedom fighters or reformers. You are not. Some might say you retaliated to the state’s offensive as it tried to establish its writ. You did not – you have absolutely no right to instil fear in us with your gun. Simply put, we don’t want you.

Remember, there could be ten different reasons for what you are doing. But that does not take away from what you are doing. You are murderers. Anyone who says otherwise will be obfuscating the truth. Of course, you are champions in doing that.

You are cowards; cowards who kill children, behead people and play football with their heads, attack airports, schools, and mosques. After all, how else do you define someone who asks children to stand up against the classroom wall and shoots them? Or burns their teacher alive in front of them?

You must pray that there is no God, for if there is one then He is going to make you rot in the deepest pits of hell. You must pray that there is no Day of Judgment, for if there is one then you will not find any place to hide.

There are tipping points when narratives shift. As ashamed as I feel that it took us this long, let me assure you, on behalf of many Pakistanis, that we are not going to stay silent now.

The next time you kill one of us, don’t rejoice over your success. Live in the fear that your ideology will be defeated.

We are a nation at war on two levels – physical and ideological. So while our armed forces fight this war physically, hopefully without any distinction, many like me will fight this on an ideological level. We are picking up the pieces, you see. I don’t know how long it will take for us to do that on an institutional level. But many like me are not afraid of speaking. That is all it ever takes to shift a society’s mindset.

Unlike you, many of us – Muslims and non-Muslims – have great respect for the Prophet (PBUH). So, you see, we cannot condone murder and continue to live in denial. We have great respect for the Prophet’s (PBUH) supporters, which is why we cannot condone brutality.

We respect God, which is why we cannot let you decide what is right and what is wrong.

Taliban, we can’t let you play God.

Unequal before the law

“Oh but do you know what the Israelis are doing to the poor Muslims of Palestine? Will you ever see a Muslim be in a position of power in the US? Do you know about the plight of our poor Muslim brothers in India?”

We are all prone to making such arguments full of fallacies and we often let our egos stand in the way of what is right and what is wrong. The statements quoted above are just some of the reactions that I have faced when I have tried to reason for a non-Muslim Pakistani to be given the same rights as a Muslim Pakistani. So, who exactly do we fool when we claim that minorities are protected, in letter and spirit, by the laws of Pakistan? In this momentary glorification of our society, we tend to forget that we are meting out the very same treatment to our minorities that necessitated the formation of Pakistan in the first place. A ‘separate’ homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent was never going to be an issue had there been basic freedom and equal economic opportunities for the minority in the Indian subcontinent. But the economic imperative aside, are we even giving our minorities their basic rights in Pakistan? Basically, are we following our own Constitution?

No, I don’t care about what India and Israel do, and I don’t care about how the West stereotypes Muslims. I am concerned about my own country — a country where we are not protecting our own countrymen. I never asked you about Israel or India or the US.
You want to know who the real heroes of Pakistan are? It’s the Christians living in Joseph Colony, who continue to live in Pakistan, knowing fully well that the 100 odd houses in the colony can be burnt down at the behest of an angry mob. I covered the area for a documentary so I don’t mind repeating it here. Two friends, a Muslim and a Christian, party in many vices, had a fight. The Muslim accused the Christian of having committed blasphemy. Lo and behold, the entire colony was burned down. Everything. There was only one judge, jury, and executioner in this case.

The real heroes of Pakistan are the Hazaras living in Quetta. They live in this land of the pure, knowing fully well that the state is doing absolutely nothing to ensure their safety. Those who kill them continue to get state patronage and we sit here in our comfort zones, almost resigned to our fate. All of my passionate ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ chants become meaningless in front of these brave souls for I have never even ventured into the territory of patriotism that is theirs and theirs alone, just because you and I are too scared to protect them. Only a true Pakistani can stay here knowing what is in store for him or her as a Hazara.

The real heroes of Pakistan are the Ahmadis who stay here, knowing fully well how much their lives are valued in this land of the pure. They never seem to give up and yet here we are, you and I, lying to each other and to the entire world, living a life of hypocrisy. No we will not share their grief, nor will we ever come out to protect them. We are too scared to say a very simple truth: killing someone is wrong!

The Joseph Colony example is the equivalent of the Americans droning innocents in their pursuit of killing terrorists. Or, for the elite, the ‘random’ security checks that you face at American airports just because your name is Khan. People will come out in huge numbers to condemn America. There will be people who will make sure that they remind you of Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. There will be those who will tell you that Ahmadis are non-Muslims — as if somehow this justifies killing them, and ignores the fact that false allegations of blasphemy are also a crime under the laws of the land. All this will happen and we will have the same ‘this too shall pass’ attitude towards it. You can’t miss the trend though. It should worry us; even cause us to lose sleep. If these were one or two cases of injustice, we could still claim to be a tolerant society. But the path we have taken now is going to lead us to extreme intolerance. When we lost Salmaan Taseer, people defended his murder and felicitated the murderer. Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder was also defended openly. Now we have lost a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan, burned like pieces of coal fuelling a fire. But why do we act surprised now? What did we do to reverse the dangerous trend when Salmaan Taseer was killed? What did we do to protect the Ahmadis when they were killed? What did we ever do to protect the Hazaras of Pakistan? We did nothing. Why do we expect any kind of reward then?

The next time you see the right speaking of Israel’s atrocities in Palestine, remember their silence on this. Replace the Palestinians with Pakistan’s minority and Israel with Pakistan, and you will see similar trends of injustice and persecution. We remain adamant on pointing out India’s transgressions in Kashmir, yet we remain silent on the brutal treatment meted out to fellow Pakistanis. No, I am not a RAW agent. I am an average Pakistani, concerned about Pakistan.

Remember that you and I, our families and our friends, we are all living in a state of oblivion, tacitly colluding to set in motion a systemic demise of our society.

Let us not fool the world anymore. Pakistan has a problem: we are narrowing down the space for our minorities.

Our Constitution guarantees: “[t]o enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.”

Either we stop the trend or we say that this constitutional guarantee does not apply to Pakistan’s minorities.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2014.

(http://tribune.com.pk/story/794410/unequal-before-the-law/)

The sorry Israeli stall controversy

Three people were removed from their positions over the issue of having an Israeli stall at a mock United Nations debating contest at the Islamic International University. This was done because of their ‘culpability’ in promoting Israel’s agenda. Well, actually no, they did not do anything of the sort. They were suspended because they organised a Model UN conference — a simulation of the United Nations — where Israel was represented as a country.

At a Model UN conference, participants are usually assigned different countries as they discuss issues of global relevance. For example, at the Harvard World MUN 2014, I was part of the Disarmament and Security Committee where I represented the Syrian Arab Republic as we discussed the pressing issue of drone attacks. Every delegate is required to put forward his or her country’s stance. Indian delegates, therefore, will not agree on giving up Kashmir to Pakistan. Likewise, American delegates will not admit to their country’s duplicitous foreign policy over the years. What they will do, however, is provide a real-life taste of what the Indian or American delegates would say in such debates.

A delegate’s debating skills are tested by the contribution that he or she makes to the debate. More important, though, is the skill of diplomacy and such conferences provide you with the best opportunity of learning how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. In a committee of 400 delegates at the Harvard World MUN, there were delegates from around 80 different countries.

So while I debated with some wonderful people from India, Venezuela, England, the US and Turkey — to name a few — I also had the opportunity to interact with them during the social events, promoting an image of Pakistan that was quite different from what they had been seeing in the news media. These social events are primarily designed to promote interaction and cultural exchanges between students from different parts of the world. Personally speaking, this is the best part of MUN conferences since it allows you to break all stereotypes and gives you a chance to know people beyond boundaries and borders.

Following the same line of thinking, the Model UN conference at the International Islamic University in Islamabad organised a social event where students had to set up stalls representing the countries that they were representing. Just to give you some context, at international conferences with people from different countries taking part, you usually set up stalls representing your country of origin.

This should give you an idea of how this particular event — a global village — is really meant to act as a cultural event that allows you to get familiarised with different countries. With little or no international participation, delegates were asked to set up stalls representing their assigned countries by the organisers of this particular conference.

This, of course, did not go down well with people who wish to stifle academic debate in Pakistan. Like it or not, Israel happens to be an important world player. This importance means that Israel cannot be left out of debates, especially if it is a political debate. How do you expect an all-encompassing debate on the Middle Eastern crisis without Israel? How can you ever have a meaningful debate on the Palestinian issue without anyone representing Israel?

There will be detractors who will point out that these conferences are an excuse for high school students to skip school and party, and to those detractors, my answer is simple: there are always two sides to a coin. So, while you give that argument, remember that students at LUMS and IBA have used MUN conferences to promote Pakistan internationally. I, and countless other LUMS Model UN members, have participated in various international MUN conferences such as the Harvard World MUN and the Model UN Turkey.

The LUMS team has won the best delegation award five times — competing with most of the world’s top universities. At the Turkey conference, the LUMS team has won seven times in a row. Every time this happens, the world gets to know about a Pakistan that is tolerant and willing to engage in meaningful debate. To its credit, LUMUN (LUMS Model UN society) has also organised Pakistan’s premier MUN conference 10 years in a row, apart from co-hosting a conference in Passau, Germany.

The solution to solving a conflict often lies in your ability to listen to others, for it is only then that you end up understanding where the other party is coming from. Model UN conferences are an excellent platform for such grooming and we must not add controversy to an entirely harmless — in fact beneficial — activity.

MUN participants take pride in breaking barriers and building bridges. So, let a conference be a conference. Let a simulation of debate be just that and nothing more. Let people understand perspectives.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2014.