Khayyam on hypocrisy

Religious hypocrisy is the most irritating aspect of Muslim culture in general and Afghan culture in particular. Some may believe that Muslim hypocrisy is a product of the totalitarian political orders ruling the Islamic east for the past few centuries. The truth, however, is that hypocrisy has been a widespread social norm in this region at least from the time people converted to Islam. In Islam, unlike other mainstream religions, there is a great amount of emphasis on the jurisprudence (Fiqh), in contrast to spirituality which is the basis of Buddhism and theological principles which define Christianity. Of course there is spirituality and theology in Islam as well, but they are overshadowed by jurisprudence. If the muslims want to be accepted in their communities, they have to observe the strict religious rituals and practices on a daily basis and obey the sharia law. In reality, being a good Muslim, as the book requires, is a very difficult task. Therefore the people have no other option but to live a double life: a life for themselves and a life for the eyes of the public.

There are two classical poets in Persian literature who are very vocal against the culture of hypocrisy in Muslim communities, Hafez and Khayyam.  Hafez was a sufi, a great rival of mullas who are considered the embodiment of hypocrisy. Khayyam was a philosopher and mathematician, who expressed his blasphemous ideas in poetry, which in Persian/Afghan culture is the only realm of immunity for intellectual production. Both these men have great influences in Persian literature; their critical poems on hypocrite practices are well-referred even in everyday conversations.

The following is one of Khayyam’s quatrains about hypocrisy. Two English translations follow:

شیخی به زنی فاحشه گفتا مستی

هرلحظه به دام دیگری پا بستی

گفتا شیخا هرآنچه گویی هستم

آیا تو چنان که می نمایی هستی؟

A religious man said to a whore, “You’re drunk,
Caught every moment in a different snare.”
She replied, “Oh Shaikh, I am what you say,
Are you what you seem?”

Translated by Peter Avery and John Health Stubbs


A Sheikh addressed a prostitute,
And said, ‘You tempt with your device
Man after man, whom you entice.
How can you be so dissolute?’
The woman then made this reply
‘I am, O Sheikh, what you relate,
But are you so immaculate,
As you assume and certify?’

Translation by Arthur J. Arberry.

I couldn’t find Edward FitzGerald’s translation of this quatrain.


Occupy Sarai Shahzada!

The street on the right bank of the river goes to Sarai Shahzada. Kabul / Sep. 2010

Since the Occupy Wall Street movement is now a global phenomenon with similar rallies taking place from Ottawa to London, Rome, Sydney and Tokyo, someone just suggested on Facebook that Afghans should occupy Sarai Shahzada, the chaotic quarter of Kabul where the notorious money exchange moguls are located. At first the idea seems funny, but it’s not.

If the Kabulis are to occupy somewhere in the city, I think Sarai Shahzada should be the place. The money exchange business forms the backbone of the Afghan traditional economy. Those guys in the Sarai are more influential than the recently established private banks in the country (actually most of these banks emerged from Sarai Shahzada). Apart from running hawala which is believed to be misused by terror networks for years, the Sarai has been serving as the main bazaar for the curropt officials and drug lords  who go there for money loundering and exporting dirty cash abroad.

Therefore it is very legitimate if Afghans come out on streets and occupy the Sarai as a protest against the corruption and the increasing wealth inequality in the country. Afghans should stop blaming the will of God for their miseries and start using their minds. Open your eyes and look at those loads of bundled Dollars behind the shop windows, where did they come from?

People, occupy Sarai Shahzada!

Dammit! I missed the good times!

Kabuli girls in the past. Photo: THOMAS ABERCROMBIE / National Geographic

Afghan women in Kabul probably in 80s (judging by the hair!) . Photo: STEVE RAYMER / National Geographic

These two pictures are from good old days of Kabul when walking the streets of the city was fun! The young women in these pictures are probably old ladies now, whose daughters can only appear in public with a Burqa or hijab. The cultural change in this city is unbelievable.

Mapping Afghan cities

Google is working with a number of tech companies and volunteers in Afghanistan to map the Afghan cities.  This is such a wonderful idea.

This CNN report is about the volunteers in Herat who are working to map their town. As a result of their work, Herat’s Google Map has more details now with names both in Engish and Dari.

For Kabul also we see a significant amount of details being added on it’s Google Map, though a lot of the names are not spelled correctly and they are only in Pashto and English ( a few street names are in Dari, which is worse: they all should be in one or both official languages, not  mixed). Some street names are wrong, for example, the Mazari Road in West Kabul is put on another street. The actual Mazari road is remained unnamed.

Reading the street names gets more disappointing when you realize the spelling problem is not an occasional mistake, but a common occurrence. The persons writing these names, were probably illiterate. These are some examples: “Siro for Silo”, “اقرب به جای عقرب” (the actual name of the street is “3rd of Hoot”, but they have put “3rd of Aqrab” – both are the names of Afghan months, 3rd of Hoot refers to a bloody day in late 70s when Kabulis demonstrated against the communist regime), “Wuluswali Deh-Sabz” for “Deh-Sabs” (you don’t put “the district of ….” on a map, you just put the name of the place).

Anyways, I hope Google hires a person with good knowledge of Kabul and some editorial skills to improve the quality of the city map. If the Kabul municipality name properly the streets and number the houses, it is not very unlikely to even have Kabul’s Street View images on Google Map some day soon.

The 7th of October

CNN broadcasting live a historical moment. Photo: AFP

Today is the 7th of October. Ten years ago this day in 2001, the US forces attacked the Taliban bases in Afghanistan. That day will remain as one of the most important moments in our history. Not only it changed the historical course of our country, but our lives as well.

Yesterday the 6th of October I defended my MA thesis at uOttawa and officially graduated. On the 6th of October 2001, I could have never imagined to be doing what I was doing yesterday. It all became possible for the events of the next day.

The Afghans should be grateful to America for removing the Taliban from Afghanistan. If G. Bush ever did one right thing in his presidency, it was the attack on Taliban. I think we owe him a thank you note.

These two bastards: Barack Obama and Steve Jobs

The homepage of Apple website remembering the former CEO. Photo:

Barack Obama is a bastard, so was Steve Jobs – both extraordinarily charismatic leaders in politics and business share a similar personal history.

Obama’s father was a Muslim student from Kenya whose white girlfriend gave birth to Obama as a result of unwanted pregnancy. The man left the girl and the baby, and she raised her son alone.

Steve’s father was a Muslim student from Syria named Abdulfattah John Jandali who made his white girlfriend pregnant and then runaway.  A white couple from California adopted the boy and named him Steve Jobs. Later his biological parents got married, but they never saw thier son again. Mr. Jandali, 80, is still alive and works in a casino in the US.

Why are all the bastards so cool, especially the ones who have a runaway Muslim father?

The first Afghan rock song

Although Ahmad Zahir can be considered as the first ever Afghan rocker who introduced bass and guitar into the traditional Afghan music in the 70s and 80s, I believe he is more  a pop singer with his romantic melodies, love songs and classical poetry than a rocker. He has only a very few songs about real life. The only rock thing about him was his hair style, his fashion, and of course his legendary sex life!

I believe the first true rock song in Afghan music is Salam Alik (“hello”) a song by Farhhad Darya the popular pop singer who made this song as part of “Encounters” an album by different international singers which was produced and distributed by Sony BMG in 2006. This song which has lyrics both in English and Persian is a beautiful combination of rock and sufi music, a song in the tradition of political, protesting and peaces-seeking rockers who are harder to find in the mainstream music these days. In 2007 I reviewed this song for Honarmand, a film magazine I used to edit; the online version of the article is on Asamai website.

After Salam Alik, Farhad Darya made only one other rock song  called Nazdik Shodan.

Hamid and Mahmoud

Karzai and Ahmadinejad in Tehran 2009. Photo: / Hussein Golia

This photo taken by Hussein Golia was selected as Iran’s second picture of the year in 2009 in the category of news photos. The picture taken in Tehran shows an intimate moment between Hamid Karzai and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Afghanistan’s and Iran’s unpopular presidents.

Both leaders met after winning two controversial presidential elections in 2009 in their respective countries. Karzai was the first world leader to congratulate Ahmadinejad after the Iranian elections, so was Ahmadinejad in congratulating him for winning the Afghan elections. These two men have many things in common, the most important one, however, is their lack of public support at home and their notoriously bad names abroad.

Looking at this picture, one wonders what on earth these two might have been whispering about? This picture was selected as the second best news photo of the year, but I can’t see any news in this photo, it should have been selected as the gayist photo of the year. The picture seems to be taken in some gay parades, not a presidential state visit!

Once Ahmadinejad announced that: “we don’t have homosexuals in our country”. Someone should show this picture to him. (Karzai doesn’t need to see this photo, he is from Kandahar!)

The sleeping policeman

Policemen sleeping in Kabul city. Sep. 2010

I took this shot last year while driving between Tura-baz Khan square and Zanbaq square near the Iranian embassy in Kabul. With policemen like these who sleeps on duty in the middle of the street,  the residents of Kabul can rely on nothing for security but their luck. I don’t know what do they teach these green sleeping bags in the Academy?