This is a great time to be a woman from Pakistani heritage.
Last night, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Ismaili, made history by becoming the first Pakistani to win the first two Oscars in history of the Academy Awards. Her winning documentary short film, "A Girl in the River," shows the horror of honor killings in Pakistan.
Earlier this month MIT Professor Nergis Mavalvala, a lesbian Parsi Zoroastrian born and raised in Karachi proved Einstein’s theory about gravitational waves. Thank you Dr. Mavalvala for elevating the prestige of LGBTI persons in the scientific community.
We all know Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner who is accused by Islamists to be an agent of the West. I can’t verify your conspiracy theory but what I do know is that girls deserve to get an education without getting shot in the head and that Malala is more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than controversial warmongerers like Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger.
I’d also like to acknowledge my up-and-coming rising stars from Pakistani heritage. These are my activist friend Alishba Zarmeen, a sex positive feminist, who cuts through the smokescreen and fearlessly promotes humanism and secular liberalism with her other half, Dr. Ali A. Rizvi.
The other person I want you to know is Sarvat Hasin, a former classmate of mine at Oxford University’s creative writing program. Sarvat is a talented writer working on her first novel. So keep an eye out for her books in the coming years.
Another notable mention is atheist Sarah Haidar, one of the co-founders of the Ex-Muslims of North America. Sarah was born in Pakistan but now lives in the United States where she is actively growing an alternative community for individuals who’ve left Islam and now live the good life without religious and superstitious beliefs.
We have to acknowledge the fallen heroes of Pakistani descent who are no longer with us. Sabeen Mahmud was a tireless human rights activist and social NGO worker who challenged discrimination and injustice in Pakistan. She was assassinated in Karachi in April 2015 and it's widely assumed the Pakistan’s intelligence services hired the hit on Sabeen because she was spreading awareness about the ongoing massacres committed by the Pakistani army and associated militias in Balochistan.
Have you noticed a pattern here? All of the aforementioned are gender, racial, religious, and/or sexual minorities. How can you be a pioneer in the arts, medicine, politics, science, technology, etc. if you belong to a mainstream groupthink that paralyzes the mind from creative and critical thinking and from making free and rational choices?
Pakistan has proven time and again to be an “international migraine” as Madeleine Albright so eloquently put it and still is the greatest enemy of Afghanistan, India, and the United States. The double-dealing tyrants in Islamabad who preside over the button to Islam’s first and (so far) only nuclear bomb make Pakistan the most dangerous country in the planet.
But we cannot lump up a country with almost 200 million people with one brushstroke. If we want to eliminate the politics of Islam in Pakistan (and everywhere) then we have to empower the members of civil society in the home country and the diaspora who are creating a new reality. We can only win by supporting the innovators and leaders who are shaking off oppressive culture and enlightening society with humane, liberal, scientific, and secular values.