Uzma Aslam Khan's Interview

Uzma Aslam Khan's interview, conducted by me, published in The Friday Times.

Two excerpts from it:

* 'As with just about every aspect of Pakistani life, in matters of love, we overdo ourselves at the same time that we don't do enough. For instance, we lavish love on our guests, or our friends' children. And at the risk of generalizing, I'd say Pakistani children lavish more love on each other than children in the West; they're more affectionate and generous. I encountered dozens of such examples while teaching in Lahore, ways in which the young look out for each other. Yet, we teach those same children to withhold love from the poor, from religious minorities, from sexual "outcasts". We teach them to be ashamed of thinking of wives as lovers and friends. These aspects of love we don't nurture; the flower, if it blooms, blooms in a closed, guilty place, where it can't live for long.'

* 'When in the book Nana is falsely accused of blasphemy, he is also called an Ahmadi, as though calling someone this is an insult. His response is to refuse to wear it as an insult by refusing to say what he is. He says instead, "My faith is what they bury when they force me to expose it." And I think that the increasingly furious pace of hate crimes against our religious minorities - from the attack on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore on May 28, 2010, which should be declared a national day of mourning, to the assassinations of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer, to the present-day case of young Rimsha Masih - all of this, on top of terrorizing those already vulnerable in our society, makes us all guilty, for two reasons. First, for staying silent about what we know to be wrong. And second, because we are all forced to say what we are, all the time. We can't even get our passport renewed without 'confessing' to not being Ahmadis. I've even been asked my religion while registering for a blood test. And to whom are we always in need of confessing? Not to God, but to a bunch of people who call themselves the state. If this were a civilized land, faith would be private and proof against those we know are playing God would be public. But in Pakistan, it's the other way around: Faith is public and proof is private.'