SALT LAKE CITY SIMERG

A Personal Reflection on the 2020 USA Election: How the People of the Beautiful State of Utah Let Me Down

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

In the summer of 2011, I finally fulfilled a pledge I had made to my 19-year old daughter, an animal and nature lover, who was aspiring to become a veterinarian; her dream finally fulfilled in 2019.

The promise I had made to her when she was in her early teens was that I would take her to see two of my favourite places in the world, that I had either lived in or visited as a tourist. In my mind, they were not going to be Lourenço Marques, (now Maputo) in Mozambique, Dar es Salaam, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro, all in Tanzania, nor to the majestic mountains and national parks in Canada and the USA such as the Blue Ridge Mountains, Glacier National Park, the Rockies in Alberta and Colorado and the Grand Canyon. She wondered what those two places might be, and my reply to her was, “I will take you to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park”. (Since then, as it will be obvious to my regular readers, I have added to my favourite list His Highness the Aga Khan’s magnificent projects in Toronto — namely the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, all three located at one site).

Yellowstone National Park, Minerva Terrace
Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo: © Simerg.

I will not say much about Yellowstone, except that I found it to be the most thrilling of all the parks in North America I have visited. It is a 5-in-1 park with its incredible geysers, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, rivers and lakes, forests as well as superb and varied wildlife, including grizzly bears and wolves. It is truly rich and diverse! I had stopped there some 22 years ago during my 4,500 km road trip from Ottawa to Vancouver via the USA, and vowed to one day return with my daughter and share with her the beauty I experienced.

But what about Salt Lake City, and why?

In 1979, while in London, I was recruited by a New York software firm to work as a trainee computer programmer in the USA under the H3 visa program. Upon my arrival at the company’s headquarters in the Big Apple, I began to familiarize myself with the IBM JCL (Job Control Language), a suite of steps that are necessary to execute computer and related utility programs. My experience in the UK had primarily been on ICL (International Computers Limited) computers.

Then after about a week, as I was taking some in-house JCL tests I was summoned into the director’s office late in the afternoon. He told me that one of company’s two clients in Salt Lake City had dismissed two consultants due to poor representation and performance, and the company was in danger of losing the project altogether. He handed me $300.00 in cash, an airline ticket to fly to Salt Lake City the following day, and firmly asked me to do well and salvage the highly profitable project for the company!

That evening I went to the Jamatkhana in New York only to learn from the Mukhisaheb that there were no Ismailis that he knew lived in Salt Lake City. I nervously travelled to Salt Lake City and was greeted at the airport by the consulting company’s project team lead, an Irish Catholic. He calmed my fears down at the hotel, where he dropped me off.

Within 24 hours I was on the client’s site. I was assigned to an in-house systems analyst, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, who presented me with specifications to develop an intricate file manipulation program that in his view “was the most complex program on their new payroll-personnel system”.

I was a Muslim of South Asian descent, who had grown up in Africa and then completed my college computer degree in the UK. My heart was that of an African, and I loved Africans. In Sandy in the outskirts of Salt Lake City, and then closer to work in Salt Lake City, I shared a home and apartments with Catholics and Protestants. On the project, I worked with members of numerous Christian denominations, Mormons in particular. As a non-smoker, I loved the smokeless office environment; in London I’d shared a small office on Tottenham Court Road with 2 chain smokers! 7-Up had become my favourite drink in the UK, and that became a daily treat for me in the cafeteria in Salt Lake. In the mid 1960’s Sprite had been introduced in Tanzania, close enough.

Project team members showed me immense courtesy and respect, and the country’s ethic of hard work and motto that anything is possible in the USA was true. I myself experienced it. Americans were fantastic people. Everyone who passed me at Salt Lake’s Main Street would give a friendly nod. Yes, America had that ability to inspire, instill confidence and make one courageous! I became self-confident and fearless. My new friends took me to Park City, Snowbird and Utah Jazz basketball games the franchise was quite new. Adrian Dantley became my favourite player. Mormon missionaries, in pairs, came to places where I resided to indoctrinate me with the faith’s teachings, and I respectfully discussed faith matters with them, and in turn told them about Islam. We realized how common our ethics were. It was wonderful. I can honestly say that Salt Lake City made me a strong and confident person.

Moreover, Salt Lake City was surrounded by the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. It is where I also deeply started appreciating nature. The night sky, as I watched the stars and the full and new moons, inspired me. Surely, this would be a place I would like to one day return. My daughter made that wish happen.

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Simerg, Malik Merchant. ©
The spiritual centre of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormons, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: © Simerg.

When I returned with my daughter to Salt Lake City some 32 years later, I had already approached a Mormon missionary I knew to give us an extended tour of the Mormon Temple. He drove from Provo and spent hours with us. My daughter was impressed with the ethic of teachings of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) that he shared with us, including the faith’s tithing principle as well as the honorary time members devote to the dissemination of LDS Christian teachings around the world.

In 2008, 3 years before our trip to Utah and Yellowstone, Barack Obama became the 44th USA president, and extended his term in 2012. Hillary Clinton, in 2016, lost to Donald Trump. Utah in large numbers gave him the Presidential vote. That, I said to myself, was fine as it was Trump’s first time!

Then, throughout his 4-year tenure as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world as well as the period following the recent 2020 election, President Trump insulted decent hard working human beings, accused them of cheating and corruption, made condescending remarks to loyal and patriotic citizens of the USA including iconic leaders such as the late Republican Senator John McCain, told lies, divided children from their parents, insulted Muslims and immigrants, backed out of important world treaties, instigated seeds of division and hatred, stopped distinguishing good people from bad, undermined science and scientists, and couldn’t bother to care about American lives being taken due to Covid-19; these were only some of his character traits besides being selfish, insultingly prideful, and profoundly arrogant! He did not accept his defeat in the US elections, and never conceded to President-elect Joe Biden. On November 5th, upon hearing his speech after he knew he was losing the election, I had tears in my eyes and sought solace from my mum thousands of miles away in Vancouver. She too was deeply hurt.

And yet Utah’s citizens, who having heard and read the sickening Trump for a 4 full years, still went and voted for him in 2020, in even larger proportion than in 2016 (from 45.5% in 2016, increasing it to 58.4% in 2020 vs Biden at 37.7%).

Has a faith that I have been raised to respect by my own parents, who were both teachers and missionaries, lost its moorings or have the people of Utah stopped recognizing worthy and perennial Christian and LDS values? I note that the LDS church is in an expansion mode as it has been for decades   around the world, and yet by voting for Trump the citizens of Utah forgot some cherished and revered perennial values that all GOOD global citizens must have, such as (1) the necessity of an abundant capacity for compromise; (2) more than a little sense of patience; (3) an appropriate degree of personal humility and honesty; (4) a respect for others; (5) having a good measure of forgiveness; as well as (6) genuinely welcoming human differences. Many of these values that I have noted were shortlisted by His Highness the Aga Khan when he was presented with the Adrienne Clarkson Global Citizenship Award in September 2016. They are also values common to all faiths and I would therefore expect religious minded people to be championing and upholding these values and behaving in accordance with them.

As a Muslim, I hold some conservative values too, but my expressions of them would be for support of the rule of law through the members of the Congress, the House and the Senate, and not by blindly handing over my votes and voice to a divisive leader like President Trump. Let a better Republican candidate show-up, and vote for the person then.

Being a Muslim I have to state that the Holy Qur’an makes it very clear on the unity of mankind, beautifully articulated by His Highness the Aga Khan in an address he delivered to both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. He said:

“As you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Qur’an which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says: ‘Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women.’ I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.”

Utahns voted ignoring key ethical values which I thought were dear to the hearts of those I came to know and cast their voices in support of a divisive president.

So now I carry with me only distant memories of the great city and people I came to know in 1979-1980, where my experiences were such that I promised to take my daughter to Salt Lake City in 2011, to meet people I thought I knew and trusted. I will not make that same promise to anyone else again!

As a footnote let me say there are three Mormons I deeply respect today: My Mormon missionary friend, Andrew Kosorok, who was our tour guide at the LDS temple in Salt Lake City, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah for seeking to speak out honestly and asking his fellow Republican colleagues to be truthful and, last but no means the least, former Republican Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona for standing up to the president of the USA, who has completely relinquished his duties to his country and the revered Constitution of the USA that has been an inspiration to Americans and the world for 233 years. On January 6, 2021 the outgoing president clearly incited his supporters to a destructive march on the citadel of democracy, the Capitol of the USA, to prevent President-elect Biden’s confirmation as president. How could the people of Utah have voted for such a person?

Date posted: January 12, 2021.
Last updated: January 19. 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

Simerg invites (1) Ismaili artists to provide submissions/updates for revised edition of its compendium; and (2) Ismaili authors to submit synopsis of their books for listing on the website

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

Talented Ismaili Artists

The Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, revealed and showcased the amazing  talent of the artists in the Ismaili community. Hundreds of young children and youth as well as elderly members of the Jamat participated in locally held programs during the Golden Jubilee. Ten years later, the Diamond Jubilee became truly international in scope, and the final celebrations in July 2018 in Lisbon brought together a large gathering of a variety of artists including film makers, singers, dancers as well as fine art and visual artists to perform in front of large crowds and display works of art at an international gallery. Their high quality performances captivated audiences daily throughout the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.

compendium of Ismaili artists simerg
Please click on image to download 2014 edition of compendium. We invite new entries and updates from Ismaili visual artists for the revised edition to be published in 2021.

Some years ago, Simerg produced a highly acclaimed Compendium of Ismaili Artists dedicated to the visual arts. It requires a major and long overdue update! Simerg sincerely hopes that Ismaili visual artists from around the world will go through the compendium and submit their profiles as illustrated in the compendium. Simerg plans to update the compendium and produce a new edition by spring 2021. Please submit your profile and a work of art to Malik Merchant at his email address Simerg@aol.com.

The institutional support for the arts has been truly commendable, and we hope that such support will continue.

The Ismaili literary scene had been somewhat dormant for quite some time until the emergence of Moez Vassanji who is one of Canada’s most celebrated writers. He is a prolific writer whose published work include novels, short story collections and non-fiction collections. Moez is a two time Giller Prize winner and has received numerous other awards and recognitions. In February 2005, he was made the Member of the Order of Canada for contribution to arts/writing.

Talented Ismaili Writers

Ismaili authors
Cover pages of a few of the dozens of books authored by Ismailis.

But what about other fine Ismaili authors who have appeared in the writing scene over the past two decades? They have remained virtually unknown to the community at large. Personally, I would have liked to have seen their works to have been sold through the Jamatkhana literature counters around the world, and for the authors to be given an opportunity to do readings in front of audiences, at least at their local Jamatkhana setting. We hope that when the pandemic is over this suggestion will be taken up by our institutions and that Ismaili authors who feel they have written a book that is worthy of reading because of its overall publication quality and literary merit will be able to present themselves to the Jamat, sell their books and sign them for Jamati members who wish to purchase their works. Many authors market and sell their books via on-line sellers such as Amazon, but institutional support and encouragement is vital for their exposure to a world wide Jamat.

Simerg invites Ismaili writers to come forward and submit a synopsis of their book for publication on this website. In addition, we want each writer to respond to the following questions in no more than 50 words per question:

(1) What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

(2) Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it? 

(3) What inspired you to write the book? 

(4) How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats (ebook, kindle, hardback, paperback?) 

Response to the following questions are optional:

(5) How did you find a publisher for the book? 

(6) Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself? 

(7) Which was your first book and how many have you written? 

(8) How long did it take you to write the book – from start to finish and to begin marketing it? 

(9) Tell us something more about your book (and its primary character).

Categories for inclusion in our listing: Novels, short stories, inspirational books, biographies, poetry, jigsaw puzzles as well as all non-fiction on diverse subjects (except religious and literary works published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies).

Languages: We will list books published in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Kiswahili, but the synopsis must be submitted in English. Books in other languages will be considered for listing at a later date.

Your response: Authors should submit their responses to the 9 questions accompanied by the book’s synopsis in English (preferably in no more than 100 words maximum) and an image of the cover page to the attention of Malik Merchant at simerg@aol.com. If your book has been reviewed or is available for on-line purchase, you may provide link(s) to the book reviews and where the book is available for purchase. If you have a website dedicated to your literary work(s), please provide the address of your website.

Simerg looks forward to a fantastic response from Ismaili artists and writers on these two projects dedicated to them.

Date posted: December 3, 2020.
Last updated: April 8, 2021. (Remove STRICT word count restriction of 100 words for responses by Ismaili authors to Simerg questions).

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Malik Merchant Simerg
Simerg’s Malik Merchant at the courtyard of the Aga Khan Museum.

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of this website, Simerg (2009) as well as two other blogs Simergphotos (2012) and Barakah (2017). Formerly an IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to family projects and his 3 websites. He is the eldest son of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions for several decades in Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and Canada in both professional and honorary capacities as teachers and missionaries. Malik’s daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, assists him as an honorary editor of the three websites. She received her veterinary medicine degree with distinction from the Ontario Veterinary College (2019, University of Guelph) and now works as a veterinarian.

An Ethereal Journey to a Sacred Space in the Pandemic

(Editor’s note: As of November 20, 2020, Jamatkhanas in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) are once again temporarily closed due to orders issued by the provincial government that impact all places of worship. The BC Jamatkhanas had re-opened at the beginning of August with limited attendance capacity both in the evenings and mornings. Zaher Ahamed’s excellent piece is an attempt to convey his joyful experience of attending a Jamatkhana in Canada in the midst of Covid-19. On new developments about Jamatkhana openings and closures in Canada, please subscribe to the official Al-Akhbar electronic bulletins distributed by Ismaili institutions in Canada).

“Maybe….because of this pandemic, I have experienced the true nature of our faith and gained a new insight into one of our central religious practices of our tariqah: the remembrance of Him in His house during the hour of Baitul Khayal” — Zaher Ahamed

By ZAHER MEGHJI AHAMED

Headquarters Jamatkhana Vancouver. Photo: FNDA.

It was our first journey to the re-opened Headquarters Jamatkhana in Vancouver during a pandemic: it was for the early morning contemplation and prayers or Baitul Khayal during the earlier part of August, and it turned out to be a  total ethereal, peaceful and powerful experience, the closest I have ever felt to the presence of the Nur (Light) of Imam in a what had become  a truly perfect sacred spiritual space.

There was pin drop silence! The pandemic protocol put in place, after going through a painless computerized registration system as you entered, did not permit for social chit-chat, small talk and worldly conversations over a cup of chai before entering the sacred space.

We were swept with only the thought of Him silently with dignity into the Jamatkhana prayer hall. We were in a peaceful dignified space, where there was not a word between the murids, each masked, each enclosed in his or her own socially distanced bubble. The conversation was only with Him, just as it was meant to be. We felt ourselves immersed in the cosmic quiet and stillness, focusing now only on  seeking out moments of happiness through the Divine Word, knowing that, with the Imam’s presence in this space, He was with us blessings us on our own individual journey to seek to come nearer to Allah through the Nur of Hazrat Ali.

With a silent and reflective utterance of “Haizanda” (He is ever living) we stepped into this sacred space and right into his presence! With closed eyes, a quiet mind and an open heart we slipped into the rhythm of silently uttering the Divine Word, first with our lips and then in our hearts, feeling it flow through, ever so slowly, into the depth of our soul, awakening it: and over a period of time, the word now deeply embedded released moments of energy, awareness, joy and happiness…. all in a timeless moment, the soul wanting to stay for ever and then…. the hour was over in what seemed like a second…. with the promise of another day to be again in His presence in this sacred space.

Jamatkhana prayer hall, Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.
“Sacred Space” – the Jamatkhana prayer hall, Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.

This is what the house of the Lord was meant to be like!

Then, without a word with anyone, we stepped straight outside into our car, carrying the peace that was in our hearts. And on our way home, we saw the light of the waning moon with Venus ablaze shining on us, leaving us speechless in the cosmic balance of His creation.

The calmness that we had felt in the Jamatkhana continued on our journey home. It was then that I remembered Hunza, where I had felt that same pin drop silence with no words in calm and quiet in a Jamatkhana with a dimly lit hall, “a sacred space,” in Karimabad. And now, I had once again experienced that in my own Jamatkhana in Vancouver — and that too in a global pandemic or maybe because of a global pandemic!

Maybe, ironically, because of this pandemic, I have experienced the true nature of our faith and gained a new insight into one of our central religious practices of our tariqah: the remembrance of Him in His house during the hour of Baitul Khayal.

Going for Ibadat in the morning, in its truest sense, should be an act filled with a simplicity and a reverence  of the highest kind for this sacred space devoid of any refreshments, hanging around the chai table and having meaningless conversations that last until almost 5 a.m!

Spaces created in Jamatkhanas for prayer are sacred spaces!

It was truly a unique experience and in terms of the logistics, the whole process of going to the Jamatkhana, from the time of arrival until departure, was very well organized, with an army of well trained volunteers directing your every move: Your car on arrival is directed into a pre-planned space; if you have not brought your mask one is provided to you; next you confirm your spot and answer standard Covid-19 protocol questions and have your temperature taken; you then get directed into the shoe/coat area, have your hands sanitized and then are led finally into your own space.

When the limited rites and ceremonies, tailored to keep murids safe, are completed, you are led out to your car in an orderly manner. Fifty pre-allocated murids who have come to the Jamatkhana for the morning Ibadat and prayers each, I believe, leaves with a unique experience.

What else are we witnessing during the pandemic?

I believe, we are seeing the birth of a “global Ismaili renaissance” showcased and driven by a digital platform of webinars, zoom sessions and the Ismaili TV. We are seeing the fruition of the coming together of Ismaili talent in all its forms: academic scholars and waezins, health care professionals, dancers, musicians, singers, consultants, counselors, journalists, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) executives and staff, and Jamati leaders, all the result of our Imam’s extraordinary vision and its execution over the last 60 years.

It is like seeing a period of our rich Fatimid heritage in a digital mirror!

Seniors are zooming… the youth are dancing, men are cooking… women are leading and “dadimas” (grandmothers) are “face timing… and all this within just the last 7 months.

Learning, Mawlana Hazar Imam has often said, should continue throughout our lives. Age should not be a constraint, and this is precisely what we are witnessing. We are exploring with full confidence, and thousands of voices from around the world and from our global Jamat are now being heard directly. This is the commencement of a new digital communications era, and the challenge now will be to stay truly connected and to manage this era carefully with awareness and sensitivity so that it does not stifle in its own success.

As for me and my family, this pandemic has brought us even closer and it feels good to be in the centre of “This Ismaili Renaissance”.… a truly humbling experience!

Date posted: November 20, 2020.

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Zaher Ahamed

Zaher Ahamed is an internationally recognized expert in Strategic Marketing, Multicultural Communications, Diversity & Human Resources Development, Strategic Planning, Design &  Project Management. His over 40 years of Business & Consulting experience includes working with Expo 86, the Royal Bank of Canada, Life Care International, Terry Fox Foundation, WIOMSA (Zanzibar), Governments of Canada & British Columbia as well as holding teaching positions with the University of Stockholm, Red Deer University and BCIT in Europe and in Canada.

He has had extensive experience working for corporate and not-for-profit organizations in the Middle East and Africa. In Nairobi, Kenya, he worked with the Aga Khan University Hospital, as a project manager for the establishment of turnkey state-of-the-art digitally connected Pilot Primary Health care and diagnostic Aga Khan Medical centres in East Africa. His volunteer experience includes working in Syria, Zanzibar, East Africa, Sweden. USA and Canada. He is multilingual and has a deep interest in Ismaili history and Ginanic and Sufi traditions. Now retired in Vancouver, BC, Canada, Zaher continues to perform voluntary work with Ismaili and non-Ismaili institutions around the world.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

Exclusive: A Truly Inspiring Narrative with Historical Photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 1966 Visit to Iringa, Tanzania

“On November 4, 1966, as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s plane circled the Iringa airport, there was palpable excitement as the leaders of the Jamat anxiously awaited the arrival of our beloved Imam. Mawlana Hazar Imam had taken a break on his extended tour of East Africa to return to Europe to attend to some personal matter. Iringa was the second stop on his return visit from Europe. As the ebullient Imam emerged from his plane, without regard to his evident infirmary, with plastered foot and a walking cane, Jamati leaders’ ecstatic emotions turned to one of unexpected concern. But the Imam was quick to calm the leaders’ fears about his infirmed foot.” — PLEASE CLICK TO READ COMPLETE ARTICLE

His Highness the Aga Khan in Iringa Tanzania
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with a plastered foot, lays the foundation stone of the Iringa Sports Complex during his extensive visit to East African countries in 1966. Please click on photo for an exceptional narrative of the visit as well as more photos.

Date posted: September 21, 2020.

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Former Daily Nation Chief Reporter Produces a Special Souvenir to Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Paper founded by His Highness the Aga Khan

Reviewed by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

(Special Edition Yesterday at the Nation by Cyprian Fernandes, published by Cyprian Fernandes, Pendle Hill NSW Australia, printed and produced by Australian Trade Printers, April 2020. 132 pp.)

The Daily Nation was my favourite newspaper in Dar es Salaam, along with the Tanganyika Standard (later the Standard and then the Daily News). The popular Kenyan newspaper founded by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, first rolled off at the press as a Sunday newspaper on March 20, 1960, and then as a daily on October 3 of the same year.

The paper would arrive in Dar es Salaam from Nairobi in an afternoon flight. At around 6 PM, our 2nd floor neighbour at Islamabad Flats on United Nations Road, (Late) Akbar Ladha, would knock on my door on his way up and hand me a copy of the paper. He and Sherali Bhai owned a prestigious camera shop on Dar es Salaam’s Independence Avenue, and received letters and packages from all over the world from their clients and suppliers. Akber Bhai knew I was an avid stamp collector, and he would pass all foreign envelopes to me.

On Saturday afternoon, I would cycle to downtown to get my own copy of the early editions of the Sunday Nation and the Sunday Post — without the English premier league results! I became conversant with many of the Nation’s columnists, writers and photographers as well as editors. Among them were Philip Ochieng (who would later join the Tanzania’s Daily News for a brief period), Kul Bhushan who reviewed Indian films, sports writer and editor Norman da Costa, chief reporter Cyprian Fernandes, Ismaili reporter Sultan Jessa and photographer Azhar Chaudary, among several others.

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes
Front cover of special souvenir edition to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nation. The portraits are of Nation journalists, deceased as well as living. Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Many years later, I had the fortune of meeting the Nation’s Bill Fairbain in Ottawa. Author of a number of books in recent years, he contributed a special piece for Simerg. Then, I connected with Sultan Jessa who invited me to his home in Montreal and handed me a collection of photos taken by Azhar Chaudary, which were reproduced in Barakah and Simerg. Sultan passed away in 2019. I prepared a tribute to him and linked it to a much longer piece I had written earlier in Simerg.

Cyprian Fernandes Daily Nation Chief Reporter Simerg
The many faces of Cyprian Fernandes through the years as they appear in his souvenir publication, “Yesterday at the Nation.” Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Last December, I received a note from the Nation’s former chief reporter Cyprian Fernandes, who has made his home in New South Wales, Australia. He wanted to reproduce my article on Sultan Jessa in a special “not for sale” souvenir to mark the 60th birthday of the paper that he stated in his email to me was “my other mother, The Nation.” I was glad to oblige. When the publication was ready in April 2020, Cyprian mailed two copies to me by Australia’s Post Express — including one to give to Sultan Jessa’s widow, Rosila. I kept on tracking the package for weeks. Due to Covid-19, it never left Australia by air. Instead, I would learn several weeks later, that it was sent by surface. I received “Yesterday at the Nation” just last week!

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes
“Once when they were young,” from left Nation’s Polycarp Fernandes, Fibi Munene, Norman da Coata, Alfred Araujo and Sultan Jessa. Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Cyprian commences his souvenir book by producing the introductory note that appeared on the front page of the Nation on the first day of its publication, March 20, 1960. He then says that the souvenir “was made possible by the articles provided by former Nation colleagues and the writings and obituaries of colleagues who have gone before us.”

In his preface “Once Upon a Time” Cyprian notes the brilliant work that Gerry Loughran did chronicling the first 50 years in “Birth of a Nation, The Story of a Newspaper in Kenya” (available in paperback or kindle edition at Amazon).

But for this 60th anniversary souvenir produced completely independently, Cyprian wanted to go further and he therefore dug deep to find more stories about the paper and from the paper. One thing he has done most admirably is to recognize the surviving and deceased journalists who worked at the Nation as well as those whom he tried hard to locate but was unsuccessful to get in touch with. His focus is on the period 1960-1975, a little over the time he himself spent at the paper.

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes
Back cover of a special souvenir edition to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nation. The portraits are of Nation journalists, deceased as well as living. Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

The 132 page souvenir contains previous articles by Michael Curtis (1920-2004) who Mawlana Hazar Imam first recruited as a speech writer and publicity organizer when he became Imam in 1957; experiences at the Nation by numerous editors such as Jack Beverley (Sunday Nation editor from 1962-64), Jon Bierman (Daily Nation, 1960-63), Joe Rodriques, Boaz Omori and Hilary Ng’weno among others. In reading their stories, one learns about the challenges the editors and journalists faced when they were bold in their opinions about heads of state or on local and international political issues. As we find out from Cyprian’s book many were fired or forced to resign or even ended up in jails. One, a news editor by the name of Mike Chester, was expelled from Kenya due to mistaken identity!

One particular event that was reported well, and has been reproduced in the Souvenir, is when Kenya successfully launched the San Marco’s satellite into equatorial orbit from Malindi. Adrian Grimwood’s column in the Sunday Nation of November 12, 1972 explains what would likely take place on the day of the launch. The launch itself was reported on the front page of the Daily Nation’s coast edition with the headline “Kenya in the Space Age.”

A tragic story that Cyprian includes in his souvenir is that of the extraordinary photographer and front line cameraman Mohamed “MO” Amin who was at the right place at the right time when Kenyan cabinet minister Tom Mboya was assassinated. Within a couple of minutes of being shot, Mo Amin was there to record on still and movie cameras, like the photo that is shown below. The souvenir also notes Mo Amin’s coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine in that it proved to be so compelling that it inspired a collective global conscience and became the catalyst for the greatest-ever act of giving. “Unquestionably,” the souvenir notes, “it also saved the lives of millions of men, women, and children.”

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes Tom Mboya assassination
Within a couple of minute’s of the Kenyan Minister Tom Mboya being shot on Nairobi’s main street, Mo Amin was there to record on still and movie cameras, like the photo shown here. Photo via Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.
The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes Mo Amin Photo
Mo Amin in Ethiopia at the height of drought crisis. Photo via Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Mo Amin died in a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane that crash landed in November 1996 in the Comoros Islands. It is said that he died standing while still negotiating with the hijackers until the moment of the crash.

A great piece in the souvenir is about Joe Rodriques, who spent 18 years at the Nation, the final few as the paper’s Editor-in- Chief. During his tenure, The Daily Nation was accused by President Moi’s government of assuming the role of an opposition party and selecting news on a sectarian and tribally motivated basis. Rodriques had written an editorial against the Government when the long time Kenyan politician and opposition leader Oginga Odinga was banned from standing in a by-election. Rodriques was arrested and interrogated. The souvenir notes that “The Nation published an apology of sorts, assuring the government of its support, but actually without using the word apology. This was the beginning of the end of Joe Rodriques, as Editor-in-Chief and his own 18 year association with the paper.”

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes profile of Sultan Jessa
A page from Simerg’s 4 page piece on Sultan Jessa from “Yesterday at the Nation” by Cyprian Fernandes.

Writing for himself, Cyprian Fernandes observes, “I owe the Nation — everyone who worked in editorial, photographic, proofreading, the compositors, advertising, Karo and Kano the drivers — and everyone else at Nation House the greatest debt of my life. Thanks for giving me a journalistic life that has spanned nearly 60 years and like Johnny Walker still keeps on walking — for the moment at least.”

He ends his detailed narrative about his days at the Nation with the following anecdote:

“I was travelling with the then Vice President Daniel arap Moi and his wife to Botswana. All went well, except for two things: The VP’s security kept his spare bullets by a candle in his bedroom…there was a lot of bang bang. When I tried to phone my story in via Johannesburg, the operator at the other end let loose a torrent of racist abuse including telling me to ask my wife and taste the real thing….and lots more. Unfortunately for him, the President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, was in the room and listened in. A few weeks later I received an official apology from the South African government and an invitation to visit South Africa as (an honorary white man).”

Cyprian’s love for “my other mother, The Nation” is deep and sincere. The souvenir edition has been prepared, printed and mailed out from his own personal resources. I was delighted to receive a personalized signed copy and thank him for a volume that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It is one of very few copies that has been produced, and I am indeed lucky to be among the recipients. I hope a demand for the souvenir will prompt Cyprian to come up with a larger printer run for interested readers to purchase. The Daily Nation’s 60th anniversary falls on October 3, 2020.

Date posted: August 27, 2020.

_________________________________

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click on Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

The Drape, and an Invitation to Singers to Set up a Geet

By S. GIGA PATNEY
Special to Simerg  

A hundred years ago Katchhi and Kathiawadi Ismaili Khoja Muslims sailed to Africa and Zanzibar to make a living. Today, they have prospered in America, Canada and Europe. They wear western clothes, live in palatial homes and drive expensive cars but in the homes they still speak their rustic dialect and they remember the ‘pacchedi’ (Khoja Muslim head drape) their mothers wore.

The ‘Pacchedi Geet’ in a folk song form, is written in Gujarati, ‘transcreated’ in English, and transliterated in Roman script. The song is composed to remember and celebrate the pioneers who left India a century ago but kept memories of their homeland alive.

My thanks to Sultan Somjee for permission to use the bandhani image, and Zahir Dhalla for transcribing in Gujarati script.

I welcome singers to set up a geet with the lyrics that have been provided below. Recordings or questions regarding the geet may be sent directly to me at safder8@gmail.com or to the editor of Simerg at simerg@aol.com.

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

Drape
(Khoja Pacched̨̨i)

Kohl-grey silk
Studded with white stars
A border of a thousand flowers.
Mother, how many colours under your drape?

Milk, oudh and attar
Strands of jasmine hanging,
Underneath, I sleep in deep slumber.
Mother, these are the colours under your drape.

Ghee, molasses,
Apricots and raisins.
Mother, your bread tastes so sweet.
Mother, what colours under your drape?

Storms, thunder
And lightening!
Frightened, I hide under your drape.
Mother, colours like these under your drape.

Witches, warlocks
Ghosts and giants
Scare me not under the shade of your drape.
Mother, colours like these under your drape.

With tables and chairs
We built boats
And flew sails made out of your drape.
Mother, how many colours under your drape?

Leaving home
We crossed the seas.
We spread Giga Patney’s patola.
Mother, how can I break from the ties of your drape?

Your eyes closed,
Your soul departed.
We draped you in rosy pink.
Mother, colours like these under your drape.

_________________

પછેડી
(Gujarati)

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

સુરમય રેશમ
માથે ધોળા તારા
ચારે કોર હજાર ફૂલ ની પટ્ટી …..૧
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ કેટલા રંગ ?

દૂધ ઊધ ને અંતર
માથે ટાંક્યા મોતિયા
છાયેં હું સુવું ઊંડી નીંદરે …..૨
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ એવા રંગ!

ઘી ગોળ અને
સૂકો મેવો
મા, મને મીઠી લાગે તારી રોટલી …..૩
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની નીચે કેવા રંગ ?

વાયુ વીજળી
મેધા ઘરજે
હું ડરી સંતાઉ પછેડી ની નીચે …..૪
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ એવા રંગ!

ડાકણ દઈંત
ભૂત રાક્ષસ
મને ન ડરાવે પછેડી ના છાયેં …..૫
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ તેવા રંગ.

મેજ ખુરસી ના
વાણ બનાવયા
ઊપર ઊડાડીયા પછેડી ના સઢ …..૬
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની નીચે તેવા રંગ.

દેસ છોડી
દરિયા તરીયા
ગીગા પટણી ના પટોળા પાથરીયા …..૭
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પછળ કેમ છોળું ?

આંખ મીચાણી
જીવ ઊડયાં
ઓઢાળી તને ગુલાબી પછેડી…..૮
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની નીચે એવા રંગ.

_________________

Pached̨i
(Gujarati transliteration)

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

Surmai resham
Mathé d̨̨hod̨a tara
Chąré kor hajjar ful ni putti
Maai tari pacched̨I ni pacchad̨ ketla rung

Dooth, oodh ne antar
Mathé tankya motia
Cchayeñ huñ suwuuñ oondi ninderé
Maai tari pacched̨i ni pacchad ewa rung

Ghee, ghor̨̨
Ané sooko mewo
Ma mané mith̨I lagé tari rotli
Maai tari pached̨i ni niché kewa rung

Wayuñ, wijad̨i
Megha gharajé
Huñ santauñ durri pacched̨I ni niché
Maai tari pached̨i ni niché kewa rung

Dakan̨, dayint
Bhoot, rakshas
Mané na darawé pachced̨I na cchayeñ
Maai tari pacched̨̨i ni pacchad̨ tewa rung

Mej khud̨si na
Waan̨ banawya
Ooper oodad̨̨iya pacched̨̨I na suddh
Maai tari pacched̨i ni niché kewa rung

Des cchod̨̨i
Dariya tariyañ
Giga Patney na patol̨a pathariyañ
Ma tari pacched̨i ni pucchud̨ kem cchod̨uñ?

Aankhyuñ michan̨̨i
Jeev oodiyañ
Odh̨ad̨̨i tunné gulabi pacched̨̨i
Ma tari pacched̨i ni niché ewa rung

Retroflex d̨, n̨ as in fud̨ (fruit) and pan̨i (water)
Nasal ñ as in French ‘pain’ and Portuguese ‘paű’ (bread)
Dental t as in tű (you) and d as in diwas (day)

_________________

Pached̨i
(Kachchhi transliteration)

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

Surmai resham
Muthé d̨̨hod̨a tara
Chąré kor hajjar ful ji putti
Maai toji pacched̨I ji pudthia kitra rung?

Dooth, oodh ne antar
Muthé tungya motia
Cchayeñ niche awuñ suwañ oondi ninder mé
Maai tojii pacched̨i ji pudthia heda rung

Ghee, ghor̨̨
né sooko mewo
Ma muké mith̨i lagé tojii mani
Maai tojii pached̨i ji niché heda rung

Wayuñ, wijad̨i
Megha gharajé
Awuñ dhirji santayañ pacched̨I ji niché
Maai toji pached̨i ji niché heda rung

Dakan̨, dayint
Bhoot, rakshas
Muké na dhirjai pachced̨I ja cchayeñ
Maai tojii pacched̨̨i ji pudthia heda rung

Mej khud̨si ja
Waan̨ banayasi
Ooper oodariasi pacched̨̨I ja suddh
Maai toji pacched̨i ji niché keda rung?

Des cchod̨̨i
Dariyo tariyasi
Giga Patney ja patol̨a pathariyañsi
Maai toii pacched̨i ji pucchud̨ kiñ cchod̨yañ?

Aankhyuñ michan̨̨i
Jeev oodiyañ
Odh̨ad̨̨i toké gulabi pacched̨̨i
Maai toji pacched̨i ji niché heda rung

Retroflex d̨, n̨ as in fud̨ (fruit) and pan̨i (water)
Nasal ñ as in French ‘pain’ and Portuguese ‘paű’ (bread)
Dental t as in tű (you) and d as in diwas (day)

Date posted: August 15, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

____________________

This piece is also available as a PDF File, and may be downloaded by clicking on The Drape PDF.

S. Giga Patney, Simerg The Drape Pacchedi
S. Giga Patney

S. Giga Patney has taught English as a Foreign Language in Japan, Portugal and England; and English as a Second Language in England and Canada. He won the Teacher Fellowship at the University of London Institute of Education when he was a teacher with the Inner London Education Authority. He was Head of Language Service In Berkshire, UK and Principal Lecturer in the Department of Teaching Studies at The University of North London. He joined the Department of Language Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada to teach on their post-graduate program. He has now retired and lives in the interior of British Columbia where he does his creative writing.

Books by the author:

Literary Fiction:
The Shiv-Shivani Trilogy:
Book 1: Shiva – Lord of Dance – A Novel in Raga Bhairava
Book 2: Shivani’s Story – A Novel in Raga Bhairavi
Book 3: Shivani’s Dance of Destruction – A Novel in Four Movements.

Fact-fiction:
Ties of Bandhana- The Story of Alladin Bapu

Facetiae:
The Alchemist Quartet
Book 1: The Alchemist and the Prince – A Story of the Prince With a Nut in His Navel
Book 2: The Alchemist’s Manuscript – Of the Travels of the Merchant of Yemen & His servant in the Erythrean Sea as Related to the Alchemist of Gozo, the Younger
Book 3: The Alchemist and the Empire of Evil
Book 4 (Forthcoming): The Alchemist and the Indian Boy

_________________________

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Brief notes on 3 books by Ismaili poet Ayaz Pirani, inspired by the oral tradition of Ginans

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor Simerg (2009), Simergphotos (2012) and Barakah (2017)

When Ayaz Pirani is in your neighbourhood doing a reading from one of his books, please attend the event. You will become utterly relaxed listening to his beautiful poetry reading in a calm, gentle and soothing voice. He was in Toronto last year and I attended his reading at Knife Fork Books on 244 Augusta Avenue in the vibrant Kensington Market Area. I couldn’t locate the place easily, and even the NU Bügel staff did not know there was beautiful poetry being served upstairs on a regular basis. After a few more inquiries, I climbed a few set of stairs, excused myself for arriving a little bit late and sat to listen to Ayaz! The small crowd, mainly a gathering of Ismaili youth and professionals, kept urging Ayaz to continue with his reading, and he graciously complied. Meeting him later, I came away even more convinced of the nobility of his heart and soul. I acquired Kabir’s Jacket Has a Thousand Pockets but had to put it away in storage with my other books, as I was preparing to leave for Vancouver to be with my mum. I never got to reading the book nor interviewing this highly gifted literary personality in the Ismaili community. Recently, I asked him to present a short overview of his titles. I am delighted to present his piece below. Links to some on-line stores selling Ayaz’s books are provided at the end of the piece. I look forward to interviewing this literary jewel in the coming months, once my nomadic life style comes to an end!

___________

“My love of ginans is various and unending. They have the charms and rhetorical force of written language as well as the emotional and nourishing elements of oral tradition” — Ayaz Pirani

Ayaz Pirani author of Happy you are here and Kabir has a thousand Pockets
Ayaz Pirani reading from “Happy You Are Here” at Old Capitol Books in Monterey, California. Photo: Ayaz Pirani.

By AYAZ PIRANI

With my first book, Happy You Are Here, I began to wrestle with geography and humanness in my poems. Canadian poet Suzanne Buffam called Happy You Are Here “tender and intimate” and Heather Birrell said “Ayaz Pirani positions himself as a kind of plainspoken anti-prophet, bringing human nosiness and gratitude to a number of subjects—displacement and immigration, the oak woods of the Arroyo Seco, a mother’s love, a pub in Toronto…—as well as the more mysterious geographies of the soul.”

My second book, Kabir’s Jacket Has a Thousand Pockets, was described as “wisdom poetry” that was “surprising and sly” by New England poet David Rivard. All of my work, including my new chapbook, Bachelor of Art, is informed by my affection for Ginans. Perhaps for this reason Rivard felt they were tinged with perennial truths.

My love of Ginans is various and unending. They have the charms and rhetorical force of written language as well as the emotional and nourishing elements of oral tradition. When a Ginan is experienced in situ, that is, in a Jamatkhana, there is further the resonances that come from a living heritage.

Happy You Are Here was reviewed in The Dalhousie Review and Qwerty Magazine and my individual poems have recently appeared in The Malahat Review, ARC Poetry Magazine, and The Antigonish Review.

Bachelor of Art by Ayaz Pirani
Cover of Bachelor of Art features a calligram of Hazrat Ali as the Tiger of God

My new work, Bachelor of Art, is a chapbook of poems. Individual poems include “Ali’s Tiger,” “Nutshells,” and “Sat Panth.” It’s a bit hard to talk about my own work without sounding pretentious, especially when it’s a genre like poetry which has so many romantic associations. In my work I’m trying to describe a particular diaspora experience by finding resources in various treasuries: ginans, divans (of Kabir, Ghalib, et al.), and English literature. I suppose I’m conscious of trying to situate my poems as a Canadian experience as well. I’m drawn to subjects like loneliness, immigration, faith, human awkwardness, love.

~~~~~~~

Ayaz Pirani’s books are available in local bookstores and online at Amazon and Chapters-Indigo. His new book, Bachelor of Art, is currently available from Anstruther Press for $10. The cover features a calligram of Hazrat Ali as the tiger of God.

Date posted: June 30, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

____________________

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Photograph shows James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. LOC photo reproduced in Simerg

A lesson in Black history in a classroom in Jinja, Uganda: The case of Mississippi’s African-American James Meredith

Editor’s note: The following special piece for Simerg by UK’s Shiraz Pradhan is the second in Simerg’s series of articles on the subject of race, inequality, cultural diversity and pluralism. The first article in the series was President Kennedy’s address on June 13, 1963 to the Americans on the subject of Civil Rights. Shiraz’s piece has been adapted from a chapter in his latest novel “Michelangelo in Jinja” and contains illustrations that do not form part of his novel. Following the article, we have a video of a fascinating talk delivered at the US Library of Congress by Henry T. Gallagher that details the events, including the riot, that took place during the admission of the first black American student, James Meredith, to the University of Mississippi. Mr. Gallagher was among the 20,000 troops that were dispatched by President Kennedy to restore law and order in Mississippi during the riot. He was also personally responsible for looking after the safety of Mr. Meredith.

Stranglehold on Neck of Black People

A frontispiece illustration in "The Child's Anti-Slavery Book…, New York, [1860], showing an African-American slave father leaving his family as he is sold away from his family. Photo: US Library of Congress. Reproduced in Simerg.
A frontispiece illustration in “The Child’s Anti-Slavery Book…, New York, [1860], showing an African-American slave father leaving his family as he is sold away from his family. Photo: US Library of Congress.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

When James Meredith was being admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi as its first African-American student, the Uganda Argus carried a cryptic headline “Segregation Defeated”. This simple headline, in the months and years that followed, would change the history of Uganda and rest of Africa.

This event caused great joy in our part of the world and fueled the Ugandan ambition for independence. But in the next several weeks the story turned ugly as many white people of Mississippi and other southern states of the USA reacted violently to black encroachment on the white domain of university education and other civil privileges, forcing President John F. Kennedy to send troops in order to restore law and order.

Yes, it was that stark – blatant denial of black rights! The Meredith saga acted as a catalyst for the re-emergence of the Civil Rights Movement in the US originally started by Martin Luther King in 1954.

Photograph shows James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. LOC photo reproduced in Simerg
Photograph shows James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. Photo: Marion S. Trikosko / US Library of Congress via U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection.

Mr Batra, our history teacher. seized on the Meredith story to shift his focus from Western and Eastern philosophies to philosophy of action and human rights. He said that philosophy, search for God and reaching nirvana were only words if they did not improve human condition. “As important as God is,” he said, “concern for human condition is no less. We have a duty to our fellow beings. God would wish for that. Today, I will talk about people whose philosophies were based on actions to improve the conditions of their people. More importantly, I will speak about the struggles of black people of America.”

Our teacher electrified the class. Jinja Secondary School in those days was called Indian Secondary School. William Wilberforce and Joseph Bufumbiro where the first native Ugandans who had joined our class. We had become aware of black aspirations. Africa in the 1960s was a smoldering tinder, ready to burst into flames at the slightest wind. The apartheid in South Africa was a stranglehold on the neck of Black People of South Africa. The Sharpeville massacre of innocent blacks in South Africa was fresh in our minds. Ian Smith of South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was ready to crush the hopes of black people for an equitable independence with one-man-one-vote and was conniving with the British to declare a minority White Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), which he did in 1965.

The Mau Mau Insurgency for independence that lasted from 1952-1960 in our neighboring Kenya and the subsequent killings of the innocent Kikuyu people by the British was a pink-elephant in the room that no one wanted to mention.

Rolling a chalk-stick in his hand, Mr. Batra sensed our mood and continued. “We will shift our attention to that part of American history that was saddening. In the 1900s, the freed African-American slaves, still called by the derogatory term ‘negroes’, were struggling to gain equality.

Booker T Washington, Library of Congress Photo, reproduced in Simerg
Booker T. Washington, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front; created / published between 1880 and 1890. Photograph possibly by Harry Shepherd. Photo: Booker T. Washington Collection, US Library of Congress.

Booker T. Washington was the first freed slave who had gained high prominence in politics in Washington, DC in the early 1900s. He was an advocate for building African-American economic strength, which he argued would give them the desired freedoms and equality. At this date, although freed, the African-American had no voting rights and no protection under the law. The lynching of black people for petty crimes or in some cases no crimes had accelerated. The whites made sure that black enterprises failed.

Booker T. Washington revolted against this white tyranny and sought to protect the senseless lynching of black people. The constitution drawn-up by the founding fathers of US recognized equal rights but in reality the rights of the black people were ignored. With no legal avenues at his disposal Booker T. Washington agreed to the only compromise solution to protect the rights of black people and save them from murder and lynching. This solution came to be known as the Atlanta Convention.

Agreed in 1905, this illegal convention was never written down. In it, the white establishment demanded that black people forego voting rights, agree only to basic education with no right to university education and no equality in law. The last dehumanizing demand of white people was for a forced segregation of black people in return for limited safety in law and basic freedom.

A poster in the collection of US Library of Congress condemning the South African apartheid policies, reproduced in Simerg
A poster designed and created in 1976 by Wilfred Owen Brigade condemning the South African apartheid regime, and showing support of the international boycott. Photo: US Library of Congress.

The white people of South Africa learned apartheid from this page of US history. Although not fully satisfactory, the Atlanta Convention stopped the senseless lynching and persecution of the black people. This was the singular achievement of Booker T. Washington.

As an afterthought, Mr Batra added, “The importance of James Meredith story that you read in Uganda Argus is that it has taken fifty years for one black student to challenge the unwritten, unlawful Atlanta Convention. The reaction of the white people of the south US demonstrates that white attitude towards the black people has not changed since the abolition of slavery.”

In his characteristic fashion, Mr Batra had not finished jarring our senses with impactful and unjust events from history. He had saved the most powerful of these for the last. He concluded his lesson by saying, “You will study the life of Abraham Lincoln in your literature class next year. He was the 35th president of the US. He abolished slavery in the US and restored human dignity. You would think that this would be a joyful achievement for the US and for Mr Lincoln. Unfortunately, he was silenced like Mahatma Gandhi by an assassin’s bullet soon after proclamation of the abolition of slavery.”

Caption in this illustration by Udo J. Keppler reads: "President Roosevelt: Lincoln emancipated you, the people gave you citizenship and I'll protect your rights."
Caption in this illustration by Udo J. Keppler reads: “President Roosevelt: Lincoln emancipated you, the people gave you citizenship and I’ll protect your rights.” The illustration shows President Theodore Roosevelt, standing with right hand on the left shoulder of an African American man, standing to the left, and his left hand on a paper labeled “15th Amendment”; behind them is a statue labeled “Lincoln – With Malice Toward None With Charity Toward all” showing Abraham Lincoln standing at the top with freed African American slaves. Section 1 of the 15th Amendment of the American Constitution reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Section 2 then goes on to declare, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Photo: US Library of Congress.

I asked. “Sir, why does every great life end in a tragedy?” Mr Batra thought for a while, before he answered: “Historically the human was a hunter-gatherer. His survival depended on defending his territory and maintaining superiority over others by dehumanizing and enslaving the enemy. The ancient humans hunted in bands. Anyone not belonging to the band was an enemy. This is the human instinct. In this sense a band can be any group with common interest and common characteristics such as race, color or religion. Anyone that challenges this convention is an enemy who needs to be dealt with.”

African-Americans with wagon pointing guns at slave-catchers, Library of Congress photo reproduced in Simerg
An illustration entitled ‘A bold stroke for freedom in “William Still, The Underground Railroad” 1872, p. 125, depicting African-Americans with wagon pointing guns at slave-catchers. Photo: US Library of Congress.

In the coming years the situation in Africa became grim as the apartheid grip on South Africa became stronger, Southern Rhodesia sunk in to a quagmire and Algeria began a war for independence from its French master. It was this one lesson with Mr Batra that gave us the motivation to pick up banners to end tyranny in Africa and to fight for justice for Nelson Mandela when the illegal South African regime tried him for treason.

Watch an important webcast presented by the US Library of Congress

SUMMARY: In September 1962, James Meredith became the first African American admitted to the University of Mississippi. A milestone in the civil rights movement, his admission triggered a riot spurred by a mob of 3,000 whites from across the South and all-but-officially stoked by the state’s segregationist authorities. The escalating conflict prompted President John F. Kennedy to send in 20,000 regular Army troops, in addition to federalized Mississippi National Guard soldiers, to restore law and order. “James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot” is the memoir of one of the participants, a young Army second lieutenant named Henry T. Gallagher, born and raised in Minnesota.

VIDEO: James Meredith & the Ole Miss Riot

Date posted: June 12, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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About the author: Shiraz Pradhan is a professional engineer, writer and philosopher. He grew up in Uganda and attended universities in Kenya and Pennsylvania, USA, and graduated with advanced degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. As part of his involvement in several mega-project across the world, he has lived and worked in several countries in North and South America, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Europe. This has given him a globalist world-view which flavours his writings. His first novel Dancing with Shadows was published in 2015. Michelangelo in Jinja is his second book. Summing his writing, Pacific Book Review said: “Pradhan’s work is the first one I’m aware that is actively Globalist.” Shiraz has a keen interest in Judaeo-Christian History, Islamic Studies, Sufism and philosophies of the Vedas and Upanishads. With his interest and familiarity with several languages and dialects, Shiraz has specialized in the study of ancient and medieval devotional traditions of South Asia including the Nizari Ismail Ginans. He has published several essays and articles on these subjects, many of which have been published on this website. He is currently completing a book titles Amarapuri, the Abode of Eternity for publication in late 2020.  He is the Chairman of the Association of the Study of Ginans which specializes in the preservation, study and research of the ancient Ginans. Shiraz currently lives in the UK with his family.

Ismailis on social media: You need to take care and STOP indiscriminate likes, follows and forwards!

Aniza Meghani, Simerg
Social media portrait of Aniza Meghani, author of this post.

[A TRULY SHOCKING FORWARD: On Monday May 5, 2020, Simerg received numerous WhatsApp and email messages that stated “MHI has donated 250 million Euros towards the vaccine for COVID-19.” That misleading note was based on the wrong reading of a headline in the Portuguese newspaper noticiasaominuto  which said, “Imamat Ismaili dá 250 mil euros para o combate à Covid-19, and spread like fire around the world. Without even considering to do a (FREE!) google translate, the person(s) forwarding the note assumed that 250 mil euros in the headline represented 250 million euros! Utilizing Google translate would have informed the first sender(s) of the message that the amount is actually 250 thousand and not 250 million — mil denotes a thousand in Portuguese. Aniza Meghani in the following piece asks us to verify facts properly before rushing to accept and like everything that appears to look good on social media. The same care should be exercised with messaging applications. It becomes the duty of the recipient to conduct preliminary fact checking, through translations if necessary, before forwarding messages to their friends and group members. Once forwarded, the rippling effects are enormous, and almost impossible to reverse in a timely manner! A lot of time of precious time was lost in responding to individuals who sent out that error filled message. — Ed.]

By ANIZA MEGHANI

Social media is the most powerful tool in the world, one that can make you or break you! Gone are the days of hearing genuine news by physically buying the newspaper or researching material by visiting the good old fashion library. No more writing a letter and posting it before you patiently wait for a reply. THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER AT A TOUCH OF A BUTTON. That is the most dangerous part of it all. We simply access, copy, paste and distort leaving a trail of one’s data history. Data that others can still access. That is more worrying because if you are not careful, it will come back and haunt you when you least expect it. This is critical for students of today when applying for university places or jobs.

Be warned, in certain places as soon as you enter a building, your mobile will give them your history without you even knowing. Now that’s scary! So today, we have within our community, weblinks that allow us to access our Jamati activity and keep us informed. However, with so much misleading information and sites, let us protect ourselves and safeguard our community. To do so, I thought why not show examples of misleading sites that are harmful and painful.

Almost all Ismailis today, traversing through all age groups, from old to young, from those who are fully conversant in the English language to those who do not understand even basic words of English, everybody is on or wants to be on social media.

As Ismailis we are particularly drawn to those pages or sites which display beautiful photographs of our beloved Imam and members of his family, whom we respectfully refer as the Noorani family. Many of us immediately post a ‘like’ or reply with “Yam” wherever we see a photograph of Hazar Imam or his name.

Many of us even join these groups or sites or pages just because the name of Hazar Imam and his photograph are in the title.

I am writing this article because having just concluded reading the recently released Farman book containing the Jamati work Farmans from 2011-2013, it struck me as a matter of curiosity that Mawlana Hazar Imam, in these Farmans — as well as in the Lisbon Diamond Jubilee Darbar Farman — repeatedly stresses to us, his beloved children, to learn and understand English. My cocooned world is all about English, so it felt strange reading about the imperativeness of learning the global language of English.

It wasn’t until recently that I came across the danger of not knowing English well. Or perhaps even the dangers of not reading properly.

Social media is greatly to blame for this growing culture of posting likes to images and skimming through texts. Not really reading, not really absorbing the context of a post, just hitting the like or follow button on whatever pops up on the screen that catches your fancy, in this case, a photograph of Hazar Imam or his name.

It’s sad really. But something still needs to be done. Hence the purpose of this post.

There is a group, or maybe several groups, on social media that tend to post lovely photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Noorani family. It’s heartening, I am sure, to see the glittering countenances of our Imam and the Noorani family, is it not? So, we click the like button and we follow that page or join that group – however, we are absolutely, intolerably clueless about the actual purpose of it. And then, bam! Out of the blue, the very same page posts a sacrilegious article about Hazar Imam, albeit coupled with a beatific photo of him.

Now, if you are a reader by nature, you would be highly scandalized. But if you’re a skimmer, or if you don’t understand English, or if you don’t bother to read the text and are just mesmerized by Mawla’s resplendent smile (I don’t blame you, but I do), you are treading on dangerous ground because you may inadvertently be joining a group that is anti-Imam, anti-Noorani family and anti-Ismaili.

My advice: whenever you see a photograph or name of Hazar Imam, refrain from putting a like or leaving a YAM reply or joining the group blindly. READ all the posts on that page –present and past — as well as read the website where the social media link takes you. And join or reply or like only if the page is in legitimate praise of Hazar Imam. Do the same for each quote, message and link that you receive, and don’t blindly re-forward a message that has been forwarded to you simply because it has come from a trustworthy or reliable source.

Because, as a murid of Hazar Imam, how can you — how can you approve of anything that mocks him, that belittles him, that spreads falsities and terrible lies about him and our faith? How can you be a part of that?

And do not forget that the administrators of these sites are very clever — they will post three very beautiful articles or photographs in praise of Hazar Imam, but then will slip in an article of hate speech against the Imam, the Noorani family and/or the Ismaili Community.

STOP THE ZOMBIE-LIKING BECAUSE IT HELPS SPUR THESE NEFARIOUS PEOPLE ON AND SUCH PAGES AND SITES TO FLOURISH! And please explain this to all of your friends and relatives who are on social media but who do not understand English. You have a duty to do this.

Date posted: May 4, 2020.
Last updated: May 5, 2020.

© Aniza Meghani / Simerg.

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Aniza Meghani
Aniza Meghani

Originally from Uganda, Aniza Meghani lives in London, England, and is an entrepreneur of textiles and couture fabrics.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

The Funeral of Missionary Amirali Gillani in the Midst of Covid-19 Restrictions

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani Simerg tribute
Missionary Amirali Gillani passed away on April 8, 2020, and was buried in Toronto on April 14. Photo: Family Collection.

A Safe and Dignified Funeral

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

On Tuesday April 14, 2020, Missionary Amirali Gillani’s shrouded body rested inside a grey coloured coffin in the funeral hall of the Scarborough Jamatkhana. He had passed away from cancer on April 8 at the age of 75.

Only the missionary’s peaceful face was in view. The rest of his body which was covered in the white shroud, was under the coffin cover. The coffin did not rest on the floor. It had been placed on a strong roll away frame. Volunteers recited the Salwat in unison continuously, and gave comfort to the small size of mourners, a limit imposed by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.

There were a total of 16 mourners in attendance for the funeral’s two separate viewing opportunities and the funeral rites. One viewing, including the funeral rites, was for immediate family members, and the second viewing was for other family members and friends. In both the viewings the mourners sat in groups of 4 in two rows in front of the body, keeping the required physical distance. At a normal funeral, there would have been several hundred in attendance. A dilsoji — a condolence gathering a day or two ahead of the funeral — would have attracted a large Ismaili crowd from across Toronto.

Missionary Gillani’s funeral became the first funeral to be made available for online viewing via a dedicated Youtube channel. The viewing was offered, following a trial period, to very close family members who could not physically be at the funeral due to provincial restrictions limiting gatherings to 5 or 10.

Wearing a face mask and gloves on their hands, each of the persons who had come to missionary Gillani’s funeral presented himself or herself beside the coffin, a meter or two away. In solitude, the mourner would spend between 60 to 80 seconds in contemplation, before giving way to the next person. Other Jamati funerals taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic have similar rules and restrictions in place.

Once the viewing and giving of last respects had ended, and the funeral rites were completed, the Muslim funeral procession prayer La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah commenced. In a normal funeral, men line up in the large foyer of the Jamatkhana to touch or momentarily hold the coffin on their shoulders, uttering prayers for the soul of the deceased before it is transferred to a hearse. However, here there was no one in the foyer of the Jamatkhana. It was empty. The body was wheeled by the Mukhi, volunteers and male mourners into the hearse parked outside, for its 22 km journey to its final resting place — the picturesque Elgin Mills Cemetery.

A view of Elgin Mills Cemetery. Photo: Mount Plesant Group

At the gate of the cemetery, a guard verified each arriving guest against the list of names that he had been given by the Ismaili funeral committee. He guided the arriving mourners to Section 16 of the cemetery. At the site, there were only a few scattered cars, no more than eight. The hearse carrying the body then arrived. This time, instead of wheeling the coffin, as the ground gradient and conditions presented challenges, the volunteers carefully carried it to the grave. Mourners followed and gathered around the coffin, keeping a safe physical distance between one another. The Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana and a family member then each took a heap of soil in a spade, and spread it across the coffin. The Surah Ikhlas was recited (Ch. 112; Translation: “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. Say: He is God, the One. God, the Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is nothing comparable to Him”).

Normally the crowd would wait to see the body lowered into the grave, while continuing to recite Salwats and other prayers. Two volunteers would then descend into the grave to ensure its proper placement, stability and also conduct some last rites.

Physical distancing prevented that from occurring and the mourners returned to their cars. Using the same soil that had been been dug up to create the 6 foot deep grave, a tractor arrived to fill it. Once the on-site staff had completed their task of filling the grave and removing wooden planks and other objects around it, we were each handed incense sticks as we walked back to the burial site. Water was then poured on top of the freshly replaced soil by a family member and the Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana. We then honoured and paid respect to the missionary by placing the lit incense sticks we had been given over the top of the missionary’s final resting place.

All ten of us stepped back about 40 metres, and a Fateha for the deceased was then recited. We were standing in rows and kept our safe 2 metre distance from one another. During the recitation of the Fateha, my attention was suddenly drawn to two doves that landed 25 metres to my left. Their sounds in the midst of the Fateha being recited were beautiful and joyous to hear. Only Allah understands the language of birds, animals and insects, as well as everything that has life on this earth. A second Fateha was then recited for all of the deceased members of the Jamat. By then, the birds had flown away.

Mukhisaheb then gave everyone special blessings for attending the burial, and also prayed for the soul of the deceased. As much as we would have loved to, we left the site without shaking hands of the family and embracing them. We consoled them by placing our hands on our hearts, befitting the Islamic ethics of gratitude, humility and affection.

It was a different kind of a funeral to attend. However the dignity of the entire funeral ceremony was preserved. The Jamat has to thank the burial committee for the professionalism with which they are carrying out this extraordinary and noble service to bring comfort and peace to the mourning families and their friends, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Their communication in every respect was outstanding, and emails and telephone calls received prompt attention.

As I headed back home, I thought of the two birds that had landed nearby as the Fateha for Missionary Gillani was being recited. They conveyed to me a profound message: Missionary Amirali Gillani had been ushered into the abode of peace.

Date posted: April 15, 2020.
Last updated: April 15, 2020 (10 AM ET: additional material added; factual corrections; typos).

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We received several tributes to Amirali Gillani when we first announced his death. They may be read by clicking HERE. Further tributes as well as your reactions with regard to recent passings during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how you and your family members dealt with the situation amid the challenges you faced, may be submitted by completing the feedback form below. If the form does not show, please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.