Lady In Black: Burka Avenger Fights For Pakistans Girls : NPR


Teacher by day... superhero by night.

Lady In Black: Burka Avenger Fights For Pakistans Girls : NPR.


A caped crusader is on the loose in the mountains of Pakistan, but she’s not your traditional superhero. The Burka Avenger wears a flowing black veil — only her brown eyes are visible — as she fights corrupt politicians and religious zealots. Her weapons of choice: pens and books.

Burka Avenger, which made its debut on Pakistani TV this week, aims to empower young women in a country where attacks on girls’ schools and repression of women remain enduring problems. It’s the brainchild of Pakistani entrepreneur and pop star Haroon Rashid, who tells NPR’s Audie Cornish that he was inspired by current events in Pakistan. “I thought of an idea of sort of, like, a protagonist protecting a girls’ school. And that’s how the idea for the Burka Avenger developed.”

Interview Highlights

On the Avenger’s secret identity

“She is a schoolteacher named Jiya. She is a warm, bubbly, intelligent young woman who’s concerned about education, and concerned about the city and the people of Halwapur [the fictional city where the show is set]. … And then of course, to fight the bad guys, and to hide her identity the way superheroes do, she puts on the burqa. And it’s a really cool, sleek burqa, and she can leap off buildings and glide from, almost like a flying squirrel … and she only fights with pens and books, because I wanted a nonviolent message. Her message is, ‘Justice, Peace and Education for All.’ “


Watch the English trailer for Burka Avenger.

On feminist criticism of the Avenger’s costume

“We chose the burqa because of course we wanted to hide her identity the way superheroes do. She doesn’t wear the burqa during the day — she doesn’t even wear a headscarf, or a hijab or anything like that; she goes about her business as a normal teacher would. And so she chooses to wear the burqa, she’s not oppressed … and on the other end of the spectrum, a lot of female superheroes in the West are objectified, and sort of sexualized in their costumes, like Catwoman and Wonder Woman, and that certainly would not work here.

“Nobody is compelled to wear the burqa in Pakistan; nobody is compelled to wear the headscarf or hijab, like they are in other parts of Muslim countries. But some women who do choose to wear the burqa or do choose to wear the hijab, the majority of them do it out of choice, and I’ve learnt this over the years.

“People know about superheroes. People know that Bruce Wayne wears the cloak and the mask and his utility belts to fight crime, but he’s not going to walk around like that all day. And kids know that she is a great, strong role model.”

On his hopes for the show


“There’s a huge space for children’s entertainment in Pakistan. There’s practically no local entertainment; … a lot of the entertainment is imported from the West; it’s not relevant, socially relevant or culturally relevant, and most of it’s just entertaining junk, like, let’s say, Ben 10. … They don’t have any social messages, and I think it’s important to have positive social messages and themes and morals. And a lot of young children who don’t get the opportunity to get a great education need programming which is entertaining and yet also educational.”

My Search for an Underwater Town

Note: I was extremely honored nay overwhelmed, when my buddy Saleem asked me to write for his blog.  As a journalist, TV producer and writer I am usually the one who has been told not to write by my superiors.  Media organizations are either funded by governments or by private corporate sector and straight-forward journalism has the tendency to evolve into threat to national security or anti-corporate rhetoric damaging to the advertising revenue.  Thus we journalists are repeatedly being censored!  After a good thirteen years of censorship, I felt like I genuinely needed an intellectual vacation from the tightly controlled world of professional journalism into the “write whatever the heck you want” world of bloggers that is generating an audience at a rate faster than television is losing them.

In days to come I will be sharing stories about my arctic travels, encounters with Eskimo tribes, paranormal investigations, deep sea diving, submerged cities and sunken ships. Some of these have already made air and then there are those that never did because of reasons that will be fairly obvious to the readers inshAllah.
First entry is about the search on an under water city…
It was a man by the name Todd Stegall who emailed me the sonar image of what appeared to be a submerged house. The image was taken by a side-scan sonar from a boat and showed what seemed like a man made structure 60 feet below water level in Lake Lanier Georgia. Todd was a local from that area who had been exploring the lake for years in his boat. The side scan sonar had picked up a such a perfect square shape that it could not have been the work on nature. In fact when I looked at it closely I could also make out a small chimney. 
“Who would make a house 60 feet under a Lake?” 
When I dug into government records and history of Lake Lanier, it turned out that when Buford Dam was built in 1956, large areas of surrounding towns went under the rising water levels. Seven hundred families had to be relocated because their township was about to get submerged. Then US Corps of Engineers went about demolishing all buildings so that the debris from these structured down not float and become a navigational hazard for any future boat traffic. Or thus went the official version! Yet we had in our hands a photograph of a possible double story building with a chimney, most likely left intact by the engineers. Or was it a natural rock-like formation that appeared to be a man made structure?
There was only one way to find out and that was to dive! 
Every dive has its challenges and Lake Lanier was no exception. There were two things that made this dive difficult. Limited visibility and thermoclines. 
Lake Lanier was muddy waters and visibility ranged from a 5 feet to less than a foot. In order to actually see something you had to be face to face with it. This created an environment where diver separation was a strong possiblity. A dive team of three divers would have to swim extremely close to each other. Even if one person drifted 5 feet away the rest would lose sight of him and there was little chance of uniting in the water. Dive would have to be aborted and everyone would have to surface. 
Besides soup-visibility, thermoclines were another factor. Thermocline is a body of extremely cold water that is sitting right under a layer of hot water. Thus surface conditions and the first few feet of water would be fairly warm but divers descending would immediately find themselves in near ice conditions. Since regulators had the possibility of freezing up, these dives had to be planned like they were cold water dives but no one knew how cold. 
I sent out a few emails to diving forums and was able to recruit a diver by the name of Ken Flemming. Ken was a Cave diver and specialized in entering overhead environments. We had no idea what the condition of this “house” would be so it was decided that in the initial survey Ken and I would both stay outside and photograph the structure. On our second dive we will decide whether it it safe to enter the “house” because the ceiling and walls could easily collapse.
The rest of the expedition can be viewed in this Voice of America news report.
A few weeks later, I received a call from Todd Stegall who had discovered and photographed the house. He had succeeded in finding the owner of the building. An old man of past seventy years of age, this gentleman (Paul if I remember the name correctly) grew up in the house and remembered every wall and corner. But most importantly, he remembered a gas station a few blocks from his house which was also left intact by the engineers. This called for another diving expedition. We were gearing up for a second diving expedition to locate and film the submerged gas station when VOAs transmission to Pakistan (Beyond the Headlines) was discontinued and the follow up story became not so feasible.
But yes. For those who like submerged cities and ghost towns, let me tell you that there is a gas station in the depths of Lake Lanier GA.

Islam in Chinatown | The Jakarta Post

Along with its unique name, Lautze Mosque does not look like most mosque’s in Jakarta. The four-story building, in the Chinatown area of Pecinan in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, was formerly a shop-house.

The mosque’s architecture is in the Chinese style and its doors and windows are painted red. Excerpts from the Koran are written in Arabic script and Chinese kanji are hung on the walls.

With a width of 100 square meters, the mosque can accommodate 400 people on its first and second floors, while its third and fourth floors are for Haji Karim Oei Foundation — which manages the mosque.

Besides being a place to pray, the mosque is also a place for Chinese-Muslims in Pecinan to assemble and teach mualaf (converts) about the religion.

“Lautze, in Chinese, means teacher or wise man,” said mosque spokesman Yusman Iriansyah. “Our main activity is to deliver information about Islam to people, especially Chinese descendants who live in this area.”

Lautze Mosque was founded in 1991 by a group of friends, including Ali Karim Oei, the son of the prominent Chinese-Muslim businessman Oei Tjeng Hien or Abdul Karim Oei.

Abdul Karim was a member of the early generation of nationalists who fought for Indonesia’s independence with the country’s founding father, Sukarno, and prominent Muslim leader Buya Hamka.

Yusman said that the mosque established to introduce Islam to the Chinese in Jakarta because they often kept their distance from the majority indigenous Muslims.

“Even though the majority of Chinese people are not Muslims, they need to understand Islam so that they can eliminate their bad perception of Muslims,” he said.

Yusman said that around 90 percent of residents in Pasar Baru area were Chinese; some of them had become mualaf and the mosque assisted their conversions.

According to him, from 1997 until now, the mosque had assisted more than 1,000 people to convert to Islam.

“We try to be flexible because they need to understand about the religion first,” he said.

“For example, if a married person wants to be a mualaf, we will not force his or her spouse to follow. Or if someone asks whether Islam allows Muslims to say Christmas greetings to family members, we will say yes.”

Amin Ali Nurdin, a convert and regular visitor to Lautze Mosque, said he was grateful that the mosque was close to his house and he only hoped it would stand forever.

“Islam does not teach Muslims to force other people to follow their path,” he said. “The most important thing is to do good things to each other.”

He said the mosque also held religious services, Koran readings and Mandarin lessons.

“During Ramadhan, every Saturday evening we provide iftar [food to break the fast] and then hold tarawih [extra prayer services],” he said.

To encourage mualafs to improve their understanding of Islam, the mosque management encourage them to lead tarawih prayers, he said.

“Unlike in other mosques, we change imam [prayer reader] for every set of prayers,” he said. (ian)

via Islam in Chinatown | The Jakarta Post.