Sultana’s book Leading Lights

Lahore:13 August:Lahore used to be an open and inclusive city when I was growing up. I still remember the time spent with my friends from the Parsi community,” writer Mustansar Hussain Tarar said on Thursday.

He was reviewing Bushra Sultana’s book Leading Lights at an event held to commemorate Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s August 11, 1947, speech to the Constituent Assembly.

Many people in the audience mentioned growing intolerance towards other people’s beliefs and use of violence in religious disputes led to a decline in openness and inclusivity in the city.

Sultana’s book is a collection of profiles of 42 Pakistanis from marginalised communities. These individuals have distinguished themselves and made important contributions in various fields. Some of the profiles documented in the book were covered in a short video shown after Tarar’s talk. These included the profile of industrialist Dinshaw Avari.

Shoaib Mir reviewed Haroon Khalid’s book Beyond the Other. He said the book was an exploration into interfaith harmony in the sub-continent. He said it had listed down some aspects of distinct religious identities as well as instances where boundaries between different religions blurred. “The book has brought forth the kind of material that is ignored in the narrative provided by state institutions, mainstream media and religious organisations,” Mir said.

“Such works provide us with an alternate version of our history,” he said. “In this country, we are mostly told not to talk about these issues because they are ‘sensitive’. In fact, this is precisely why we need to talk about such issues,” he said.

Moneeza Hashmi read an excerpt from her book titled Who Am I. The book features interviews of 20 notable Pakistani women. She also spoke about novelist Bapsi Sidhwa, also the author of the foreword to Hashmi’s book.

Later, a video was screened on Bapsi Sidhwa’s achievements.

The event titled Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom was organised by the Faiz Foundation Trust as part of its Freedom of Religion and Belief project. The project, funded by the European Union, aims to facilitate eradication of persecution of religious minorities and fostering of a more tolerant society in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2016.

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