Archive for Pakistan

Pakistani Cargo Truck Art….in Kansas City?!?

Posted in Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by irydhan

Asheer Akram, an artist and sculptor of Pakistani descent, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1984. He and a group of artists and artisans from Kansas City, Missouri have started the “Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative” – which is formatted around the visual aesthetic of the cargo trucks of Pakistan and the ideas that surround their intended purposes.

“We are building a cargo truck in the traditional Pakistani-style with a Midwest twist and a new function.” Says Akram. “For this project we have selected a 1952 Chevrolet grain truck as a shell. This style of truck is distinctly American and has been a long-standing staple in the farming industry of the Midwest. We will be tasking Midwest fine artists and artisans with taking the basic format of the traditional Pakistani cargo truck and breeding it with an American aesthetic to create a completely original, functional and culturally mixed final product. The truck will be displayed as a piece of fine art and used as a tool for social and cultural enrichment. We intend to travel this truck from one coast to the other bringing a visual aesthetic not seen by the majority of the population, to teach sculptural workshops and bring awareness to people of the importance of cultural enrichment and understanding.” Akram said.

Asheer’s team is made up of local Kansas City artists as well as others from around the country. Some of his team members include local ceramicists (Kansas City is considered to be the “Mecca” of ceramic tile and paneling in the United States), Brock Deboer & Linda Lighton. The Truck will be painted by locals Chris Foxworth and Lauren Travers.

Bill Heineken will be making the truck bling, with custom spinners for the wheels. “You heard right, it wouldn’t be Midwest meets Mideast without SPINNERS. Heineken is a genius with laser production metal fabrication and has worked with architects and artists alike.” Says Akram.

The truck’s exterior woodwork will be created by Jorge Calvo. Local Kansas City glass artist Kathy Bernard will create stained-glass like elements for the top of the cab and cargo bed. The Truck will be carrying some cargo of a compact printing press which will be built by local artist and printmaker, Jesse McAfee.

“The visual component of these vehicles [Pakistani Cargo Trucks] create a hierarchical system of value and class; the more ornate and beautiful the truck is, the more valuable the goods they will be carrying.” Says Akram.

They have started a “Kickstarter” campaign to help raise the $30,000 needed to make this project a reality. The Deadline for fund raising is May 5th.  Check out the link here for more information:


Foodistan (Lahore, Pakistan)

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by irydhan

Recently, I came back from a month long trip to Lahore – the culinary capital of Pakistan.

Lahore, has a wide variety of cuisine, from fancy upscale Italian restaurants to the simple Pakistani village food and everything in between.

A few tips for those of you who may be traveling to Pakistan soon:

1. Get Your Shots – Before you Travel (Currently Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio and Malaria are the main diseases in Pakistan)

2. Don’t Drink The Water – unless it’s Bottled and Sealed (Nestle PureLife is the most reliable brand)

3. Don’t Eat Street Food – unless it is fried up, steaming hot, or cooked well done!  Avoid eating anything cold or something made with water.

If you follow those 3 simple rules, you should be fine and not get sick!

Below is a short slideshow of my trip through “Foodistan” aka Lahore this past February.  I hope you enjoy the pictures, as much as I enjoyed eating all the delicious food:)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can see more pictures of my trip to Pakistan on ILLUME magazine online here!

Masjid Makeover by Rahim’s Wood Gallery

Posted in Architecture, Art, Islam with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by irydhan

My friend, Rahim Akbar is a Naval architect and engineer by day and an inspired artist by night. He hails from a well known Mughal family that is endowed with a rich and rare history in architectural design, woodworking, iron smith and masonry. His outstanding works which are carved in wood, may be seen gracing ceilings, walls, doors, or as stand alone pieces that invite the viewer to step into the world of the written word… or simply remind one of the beauty and serene complexity of Islamic design.  As such, Rahim is reviving in the west the long lost art form of Islamic wood carving, or Naqashkari. He proudly yet humbly follows in the tall footsteps of his grandfather, whose exquisite work in the field may still be seen adorning stately mosques from Sadiqabad in the Punjab, to Sukkar in Sind.

His work can be seen at

One of his recent projects is a brand new Mihrab (Wall with a prayer niche) and Mimbar (stepped seat for sermons) at a small neighborhood mosque in North Carolina.

Check out the video of the installation and final product here:

For more information email Rahim at: or search for “Rahim’s Wood Gallery” on Facebook

Pakistani-American Playhouse Breaks New Ground

Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Islam, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by irydhan



Imran S. Javaid and Imran W. Sheikh, two young Pakistani-American Muslims, started “Parwaz Playhouse” – the first major Pakistani Theatre Company in the Fall of 2009.  ILLUME caught up with them as they prepare for their latest production – an adaption of Eugene O’Neill’s “Beyond the Horizon”, which will begin performing to audiences on Feb. 25, 2011 in New York City

How did you come up with the idea to start a Pakistani-American Theatre company, and how did you come up with the name “Parwaz Playhouse”?

We both were working on the play “The Domestic Crusaders” by Wajahat Ali, when it was running in New York in Sept of 2009.  While we were doing the rehearsals, I looked around and realized that we are all enjoying what we are doing and why can’t we keep this going and do more productions that focus on brown people like us.  I discussed it with Imran Javaid, who is also a playwright, and he agreed it was a good idea.  We also discussed it with Wajahat, who said we should go for it.  So while working on the Domestic Crusaders, every night we started planning out how to start a theater company, what type of plays we would do, etc.

In terms of the name, I have always been of fan of Rod Serling’s “Playhouse 90”, so I knew I wanted Playhouse in the name of our theater company.  Although we are both Pakistani and wanted to do stories on Pakistan and Pakistani-Americans, we didn’t want to limit ourselves with a name like “Pakistani Playhouse.”  My mother suggested the Urdu word “Parwaz” (meaning “a bird’s first flight”), because it was used a lot by Alama Iqbal (famous Pakistani poet) in many of his ghazzals (urdu poetry).

What was the reaction of your family and friends when you started a Theatre Company for Pakistani-Americans?

IWS: There was a mixed reaction, but majority was positive.  We received many wishes well in support.  Everyone knows that there is a lot of negative images of Pakistanis and Muslims out there, so we feel it is our job to try to get through the negativity and show us as human beings.  Theater is the study of the human condition.  It’s a visual media and that is a key to be able to show American society who we are.  We are giving a voice to our community and people understand that and are supporting us.

Usually there is a negative reaction when someone from our community (Pakistani) goes into a non-traditional field, something outside of medicine, engineering, etc.  But if you study most civilizations, you will see that they start off with agriculture and then once they are settled in, they start getting into the arts.  When our parents came here to this country, it was an alien landscape for them.  They had to sacrifice and basically just work, sleep and take care of the kids.  They stayed in traditional and conservative fields just to survive.  But now it is up to our generation to go into the arts – acting and also politics and other different fields.  We have the luxury to do that now, after our parents sacrificed for us.
Tell us a little about your first production called “Glass”

ISJ: Glass is a 30 minute play I wrote and directed.  We performed it at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in November 2009.  It takes place in a newsroom in a country very similar to Pakistan.  A bombing happens outside and the play is basically about the role of the newspaper during a time of violence and how an editor and star reporter work together to cover the story.  A government minister also visits the newsroom and we see the interaction between government and media.

IWS: The play was also selected for the Downtown Urban Theater Festival in April of 2010 and was one of only 3 performances to sell out to the point where people were turned away during the festival’s  two week run.

Tell us about your latest production, “Beyond the Horizon” and how you adapted it for Pakistanis

ISJ: We chose to do an adaption of “Beyond the Horizon” because it is considered to be one of the first major American tragedies and we thought it would be great as our first full length play for the first Pakistani-American Theatre company.  The original play was written in the 1910’s about a family of Irish descent that lives on a farm.  A farmer has two sons – one who wants to leave the farm and see what’s out in the world and the other who wants to stay on the farm.  And they are also both in love with the same girl.  It’s a 3 act play that shows different time periods in the family’s life and how things don’t go as planned.  It’s a tragedy, and won the Pulitzer in 1920.

Our adaption of the story takes place in 1960’s Pakistan.  We set the play in a village near Karachi.  It also deals with a family that is struggling with how to deal with some members wanting to leave the country and others wanting to stay – basically it is the story of our parent’s generation and how they left Pakistan, leaving many of their family and friends behind.  The love story is still there.  We stayed pretty close to O’Neill’s original story, though we did end up cutting out four of the ten characters so we could pare it down to about 90 minutes from 2 hours and 45 minutes.

What are some of your goals with this play and ultimately with your theatre company?

IWS: We wanted to show our parent’s experience with this story.  Give a window to the public, both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis, so people can see who we are.  Give a voice to our community.  One of our goals is to encourage more Pakistanis to enter the arts.

ISJ: There are a lot of talented people in our community and we want to create a forum to allow all that talent to flourish.  There are set designers, costume designers, actors, etc.  Art is a great unifier which can bring all these talented people together.  We also want to make bridges to other communities.

IWS: But, at the end of the day, we’re out to produce good and entertaining theatre.  Our ultimate goal is to have an actual brick and mortar building.  But we know that is way down the road.  Right now we are honored to put our play on at Theater for the New City in New York.  They liked our work and they have supported many famous playwrights and actors over the years, so we are very honored to be able to work there.

Bollywood King goes back to his Muslim Roots

Posted in Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by irydhan

By no means am I a Bollywood (Indian Cinema) fan.  I have only seen a handful in my life and never watched one in a theater – before last night when I went with my wife and a few friends to watch the King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and his new film “My Name is Khan” which is making headlines across the world because of it’s “Pro-Muslim” storyline – which is a rarity in Hindu dominated Indian cinema.

A majority of the film was also shot here in the San Francisco Bay Area and since a few of our friends were extras in the movie, we went to watch it in the theaters.

As most people who have seen Bollywood (the nickname for Indian Cinema based out of “Bombay” now called “Mumbai”) films before knows, the majority of them are extravagant “Musicals” which are usually 3 to 4 hours in length (they have an intermission when they play in the theaters in India and “Desi” theaters in the U.S. and other countries)! Most major hits have the standard format of a young guy and girl who come from different walks of life and go through some kind of struggle to end up together in the end – with a few large dance and song routines in the middle of grass fields and villages in India (or sometimes other parts of the world – to change it up a bit:)).

But, “My Name is Khan” is nothing like that.  It is not a typical Bollywood film at all.  It is pretty serious (of course it has a few light moments sprinkled in between to keep it interesting) and goes head on at some of the world’s toughest issues such as prejudice, stereotypes, religious extremism, terrorism, security concerns, and the commonality of the human condition across the world.


I was actually pretty surprised at how serious and “un-Bollywood like” the film was.  And since it takes place in the U.S. (there is about 30 min in the beginning which takes place in India), a lot of the dialouge is in English (they have subtitles to translate the Hindi-Urdu languages, but no one likes to read them while watching a movie:))!

The other surprising thing about the film was the fact that the star – Shah Rukh Khan (a Muslim in real life), decided to make such a film in the first place.  Shah Rukh Khan (or “SRK” as his name is spelled by bollywood fans online) is the top Bollywood Actor and is more well known and has a larger fan base across the world than any American actor!  He is like Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington and Al Pacino (hey I’m a “Scarface” fan, so I gotta through him in there:)) all rolled up into one.  Most Bollywood films stay away from religion and if they do it is only for comic effect (i.e. a Muslim Mullah or Imam saying something stupid, etc.) or to to show some other stereotypical element.  Since most Indians are Hindu the films reflect the main characters and religious ceremonies from the Hindu perspective (usually). 

Shah Rukh Khan was born in India, but his father was Pakistani (from Peshawar), according to an interview I watched with him here:  

SRK is Muslim, but he is married to a Hindu women (similiar to the story in the film). They teach their two children both religions and do not force one religious view over the other.  SRK has played a “Muslim” character on film before, but his character of “Rizvan Khan” is the first in which his being a Muslim is an integral part of the story.  Thus, it is like he is going back to his Muslim Roots.  Shah Rukh Khan, known as the “King of Bollywood” (for all the awards and allocades he has achieved in the Indian Film Industry) playing a Muslim (a positive one at that), is a major historical event for Indian Cinema.  It’s like when Steven Speilberg decided to make “Schindler’s List” and share his Jewish roots or when Mel Gibson decided to make “Passion of the Christ” and give a voice to his minority Catholic roots in mainstream Hollywood.  Shah Rukh Khan has already received some backlash in India because he publicy supported Pakistani Cricket Players and complained that they should not have been omitted from the IPL (Indian Premiere League) cricket league.  Some Indian Nationalist groups have threaten to ban his latest film “My Name is Khan” from being shown in local theaters in Mumbai in protest.

This is a shame because the film is all about treating all people with respect and dignity, no matter their religion or ethnicity. Shah Rukh Khan plays Rizvan Khan, a Muslim Indian with Asperger’s syndrome (a type of autisim) who comes to America to be close to his brother (after their mother dies in India) and in the process he befriends and falls in love with a Bay Area Indian women named Mandira (who happens to be Hindu).  Rizvan and Mandira marry and live a pretty normal life, but then the attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001 happen and Mandira’s son Sameer is attacked in a hate related incident at school.  Sameer dies from his injuries and  Mandira blames her marriage to a Muslim (SRK’s character) for her son’s death.  Rizvan then goes across country to meet the President of the United States and explain to him that he is a Muslim, but he is not a Terrorist (a Mantra he keeps repeating throughout the film and thus the title of the movie).

Of course the story is at times stretching reality and the ending is far fetched, but the process is believable because it is based on incidents that many people have gone through or experienced themselves in real life: security profiling at airports, racist and prejudiced people who try to stop you from achieving your goals, as well as good people who help you get where you want to go.

But what I really liked about “My Name is Khan” is the way it humanizes Muslims.  Of course they have the extermist Muslim in the film, but they also have the main character, Rizvan (portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan) who is a very spiritual person and is not afraid to pray in front of people – whether it being by reciting verses from the Holy Quran in a middle of a vigil for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, or by making salat (prayers)  outside a truck stop while everyone (including a “normal” Muslim couple) watches him in awe.

On a side note – I was also impressed with the film’s accurate portrayal of Islamic rituals and practices such as praying and what Muslims recite or pray when people die, etc.  Most films, whether Bollywood or Hollywood usually never get it right.  That’s one reason when I got a chance to be a “Muslim consultant” on a local indie film shot in the Bay Area last year, I jumped at the chance to volunteer just so I can make sure they can depict Muslims praying accurately (I ended up showing a cast of about a dozen Non-Muslim actors and extras how to pray according to the Sunni Hanafi Method:))!

In the end “My Name is Khan” is about always having a positive attitude and never giving up on your dreams, no matter the odds stacked against you or who or what is in your way.  It is also about being proud of who you are and not being prejudiced or hateful to other people just because they may come from a different background, culture or religion than you do.  A very important message for both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. 

I hope people learn this message of peace and understanding after watching this film. And I hope more films like “My Name is Khan” come out of Bollywood (as well as Hollywood), because we definitely need them in these trying times.  I highly recommend everyone to watch the movie and tell all your friends to watch it too!

Architecture Pakistan: Bhong Mosque

Posted in Architecture, Art, Islam with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2009 by irydhan
Bhong Mosque, Pakistan

Bhong Mosque, Pakistan

Check out this very interesting piece on Architecture in Pakistan, featuring the Bhong Mosque, which received the Agha Khan Award in Architecture in 1986.  The mosque had 50 years of continuous construction from 1932 to 1982! This Article from Pakistan.Com was written by Owais Mughal:

My Interview on KGO-TV (Ch. 7) news about U.S. Aid to Pakistan

Posted in Activism, Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2009 by irydhan

I was recently interviewed by KGO-TV (ABC Ch. 7) news about U.S. Aid to Pakistan, the flogging of a young women in the SWAT valley and Illume magazine’s coverage of Greg Mortenson’s work of building schools in the mountain areas of Pakistan.

I stated that this type of treatment of women is not based on Islam, but ancient cultural and tribal practices that go back hundreds of years.  It also has to do with a lack of education, not only in general, but also a lack of understanding of Islam.  Sharia law (I am no expert) has built-in protections for the innocent, such as the requirement for there to be 4 eye witnesses to an accusation of adultery.  Obviously, the Taliban, and other groups like them, are extremely conservative and think that they know what is correct and what is not.  They need to be educated, and the best way that can happen is if their fellow Muslims who are familiar with Islamic law can sit down and educate them.

When the reporter asked me about U.S. aid to Pakistan for Civil Infrastructure and the corruption in Pakistani government – I stated that the U.S. cannot just throw money at the problem and expect things to get done.  The U.S. needs to put a little effort in making sure that things are done properly and they weed out the corruption.  They need to have some strict guidelines on how the money should be used and also have some follow-up to see where the money has been spent and what the results are.  I gave the example of Greg Mortenson, who is an average American, who did not have billions of dollars behind him, but because he spent the time and effort to make sure things got done properly, he was able, with the help of good Pakistanis, to get alot of positive results (see my post below about Greg Mortenson’s work).  It’s not an easy task, but some hard work, effort and patience on both sides (American and Pakistani) are needed to make a change for the better!

I happened to mention to the reporter that I am the Public Relations Director for the American Muslim magazine, Illume (, and the copy which I gave him, happened to have a story about Greg Mortenson.  Because it went with the story, he included a bit about the magazine and showed the cover of the magazine in the story.

So overall the story came out pretty well, even though my interview was cut down to about 10-15 seconds sound-byte about Greg Mortenson.  

Check out the video here: