- INTERVIEW WITH
- BY - Dr. Khalid Sohail
ONE…GOD AND RELIGION
1. Do you believe in God? If you
ANSWER: I do not have any firm opinion on
this contentious issue. Actually, my experience stems from
my personal journey. Being firmly focused in life on my
quest for social justice, human emancipation and an
equitable society, such classical issues (which have been
discussed time and again, in history by philosophers and
always remained a personal percept), had very little place
in my life. Firstly there was no room and interest to
discuss such issues, as I have considered them irrelevant to
my struggle. Having said that, I believe that even if all
problems of the world that perpetuate injustice and
inequality around us, are solved (if at all), belief in God
would still remain a personal thing. Making it short, my
answer would be, “I am issue neutral, though open and
receptive to all ideas, I believe that at a personal level,
outright denial and announcement of disbelief in God, will
be totally counter-productive to my mission in life”.
2. What are your
concept / experience of God?
ANSWER: I do not have any personal
experience of God, with any of my five senses, not even the
sixth sense, so what can I say?
3. How is your
belief system different than the belief system of your
family and community of origin?
ANSWER: My community of origin is
basically Pakistani / Indian Shia Muslim. In the early days
of my life I was a bit religious of the pragmatic kind, and
my father was a dynamic and enlightened person, but his
objectivity deteriorated with time, though.
We got disconnected with our home, due to
the fact that in our school, college and university days, we
stayed away from home. We remained just visitors, twice,
thrice in one year.
Coming to the point, when I was quite
young (Grade 8 or 9), I regularly started to buy used
magazine called “Manshoor” (meaning, Constitution), from the
sidewalk bookseller in Karachi. The more I read it, the more
I got addicted to it. It was a trade union magazine and
represented working class issues. That was probably the
turning point in my life, and as I grew up I maintained my
interest, in the subject at some level or the other.
My late father and mother, both remained
conformist Shia Muslims all their life, something which I
never liked to be labelled as. So I remained non-conformist
/ non-practicing and continued to be so.
4. How did you
become an Atheist / Agnostic / Free Thinker / Humanist?
ANSWER: Further to what I said earlier,
the magazine that acted as a trigger, led to series of
further developments in my life. I felt that I needed
expression. My ailing, sensitive inner self was looking
desperately for an opportunity to search the truth. To make
the story short, when I travelled to Lahore to join the
university, I was all by myself. This was December 1971 and
shortly thereafter, Z. A. Bhutto took power after the fall
of East Pakistan. The events that followed were very
conducive to my development. I freely discussed issues with
intelligent people and my journey towards my own discovery
had begun. There was no looking back, as I became a free
thinker and a staunch humanist. To this day, I have
always been very proud of having discovered my truth. The
quest for knowledge is an ongoing thing and each passing
moment, provides me with more and more. Even the normal life
span cannot encompass the complete evolution of thought.
5. Why do you
believe in a Religion?
ANSWER: I have never been at loggerheads
with religion. During the early days, my ideological
teachers taught me not to unnecessarily discuss religion as
according to them (at that time), our struggle should be
focused on freeing the peoples from the shackles of
exploitation and empowering them through knowledge to become
aware how they are being plundered by the feudal lords,
neo-imperialists and their lackeys. Clergy, implicitly and
explicitly, provide support to the forces of status quo and
legalize it through the use of scriptures and what they call
the holy injunctions of God.
Times have changed. Now, social issues
have been pushed in the background and religious rambling
has been brought at the forefront. This is like a turf war
between two warlords and gangsters, under the garb of
democracy, holy wars, crusades and so on. A huge distraction
from our basic issues.
I presume that a time will come when
professing a single religion may become unnecessary, but I
am not sure, given the nature and in-built insecurity in
humans and a huge reality everyone faces, which is called
“death”. I feel that there will always be some people who
may need the crutches of religion to tread the thorny path
My own belief is that, I do have
reservations about religion, however to profess whether I
believe or disbelieve is irrelevant, as I consider religion
to be a political / social movement (to be read in
conjunction with history).
6. Why do you
practice your preferred religion [Islam / Christianity /
Judaism / Hinduism / Sikhism / Native Spirituality etc] as
opposed to not any other religious or spiritual tradition?
ANSWER: I do not practice any religion in
my daily life. I only practice objectivity.
Do you believe
in giving Religious Education to children at home and in
ANSWER: No, I do not. However, I do
believe that we should still teach them the universal values
of ethics and humanity, with an objective outlook, clearly
telling them not be breed any hostility against any
particular belief system.
8. Why can’t we
teach our children different religious and spiritual and
secular traditions as part of history and let them decide
when they become adults?
ANSWER: No harm in doing that. Depends on
tradition within the household. It is, indeed a good idea.
9. What are your
views about the relationship between Religion and State?
ANSWER: Absolute separation of religion
and state is what I believe in. This marriage has always
proved to be very violent and will eventually fail, and has
actually never worked for a very long time. Concrete steps
should be taken by the state not to promote any particular
religion or school of thought. Loud sermons, use of
amplifier and loud speakers even for azaan (like what
Muslims do) should be completely banned. There should be no
holiday based upon belief system. Even in Canada, if the
state likes to call itself “secular”, there is no room for
“Good Fridays” and “Easter Mondays”. Even if the majority of
people are labelled as believers of a particular faith, the
state structure should not accommodate these “faith based
holidays”. It appears so funny that “Public Schools”
officially cannot arrange prayer, teach theocracy /
Christian Mythology etc, but they shut down on holidays
which derive its origin from medieval Christianity.
Similarly, giving license to establish faith based separate
schools (Muslim, Sikh, Hindu etc) are a blatant violation of
separation of religion and state. There should be one system
of education for all of Canada. If anyone wishes to learn
about religion, there could be private lessons, by
interested individuals, without public funding. Now Canada
is full of mixed institutions of religion and publicly
funded education. Eventually, Canada will realize that this
is a huge mistake.
10. Where do you get
your guidance about your moral and ethical values?
ANSWER: In the past, present and in the
future, my own conscience is my guide. (Main khud hi apni
talaash mein hun, mera koi rahnuma nahin hai).
SEX AND MARRIAGE
11. Are you single
12. If you are
single is it out of your own choice?
13. What are your
views about celibacy?
in content is sexual abstinence, common in Catholic Nuns /
Priests. I do not consider this as a healthy practice. Being
sexually active and practicing sex is natural to humans like
Why did you get
married? Was it an arranged or a love marriage?
ANSWER: Marriage was like a second
instinct in Pakistan. It was a social necessity. This may
not be true for other societies. Mine was an arranged
marriage, but we had an opportunity to talk and discuss.
15. Do you believe
in platonic relationships between men and women?
ANSWER: Friendship is fine.
16. Are you gay or lesbian?
ANSWER: No, I am straight (per the latest
16. Have you shared
your gay / lesbian lifestyle with your family and
17. What was the
reaction of your family and community?
18. What do you
think of legalizing gay and lesbian marriages in Canada?
ANSWER: This is a loaded question. While
I do firmly believe that every individual is equal before
law and has rights, responsibilities and freedoms, including
the right to practice any alternate sexual preference. I
also firmly believe that no one should be persecuted, looked
down upon or discriminated by law, because of his or her
sexual preferences. However, redefining the term “marriage”,
based upon insufficient information and background
information is counter-productive and may have repercussions
not yet known to us. I have been told by an experienced
Psychiatrist and a friend that the “big book” of psychiatry,
probably some kind of “master reference book of psychiatry”,
just little more than a decade ago defined “homosexuality”
as a cognitive disorder, which was subsequently removed,
from the later editions. When you talk to people, they have
all tell tales, partly based upon reality and partly upon
I would like to compare this situation
with other mental deviations (if you will). Wise men of
psychiatry, often do not accept giving or injecting medicine
as a cure (permanent or temporary) of mental disorders and I
have often heard some of them saying that “sending toxins to
an area (human brain), for which we as yet don’t know
everything is not a very responsible thing to do, except in
cases where it is absolutely necessary and as a last resort
(not in the best interest of the patient, but possibly to
avoid social implications of the issue).
Having said that, we know that human
brain is an area, about which the medical profession, as yet
does not know a lot and we do not have sufficient clinical
data to support findings and symptoms. In this situation, in
my opinion we should wait for better information to be
available, and not rush towards any decision like that
(alter the meaning of the family). It cannot be compared to
the continuously ongoing research on other products, where
findings are published and nullified as a function of time.
In this particular case, the fallout may be very heavy and
it is an irresponsible and premature decision made by vested
Having said all that, I recommend (in the
interim) that laws should be made to effectively protect
homosexuals against discrimination and persecution of any
kind, being equal citizens of Canada, per the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedom.
19. Do you have a
gay or lesbian friend or relative?
ANSWER: Not to my knowledge.
20. What do you
think different Religions and Scriptures say about gay and
ANSWER: All scriptures condemn gay and
lesbian lifestyle. Some even award capital punishment.
PART THREE…BECOMING IMMIGRANTS
21. Are you an
immigrant? For how long have you been living outside your
ANSWER: Yes, about 15 years.
22. What do you
consider the cultural differences between the two cultures?
ANSWER: There are huge mainstream
cultural differences. However, we have also maintained one
cocoon of our own, which is basically the cultural cocoon of
23. How do you deal
with your cultural conflicts?
ANSWER: We are quite familiar with the
differences, as we had been exposed indirectly to the
“Western” culture. No issues.
PART FOUR…CREATIVE PERSONALITIES AND
24. Are you a
ANSWER: Sort of. More of an ideological
kind. (As stated above).
25. How do you
express your creativity [write, paint, act or make films or
in other forms] ?
ANSWER: My expression, dissemination of
ideas, writing about social and real life issues, activism
and voicing my opinion is a vehicle to express my
26. Do you share
your Creations with your family and community?
ANSWER: They are an essential part of my
world and I regularly share my creations and ideas with
27. What are the
reactions of your family and community about your Creative
ANSWER: My wife is very
supportive in most part (I hope so), otherwise she has the
capacity to make my life miserable….J.
About my community…. some agree, some do not and some
understand the point but do not believe in pure reason…. we
just live around all this mess and hope for the best.
experience emotional and social problems because of your
Creative Personality and Lifestyle?
ANSWER: Emotional problems, none. Social
problems, some, but that is what life is all about.
How do you cope
with those emotional and social problems?
ANSWER: Jo sunay us ka bhala, jo na sunay
us ka bhi bhala.
Thank you for sharing your philosophy and
Place of Birth