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Community Forum - Culture Under Siege in Pakistan

Culture in Pakistan is under threat from widespread insecurity, ultra-conservative religious intolerance and police harassment. In a special edition of WRVO’s Community Forum we’ll discuss what role culture can play in rolling back the tide of intolerance.  This program was recorded in front of an audience at City Hall Commons at Hanover Square in Syracuse, NY on October 10th, 2011. It aired on WRVO Friday October 29th, 2011.


Fergus Nicoll earned a degree in Oriental Studies (Sanskrit) from Oxford University and a PhD from Reading University. He worked as a teacher in northern Sudan before joining the BBC African Service in 1988. He moved to the Cairo Bureau in 1992, served as World Affairs Correspondent, is now a presenter on the BBC World Service radio program ‘WorldToday.’ In 2004 he published a biography of the Mahdi of Sudan. His book on the life of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was published in 2009.


  • Asma Barlas earned a doctorate in International Studies from the University of Denver. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of the Punjab , Lahore, Pakistan, and a degree in English Literature and Philosophy from the Kinnaird School for Women, also in Lahore, Pakistan. Dr. Barlas is director of the Center for the Study of culture, Race and Ethnicity at Ithaca College. She has written about the rise of militarism in Pakistan and violence against Muslim women. Her writings have been translated into several languages including Bengali, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch and Urdu.
  • Mara Ahmed was born in Lahore, Pakistan, grew up in Brussels, Belgium, before moving back to Pakistan to study at the Institute of Business Administration where she earned an MBA. She earned a second masters degree in Economics, served as a senior financial analyst for Sentry Group in Rochester, N.Y. and other companies. She is an artist and filmmaker whose work has earned her international acclaim. Her film, ‘The Muslims I Know,’ gives America’s small community of Muslims a chance to be heard and understood through a dialogue with non-Muslims Americans.
  • Muhammad Najmuddin is a direct descendent of Hazrat Yameenuddin Abdul-Hasan Amir Khusrou, a 13th century musician, poet, soldier, philosopher, and Sufi credited with training a group of 12 young men in the art of Qawwali, a traditional form of Islamic song found in India and Pakistan. This musical tradition has been practiced by descendants of the original members for more than 700 years. The award-winning ensemble presents Qawwalis in various languages including Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki, Birj Bhasha, Poorbi, Sunskirt, and English.

This forum is part of a larger program in partnership with SUNY Oswego and ArtswegoCaravanserai,funded by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art's Building Bridges program, is a step toward building the bridges necessary to keep moving forward as peaceful partners in the world.