The Persian poet Rumi’s death anniversary was commemorated recently in Turkey.

Turkey has taken an imaginative step to spread the message of love, tolerance and artistic excellence of Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi or simply Rumi, the celebrated Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic all rolled into one. Befittingly, Konya, Turkey’s heritage city on the Anatolian peninsula, where he was buried, was the centre of the ceremonies commemorating Rumi’s 739th death anniversary.

Rumi was a passionate advocate of the use of music, poetry and dance as a vehicle for advancement on the path of spirituality. To him, a combination of music and sacred dance, all part of Sama, if pursued correctly and with intensity, led to a journey of truth and love, where an individual’s ego was abandoned.

In Rumi’s tradition, practitioners of the spiritual experience discover greater maturity and love, as well as a passion to serve all of humanity without discrimination on the basis of religion, race, class or nationality. From these ideas was born the practice of whirling dervishes — the customary whirling dance performed during Sama, through which dervishes hope to achieve spiritual perfection or Kemal.

Unsurprisingly, Rumi’s commemorative ceremony at Konya’s Mevlana Culture Center was notable for the splendid performance by the whirling dervishes. But the attempt by Turkish authorities to spread Rumi’s message worldwide in cyberspace was of equal significance.

Using an iPhone and iPad application, it is now possible to install translations in 16 different languages of Rumi’s famous work “Masnavi” — a compilation of six books of around 25,000 verses each.

“Masnavi” is well regarded as an epitome of Persian literary renaissance, which was infused and reinforced with the development of Sufism.

Rumi’s death anniversary was also commemorated in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, at the famous Naksibendi Dervish Lodge.

-ATUL ANEJA

Pakistan lights up

It’s Christmas! “X-masy” stuff can be found even in Peshawar.

“Ho Ho Ho…” is in the air. Yes, even in Pakistan, which, this year, has offered enough bad tidings on the status of minorities, including targeting the Christian community through the blasphemy law. But there is still room for festivities; at least the trappings or so it would seem from the speed at which makeshift shops are coming up in major cities to sell Yuletide knick-knacks, including Christmas trees, stockings and Santa cut-outs.

While the urgency of shopkeepers to make a quick buck out of the festival in Islamabad is understandable — given the number of foreigners who live here, though most are headed home for the year-end break — the federal capital is not alone in being bitten by this bug. “X-masy” stuff can be found aplenty even in a city like Peshawar that has been at the receiving end of terrorists’ fire ever so often.

In fact, Christmas is not the only “Western” festival to be celebrated with some gusto here. Halloween is also celebrated — complete with Jack-o’-lanterns — to the extent that a Karachi mall actually had a five-day Halloween festival this time round.

-ANITA JOSHUA

Feel free to insult me!

Free speech campaigners have their say, but for how long?

What constitutes an “insult”? And should it be a criminal offence to say anything that someone, somewhere might interpret as an insult? Can you call someone a “silly old goat” without running the risk of being hauled up for “insulting” old people as well as goat lovers?

To the delight of free speech campaigners, the House of Lords recently voted to get rid of a law under which it is an offence to use “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour”.

But as the law does not define what would constitute “insulting words” or “behaviour”, it has led to some hilarious situations with people being arrested or prosecuted for making innocent jokes or light-hearted comments about religion or sexuality. A teenager was arrested for causing “alarm and distress” after he said “woof” to two dogs, an atheist preacher was warned that he faced arrest if he did not take down a sign in his window which said, “Religions are fairy stories for adults”, and a man was reprimanded for waving a placard saying “Scientology is a dangerous cult”.

The Lords’ vote followed a campaign highlighting the difficulty of implementing such an ill-defined law and demanding its withdrawal. A leading Tory MP even launched a “Feel free to insult me” campaign. No wonder, free speech campaigners are delighted but celebrations could prove premature if the Government uses its majority in the Commons to push it through.

-HASAN SUROOR

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