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Statement: Ashura 1439 AH

The new Islamic year has begun. It is 1439 years since the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, emigrated with the beleaguered Muslims from Makkah, which was then a city of oppressors, to Medina, which was a safe haven. When we remember the Hijra, we must remember that Muslims fled from oppression.

The new year is not a happy occasion among Muslims. It is a time for remembrance, for mourning, for rejuvenating our commitment against oppression and oppressors (zalimun), and our devotion to Muhammad, Fatimah, Ali, Hassan and Hussain (alayhimu salam). It is the moment to remember the durood and what it stands for: we pray for blessings upon the Prophet and his aal, his family.

So, in Muharram 1439, we at the O Collective renew our commitment against oppression. We remind each other that what happened to Aal-e-Muhammad is happening still to their devotees, the Shi’a. There is still a genocide of Shi’a Muslims going on in Pakistan. The Hazaras of Balochistan are still being disappeared and murdered; Shi’i professionals are still being shot dead as they drive their children home from schools; discrimination against non-Sunnis is rife. Shi’i Muslims suffer and Shi’i Muslims persist—in the name of Hussain, Hassan, Ali, Fatima and Muhammad, upon whom be peace.

Muharram is for remembrance, for mourning and for renewal. It is not happy. We do not wish each other Happy New Year, and we find the rise in this habit problematic and disrespectful. We hope that fellow Muslims of all paths will be more attentive to the reality that we begin our year in thoughtfulness, solemnity, grief, mourning and renewal. Joy will come later, inshallah, when we see the fruits of our labour against injustice.

As O, we recognize that we fall back on a default Sunni Islam because that is the dominant path in Pakistan and because most of us are from Sunni families. So we ask you now, with humility: fellow Muslims from other paths, tell us what you need. Tell us how we may serve your needs better. Join us and lead us. Join us so we can all come to each other’s aid and help each other along the many paths to Allah.

Labayk Ya Hussain.

Bangladesh: Statement of Apology and Solidarity

Forty-four years ago, atrocities of gigantic proportions and irreversible pain were committed against the people of now-Bangladesh by the Pakistani establishment. West Pakistan committed systematic genocide of the Bengali people, espousing colonial extermination policies. This is unpardonable. We are the O Collective, a group of queer Pakistanis, and we acknowledge the atrocities committed in our name against the people of Bangladesh. We acknowledge that December 16, 1971, marks the end of a dark time, where Bangladesh was freed from the oppressive and murdering forces of a would-be colonizing state apparatus. We, in our struggle against homophobia and transphobia, recognize that we must also struggle with our past, our culpability and the ringing silence of our history books on the brutalization, rape and murder of Bengali people, people we claimed were our fellow country-people. We stand in shame for what was done to the people of Bangladesh and, for what it’s worth, here, now, we unreservedly apologize for these atrocities. The O Collective calls on all defenders of human dignity in Pakistan to confront this history and hold the state of Pakistan accountable for the Bengali genocide of 1971. We call on all Pakistanis to take a hard look at ourselves on this day. December 16 has acquired a new and horrible significance since the massacre of the students of the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014. Today, as we remember and memorialize, all across Pakistani television and print media, and in banners along Pakistani city roads, the children brutally and callously murdered a year ago today, we must remember that violence begets violence, war begets war, and that participation in the cynical global politics of control and devastation will only lead us to further death – more children will die, more graves will be dug, more lives will be destroyed. Today, we, the O Collective, mourn the dead of APS, and all the children murdered by the War on Terror. Today, we remember the dead that are not memorialized by the state, but have died nonetheless as a result of the same geopolitics. And today we remember what we have been taught to forget: the raped, the brutalized, the dead of Bangladesh, killed in our name. We must give voice to the truth. The brutalities of nationalism can only be overcome by a rainbow of solidarity which transcends the otherwise impassable borders. We stand in solidarity with our queer friends in Bangladesh and offer this small act of rectification. It is insufficient, we know. But if you will have us, we stand with you, fellow queers in a brutal and violent world.