Farahnaz Ispahani is the author of the recently released book Purifying The Land of The Pure: Pakistan’s Religious Minorities.
In 2015, she was a Reagan-Fascell Scholar at the National Endowment for Democracy, in Washington, DC where she worked on Women and Extremist groups with a particular focus on the women of ISIS. Ispahani was a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center from 2013-2014.
A Pakistani politician, Ispahani served as a Member of Parliament and Media Advisor to the President of Pakistan from 2008-2012. She returned to Pakistan with Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 after opposing the Musharraf dictatorship in the preceding years. In Parliament she focused on the issues of terrorism, human rights, gender based violence, minority rights and US-Pakistan relations. The most notable pieces of legislation enacted with her active support include those relating to Women’s Harassment in the Workplace and Acid Crimes and Control, which made disfiguring of women by throwing acid at them a major crime. She was also a member of the Women’s caucus in the 13th National Assembly. The caucus, which straddled political divides, was instrumental in introducing more legislation on women’s issues than has ever been done before during a single parliamentary term.
Ms. Ispahani spent the formative years of her career as a print and television journalist. Her last journalistic position was as Executive Producer and Managing Editor of Voice of America’s Urdu TV. She has also worked at ABC News, CNN and MSNBC.
She has contributed opinion pieces to the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The National Review, The Hindu, India, The News, Pakistan and The Huffington Post.
Ms Ispahani has spoken at many forums in the US and abroad including the Aspen Ideas Festival, The Brussels Forum, The Aspen Congressional Program, The Chautauqua Institute, The University of Pennsylvania, Wellesley College, Jamia Millia University, Delhi.
Robert R. Reilly:
Tonight, as you know, we’re very privileged to have Farahnaz Ispahani with us to speak on the title of her new book, Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities, and there are some copies for sale outside and I know Farahnaz would be happy to sign them for you after her talk.
Now, she knows whereof she speaks for the simple reason that Farahnaz is from Pakistan and has worked there both as a journalist and as a legislator and as a media advisor to the President of Pakistan and the issues on which she concentrated are the same ones about which she writes and concentrates today, which is religious persecution of minorities, women’s rights, and other such matters.
I just [want to mention] one laudable thing she achieved during her career as a legislator through her support for it was a bill which made disfiguring of women by throwing acid in their faces a major crime. Now, here, Mrs. Ispahani was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy here in Washington where she worked on women and extremist groups with a particular focus on the women of ISIS. She’s also been a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. I’m happy to say – being a Voice of America veteran – that Farahnaz has also worked there where she was an executive producer and managing editor of the Voice of America’s Urdu TV service. She’s also worked at other networks and has contributed to too many publications to mention here, and I wouldn’t want to poach on her time as she addresses us on, “Purifying the Land of the Pure,” Farahnaz.
Good evening to all of you. I’m so honored to be here. Thank you so much for reaching out. I don’t think I’ll be your best speaker ever. I know that you’ve had some legendary speakers, some who are good friends of mine. I just want to get an idea from you. Do you prefer a longer talk or more Q&A? Okay, so you’re going to get both. Can you hear me? Okay.
Good evening and thank you for having me here today. I’m grateful to have a chance to speak about those citizens of Pakistan who are not treated as equal citizens of the land, and it’s a very, very sad and heartbreaking story, really, of how they have gotten to this point.
So, I like to use the phrase ‘numerical minority communities’ because they’re not just minorities. In these countries it’s their numbers which make them minorities and make them vulnerable and I think it’s important to state that. As we are all aware, the mistreatment or marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities has become a global phenomenon. Demagogues are generating hatred for the other all over the world. Attacking minorities is for some a way to garner support for a faction within the majority.
In the United States, not enough people recognize why protecting religious freedom everywhere and for everyone needs to be an important plank of U.S. foreign policy. Christians are victims of 80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world. Efforts to highlight, oppose, and prevent religious discrimination globally are therefore efforts that protect and defend the right of Christians to profess and practice their faith, standing up for the rights of all religious minorities everywhere: Jews in Europe today facing a rising tide of anti-Semitism, Muslims and Christians in India facing political exclusion, Muslims in China in reeducation camps, and in Burma, facing ethnic cleansing. Yazidis in Syria and Iraq are fighting for their survival even after the rout of ISIS in most areas and smaller sects and denominations in many places are being targeted for their beliefs. That is why it is so important for Christians in the United States who want to help protect Christians in countries where they are under attack to stand up for the rights of all numerically small religious minorities globally.