welcome to the home of Iman Sultan

IMAN SULTAN is a Pakistani-American writer and journalist, dividing her time between Philadelphia and Karachi. Her writing and reporting interests include protest, community, politics, and culture.



Dawn January 21, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Sophia Qureshi may be too young to vote, but she is already more politically active than many adults. The Democrat party supporter interned for the Hillary Clinton campaign. In the run-up to the US elections, she proudly displayed a large Clinton sign in the window of her West Chester, Pennsylvania home. Living in a majority white neighbourhood, surrounded by Trump signs and many Trump supporters, her poster stood out.

One night, she woke up to her parents calling the police to report a break-in. She went back to her room and switched on the lights only to see glass shards everywhere; the window had apparently been broken.

Pennsylvania State Troopers ruled the incident was “criminal mischief”, but Qureshi does not buy the explanation.

“I know how tense the election climate was, and people often resort to things that are not exactly well thought-out,” she tells Dawn. “I do not think it was somebody throwing a rock just for the heck of it.”

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Media Diversified April 2017

I don’t normally get moved by music videos, but Swet Shop Boys’ internet-released video, “Aaja”, a track off their Cashmere album, released late last year, felt like salvation

A tribute to Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered last summer, and whose very death made her an icon, the video made waves on the internet. It was followed by Riz Ahmed’s timely speech to UK Parliament on why representation of minorities in media is important, and how seeing oneself in the looking glass can prevent the radicalisation of young Muslims. It echoes what Junot Diaz said eight years ago: “[I]f you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

Growing up as a second-generation Pakistani in America, I was ridden with doubts, questions, and fears throughout the roughest of my adolescent years. There were no cultural mirrors for me to see myself, and the endless trajectories my life could take. I’d grown up during the heydey of Pakistani pop rock but in the 2000s the music I’d chosen to identify with during my childhood suffered a strange stagnating decline, alive only in the manually-downloaded mp3 files on my iPod. Artists like Vital Signs, the Sufi rock group Junoon, and Hadiqa Kiani—all fell to the wayside.

The brown cultural behemoth of Bollywood, too, became increasingly commercialised and sexualised in a way that retained the trademark corniness but renounced the starry-eyed sentiment which made flicks like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kal Ho Na Ho, and Dil Chahta Hai so great.

Then a few weeks ago, now long resigned to this state of affairs, I watched Swet Shop Boys’ “Aaja” and it felt like salvation. It wasn’t just the relief of looking through the mirror and finding my own reflection staring back at me, confirming my existence, it was the re-opening of all the possibilities of what desis can be and could be. The video’s depiction of regular life in diaspora is not a loaded political statement, and it’s not an aesthetic polemic of representation either. Its power comes from showing a mundane reality in full technicolour. I might have seen and lived the scenes since I was born but I’ve never seen our lives refracted through this medium before.

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