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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

With dinner, students raise funds for Pakistan relief effort

Published: November 12, 2010
Section: News

Speaking up: Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams performs spoken word at the Pakistan relief dinner Monday.

Project Nur and The Brandeis Pluralism Alliance held “A Night for Pakistan” Monday to celebrate Pakistani culture and raise money to offset the effects of the floods in Pakistan this past summer.

Event attendees were greeted by a spread of traditional foods including vegetable samosas, savory curry cupcakes and mango lassi.

The event included a variety of acts, including spoken word performances by Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams, who showcased one piece and Usman Hameedi ’12, the evening’s featured poet.

At the beginning of his set, Hameedi confessed that many people who are familiar with his work often criticize that he only does “angry Muslim poems.” However, during the course of his set, Hameedi proved this generalization wrong with beautiful poems ranging in topics from the Hindi ceremony Holi to his former loves.

Next in the program was Berklee College of Music senior, Ehssan Karimi. The Seattle native performed a captivating set of songs on the Hang drum, a UFO shaped construction. The Hang was created in Switzerland with the intention of creating a modification of the steel drum made to be played with hands instead of mallets. It is made of a metal dome with a series of divots that are tapped to create different pitches, while the dome itself is tapped to keep rhythm.

All in attendance were transfixed by the musical stylings of the Hang including Kathy Lawrence who, according to her husband, future president Frederick Lawrence was “rocking out” to the beat.

Once Frederick Lawrence was done reveling in Karimi’s music, which he referred to as “transcultural,” he delivered a compelling speech about the importance of taking action to aid Pakistan, saying “if it is something that we can do, it is something that we must do.”

He urged the student body to “remember nights like tonight,” when students of many backgrounds came together to serve a common cause because they will be some of the most significant nights of our college experience.

Lawrence’s speech served as an introduction to the evening’s keynote speaker, Kamran Pasha, Pakistani-American author, Hollywood director and screenwriter whose credits include his service as a writer and producer of NBC’s remake of “Bionic Woman,” and Showtime Network’ s Golden Globe-nominated series “Sleeper Cell.”

Pasha was born in Pakistan but immigrated to the United States as a child.

He grew up in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn where he grew to recognize and appreciate the distinct similarities between what he “perceived as ‘conservative’ Jewish practice and ‘conservative’ Muslim practice.”

Though he fluctuated between religious fundamentalism and more liberal practice, Pasha eventually discovered his spiritual balance while studying Sufi—mystical Islamic texts similar to those of Kaballah—as a comparative religion major at Dartmouth University.

After graduating, Pasha went on to law school at Cornell, which he described as “intellectually stimulating,” and then business school at Dartmouth, which he found to be bordering upon “soul-killing.”

While in business school, Pasha found himself in “deep emotional despair” and began to write screenplays “to pass the time.”

He soon finished a draft of a “teen horror flick” which he sent out to a total of six agents.

Quickly, he received five rejection postcards. However, several months later, Pasha received a letter from an agent excited to represent him.

Two screenplays later, Pasha quit his job as a lawyer in a successful firm to “devote his life to art.”

Initially, he was scared that his traditional parents wouldn’t approve of his change in career, but when he finally broke it to them, his mother’s reaction was a surprise. She told him, “I always knew that you were going to do this. I’m glad that you figured it out.”

In addition to his career, Pasha also spoke about his ideology, claiming that “fundamentalism is an idol” and that “faith escapes all bounds.”

After the conclusion of the evening, Pasha gave out free copies of his two novels, “Mothers of the Believers” and “Shadow of the Swords.”