Aki Nawaz (born Haq Nawaz Qureshi) also known as Aki-Stani, Righteous Preacher and Propa-Gandhi, is a British-Pakistani producer and musician. He is the front man of Fun-da-mental, a group that fuses left-wing politics, Sufi Islam, anti-racism and hip hop. His works can bepurchased here.
PTH : Thank you for taking time out for the interview. Painful Peace is a timely reminder of a nearly forgotten conflict.
PTH: Where are you based at the moment Bradistan (Bradford), London-istan (UK), Pakistan (proper) or Bosnia?
AN: I should really get a frequent flyer card, I am wherever I need to be for work and this has been the case for many years.
AN: It was something instinctive that I needed to do and managed to fit it in when the time allowed also it was important knowing that some of the ground realities in flood are far worse than sometimes portrayed in European media.
PTH: Gaza in 2008 and Bosnia in 2010, are you a documentary filmmaker now? What about your work as producer, DJ and music festival appearances?
AN: my work involves my passion of music and film and also my interest in injustice so it is all of me. All the areas above I work in and keep free providing I do not compromise.
Bosnia- A Painful Peace Part 1- uncensored version
“The Muslims in The Balkans suffered barbarity at the hands of Serbs and Croats.
This film was made in 2010 and goes from the past to the present and future, interviewing rape victims, mothers who still do not know where their loved ones are, the injustice of criminal system, even male rape victims.
Very disturbing images and the dialogue is very powerful.
It is essentially a film about those whose identity was Muslim and how they feel almost two decades on.
Many other issues are brought to the front.”
Involves Aki Nawaz.
Bosnia -A Painful Peace Pt 2-uncensored version
“This part deals with The Jihadists arriving from abroad, The fightback against all the odds,why Europe still does not accept Bosnia-the arrests of the Jihadists -the local people that fought back and the circumstances-How the West still does not deal with injustice-the rise of other versions of Islam.
Please note that many non-muslims also fought for the defense of B&H but those stories have been told many times-respect to those people -but I wanted to look into the Muslims who bore the tragedy of this conflict more than all the others.”
Involves Aki Nawaz.
PTH: How do the people of Mostar, former enemies, live as part of a Bosnian (Muslim)-Croat (Catholic) Federation?
AN:Once again the division is there and the Croats need to acknowledge their role in the conflict. The historical Mostar Bridge essentially keeps people apart instead of uniting them. The problem is self-interest and mafia like politics, one side seems to be getting all the investments and support and the Muslims’ attempts at a holistic approach are not gathering any momentum.
PTH: Is Bosnia looking East or West for economic partnerships? How are the restrictions hurting common people’s lives?
AN: Unfortunately it is looking West, but I personally believe they will loose in the long term because the aspirations of the Bosnians are far higher than what the West is willing to give or engage constructively. As a joke people in Bosnia say they will give a “Bosnian passport” as a gift to their enemy because it is not worth anything, they feel the Croats and Serbs are been given all the incentives whilst they are been left behind and ignored.
PTH: In the film we saw Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif visit Bosnia. A lot of Bosnian families came to Pakistan during the War. What is the level of relations between governments and people-to-people contacts?
AN: Wherever I go in Bosnia and say that I am from Pakistan, people are extremely respectful and really happy. They appreciate the fact that Pakistan helped them and there are volunteers who have settled in Bosnia and have families, whom I have met.
PTH: How do people of Bosnia see the Visa Free EU travel, would that improve their economic situation?
AN: They have been some changes recently which were long over due, but it remains to be seen what advantages they will get from this travel document? if it is just for tourism then only people with money will be able to travel. They want to work and re-invest into their country not go on holidays to spend money (which they do not have).
PTH: Human Rights Declaration, International War Crimes Tribunal, European Court of Human Rights and EU membership, can these ensure future stability of Bosnia?
AN: In my view all the above have let the Bosnians down in many ways and continue to do so.The general view is that they are trying to close the book of the atrocities without serving justice for the Bosniaks. It seems that aggression is rewarded without any penalties. Raped women are in turmoil awaiting justice and rapists are still walking free.
PTH: Would the people of Republika Srpska (RS) sacrifice their ‘racial pride’ to be part of Bosnia and get a chance to be part of European Union.
AN: The Serbs in RS are confident that they will get into Europe without sacrificing anything and this is the great injustice of the issue. They would be happy to attach themselves to Serbia and there is a unspoken support for that, making them stronger in whatever path they choose, Russia or Europe.
PTH: How will the Bosnians, Croats and Serbs of 2020 feel about their country and their own cultural & religious identities?
Until the truth emerges all parties will live out their own truths and that is what is happening as the division is there in all fields from education to economics etc. So far it seems that each leader is playing on support from his own religious or cultural community.
PTH: “Please don’t preach us, how to pray and behave”, I have heard this expression before, and why do you think the Muslim leaders are worried about extremism within the Muslim communities?
AN: The complaint on this issue is simply do not “patronise us” and unfortunately some different schools of Islam take that approach by being aggressive in their tone or misunderstand the context for these people who have lived with different political systems for many years and have a very sophisticated approach to Islam and outsiders need to understand this.
Others need to understand that the Muslims in Bosnia know their own strengths and weaknesses. The expression of “extremism”, I think a mismanaged word as some people simply want to direct people back to some fundamental practises of Islam. Muslims are been sidelined and injustice is rampant and I think it is natural for people to want to align themselves with an ideology, which explains their position clearly and this comforts them and gives them strength.
PTH: Can the Muslim, Catholic and the Orthodox communities co-exist peacefully only in a multicultural secular ‘western’ society?
AN: Yes they can because they have done so before and can providing there is a concerted effort from all parties to genuinely build bridges and get back to the root of the message of religion.
PTH: You made another documentary titled “The People are Strong”, do you think the title applies more aptly to the people of Bosnia?
AN: The title applies to many people all over the world irrespective of religion –wherever oppression exists. Contrary to perception ,the oppressed are always strong it’s the oppressor who is weak.
PTH: Would you classify yourself as a ‘Storyteller’ and Activist rather than a musician, do you only work on one project in one year like the Actor/Director Amir Khan ?
My uncompromising approach to music and filmmaking is my biggest asset. I am naïve in my approach but passionate about “going beyond” and refusing to play within the “traditional” rules, always looking for a ground that is refreshing.
PTH: What Message would you like to give to our readers?
Love all soon there maybe none