The Story of Shalimar Radio
For the past 30 years, different Pakistani-American enthusiasts from Los Angeles area, had periodically been running a local radio station. The radio station had no name. It was run on purchased air time from KALI 900 AM, a Radio Station located at 747 E. Green Street, 4th Floor, Pasadena, CA 91101. In August of 2008 a group of progressive Pakistani activists, Khalid Imran and Arsal Awan purchased a time slot of 3 hours from the Radio Station. They named it Shalimar Radio Los Angeles. The first broadcast went on air on August 14th, 2008. The Live Broadcast was very well received by the Pakistani listeners in Los Angeles area. The Radio welcomed its listeners to call and talk on any topic of their choice. Pakistanis in the Los Angeles area delightfully discovered a great opportunity of “Freedom of Speech” as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. There were no blasphemy laws to bar them. They could speak whatever they wanted to, an opportunity denied to Pakistanis for centuries. Freedom of Speech became the signature tune of Shalimar Radioبات کریں اور کھل کے کریں “Baat Karein Aur Khul Ke Karein”—‘SPEAK YOUR MIND FEARLESSLY’, was indeed a novelty experience for Pakistanis. It brought a whiff of fresh air. Openly challenging matters pertaining to Islam, considered blasphemy, became the hallmark of Shalimar Radio and helped toopen Pakistani minds.
Blasphemy, under Pakistani Laws is punishable by death. Section § 298 of Pakistani Law which states:
“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine…”
In contrast, under US Law, Freedom of Speech, is enshrined in the American Bill of Rights. Freedom of Speech enabled Muslims to be able to talk openly about several matters considered taboo. Through this Freedom of Speech, Pakistanis liberated themselves from the shackles imposed upon them. Here was Shalimar Radio, an embodiment of Freedom of Speech, free from the shackles of mind control, after almost 900 years. Shalimar Radio’s Declaration--- ‘SPEAK UP YOUR MIND FEARLESSLY’ created new ripples in the stagnant waters of worldwide radio listeners from Pakistan and India. In November of 2008 Asarulislam Syed started his regular one hour talk show on QURAN and PAKISTAN. He challenged the centuries old wrongful beliefs of Muslims with the light of reason. His weekly talks became talk of the town. Listeners worldwide made CDs of his speeches for distribution and sharing. Thus Shalimar Radio became the pioneer in the grassroots movement of liberation of Muslim minds.