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Haggis, Poetry and Biryani: The Afghan Diaspora Celebrates Burns Night

From left: HE Ambassador Jawad, CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council Sabir Zazai, and Chair of Glasgow Afghan United Abdul Bostani.  Photograph: Colin Mearns

 To celebrate Afghan and Scottish literary traditions and to aid cross-cultural understanding, members of Scotland’s Afghan community invited local Scots and local Afghans for a “Burns Supper” featuring the ancient poems of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi and Robert Burns. The guests, including Rt. Hon. Bob Doris, Councillor Jennifer Laydon and Scottish Refugee Council CEO Sabir Zazai, enjoyed both traditional haggis and Afghan biryani to the tunes of Ustad Mangal Painda and the Maryhill Integration Network.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Jawad congratulated Glasgow Afghan United and NG Home for hosting such an important and joyous celebration of the work of Burns and Rumi, the bonds of friendship between Afghanistan and Scotland, and their shared cultural heritage. “Rumi, the most prominent poet of Afghanistan, and Burns, the national poet of Scotland, lived in different geographies and in different times of history. They were 5 centuries apart and 5000 miles away. However, a closer look reveals close similarities between the two legends”, Ambassador Jawad said. “We celebrate Burns and Rumi as lovers of life, enlightenment, joy, liberty, as well as champions of beauty and humanity”.

Ambassador Jawad highlighted the universal appeal of both poets. “Burns’ style is marked by directness and sincerity. His themes included Scottish patriotism, class inequalities, poverty and sexuality. The fundamental theme of Rumi’s thought is the concept of tawhid, unity and union. The unity of the universe, the union of love, lover and beloved, and the longing for unity after separation. Indeed, beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field, this is where we meet Rumi and Burns”, Ambassador Jawad explained. He also emphasised the importance of continuing to share and exchange Scottish and Afghan cultural heritage as it extends human relations: “I hope that some of my friends here get the time and opportunity to translate more of Burns work into Farsi and Pashto to further enhance the bond of friendship and mutual understanding between our people”.

The menu featured both haggis and Afghan biryani. Photograph: Colin Mearns

Piper Johnny Gauld piped in the haggis carried by Arman Bostani. Photograph: Colin Mearns

Piper Johnny Gauld addresses the haggis. Photograph: Colin Mearns

Guests received taster portions of vegetarian haggis at the Glasgow Afghan United Burns supper. Photograph: Colin Mearns

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