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  • A salesman hangs religious pictures for sale ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Kolkata, India, June 6, 2016.Reuters file
  • A vendor prepares his display of dates ahead of Ramadan in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 31, 2016.Reuters
  • A girl gets her hands decorated with traditional henna patterns at a roadside stall ahead of Eid-al Fitr to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Karachi, Pakistan, July 17, 2015.Reuters file

Pakistani journalist and filmmaker Beena Sarwar made a comment bang on the eve of Ramzan: is it Ramzan or Ramadan in South Asia? It's a topic that has triggered a passionate debate on the eve of the month of fasting, again. 

Twitter is abuzz with comments on how it started and what it means for South Asia that follows practices different from those prevailing in the Arabic world. 

It's a debate that triggers various comments from South Asian Muslims, especially those living in Pakistan and India, with some believing that the trend started with Pakistanis returning from the Gulf and the then Pakistani president General Zia-ul-Haq's "misadventures."

But first, comments by Sarwar on Sunday that started the debate on Twitter.

A Pakistani citizen responded by saying the changed usage was all about "Arabanisation" of his country.

Indian journalist and former Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui said that English newspapers have also played a part in the changed lingo.

Pakistani columnist Huma Yusuf is of the belief that General Haq pushed it consciously during the 1980s with an agenda in mind. "...the real push for introducing Arabic to the Pakistani mainstream occurred under Gen Ziaul Haq," she wrote in her column for the Dawn last year.

"He apparently perceived Arabic and Urdu as the languages that could unite a Muslim nation that stubbornly remained fragmented as a result of its indigenous, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Consequently, state-owned outlets broadcast the news in Arabic. The public airwaves were also used to disseminate Arabic-language and religious instruction," she added.

The debate may seem trivial for some, but, according to her, it has enormous significance for future generations.

"This is why the social media campaign to preserve the Urdu/Persian pronunciation of Ramazan is not as frivolous as it may first seem. How we choose to inflect a letter today could have implications for what it means to be Pakistani several decades from now," she concluded.

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