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How it feels to be a Pakistani in North America

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There is a well-built view that Pakistani identity is troublesome in western countries. It is more serious for Pakistanis than Indians; Bollywood stigma is not more precarious than someone perceived to be representing an extreme view of life. It is true that after 9/11, we are looked down as religious and repellent to western culture and values. The regular barrage of negative reports about Pakistan in media has tarnished the image of those who come from that part of the world. It hurts to know that those who respected Pakistani community and considered our people as intelligent and hardworking found us possibly dangerous or least against their values and customs. The truth is that most Pakistanis living in western countries still live in the old world, dominated by their religious fervor. From seventies to nineties, we never observed veil on Pakistani women faces; now from scarf to veil wearing young Muslim women may be found on the streets of New York to London. A huge number of young Muslims have grown beards. Their parents who are mostly orthodox look at their children following their extreme outlook with pride.  The beard has become sign of piety and adherence to the core values of Islam. I remember the days when Munawar Hussain and other young  active members of JI student wing  were clean shaven- Now they have grown beards and preach extremism. The political Islam finds its identity in beard on man face and veil on women. I have seen in Karachi, women with full Burqa in fancy restaurant; they have no objection to have men around them having good food; it was amusing to see them opening the mouth carefully through the veil and enjoying their meal.

There is a valid point that why the media in the west equate Islam with terrorism. Sometimes the religious bigotry takes hold of a point view that should restricted to the concerns for terrorism alone. But the fact is that those who malign our religion use Islam as a springboard to vent their anger against western culture and values. These extremists believe that western thoughts and culture works against their agenda to take Islamic world to their narrow agenda of what they consider Islamlization of the Muslim world. The concept of jihad has been twisted and has been offered as the solution to all the problems of the Muslim world. They do not see the backwardness and illiteracy as the basic problems in the Islamic world. In their zeal, they attack anyone who does not agree with their school of thought; that includes other sects in Islam. They have bombed and killed Muslims who disagree with their interpretation of our religion; the shrines and open markets have become targets. The whole world reads about their incivility and cruelty.

Recently, in Pakistan, the blasphemy laws of the land have targeted a young Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, for hanging. She pleaded that she never said or used insulting words against the prophet; it was just a dispute between her and other Muslim women. The human rights organizations and even pope got involved in her pardoning. Now Zardari likes to pardon her. Zardari had to wait all this time till the world heard the plight of Aasai Bibi and asked for the forgiveness. It is only from Pakistan that the world hears about daily violence and demonstration of hate against other religious minorities. The federal minister of tourism, Maulana Attaur Rehman has resorted to his love for Taliban by sating: The Taliban represents the true ideology of Islam and America is the real terrorist state”. The Pakistani Talibans are blowing up innocent people and buildings in Pakistan. The Talibans have caused the Muslims and Pakistan and Afghanistan so much pain. We hear about burning the churches and killings of the religious minorities, including Shiites and Ahemdis by the Talibans. Our government was never enraged and took any action against such a flagrant behavior. Hardly anyone get arrested and punished for those heinous crimes. This goes beyond the pernicious laxity of our government and the establishment. They have been using these evil forces for their warmongering agenda; and they are to proud of their intriguing policies. Our education system offers Madrasahas for a huge number of poor people. They have mostly become breeding ground for extreme views of Islam- They are also recruiting facilities for future terrorists. There are educated people in our country who support the idea of having these Madrasahas.

Then we have young educated Pakistani, such as Faisal Shahzad, who was driven by his religious fervor to kill innocent people. What messages are they conveying to the western world? What benefits they find in acting so horrible? American people and the west cannot forget the slaughtering of a young journalist, Daniel Pearl. The French and Chinese engineers were killed in Pakistan. They see horrible pictures of violence in the country. With this drop back, what can we expect from the world? Being a Pakistani living in America, Canada and Europe, it is getting difficult day by day to explain why we have become a nation with so many problems.  They see so many intelligent and hard working people doing good things for their societies and the same people cannot change their own society. Some time they look at us with skepticism- Some time they doubt our intentions. The Muslim name alarms a danger at the airports. The security at American airports have caused inconvenience to American public; and they blame the extreme methods of searching ordinary people due to a threat from Muslim extremists determined to cause harm.  The extremists have been trying to figure out to disrupt the western way of life by transporting explosive hidden in the luggage or in person in the airlines. We do not know when it would to come to end. And there are those who in their religious bias attack Islam. They believe that Islam has caused this turbulence in the world. If you tell them that our religion is a peaceful religion, they say that the extremists quote Quran for jihad and killing of infidels. The misconception has been created by the zeal of few. The majority finds itself helpless. Some of us have lived good lives in the west. We know that we are peaceful and progressive people. What are more important than us are our next generation and the true image of our religion that has been stained by a minority of religious extremists. There are brilliant young Pakistanis men and women, including the older immigrants, who have to face the negative sentiments- They are out there to do good for themselves and the societies they live in. Our younger men and women are the ambassadors of our national identity. How can they be proud of their parent’s religion and country, knowing that to be a Pakistani and a Muslim creates doubts and suspicions? Something has to be changed and soon.

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