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The World View Of The Expat Pakistani

The World View Of The Expat Pakistani

Author: Khaled Ahmed
Publication: Friday Times (Pakistani Newspaper)
Date: November 16, 2001

One may at times feel that the general attitude of the expatriate Pakistani tends to be more extreme than Pakistan's domestic opinion. He may look at the American press as a massive Jewish conspiracy. He may believe that Ramzi Yusuf was blameless for the 1992 attack on the World Trade Center and that that attack was actually carried out by the Jews. (The author was nearly beaten up at an airport when an elderly New York gentleman grew angry at him for saying that Ramzi Yusuf had actually been responsible.) A British Pakistani recently wrote to the author and accused him of being a coward and a slave of the white man for not writing against the Western civilisation as an enemy of Islam.

Some of the web-sites run by the author's friends in the UK are shocking in their conspiratorial content. The abuse hurled by these websites at the Western enemy is hair-raising. The host-hating expatriate Pakistani despises Pakistan for not being anti-West enough, while you may perceive the real crisis in Pakistan in the fact that a collective suicide is being committed on the basis of impotent anger. The ARY TV channel, which broadcasts from London, recently showed white 'scholars' claiming that the World Trade Center attack was actually carried out by the Jews or by the right-wing extremist Americans themselves.

The common Muslim cause: There are three million Pakistanis living outside Pakistan whose thinking about Pakistan tends to be different from the desi Pakistani. This is nothing like the thinking of other expatriate communities. It contains elements of alienation which are unlike the alienation felt by others. It is definitely somewhat like the thinking of other Muslim expatriates because of the common Muslim cause. As a community living abroad, the Pakistanis are far less integrated into the host society than other expat communities. This is because of double alienation. The anger against the home country redoubled by anger against the hosts.

Difficulties of adjustment of Pakistanis abroad were intensified towards the end of the 20th century after the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim world. The middle classes came under pressure from an aggressive clergy when it posited that life should be moulded in light of the principles of Islam. Among these principles, the most important was the refusal to live under an order that violated the spirit of Islam. The concept was that of amr and nahi, the one that ex-prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif tried to incorporate in his 15th Amendment in order to rule without being hampered by the judiciary. In the United Kingdom, a British Pakistani, Kalim Siddiqi, had set up a Muslim parliament of his own in the 1970s in defiance of the Godless (secular) system the British had imposed on the population.

Alienated abroad: The normal alienation of the expatriate begins at the home that he decides to leave. Pakistanis leave home because they cannot cope with its corruption and the savagery of its political system. Many flee political persecution while a majority leave for economic reasons. While leaving Pakistan, they express no real alienation from the country they are leaving even though lack of opportunity and corruption could become the basis of it. Of course, if an embassy interviews them for the grant of residency on the basis of asylum, the Pakistani will claim political persecution, lack of freedom of expression and religious repression. The truth of the matter is that most agree with religious stringency and have no conscience about the persecution of Pakistan's minuscule religious minorities. It has been observed that after settling abroad, most of them will pursue sectarian politics and rely on religious leaders to indoctrinate them further in the ideology they are supposed to have left behind in Pakistan.

In an earlier article about British Pakistanis, I had recorded: 'Expatriate Muslims integrate less well with host societies than other expatriate communities. This started happening towards the end of the 20th century as Muslims all over the world sought their identity increasingly in religion. As a result, communities that had lived in peace in diaspora started feeling ill at ease and often found themselves in conflict with the host societies. Most expatriate Muslims don't only feel alienated from the their new home, they also have reason to feel alienated from their old home. The problem of adaptation and acceptance abroad is compounded by an intense realisation that back home too the ruling elites are either anti-Islamic or subservient to Western dominance. The preoccupation with politics back home prevents integration in the new home.

'Talking in Lahore on 2 April 2001 about the Pakistani expatriate community living in the United Kingdom, Professor Muhammad Anwar of the University of Warwick, revealed significant research findings. The Pakistanis living in the UK are 700,000, the third largest minority community. (There are a million Indians in the UK.) The majority of these British Pakistanis are Kashmiris, including those displaced by Mangla Dam in Azad Kashmir. They are concentrated in four regions: 30 percent in and around London, 22 percent (100,000) in Birmingham, 20 percent (65,000) in Bradford, 20,000 in Manchester and 15,000 in Glasgow. The figure of 700,000 has grown from 5000 in 1951. Today, because of high birth-rate, fully 47 percent of them are under the age of 16, as compared to 17 percent for whites. They have the highest unemployment rate, five times more than the British average; and crime rate is higher among them than in any other community. Fully 2 percent of the prisoners rotting in British jails are Pakistanis, the highest for any one community.'

Alienated in the United States: In the United States, the Pakistanis are not as thickly concentrated in localities as in the much smaller United Kingdom. But there could be concentrations of them in Housten and Chicago, and there could be a sprinkling of them in New York and Washington. The American way of life can be quite isolating because of the concept of equal-but-separate rights, allowing individuals and whole communities to live in their separate identity bubbles. In Washington, most lower ranking officers in the Pakistan embassy don't come back home upon transfer. Hence there is a large number of office staff who have 'stayed back', living in a collective bubble. They are aggressive textbook Pakistanis, steeped in the new fundamentalist Islam and anti-Indian rhetoric. The two issues that fire them most against the United States and India are Palestine and Kashmir. Blame for the issue of the Palestinian liberation from Israel is laid squarely at the door of the United States which is run by strong Jewish lobbies. Kashmir of course directs his ire at India but this too finally comes to roost with the United States because most Pakistanis have now come to see Washington becoming friendly to India.

More than in the United Kingdom, the Americans encourage the cult of self-criticism. It is fashionable to sit in the evening and criticise American policies around the world. There are Pakistani amateur academics who actually make money lecturing Pakistanis about the perfidy of the United States and its unjust hostility towards the Muslims of the world. The two sources for this kind of polarity arise from the academe of the United States itself: the almost millennial scholarship of Huntington in his book on the clash of civilisations; and the almost inexhaustible mine of anti-Americanism in the high-quality writings of Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. This literature affects Pakistanis more than it does Indians. It has virtually no effect on the expatriate communities of Russia and Eastern Europe. These communities are usually alienated from their homelands and look at the United States as a kind host which has given them shelter and economic opportunity. The American Arabs take longer to absorb this influence because of their lack of familiarity with the language, but some of this literature may be available to them in translation. In a way, the Arab alienation in the United States goes much deeper than a Pakistani's because of this linguistic gulf. The Arab simply cannot not communicate his anger like the Pakistani.

Islam as culture: The Pakistani state has no cultural image. It has no entertainment industry to speak of because of the rise of state fundamentalism. The Pakistani expatriate too seeks culture from religion. In 1991, the Pakistani mosque in Washington was closed down because of the rise of Shia-Sunni differences. Some of the neutral-looking clerics of Lahore actually deliver sectarian sermons for a thousand dollars in private meetings hosted by well-to-do Pakistanis. In 1997, a popular show arranged by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in Belgium was disrupted by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani who insisted on addressing the Belgian audience before the singing could begin. Most Belgians quietly walked out of the audience. In France, similarly dominated by Barelvis, Lahore's Allama Tahirul Qadiri sways the Pakistani mind and compels the community to shell out large amounts of money to him. On one occasion, he addressed a massive rally in Lahore on telephone from Cannes!

Where the Deobandis have neglected to go there the Barelvis are in the ascendant. But both Deobandis and Barelvis are scrappy and eager to give battle to the Christian civilisation. The UK has been ruined by the puritanism of the Deobandis. It has been found that even in predominantly Barelvi areas of Birmingham most of the mosques are being controlled by rabid Deobandis. The result is that the Muslim Congress of England tends to blindly follow the Deobandi-Wahabi lead when it comes to taking a collective decision. Shah Ahmad Noorani, the big leader of the Barelvis in Pakistan, shifted his venue to continental Europe after picking up a fight with the wahabi clerics of London. The UK is the stronghold of the hardline clergy which goes from Pakistan under a visa policy that the British embassies have yet to sort out. The British government is also to blame for nurturing semi-terrorist organisations like the Hizb al-Tahreer and al-Muhajirun which it exported to Pakistan last year. Both organisations have called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government and are spreading their tentacles rapidly because of the funds that are sent in from London.

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