It’s my first week in Denver where I’ll be attending graduate school the next two years and I’m soaking in how kind this city is. It is the most laid back, genuine U.S. City I’ve experienced. The sincerity with which people prod “No, where are you really from?” when I initially respond “California”, is priceless. I feel like a novelty here. At an Eid Celebration last night, even a local of Pakistani descent pointed out “Wow, the guys are going to flip over you. There are no ethnic girls in Denver”.
“Ethnic”? I’ll take it; I realize I’m getting a pass for being a Californian female. Because in light of increasingly disheartening news from Pakistan, be it about floods, match fixing in cricket, and mostly terrorism plaguing the country since 9/11, Pakistani’s have captured the American state of mind in a less than appealing way. Once indecipherable on a world map for most Americans, Pakistan emerged as our stalwart ally in victory after 40+ years of Cold War. Yet as we turn to Islamabad again to fight a War on Terror, we possess a deep skepticism of Pakistani intentions.
Pakistan is rampantly associated with concepts of Terrorism, Extremism, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Corruption and disaster as D.C. and Islamabad are ever more understood as reluctant partners. Plus post thwarting the Faisal Shahzad situation , expert indications that homegrown terrorism poses the biggest threat to the United States, stabbing of a cab driver of Pakistani descentand Amnesty International’s recent report that hate crimes against Muslims is on an alarming rise, being Pakistani seems like an uphill battle in America. So on an individual level, Pakistani’s and Americans may be feeling the same skepticism that governments harbor for one another in bilateral relations. But this week the world was abuzz when Pakistani tennis player Asiam-ul-Haq Qureshi with irresistible sincerity exclaimed:
Since September 11, every time I come to the States or western countries I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to declare that we are very friendly, loving and caring people, and we want peace in this world as much as Americans and the rest of the world wants.
There are extremists in every religion, but just because of them you cannot judge the whole country as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to get this message across as a Pakistani
In plain terms Qureshi clarified that his country is a mostly moderate nation where people expect the same peace and security desired by all people. He reminded us of Pakistan’s humanity, directly countering the “transactional” ties that progressively complicate our understanding of Pakistan. Fareed Zakaria might agree. In a recent piece, he eloquently concurred:
Across the Muslim world, militant Islam’s appeal has plunged. In the half of the Muslim world that holds elections, parties that are in any way associated with Islamic jihad tend to fare miserably, even in Pakistan.
In his article “We’re Safer Than We Think” Zakaria points out that Muslims in Pakistan and beyond are if anything, less safe from terrorism than we are as they suffer the brunt of radical Islam’s consequences.
Over the last few years, imams and Muslim leaders across the world have been denouncing suicide bombings, terrorism, and Al Qaeda with regularity….The fatal problem with these kinds of attacks is that they kill ordinary civilians—not U.S. soldiers or diplomats—and turn the local population against Islamic radicals.
With more thorough detail, Zakaria’s is saying exactly what Qureshi did; Pakistan is not a country of terrorists. So next time I get asked where I am “really” from, I might just say “I’m from Asiam Qureshi’s country”.