Angry Arab in Pakistan

The Angry Arab visits Pakistan and writes about lizards in his inimitable style. All his posts about Pakistan are worth reading.

The Angry Arab went to Pakistan a couple of months ago as a speaker at the International Islamic University. His blog posts about the visit were amusing and interesting. His experience of running scared from the lizards so common in Pakistan was especially funny.

Here is a list of his posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

Here are some of his concluding remarks about Pakistan:

Prior to my departure to Islamabad, my kind host called me from Pakistan and strongly urged me (for my own safety) to refrain from ever using the words “atheist” or “secular” or “communist.” Just to make sure I get the point, he always wrote to me making the same point. The political climate there was more liberalized than I expected: it is not that I met people who were critical of Musharraf. I did not meet any one who was NOT critical of Musharraf. But the liberalized political climate did not extend to the Islam question. I strongly felt that there was excessive obsession with Islam in a country that is overwhelmingly Islamic in religious affiliation. The term of reference was so Islamic in conversations and media that I was ready to embrace the secularism of the Turkish generals. It was always assumed that everybody was Islamic. After one talk, which coincided with the prayer time, my host quickly whisked me away because he did want the audience to notice that I don’t pray. I was quite bothered with the too many headlines and news items in Urdu newspapers about Salman Rushdie. Is this really the urgent matter of the day with the country suffering from extreme poverty and a military government? And in my Arabic talk at the Usul Ad-Din College, I made a side mocking remark against Ayman Adh-Dhawahiri, and I noticed in people’s faces that they were not pleased with that one remark, although they were quite pleased with my talk about the study of Islam. And I once was pissed. I am VERY bothered when somebody—anybody—tries to suggest that Palestine is an Islamic cause or question. One member of the audience in one talk said just that. I had to tell him: Islamic matter? You think that Palestinian Christians care less about Palestine than Palestine Muslims? I had to tell him that I knew Palestinian Christians who gave their lives for Palestine. George Habash cares less about Palestine that Mr. Muhammad Dahlan? That angers me when I hear it. I did not understand why a majority Muslim country can’t relax a bit about the Islam factor.

Mostly on the mark I would say, though of course the Angry Arab did not get to see the Westernized elite much, who are also making inroads into the middle classes.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

22 thoughts on “Angry Arab in Pakistan”

  1. Did you see the “open letter” from Farid Esack chastsing As’ad Abu Khalil for his “colonial” mindset wrt Pakistanis?

    Link

    I thought it was a wind-up of some kind. Turns out I was wrong.

  2. I went back and re-read all 34 posts [thanks Zack] and all I can find is humor, travelers irritation and some great commentary. What Escak was complaining about, I don’t know.

  3. Sepoy: He’s definitely an interesting read, though his blog output is too high for me to read him regularly.

    Thabet: Amazing! An open letter full of clichés. Very odd.

    Desi Italiana: Welcome to the blog.

    I agree.

  4. “Palestine” may or may not be an “Islamic cause”. IMHO, however, the fact that most Arabs are Muslims does play an important role. I think if the demography was the exact opposite i.e. mostly Christian, minority Muslims – then the attitude and policies of the U.S. (and others) would have been radically different. Likewise the coverage by the media.

  5. First of all late wellcome to you,from my side,that you visited pakistan.secondly i’ll add that though every body has his own sence of fellings.. .though Cristians are minority in pakistan yet they got all the rights which a muslim individual got…I reviewd the posts you refered ..and it’s really bad to see some comments against religion !!

  6. First of all late wellcome to you,from my side,that you visited pakistan.secondly i’ll add that though every body has his own sence of fellings yet there are some individuals who just promote violance.. .although Cristians are minority in pakistan yet they got all the rights which a Muslim individual got…I reviewed the posts you refered ..and it’s really bad to see some comments against religions !!

  7. There are several factors that govern first visit of a foreigner who does not know the local people as well as language.

    His expectations
    His adoptability to change
    Knowledge of the country
    Organising and guiding ability of his contact in the country

    Pakistan is not all that bad. So far as Palestine case is concerned, I tend to agree with Faraz Hussain and Shaby

  8. Faraz:

    “Palestine” may or may not be an “Islamic cause”. IMHO, however, the fact that most Arabs are Muslims does play an important role. I think if the demography was the exact opposite i.e. mostly Christian, minority Muslims – then the attitude and policies of the U.S. (and others) would have been radically different. Likewise the coverage by the media.”

    Yeah, that’s why the US is always right along the side of the Saudi royality, and there’s hardly any unfavorable coverage of the Saudis in US media. And with Edward Said being a Christian Palestinian, that’s why there was always concerted attacks to discredit everything he said in the favor of the Palestinians. Furthermore, even though Latin America is predominantly Catholic, we’re always messing with them and painting them as a bunch of fanatic Communists in the US media.

    It really, really irritates me how political issues get framed within religion which then often produces tunnel vision, and I almost feel impelled to write the Angry Arab a long, passionate e-mail, pleading him to frame these issues- such as Palestine, the war in Iraq, and so on- as patently anti-colonial and anti-imperial issues which go across religious lines and do some sort of outreach across borders. People who point to the war in Iraq and the US bombings of Pakistan as proof of “anti Islamic” sentiment on part of the US government obviously do not know anything about the history of US foreign policy, like what they’ve done in Latin America, the Philippines, Hawaii, Diego Garcia, the “US territories,” and “American Samoa.” Are these countries majority Muslim? No. This myopia is unfortunate because one, you don’t build a solidarity with people who are not Muslim but have the same critiques about US dealings in Palestine; two, you discount those who are not Muslim but would like to see more justice in those areas; and three, you overlook situations which are similar to the ones in Palestine (though Palestine is unique in that its occupation is the longest of the 20th and 21st century, and even though it’s blatantly being colonized- facilitated by a superpower- most people don’t see it that way) which would help understand and therefore more effectively resist US foreign policy which is pretty uniform, religion of the geographical place notwithstanding.

    Zack: Thank you for welcoming me. If I leave enough comments, you’ll eventually think, “I wish she never stumbled upon this blog.” 🙂 [I’m just being honest.]

  9. Italian Desi:

    Thank you for your response to my comment. I’ll reply to you in detail when I get enough time.

    I have been reading about US policy for 6 years now and have been following a lot of the US media for at least two years. Therefore, I am hesitant to withdraw or qualify my comment, which I think was was very carefully worded.

    I will be glad if you can point out which clause exactly you have an issue with.

    Best Regards.

  10. Faraz:

    “I will be glad if you can point out which clause exactly you have an issue with.”

    Um, I think the part I quoted and responded to…?

    If you can show me how the US’ foreign policies in the ‘Muslim world” (which seems to be the hot geo-political ideological configuration as of late) are fundamentally different from their actions in Western Europe (i.e. Italy and Greece, for example), Latin America (both Central and South), Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia, and the Caribbean islands where the overall majorities are NOT Muslim, then I’m all ears.

    Sincerely,

    Desi Italiana

  11. “have been following a lot of the US media for at least two years.”

    Yes, and there is an emphasis on Iraq and other countries in the “Muslim World” because, there’s like two full fledged wars that the US is waging for over 3 years now.

    I suggest you study the US media during the Cold War years and specifically the 80’s to see how Latin America was depicted.

    Oh, and the Japanese during world war II.

  12. Desi Italian:

    I follow the US media for hours every day. Do you?

    I feel that usually there is no one in the media who has anything positive to say about Muslims. And Islam has become a dirty word. What do you feel about the portrayal of Muslims? Do you think its fair and an accurate picture of the ground reality?

    My reading is that Muslims are being deliberately demonized like no other group. With Mexicans a close second.

    Most people in the US – whether civilians or Government officials or the media or anyone else – have nothing good to say about Muslims. They say Muslims are intolerant, inherently violent, fanatics and that Islam is the cause of this problem.

    Do you not think this is the impression that the media creates?

    If no, then we’re too far apart.

    If yes, then do you think this is a fair description of Muslims?

  13. In fact, I will go to the extent of saying that the vast majority of Americans today are completely indifferent to the loss of Muslim lives. Muslim life is cheap and dispensable. Even if a million Muslims die as a result of US policy (and we all know we’re well past that mark), most Americans will go on with their lives without batting an eyelid.

    And I say this despite Bosnia and the US role in maintaining peace in Southern Asia.

    I don’t hold a grudge against them for this.

    However, as a consequence of this, two things bother me:

    1. When Americans seem to hate or at least are severely critical of Muslims are our religion, Islam so much then what is the justification of their heavy involvement in Muslim societies supposedly as a “force for good”?

    When so many Muslims have died because of American actions, and no American has been taken to task for it, then no one can say that they care so much about Muslims that they will go out of their way to “bring freedom” to us.

    2. Muslims are killed daily as a result of US policy. There are many places in the world today where Muslims are facing unjustified oppression, humiliation and injustice. In many places US bombs fell unjustifiable on innocent Muslims. In many places the US abetted and funded and armed those who butchered Muslims. And did not help Muslims when they were repressed by others.

    But they are too quick to point out whenever Muslims are at fault or seem to be at fault in their eyes.

    Take it from me, as of today, America’s media loves when anything happens that can be used to “show” and “prove” how “bad” Muslims are and how
    “evil” Islam is.

  14. “Yeah, that’s why the US is always right along the side of the Saudi royality, and there’s hardly any unfavorable coverage of the Saudis in US media.”

    That is not true. Saudi Arabia is always used as a bait to criticize Islam. They use Saudi Arabia and its policies to “show” how “backward, intolerant, repressive” Muslims really are.

    What is indeed lacking from the media is “political” criticism of the Kingdom. And why will they do that when Saudis have been sucking up to them for the last 60 years and will even sell their mothers if that would please their American Masters.

    “And with Edward Said being a Christian Palestinian, that’s why there was always concerted attacks to discredit everything he said in the favor of the Palestinians. Furthermore, even though Latin America is predominantly Catholic, we’re always messing with them and painting them as a bunch of fanatic Communists in the US media. “

    Don’t know much about Said (rip).

    But I agree about Latin America. However, note that their religion, language and culture and people are not being demonized the way Islam and Muslims are.

  15. “It really, really irritates me how political issues get framed within religion which then often produces tunnel vision, and I almost feel impelled to write the Angry Arab a long, passionate e-mail, pleading him to frame these issues- such as Palestine, the war in Iraq, and so on- as patently anti-colonial and anti-imperial issues which go across religious lines and do some sort of outreach across borders. People who point to the war in Iraq and the US bombings of Pakistan as proof of “anti Islamic” sentiment on part of the US government obviously do not know anything about the history of US foreign policy, like what they’ve done in Latin America, the Philippines, Hawaii, Diego Garcia, the “US territories,” and “American Samoa.” Are these countries majority Muslim? No. This myopia is unfortunate because one, you don’t build a solidarity with people who are not Muslim but have the same critiques about US dealings in Palestine; two, you discount those who are not Muslim but would like to see more justice in those areas; and three, you overlook situations which are similar to the ones in Palestine (though Palestine is unique in that its occupation is the longest of the 20th and 21st century, and even though it’s blatantly being colonized- facilitated by a superpower- most people don’t see it that way) which would help understand and therefore more effectively resist US foreign policy which is pretty uniform, religion of the geographical place notwithstanding.”

    I’m not going to comment on this, though I regret your insinuations about me.

    I gain nothing by arguing with you. What’s bothering me is the grave situation of Muslims in my country, and indeed in the whole world. Millions have already died due to bad actions of Muslim countries/leaders and also because of external aggression.

    If I could do something that would punish the perpetrators of these horrible crimes, I would leave everything and work toward that goal. I swear to God I would.

    Desi Italian: If you are Muslim, I will make one comment. If not, please ignore the following.

    I know America (or West in general) is a great civilization. In every sphere they have long been a much superior people than most (if not all) Muslim societies. Muslims are not even deserving of being their slaves. This is unlikely to change in our lifetimes or even in a 100 years from now.

    However, I would caution against any Muslim putting his/her trust in them. Maintain friendly relations, that’s fine. But don’t blindly trust them. And don’t think they are our saviors or protectors or that they are always our well-wishers. Instead, I would hope Muslims would learn from them. But we should put our trust in God. And die in the state of Islam. And defend Islam from the constant attacks it faces in many nations.

  16. “If you can show me how the US’ foreign policies in the ‘Muslim world” (which seems to be the hot geo-political ideological configuration as of late) are fundamentally different from their actions in Western Europe (i.e. Italy and Greece, for example), Latin America (both Central and South), Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia, and the Caribbean islands where the overall majorities are NOT Muslim, then I’m all ears.”

    I can show you nothing.

    But this is what I feel – what the US has done to Arabic speaking Muslim tribes in what is today Israel/Palestine, they can’t do to Christians in Canada.

    What the US has done to Muslim majority Iraq, it can’t do to Christian England or Catholic France and Lutheran Scandanavia.

    They way they’ve used Arabs (Saudis, Persian Gulf sheikhdoms) against Muslim Iran, they can’t use Germany against France.

    They way they bombed Somalia (a few months back), they won’t bomb Ireland.

    They way they look away when Muslim are butchered or their women violated in, say Russia or India, they won’t if the women are English or Jewish.

    And, God forbid, if in Egypt or Iran or Saudi Arabia there is a riot in which, say a 1000 or non Muslims are killed, they will be quick to point it out and not hesitate to even bomb the hell out of that country.

    Of course, they will support or fund or arm any Muslim country if it furthers American interests.

    And you say religion has nothing to do with it.

  17. Faraz:

    “I follow the US media for hours every day. Do you?”

    Yes, in fact, I live it. I am American, I live in America, and without giving too much info about me, I practically live the US media as well.

    “I can show you nothing.”

    If you cannot open your eyes to what is happening in the rest of the world, why do you write around 6 comments going on and on about how Muslims are specifically targeted when I pointed out to the similarities in US foreign policy in practically every corner of the globe in you in my first comment?

    “Don’t know much about Said (rip).”

    How in the world can you not know about Edward Said and then go on and on about Palestine? So you know nothing about Edward Said, yet you have passionate views about Palestine. A question: how much do you really know about Palestine? Or is it some cause you attached yourself to because it’s a “Muslim” cause?

    Do you like the idea of special victimhood? That you and “your people” are singularly being persecuted? Does it make you feel special? I think you do, with all of your baqwaas about “dying in the state of Islam.” You would quickly lose this naatak if you were to meet a Haitian- ask him/her about what the US has done there, and then try to tell them that Muslims have suffered the most under American hands. Do you know that the US is still occupying Haiti? A little tidbit for you to think over.

    To make myself clear, I’m not at all diminishing, discounting, undermining, or dismissing the atrocities, unjust wars, imperialism, and wanton disregard for like that is taking place in Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan at the moment. That’s very real, and it is also absolutely true that Amerians in GENERAL (not all, and I know this because I know several Americans who are activists, hard core radicals who are the harshest critics of the US, but unfortunately few in number) think that their lives are more valuable than others. You’re talking to me who’s a minority in this country. But when you try to say that there’s something unique about the way the US government, media, and popular culture handle the current hot spots in the world as some holy war against Muslims, then I stand by my previous comment: you are quite uninformed about the depth, reach, and historical span of the US’ foreign policy (and domestic, as well.)

    You’re also pulling up examples of western European countries as a way to argue that it’s Muslim countries that have the special privilege of being uniquely singled out by the US. You do realize that every country you noted is an ally of the US which share similar geo-politic interests? And there are also “Muslim” countries which share this special position with the US. A pop quick question since you seem to follow the US media for hours (I’m not sure from where, whether you’re not in America but getting certain stations from the satellite): which country gets the most amount of US foreign aid besides Israel?

    “Desi Italian: If you are Muslim, I will make one comment.”

    This is the most inappropriate and irrevelant issue. What does whether I am Muslim or not have to do anything with it?

    “I would caution against any Muslim putting his/her trust in them. Maintain friendly relations, that’s fine. But don’t blindly trust them. And don’t think they are our saviors or protectors or that they are always our well-wishers. Instead, I would hope Muslims would learn from them. But we should put our trust in God. And die in the state of Islam. And defend Islam from the constant attacks it faces in many nations.”

    Baqwaas. All of this comment was complete, total, baqwaas.

    You see, this is stupid, and I’ll tell you why. It’s stupid because there are plenty of people who are apalled at the US’ actions not only with regards to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine, but similar American actions across the world. And yet you turn this into some idiotic “As a Muslim, don’t trust this person or that.” If everyone were to think like you- ie stick to their own, think about their own interests and people- then how the hell do you expect any change against the very policies you are critiquing? Try saying what you have to an American who is extremely informed about what is going on and vigorously critiques US foreign policy that they shouldn’t be “trusted.” Once any sort of solidarity with likeminded Americans is cut because “you can’t trust them,” and therefore not build a larger, more global resistance, then you can bitch about how Americans keep voting ignorant fools.

    Myopia goes a long way, doesn’t it?

    “And you say religion has nothing to do with it.”

    I never said that. What I said is that- and I repeat myself, but I’m finding that it’s useless since you don’t have anything to say about the victims who have felt the US’ ire the most, namely Latin America- the US’ policies regarding nations that they are trying to imperialize or gain an upper hand geo-strategically are pretty uniform. This is not to say that there are certain ideologies that are used to demonize peoples. There have been patterns that have made Islam synonymous with terrorism. But the principle is not fundamentally different when the Chinese were depicted as the “Yellow Peril” deregatory popular cultural symbols against the Japanese, and so forth.

    But according to you, religion has everything to do with it, and I’m really irritated that you wrote something lame like, “If you are a Muslim, I will say one thing” and your jihad mantra of conveniently selecting countries that are Muslim to prove your baseless and uninformed point, and therefore I really don’t want to waste any more of my time responding to you.

  18. One last thing, though:

    “What’s bothering me is the grave situation of Muslims in my country, and indeed in the whole world.”

    Out of curiosity, which country do you reside in?

    If it’s not an Arab country, have you been to one?

  19. “and therefore I really don’t want to waste any more of my time responding to you.”

    So should I reply to your comment ? I thought I’d ask since I’m just wasting your time.

    I think you’ve used unnecessarily harsh language with me. If I weren’t already brooding over the state of Muslims, I’d be deeply offended 🙂

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