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 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.