Trump's America and the Pakistani dream

Updated Feb 16, 2017 02:50pm


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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Armed Services Ball on January 20, 2017 | Reuters REUTERS
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Armed Services Ball on January 20, 2017 | Reuters REUTERS

Before a Muslim registry, there has been an Ahmadi registry — every Ahmadi living in Pakistan has to declare that they are Ahmadis. Indeed, it is a bit more drastic than that: every Pakistani Muslim citizen has to declare that he or she is not an Ahmadi. Does that qualify as a Muslim registry?

It is not yet clear if Donald Trump’s Muslim registry will deprive the Muslims living in America of their constitutional rights, such as the right to freedom of speech and the right to practice their faith. The Ahmadi registry, however, clearly states that there are certain things the Ahmadis cannot even say.

They cannot have places of worship that look like Muslim places of worship, with minarets and domes — even though Muslim places of worship did not always have minarets and domes; they still do not in many parts of the world.

If all this is correct, we do not have the right to question or criticise a Muslim registry being planned in America. Trump is only following where we have already led.

If the Ahmadi registry being a precursor to a Muslim one is not enough proof of that, look at how we have been trying to shut out refugees from Afghanistan over the last many years: repatriating those who have spent all their lives here, married here (sometimes with Pakistanis), did business and held jobs here. Many of them have families both in Pakistan and Afghanistan; others find our healthcare and education systems better than those in their homeland and want to stay here to have (relatively) better lives.

Refugees in the United States – and those aspiring to go there – also want these very things. And that is why the Americans want to keep them out, by making the same arguments we make. That letting them in and allowing them stay costs a lot of resources we cannot have for ourselves.

Or consider ‘fake news’. We have been at it for decades. Just recently, our official news agency released a report about a BBC probe being conducted over a news item that contained information on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children’s properties in London. The release turned out to be fake. Did we even ask who released it? Did we hold anyone responsible for concocting its contents and releasing them to the press?

In an ironic twist, rather than us becoming like Americans (as is the dream of almost every upper middle class and upper class Pakistani), it is the Americans who are becoming and looking a lot like us: prejudiced, xenophobic, vulnerable.

And as the American dream turns sour, it appears more and more like our national and official ideology. An ideology that declares Pakistan to be a fortress of religion, created to keep the religion pure and preserved; to keep enemies away; to ensure that its denizens are not corrupted by foreign influence. When Trump orders a wall to keep the Mexicans away, he is also building a fortress America: to keep the country pure and preserved from the depredations of the marauders from the South. When he signs executive orders to ban visas for the residents of certain countries, another invisible part of his fortress is cemented. When he calls Australia’s prime minister, reprimanding him for sending ‘bombers’ to America, another portion rises on the horizon.

From their own horrid experience, Pakistanis know what life in a fortress is like: stultifying, inert and, most importantly, lacking in harmony, peace and camaraderie. That is why every one of us wants to leave the fortress at the first opportunity. And that is why we have such a thing as an exit control list — so that we can keep our own people in, so that they cannot run away. Now that Trump’s ‘project fortress’ is well under way and now that the Americans have embarked on the same route to the that we have been treading on for a long time, they might as well have their own exit control list soon.

A look beyond Trump’s America does not inspire any confidence. Either the whole world seems to be in the grip of a frenzy, where the old order has fallen apart, or a new one is emerging with ominous signs: of mutual suspicion, even hatred; of insularity, even mutual repulsion. Many countries are now going through what we have been experiencing for decades: religious wars, intolerance of others, anxieties about our own existence.

Should we feel more comfortable in this strange new world because we are already so tuned to its ugliest aspects? Or should we keep yearning for a braver, more beautiful and more harmonious world — both here and elsewhere? The choice has not been starker in decades.

This article was originally published in the Herald's February 2017 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.

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Comments (16) Closed

Advocate SURINDER S. Gill Feb 16, 2017 03:19am

A good mirror to fanatics every where in the world. No one can have two rules.

FS Feb 16, 2017 06:16am

Brilliant commentary! Exactly my feelings about the hypocrisy of Pakistanis. This article should stay on the top of Dawn's website for the coming months; please give people the chance of looking themselves in the mirror and reflecting.

On top of all that has been written, most love to sit in their drawing rooms in the US and complain about the US society and its system (which they feel is stacked against them completely). I hope this situation actually helps bring some sense of grounding and realization - but I also doubt that as we are made of some special stuff!

Jawaid Kamal Feb 16, 2017 08:24am

Lovely,you just nailed it.

Jayanta Chakrabarti Feb 16, 2017 08:35am

Fantastically articulated could not agree any more. A new order is surely emerging and that would be a disruptive one for sure.

RPSA Feb 16, 2017 08:38am

Yes, it has been successfully practiced not only by Pakistan but many other Muslims nations. IT is called Munafiquat!! You want whole word to cry for Kashmir but don't care for Kashmiri Pandits. You want freedom of speech so you can spread ideology which kills freedom of speech!! And all muslim scholors remain silent. This is how a disease spread in the body. The question is who should survive body or disease. Obviously body and hence I support ban on Muslims:))

Prabhakar Rao Doddavarapu Feb 16, 2017 09:22am

Wonderful article.Dawn surprises me every day. Dawn is a jewel amongst all the news papers in the world. Thank you Dawn. We are great full to you.

Mohit sharma Feb 16, 2017 10:55am

Thank you Dawn for publishing such an honest view. When I watch Pakistani news channels or read news papers, I see many Pakistanis accusing India of intolerance and Hindu theocracy. I think it is just ironic until Pakistan becomes a secular at least t in the Constitution. The writer has very eloquently brought out this point.

Satyameva Jayate Feb 16, 2017 12:46pm

Food for Thought, indeed.

Ghosh Feb 16, 2017 01:17pm

Great, Paracha, great !

Sanjay Feb 16, 2017 02:15pm

Beautifully written!

Fried Chillies Feb 16, 2017 07:03pm

My sentiments. Its not that Pakistan is alone in this situation we in India too have done it on a different scale when it comes to Nepalese, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans or the Burmese.

A lot of retrospection must go on even as we stand up for what is right no matter in which corner of the world we live.

Rp Feb 16, 2017 10:08pm

Beautiful article - the author provided a great tool for introspection!

Deepseeker Feb 17, 2017 07:32am

Wonderfully lucid and correct in its analysis; a gem of a piece ! Respects.

BBW Feb 18, 2017 08:43am

Changing material realities are driving changing political realities and changing mass sentiment. The changing material reality is a declining standard of living in the West. This decline is leading to anti-immigrant sentiment and a clearer definition on who is "us" and who isn't. Without a declining standard of living, Trump would never have won the election -- he wouldn't even have won the primary.

My name Feb 20, 2017 01:39pm

Hats off to you. Very well written.

nnn Feb 20, 2017 08:05pm

excellent article