Insecure identities

I had a recent altercation with a son of a certain late politician I greatly admire. No, it was not a Shazeb-type engagement. On the contrary, I was working on a report for the gentleman’s NGO which was to be published next year. Long story short there was some miscommunication and work-style disputes which led to a brief heated discussion. This was fairly one sided given I was only offering disappointment in return for his aggression. I soon realized what the problem was and, have since, noticed it in many of his interactions spread across social media. The man genuinely has a distaste of Pakistanis. Wait, no. I need to rephrase that. He does not hate Pakistanis but he assumes the worst out of them just for being Pakistanis. He seems to genuinely believe that if he would work with a Pakistani, it would involve some sort of deceit; some malice. So, he seems to be overtly and jumpily aggressive in some very mundane situations which can easily be resolved through discussion. Maybe he assumes that the only modus operandi to dealing with Pakistanis (of all classes, education level and creed) is to stay vigilant, keeping a sharp eye out on how the other person is trying to steal something off him. Maybe, he believes that every Pakistani is out to somehow cause him harm.

He is not alone to do that. People who live abroad often believe in this. They compare the people there with the locals back home and then, automatically, assume the absolute worst out of the whole nation. I don’t want to solely point fingers here. The truth is that I too indulge in the unfortunate practice of sidelining Pakistanis and exaggerating their unfortunate habits. I think this stems out of an insecurity in oneself, an escape per se from a past one is running away from. Or, maybe, it is more of a societal thing where everyone in Pakistan is addicted to a class system and lives are dedicated to jumping from one class to another. In the case in question, the ability to look down upon uncultured populace has its own charm. Maybe, the Pakistani’s abroad cherish forming their own class of Europeanized desis.

Tis is a confusing place to be. Tis is a confusing person to be.

I have spoken about this confusion in much detail in many previous columns and I won’t repeat it here. However, the engagement I speak about has left me to contemplate how I too have basically been doing the same towards others of my own creed. What are life lessons if they don’t teach you things? Here is a life lesson to take forward: maybe us Pakistanis, living abroad, should stop assuming the worst about people of our own lands.

Talking about identity, there has been much commotion around the recent announcement by Trump that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Hamas has since called for the third intifada and if the last one offers any clue, this one too will be as violent. Anyone who has access to internet must feel obliged to understand the rather dense conundrum of the Middle East. No news article can do justice to the history and the context that has brought Trump to this announcement. Similarly, no article would be able to offer an answer to the Middle East crisis. This one won’t either. But, it will a fairly obvious prediction on the matter.

The Ummah has lost its vigor to fight the Palestinian cause due to the lackluster response by Saudia Arabia. The Kingdom has engaged in tumultuous proxy wars to exaggerate it’s influence and contribution in defining the Muslim Ummah. So long as it kept the Palestinian cause close to its heart, Muslims all over the world looked towards it to offer guidance. Since the power games of the young prince though, the persona is changing. Now Saudia wants to wash its hand away from the filth of the Jihadi groups and instead be seen as what Dubai looks like. The Prince seems to believe that this can be achieved by a press of a button. Of course, he is foolish to assume that. Back to Trump, given Saudi disinterest, any international response by the Muslim ummah is a work of fiction. Many will use it to instigate emotions and garner local votes but an OIC-type response is almost impossible. Which leads us to the question of the Ummah’s identity – the larger theme in this week’s rant. What about the Ummah? Does it disintegrate and disperse because Saudia has stopped fuelling the fire or, would a new Messiah emerge who’d try to take advantage of our general insecurity as a creed? The latter is very unlikely given no other country in the world has a Kaaba in it. Maybe, this is all for the better of our Ummah.


The writer is working as a health economist in a think-tank based in Islamabad.


The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

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