– – “Ladies n gentlemen, the captain has turned off the fasten seat belts sign, however for your own safety I suggest you keep them fastened, thank you “ the cabin crew onboard flight 591 enroute from San Antonio to New York announced as the hostess approached the passengers for drinks n the snacks. As she served liquor to almost every other person onboard, I tell her pre-emptively “I’d rather have a coke with rocks thank you “.
The man sitting next to me grins: “You must be a Muslim for not getting drunk n that too, on a weekend, let me guess you are from Emirates right?” He’s in his late forties, elegantly suited up and a deep voice with an accent certainly that of the North.
“Well it’s a yes and a no. I’d be a Muslim and from Pakistan”. I courteously reply back with a smile.
Almost choked on hearing this, I could clearly see a squirmy and a nervous look on his face as it went blank with a failed attempt to conceal his discomfort whilst his forehead shrunk n his eyes went wide. Lost on words, all he could say was “well, good for you then”, turns 45 degree to the other side, takes out a magazine and kind of makes it up to himself for talking to a Pakistani I guessed.
Flabbergasted by what just had happened and not known to have taken something like that ever the way it was meant, swallowing my instinctive feelings down with a sip of my drink; I decide to take a chance: “well you know what, there is a huge percentage of people back home who think Americans are nothing but just a bunch of selfish, arrogant, hypocrite and racist people.”
Not believing his ears maybe, he puts the magazine in the ‘back seat’ pouch, looks at me with an eye brow raised with a ‘repeat-it and-get-punched-in-the-face’ look, and clarifies: “excuse me ?.”
Seeing just the reaction that was needed, I continue : “Well yes, but you know what ?, I believe what I see, I build up my own point of view and since the day I came here, I got to observe people quite opposite to what masses believe and they mostly are caring, helping and peaceful.”
There was a rather long pause and looking at his thoughtful expressions I reckoned the dart hit the bull’s eye, and so it did. For the remaining two hours in flight, he continued to ask me questions and share the misconceptions regarding Pakistan and not surprising enough most of them mentioning the tribal belt on the Durand Line. The psychological jargons at least did some good and he left saying he would someday be happy to visit and for once not believe only what media had to project.
A year into this incident, and my firm belief that I changed at least one man’s opinions based totally on one sided manipulative pictures; I now am startled at my own very logics that I thought were good enough at that time. Two of the most influential institutions in our society for building the character of the masses in our part of the world are the teachers and the mullahs and yet, unfortunately; both of them are highly unqualified in general to speak. As much as I stand up for the authentic clerics, the incompetent and completely ignorant even of the basic Islamic beliefs, some of the mullahs in some of the remote areas let aside judging every other sect or group as non Muslim are reported to have even termed day light saving time as that of the Jews and that anyone following the said time will be one of them. For them, any wrong anywhere has always something to do with the villainous yet most talked about conspiracy theory or the illuminati.
The tribal belt also known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas commonly known as FATA, though having quite a less with the federally administered part, give or take; 3.3 million people living there only constitute 2% of the total population of Pakistan and considering the fact that more than 90% of the population of this belt is genuinely consisted of the tribes who believe in the centuries old taboos and have nothing to do with terrorism in any form whatsoever.
While some of my intellectual friends might consider the drones as ‘the only problem’ Pakistan faces at the moment that needs to be addressed because it has allegedly given birth and flourished the rancorous extremism; I still cite it as a ‘chicken or egg’ riddle. As much as the drones might have added fuel to the fire, they were or are never solely responsible for the ostensibly twaddle reaction on our streets by some mentally challenged freaks who think anyone who is not into breaking or burning public property and is not torching cinemas and fast food chains are somehow lesser of the Muslims than them. To me it is like someone abuses my mother and I kill my brother in rage. It is as if they simulate fake religious orgasms in a bid to cover up their hollow conscience. It is as if religion is a buffet to them and they pick and choose only what they like.
I stand here in the middle of the desert of opinions and judgements and ask all those who whine all day about this bunch of fanatics taking over our roads and streets, burning tyres, stoning at our very own poor taxi drivers and breaking everything in their way they possibly can. Weather it is for caricatures, burning of the holy scripts or a blasphemous online stuff, the question remains; are we willing to be dictated by those mere less than 1% of us ?. How many times have we actually talked to our own drivers, gardeners, milkmen, batmen or maids and have conveyed the other side of the picture ?. They never had a counter logic and the fact remains they never will have unless we stop complaining only and participate actively and bring back the lost respect to the green passport. Charity begins at home.
– – Together we can. . .Together we must. . !!