I never considered myself as a dotty patriot who would go on defending her country by turning a blind eye towards all the problems we face in Pakistan. I have criticized a number of societal and political problems and will continue to do so. While I am not proud of the problems we have at home, I still take pride in knowing that Pakistanis do enjoy a relative freedom of expression by sharing their thoughts at several platforms. This blog is one such example.
Having said that, my criticism does not make me any less of a Pakistani and there are millions of things that make me feel blessed to be born here. But until I travelled abroad, I did not realize how much it hurts when you hear a foreigner look upon your country with contempt. Many of the comments that sunk my heart were posed as jokes. My attempts to discourage such distasteful humor only made me appear as an overemotional or defensive person. I must acknowledge that some of them realized the sensitivity of matters and learned not to ridicule anyone based on the place they come from, but most of my friends got offended by my humble retaliation.
I faced a similar situation today and felt like writing this post just to vent out and help myself understand whether I am overreacting or are these comments actually offensive.
- While trying pakora for the first time on international festival:
Friend: “Bushra, if I eat this ‘pakora’ would it blow up in my mouth (like an explosive material)?” Followed by laughter!
Me: Silent — (blushed and embarrassed)
- While discussing Secret Santa on Christmas:
Me: “Can someone please explain how this works; we don’t have Secret Santa in Pakistan”
Friend: “Of course you don’t have this in Pakistan, because you are so busy training terrorists” (Again followed by laugh because it was supposed to be a joke)
- While comparing two different cultures:
Me: “Well, I think your culture is all about freedom. But it might be a bit too open for me. Women in my culture are expected to cover themselves, not necessarily by wearing hijab, but at least something that’s considered modest”
Friend: “Ah! Your culture is probably about beating women with bricks until they die. I read about this incident that happened in your city”
- While talking about cultures again:
Me: “Where I come from, we have the same…”
Friend: “Where you come from, you just have terrorists!!!”
I have faced situations where professors compare Muslim world and some third world countries using Pakistan as an example. I am no stranger to such analysis and have taken active part in discussing the case in detail. Hence, I want to create some awareness by emphasizing on the importance of understanding the sensitivity of matters that can and cannot be turned into humor.