Questions about Pakistan are now a fact of living here, no different from damp weather or calls from salespeople. Some I deflect, and others I frame around my own terms.
Many conversations about Pakistan would contain the expectation that perhaps I might have more to say on the failures of the country (these usually revolved around an excess of Islam and a general shortage of women’s rights) by virtue of being from there. But this would be coupled with the assumption that I could not be entirely objective about Pakistan given that I was, after all, from there. Unless I nodded and agreed like a good native informant on the failed state that was Pakistan, I was either out of touch with reality, or sentimental about the place for unknown reasons. The word “Pakistan,” itself would summon up a cluster of images with fire in them—assassinations, suicide bombs, and car burnings, and always the bearded men. But my map of everyday violence in San Francisco was populated by several actors of whom none had beards and none believed themselves to be violent, but whose attacks invaded almost every space I occupied.Part III
The trust that sustains the imaginary line around our classroom is difficult to build. Sometimes, we are angry with one another and confused about ourselves. The pain in the room is tangible when one person’s sense of threat clashes with another’s. I know there are times I’ve been irreverent towards things my students hold sacred, and I love them for the generosity with which they tolerate this. We talk about Pakistan, even when it gets difficult to reconcile one person’s Pakistan with another’s. And we talk about blasphemy, even when it means flooding the room with religious beliefs and their opposite and bracing ourselves for more hurt. We talk about how much we hate this place and we hurl our rage at each other and expect to be forgiven. Or, there are periods of calm in which we remember that we hate this place because we feel betrayed by it, and because somewhere underneath anger, there’s love.by Dr. Taymiya R. Zaman, from Critical Muslim 04
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