Sunday, August 23, 2009

Produce Babies and Conquer the World!!!

I came across a presentation “Muslim Demographics” on YouTube. As per the statistics quoted in the presentation, in order for a culture to maintain itself for more than 25 years, the required fertility rate is 2.11 children per family. It is impossible to reverse the culture if the fertility rate is 1.3. European Union consisting of 31 countries has a fertility rate of 1.38 therefore it can be deduced that it is impossible for them to preserve their culture.

50% of all newborns are Muslims and in 15 years half the population will be Muslim. Moral of the story, produce babies and conquer the world. We in Pakistan should be jumping with joy as the fertility rate of our country as recorded in 2008 is 3.73 (CIA world facts book). If not the world, we can surely have much influence in South Asia; though I can’t be very sure if it will be positive influence.

Muslims are currently not very popular in most parts of the world and I don’t think the world will be too happy with these statistics. Either we can just sit back and complain about the world being bias against us, or really try and understand where we went wrong. We should rather reflect on our own deeds and direct our efforts in uplifting the image of this beautiful religion instead of strategizing to produce babies in abundance and ruling the world.

Most of us Muslims are not Muslims by choice, but the fact that the title passed on to us just as it did to our forefathers along with the rituals that follow. Most of us have not read our book of guidance “Quran” and don’t follow the basic pillars of Islam. Everything our religion teaches us about tolerance, honest dealing, and regard for others e.t.c. is all being practiced by people belonging to other religions in most developed countries.

If I only take into consideration The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we are a sad nation with no hope. Corruption is at its peak and rising poverty level is widening the gap between the rich and poor resulting in a frustrated society. So what, if a majority of the population is Muslims? Do we want to see more of such people dominating the world?

Muslim Demographics on YouTube:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

President Obama's efforts to bridge the gap between the West and the Muslim World should be seen as an opportunity!

Never in the past have I seen so much focus by any of the US presidents on strengthening relations with the Muslim World. Speech to the Muslim World in Cairo can very well mark a new beginning of peaceful relations between America and Muslim nations around the world.

I being a Pakistani could relate to the address by President Obama due to the current situation in Pakistan. The internal instability in Pakistan can break apart a nation which has the potential of being amongst the progressive countries of the world. I feel it is due to the pressure by the US that our government has risen up to the challenge of confronting and eradicating extremists from the country.
The strategy laid out by President Obama of helping Pakistan in war against extremism, closing down Guantanamo Bay, retrieving troops from Iraq and initiating peace talks between Israel and Palestine if implemented in the true spirit will surely help improve the image of US in the Muslim world.

If only all this could translate into action, we can all hope to have a positive image of US as an ally and not an enemy.

One example I can quote is that we are grateful to US for extending financial aid to Pakistan to help build schools and hospitals and uplift its infrastructure. We as Pakistanis do not have much faith in our government, time and again we have witnessed that all financial support extended by the world to help Pakistan come out of crisis has not been utilized. I would urge US to develop strict measures for the utilization of the aid being extended to us. So that we as Pakistanis can one day stand up and say that US is a friend and has helped us come out of tough times and this can only happen when we see results. Because as of now, we have no doubt in our hearts that US will not extend the financial aid that has been promised, but we are skeptical of this aid not being utilized for the progress of Pakistan and instead being held up by a few higher ups in the government.

Such efforts of bridging the gap between the west and the Muslim world will be a big step towards mending the ill sentiments currently prevailing; however the execution needs to be more carefully planned.

1. For example, there were a number of concerns about choosing Egypt as the setting for President Obama’s historic speech. President Obama is pro democracy, yet by choosing Cairo as the backdrop of his speech President Obama has in effect rewarded Egypt’s president for life, Hosni Mubarak, for his bloody, anti-democratic, and dictatorial rule.

Another reason for the concern is that the Muslim world puts more blame on Egypt for the Gaza tragedy than Israel for lack of support by a “so-called” Muslim nation by shutting down the Rafah crossing on the border between Gaza and Egypt and watching callously as Palestinians starved on their doorstep.

Egypt is seen as a strategic ally of the U.S., not to mention the second-largest recipient of American aid, which is why in my opinion the speech should have been carried out in a country with a populous Muslim nation that is moderate, progressive and successfully democratic.

2. It is often perceived by the Muslims that America works only for self interest disregarding the sufferings of other nations. For instance, in the speech President Obama got the listeners emotionally attached at the mention of the loss of innocent lives of Americans due to 9/11 and how devastating it was for America and that US cares for the lives of its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, where as the mention of Iraq however did not appear as heartfelt. It was casually handled by saying that Iraq is in a better position today that it was under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Muslims around the world have emotional sentiments attached to the sufferings their brother and sisters have gone through in Iraq and Afghanistan and expect US to show the same compassion for people of their nation.

Similarly sentiments of hatred amongst the masses in Pakistan for US are due to the drone attacks in the Northern areas where more innocent people have died than the actual enemy.

Therefore I strongly believe that moving forth and sorting out issues before they get out of proportion is the smart thing to do. The key is to evaluate the concern from both sides and reaching a solution that is in the interest of all parties involved.

Overall I think President Obama’s address to the Muslim world with a lot of emphasis on Pakistan should be seen as an opportunity by Pakistan and the Muslim world as a whole. Pakistan in collaboration with US can tap onto its abundant resources and walk on the path of success. But we will need to act quickly, as the world is moving at a very fast pace and if we want to catch up, we better get our act straight now. Besides, “What have we got to lose?” so its better we make the most of the opportunities at hand.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Second Class Citizen; are we not in our own homeland?

“You want to be treated like a Second Class Citizen.” This is one of the frequent comments I receive when I share the idea of migrating to another country with friends. Second class citizen, are we not already? I don’t think it’s a distant feeling; in fact I am reminded of it on a day to day basis.

We are discriminated against within our own country despite our status as citizens and legal residents of Pakistan. We all have limited legal or civil rights and implementation of law varies from class to class.

There is a not a single day I step out of the house and do not complaint about some form of injustice that happens with me or my family and friends. Every now and then the traffic is brought to a complete halt for the VVIPs to impart on their smooth uninterrupted journey to their destination, be it a visit to a family member or a cocktail party. News papers are full of stories whereby there were patients in ambulances that lost their lives because they were unable to reach the hospital in time due to traffic jams caused by VIP movements. Yesterday, during lunch hour, I rushed out of my office to pay a visit to my friend at a hospital. Just as I was about steer onto the road the hospital is located at, a traffic police stood right in front of my car ask me to take the longer route. I rolled down my window to inquire and was told that there was a VIP movement taking place. I abruptly uttered. “Who is the VIP, are you and I not VIPs? I felt an instant burst of anger and drove off by passing all barriers.

How many of us would actually go to the police to report an act of injustice that happens to us? Be it mobile theft or suffering as grave as rape? Once, a friend of mine was brutally beaten because she retaliated while being forced to sit in the car of two men who had been following her while she was returning home at 10pm after having dinner with friends. Her family reported the case to the police and what do they get to hear in return, “Why was your daughter driving alone so late at night?” These are instances that happen in the posh localities of Karachi with the so called upper middle class. Just imagine the level of injustice that prevails elsewhere amongst the not so influential lot.

We talk about being progressive and producing entrepreneurs. Anybody wanting to pursue their dream has to go through a chain of unethical acts which begins with getting through to influential people and includes bribery at each and every step. Once the dream business has been established, one has to bribe the local mobs on a continuous basis to be able to operate in that particular locality.

The privileges of fair treatment and basic protection are available to a mere few, the rest of us are Second Class Citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan who are subject to mistreatment and neglect at the hands of our superiors.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Please / Thank you / Sorry; is it too much to ask?

I have always had the passion to travel like most people. In the past three years, I had the chance to explore a few countries with contrasting cultures. The size of the country, the living condition of people and their lifestyle differed drastically. However one commonality I found amongst all these countries was that basic etiquettes and manners are shared by all. This basic sense is not just preserved with a few literate people or the elite class, but was exhibited by almost everyone I had an interaction with.

For a moment I would pause to think, this courtesy and these kind gestures are exactly what our religion emphasizes on, then how come I fail to observe anything close to this in my very own country Pakistan. During my visits to these beautiful countries, I observed that if you glance at someone and they look back, it’s but natural to smile and move on.

We often blame the hardships caused by society and the living conditions at large for the harsh behavior of our people. I would restrict my blog to the so called literate elites of the country whom I see living a very content life with all the luxuries life has to offer. I see no reason for frustration amongst this class. Then why can’t we expect this small segment to act human when it comes to basic manners.

Let’s begin with small instances that I encounter on a day to day basis.

- While driving cautiously on the roads of Karachi, observing the mirrors to ensure my car is at a safe distance from the bikes and rikshaws surrounding my car, I sight a man in office attire, wearing very cool sun shades, holding a laptop bag trying to dodge cars to cross the road as this is the only means of crossing a road due to the absence of pedestrian bridges. I start slowing down to stop to allow the man to cross. The moment I stop, I hear cars, bikes, buses all honking at once. While I take on the wrath of people around me for committing a grave mistake of stopping my car to allow the man to safely cross the road, I see the man very slowly walk from this footpath to the other without having to utter the simple words “Thank You”. Oh I’m sorry, am I asking for too much, oh then he could have simply waved his hand to show gratitude.

- Every time food is served at a wedding, I try and wait till the bulk of the aunties and uncles and the rowdy children have filled their plates and there is room enough for me to calmly pick out some food in my plate without ending up with oil stains on my my sleeves with the careless behavior of folks around me carrying mountains of biryani in their plate, rubbing the plate against each and everyone that comes in their way. When I thought it was safe for me to be out there trying my luck with the food, I picked up the spoon, searched for a white piece of chicken and rested it on my plate. As soon as I am to let go off the spoon, another aunty with her hands drenched in oil grabbed the spoon from my hand. Aaahh, not that I am going to run away with the spoon so wait for your turn, Please!

- Going to the tailor is a big hassle almost every woman living in Pakistan has to face. There are mistakes, alterations and God knows what not. I hate going to the tailor which is why I make two visits to my tailor in a span of twelve months. I can see raised eyebrows with the thought “What kind of a girl is this? She does not go to the tailor every third day to get the latest print of lawn stitched?” Anyways, I walk into my tailor’s shop with 6 months of stock in my hand. I see two fat aunties standing at the counter inquiring from the tailor why they can’t fit in that skimpy looking outfit. I very calmly make my way to the bench and wait for my turn. As I wait, a woman enters and walks right past me to the counter. Slides her Gucci sun glasses above her forehead, waits exactly 40 seconds while stamping her feet on the ground, suddenly interrupts “Master sahib these women I am sure will take a lot of time, can you please quickly give me my clothes?” Uh Hello, mam do you not see that those women are not done yet and also that I am in the queue?

- On my way out of the gym while I am almost half way out of the door, I see another woman entering at blazing speed. I pause; take a few steps back to allow her way before she completely bumps into me. The woman very confidently walks past me while I am holding the door open for her without saying Thank you or a mere courteous smile. Why do people act as if it’s their birth right to be treated a King or Queen?

- TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday) is a phrase we all utter every week. We plan to run our chores, prioritize lunches / dinners with friends and family. Sunday morning, after having breakfast with family, I comfortably rest on the couch in the living room in my pajamas, sipping coffee and reading paper. The door bell rings and I see an aunty walk right in. I, in my not so great attire greet her with a question mark on my face, “Are we expecting you? Did you call before barging in?” and rush back to my room. Even a man riding on a ghada gaarhi has a cell phone!

I think you all get the picture of what I am trying to explain here. All the instances mentioned above involve people who wear nice clothes, live in luxurious houses, drive comfortable cars, and indulge in the best cuisines, posses at least the basic if not high level education from the most prestigious schools. I often say that the general public at large is so frustrated with their living conditions that I do not expect a person who can barely afford one meal a day for his family, lives in a broken house and has no hope for a better tomorrow, to exhibit courteous behavior.

I fail to understand why such basic etiquettes are absolutely absent from the segment of people I mentioned above. What frustrations do they have in life that does not allow them to be humble and courteous?