Pakistani Intolerance in Houston

Ever since I came to Houston in 1997, I had for the first time come in contact with the Pakistani media. Some of it is interesting, but a lot of it was extremely shameful! Before that – in India – I had only heard praise of the Pakistani dramas etc. On Houston radio, I have heard Pakistani channels fight, slur, abuse (cannot be listened with family at times) each other as well as, of course the Indians (particularly Hindus) and the Americans without remorse or restraint! Specially in the pre 9-11 time, the radio was often intolerably intolerant.

I used to go to some Pakistani restaurants in Hilcroft area when I was single, but then once there were shootings between two gangs and I have made a conscious choice of avoiding that entire area South of Hwy 59.

There are always fights and arguments during the Eid time.. because there are always two different celebrations of Eid.. and there are two parties fighting to construct their version of Pakistan House.. which is still a mess… the list goes on.

But here is an incident that I stumbled across in Houston Chronicle – where a large part of the community shows a behavior that should have been left behind in the home country…..

A Pakistani newspaper owner, Sheikh Najim Ali (a Shia) runs a popular local paper called Pakistan Times. Recently, it seems, he ran an ad announcing a local Ahmadiyya celebration and then covered the event. Now, mind you, these Ahmadiyyas are Pakistanis settled in Houston just like the rest of Pakistani community.

Since then, most Pakistani businesses have removed their ads from his paper and there have been death threats – yes, death threats in HOUSTON! – to him on phone. Now, even his paper – which is free and kept in most grocery stores and restaurants – has been removed from the Pakistani businesses.

Who are Ahmadiyyas?

Members of the Ahmadiyya faith, an estimated 70 million worldwide, follow Islam’s main tenets. But contrary to mainstream Muslims, they don’t recognize Muhammad as the final prophet. Instead, they believe another prophet followed in the 19th century named Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who came in the spirit of Christ to revive the religion of Islam, said Mohammed Zafarullah, a local imam for Ahmadiyya followers.

Some reactions:

– Advertiser Amer Zaheer, owner of a vitamin company called Herbal Pharma, canceled his ads via e-mail. “My suggestion to you is pray to Allah to forgive you and guide you not to commit such a sin in (sic) future,” Zaheer’s e-mail reads. He declined to comment.
– Ali should have known better than to run the ad in a paper read mostly by Muslims and Pakistanis for whom the mention of the Ahmadiyya faith raises memories of an age-old dispute, said Atif Fattah, the co-host of a local Muslim radio show, called Serat-e-Mustaqeem, or The Righteous Path.

What these people just forget is that at stake is the Right of Freedom. What if Christians of the US say that since Jesus was the ONLY Savior, for Muslims to claim that someone else – another Propher or Savior – came is blasphemy and therefore, they should be killed by law?

Well, that is what Pakistan’s constitution essentially implies. Interestingly, ZA Bhutto was the architect of this constitutional amendment.

It is such reactions that reinforce an intolerant image of Islam. You cannot blame others of blasphemy and kill them and still be singing paeans of your own tolerance. It doesn’t work that way. Tolerance means to understand and empathize with others.. however radically different their opinion may be as long as they are civil and peace loving.

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