A Caste Apart

Not long after the Salmaan Taseer assassination, a young Pakistani Christian published this open letter in one of the country’s biggest newspapers, holding up a mirror to an increasingly violent and intolerant country.

You call me a kafir and you think eating with me is haraam. So, my dear Pakistan, tell me, where shall I go?

Dear Pakistani Muslims,

Pakistan has been hell for my family and I.

Yes, we get Christmas and have a few churches here and there and attend the same schools as the rest of you, but life as Christian minorities has been torture for us.

I had to carpool in a public van to a convent school that had the richest and most influential of Pakistani Muslims in attendance. I shared class rooms with the most spoiled and unforgiving spawn of business tycoons, politicians, smugglers and architects who called me a “karanti”.

A karanti is a derogatory, slang term for dark Christians, because of course being born as a “darkie” in Pakistan automatically makes you ugly and unimportant with horrible marriage prospects – if any at all. They also degraded my father because he could not afford to drive me to school in a tinted, bullet proof Land Cruiser.

My father’s ‘shameful’ salary as an accounts teacher was not substantial enough for us to mingle with the creme de la creme of the Defense [a neighborhood]; a dingy apartment in Nazimabad and a sputtering motor bike was all we could afford.

Many of the Muslim kids refused to share food with me, nor would they take a bite or sip from anything I may have consumed. I have had girls tell me point blank that their parents have instructed them never to sit and eat with people of other faiths because it’s haraam (forbidden). I will tell you what’s haraam; teaching your children to hate instead of love, that’s what’s haraam.

I will never forget an incident in school during a physical education class when, as I was passing the volley ball to a Muslim girl, her eyes suddenly shot daggers at me and she screeched:

Why do you wear that cross with an idol on it?

“This is my prophet: Jesus”, I said in a hoarse whisper because mother had always told me never to argue with people about religion.

“Just like you wear that Allah around your neck, I wear the cross.”

“Idol worshipping is haraam, and the Prophet hated idol worshippers. You are a kafir (disbeliever)”

The word kafir has resonated within me forever. I was marked, stamped and stained for life as if a member of the kachra class in India.

Gradually, my cousins, aunts and uncles began migrating. My father was offered a sponsorship visa but he refused, saying his duty was to serve and protect Pakistan no matter how many Christians were killed, executed for false blasphemy cases, paraded naked in village streets and discriminated against in every way.

My mother and I begged him to reconsider.

We asked him to think about the worsening situation of fanaticism in the country and what it could mean for us one day, however he was resilient in his patriotic thinking, putting his service into educating Pakistani children before anything else -even his own family.

I have always felt emotionally and mentally restricted in this country, unable to voice an opinion on anything remotely related to politics or religion, while many of my cousins and relatives continue to live freely in the West.

What I find strange is that I have done my Islamic research because I wanted to know the reason behind the rising hatred toward anyone remotely non-Muslim, and contrary to popular belief Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was generous and kind to members of various faiths. It is after reading much of his work that I have concluded that it is not Islam that is the problem at all, it is the wretched people who claim to be Muslims but have hatred, racism and religious stigma engrained in their core.

No matter how many Taseers are born, there will always be a Mumtaz Qadri in almost every strata of Pakistani society ready to kill, and many will defend this action even at the highest political levels.

So, my dear Pakistan, tell me – where shall I go?

Is it fair that we are practicing our religion in a phobic way? Is it fair that I no longer wear my cross because someone may take offence to it?

Jinnah wanted to create a state that would encourage freedom of religion. Today, not only have you all failed Jinnah but you have taken a religion of peace and manipulated it to terrorise us. We cannot be silenced for long.

As Abraham Lincoln said:

If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify a revolution.

Yours sincerely,

A disappointed Pakistani Christian