This I Believe

Huda - Austin, Texas
Entered on December 4, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30


I am a Pakistani Muslim living in the United States. What does that mean in the context of the numerous Al-Qaeda operations, the suspected Pakistani support to the neighboring Taliban, to a third world country struggling under the claws of the much-wanted help from rich countries like the U.S.? Subordination? Discrimination? Suppression? Ridicule?

Once during high school, I was speaking to a new Afghani immigrant, in the Pakistani language of Urdu, because she was not comfortable speaking in English. A Latino nearby asked what language that was and I told him it was Urdu. He asked where I was from and I told him. Then he asked me, or rather supposed himself: “You with bin Laden?”

At my job the other day at I was at the cash register, and a middle-aged African American couple came in. The man asked me whether my name was Indian or Pakistani. A lot of people have a hard time saying my name, and previously customers had asked me what my name meant and what language it was. So, I answered the guy that it was Pakistani but actually Arabic in origin, and he informed me, “Same difference.” I say that he informed me because I learned that that was what people perceived. They grouped Indians, Pakistanis, and Arabs in one category, despite enormous differences.

It was a good insight because when I told this to my friend who is from Brownsville, TX, she told me that most of the people in her small town were also, I quote, “ignorant” about this and whenever they heard Muslim, they assumed Arab too.

It’s funny how people are so ignorant. It allows me to relate it to the earlier times when people considered that the world was flat. When people considered themselves to know all the dynamics of the world. When the Chinese thought they were at the center of the world map. When the Japanese thought they had no need for European goods. When the Ottomans thought they need not learn about the developments of the world. When the Americans claimed Manifest Destiny.

I believe we need to be more appreciative of others. I believe that no matter how much we progress or educate ourselves, we will always remain ignorant and prejudiced, unless we take the time to learn about the diversity of the human race and appreciate the different customs of the world. I believe in looking to the examples of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi to enable us to encompass the world into the single race of humanity.