Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Discriminating from within

When I wrote a post a while back on racism, some pointed out that desis can't exactly sit on a pedestal like angelic little angels upon poofy clouds singing sad harps songs about discrimination as though we ourselves don't discriminate at all. Perhaps some of the cruelest discrimination is the kind we inflict upon each other.

You'd think living in the US, we wouldn't discriminate each other based on caste or clan or which part of the motherland you happened to have been arbitrarily plopped into at birth but judgment calls based on these are ingrained in the lives of many to such a degree that even thousands of miles away the beliefs remain strongly implanted like the roots of an old oak tree attached firmly to our feet oceans apart.

I'm quite familiar with the discrimination and stereotypes by desis against desis. Since I fancy myself a writer and not a research scientist presenting you statistical data, I share insight into my experience of intradesi discrimination through example.

Incident 1: Ten years earlier, instant messaging a friend, I see its 4am. Quickly type Oh man I think my dad just got up, its so late!! He's gonna kill me! I log off. The next day I get ten missed calls from said friend, when I call her back she asks me in a voice filled with concern Are you okay. I assure her I am but am confused, Why wouldn't I be? Luckily my friend explained, Well, you said your dad was going to kill you. Silence on my end, Does my dad seem the dangerous sort? She sighs, laughing nervously "Well, you know, you're punjabi... you know how violent Punjabis are..."

Incident two:*walking to class with a friend in college*
Bobeena: You mean you're... punjabi?
Me: Uh huh *continuing to walk and notice I'm now walking alone*
Bobeena: *stopped in her tracks, eyes agape* Wow.
Me: What?
Bobeena: Well.... how are you so.... civilized?
I'm sorry to say but the rest of the conversation involved me convincing her my parents and I did not sit around cursing all day while cracking peanuts with our toes.

And the others? Let's run through the list...
Pathans are violent, emotional hot heads.
Memons are stingy businessmen.
Urdu speakers are sophisticated, slightly snobby, but ever so cultured and refined.
Punjabi's (raises hand from back of class) are crude, unsophisticated, loud, obnoxious and apparently like to crack peanuts with their toes.

These stereotypes aren't silly jabs without consequences. They can break friendships, prevent marriages, and tear families apart. It sounds so dramatic but its true.

I know too many who refused to allow their children to marry because one was Indian and the other Pakistani. Or even if both were Pakistani, one was of one caste, and the other a different lesser one. (Speaking of clans/castes, have you ever noticed how many desis are Syed's and so proud of this 'fact', refusing to marry outside themselves as though they somehow are better than others because of this alleged link? I find it fascinating that roughly half of all desis are direct descendants of the Prophet pbuh, and the other half are all of some other ancestry than actually having roots in the region of their ancestors, if I had a nickel for every desi who is actually a descendant of some Arab prince or Syrian big shot.. I'd have my beach house in Fiji and then some) You would think that this mentality would change with this generation yet people still ask me what my father's tribe is and nod approvingly or shake their head sadly depending on where on the rankings they themselves fall.

When my parents first came to the US, in they city they lived in, the amount of desis could be counted on two hands so they stuck together and ignored the ethnic divides. Indian? Bengali? Pakistani? Come one come all. I remember attending parties as a child with people from all different regions of the subcontinent. Yet as more immigrated, the lines began to be drawn in the ethnic sand. Urdu speakers found compatriots, the Bombay folks closed ranks, the Hyderabadi's only inviting each other. Slowly my parents were no longer invited to parties simply because they were Punjabi and thus born in a region a few hundred miles from that of the people they currently lived 2 miles from in the US.

On the upside, I believe perceptions are changing. The community my parents now live in is certainly not as self-dividing, however there are still many communities that believe whole heartedly in these divisions and will uphold them to their last breath. Perhaps in the parents generation this is understandable, but to tolerate such prejudice in our own generation, is shameful.

Jokes touching on racial issues are the stuff that stand up comics rely upon to make a living. But its a fine line when you are treading the ethnic waters. Its okay to tease a Punjabi on their bhangra skills, but is it okay to believe us crude and uncultured? Its when it moves from playful jest to actual belief in the inferiority of another because of their region or caste or skin color that the joke just isn't funny anymore. Racism, prejudice and bigotry is wrong no matter who is doing it, and who they're doing it to.

For the post that inspired this one please see this post by Mezba on the same topic.

On a side note, I do realize this post is rather heated but its a topic that vexes me greatly. When responding please be respectful, this is a very touchy topic.


The friendly lion said...


first i have a confession to make, i have in the past, discriminated against punjabis, but thinking your father might kill you, in an act of rage or that you crack peanuts with your toes is taking it too far :(
reading this i will have to change my attitude, although i have never discriminated to such extents. i think it was more because of the mix of people i was with in school, most of which in the end did not turn out to be good friends and instaead of attributing them as bad people, i classified them as bad punjabis.
ultimately there is no excuse for what i did.

thanks for your post, it is a real eye opener :)

a kanjoos memon (who has no money left by the 15th of the month) :D

Aisha said...

TFL, thank you so much for your candor. I was extremely hesistatn to post this one... and almsot didn't. But your comment makes me glad I did.

The friendly lion said...

and thank you for not being angry with me :)
i couldnt comment without being truthful and right now i dont feel so...nice :( i didnt think of tht as discrimination before, but now.. im not so sure.

Suroor said...

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

I'm Pathan. How do you do? :)

When I was growing up, I didn’t know about 'race' at all. I first found out I am Pathan when I was nineteen and that I'm Sunni when I was getting married. Mine is a weird family, really. My father never taught us to believe in divisions. That is why when I say I don't wish to be a "type of Muslim" or a hyphenated British I really mean it. I didn’t grow up like that. But that is because Abi was Pathan, Mama is Arab and my Dadi was European! Other than that we are all set :)

PS: Now when I tell people I'm Pathan, I really do get to hear a lot of "Akhrot" jokes :-) But, I know I'm so smart!

Bee Amma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bee Amma said...

The stories that i could tell you on this subject!
Except i won't as they are too personal for me to share. Its a shame, and its sad that our "own" people judge us far more than people outside of the regions we hail from. The Syed thing bugs me greatly as well....Surely we all hailed from Adam, and by virtue of of the mentality of people that feel more special having hailed from Prophet Mohammed pbuh,....i won't even complete that sentence. My problems with such feelings is something which is a very touchy topic with me at the moment, as i am delving deeper into the quran, and questioning things about muslims in general that i would not have fathomed i ever would.
Ok this post is just becoming a riddle so i will end here.
I don't understand the caste/tribe/region stuff, and i never will. Muslims having castes was news to me a couple of years back!

ABCDlaw said...

I really don't understand the whole "syed" thing either. It goes against the very teachings of Islam. I mean sure we should all be proud of our family and where we come from, but to make yourself part of an 'elite' group because someone way back in your family might have been somehow related to the Prophet is... a little hard for me to comprehend. But we all like to think we're 'more special' don't we?

About the class/race divides in desis, frankly I think it stinks. I'm not too sure if our generation is going to be the one who gets rid of it though. Too many times have I heard/read of people only willing to look within their own community for a mate. Having the same cultural background might make some things easier, but it shouldn't be the #1 criteria. My friend who's a mix of Hydrabadi and Pathan wanted to marry a Bengali. Both are ABCDs, religious, but out of touch of the "cultural" ways of their native land. Both sets of parents however, were very displeased with their kids' choice because they weren't from the same country as them. And these are desi parents, living in America. They should be happy their kids are good muslims, who picked virtuous partners, not upset that they didn't pick "proper" spouses from the same native land. it makes me mad because this type of segregation/discrimination was the VERY thing Islam tries to get rid of. We're ALL MUSLIMS people.

The stereotypes you mentioned I hadn't heard before until I visited Pakistan as a teenager. But somehow I remember them whenever I meet people, funny how some things stick in your mind. It almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you look for a "crude, loud" punjabi, you'll find it. But you'll also find hot blooded memons, and kanjoos pathans, as well as "hot blooded" urdu speakers. We are all different, diversity is a good thing, lets ALL learn the beauty of different cultures, not just stick to our own little circle.

mystic-soul said...

R U really punjabi? (lol...kidding)

What you wrote is 100% true. But its same from other side perspective. I was raised in Karachi and one time I went to Pindi where my friends had new job. And let me tell you, we had hard time listening.."xxxx de muhjair".

And it goes ultra within community. I know one gujrati guy who has problem with other "gujju" guy because they speak different dialect of gujrati !!

Diversity is a blessing but we don't see it.

Ash said...

Totally agree, especially for people that live in uk/america - the caste thing is based on status but when people moved to ..wherever..they created new lives for themselves.

I think the point you made about the first immigrants all sticking together regardless of thier background is so true. shame it hasnt stayed that way.

Tee said...

You know I find all this extraordinarily interesting, but it's also hard to follow for an outsider. I'm trying to draw a comparison that I would understand. Is it similar to the racism that goes on amongst Hispanics living in the US? Puerto Ricans are the cool ones because they have legal papers, more likely speak good English, and most popular Hispanic singers (J.Lo, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Daddy Yankee) have roots in PR... Then Salvadorans (my husband) are considered rude, uncultured, and violent.... Mexicans - hardworking but arrogrant, Venezuelans are the most beautiful, Colombians do drugs, - There's a stereotype for each country.

So I suppose that is an equivalent which puts things in perspective for me. It seems that all ethnic groups deal with this inter-group racism and it's really a shame.

Maybe it's just human beings in general. It's survival of the fittest and people feel more fit when they contrast and compare and put themselves on top - even if the reason isn't valid.

So I see this as a much bigger problem. You've highlighted the specific prejudices of a group but if you think about it, this is a human problem which is responsible for some of the worst evil in this world, (such as war).

... You talked about how this stuff is fodder for comedians and it's true - except I don't find it so funny anymore. Over this past year I have stopped watching racist comedians like Carlos Mencia. Yes, he's an equal opporunity insulter, but does that make it right? ... I just found myself squirming inside thinking, would I be laughing at this if someone of that race was sitting here? I don't think so!

Also, just because I'm so interested in culture - would you mind pointing me towards a site, or explaining - what exactly are "Pathans, Memons, Punjabis, Hyderabadis" - Is this equivalent to Suni/Shite? And is Urdu a language only taught to the upper class?

Um, and, (sorry teacher! LOL), was Syed the surname of your prophet Mohammad? (Sorry if something is misspelled and is it disrespectful for a non-Muslim not to write "(pbuh)" after mentioning him?)

And what's a bhangra? An instrument or dance or something completely different? LOL.

Ok - I guess this a very educational post (at least after you explain it all!) LOL. This is payback for the time you asked me what a casserole was and if Christians believed in dinosaurs. LOL.

PS - Just so you know, Anglo Americans don't think Punjabis are any of those things you mentioned. As you know last year I visited the museums in DC and caught the exhibit at the Natural History museum called, "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab" - and it was one of my favorites ever.... I wish I had a real print of that painting I took a photo of. It was gorgeous.

Muslim Wife said...

quick comment, in-laws on their way here, but I *love* this post for so many reasons. So glad you touched on this topic. It was for this reason that I had set in my mind to never marry a south Indian, but that's just the other side of the same dysfunctional coin. Alhamdulillah, all it took was just marrying someone who also didn't believe in making racism a way of life - and him being Pathaan was just a plus (kidding! :-P) Oh ya, did I mention I miss ya?

Aisha said...

TFL, why would I be mad at your honesty and self reflection on your thoughts. Thats so important. Just curious, did you know I was Punjabi prior to this post? Were you surprsied?

Suroor, wow you have a melting pot family mash'allah! And you speak urdu!? Wow. Do you speak pashto as well? And would you know that I didnt know I was Sunni until it came time to marry and people ketp asking. I would always reply Muslim. I still dont beleive I am Sunni. Was the Prophte Sunni?

Bee Amma, sounds like you are thinking about a lot of things. It can be frustrating to deal with the issues withn our community but they are not just ours. Every community has similar struggles though. We're humans, I guses by definition we are imperfect.

Abcdlaw, yeah, I've had a friend who wanted to arry a guy who loved her and was perfect for her but her parents refused to allow it beacuse they were Syeds. What would the Prophet think about the way we divide ourselves in his name? And you're right often they become what we want to see.... we very often see what we want to see. But back to the Syed thing, its SO obnoxious how proud people get. Even if it were true (which I highly doubt) What do you want? A cookie? Are you better than me? I also love how people are like "oh yeah, no one in my family converted, we wer always muslim because we come from Syria" Firstly, Syrians converted at one point. And why are you so ashamed at being a desi?

Mystic, you couldnt tell? :) Yeah you're right, its crazy even towards the muhajirs.

MW, wow, actually i was nervous what you would think of this post! I'm glad you liked it. And yeah its sad.. like K is Punjabi and so am I but that is just a coincidence, we nor they were seeking out a Punjabi only. But my family from back home is so proud of that, you know, oh he's from "this village" though he has probably never seen said village. Some of my relatives are looking and insist on only Pujabi. all I can say is dont complain to me later if you chose ot make decisions on such superficial criteria. You know a lot of people say they are anti-desi being desi.. I'm sort of starting to understand that.

Aisha said...

Tee, I grew up in South Florida so there was a huge Hispanic population and it was CRAZY how people made distinctions based on which country. The issue I'm talking about is EXACTLY like that. I remember in highschool seeing things on the bathroom walls like "Argentinians rule!" and Columbians making jokes about the Mexicans, and each country had their own table that they sat at. It was really quite distrubing and very similar though in that situation you're talking about an entire continent.

And yes, all groups struggle i think with inter-ethnic prejudice. I think even white people do They have stereotypes on ppl with Southern Accents, "Valley girl" accents, Boston, New York. There are assumptions I hear all the time. MAybe not AS divisive today but tehy are there. In fact a book I read written in 1900's talked about how those types of steroetypes of "NY" or "Boston" were just as disive as w/ desis today.

And thanks for pointing out I forgot to link. I fixed that now for pathan, memon, etc! :)

And the prophet's last name was not Syed. To be honest I'm not fully sure about this... We dont really have last names in Pakistan in the way we do here. Like, my last name is "Iqbal" but back home, people would recognize me based on my parents clan name or K's clan name not our last name. So as far as Syed I think its supposedly the prophet's clan. And no its not disrespect if you dont right pbuh (which means peace be upon him). Karen Armstrong is a revered writer on ISlamic topics and doesnt use this.

As for bhangra, its a very popular punjabi dance thats even played in US clubs
check it out! The volume is on mute since i'm on class but it looks accurate! :)

And i'm so intrigued by the Sikh exhibit. I hope one day I can see it!

Rabia said...

I didn't know I could crack peanuts with my toes?! I am going to try it!

smee said...

The distinction between Pakistanis from different regions seems to differ over the waters in America. In the UK I can tell you for nothing that Punjabi's are not looked down upon. On the contrary they are relatively respected, minus their characteristic of arrogance (restricted primarily to Lahori's).
Urdu speakers are few and far between and generally considered posh.
Mirpuri's (from Kashmir and the region of Pakistan lining the border. They speak a Patwari dialect often referred to as Mirpuri and I think constitute 80% of the UKs Pakistani population) are the same to Pakistani's as the Irish are to the British; the butt of their jokes.
Also I cannot agree more with the Syed comment.

Tee said...

Thanks for all the clarification and patience :) ... I love this video you sent me too. That looks like SOOOO much fun. Is this a type of dance style (like the different choreographed dances in Bollywood movies) or the name of a dance that is always the same like the Macarena?

This video reminded me of one I came across randomly last month of Japanese kids doing a dance for a Tamil song. They are VERY talented and it's so strange that this isn't even a dance from their own culture.... Are you familiar with Tamil song/dance or is this only for Hindus?

smee said...

I really don't mean to be harsh to you Aisha, as I am a new blurker to your shores, but I wanted to point out the fact that maybe your post is a little short-sighted. Yes the final statement you made is correct and any normal sane person would agree, but it is a very generalised comment. Racism is wrong, we accept, but what are we going to do about it?
Lets relate it specifically to this desi problem and what we, as the mothers/fathers of tomorrow, can do about it. Where are these ideas and notions coming from in 2nd/3rd generation Asians?

Aisha said...

Rabia, its loads of fun! :)

Tee, I think there are different types of Bhangra but it has a similar theme. But I'm not 100% sure! :)

Smee, my point is to address an issue that we face and how I feel about it. You say that "we accept racism is wrong" but you'd be surprised that not everyone accepts my "generalized comments". And for the record, since you're recent to the blog yeah, most of what I say and have said in these nearly three yeras will be "generalized"... What are we going to do about the problem of self discrimination? My goal with this post is just to express *my* thoughts on the matter. Through it I hope people who may never have thought aout it such as The Friendly Lion will begin thinking about it and thus change thought patterns. The ideas/notions come from us often unthinkingly accepting status quo. You don't always have to have a bulleted list of "how to resolve". I mean you can and maybe you should, and sometimes I do... but this is one of those areas that I just wanted to open the dialogue and learn frmo others as well on how such stereotypes play out elsewhere.

If its not as you like it, I do encourage you to hopefully blog about it in a manner you find suitable. I will definitely read it and link it to this post for others to see.

Anonymous said...

I had a question --> is it true that one is not allowed to give zakat to a Syed in Islam, therefore, the Syed cast still exists?

Anonymous said...

anonymous, i'm pretty sure that is NOT true.

Aisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aisha said...

Anon I have no idea.

Enyur said...

Oooh another juicy topic!!

Umm..Hi, I'm a Punjabi and I have a lot to say!! I'LL BE BACK *Talks in Arnold Schwarznager (sp?) style*

Anonymous said...

Anonymous and anyone else interested, please see this link, explaining that there is no superior caste or group in Islams, Syeds or otherwise.


Anonymous said...

That was supposed to be Islam, not Islams.


Shabina said...

salams Aisha :)

sadly, it seems whenever there's a large group of moz around, we start dividing ourselves - at umich, it was often by race, or major, or class, or religiosity.

unlike when i visited the east coast, where most schools had smaller concentrations of muslims, and thus students tended to stick together, despite their differences.

perhaps forcing ourselves to leave those comfort zones would help address the issue.

but then...that would require being uncomfortable. and muslims would probably retaliate by saying they're uncomfortable enough in life. alas!

The friendly lion said...

*sigh of relief*! it seems im the only ignorant discriminator here :(

no, aisha i did not know you are Punjabi and no i was not surprized. i think the reason i had this idea in mind was because the high school i went to was and is predominantly Punjabi. here lahore is the only place to be, and measure is pronounced mieure(same goes for treasure, pleasure etc) which according to them is the right pronunciation. i suppose i did not like the idea of being treated like a second class citizen and hence justified their behaviour as a manifestation of who they are i.e. punjabi.
im not trying to justify anything, just really thinking out loud.
and then no one knew what a memon was either so my identity was no longer of a pakistani, plain and simple, but of someone whose existance they were unaware of. i was classified as everything from urdu speaking to muhajir to sindhi (karachi is in sindh afterall)
as for the shia sunni issue, i only came to know i was a sunni in grade 8. in karachi at that time there was a different islamic studies course for shias and sunnis. so i was told when the choice had to be made. but i didnt study it that wat as we moved and now it is no longer didvided but taught in a more generalized manner so that no one has any obejections! funny, huh! religious studies were divided.

frenchita said...

My cousin's neighbor in Dubai who's a pashtoo said the more purer a pathan, the more uncivilized he is!
Being an Indian I don't have any ill feelings against the pakis.
There's a beautiful verse in the Qur'an that says:
We have divided you into nations and tribes, so that you may recognize each other, and not that you may despise one another.

Anon: No, it's not permitted to give zakat to a syed. Taking care of the Prophet's (saws) family is your responsibility, just like looking after your parents is.

Anonymous said...

Don't hate the playa hate the game!

Anonymous said...

Frenchita, can you back that up with proof? I disagree.

Aisha said...

Enyur, *tapping table* waiting dahling!

Rasha, thanks for the link! Its so sad it has to be backed up as though it isnt obvious.

Shabs?!?!?! Where have you been? I didnt know that about Michigan! I can't imagine being friends with all Punjabi education majors. That would be... one person, me, at my college! How interesting.

TFL, wait, so you lived in Pakistan (or live?) I think that makes a difference too. Its like people here who say "oh people from LA are so superficial" I mean its understandable to feel scarred like that. I also know that people can be quite cruel to memons. I've seen it when I lived in South Florida where stereotypes about them are also quite mean.

Frenchita, I love that quote from the Quran. Its a good reminder.

Enyur said...

Peanuts? I thought it was walnuts? lol! (Kidding). Again, GREAT post! Truth is we really shouldn't be complaining about non-desi's being racists when our own kind are discriminating half the time. This whole Punjabi/Memon/Pathan differences have existed for the longest time. We have taken our ancestors experiences and passed them down. When my parents came to Canada, it didn't matter if you were Punjabi, Memon or Pathan. You were one. The common denominator here was being "Pakistani." But fast forward 20 years and now that there are some more Punjabis, Memons and Pathans, they've broken up into groups. Again, sticking to what is close to their 'own kind.' Take a bunch of Punjabis (or Memons) and stick them in a room and you’ll find that room break into groups as well. Again, sticking to who they feel are more like them and it keeps going on and on. This I guess is all fine, but it’s wrong when we start attributing silly stereotypes like Punjabis are said to be rude, uneducated/uncivilized etc.

Just to add, discrimination in our culture goes beyond the Punjabi/Memon stuff. What about skin colour? (I know you wrote a post on this last year). The lighter the skin coloured Pakistani the more respect you get. Same goes for religion. I know I’m Sunni because that’s what my parents have instilled in me. All I know is that I’m a Muslim, following the teachings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Being a Sunni doesn’t mean I don’t have Shiite and Ahmediya friends. I do, and they’re all wonderful people.

And your topic links back to the whole marriage issue as well. Will all hell break loose if an Urdu speaking married a Punjabi?

It’s up to our generation to put an end to this sort of discrimination because if we can’t eliminate our own differences, how are we going to deal with the other bigger issues.

P.S. is Bobeena a made up name like Bobullah? lol!! And your post came at the right time, it’s Anti-Racism Day here in Canada (I think in the U.S. too?)

Enyur said...

Umm..I tried to keep it civilized.

Anonymous said...

Aisha, very true. But then again, it's sad that any of this (what you have written about in this post and your previous two) even takes place in the first place. Not only is it sad, but it's also pretty pathetic, given the advancement in technology, education, etc, we (humans) have made.


Anonymous said...

is the world muhajir offensive to the person that fits that category? because as i see it, generations of these people have lived in pakistan, mostly karachi i'm assuming and yet them and their kids and their kids' kids are still termed immigrants. i'd be offended.

Suroor said...

"Was the Prophet Sunni?"

Gee Aisha, I dunno! But I'm sure he was Muslim :D

Nope, can't speak Pushto because my parents always spoke in English with each other. I'm an "ethnic mess" - a by-product of atomic marriages!

abcd said...

Yes annon (I liked this short form)

I get offended when people label me as 'Muhajir'. I AM NOT MUHAJIR. I WAS BORN IN PAKISTAN. Was almost get in trouble in college, when I told one student leader of MQM that I am Pakistani. I can see going upto 'urdu speaking', but muhajir..naaa

frenchita said...

Anon, I was attending some classes in Dubai and that's what the teacher there said. She said Zakat can't be given to your parents cos' they are your duty. Please check this out --->

Aisha, The Prophet wasn't a Sunni/Shiite..He was a Muslim..There's no caste system in Islam, at least there's not supposed to be one :(

There's a solution for every problem in the Qur'an, amazing isn't it? Subhanalllah. Here's a hadith that speaks up against discrimination,
'an Arab has no superiority over a
non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white
has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over
a white- except by piety and good action.'

frenchita said...

hey Aisha can I link you? Actually I already did, I'm sorry for that..w/o your permission

Aisha said...

Enyur, oh yes, I could have definitely gone into how we discriminate even furhter when it comes to skin color etc but I've talked about it before and also this was already turning into a forty chapter novel :) But thansk for sharing your perspective on the matter. its really sad. And thanks for keeping it civilized since ussee thay punjabi ah... akhrot thornday thoo bath kush or nai aunda. ;0) (Oh and yes, Bobeena is I think a made up name though if a bobeena is reading speak up and defend yourself dahling!)

Rasha, thats what cracks me up!!! Its all seemingly obvious like one commenter said... that obviously sane people agree, but you are first presupposing most of us are reasonable sane people, and you'd be surprised Rasha that I have actually received several peices of hate mail based on my past few posts directed towards me. No, these thins are not obvious enough yet. Its sad.

Anon, I guess muhajjir is offensive as someone stated. Its interesting b/c growing up I thought of the term as being nice. These were brave people who risked their lives to travel and join pakistan. I couldnt thinkk how tha tterm can be derogatory... it seemed to me a badge of honor. Any others from tha t area want to chime in on that?

Frenchita if only we followed it as best we could at all times? I love your tying it in with your perspectives and quotes. And yes you can link, I'm honored you wold Thans for letting me know.

Enyur said...

AHAHHAAHAHA lol!!! I haven't heard you speak in Punjabi in a while! That was funny! Aside from the akhrot part (lol!) Punjabi's are famous for their warm hospitality. You know, ussee loge baray khullay dil day maalik haan...wouldn't you agree my 'dahling'? lol!

On a more serious note, I went out for lunch with a friend from high school today, who happens to work in my office. Anyway, she's Punjabi Hindu and is planning to get married to a Gujrati Hindu. Her mom seems okay but she's afraid to bring it up with her father because she's afraid that he'll go crazy when he hear's that since he's has this thing about Punjabis marrying only Punjabis. According to her (I didn't say this!), her father thinks that Gujrati are stingy.

I can understand why some parents feel that's because they want to be around people who they feel comfortable with. Like, I sometimes find it hard to understand why an Urdu speaking person cannot understand Punjabi (or vice versa) when both languages are soo similar. But the reality is that some just don't understand the other language and that can make you feel uncomfortable. Whereas for us (baccha party), we tend tend to communicate in English (Punjabi, Urdu etc come after). So we don't make it such a big deal if the other person is Pathan, Punjabi etc.

Um...okay, hun Enyur dai sone (sleep) da waqt hogaya aye...ta ta!

Anonymous said...

Hate mail. WOW. I see how people can disagree on minor points made. But hate mail? Wow.

And LOL on the reasonable people part, my fellow law school person :)


Aisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aisha said...

Enyur, that's true, there are some good stereotypes for us too :) I wonder what your friends dad would think about me. I'm Punjabi but I think if you trace our ancestory its Gujrati. I'm a Gujrati Punjabi. *gasp!!!*

Rasha, it takes all types I guess :) As for the reasonable person, LOL, I hadnte ven noticed I said that. I have noticed the way I word things has definitely changed. I can't brin gmyself to even exxagreate anymore like "all X do Y" Can't do it!!

AKA said...

As if finding a decent Muslim partner wasn't hard enough, many families have to bring this country/state/tribe/ethnicity divide into the picture to narrow the pool down even more. My family is from Hyderabad and while I am proud of my culture (and our ever so slang Urdu lol), I am more concerned about what type a person my husband will be rather than if his family shares a love for Hyderabadi biryani and saying "nakko" - how crazy am I right?

I've always been told by other people that "She's that way because she's ----" but being raised in North America, I'm not sure how siginificant this is anymore.

Obviously since your own parents grew up in a certain place, the influence will rub off on you, but I don't think Punjabi's are especially heard-headed or that Hyderababi's are cunning (is that what they say? I've heard the Hyd girls are supposed to be 'chalaak'!?). This insane belief is just one more form of division that Muslims cannot handle. Though, I think as our generation ages, we will pay less mind to all these minor details and hopefully focus more on the individual.

Anonymous said...

I stand by what I said above, but I wanted to mention something else, perhaps from the other side. I know that you have said that you have not gone to Pakistan in a long time. Well, my parents are from a certain Arab country that we do go to very frequently. Seeing the cultures work, from the inside, has given me some insight on why this (what you have discussed in this post) is so. People over there have often grown up in the same neighborhood, the same house even, for their entire lives. They have only dealt with one kind of people - people like them. That is all they know.

I married a man who grew up in the same country my parents did, but in a different city. My family and my in-laws speak two different, distinct dialects of Arabic; cook different foods; and have other various cultural differences. Plus, they have very limited experience interacting with anyone outside their own city (there are exceptions of course).

In addition, the culture perpetuates all kinds of stereotypes about people from the other cities, and those who are perhaps not from "a city" at all. Thinking of it against this background, it is understandable why some of this happens.

However, those who have come to the US (or gone to Europe or UAE) have no excuse. We all have dealt with all kinds of people, and have had ample time to get over our cultural biases and prejudices. However, considering how isolated some immigrants tend to be from the greater community (especially women who never work or go to school) and how segregated our communities are from within, I suppose it's no surprise that many people have not overcome their prejudices. I'm not justifying anybody's actions; merely trying to make sense of them and "explain" them perhaps.


myabubakar said...

Aisha I came across ur blog and I like it alot. More especially the movie and book reviews.
i dont follow all those desi and punjab issues you talk about but still read the postings.
Keep it up

frenchita said...

I was reading a book and it says the Prophet (saws) actually encouraged people to marry outside of their communities for it would bring people from two distant places together...and some people choose to do exactly the opposite.

The Brown Girl said...

I love how my American friends sit in the sun for days trying to get dark and my desi friends would rather spend all of summer in doors if they could.

..goes to show ya.. no ones happy with what they got.

I for one am very delighted, Alhamdullilah, for what, who, and how I am. I spent almost all my life pretending/wishing to be white and the eye opener to me was when madonna reached out to eastern culture to make pop videos. Its like.........Im trying to be them.......and they want to be me... shouldnt I just be me?


Smee said...

Salaam Aisha,
I hope you didn't find my previous comment offensive, I was just adding my two cents. I am glad you have covered this issue, because similar to the marruage post, this is something that REALLy ticks me off. I live in a city which is very culturally diverse and has Muslims from all over the world too, but still prejudices remain and continue to be passed down from generation to generation.
*if* i had a blog I would love to post about this, but as I do not I'll stick to posting here instead. :)

The friendly lion said...

Hey Aisha
i lived in pakistan (karachi) since birth for 12 years. then we moved to the uae. the thing about stereotypes about memons is i faced them only after we moved and never before that. people actually doubt that i'm a memon, one coz i dont speak the language, memoni, neither of my parents do, two coz we dont look like memons. what ever that means! and tht i speak without an accent, big deal!
funny thing, i understand punjabi and can speak i bit too, cant understand all of what you have written, but got enyur's reply :D

a punjabi understanding/speaking memon

p.s. do u think we can the comments to a hundred again? :)

MA said...

Hi Aisha,
When I was growing up in the US, I lived in a small town in the Midwest. There, ALL the Indians were together; Gujus, Southies, Punjabis, etc... we (the parents) would make fun of each other's descendency (word?) and/or cultural habits based on what part of India they were from, but all in all, good times. And I thought it was this way everywhere in the States. But then as I got older and made desi friends in other states, larger cities; I realized that in these larger communities, the Indians would segregate off into their own communities. There was no intradesi hangouts; there was the Punjabi Diwali function, or the Guju Holi, but nothing with the whole community. So I wonder if things like this only happen in larger desi communities, such as Chicago, SF, and NYC. One thing I have noticed though, even in the smaller communities, as Desis become a stronger foothold in the US, we are less likely to latch on to whatever "looks like us" and be more discriminating. A consequence of power? Perhaps.

One last thought, everything I spoke about above refers to mainly Hindus and Jains, as that is all my family exposed me to growing up. In our small community, it was religion that divided the desis. I assume this to be true in the larger communities as well.

Enyur said...

Hain? Gujrati? (I just remembered that song from Kal Ho Na Ho "G-u-j-j-u. GUJJU!") Sowwy!

So you're ancestors were from India Gujrat? I'm not sure where mine are from. I have heard that I have some Turkish blood (dad's side) and Arab blood (mom's side - I think we link back to Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddiq?). Although I'd really like to know more about my 'blood line' but I don't want to confuse myself anymore than I am. So I just stick to my Punjabi roots :-D

I don't know what her dad would say about a Punjabi-Gujrati. All I know is that if his daughter gets married to the Gujrati guy...his grandchildren will be Gujrati-Punjabi hee hee!

Jane said...

Wow, you had quite a large response on this one too! I find the whole discrimination within a culture puzzling and incomprehensible. I am of Norweigan descent but don't feel superior or less than the Austrians or Bulgarians or other white folk. I don't know of anyone who thinks that way. Discrimination based on obvious differences like race or religion or wealth is a bit more understandable. What an odd phenomena. What is this racism based on? How can you tell a Punjabi from a Memon? Is there really such a difference? I find this very strange.

ABCDlaw said...

I'm shocked that you got hate mail? WTF?! Ok so people may not agree with somethings you say, that's fine, but to take the time and send hate mail? These people just need to let others believe what they want, and they can think what they want.

Anyways, back to the topic about discriminating from within, I've noticed that Pakistani Muslims and Indian Muslims usually have different circles. I mean the Karachites Lahoris and Islamabad set are often seen mingling, but rarely are the Indian Muslims mingling with the Pakistanis. And don't get me started on the religious divides. Growing up, desi parties for me were always (Pakistani) muslim people, a few indian muslim families used to mingle with us, but once more Indian Muslims moved here, then they kinda formed their own set. But even among the Indians, it was always a purely Muslim set. I rarely see aunties/uncles have friends who are Hindu, Sikh, Jain...etc. I wonder why in a foreign land, these people still choose to isolate themselves from their own? SO what if you don't speak the same dialect.Or if you have different religious beliefs. They are still desis, still people from "back home."

Aisha said...

aka, welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment I share your sentiments exactly.

Rasha, I have no idea why I always thought you were desi. Your sentiments are very very well said. I hope to direct The Friendly Lion to your comment. I feel its different for her to have certain assumptions than it is for ME who grew up in the US who lived door to door with all sortsw of people to decide to pick apart my own people. I can understand to some extent as you decribe the parenst, but their offspring... its harder for me to understand... though we are a product of our parents... I've seen that many chidlren change their views when they start college and meet all sorts of different people including different desis/arabs, etc that they once held strongly held stereotypes about.

Myabubakar, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I appreciate that you found my reviwes of some some use :) And I dont always write about pakistani issues, lol, but I ddo write about whats on my mind. I guess I have desi on my mind these days :)

Frenchita, oh yes.. if only we would remember!

Brown Girl, I find your comment soo interesting. I wish I was younger when the eastern craze began because like you said... its nice to know that where you come from is acknowledged here too. I find your SN Brown Girl ironic in some ways in light of the story you told in your comment :)

Smee, I was not offended at all by your comment. You were very respectful in your difference in opinion on the manner of presentation :)

TFL, I think the Punjabi I wrote, llooking back... *I* couldn't understand it. LOL. Look at Rasha's comment when yo get a chance. I think in your case its different. In Pakistan such things are I think inevitable since everyone subscribes to it.

Aisha said...

Ma, welcome to the blog. Thanks for your insight on desis from a different religious perspective. I agree religion does divide desis. That is a pretty standard thing though I have seen in extraordinarliy small towns, religion does not so divide. I dont know what to make of it.

Enyur, I think my dad's side can be traced to Gujrat... my mom's have some Turkish ancesterage. But I'm not 100% sure. :)

Jane, hmmmm I guess its because perhaps dividing and classifying ourselves is a human phenomenen even if race is not present... we will make different races out of the same people? Pakistan is pretty uniformly one race unlike the US. So I wonder if they then went on to be prejudiced on other factors considering each region as a different entity unto itself. I wonder if in Norway, within the people there if there are stereotypes about the different ones from different regions. I'd be curius to know since you brought up a point I havent fully considered

ABCD Law, yeah, It wasn't a lot of it, but I got a couple.... it takes all types is all I can say. You raise SUCH an interesting point about the hindus and Muslim divide. I have seen perfectly frendly desi woman embrace me and be so nice to me, and then leraning my name back away visibly b/c im muslim. Im sure the vice versa has happened too. But to be honest as far as a kinship, I have to admit that religion transcends country for most people including myself. I find myself able to connect with a Syrian Arab girl than a Hindu desi girl. I find it soooo strange though b/c we are of the same skin, same heritage yet religion puts a divide there. I think a lot of that has to do with the hundrds if not thousands of years of tension between hindus and muslims in India before the partition, and then the partition itself which caused a lot of friction. I think hurt feelings and animosity still lingers. I've noticied that Hindus dont frequent Pakistani's stores and restaurants, and to the extent its possible, vice versa. Though I do remmeber the indian grocer we went to growing up in South Florida when he learned we were moving, he broke down into tears calling us his favorite customers..... the only ones who didnt try to haggle :). He seemed to not care about the divide and mingled with people of all religions. He was Hindu. So its possible for us to connect... but the disconnect in this arena is a bit more understandable to me particularly considered our very friction-filled past and present.

koonj said...

yeah, i think as a punjabi i've become one of a minority since immigrating to the US. i keep finding myself in groups of muhajirs - close friends of mine - agreeing with each other about how screwed up punjabis and punjabi families are. and i'm like ulp. nope. i'm no punjabi.

Squarecut said...

oh wow, I am so very late, and anything that I would like to say has already been said! BTW, I am a pathan! And some of the informational comments about the Pathans are, wow, eye-opening, to say the least. Hotheaded pathan, haha!

I don't think the post was heated at all. It's a big problem that actually encompasses all of humanity, in every single culture. Arabs have it, South Asians have it, even the Americans have it! There is a reason why even after 400 years or so, black people are still called the minority and they still couldn't integrate with the mainstram American, (aka the white folks). And even within the African culture, the North-Africans are deemed superior. And it goes on and on.

We will just have to live with it and make sure our children learn better than this.

it's an awesome post.

White Power said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Saadia said...

You wrote an eloquently sad reality about our culture. It also coincides with the political realities I've been learning about in DC. There is a former (or maybe current) ambassador from Pakistan, Hussain Haqqani, who said that Pakistan has so many inter-provincial rivalries, that they have to rely on "Islam" to pull them together, rather than pluralism or civic institutions. (He's "secular). In a way I wonder, what is wrong with that? I guess what is wrong with it is when one group dominates what Islam is, when people are in denial about any racial tensions, or blind to intercultural differences.

Saadia said...

By the way, I've also seen commercial campaigns here that advocate the division of Pakistan into separate countries based on provinces, in order to reduce terrorism. Can you believe that?

Anonymous said...

Thanks aisha.
But whats this desi you said you have in your mind? But I guess its .. I dont know anyway.

Zulfi said...


I am sorry but I have to vehemently disagree with you about religious divide, especially Muslims and Hindus. I am an Indian Muslim and count a few Hindus, Sikhs and Christians as my closest friends. If I need a friend at 3:00 AM, my phone will ring in a Hindu home !!! I find myself connecting to an Indian (Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist or Sikh or Jain or Christian or Jewish) much more than say a Jordanian or a Saudi or a Kuwaiti... I will connect with a Pakistani much more easily than Jordanian, Saudi,... and that is purely because of culture, language...religion has nothing to do with it, in my opinion.

Yuo also talk about "hundreds if not thousands of years of tension between the two communities". Actually, the "tension" was created by British in their quest to retain power over India. The dirty politicians continued that strategy in post-independence India and Pakistan. I go to places like Trinidad and Guyana and Surinam and see how the Muslims and Hindus coexist and integrate within each other so seamlessly. That is beacuse their forefathers left India (then united India) way before the British polluted the mindsets there.

And yes, there are a few Hindus of orthodox mindset who will not visit Pakistani stores but that is beacuse they are vegetarians and believe food will be "corrupted". They will equally strongly not visit a sikh-owned or Hindu-owned non-vegetarian restaurant for the same reason !!!

I now live in the US and my closest friend is still the same Hindu friend from my college days who FORTUNATELY, lives in the same city here as I do. In my upcoming wedding, he will be my best man.

I am sorry if I offended you but I cannot simply relate to your experience of connecting with a Syrian arab girl before a non-muslim Desi. I believe you need to look into your subconcious being and eradicate some latent biases.

Again, apologies if I have offended you.


you wrote:
"ABCD Law, yeah, It wasn't a lot of it, but I got a couple.... it takes all types is all I can say. You raise SUCH an interesting point about the hindus and Muslim divide. I have seen perfectly frendly desi woman embrace me and be so nice to me, and then leraning my name back away visibly b/c im muslim. Im sure the vice versa has happened too. But to be honest as far as a kinship, I have to admit that religion transcends country for most people including myself. I find myself able to connect with a Syrian Arab girl than a Hindu desi girl. I find it soooo strange though b/c we are of the same skin, same heritage yet religion puts a divide there. I think a lot of that has to do with the hundrds if not thousands of years of tension between hindus and muslims in India before the partition, and then the partition itself which caused a lot of friction. I think hurt feelings and animosity still lingers. I've noticied that Hindus dont frequent Pakistani's stores and restaurants, and to the extent its possible, vice versa. Though I do remmeber the indian grocer......

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