Pakistan Opinion Blog

Time to Make Anti-Americanism Unfashionable

Entries may be a little edited for clarity or brevity. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of PakPositive.

By Faraz Rana

When I first learned that the suspect in an incident to set off a bomb in Times Square was Pakistani, my reaction was somewhat jaded. Most of us Pakistanis living here in the United States have become accustomed to the unflattering amount of attention given to our country of birth. Perhaps as a sign of the times, I have found that I no longer need to pronounce “Pakistan” in an American accent. Everyone here knows Pakistan well – and not for reasons that elicit pride.

Nonetheless, many of us were surprised to read about the background profile of Faisal Shahzad. He was young, educated and socially assimilated. For someone who had taken advantage of a standard of living and educational opportunities afforded to very few people in the world, he seemed like an unlikely candidate to bite the same hand that fed him.

Unfortunately, if Faisal Shahzad wanted to find legitimacy in his actions, he did not need to go to the far flung tribal regions of Pakistan to find it. In each visit back home to Pakistan, I have found that anti-American sentiment has become increasingly imbedded, part and parcel, in the mainstream culture of Pakistan. We propagate anti-Americanism at dinner tables and casually sprout conspiracy theories, couched in a mixture of facts and urban myth, that blame even the load shedding on the CIA. Blaming our ills on the Americans has become fashionable.

This culture of anti-Americanism, inflamed by the media and mainstream society, is doing something far worse than encouraging new terrorists: it is alienating one of the few real opportunities the country has had to rebuild its future. For perhaps the first time in the country’s history, the people of the world are genuinely focused on developing the economic and social sectors of the Pakistan. Perhaps as a result of the new administration here in the United States, the perception of what causes terrorism has also shifted. Americans, along with the rest of the world, now “get it” – the root cause of terrorism is poverty and lack of education. Build schools, create jobs and offer opportunities, and people will be less inclined to advocate destruction.

To that end, a developing Pakistan is in the best interests of the United States, and both the government and average Americans have launched several initiatives to ensure that capital is properly deployed to fuel development in the country. Even for the private sector, Pakistan offers large untapped markets for investments and a large middle class of consumers, much like China and India have already offered to large multi-national corporations. People realize that a country as large and diverse as Pakistan can not just be left to linger in the abyss.

In that light, the Americans have showed up on our doorstep to help – and we seem to want to turn them away. Why?

First, we may be once bitten, twice shy. History has taught us that the Americans will only help us if it is in their own interest. This is true of every country, including our own, and it is no different this time. But why can’t we share in a quid pro quo of mutually beneficial interests? Whatever the United States’ policy has been or may be with respect to other countries in the world, it has made several ostensible gestures to show that, this time around, it must be committed to the long term development of Pakistan.

More importantly, Pakistanis living here in the United States are working tirelessly at the grassroots levels to raise funds and investments for Pakistan’s social sectors, through dozens of new non-profit organizations. Without the support of Pakistanis back home, the positive branding of these fund raising efforts becomes less compelling. Recently, at the behest of the Obama administration, several Pakistanis launched the new American Pakistan Foundation, aimed at strategically deploying capital for Pakistan’s long term development. The keynote speakers at the inaugural event of the new foundation included the organization’s key benefactors: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. With that level of commitment, the least we can do is meet them half way.

Secondly, many of us, especially those who land at American borders with a green passport, have a perception that Americans think of all Pakistanis as terrorists. Even if this is true, can we blame them? Most of the international incidents involving terrorist acts in the last few years have been linked back to Pakistan. If an American were to attempt to bomb a crowded street in Karachi, I can assure you that being treated differently would be the least of the worries of any American who attempted to visit Pakistan again.

Third, we tend to view American society as dissimilar to our own. In fact, the central tenets of American society – justice, civility and equality – are similar to the tenets that the founder of a country once preached to a young nation that was destined for greatness. It is that very culture of meritocracy which has allowed many Pakistanis to become one of the most successful minority communities in the United States. If we could only emulate that culture of meritocracy in Pakistan, it would just be a matter of time before the natural talents and diversity of Pakistan would manifest itself.

In that vein, much of the anti-American sentiment imbedded in our culture seems farcical. I offer this opinion not as an American patriot, but as a concerned Pakistani who sees the palpable effort being expended here in the name of our future as a nation. Every time a Faisal Shahzad finds legitimacy to his actions, we are closer to driving away that knock of opportunity sitting at our doorstep. Once it is gone, I am not so sure we will find it again.

Let us unite in our common sense of reason and drop the pretense of anti-Americanism. Let us ensure that next time one of our own thinks about killing innocent civilians in a crowded city, he will have to consider facing the collective wrath of 170 million Pakistanis.

Faraz Rana is a corporate lawyer based in New York City and provides pro bono legal services to several organizations aimed at raising funds for Pakistani causes. He can be reached [email protected]

  • Asefff

    Faraz,

    Although America may be providing some vital financial assistance to Pakistan, it has also stirred the hornet’s nest by starting an operation in Pakistan’s Tribal areas.

    America has its military presence in 53 countries of the world. It is disliked by most of the host nations because by being in those areas America serves no one’s interests but itself. Okinawa is only a small example.

    Most of the people in Pakistan do not hate America or Americans but the policies of the American Government and their imperialist designs.

    We have better things to talk about at the “dinner table”.
    I hope as a lawyer you base your arguments in facts rather than emotions. No pun intended!

  • Ali X

    I love the optimism US based Pakistanis have. Makes my day, everytime. I’m hoping it will catch on.

  • Ayesha K

    Couldn’t have agreed more with your sentiments. Probably one day our Nation will wake up and realize their own faults and hopefully that day will come sooner than later.

  • Imad Khan

    I completely agree with you Faraz, this is one of the reason why Pakistan is still in Turmoil Pakistani’s need to understand their own faults instead of Blaming it on the rest of the world and creating conspiracy theories about anything and everything….
    Pleasure reading your Blog :)
    Respect.

  • Muhibullah

    Any reason why Pakistanis should not be anti-American? A Americans are very blatantly anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistani. The United states is also the biggest killing machine in existence, why should we not recognize our enemy?

  • taj

    completely agreed with Mr.Rana. Conspiracy theories based on threat to Pakistan by Hindu Jewish lobbies is the propaganda unleashed by our conservative narrow minded security analysts and supported by Urdu Media. Our security agencies have played havoc with the country on this pretext and make our country hostage to their short sighted policies and make Pakistan a security state. Our educated middle class has become hostage to these so called patriotic pseudo intellectuals. On these flimsy grounds this class is not ready to give power to common people of Pakistan. We should understand that our future lies in cooperation and not in enemity.

  • KAY

    For all the problems in Pakistan…DON’T BLAME OTHERS. We Pakistanis are responsible for almost everything what is happening in Pakistan. Is it America who tell a corrupt govt servant to take bribe?? Is it America who tell you not to obey traffic rules??? Is it America who tell you to throw garbage whereever you like???

    Just make yourself good and everything around you will become better.

  • Zia

    Frankly, I find the Anti-American sentiment of Pakistanis in Pakistan quite horrifying. It’s kind of like the spiteful, obstinate guy not listening to another much more successful guy’s wise advice because he feels the other, more successful guy has no right to give him “sound advice”. For all their Islam, some Pakistanis have not become educated, sophisticated people (though I imagine this is what Islam was supposed to breed- some culture, etiquette, education, modesty, cool-headedness, peace, etc.). I find my family constantly trying to help our families back home in Pakistan, but all we hear from them is, “Oh you think America is so great…” Well, yes, America is great. It is my home. I feel safe here. I recently got married, my husband is a convert who has never been to Pakistan, and my mom won’t let me take him there because of this Anti-Americanism. She believes people will try to hurt him just because he’s white and has a dark blue passport. Come on, Pakistan. Grow up.

  • Hassas

    We and US both are responsible for making it fashionable.
    The think-tanks of both countries with some powers in hand should ponder to see what can be done to avoid it.
    As a whole our nation needs restructured and rebuild.

  • Khalil

    Excellent article. It is time for Pakistan to stop blaming outsiders and reflect on why it is probably the only country in the world that appears to be going backwards in every respect.

    Where is the voice of Pakistans intellegensia or are they too rooted in their decadent lifestyle to care about lending their voice to the downtrodden?

  • Fanam

    An article based on self interest. This does not focus on millions of poor people who lose thier lives, suffer everyday. Americans are not helping for the economic development of the country, they are helping a puppet government and solely selfish government to get their things done. It would be a joke of the day if you tell me that American will have a sincere interest in helping a Muslim nation develop. You dont need to hate America, infact dont hate anyone. BUT don’t ask anyone to trust America, its a foolish thinking. Before you think of outside pressures and involvement, first you think of loving your own people, come of separatism, secretarian thinkings, division of classes, so called modern styles and adopting western culture when you have a beautiful religion to follow. Think like a Muslim and act like a Muslim, your problems will be solved. Pray for Pakistan and may the almighty bless this country.