Pakistan and Post Trump America
Let’s get one thing clear. The adverse reaction of the Pakistani people to Donald Trump is not in every case based on aversion to racism. Let’s remember the way Pakistan looked down upon its fellow Bengali citizens, calling them ‘kaalay bhookay Bangali’. This is also where Muslims, as I mentioned in a recent column, prefer not to share dishes with their non-Muslim countrymen, and where the religious freedom of minorities are curbed in terrible ways.
No, the reaction to Trump stems mostly from concern for ourselves here, and for those of us living in the US. Having got that straight, let’s get off the sanctimonious high horse and look at the situation as it is.
The American people just elected a President who changes his stance as expedient, but let’s face it he’s hardly alone in that respect. Look at certain of Pakistan’s friendships based primarily on individual perks and petro-dollars with some of the Middle Eastern regimes, regimes which subscribe to few human rights. Other than that, the new President is unreasonable, unpredictable, volatile, racist, a religious bigot, sexist, and a misogynist…even though he’s been married frequently enough. He possesses few scruples and rates big money higher than good values, which is why he has an abundance of the first and none of the second. Oh, and he has a miserable vocabulary.
The average American (including the new President), appears even more misinformed regarding world affairs and history than the average Pakistani, and as xenophobic, definitely with exceptions on either side. No, Americans are not devoid of family values, no, American families do not dump their elderly, and no, Americans are not mostly, anti-religion. On the other hand, the Third World is not composed of rapists and terrorists.
In their fear of the unknown, present and future, and their desire for change people play into the wrong hands. Both these factors played a huge role in this American election. Fear of the unknown is reflected in slogans such as ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘You have people coming in, people from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.” The desire for change is simply reflected in the people’s choice of Trump whose personality falls so far short of the usual Presidential candidate, even G.W Bush.
The last Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, fell apart when Mustafa Kamal Pasha deposed the Ottoman ruler to establish a secular democracy in Turkey. The fact is that the Empire had been neither great nor functional for a very long time. Yet, the Khilafat Movement that started after the First World War in 1920 called upon the British government to maintain the authority of the Caliph.
There are still repeated calls raised in the Islamic world and here in Pakistan for the revival of a Caliphate, like a child yearning for its dummy, calls to ‘make the Islamic world great again’, in response to the threat posed by the developed countries. One of the several groups calling for such a revival claims that the majority of Muslims worldwide wish the Caliphate to be revived, and to be governed by the laws of Sharia. You wonder whose version of Sharia they would like to be governed by, considering that there is no consensus among Muslims upon the matter.
Trump’s unrealistic plans for a wall and kicking out Muslims from the US so that American can ‘become great again,’ are no different. Americans, to their credit, are themselves divided on the issue despite the results of the election which were based more on Electoral College tally than popular vote. And besides, the modern world is now too inclusive a place. America’s nuclear and rocket technologies were both pioneered by immigrants, Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun respectively, just as much of Pakistan’s infrastructure, its railways, and its governing systems are British legacies. It is how we maintain these systems that we can take pride in, or not.
Pakistan requires Chinese input to build its economic corridor. Even more do the Americans need the millions of immigrants who, along with other Americans have made their country great in ways that really count. Trump Towers…well we have seen what happens to the towers of this world. It is the American ethos of hard work and enterprise that is really great, and that one should admire and emulate.
As for the new President’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, the best example I can think of for a response is when Harry Potter counters the Minister for Magic’s request for support by asking him if he had ‘released Stan Shunpike yet?’ a man unfairly convicted of a crime and still languishing in prison. So, Mr. Trump, is your country still best buddies with some of the most repressive regimes in the world? Still providing arms and support to militants everywhere? We heard your demand that Pakistan apologise for harbouring Bin Laden for so many years, but we didn’t hear America apologise for having created him.
So long as such alliances continue, Americans, or anyone who maintains them will have enemies, but the new government should search elsewhere for them than where they have been. The more than 3 million Muslims in the US hold the people of that country (as distinct from its government and its policies) in deep affection. They genuinely consider it home, as do people who visit that great country. Almost all Muslim citizens of the USA have contributed to their adoptive country in some positive way. Very, very few of any of those will work against a country in which they have invested so much. America can ill afford such racist, bigoted rhetoric just as Muslims cannot afford to fall prey to anti-American sentiment.
For the US, both the fear and the desire for change need to be examined from a fresh standpoint, as to why the American people are so fearful, and why they desire change so desperately. Perhaps, in addition to reasons relating to the rest of the world, American policies themselves could to with re-examination? And perhaps the values shared by its leaders up till now should also be examined to see where they fell so far short of American expectations as to push voters to opt for a candidate like Mr. Trump, a man so far right as to be in danger of falling off the edge, taking the American people with him.
For us, it is best to accept that it is now the age of secular democracy. Considering the myriad schisms within the Islamic world and its general condition, a secular democracy is the most pragmatic option. The best solution would be to strengthen our societies within that framework.
For today’s entire world, we all need each other’s support, expertise and cooperation. Harking towards the past, real or imaginary, is an exercise in idiocy. It is hoped that in coming times Pakistan will take a pragmatic approach to the new Presidency, in fact it must, seeing how much we have to lose otherwise. It is hoped that the Americans will do so too, and hopefully the process will not exact too much of a toll upon either side, or upon the rest of the world.