Frequently Asked Questions

Who are you?

The Portmir Heritage Foundation is a voluntary sector organisation committed to the heritage awareness of the British-Pahari community particularly as that heritage unfolds in the United Kingdom. Although this is our primary goal, it is not our only goal as we are also committed to social agenda issues and activism. 

What do you stand for?

We believe in ‘values’ that give primacy to human dignity whatever a person’s background and beliefs.  We therefore advocate for an equal and just society here in the UK with a view of integrating our own ethnic communities within the rubric of the wider society whilst challenging individual bigotries and institutional racism. We are not a political organisation and neither do we advocate on the basis of religious precepts although we freely express these shared objectives through both religious and political sentiments. Ultimately we stand for justice, fairness and tolerance within the UK in accordance with its liberal traditions that can accommodate a variety of divergent lifestyles, not least Islamic ones.

With particular reference to Mirpuris and other British-Pahari communities in the UK, we would like to address the social issues that confront them daily. Whilst celebrating our shared heritage and raising an awareness of our culture, we do not shy away from pointing out the many problems that exist within our communities that are based on attitudes that have no place in a free and open society. Domestic violence, forced marriages and honour based crimes are indeed features of our communities although by no means do these realities define our communities or the practises of individual members. We cannot choose to ignore these problems. These behaviours are nonetheless ‘learnt’ and symptomatic of patriarchal values where women are relegated to a periphery position within the extended family network and the wider society. Perpetrators of these crimes often times find justification for their behaviour through their inherited cultural conventions that sanction honour-based violence to redeem the reputation (‘izzat’) or ('honour') of the offended family. Not only will we document and counteract these abuses on a case by case basis, but we also seek to uproot the structural gender imbalances that make such crimes possible in the first place. We therefore actively encourage women to become associated members of our organisation, whether they are of a Pahari ethnic background or otherwise.

We are also opposed to the radicalisation of our youth on the basis of extremist interpretations and politicised ideologies that have ironically not germinated from within the Islamic intellectual tradition. Popularly known as Political Islam or Islamism, this phenomenon has its roots within the revolutionary movements of a Europe torn asunder by great political upheavals. The priorities of Islamism do not resonate with ordinary Muslims the world-over despite being couched in the symbolic language of Islamic resistance whilst conveniently using Islam’s symbolic imagery. Movements associated with Islamism are therefore committed to obtaining state-power explicitly in the name of Islam whilst caring little for personal devotion to God, the hallmark of a truly Muslim religious experience.

The chaos we see in the Muslim world today that has resulted in the carnage of innocent people and the emergence of ISIS, the destruction of property and the widespread use of terrorist acts in the name of Jihad are all the by-products of Islamism. Its complete aversion to Sufism and its targeting of Sufi shrines and personalities owe their origin to the mistaken belief that Sufism equates pacifism and religious aberration. The 9/11 suicide bombers and their 7/7 counterparts were all radicalised by ‘Islamist’ teachings.  It is therefore of imperative importance to the Portmir Foundation in its advocacy for a free and just society that the protagonists of Islamism in the UK are counteracted. This we believe is to the common good of everyone in the UK. 

Are you pro or anti-Pakistan?

We are often asked this question. We are not 'pro' or 'anti' anything. In terms of our ethnic community's connection with erstwhile Mirpur or Mirpur District, Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, we are unapologetic in exposing Pakistan’s unjust occupation/administration of the territory especially when explaining why so many British-Paharis now live in the UK. Pakistan maintains its control of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir ostensibly in the name of the ‘‘Kashmiri’ People’ whilst actively exploiting the region’s human and natural resources, with no concern for the welfare of its inhabitants, surprisingly in the full glare of international opprobrium. There is nothing conspiratorial or outlandish about these claims either. Numerous non-governmental organisations that have nothing to gain personally or institutionally from the Kashmir Conflict have reported on these unfortunate realities. According to internationally accepted corruption indices the governance of Pakistan is recognised as being institutionally and politically corrupt. We therefore offer our redemptive critique in accordance with our own values that give primacy to human dignity without advocating a political solution for Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, a political decision that can only be taken by those who live in the territory. The people of this region are however stateless, their lands have been exploited for the benefit of Pakistan’s elites and so it behoves organisations with links to the region to highlight the imbalances between Pakistan and Pakistan-administered-Kashmir. As we are not a political organisation, we are not part of any political struggle to ‘liberate’ Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, neither do we 'advocate' for the territory’s accession to either Pakistan or India. Outside the context of the Kashmir Conflict and the injustices being suffered by the peoples of the region we offer nothing but goodwill to the peoples of India, Pakistan and Pakistan/Indian administered Kashmir(s). We are therefore not anti-Pakistan and express solidarity with the oppressed and poverty-stricken peoples of Pakistan and the world.

Are you pro or anti-Muslim?

We are Muslims by virtue of our cultural heritage. Some of our trustees are practising Muslims whilst others do not subscribe to Islam. Our criteria for trustees and associated members is not based on religious teachings or ideological tenants although we are committed ideologically to the primacy of free thought. Our associated members and those who would like to contribute to the work of the Portmir Foundation are free to live their lives in accordance with ‘beliefs’ that they freely adopt whilst extending respect and tolerance to the views of others whom they may not necessarily agree with. We are opposed to compulsion in every form whether religious, political or ideological. We are therefore strongly opposed to literalist interpretations of scripture that indirectly advocate hatred and violence as a means of their normative interactions with others especially in the UK. 

We recognise and acknowledge openly that our primary frame of reference is not based on medieval juristic interpretations of Islam, a tradition that we nonetheless respect and celebrate for its many intellectual achievements whilst pointing out its many deficiencies for modern societies. As part of our heritage-awareness campaign we are committed to presenting the history of Sufism and Buddhism in our region especially as these movements prioritised humanistic aspects of their teachings as the chief expression of their faith. 

How are you about cultural heritage when you're committed to social agenda issues?

We believe that our cultural heritage is important and must be documented and preserved for future generations in the UK. This is borne out of the realisation that we are indeed an ‘ethnic’ people with a cultural and linguistic heritage that makes us distinct from other Pakistani and Indian sub-groupings. Many of our people are simply ignorant of this cultural legacy and do not understand that they are connected with ancient peoples with celebrated histories that are today being claimed by numerous Pakistan sub-groups to the exclusion of the actual beneficiaries. Critically, neither Pakistan nor India is religiously, culturally or linguistically homogenous.

As a cultural heritage organisation we recognise that our ancestors included Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs. On the basis of this self-evident truth we also recognise that our cultural heritage belongs to many Hindus and Sikhs that have post-partition settled in India in the wake of communal violence. 

We will therefore document their persecutions and ordeals in the spirit of rapprochement with a view of promoting social cohesion and harmony, whether in the subcontinent or here in the UK. We strongly encourage our ethnic counterparts to become associated members of the Portmir Foundation and contribute their own experiences, write articles and have their say in forum discussions.

Here in the UK we are not merely settled as members of ethnic minorities but are proud Britons. Britain is home to many divergent ethnic and linguistic groups, all of whom must express their divergent backgrounds in a shared Britishness that gives primacy to the English language and ‘values’ borne of the Enlightenment Tradition. We believe this ‘Britishness’ is part of our social contract with the British People collectively, a value that we not only practise but also cherish and celebrate. Our celebration of our ethnic separateness from other Pakistani groupings will never be to the disadvantage of our national bonds with the British people. In this respect we recognise the fact that Britain has been a better friend to émigré Mirpuris than Pakistan withstanding issues of racism, institutional or otherwise. In this respect, it should be borne in mind that in Britain we have never been denied the 'right' to rectify such wrongs and challenge the 'State', its various institutions and agencies in anticipation of a just resolution. This single reality has been denied to Mirpuris in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir who for all intents and purposes are state-less.   

What do you hope to achieve?

Put simply, we hope to achieve dignity for our people. We cannot achieve this dignity without advocating for a free and fair society that values human achievements outside the narrow strictures of artificial constraints, political, religious or otherwise. A fair and just society can never be achieved without uprooting injustices and cruel practises that undermine equality for all. And so we recognise that with these rights come civic duties. We have opportunities in Britain to not only celebrate our culture but also address our problems through the assistance of a mostly benign State, denied to our ethnic counterparts in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir. We owe it to this legacy as fortunate beneficiaries that we contribute our own struggles to the common good of all British people on a common humanitarian platform.

© Copyright 2013 Portmir Foundation

All Rights Reserved

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