Nearly a decade and a half ago, I got married to a Canadian in Toronto. My mother’s incessant demands, innuendoes, emotional breakdowns, insults and ‘third party’ interventions finally got the better of me. And so I decided to get married in Canada. Little did I know, at the time, that not only would my family be happy with the prospects of me getting married thousands of miles away, but they would be joining me for the happy occasion.

With all this good luck on my side, I decided the time was ripe for me to go on my journey of religious discovery. My wife agreed to come along. Some weeks later we were in Syria, a country that I had visited some years earlier. I didn’t like the prospect of studying Arabic at the University of Damascus, and so went across the border to neighbouring Jordan. I enrolled at an Institute that taught classical Arabic so I could read classical texts and understand the literal word of God. I was as impressionistic and naive as ever. I thought by becoming a ‘good’ Muslim, educating myself in the ‘real’ Islam of the traditional ‘Ulema’ (the clerics) I would somehow find inner-peace. It was also an exciting time. This bug-bear of mine followed me over many years as I dabbled in the language and culture of the practising Muslim, and finally had the wherewithal to follow my dreams.

But, the experience wasn’t cracked up to be what I’d imagined. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, although it took me some years to come to this realisation. But every cloud has its silver lining, and my experience opened up the world of subtle prejudice, the sort you can’t recognise unless you go looking for it. It also kick started a hobby of mine that has taken me through the pages of numerous books on social relations and power dynamics, and the complex history that engenders such processes. In practical terms, it showed me how people suffering from delusions of self-importance think of themselves despite being couched in the language of humility and fraternal brotherhood. I discovered a pecking order where ‘certain’ Muslims sat at the top of an idealised but imagined ‘calling’ whilst others looked on as spectators, less important, less significant, but dependable ‘cash-cows’ to help sustain the ‘imbalance’ on show.

In this world of universal faith, religious patronage and fraternal love, the type that gets you feeling all fuzzy, I got the strong impression that ‘Pakistanis’ are not ‘celebrated’. But, even back then for some reason I would never say that I was from Pakistan either, finding the idea repugnant to every bone in my body. I don’t know why or when I started to feel like this. There was something about ‘Pakistan’ that made a lot of my peers feel uncomfortable, or at least those who had some inkling of the wider world.

‘Azad’ ‘Kashmir’ flag

The pro-independence ‘Kashmiris’ from my region hadn’t helped. They accidentally gave some of us a platform to voice an underlying cleavage that predated us by decades, and so you would hear people say, “nope, we’re not from Pakistan, we’re from ‘Azad’ ‘Kashmir!’

By saying this, the small minority that would say stuff like this, and admittedly most of us hadn’t even come across their arguments, didn’t actually know what they were saying. They were merely pointing out that they weren’t Pakistanis imbuing ‘Azad’ Kashmir with an illusory identity that was at odds with the imposition of ‘Pakistan’. One thing was for sure, they weren’t saying that they were ‘Kashmiris’. And yet this was the impression that seeped out of their internal foreboding. This ‘conflation’ was never of their doing though. Writers with an impressionistic understanding of these interactions haven’t helped the situation parroting the trope that ‘Mirpuris’, the majority-Pakistani community in the UK, were somehow ashamed of themselves, that’s why they say they are ‘Kashmiris’. So that would mean, Mirpuris were ashamed of being Pakistanis? If that’s the case, why do the majority still, even to this day, instinctively affirm a Pakistani background? But, more crucially, why are so many Pakistanis similarly ashamed of their own background?

It’s a ludicrous assertion at best, and if the writers had bothered to familiarise themselves with the social culture of the wider region and the corresponding caste-backgrounds (landed and occupational), they would have realised that the term ‘Kashmiri’ means different things to different people. As they were moving in circles not predisposed to this way of thinking, they formed judgements that were skewed.

But, there was one moment in Jordan that made me think really hard and proper about everything that I was about to experience. It stirred in me feelings that have seldom left me. I wasn’t present at the time, but my wife narrated what happened. There was a girl from America of Mexican descent, she used the term ‘Hispanic’. She was a ‘convert’ although I recall her using the term ‘revert’. The first time I saw her, I thought she was ‘Pakistani’ and never thought anything of it. Apparently, my wife thought the same as did some of her non-Pakistani friends. I had a couple of conversations with her and I remember, one time, speaking about the ‘pyramids’ in ‘Mexica’ and discussing the claim that some ‘Arabs’ from ‘Egypt’ got lost on the high seas and ended up in her part of the world. Apparently, they built the pyramids. I get the impression, she was somehow linking her heritage with a wider ‘Arab’ identity. Of course, none of it is true for obvious historical reasons not worth going into here.

As the incident goes, some of her new acquaintances at the Institute asked her about her origins. They said, they thought she was Pakistani. She shrugged off the comment, saying “I’ve never heard that one before, I always get ‘Arab’ or ‘Persian’”. She seemed perturbed but no one thought anything of it. Until a day or so later, her ‘Dutch-born’ roommate approached the ‘offending’ parties and narrated what actually happened. She said, her friend was inconsolable and cried. She was upset that she was confused for looking like a ‘Pakistani’. My wife, being one of the ‘instigators’ said, it wasn’t meant to be an ‘insult’ but just a casual remark. The ‘aggrieved’ ‘victim’s’ friend said sympathetically, “I understand that, but try not to say that she looks like a Pakistani again as it’ll upset her.” My wife thought the whole thing was weird, laughed uncomfortably, and never thought about it afterwards.

This incident was a precursor to other incidents. She recalls siting with some ‘American’ ‘revert’ friends at a beauty parlour in Amman as they were browsing through a magazine. They happened to gaze upon a famous Indian actress called ‘Ashwariya Rai’. One of the girls, a ‘convert’ noted that she was ‘half-white’. My wife casually corrected her by saying, no, her parents are both Indians. She refused point black to accept that she could be ‘Indian’. My wife tells me she explained that lots of Indians have light eyes and are a lot more fairer than Ashwairya Rai. But, the entire group dismissed her and that was the end of the conversation.

Finally, I would like to mention a third incident. My wife was with some ‘Pakistani’ friends from the Institute having been invited to a gathering that included some elderly Arab women. They noted that the Pakistani guests in attendance only partially looked Pakistani, as if that was a compliment, but the hostess, another ‘American Pakistani’ didn’t ‘look’ Pakistani at all, that she had ‘features’ that weren’t ‘Pakistani’ features. One of the group tried to explain that lots of Pakistanis look like the hostess, but an elderly Arab woman refused to even entertain the idea becoming quite animated. A well-travelled ‘Jordanian’ woman present weighed in by saying, she had lived in Pakistan’s capital with her diplomat husband for many years and had seen many women, ‘much fairer’ than the hostess. Her interlocutor refused to accept her ‘testimony’, saying, “mustaheel (‘impossible’), she does not look Pakistani at all!”

The Pakistani hostess for her part kept quite.

These incidents are not unique. The people that made these comments were making what appeared to them, at least, to be innocent remarks. There’s nothing sinister about them and neither were they motivated by any malice.

But, that’s not the reason for mentioning these incidents.

There is a wider point that I would like to explore by pointing out that none of the people making such ‘generalisations’ were ‘fair’ themselves, or had ‘light-eyes’ sufficiently characteristic of an ‘identity’ drastically at odds with a racially-imagined ‘Pakistani’ identity.

So why do people make such comments?

I’ve lived in Jordan and travelled the Middle East. I’ve been to the northern regions of Pakistan and my own hilly and mountainous region in the western Himalayas north of Pakistan’s Panjab Plains. This region is home to diverse populations, that has over the course of millennia been invaded and settled by Central Asian nomads and tribes looking for riches as some stayed whilst others headed for the Plains. From the direction of the Indus Valley Plains gradually over thousands of years, and Indo-Gangetic India over the past millennium, pastoralists and mercenary-like tribes fleeing conflict, wars and upheavals, have during different periods sought sanctuary in the hills. After 1947, another huge huge wave of displacement took place. Muslims from the direction of North India and the Deccan Plateau sought shelter in West Panjab and Sindh whilst non-Muslims, indigenous to the areas of West Pakistan left for the Dominion of India. In fact a lot of Bollywood’s most famous personalities have recent roots in the western Himalayas.

Colonial ethnologists, for their part, noted the huge diversity of the people that lived here, and ascribed a foreign origin to certain clan backgrounds to remote ancestors from far afield, conjecturally I am keen to add, and according to race theories which we would find objectionable today. Colonial cartographers surveying the Salt Range Tract, a region beyond the flat and fertile Plains of the Panjab in the Himalayan foothills, pointed out that it didn’t really belong to India. They were of course contrasting this mountainous terrain with the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India. The region is undulating and rugged in its appearance. It has a charm of its own.

I know enough from my direct exposure to the purported ‘racial’ identities of a number of ‘nationalities’ in this part of the world to not make crass ‘generalisations’ about what ‘Arabs’, ‘Iranians’, ‘Turks’, ‘Afghans’, ‘Pakistanis’, ‘Middle Easterners’, ‘South Asians’, etc look like. I recall in Syria, my wife noting how she had imagined ‘Arabs’ to look different to the ones she was encountering in Damascus. That was the end of the conversation at the time, as I only started to think about such issues later.

Pakistani modelling bridal wear

In her mind, growing up in Toronto, she had heard so many times that certain Pakistanis looked like ‘Arabs’ whilst others did not. She had obviously encountered ‘Arabs’ in Toronto, so I guess in Syria she was trying to locate these ‘Arabs’ outside her imagination.

The ‘image’ in her head was of course a constructed one.

I remember as we started to look for an apartment in Syria with the assistance of a Syrian-American, an amenable chap, he casually noted that my wife looked ‘Syrian’, and he would never have thought that she was ‘Pakistani’. I recall the apartment owner saying to my wife that she looked ‘Arab’ and in the customary habit of Arab hospitality, invited us to meet her family. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people say to my wife that she doesn’t look Pakistani. Usually, if not always, these conversations are triggered by members of ethnic minority communities looking into the Pakistani community, claiming that the Pakistanis they encounter somehow look like ‘them’ but not like the mass of ‘ordinary Pakistanis’, a rather perverse sentiment if you think about what is actually being said. Pakistanis, unaware of the unequal power-dynamics being deployed, haven’t helped as they merely concur with the ensuing insights; “oh you don’t like Pakistani! Yeah I know, a lot of people say that,” as if they are being complemented in some bizarre sense.

A ‘Kalash’ girl from Northern Pakistan

She recalls growing up in Canada, and being casually told by her ‘white’ friends that she didn’t look ‘Pakistani’. On one occasion, she recalls her Italian teacher being ‘surprised’ to learn that she and her ‘Christian’ friend – another shock – were Pakistanis. Subsequently, my wife went to the bookstore and purchased an illustrated book on Pakistan. She showed her pictures of ‘Pakistanis’ from various regions in the hope of educating her about the ethnic diversity of Pakistan. Not many people know this, sadly not even Pakistanis, but Pakistan is one of the most ethnically diverse countries on earth. And so I get the faint impression that there’s something negative about ‘looking’ or ‘being’ ‘Pakistani’ however patently absurd such an idea. I think my wife similarly was affected by that attitude. I mean, for one thing, why would she take the time to try and educate her teacher?

She could have just ignored the comments as ‘nonsense’ albeit non-malicious and innocent. After all, a lot of common-sense observations turn out to be false once probed.

In Egypt, our tour guides made similar remarks. I was very uncomfortable with the male tour guide looking at her lecherously and wanting to sit between us as if he was a member of our family. He wasn’t complimenting her in my mind, and I doubt she liked his compliments either. The streets of Cairo can be fraught with difficulties for women dressed in ‘Hijabs’ and loosely-fitting garments. I don’t know how some Muslim men can reconcile this behaviour even as women are dressed in ‘modest’ attire, walking meekly so as to not offend their prying eyes, a story for another day.

Women chant slogans as they gather to protest against sexual harassment in front of the opera house in Cairo June 14, 2014, after a woman was sexually assaulted by a mob during the June 8 celebrations marking the new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s inauguration in Tahrir square. Egypt has asked YouTube to remove a video showing the naked woman with injuries being dragged through the square after being sexually assaulted during the celebrations. Authorities have arrested seven men aged between 15 and 49 for sexually harassing women on the square after the posting of the video, which caused an uproar in local and international media. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

In Jordan, as I rode various taxis to different destinations, and it became clear that I was not a ‘native’, I recall being asked where I was from, and the conversations were interesting. I’ve never thought of myself as looking like a ‘Malaysian’. I was once asked if I was from Nepal. I don’t think I look Nepalese but what exactly is the ‘Nepalese’ ‘appearance’ for me to entertain my own stupid question? I used to say my parents were from Kashmir (I don’t say that anymore). But the response from my ‘Arab’ interlocutors was always the same if not predictable, “India or Pakistan?” So people have heard of ‘Kashmir’ and the conflict to ‘imagine’ what the diverse nationalities of Kashmir State ‘should’ look like through ‘stereotypes’ of what Indians and Pakistanis ought to look like.

A ‘Sheedi’ boy from South Pakistan

If you don’t immediately fit a stereotype, people try to assign you to more closely-fitting stereotypes, that’s the nature of ‘stereotypes’ and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is not what I mean by subtle prejudice or benign bigotry. I’m talking about something less innocent.

In Anatolian ‘Turkey’, I was holidaying with a group of friends, five of us in total. I recall, the hotel reception man saying, he thought we were ‘Turks’. I recall now how different he looked from his fellow ‘national’ from Istanbul, a guy with light brown hair and piercing blue eyes, someone I could have easily confused as an indigenous ‘white’ guy in the UK. When I think of ‘white’ guys, for some reason, I never think of Southern Europeans or Mediterranean people as being ‘white’ which is clearly an absurd position. Having watched American movies all my life with a particular penchant for the ‘thriller’ and ‘action’ genres, I’ve never thought of Sicilians as ‘white’, but clearly that’s how they identify and are identified by the powers-be. I had no inclination to say to the receptionist that he looked ‘Turkish’ and the other chap ‘white’ (howsoever absurd the ‘racial’ connotations involved). It just never occurred to me to say that at the time. But what exactly constitutes ‘white’, ‘brown’, ‘black’, ‘Asian’ or ‘European’; these are ambiguous racial terms that have no corresponding biological value.

They are social constructs, and pretty sloppy ones too. They tell us more about the historical epoch in which they were developed than the ‘peoples’ being described through them.

siblings of the same family, Pakistan

As we went shopping, and tried to barter with the shop owners, I would practise my Arabic with those who could speak some Arabic but not English. And they would ask like clockwise, if we we’re from neighbouring Syria? As we got progressively ‘tanned’ and ‘darker’, the shop keepers would ask if we were from ‘Libya’? I recall being shouted at by an elderly ‘Turk’ for entering a tourist Mosque in my shorts, (they weren’t that short) but he would have hit us had another younger ‘Turk’ not politely intervened. The young chap spoke to us in ‘Turkish’ but we explained in English that we’re tourists. Our ‘foreign’ misdemeanours were enough to dissipate the tension between us and the elderly man, as we hurried out of the Mosque!

In Britain, as I wrack my head around the nature of such innocent interactions, to the backdrop of ‘anti-Mirpuri’ bashing by fellow-Pakistanis, the ‘urbanites’, I’m perturbed by the amount of Pakistanis who remark having just returned from their holidays that they don’t look like ‘Pakistanis’. I’ve met so many young men and women tell me brazenly, almost as a badge of honour, that they don’t look ‘Pakistani’. I’ve heard everything from ‘Brazilian’, ‘Spanish’, ‘Italian’, ‘Greek’, ‘Arab’, ‘Persian’, ‘Latino’, and even ‘Irish’. To me, they look like Pakistanis; if I saw them on the street, I wouldn’t confuse anyone of them for the nationalities they claim. And if they saw me, they would never think once, “hmm I wonder where this guy’s from.” It just wouldn’t happen! If ‘foreigners’ are unfamiliar with your people or the part of the world you originate from, they try to put you in a box that their familiar with. It doesn’t mean you’re somehow ‘less-Pakistani’ or worse, ‘special’ because you don’t look like the ordinary mass of ‘Pakistanis’. We know who ‘we’ are because we’re constantly around our ‘own’ people and so we take our diversity for granted irrespective of having green or blue eyes, being incredibly dark to incredibly fair, curly hair, brown hair, tall, short, having ‘fine’ or ‘broad’ features – however we imagine these features.

But then again, what qualifies as the Pakistani ‘look’ or any ‘look’ for that matter?

I’m speaking of phenotypes, or the observable characteristics of individuals shaped by genes and environment. This is a complex area of our human autonomy, even though it’s a tiny percentage of our DNA make up. How we are perceived ‘racially’, aside from innocent stereotypical perceptions of ordinary people, is heavily influenced by power-dynamics that seek to ‘whiten’ or ‘Europeanise’ standards of beauty. We can’t divorce this historical baggage from our conversations. This is one of the abiding legacy of colonialism that decolonised peoples everywhere help perpetuate with their inferiority complexes. When Pakistanis self-flagellate about their non-Pakistani appearances in some self-affirming sense individually, they are not proffering a physical description about their persons. They are in fact offering value-judgements about their people’s racial worth. The idea that someone looks ‘Pakistani’, is of course a ridiculous notion at best.

I do not doubt that the people making these comments think they’re actually making common-sense observations. They just don’t realise how backwards their observations actually are. If they sat with anthropologists, biological evolutionists or geneticists, I’m talking about a particular group of experts who know a thing or two about the mistaken idea of ‘racial’ appearances, they would feel quite embarrassed about the ‘common-sense’ racial myth ideas they revel in.

But we don’t need to rely on biology, anthropology or related disciplines to inform our redemptive insights. Understanding the history of power relations between ruling elites and their subject populations will shed light on why we take ‘racial myths’ for granted. As direct beneficiaries of that past, a lot of media and marketing companies in the West trade in these racial myths when they want to sell their products all the while they ascribe ‘status’ to certain groups compartmentalising diverse peoples according to an imagined heirarchy. Very rarely will you come across Indian or Pakistani models in British commercials; however attractive they are and whatever their appearances according to the established standards, they simply aren’t ‘fashionable’ enough. It’s a bit like the Indian accent and how it is socially presented in sitcoms; there is nothing innately wrong with the Indian-English accent, disparaging attitudes are however influenced by the power-dynamics I’ve mentioned above. And so however large the Indian or Pakistani population in the UK, the showcasing of British Indian or Pakistanis models is off-limits for large commercial companies selling their wares. The process in question is not one-way though; Indians and Pakistanis contribute to their own effacement when they refuse to challenge such unfair power-dynamics. Current attitudes, not only make such discriminatory practises possible but rather inevitable.

To be fair to the ‘Irish’-looking guy in the scenario I mentioned a little earlier, his paternal grandmother was in fact Irish, and she spoke perfect ‘Pahari’ better than most of my generation, which just shows these ‘anxieties’ are not shared by everyone. As my peers inadvertently, and in some cases, deliberately undermine their ‘Pakistani’ background, this lovely woman used to go about her business wearing shalwar kameez and speaking Pahari to the elders. She never once felt this practice was beneath her dignity as she was also home in her Irish identity in England.

A elderly Pakistani couple from rural Pakistan, southern Panjab.

I used to not care about such comments, and then I would became irritated. Now I’m positively embarrassed for my ‘fellow’ Pakistanis with whom, I like to add, I don’t share a ‘nationality’ for political reasons. For what it’s worth, my country, the slither of land Pakistan Officialdom calls ‘Azad’ Kashmir has a semiautonomous status where the people are treated like cattle, no better than 3rd class citizens in their own homeland. This has been widely reported by NGOs but sadly most Pakistanis are unaware of how ‘Azad’ Kashmir is governed and the backlash it is creating on the part of people who otherwise would have had no qualms with the idea of Pakistan.

Things are now moving apace in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir.

How can I say I’m ‘Pakistani’ without offending the sensibilities of people of conscience fighting for justice and dignity? But I still share a heritage with the ‘Pakistanis’ of the North in the Himalayan foothills of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and I feel connected to them profoundly. I also share a heritage with the peoples of the North Indian Plains, from where my paternal line descends, a heritage for which I have nothing but profound admiration, and a little remorse given what I know of my clan’s retreat from Old Delhi. I feel sorry for my people, and all the Pakistanis who want to erase something of themselves daily. Pakistanis that are honest with themselves, know exactly what I’m talking about. All they have to do is prick their conscience if indeed it still works.

Displaying one’s unquestioned patriotism for Pakistan despite the inequality that characterises ‘Pakistani’ society, merely entrenches the elite’s control over Pakistan. And we all know the identity of this elite. Those singing from this hymn sheet are deluded with nothing to show for their patriotism except ‘fuzzy’ love. It’s a bit like taking one’s ‘racial cues’ from the modelling agencies with their inbuilt bias for European appearances aside from token gestures for the ‘fashionable’ minorities notwithstanding the problems members of these communities have to face daily. In both cases these structural hegemonies discriminate those on the fringe of the established order.

Two sisters orphaned by the ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir earthquake. Many of the victims of this area didn’t receive the relief as it was siphoned off by corrupt officials. The ‘A’JK government has yet to receive funds procured through international donors earmarked for redevelopment. Many children are still being taught in make-shift schools, the price of dispossession for many communities across Pakistan.

But there is also something perverse about our imposed weakness through our own agency. As Pakistanis gleefully take delight being told that they don’t look like Pakistanis or ‘Indians’, basically their own people, they are ashamed of who they are precisely because they don’t know anything about their parents’ life-stories. They know very little about the subcontinent’s wonderful heritage, conflating their new territorial identity with the priorities of an ideological project bent on separating them from their fellow ‘Indians’. It doesn’t occur to them that one of the earliest Civilisations of mankind, the Indus Valley Civilisation, is firmly located within Pakistan. Successive governments of Pakistan have shown scant regard for the preservation and celebration of this ancient heritage. Archaeological sites sit in ruin. Funding is almost non-existent. Hinduism is too pagan

This malaise that sits at the heart of the modern Pakistani identity isn’t simply about physical appearance and racial difference, again vacuous concepts borne of not understanding genetic mutations, natural selection and genetic breeding populations but about disconnecting them from their Hindu and Buddhist past.

The Indus Valley Civilisation seems too pagan for Pakistan; India for its part actively claims this heritage despite most of the Indus Valley sites falling within the territory of Pakistan. How far some Pakistanis are prepared to go to deny this shared heritage is anyone’s guess. But, as they grovel to belong to ‘identities’ that are all illusory except in their minds, this ‘impulse’ is entirely of their choosing.

I don’t want to discuss Pakistan’s terrible cleavage with India except to say it continues to play a big part in the current anxieties. I can’t help but note how this ‘fracture’ that had originally given way to priorities that falsified Pakistan’s past for political reasons is now effacing ordinary Pakistanis of their deep roots in a land that they’ve every reason to be proud of. The alternative is what we are now seeing, a deep ‘void’ in the very souls of diaspora Pakistanis and their acute feelings of ‘disconnectedness’.

The myth of ‘Muslim Pakistan’ has not produced reciprocating relations with the Muslim World westwards of the River Indus. It has merely given Pakistanis a complex; as they run away from India into the arms of their Muslim brethren, they don’t feel fraternal love. The result is an inferiority complex that the rest of the world can sniff out instantly. The other Muslim nationalities have their own anxieties, and you can see this in how they seek imaginary racial bonds with Europe.

But this inferiority complex can be reversed if we so choose. Think about our ‘Mexican’ friend, she had an emotional meltdown on being told she looked ‘Pakistani’. Such a reaction is clearly extreme, but it happened. So why would a Mexican, a convert to Islam from North America think like this? And why didn’t she just brush off the comments by saying “no, I’m Mexican, but thank you for the compliment”.

Perhaps, she had her own complex.

More to the point, ask yourself, who actually put this idea in her head?

Where did this impulse come from, from ‘us’ perhaps or the ‘Arabs’ we ‘admire’?

If you’re a young Pakistani girl, and you’re accustomed to being told you’re ‘pretty’ because you meet the conventional image of what’s beautiful; you have the ‘right’ ‘complexion’, ‘light-coloured’ eyes, ‘straight’ hair, ‘European’ ‘features’ – a racial appearance that’s all but imagined I’m keen to emphasise – and some random person comes along and tells you, “wow, you look like an ‘Arab’!”. And yet you know nothing about the diversity of human populations in general, of ‘Arabs’, ‘Europeans’ and all the other generic groups in particular – you’d probably take it as a compliment too, not realising that the description itself is on account of something profoundly ‘perverse’. The remark itself feeds into ‘stereotypes’ of what ‘Indians’ are, and what ‘Pakistanis’ ought to look like.

And so what of the people who make such comments?

They are invested in a worldview that’s outright false.

Their casual statements tell you something about them, their priorities and anxieties, as opposed to ‘you’ or an ‘Arab’ racial identity. This is not the fault of ordinary ‘Arabs’ I’m keen to stress. The overwhelming majority of ‘Arabs’ are absolved from the inferiority-complex of Pakistanis. They have their own inferiority-complexes. They’re having a hard time as it is because of ‘Western’ prejudices that they are somehow ‘primitive’ and ‘violent’, throwbacks to an age progressive peoples everywhere have left more than a century ago.

The ‘Arab’ label in many parts of Europe and North America has become a slur to be avoided at all costs. Today you have many Arabs from North Africa and the Levant keen to emphasise their nationalities as ‘Algerians’, ‘Lebanese’, ‘Christians’, ‘Maronites’ etc., as something separate from an ‘Arab’ identity. But, as others go around behaving ‘extra special’ with their ‘Pakistani’-Muslim peers who admire them on account of the Islamic heritage and the Arabic language, wrongfully conflating the two, they aggregate an importance they don’t deserve. For Pakistanis, the ‘Indian’ cleavage has not helped either as they begin to feel a ‘bond’ that’s illusory with little or no reciprocation.

But let’s turn these remarks on their head.

If in your mind, the ‘Arab’ who said, “wow, you look like an Arab” didn’t look like an ‘Arab’ in the sense she didn’t have the appearance of our ‘imaginary’ and ‘quintessential’ ‘Arabs’, and so you casually remarked, “does that mean you don’t look like an ‘Arab’?

How do you think she would react?

Do you think she would respond by saying, “oh of course you’re right, I don’t look like an Arab!

Boys from the Rashaida tribe, Bedouin Arabs who trace their ‘Arab’ descent from the Hijaz, Saudi Arabia. Members of the tribe are incredibly proud of their ‘Arab’ roots. They have migrated to many parts of the Arab world.

I bet you she’d be taken aback.

The ‘Marsh’ Arabs of Iraq

Rather than empowering her through this imaginary identity, you’ve just unwittingly disempowered her. And her response would run something like this… “no, no, you don’t understand but Arabs are diverse looking people. “We” live in more than 20 countries in both North Africa and Asia.” So, when she said you looked like an Arab, which Arabs was she exactly referring to? Ordinary “Algerians”, “Yemenis”, “Saudis” “Moroccans” “Sudanese” – the vast majority of ‘plain-looking’ “Arabs”? Or are ‘Arabs’ in her mind the ones strutting the red carpets of Arab Award Ceremonies with their bleached blond hair whilst wearing blue contact lenses – the quintessential “Arabs” of your warped imagination?

Maya Diab, a Lebanese singer and a beauty and fashion icon.

Of course every nation has its beautiful people, India and Pakistan aren’t short of their photogenic celebrities either – but why is it, Pakistanis don’t conflate the appearances of their most cherished personalities with themselves?

To revisit this perverse question within the context of subtle prejudice, what do ‘Yemenis’, ‘Saudis’ or ‘Sudanese’ “Arabs” exactly look like? What about Moroccans, Algerians or Tunisians? What about Egyptians? Or Iraqis? What about the Lebanese? Which Arabs do you look like, when someone tells you, “you look like an Arab”, and why is it always the fair-skinned Pakistanis that look like ‘Arabs’ but not dark-skinned-Pakistanis? And there are millions of dark skinned Arabs all over the Arab world. Many Arabs live in Africa and have admixtures from sub-Saharan populations, tribes and peoples with whom they share a past. Google their pictures if you like. Be adventurous and visit their countries and learn about their wonderful cultures. There’s much more to people than their purported appearances. These cultural realities better reflects who we are as ‘peoples’ than the constructed identities we worship in our own minds because of power-dynamics and the legacy of colonialism.

The real ‘Brazil’ and not the Brazil of the international imagination’; many African Brazilians are now fighting back to claim their stake in their own country.

But why are all these ‘Arabs’ positively excluded from a purported ‘racial Arab’ identity when you’re told you look like an Arab?

Of the other nationalities I mentioned in passing; this diversity is also true. Brazilians, in particular are mostly of African-descent. What you see on TV is not an accurate reflection of the people who live in Brazil. Again, this perverse reality merely shows you how the elites of Brazil view themselves, and how they want the world to imagine ‘Brazilians’. Many Brazilians of African descent are fighting back and have created movements to challenge the hegemony of a small elite that wants to project the image of Brazil through its own self-image.

But this holds true for a country like Iran. The projected ‘racial’ image is other than the reality, and tells you something about how those embodying such attitudes value certain ‘appearances’. On numerous dating sites, you have ‘Persians’ describing their ethnicity as ‘Caucasian’ or ‘white’ even as options exist to tick the ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Asian’ box. These individuals are laying claim to an identity that is merely imagined in their minds. I doubt far-right racists with a penchant for Paki-bashing in our part of the Western Hemisphere would spare them a good ‘beating’ or racist slurs because they were innocently mistaken as ‘brown people’.

In all these cases, there is something less innocent about these imagined imagined identities, ones we take for granted almost every day. This is what I mean by ‘subtle prejudice’.

But, let me reframe the discussion slightly.

Siblings from rural Pakistan

Pakistanis know of their own internal problems, as ethnic rivalries exist all over the country. Pakistanis are prejudicial to one another, just listen to what some Pakistanis say about Pakistan’s various ethnic groups. These are tropes they’ve inherited from their parents and peers. Why would you think, for one moment, that ‘Arabs’ do not slur one another about their ‘appearances’, ‘behaviour’ or ethnic idiosyncrasies? I recall a Syrian girl in my youth speaking disparagingly about ‘Yemenis’ and how Syrians “looked nothing like ‘Arabs’ from Yemen or Saudi Arabia”. She was keen to point out that Syrians were ‘Arabised’ and wrongly get confused with the original Beduins of Arabia. She was clearly speaking about ‘racial appearances’ and not the cultural diversity of the Arab world. This was an online exchange, and I casually said that I had some Yemeni friends which triggered her tirade. Trying to picture her now from her pictures, I can honestly say there was nothing quintessentially ‘Syrian’ about her physical appearance to warrant the idea that ‘Syrians’ look different from ‘Yemenis’.

This internal disquiet, of our own choosing, exists everywhere as it does in Europe, India and the Middle East.

It has become a fact of daily life, bigots, racists, prejudicial people exist everywhere – they tend to be unaccomplished or unfulfilled, living in their little ‘group bubbles’. They want to be part of something not necessarily associated with their own people, which in their minds, gives them real ‘prestige’. They make racist comments frequently thinking nothing of it all the while they perceive themselves to be enlightened and non-judgemental.

This is an example of what experts call ‘malignant prejudice’.

I get the feeling because Pakistanis are embarrassed about who they are, they directly influence how they are perceived by others. No one likes a sycophant no matter how wealthy or attractive he or she is. If you claim a privileged station for yourself whilst you’re eager to carry someone else’s shoes, seldom will you get any ‘respect’. Respect is reserved for ‘equals’. It’s never handed out to those whom you consider to be your ‘inferiors’. In a utopian paradise, these things don’t happen. But in our modern world with its lingering colonial past, prejudice is on display everywhere. It is a fact of ordinary life.

The internet and social media circles have become a repository of such attitudes.

Even ‘educated’ people are prejudicial, this is no different to how our enlightenment thinkers from Europe behaved. All the while they were engaged in cutting-edge science and challenging ‘religious’ beliefs in many ways aloof from their less-educated peers, they subscribed to the popular race theories of their time. Being smart, attractive, wealthy, powerful, from a noble or aristocratic family, doesn’t protect you from bigotry, whether it’s subtle or malignant.

And so, if you insist on hanging on to the coattails of imagined identities that you admire, your non-Pakistani friend would never say, “hey, cool, I look Pakistani, thanks for the compliment, Pakistan has a wonderful ‘exotic’ culture, the people are amazing dude!” ‘People’ can empower or disempower themselves. If you choose to disempower yourself by being enamoured by someone else’s ‘illusory’ identity, you will inevitably disempower your own ‘identity’ and the people you’re identified with even as you see yourself ‘different’ from your ascribed group.

A ‘Hazara’ woman with her child, north westerly Pakistan.

If you hate your background, ask yourself, “who taught me this hate?” If your enamoured by a particular ‘nation’, ‘group’ or ‘people’, ask yourself, “who taught me this infatuation?” If you’re smart, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that there’s a lot more going on in the background then simply harbouring common-sense attitudes. And if you don’t like the status quo – because it’s unfair or wrong, then change it. If you can’t change it, don’t aid it by behaving like a sheep trying to fly under the radar all the while you feel the inner-strength to ‘poo-poo’ your own people perhaps less privileged than you.

The Idea of White Privilege

To conclude this discussion, I would like to give you some perspective to the complexity of ‘race-relations’ by citing ‘white privilege’ or the idea that life is just easier for white people in the West. Generally, it is a social reality that obtains in many parts of the West and is the direct consequence of western-European colonialism. However, there is no such thing as a corresponding ‘racial identity’. There is no such thing as a ‘white’, ‘European’ or ‘Caucasian’ race. Just as there is no such thing as ‘black’, ‘African’ or ‘Asian’ races.

If you ask any number of African Americans about race-relations in America, they will tell you that if you happen to look like ‘white people’ in America, doors open for you despite being ‘black’ on paper. If you look like a black man, you’ve got more chances of being shot by the police. It doesn’t matter how ‘fair’ you are, or how ‘light’ your eyes are, it’s about passing for a ‘white’ person, ‘looking’, ‘sounding’ and ‘behaving’ like the dominant class that doesn’t have to fight for basic entitlements.

If you can’t pass for ‘white’, you won’t benefit from ‘white privilege’ irrespective of how light your eyes are or how straight your nose is – again, you are imagining ‘white’ people because of this illusory identity; not all white people have these ‘race-defining’ phenotypes or physical appearances. Historically, it was European race-scientists who peddled the myth of the perfect European (Nordic) appearance. Today, white privilege is about ‘entitlement’ and group-solidarity, and not some warped view of racial identity.

It’s that simple.

This is what I mean by white privilege.

But yet, if you come from a poor ‘working class’ estate in Britain, and you’re classified as ‘white’ but you’re unemployed and uneducated, what ‘privilege’ are people talking about when they ascribe to you an ‘identity’ that offers you nothing by way of social or material ‘perks’?

This is what I mean by illusory identities. Norms you take for grated can be a lot more complicated than your common sense observations.

Many Pakistanis have an inferiority complex.

That’s pretty obvious.

But, so do many people around the world even if they want to nudge themselves above ‘others’ in this imaginary pecking order. We can however free ourselves from it whilst disempowering the people who like to claim ‘us’ as individuals because of their own inferiority complexes to ‘bolster’ their own self-‘image’. It will take more time to change attitudes built on prejudice and self-insecurities, but let those individuals insisting on their illusory ‘identities’ become a parody of themselves.

Let’s educate ourselves first, then remind others of their ‘self-effacing ways’.

Charity begins at home.

For one thing, self-hatred is a disease that affects a lot of people. How any of us looks, and how we try to categorise the physical appearance of ‘ethnic’ or ‘national groups’ is not about assigning people to their fixed ‘races’. People do not fit neatly into boxes and categories. There is merely one human species which we commonly call the human ‘race’ somewhat sloppily. Why some ‘nationalities’ are more celebrated than others – racially speaking – is about power-dynamics and not some inherent racial ‘greatness’. The attitudes borne of such a process exist all over the world. And it has a very recent history. When we try to periodise its history, we’re really talking about European colonialism. The ideas of ‘race’ belong to this epoch. Wherever the European colonialists went, they also spread ideas about their self-importance. Other foreign rulers before them did exactly the same, except that they didn’t create race fictions. This particular form of malignant bigotry in its most ugliest manifestations owes its origin to our ‘European’ ‘cousins’ and they’ve been trying to shrug it off ever since the horrors of the Nazi Regime were displayed to the whole world. And I’m not talking about Poles, Bulgarians or Slovakians, or the descendants of poor ‘white’ people that were shipped off to the colonies amidst anxieties that they were ruining the ‘white’ race. Even a term was invented for them – ‘white’ trash, and I’m speaking about people with distant ties to the British Isles.

How many of us are aware of this history? We don’t tend to speak about this history in our conversations because of the power-dynamics I mentioned earlier. Many ‘nationalities’ not necessarily connected with this history benefited immeasurably from the ensuing power dynamics. At first they weren’t considered ‘white’ or ‘white enough’, but in time this slowly changed as the newcomers committed their own racial transgressions against the outsiders – the ‘non-whites’.

Jamil Khoury’s short play “WASP”: “White Arab Slovak Pole”, Not Quite White: Arabs, Slavs, and the Contours of Contested Whiteness is a thought-provoking documentary that explores the complicated relationship of Arab and Slavic immigrants to American notions of whiteness. [Click Picture to watch Trailer]
‘Arabs’, ‘Iranians’, and others, have all been affected by its lingering residues. They all suffer from the same disease as they spend millions of dollars trying to ‘whiten’ their complexion, thin their noses and die their hair blond. Just watch any number of ‘Iranian’ or ‘Arab’ singers perform and you’ll instantly notice the blue contact lenses. Whitening creams are not merely the obsession of ‘Africans’ or ‘Indians’, a lot of people around the world partake in this ‘self-cleansing’ daily.

“White” – without the privilege. Arab-Americans are ready to check their own box on the U.S. census. Dena Takruri explains. [Click Picture to Watch VIdeo]
Some Iranians in America have written about their delusions of thinking they were ‘white’ only to be deflated on discovering that their ‘white’ peers thought otherwise. I would hazard the guess that a lot of these real ‘whites’ came from the progeny of people who weren’t historically considered ‘white’ either. For some Iranians invested in the idea of an ‘Aryan’ identity, they do not understand that their supposed ‘Aryan’ roots was an idea first germinated in British India by colonial ethnologists to describe India’s upper castes and ruling clans. The actual term itself was borrowed from what colonial ethnologists deemed to be India’s most ‘quintessential’ sacred language, Sanskrit. Sanskrit was the language of Brahman priests, but there were of course other sacred languages. The idea of the ‘Aryan race’ was read into the Vedic canon by colonial ‘experts’ really speaking about themselves and their accomplishments! Discovering India’s heritage was merely a subsidiary priority for the English ‘Aryans’ who were reconstructing the origins of their great white, ‘Aryan’ ‘Nordic’ race, something very separate from any connections with the biblical lands of the Semitic ‘races’.

Some enlightenment thinkers in Europe, no less than the likes of the great Voltaire, felt in India, they had an ‘ideal’, something they could use as a counterweight to the stifling traditions of Christianity, borne of a backward ‘semitic’ ‘race’ in the ‘Near East’. Other intellectuals were less enamoured by Voltaire’s new found love for Vedic India but they shared his racial proclivities – Nietzsche is a good example. I doubt Voltaire would have extended his affections to his ‘contemporary’ Indians whom he criticised for their superstitions. Most of Europe’s enlightenment thinkers were ‘intellectuals’ and many were not afraid to say the ‘unthinkable’ but as I said, when it came to race, they weren’t aloof from the race theories of their time either. They thought there was a scientific basis to such ideas. We now know through modern scientific research that they were ‘very’ wrong.

When these racial ideas were wedded to politics, they proved disastrous, not just for the targeted ‘victims’ but for the very individuals harbouring such hate. Denying the holocaust in Germany is a criminal offence, not because of some Jewish conspiracy, but because of well-placed fears that ordinary people could again be manipulated by self-affirming racial myths. The fate for ordinary Germans in light of the Third Reich’s defeat is a good point in question. Tens of thousands of German women were raped by the Red Brigade; Aryan race superiority was as elusive to them as was the progressive march of the most powerful ‘race’ on earth. Ordinary Germans soon discovered the fraud of Nazi race claims. A lot of ‘Germans’ albeit as the less able bodied were similarly “euthanised” for the greater purity of the Aryan race.

When we turn our attention to modern-day ‘Iran’, and appraise her ancient culture, an amazing feat of human achievement, we discover disjointed narratives because of how colonial historians presented that history. Most Iranians seem to be impressed by what the colonialists ‘taught’ them of that Indo-European heritage, but they seem to be unfamiliar with why the colonialists were obsessed with an ‘Aryan’ heritage in the first place. From this vantage-point, Iran is merely an extension to the race narratives being peddled in colonial India.

It was argued that ‘Iranian Civilisation’ like ‘Indian Civilisation’ was the product of Aryan ingenuity, and the purer ‘Aryans’ had now returned from the direction of Europe to redeem that heritage. But this priority did not include creating a familial bond with ordinary Iranians, a mass of dubious ‘racial breeds’.

Some European race theorists were bold enough to speak ill of Iran’s Persian-speaking ‘Turkic’ rulers, arguing that they only enslaved Circassians and others from the Caucasus, the supposed homeland of the ‘white’ ‘Caucasian’ ‘race’ so they could breed beauty into their uglier subjects. To hear some Iranians today say that they are somehow ‘related’ to Europeans through shared ‘Aryan’ ancestors has absolutely nothing to do with tracing a shared heritage. It is about grovelling to those who they think are their superiors whilst knowing nothing of their forebear’s actual heritage if indeed they were ever connected to remote ancestors in some ancient past. Some Iranians have noted how some of their contemporaries look down on their ‘Arab’ ‘semitic’ neighbours not even realising how shallow their modern (Indo-European) sensibilities are. But by feeling superior because of this colonially-induced past, a question could be posed; what have Iranians achieved practically from colonial race-theories?

Today, Tehran has become Cosmetic Surgery Central. Women walk around with bandages on their noses fresh from surgery; the new fad. It’s fashionable to have had a nose-job. They think that by thinning their noses they’re somehow trying to remould their ‘misshapen’ noses into the ‘quintessential’ ‘Persian’ nose. If indeed the quintessential Persian nose ever existed, why the need for so many Persians to change what nature has already bestowed on them?

Please don’t get me me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with corrective surgery. If by changing your appearance, this improves your well-being, none of us should have the right to complain. It’s a bit like feeling ‘trapped’ in the wrong ‘body’; who amongst us has the ‘arrogance’ to deny someone ‘well-being’ because he or she has never experienced such intense turmoil? If someone wants gender reassignment surgery, have some compassion and count yourself lucky. You’re not living in that person’s body. If you’ve never experienced such mental anguish, you should be courteous enough to keep your judgements to yourself.

This is not what I am criticising.

All I’m saying is that there is no ‘perfect-looking’ nose. There are no perfect looking lips. There is no perfect looking complexion, ‘behind’ or breasts. This features are not indicative of the perfect ‘race’. Beauty is subject to changing fashions; again, we need to be alert to the power-dynamics behind those fashions, and how damaging they can be for impressionable individuals.

If a ‘broad’ nose was on the face of the people you’d admire, and they told you that ‘Jupiter’ was their ‘Father-God’ and you were an impressionable ‘so and so’, you’d be changing your ‘thin’ nose for a ‘broad’ one. It’s usually these sorts of people who become prime candidates for ‘designer babies’.

When will this madness end! When we efface ourselves for the insecurities of others?

To try to change what nature has given you because of changing fashions is to be unhappy with yourself because of how you perceive others. Have some self-respect, forgot about the others, and care about yourself. There’s nothing in your DNA or environment that predisposes you to change what nature has already given you. Natural selection has given you the ability to adapt to your environment, so why would you try to undue the work of nature?

If you’re religious and believe in a supreme creator God, why would you change what God has given you to look like others in order to feel happy? How by changing your appearance will you be happy, if indeed the look you’re striving for is unattainable? And who are you benefiting, those who look like this naturally or those aspiring to look like them?

And why can’t you be content with your own appearance?

Those who tell you otherwise are selling you a lie.

Of course individuals are not borne fully functional, and so you should be grateful that you’re not missing a limb, were born deaf and blind, or have a congenital disease. These souls don’t usually care for designer cheeks, or puffed up lips, they just want to live like everyone else without having to deal with their debilitating illnesses. Count your blessings. Count them one by one. At least most Pakistanis can be proud of these rare moments. You don’t see our women and men queueing up for plastic surgery, or at least, not yet.

It’s because of power-dynamics, and not imaginary ‘identities’ that individuals everywhere want to imitate and emulate those with ‘power’. They want to dress like them, speak like them, adopt their mannerisms and praise their personal histories, and even look like them. If you come from a society where you’re able to climb your way to the top, you’d probably want to lose traces of your former selves too, so you can hang out with the ‘elite’ with no ‘baggage’.

‘Social climbing’ happens in a lot of places.

Names, surnames, backgrounds are all changed to feel that you now have a genuine stake in the political order. And it’s usually ‘insecure’ people on their way to the top, a little unsure about themselves, who behave like this.

But how many of us actually think, wait a second, “I just want to be me, and I want to carry something of my past as I leave a legacy for those who come after me to show them I was never ashamed of my forbears, so my descendants will have no cause to be ashamed of me”. I think that’s a more profound way of living, to achieve ‘well-being’ than choosing to become a pale imitation of people imitating the latest fads. The fads may change but your inner disquiet will still remain.

‘Well-being’ can never come from imitating ‘insecure’ people especially as they strictly follow the changing fashions as their ‘beauty’ depletes with the changing seasons.

We’re from the West, for crying out loud, have we not learnt anything from the anxieties of our peers? The sun-bed obsession and fake tan phenomenon in western Europe is a good point not least because it shows us how arbitrary definitions of ‘beauty’ are. To tell someone “she’s pale and needs to tan more” is not merely offensive, it exposes underlying assumptions of what constitutes modern norms of ‘beauty’. It is these fads that are increasingly being popularised by marketing companies that want to sell you their products by making you feel insecure.

Just be yourself and content yourself with the knowledge that you’re not a ‘sheep’ subject to the unreflective whims of your peers who’ve never once questioned their own lives.

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Editor at Portmir Foundation; liberal by values, opposed to tribalism in all its guises; love languages and cultures – want to study as many as I can; proficient in some; opposed to social and political injustice wherever it rears its ugly head even from within my own British-Pahari community (a little unsure about the juxtaposition. The term ‘Pahari’ can mean different things to different people – stay posted. Grandparents from the Himalayan mountains of Jammu, presently split between India and Pakistan – get the impression no one cares about the people stuck between the LOC – currently researching the ‘Pahari-cultural-heritage’ outside political and territorial paradigms and the narratives of the political ‘mainstream’. Ultimately, hoping to create a space for members of the British-Pahari community to discover their own wonderful heritage. I believe – ‘life’ is a wok in progress so nothing is fixed even our thoughts! If you’re from the region, feel free to contact me – always prepared to widen my intellectual horizons and stand corrected – don’t insult me though. Be grown up and tell me why you think I’m wrong. If you make sense, I’ll change my views.

My opinions are not necessarily those of the Portmir Foundation; the Foundation does not do censorship; if you disagree with any us, and you’re from our background, write your own opinion piece and we’ll publish it. You can contact us at info@portmir.org.uk.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I liked the post, but the pictures were not reflective of Pakistanis for example the Hazara are a Han ethnic group from Afghanistan who live in Baluchistan and not north west pakistan and they only came to Pakistan in the 1920s. the Sheedis are also from Baluchistan and are ethnic ******* from East Africa and not from Pakistan, we can say that the UK is diverse by including our pictures but in reality a Brit is still viewed as a european and more precisely an ethnic english, welsh or scotsman. Pakistanis are asians with features and looks common to South, central and west Asia as these are the areas that Pakistan borders.

    The reason for Pakistanis hating themselves is that nothing is there own, all our heroes are forieghners like Ghaznavi the Turk, Gori the Tajik, Mughals who were mongolians from Uzbeckistan and Bin Qasim an Arab who destroyed and killed our ancestors. Our heroes hated our people and seeing as they are our heroes we too should hate our ancestors. Our language has always been from abroad whether persian or urdu, our national dress a Shervani has never been worn by our peoples. SO what shall we be proud of we have nothing. In truth we are more or less slaves as we do not even have our own names. All Turks have turkish names like Yildrim, Onur, Erdogan etc.. Iranians have their own names like Bijan, Koroush, Afrasiab etcc. Afgans have Turyali, Nangali, Gul Panna, Palwasha, Malalai etc.. Even Bengalis have Rippon, Shippon etc.. we do not even have our own names now ( previously had Pinu and Allahditta at most). So we are drawn to strong cultures as they have something to offer we have nothing to offer no music, no cinema, no dances, no language ( please note that 1.3 million Pakistanis in UK do not have any national langauge course or class as Urdu is not even our language).
    Well until we develop something to be proud of we will always be dipossessed slave like people ready to latch on to anything.

    [Moderator; although you have used a certain word to describe the origin of Sheedis to East Africa (well-intentioned no doubt), the actual term you have used is considered ‘offensive’ to groups native to Africa south of the Sahara. We have accordingly censored it. Thank you for you comments]

    • The Han are Chinese. The Hazara are actually of Turkic/Mongolian heritage, and have been settled in what is today Pakistan earlier than the 1920s, as early as the 1830s. There have always been small communities of Hazara in Pakistan. They are part of the Pakistani population. They are as Pakistani as any other Pakistani ethnic group. The Sheedis had traditionally been settled around the Makran coast and have been in Pakistan for centuries. They are also Pakistanis. These pictures are reflective of Pakistan because these ethnic groups live in Pakistan, self-affirm as Pakistanis and have merged with other populations. I think that’s the idea behind showing these pictures so Pakistanis can celebrate their rich and wonderful heritage, a heritage that connects them with India, another beautiful culture that has been a gift to the world.

      I think you have missed the point of the post. From what I understand of it, thinking of people in racial terms is flawed and the obsession to describe and define people in racial terms is actually a product of colonialism. The biology behind our physical appearance is therefore a lot more complicated than common sense observations and impressions. It is actually the product of psuedo race-science.

      Moreover, the ideology behind Pakistan has failed to connect Pakistan with the Muslim World because Pakistan traded in an ancient Civilisation for an ‘identity’ that was rooted in political priorities under the guise of religion. The people who created Pakistan were thinking of themselves, and in turn, they delivered the Pakistanis a deeply unequal society with them at the helm of it. I don’t think Jinnah was to blame, he died too early, but then with the corrupt Politicians who succeeded him and the Mullahs who joined them, Pakistan has been in free-fall ever since.

      I’ve always considered the people of Azad Kashmir as Pakistanis. I understand why the Kashmiris, or Paharis from Azad Kashmir are upset with Pakistan. If I was in Azad Kashmir maybe I would have taken the same position. May be we can work together if we treat each other as equals? Pakistanis and Azad Kashmiris, working together, to make Pakistan a better place for all of us? Honesty is the key and accepting that Pakistan is far from perfect, accepting the grievances of the minorities particularly the Baluch. The unthinking patriots of Pakistan are as much a problem as are the rabble rousers, who use religion to shut down dissent. They are as much a problem for you in Azad Kashmir as they are a problem for us in Pakistan.

      There’s a brutal honesty to this blog that is very refreshing, and scholarly too. I would consider writing shorter posts given the limited attention span of our readers.

      “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.” J. R. R. Tolkien

      • The Hazara are generally considered to be Han chinese and not Mongolian or Turkic. I know that historically that carried less prestige and hence many hazara tried to link themselves to the Turkic people of Afghanistan but the Uzbek and Turkman people of Afghanistan clearly state that no link exists and that historically the Hazara were brought to Afghanistan with the Turkic people as slaves and serfs. This explains why the Hazara to date are the poorest and most marginalised people in Afghanistan. This also explains why Hazara look different to Turkic people and are look similar to Han. There are always exceptions but the vast majority look identical to Han and nothing like the Uzbeks, Turkmans, Kyrgyz, Kazak or Mongols.
        The Hazaras may have been in Pakistan earlier than 1920s but then we Mirpuris were in the Uk even in 1900 but the fact is that we only really came in large numbers after 1950. Hazaras overwhelmingly came to Pakistan in the 1920s onwards.

        As regards the Sheedis they were settled only in Makran as they too were taken there by others in this case the arabs of Oman. Makran was a part of makran that Pakistan purchased in 1949. Makran therefore became a part of Pakistan in 1949 and that allowed the sheedis to travel to Baluchistan and Sindh. Prior to that Makran was not a part of Pakistan or Baluchistan but of Oman.

        Hence we can claim to be diverse but we are not really that diverse at all. Pakistan has a population of about 210 million people and about 200 million look similar and are best described as Aryan/scythians. I know some oppose these descriptions but they mean something to the vast majority of people the same way white is an apt description for Europeans and Black for sub sahran Africans and Han for Chinese. Negligible populations are not really charachteristic of Pakistan.

  2. There is no conflict between our Islamic past and Pakistan’s diverse cultures, languages, peoples etc. We can celebrate both our Muslim past and our Pakistani identity without being ashamed of our Pakistani roots that connect us to the subcontinent and neighbouring regions, that is the impression I got from the post. Inequality, self-hatred, bigotry, delusions of grandeur, race theories, aftermath of colonialism are contributory factors, not dead Muslim rulers. Both Muslim and Hindu rulers oppressed the native populations of India. Do you see Indians hating their Hindu Kings? Muslim rulers do not have a monopoly over these crimes.

    • Which Muslim leaders are we supposed to be proud of and celebrate?
      As regards Hindus hating their Kings, I cannot comment as I have no information about their kings and their views at present.
      Also you may have missed two points one was that the Muslim leaders were not indigenous to the region and thus were being cruel and oppressive like all foreign colonial powers and their sole purpose was to loot and dominate the local people, and unlike any native kings they had absolute hatred for the conquered people whereas the native rulers were native to the land that they conquered and never detested the land and inhabitants in the same way.
      Secondly their rule was marked by disdain for the native culture, tradition, language and peoples and an insistence on the greater worth of their own language, culture and peoples, a culture therefore grew of their superiority and the inferiority of the local peoples.
      What we are seeing in Pakistan is that by failing to call out the Wicked oppressors we are endorsing their rule and by extension their claims of superiority. This is the point I am making. When we tell people of Pakistan that they and their ancestors were nothing and that all glory lies in West and Central Asia we are confirming a claim of others superiority and our own inferiority. Hindus of India only work for and talk of the glory of their own motherland and it’s peoples and civilisations. In Pakistan no mention is made of Taxila, Gandhara, Sircup or the Indus civilisations and our ancient universities like Shadra. So in answer of who taught Pakistanis to hate themselves it was the policies of the state of Pakistan, a state that only ever glorified non Pakistanis and only ever taught of the non native peoples, and which has sought to try and link itself with alien muslims nations like Palestine and Syria and at the same time decouple from the history or Indian Punjab, Rajasthan and north india. In their eagerness to do so they have bent over backwards to try and find commonality with Turks and Arabs and have at the same time tried to split hairs to show their difference with India. The perversity of this is that the national language of Pakistan is from India and by adopting urdu they have grown closer to India whilst running away from India. As Urdu is the national language the people of Pakistan find understanding Indian films, dramas and songs easier.

  3. That is a valid point to a certain extent but can be overstated if the intention is to connect Islam in the subcontinent to something bad, alien and foreign. There’s a certain Hindutva perspective that revels in this type of indictment in as much as supporters of the two-nation theory demonise the non-Muslim other. I’m not saying you are doing this but normally this is where these sorts of arguments lead; Muslims = good; Hindus = bad; Hindus = bad, Muslims = good; Sikh = ambiguous, good or bad depending on where they fit into this tribal paradigm.

    The point being, we shouldn’t conflate Muslim rule with the legacy of Islam in the subcontinent in the same way Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, colonial rule doesn’t cancel out any of the good things associated with that rule. The situation is a lot more nuanced except when we take ideological or tribal positions. Not all Muslim rulers were bad; being ‘foreigners’ in India isn’t something unique to Muslim Rulers, in fact the subcontinent has been invaded, conquered by numerous foreign rulers as far as we can remember that history; Persians, Greeks, Kushans, Hephthalites, Scythians, Mauryans – the latter not necessarily indigenous to the North West of the subcontinent, so wasn’t Ashoka Raja and his father a foreigner to Taxila? Did the Persians, Greeks, Kushans, Sassanians, Scythians extend their rule beyond the North West of the subcontinent? So were they foreigners to all of ‘India’ or just the North West? Why is the idea of ‘India’ always subsumed with every region of the Asian subcontinent? That’s an ideological projection.

    The subcontinent is diverse, the peoples, cultures, languages, RELIGIONS, regions are diverse, so how do we speak of foreign and native rulers in any meaningful sense? Even as we project even further back, what of the Indo-Aryans and their Vedic heritage that shows huge commonalities with people westwards of the River Indus? We know categorically that India’s genetic footprint is as much connected with Central Asia as it is with Ancestral South Indians. This whole notion of the entire subcontinent being “mother India” or the “motherland” is as much a projection as is the idea that Muslim Rulers were alien to India.

    This is ideology at work and not history or a genuine commitment to extolling history, and solving present-day problems.

    We all need to be more tempered in our observations and critiques; can any of us really say that not one Muslim ruler in India had a modicum of love or respect for the native peoples and cultures of the subcontinent? Overtime, the scions of these rulers became ‘indigenous’ and their descendants are as much Indians/Pakistanis as anyone else. Conversions to Islam happened in India although you have to be pretty illiterate to think that this was because of a real commitment to the faith in all cases; many Hindu Rajputs converted to the faith because of power-dynamics, and not because of some warped desire to free themselves from the caste-system. As Muslim converts they entered the Zamindar backgrounds.

    But you’re right though in general, we all know that the Pakistani State is actively re-writing its history to connect with Muslims west of the River Indus; they feel more connected with Arabs, Persians and Turks than they do with their own people and heritage unaware of how they come across as sycophants. But that’s not the fault of Arabs, Turks or Persians who essentially see ‘Indians’ and ‘Pakistanis’ as the same people. These nationalities preserve their ancient heritage, do you see Egyptians bulldozing the Pyramids and all those pagan temples? What about Iranians preserving the heritage of Cyrus and Darius and all the pagan archaeological and historical sites that Iran is now famous for; why are the Ayatollah’s paying for the preservation of this heritage? Do you see Turks burning down the temples dedicated to Jupiter in Turkey, and all the other pagan Roman remains?

    These people know their heritage because they know who they are and they are not ashamed of their past. In Pakistan the people denying Pakistanis their heritage are a massive cancer.

    But who exactly are these Pakistanis that are ashamed of their own ancient heritage and worse, control Pakistan? Where did they come from and how did they end up being Pakistan’s elite? If you look carefully, the people responsible for dividing modern-day India came from North India, and are themselves ‘foreigners’ to what is today Pakistan, or the North West of the subcontinent, and are very much ‘Indian’. They were schooled by the British, they didn’t belong to the old Muslim nobility and they were competing with ordinary Hindus for jobs. Nothing wrong with that except to say, it is these people who are as emigrants to present-day Pakistan denying indigenous Pakistanis their native languages, cultures and arts. Urdu is as much foreign to present-day Pakistan as is Islam and yet everyone in Pakistan seems to be reconciled with Islam but not so much with the Urdu elite who want to exploit everyone else.

    This history postdates Muslim foreign rulers by centuries. Muslim Kings are not the problem in Pakistan, it’s the Urdu-speaking elite from the cities that are actively destroying Pakistan as they are ashamed of who they are pretending to be “Arabs” with new surnames and identities.

    • BTW I’m not saying as Pakistanis we should give up our Muslim names, we’re Muslims now and I don’t see any conflict between Islam and our heritage for those of us who choose to be Muslims, but rather we shouldn’t invent new identities that somehow connect us with “Arabs” because we’re ashamed of our backgrounds. May be we should think about reviving our indigenous family surnames for those that are still connected with that heritage.. As was said in the post, many Arabs have an inferiority-complex of their own, and they are not necessarily to blame for Pakistanis hating on themselves.

      • If you check my post I never mentioned Islam, I stated that the reason Pakistanis hate themselves was partly as their heroes are all foreigners. In fact Ghaznavi and co could be described as anything but Muslims. Ghaznavi himself was a homosexual and his lover Ayaz was a slave and so he was a homosexual rapist among other things. The foreigners I mentioned were all mass murders and rapists and perverts. If you read Babarnama he talks of being drunk and Akbar was a known non Muslim who invented his own religion whereas Aurangzeb killed his brothers and imprisoned his father. These people cannot be deemed Muslims at all, and that is why I specifically omitted any mention of Islam and called them foreign invaders who have been placed as our heroes. However I still maintain that there was no such thing as a good Muslim ruler in what is today Pakistan.
        However being a foreigner is relevant as I do not consider anyone who entered our land illegally with hostile intent should be venerated. The reason is that it inculcates a sense of inferiority on a nation when they are told that one who entered from abroad and vanquished them will be their hero. The said coterie of criminal invaders were never viewed as heroes by anyone in Mirpur until the state of Pakistan was established and ordained them as heroes. This I contend is a reason among others for Pakistanis to dislike themselves and invent fake histories for themselves. I am careful not to specify but the state of Pakistan has also colluded with many Kashmiri tribes in inventing fake histories for them. It is a part of a policy to demoralise us and demean us and then offer us the chance to be Persians and Turks and Arabs. An offer many have accepted and have duly changed their surnames to reflect their new dream identity. Once this is done it is a fait accompli we are now disconnected from our roots and real histories. A simple DNA test will show that well above 99% of so called Arabs, Persians and Turks are not so. We only love these races while being self haters because we are told again and again that they are better than us and worthy of our admiration. Until we take back control of who is and who is not our hero and what is and what is not our culture and language we will be deemed to be lawaris and vulnerable. Finally I agree that dead kings are not the problem but the hero worship of them is a problem and that is being imposed on us by to a great extent by Muhajirs from Karachi, but it is us who accepts what they say without challenge and hence the final cause of all the problems are Pakistanis themselves. I do consider that we should be proud of our land and history and peoples and a part of that involves learning about ourselves rather than Tariq Bin Zayed of Spain or Salah din of Iraq or the caliphs of Turkey.

        • Great, let’s start hating gays now. When r we going to get over hating minorities and weak people. If my man liked a man, whats that got to do with Pakistan being messed up.
          Next well be blaming Jews.

          • I dont think Punyal was hating on gays, (or at least I hope he wasn’t?) He was just saying that the rulers Pakistanis hero-worship weren’t exactly righteous Muslims even by the standards of their own day. Whether you are a champion for Islam or against it, you can’t re-write history. These ‘raiders’ were hardly ‘Muslim’ in their behaviour. They drank alcohol and ingested opium and had sexual relations with ‘boys’. They spoke about their misdemeanours candidly, which should give you an insight about their ‘religious’ priorities. They came to India for loot and they described their ‘raids’ as jihad against the Idol worshippers, but it was about booty. They destroyed Hindu temples with Muslim fanfare because they wanted the possessions, diamonds, rubies, gold (‘ganimah’); treasures bequeathed by India’s native rulers who were themselves of ‘foreign’ descent but over time coalesced with the natives. They also enslaved tens of thousands of native Indians, many of whom died in the Hindu Kush mountains on their way to the slave-markets in the Iranian Plateau.

            But, what happened to the scions of all the Huns, Scythians, Kushans and others who came many centuries before the ‘Muslims’? They were absorbed into the caste-system as ‘Rajputs’, later their descendants forgot about their distant origin and saw themselves as natives to India, defenders of Hinduism, and even saw themselves as the descendants of the old kshatriyyah. Or at least this is what some historians teach.

            Hindutva nationalists disagree, but I doubt their opposition is based on historical accounts as their claims seem to be more ideological than factual. There is genetic evidence for this given the admixtures of some Rajput, Jat, Gujjar tribes in the north, who share some ancestry with Central and western Asian populations than with natives of the subcontinent. A lot of these populations exist in the North West of the subcontinent which is not surprising given the proximity of the mountain passes to Central Asia. The further you move into the interior of India the less these admixtures.

            The problem is how we imagine this history for political reasons.

            When I spoke about Ancestral North Indians being connected with western/central Asians even as they are connected with Ancestral South Indians, the admixtures vary between caste-populations (nearly all of us in the subcontinent are related though), we’re talking about a timeline thousands of years old to very distant ancestors. This is only meaningful for geneticists and anthropologists tracing deep ancestry. This history predates the history of the Scythians (200 CE) for instance, and in particular the ‘Indo-Aryans’ (1750 BCE) who came after the Ancestral North Indians but before the Persians, Indo-Greeks, Huns, Kushans, Scythians etc. Again, the foreign populations in size were negligible to change the subcontinent’s post-neolithic genetic footprint, and it’s only idiots who bang on about their ‘foreign roots’ as real ‘Aryans’ unaware of the actual timelines. The Aryan proposition itself, a colonial construct, is dubious itself when connected to the idea of race and not language.

            India was rich, INCREDIBLY RICH, and the Muslims that came to India from around 1000 CE came from poorer regions as nomads centuries earlier from the Central Asian Plains; read the Babarnama and you can see how Babar had difficulties convincing his ‘nobles’ to stay in India to create his ‘Kingdom’. How he describes them and the poverty of their old lands is quite breathtaking. These people were motivated by greed and power, they killed one another for it. It didn’t matter if the rivals they were killing were their own brothers and fathers. They enslaved many people that were historically indigenous to what is Pakistan, but the Pakistani State is amnesic about these historical facts. These are the ‘rulers’ that the Pakistani State wants us to hero-worship.

            Disgusting. There is a reason why historians of South Asia laugh at the Pakistan Project and its attempt to re-write its own history, they are unimaginative. Guess who is in charge of this narrative? The Army! As for the few notable historians and intellectuals of Pakistan, they are demonised for their efforts to preserve as much of Pakistan’s real history for future generations. But these are the bad guys because they make patriotic Pakistanis feel uncomfortable with what is really happening in Pakistan. What comes to mind? The Ostrich.

            Is there any hope for Pakistan?

  4. H Beg, you said
    We know categorically that India’s genetic footprint is as much connected with Central Asia as it is with Ancestral South Indians.
    Are you referring to the ancient central Asians who were all Arayans or the new ones who are mixed with Turkic blood, as we know that Uzbekistan and Tajikstan and Afghanistan of today are not as they were pre 12th century. The reason that I ask is that I am not aware of any findings showing Turkic DNA among present day Pakistanis.

    • Please see my comments above. A lot of people don’t understand the actual timelines involved when speaking of ASI and ANI populations. Where talking about thousands of years in the past. Also there are no “Aryans” mixed with Turkic blood, because there is no such thing as turkic blood. Blood is blood, its not Turkic or Aryan – the latter two are projected identities, hypothesised further when we seek to locate such groups in the past. ‘Turkic’ refers to populations categorised on the basis of language/culture and not genes; the admixtures defining Turkic-speaking groups is IMMENSE. Central Asia is a lot more diverse than the Indian subcontinent when we think of ‘ancestries’ to divergent ‘ethnic’ populations (a nebulous concept for ancient populations), and the autosomal dna of the groups show these living populations to have huge diverse admixtures. The point being, Central Asians are a diverse group of people sharing huge commonalities with neighbouring populations on account of the regions they occupy. You are right there have been population movements from Central Asia into the Iranian Plateau more recently associated with turkic-speaking tribes, but we shouldn’t conflate this history with the idea of new or old ‘Aryans’.

      As for Turkic DNA and ‘Pakistanis’, the idea becomes a red herring for the reasons given, but that said, a recent paper was written on the ancestries of Jats to nine haplogroups. The link for the paper was posted in one of the comment sections in another post. Of the Jats sampled from both India and Pakistan, it was argued that 15.6 percent belonged to haplogroup Q. The authors were talking about the paternal ancestries of the Jats. This is what the authors said about Haplogroup Q

      “Haplogroup Q (15.6%)

      With its origins in central Asia, descendants of this group are linked to the Huns, Mongols, and Turkic people. In Europe it is found in southern Sweden, among Ashkenazi Jews, and in central and Eastern Europe such as, the Rhône-Alpes region of France, southern Sicily, southern Croatia, northern Serbia, parts of Poland and Ukraine. A subclade of this haplogroup is associated with Native American populations, and the mutation occurred 8 to 12 thousand years ago during the migration to the Americas through the Bering Strait (Smolenyak and Turner, 2004). It is estimated that as few as twenty people may have founded the initial native population of the Americas (Liu, 2016).”

      I do get the impression that you have been influenced by colonial writings. A lot of those much older ‘European’-‘Nordic’-centric views have been shown to be flawed, massively flawed when it comes to imagining ‘Aryans’ as a real population.

      As a side note not connected with your comment, there seems to be an obsession of separating “Aryans” from “Dravidians”, I get this impression from North Indians and their writings, even Indian journalists fall for this imaginary ‘racial divide’ despite their unfamiliarity with the works they’re citing on India’s DNA. Both communities are in fact designated ‘Ancestral North Indians’, the higher and middle castes have a a lot of shared ancestry whether North Indians want to admit this. The Indigenous tribals of India belong to Ancestral South Indians and pre-date both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan ‘populations’ by many thousands of years. The important point here is that no one from the subcontinent ever identified as Aryans or Dravidians before the colonial British came, these terms when properly appraised are used for language groups and not racial populations however absurd the concept of race. And yet we constantly use the term Dravidians for South Indians and Aryans for North Indians.

      Pakistan’s self-hatred is in many ways the product of colonialism and not simply on account of denying itself its ‘Indian’ heritage. We need to more nuanced in our observations.

  5. if you asked a question about Pakistan to different Pakistanis, the answers would be different because Pakistan means lots of different things to so many different people. Some Pakistanis in Pakistan hate Pakistan, others love it even though they live abroad and have never experienced the hardships of ordinary Pakistanis. Pakistan is a country of extremes. It is an unequal place where money talks and bull**** walks. If you are rich, there is no justice. If you are poor, you get the death sentence. There is no middle position anymore. So as a Pakistani, I hate the Pakistani identity not because I am ashamed of myself, but because I know what Pakistan is, and so I dont blame Pakistanis for being embarrassed when people ask them about which country they are from.

  6. Naz,
    The problems you have associated with Pakistan exist in most Asian, African and Latin American countries. The situation in places like Congo, Burundi,CAR, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Burma, Laos and others is even worse than Pakistan, but they are not self haters. The rule of law does not exist in most of the planet and wealth inequalities are a problem the world over, and hence they cannot be a reason for self loathing. Why should one be embarrassed to be Pakistani simply as that is an unequal society. What we are seeing among Pakistanis is something more, a deep seated inferiority complex created by the state itself where they degrade there own people and history whilst promoting and worshipping other nations, hence some of our national heroes are not even in Pakistanis, in fact most of them are not even pakistanis. We have named our missiles after those that killed the local people and idealise those that subjugated the local inhabitants. What we are taught has a drip effect of slowly eating away at our self confidence and identity.

  7. Thank you for your comments H.S.Tomar. Appreciated.

    Sadly you couldn’t be so further from the truth. There are no “Rajputs” today. There are no “Jats”. There are no “Gujjars” in any social pecking order. Groups, kinship networks, tribes, clans, even ‘ethnic’ identities, – however you want to define a group – can go up and down in the scale of social prestige.

    We are all “Dalits” in India, Pakistan, and this slither of land we call ‘Azad’ Kashmir. The people who are “nobles” today, invent their own backgrounds – I’m not talking about the ‘crooks’ who run Pakistan, they are not very imaginative! If these people can do it today, why couldn’t it be done in the past? Ultimately we all come from humble backgrounds, everyone of us, you just have to trace the journey back to the first humans who left Africa. Yes even today’s most prominent Sayyids came from Africa even if their DNA shows them to have lived in India over the past 2000 years. Ironies.

    Just visit the commercial DNA companies, they’ll help you out, if you want to go back thousands of years – you’ll find a King you were related to somewhere in that murky past. May be he will be a Tomar from the Royal Rajputs perhaps.

    It was wrong in the past to oppress people because of such imagined identities on the basis of raw power, and it continues to be wrong today. This is what I’m trying to get across here although this point might be lost on some! Equality for all, or equality for none. Knowing your roots has nothing to do with extolling imagined pasts; indeed some of us belonged to these backgrounds many generations ago, others do not, no one really knows for sure, but ultimately it’s a kind of hubris if you come from a culture of material dispossession, looking forward to the much-needed hand-out, all the while you look down at others more accomplished than you.

    All we need is a little humility. Plus no offence, this site is really for members of the ‘A’JK community, the wider Pahari-Patwari area and their brethren in Pakistan, who need serious reminding about how bad Pakistan has become. Indians our “cousins” are more than welcome to join us, just as long as they don’t add their own prejudice to the chorus of voices that muffle dissent.

    We have enough haters of our own in Pakistan and ‘A’JK, we’re kind of full without using the language of far-right extremists.

  8. “…Of course individuals are not borne fully functional, and so you should be grateful that you’re not missing a limb, were born deaf and blind, or have a congenital disease. These souls don’t usually care for designer cheeks, or puffed up lips, they just want to live like everyone else without having to deal with their debilitating illnesses. Count your blessings. Count them one by one. At least most Pakistanis can be proud of these rare moments. You don’t see our women and men queueing up for plastic surgery, or at least, not yet…”

    “…But how many of us actually think, wait a second, “I just want to be me, and I want to carry something of my past as I leave a legacy for those who come after me to show them I was never ashamed of my forbears, so my descendants will have no cause to be ashamed of me”. I think that’s a more profound way of living, to achieve ‘well-being’ than choosing to become a pale imitation of people imitating the latest fads. The fads may change but your inner disquiet will still remain…”

    …Just be yourself and content yourself with the knowledge that you’re not a ‘sheep’ subject to the unreflective whims of your peers who’ve never once questioned their own lives…”

    PRICELESS!

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