A disappointed Pakistani Christian

You call me a kafir and you think eating with me is haraam. So, my dear Pakistan, tell me, where shall I go?

Cynthia Roberto March 30, 2012
Dear Pakistani Muslims,

Pakistan has been hell for my family and I.

Yes, we get Christmas and have a few churches here and there and attend the same schools as the rest of you, but life as Christian minorities has been torture for us.

I had to carpool  in a public van to a convent school that had the richest and most influential of Pakistani Muslims in attendance. I shared class rooms with the most spoilt and unforgiving spawn of business tycoons, politicians, smugglers and architects who called me a "karanti".

A karanti is a derogatory, slang term for dark Christians, because of course being born as a "darkie" in Pakistan automatically makes you ugly and unimportant with horrible marriage prospects - if any at all. They also degraded my father because he could not afford to drive me to school in a tinted, bullet proof Land Cruiser.

My father's 'shameful' salary as an accounts teacher was not substantial enough for us to mingle with the creme de la creme of Defense; a dingy apartment in Nazimabad and a sputtering motor bike was all we could afford.

Many of the Muslim kids refused to share food with me, nor would they take a bite or sip from anything I may have consumed. I have had girls tell me point blank that their parents have instructed them never to sit and eat with people of other faiths because it's haraam (forbidden). I will tell you what's haraam; teaching your children to hate instead of love...that's what's haraam.

I will never forget an incident in school during a physical education class when, as I was passing the volley ball to a Muslim girl, her eyes suddenly shot daggers at me and she screeched:
Why do you wear that cross with an idol on it?

"This is my prophet...Jesus", I said in a hoarse whisper because mother had always told me never to argue with people about religion.

"Just like you wear that Allah around your neck, I wear the cross."

"Idol worshipping is haraam, and the Prophet hated idol worshippers. You are a kafir (disbeliever)"

The word kafir has resonated within me forever. I was marked, stamped and stained for life as if a member of the kachra class in India.

Gradually, my cousins, aunts and uncles began migrating. My father was offered a sponsorship visa but he refused, saying his duty was to serve and protect Pakistan no matter how many Christians were killed, executed for false blasphemy cases, paraded naked in village streets and discriminated against in every way.

My mother and I begged him to reconsider.

We asked him to think about the worsening situation of fanaticism in the country and what it could mean for us one day, however he was resilient in his patriotic thinking, putting his service into educating Pakistani children before anything else -even his own family.

I have always felt emotionally and mentally restricted in this country, unable to voice an opinion on anything remotely related to politics or religion, while many of my cousins and relatives continue to live freely in the West.

What I find strange is that I have done my Islamic research because I wanted to know the reason behind the rising hatred toward anyone remotely non-Muslim, and contrary to popular belief Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was generous and kind to members of various faiths. It is after reading much of his work that I have concluded that it is not Islam that is the problem at all, it is the wretched people who claim to be Muslims but have hatred, racism and religious stigma engrained in their core.

No matter how many Taseers are born, there will always be a Mumtaz Qadri in almost every strata of Pakistani society ready to kill, and many will defend this action even at the highest political levels.

So, my dear Pakistan, tell me - where shall I go?

Is it fair that we are practicing our religion in a phobic way? Is it fair that I no longer wear my cross because someone may take offence to it?

Jinnah wanted to create a state that would encourage freedom of religion. Today, not only have you all failed Jinnah but you have taken a religion of peace and manipulated it to terrorise us. We cannot be silenced for long.

As Abraham Lincoln said:
If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify a revolution.

Yours sincerely,

A disappointed Pakistani Christian

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WRITTEN BY:
Cynthia Roberto A Pakistani Christian piano teacher who campaigns for the rights of all Pakistani religious minorities and is greatly inspired by Salmaan Taseer.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (256)

Karl | 9 years ago | Reply Hi, I aree to what you have said to an extent. I grew up studying in St. Patricks High School which being a top convent school for boys has more muslims than christian students. I never faced these situation which you have mentioned by any of my educated friends. I think the problem of religious discrimination is due to the lack of education in our society. In Karachi it is not very difficult but I have experienced these things while visiting other parts of the country. In Lahore once me and my cousins were refused service at a restaurant due to being Christians and although there were many onlookers who looked upon us with sympathy, none intervened. Once someone made a remark at me that you should be thankful to God that you were born in a educated and well off family otherwise you like other Christians would be working as janitors or in the municipality. I was amused at this remark and answered that I would not be ashamed working as a janitor, sweeper or anything as I would be earning my living but you should be thankful to your God as is you had been born in a poor family, would be on the streets begging. I know that it was not wise of me to say that but it is a fact that christians do not resort to begging no matter how hard things maybe. The friend who had made that comment was extremely ashamed and apologised for his comment after hearing what I had said. He later said that in a way I was correct. My family is settled in London from the last twelve years but I migrated here last year after much convincing and emotional blackmail from my family. I never wanted to leave Pakistan as I have considered it my mother nation and will continue to do so wherever I live. Further still I still hope that changing the mindset of these extremest few is only possible if we educate them. We should look into the fact that this kind of extremist behaviour is leading us nowhere and due to this behaviour by a few, Islam is getting the blame around the world. I don't think any muslims had problems due to their religion on any international airport or country before 9/11. This extremist behaviour is intolerable and if not stopped will lead the nation to doom.
Ayesha Mallick | 9 years ago | Reply Hi Cynthia, I have also studied from a convent school, St. Josephs to be exact, during the 125 years of school celebration we went into the church as part of a procession and lit candles, we sat together and ate, although I did not have any christian friends but many girls did and are still friends with them. I think this is an isolated event. It has nothing to do with your religion it is part of a social set up in many places where minorities ethnic or religious are scared of the majorities, and they are afraid to mingle. One thing is that because most of the household help or street cleaners in Karachi are hindus or christians from Punjab maybe some people from the 'elite' class think that all are same and treat all christians that way. Another thing is that it is odd that this incident happened in a 'convent' school, where a christian is more likely to be heard , why didn't you complain to a teacher?
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