Why British Pakistanis should visit their motherland

Unfortunately, for many British Pakistanis, their homeland is all about beards, buffaloes and extremism.

Zab Mustefa May 25, 2012
Back home, the vast majority of second generation British nationals of Pakistani origin wouldn’t dream about visiting their parent’s homeland - unless it was for shopping, or a wedding of course. 

Unfortunately, the topic of Pakistan is followed by mockery, ridicule and stereotypes, which consist of uneducated, toothless villagers driving rickshaws and eating paan.

People in Britain don’t realise that Pakistan is a country full of colour, culture and a talented young generation that is truly aiming for change. I don’t understand why so few of my young generation would like to visit the country of their parent’s origin. Of course, there is a big cultural difference, but in a way it’s refreshing to truly go back to your roots.

The majority of our parents immigrated to the UK back in the 1950’s. My father arrived as a fresh-faced teenager to Glasgow. Similarly, my mother came to London when she was 22. Unashamedly simple to this day, both are patriotic towards Pakistan and love their homeland.

Before leaving for Pakistan, I was given several perplexed looks; everybody was confused as to why I was going there with family and relatives. They were bemused at the fact that I wasn't going shopping nor was I going to a wedding.

If I were to tell cousins in the UK that the street art along the walls of Garhi Shahu in Lahore is more impressive than that of an east London wall, I would be met with shock and awe.

If I were to describe the intellectual students coming in and out of universities here, rather than sleazy Pakistani guys with bad haircuts, it would be beyond belief.

This close-minded attitude towards ones own heritage is sort of like a love-hate relationship with Pakistan.

It's interesting how most second generation British-Pakistanis speak Urdu and/or Punjabi fluently. They also love their curries and shalwar kameez, yet you mention Pakistan and an uncomfortable silence will linger.

Personally, hearing the sabzi walaa (vegetable seller) push his cart through the narrow side streets makes me smile. Watching flat-bread coming out of the tandoor is a million times better than waiting at the bakers section of your local Tesco supermarket to get chewy, artificial dough that is supposed to resemble “fresh” bread.

In some ways, being born and bred in a British society with Pakistani culture does equate to an identity crisis.  However you take the best from both. There is nothing wrong with embracing the western lifestyle, after all you become accustomed to the society you live in. However, problems arise when you forget your heritage and everything about your origin becomes ridiculed.

Yes, we all like to imitate our parents and joke about things our auntie jees (aunts) do. Like the time an aunt refused to pay £1 for a cup of tea, insisting that she would wait till she went home and make it herself.

However, there is a difference between humour and the ignorance that many young British Pakistanis have towards their land of origin. I can tell you that not many know who the current prime minister is or are aware that some of the most prestigious designers participated in Pakistan Fashion Week last month.

Unfortunately, for many, though not all, Pakistan is all about beards, buffaloes and extremism.

We should make more of an effort to know our history and background. Without sounding condescending to those already here, I am sure that you are already aware that Pakistan is indeed a beautiful country; there is so much to see and so much to do.

There is nothing wrong with being British and proudly admitting that you love Pakistan.

Read more by Zab here, or follow her on Twitter @zabadabadoo
Zab Mustefa Zab Mustefa is a British journalist who specialises in women's rights and culture. She tweets @zabmustefa (https://twitter.com/zabmustefa)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


zindagi | 10 years ago | Reply I was born and raised in Canada, around few other Pakistanis but my family is from Rural Northern Punjab and we often visited our relatives back in the home country when I was growing up. They were the best experiences of my life and taught me so much. I've also had the chance to travel and see how some of our relations in the NW of England, so I am in a unique position to contrast and compare. It's clear that this community has some issues due to cultural baggage, youth alienation, and economics, but overall, the majority are not terrible people and are just trying to live their lives. I've also interacted with so-called "educated" and "wealthier" Pakistani communities, and cannot say they are all people of good character. Some are good, some are bad just like the other communities regardless of origin. One thing I can say it is unfair to completely look down and malign the rural communities as "backward". It's unfortunate that only the "backward" traditions/practices from these communities get publicity and are perpetuated but there are also good values and traditions from these communities, where people in the past cared for one another, were self-sufficient, and were hard workers. For some unfortunate reason, these aren't the values we perpetuate through our traditions. Pakistanis, IMO, regardless of class or origin, have all increasingly more selfish, materialistic, radical and ignorant in one way or the other. I agree with the author of the report, that it is important for foreign Pakistanis to visit their home, but only if they come with the proper values, are open-minded and have the ability to think critically and the courage to show Pakistan and their own expat communities, a better way to do things, and to also look under the rubble of what Pakistan is today, to see what good we can extract from our traditions, because there is some good there.
Mariam | 10 years ago | Reply @Vikram, I don't understand your point. My point, in my previous post was that in my capacity as a lawyer, who deals with benefit issues, I have seen a great many people who have falsely claimed benefits, when they don't need it, not just pakistani's. Now, you are claiming that many Muslims claim benefits needlessly in the UK. This is a statement that I can neither confirm or deny because I dont have the numbers and proper data to make that statement. Also, the article that you have pasted is from a newspaper that survives on printing negative stories abt anyone, be they Muslim, rich, famous, skinny, fat, you name it. Its not a credible paper, but a step up from the trashy tabloids.  In addition to this, if u have posted this article to show that Muslims are the only people in the UK that claim benefits and people from Indian descent or any other ethnic origin don't claim benefits, then that is a lie, because as I have said in my previous post, I have come across a lot of different nationals, including Indian nationals fraudulently claim benefit. It's just the way most humans are, if they can get money for nothing then they will try that instead of actually working! But i will reiterate again, claiming benefits fraudulently is not a Muslim disease, it's not a pakistani disease, it's a human disease.
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