to your children about tolerance
and spread this message to Pakistan
In the last two decades,
the level of intolerance in Pakistan has reached dangerously high levels. Horrific
news reports of Pakistanis killing each other on the basis of language or culture
have surfaced, poisoning the atmosphere of tolerance in which Pakistan's myriad
ethnic groups once lived together in.
As intolerance increases
abroad, you can develop a tolerance program based on American ideas and implement
it in your own family. Then you can "Pakistanize" it and work to implement
it in Pakistan.
This may sound like a very
abstract idea but it isn't. There are hundreds, if not thousands of programs
across the United States that aim to teach school going children the need for
being tolerant of all races and cultures. Employers in the US spent time and
money implementing "cultural sensitivity training" to avoid practices
like racism, prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. And there are formal
organizations that individuals can complain to if they are victims of intolerance.
Finally, virtually every major business in America has a complaints department
where issues of intolerance can be dealt with.
So despite its history of
racism (not to mention present problems with this issue), the US has and is
taking steps to address intolerance. It offers a useful model for us to follow
in eliminating intolerance within the Pakistani-American community as well as
in Pakistan itself. Here's how you can start working on ridding the atmosphere
of intolerance found amongst Pakistani-Americans and in Pakistan.
1. Observe your own behavior
Do you regularly stereotype
other ethnic groups? Do you make "ethnic jokes" about all of Pakistan's
ethnic groups, except your own? Do you generalize about an entire group of people
based on one negative experience with an individual from that culture?
Any fundamental change starts
from within. We can't be fighting intolerance if our own behavior shows otherwise.
Become conscious of when you are making an ethnic joke, stereotyping or generalizing.
Remind yourself when you engage in any of these behaviors that hurtful ethnic
jokes are wrong, Tell yourself that all Pathans or Punjabis or Biharis or whoever
are not all "like that". Remind yourself that the Memon guy who ripped
you off at the carpet store is not an indication that all Memons are cheaters,
As you take steps to rid
yourself of your own behavior, it will become easier to identify and deal with
the intolerance you find in your family, social circle, amongst relatives back
2. Expand your social circle
outside of "your own kind"
Are all of your friends
Bihari, Pathan, Hyderabadi or Punjabi? When was the last time you invited someone
from a different ethnicity over?
When you expand your social
circle to include Pakistanis of all ethnic backgrounds, you not only broaden
your own horizons and develop a warm relationship with others. You also teach
your children to do the same. They will, after all, interact with the children
of those you invite over, so they learn that it's "okay" to have friends
who aren't of the same ethnic group.
3. Stand up to intolerance
in your social circle
It's not uncommon for people
to mock or ridicule another ethnic group in its absence at a party or get together.
Although many people may feel uncomfortable about this, they often don't feel
courageous enough to stop the person making the remark.
Next time you encounter
an intolerant remark or joke in your social circle, swallow your fear and say
something to indicate your disapproval. You don't have to lecture. You can simply
not laugh when the offensive joke is told and the expression of disappointment
on your face can do the job. Or if you feel more courageous, you could say something
like, "I don't think it's fair to be making fun of other ethnic groups."
This will have two results:
the person making the joke will feel embarrassed, maybe even angry, but at least
he or she will not make ethnic jokes in front of you next time. Also, if your
kids are present when this happens, they will have a positive example of standing
up to intolerance and may be encouraged to do the same.
4. Look for opportunities
to discuss intolerance with your kids
Don't wait until your son
or daughter pops a question about intolerant behavior. Look for ways to discuss
the issue even if they don't ask.
For example, you may be
watching a television show together in which the theme of racism is brought
up. Use this opportunity to open up a discussion about intolerance, why it's
wrong and what it feels like to be the victim of intolerance.
5. Explain that intolerance
is not something Muslims do
Discuss with your children
how the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) vehemently opposed
racism of any sort.
He was particularly concerned
about Arab racism against non-Arabs which was common in his time. In addition,
he emphasized through his teachings and practice, that what makes one person
better than another is the consciousness of God, not skin color, culture or
language. Also, share examples of how the Prophet interacted with his non-Arab
companions, especially Bilal the African and Salman the Persian.
6. Explain that differences
are not bad
It is very natural to seek
what is familiar to us. That's why many people just "stick to their own
kind", thus limiting themselves in their lives. It's important to remind
children from the time they are very young and onwards that being different
is not bad.
Tell your children that
differences in language and colors are an example of God's creative power. They
are not a reason to hate another person, to make fun of them or to intolerant
7. Read stories and encourage
learning about different cultures
Find a book that talks about
Baluchistan and its geography, people and culture. Even if the book is in Urdu,
you can use this as an opportunity to teach tolerance while developing your
child's Urdu skills. Also, bookmark websites that share the beauty of Pakistan's
Also, when your child is
a little older have him or her prepare their own presentation for the family
about a specific ethnic group of Pakistan. This way, they're learning, while
8. Gently reprimand and
express your disapproval when you encounter intolerant behavior from your kids
While emphasizing the positive,
it's important to be on the lookout for the negative and put it in its place.
There may be times when your child may make an intolerant remark, after having
learned it in the school playground from other kids, for instance. In this situation,
sit your child down and explain the gravity of what they are saying and that
it is wrong.
If the behavior is repeated,
consider taking away some privilege or other form of discipline to get the message
across that intolerant behavior will not be tolerated in this family or this
Now the part about "Pakistanizing"
your tolerance program
Remember when adapting your
tolerance program to Pakistan that people's prejudices run deep so you cannot
expect rapid change. You can however, work with the young generation to stop
the hatred. Young people are usually more open-minded and it will be easier
to discuss tolerance with them than someone from the older generation who has
no desire to let go of deep seated prejudices.
Here's how you can present your tolerance program to Pakistanis:
1. Emphasize the religious
Most Pakistanis do have
prejudices of some sort, as do other groups. However, Islam elicits a certain
respect and when a person says: "Allah says in the Quran
"The Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) said
most people will listen.
Use this to your advantage.
As you earlier pointed out to your children, discuss how the Prophet vehemently
opposed racism of any sort. He was particularly concerned about Arab racism
against non-Arabs which was common in his time. In addition, he emphasized through
his teachings and practice, that what makes one person better than another is
the consciousness of God, not skin color, culture or language. Also, share examples
of how the Prophet interacted with his non-Arab companions, especially Bilal
the African and Salman the Persian.
2. Catch generalizations
when they happen
If a relative has a negative
experience with someone and begins insulting the person's ethnic group, wait
until they cool off to point out the error of their ways. Also, if children
were present there, gently explain that in anger, we say things that we don't
mean and that are not always true.
3. Carefully criticize intolerant
You have to be very careful
with this, especially if the intolerant remark or joke is coming from someone
older. You can perhaps simply express displeasure with your facial expression
and not laugh at the joke.
In addition, you can counter
the negative with the positive. If someone in your family makes fun of a particular
ethnic group, tell the story of a positive experience you or a friend had with
someone from that same group.
4. Show pictures of your
family with other Pakistanis
Make a point of sharing
the family photo album and using it as an opportunity to teach tolerance. Make
a point of pointing out "this is a good friend of mine, she's Punjabi.
She is a very generous person. She helped me out when I was having a hard time
making ends meet"; "That's our really cool neighbor Arshad, who's
from Peshawar. He was a great help when we were moving", etc.
Your behavior may raise
some eyebrows, especially if putting down a specific ethnic group is common.
But don't let that stop you.
5. Tell stories where the
heroes are from much maligned ethnic groups
Telling stories is an art
in virtually all cultures, including the Pakistani one. Tell stories to your
nieces, nephews and younger relatives in Pakistan about heroic acts done by
individuals of specific ethnic groups.
For instance, it is very
common in Pakistan to consider Pathans of low intelligence. Tell your young
relatives the story of a Pathan hero who, using his faith in God, intelligence
and strength, helps save the Muslims of Pakistan from an attack by a foreign
By regularly telling positive
stories about individuals from much maligned ethnic groups, you create a crack
in an intolerant mentality.
6. Be on the lookout for
intolerance in the Pakistani media
Pakistan's television shows,
newspapers and magazines may have a role in fanning the flames of intolerance.
Be on the lookout for this and write letters of complaint. Better yet, encourage
the students of your Pakistani tolerance program to launch a letter writing
campaign among family and friends.
7. Gently remind people
when they slip up
It's almost inevitable that
intolerant words and jokes will resurface, especially if a person has been intolerant
for a long time. In this case, gently remind the person in private what they
were taught in the tolerance program.
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/17/2002 3:49:05 PM
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