Saturday, 17 September 2011

Are You Pakistani or Muslim First?

Khaled Ahmed
Director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore, Pakistan

Renowned Islamic orator Zakir Naik was on a TV channel talking to British Pakistanis about their identity. (I heard his entry into the UK has recently been banned.) He said, why get embarrassed when the Brits ask you: are you a Muslim first or British first? His solution to the dilemma concealed in this question was: ask a counter-question, “Are you a human being first or a Briton first?”
Naik said: turn the tables, let the Briton be embarrassed. When asked this question, he will have to say he is a human being first. The situation created by this confusion will spare the Pakistani Briton the dilemma of a clash between his religious identity and his national one. But what Naik said pertained to an issue that raises its head in Pakistan too.
Are we Muslims, Pakistani first or Muslim first? The answer today is Muslims. I once conducted a TV debate in 2006 with an audience, and those who said they were Muslim first, won by a 90 per cent count. Pakistan is an Islamic state and all of us are Muslims; therefore, it is easy to say that we are Muslims first and then Pakistani. The Pakistan Movement should also support this thesis because we claim that Muslims had become a nation before they demanded a state.

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