The Sheepification of Bakistan: Mina Malik-Hussain

We are reproducing this piece by Mina Malik-Hussain, which appeared in The Nation (Pakistan) as it deals with an important issue which concerns the changes that are taking place within subcontinental Islam. The piece underlines the great cultural battle underway within Islam which, in the final analysis is about being Muslim in many different ways. Mina Malik-Hussain is a feminist based in Lahore.

When we were small, there was a month and it used to be called Ramzan. It was Ramzan on television, it was Ramzan in the newspaper with the sehr-o-iftar timings and while nobody had a cell phone or Facebook to wish anyone, it would have been Ramzan Mubarik nonetheless. Sometimes if one was being quite linguistically adventurous it would be Ramazan, but nobody seemed to mind.
And then, insidiously, The Arabs crept up on us. It wasn’t like the return of Muhammad Bin Qasim, but somehow Ramzan became Ramadan. Nobody knew exactly how it happened, but almost overnight our crisp z’uad sound became a lisping Arab burr, and we—a nation of language speakers with no apparent consonant pronunciation difficulties—were flung into the downward spiral of an affectation obsession. Now it was cool to sound Arab, and soon enough it began to be increasingly desirable to look it. Cue Al Huda, cue our streets being lined with gangly palm trees that do nothing, either in terms of beauty or shade, cue the availability of the most bling Islamic cover-up gear you’ll see this side of Dubai.

Still, as a nation we were still fairly open-minded about this, so we fasted year after year and didn’t really pay attention to the semantics of it. We were busy trying to live our lives and be regular Pakistanis, but The Arabs kept making inroads onto our cultural minds. One year ‘khuda-hafiz’, that old and comfortable way of saying goodbye and Godspeed, became ‘Allah hafiz’ with the dubious reason of having to specify which deity to whose protection one was recommending you. Because here in multi-religious, multi-cultural and secular Pakistan there was actual leeway where one would wonder who exactly Khuda is, and perhaps not want to be entrusted to a pagan god. Some people resisted, and continue to resist Allah hafiz and keep saying khuda-hafiz with the logic and hope that whatever His name, He will still protect and love them. Also if it was good enough for one’s grandfather and great-grandfather, it was just fine for them too. Read the full article here

5 thoughts on “The Sheepification of Bakistan: Mina Malik-Hussain”

  1. I think Arabic language does not have word “J” and hence this holy month is called Ramadan. Yes there is tendency among Pakistanis to look towards Arabia or Turkey for everything and have started forgetting their ancestors and the sub continent culture.People who forget their past do not have a future

    1. @ Moin. This is not something that is Pakistan specific, there is a systematic effort at Arabisation of Islam and Arabisation of all cultural practices of Muslims in different parts of the world. The effort is to force everyone to kow-tow to the Saudi wahabist interpretations of islam and to deny not only the cultural and linguistic diversities that have existed among Muslims all over the world but also to privilege the Arabic spoken and written in Saudia over the Arabic spoken and written in Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya,Chad Mauritania, Syria, Morocco, Yemen and many other Arab speaking nations.The very Idea that Arab culture, as defined by the house of Saud and their hangers on, is superior to other cultures practised by Muslims all over the world and efforts at privileging the Saudi practices are symptoms of a rather pernicious and chronic kind of Saudi Arabic jingoism. Those who support these ideas are merely surrendering their own cultural and linguistic identities to ape the Saudi manufactured brand of Islam.

  2. Arabization,Americanization…face it, culture is porous, and no one is immune to cross pollinations. For that matter why privilege Farsi over Arabic. Why is the Persian heritage authentic? Because it was good enough for the great grandfathers? Why stop at the great grandfathers? Go back a few generations and you will find Hindu and Buddhist grandfathers. If subcontinental Islam is indeed diverse, then celebrate that diversity by embracing Arabic Islam too, no?

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