Why not Assalam-u-Alaikum?


Many of us automatically think of Islam when we think of Pakistan. And why shouldn’t we? Isn’t it the ‘Islamic Republic’ of Pakistan? When someone mentions the word “terrorist”, we imagine a bearded, turban-wearing, staunch Muslim man. Because every time we hear the word in the news or media, we see such an image almost always accompanying it.

At a party one of the guys decided to dress up like a terrorist. And of course, that meant he had to dress up in the most stereotypical Muslim way he could think of. His ignorance of Muslims didn’t help though, but no one noticed. As it usually happens, it escalated into something else altogether. We were all making a video now, he was now a Pakistani terrorist with a wife who used a men’s’ large sized shirt and a helmet as a “modern-day Burqa”. He spoke made-up Arabic (even though most Pakistanis don’t converse in Arabic). Two girls assumed the roles of hostages. One boy and one girl impersonated Indian reporters. The rest pitched-in ideas. It was all fun and games. Just harmless jokes.

There were jokes about Muslims, of course. Jokes that were in line with the ones we usually cracked about Hindus and Sikhs. Nothing over the top or too offensive, partly because none of them knew much about Islam or Muslims.

One of them was a Muslim, she was the girl who was imitating a reporter. And just before she went ahead to do her part, she said that she should start with a Namaste since she was playing an Indian reporter, which the terrorist will reply to with an Assalam-u-Alaikum. I couldn’t acquiesce anymore. I expected her to be less ignorant than the others, and me. I asked her, “Why not Assalam-u-Alaikum? Can’t Indians say Assalam-u-Alaikum?” She agreed, and her expressions could tell that a sense of realisation took over her. She stuck to Assalam-u-Alaikum after that.

With that instance we think Islam when we think Pakistan, but is that constraining us to disassociate Muslims from India? Is it sowing the ideas into young minds, even Muslim ones, that saying Namaste is Indian, while the salaam is inherently a Pakistani thing to say? Are we made to subconsciously believe that Muslims are lesser Indians?

About the Author:

Pankaj Khokhar (PGGC-11)

Pankaj Khokhar

“Aspiring Diplomat. Laughs too much. Artfully pretentious. Pretends to care sometimes. Trying to create his own little space in the world. Talks about self in the third person like everyone else.”


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