Denialistan, Part One
“They had never heard of anyone mistreating or discriminating against Christians in Pakistan…”
I was invited to speak at a private book club that was discussing my recent work Slum Child, a novel about a young Christian girl in a Karachi slum who has to rely on her wits and the kindness of others to survive extremely difficult circumstances. For me, the evening turned out to be a very powerful experience that confirmed my instincts about why I had to write Slum Child.
I arrived at the venue on an extremely hot Karachi evening. The temperature had climbed up to 44 C (111.2 Fahrenheit) during the day, and it was a relief to slip into the restaurant’s air-conditioned depths. At a table, ten members of the book club were waiting for me, copies of Slum Child in front of them.
Almost immediately, two of the book club members began to confront me. They were what I call Denialistanis, people who are extremely touchy about Pakistan’s flaws and can’t accept criticism of any kind about the nation and its inhabitants. They said that in writing Slum Child I was showing a bad side of Pakistan to the world, and that they had never heard of anyone mistreating or discriminating against Christians…
We got into a heated discussion about discrimination against minorities in Pakistan. I asked them about Aasia-Bibi, the poor Christian woman on death row for blasphemy; Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, who was assassinated in January 2011 after protecting Bibi and criticizing the blasphemy laws; and Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian minister for Minority Affairs who was assassinated by extremists in March of last year.
They asked me why I chose to write about Christians and not Muslims, since Pakistani Muslims were being killed and treated badly.
Indeed, the War on Terror has brought a terrible sense of victimhood to the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, where we have suffered 30,000 deaths due to terrorist attacks for a war many feel is not ours.
I recognized their pain from the countless humiliations we’ve all had to go through in the last ten years, starting with 9/11/01 and going all the way through the recent capture of Osama Bin Ladin in Abbottabad. As a Pakistani, I knew exactly what that pain felt, looked, talked, and sounded like. But as a member of the powerful majority, it is my duty to speak for and protect our vulnerable minorities.
Read Part Two of Denialistan on June 12, 2012