Monday, September 8, 2008


Pakistanis are the most racist people I know. We, in Pakistan, may hear and read a lot more about the West's Islamophobia and about discrimination against minorities there, but that is just because racism in Pakistan is left completely undiscussed. The intellectuals and the media do not talk about it, and of course, it is way too much to expect the government and the religious elite to deal with it. And so, racial and ethnic prejudices in Pakistanis remain entirely unexamined and most Pakistanis blithely display their bigotry in their interactions with members of different races and ethnicities.

To convince the unmoved reader of the extent of racism in Pakistanis, I have listed some of the stereotypes that I have come across. This list is in no way comprehensive but, in my opinion, is long enough to mandate a serious conversation about the issue.

1. Pathans are considered stupid, aggressive, oversexed, homosexual, pedophiles, religious fanatics and mysoginists. They are the butt of an entire genre of Pakistani jokes, which are called akhroat (walnut) jokes, so named because Pathans are supposed to be thick-headed like walnuts.

2. Punjabis are stereotyped as crass, vulgar, fat and gluttonous.

3. Sindhis are said to be feudal, servile, docile, backward (especially with regards to women's rights), nosy and illiterate.

4. Baloch are thought to be tribal, uncivilized, violent and illiterate.

5.  Muhajirs are called bedbugs and stereotyped as being wily and money-minded.

7. Bengalis are thought to be effiminate, spineless, cheats and racially inferior.

8. Indians are supposedly all Hindus, vegetarian, amoral piss-drinkers.

10. Africans are considered irrational, violent, barbaric, uncivilized, ugly, prone to crime and racially inferior. Their color and their blunt features are looked at with undisguised abhorrence by Pakistanis, who refer to Africans and African-Americans rather derogatorily as kallas (blacks).

11. Asians are stereotyped as tiny, spineless and uncivilized. They too are considered racially inferior and their narrow eyes are the basis of many Pakistani slurs including chaptas and chinkies. Many Pakistanis will unabashedly admit that all Asians look exactly alike to them.

12. Jews are stereotyped as money-hungry, Zionists, anti-Muslim and extremely wealthy. Jews are at the center of almost every international conspiracy theory in Pakistan. America is thought to be entirely run by this evil Jewish super-race. 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are all chalked up to a Jewish conspiracy. Many in Pakistan will even go so far as to say that the Holocaust was merely a story concocted by the Jews who control the media to garner international sympathy and secure support for Israel.

13. The people of the West are considered white, arrogant, hypocritical, ignorant, anti-Islam, pro-Israel, hedonistic, amoral, indecent, oversexed, decadent, Satanic, biased, racist and evil. I have lumped all of Europe and America together as the West because Pakistanis apply these stereotypes to every white person from a developed country. Of course, if said white person turns out to be American, then things are all the worse.

As I said at the beginning of this list, this is by no means a complete account of racism in Pakistan. These stereotypes not only exist in the minds of most Pakistanis, but they exist entirely unchallenged. It is a small wonder then that Pakistanis tend to be so xenophobic and communalistic.

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