By Linda Berger
March 30, 2014
Pakistan, the strange country that no westerner can really understand. So many contradictions and so many half-truths — what is Pakistan really and how can a westerner comprehend this? How can a westerner, especially a woman, understand Pakistan? Is it possible without the language? Yes, one can read about the culture, religion and moral values. So what are the moral values of the young generation in Pakistani? Where is the truth and were are the lies? I would venture to say: somewhere in between the two. They evoke God but they do not follow true Islam; it is almost as if religion is the last resort and turning to God can alleviate all sins. They do not pray five times a day. I have seen this again and again and I do question their relationship to God, a relationship they use all the time. It seems almost ironic that one can praise God and lie at the same time at a minute’s notice. It is a phenomenon that I have observed during my four visits to Pakistan.
First of all, every foreigner is a CIA agent. They do not have any concept of an academic who wants to learn and see how real Islam works and what it truly means. As a western, white woman one can be a novelty, a toy to play with and almost a showcase for some. At times, one can feel like a strange animal in a zoo: “Come take a look! She is dressed in our national clothing.” Until you scratch deeper, you never really see the truth and that is rather puzzling from the western point of view. Of course, you are their guest and, as a guest, you will receive a present as a way of being welcomed.
It is hard to compare this young generation, which wants so desperately to be western, to anything I have ever seen. They critique the west, especially the US, since its drones kill their people but, at the same time, they love western clothing, western music and slang, which they have learned from western movies. They do not have an understanding of slang, I will venture to say. “Nigger” seems to be in style and, on numerous occasions, I have tried to tell these youngsters that if they used this word they would offend not only black people but also most Americans. My words of caution usually fell on deaf ears. Then again, one has to be tolerant since many young people in Pakistan have never been to the west, and the west of the movies is so totally different from western culture.
In the movies, half naked or totally naked women run around happily showing their assets, but that is not the case in the ‘land of the pure’. Men are frustrated that they cannot have intimate relations any time they want. Sex is a taboo and, of course, it is done behind closed doors. At times, I wonder what their knowledge of sex is — it is so different from the way we view sex here. It seems to me that men here do not understand what a woman needs; how could they? They have never had sex education in school and they are taught that sex is the biggest sin in Islam. Many young women will pretend that they are virgins when it comes time for them to get married. The contrast with the way men treat their sisters and the women they sleep with is a paradox. One does not marry without a parent’s permission.
Young men who in the west are considered to be grown up, act like teenagers here with the mentality to match. It is hard to believe that any one society could produce so many mentally crippled men. They are so afraid of their parents that the truth becomes a lie in the name of respect. For young people in Pakistan, the future is bleak: no promising jobs and no opportunities. Many young men do emigrate to seek them and a few of them are lucky enough to go. At times, I felt ashamed to be so privileged and have so much: the education, the trust of friends and no fear of the truth and the whole wide world open to me. However, here in Pakistan, I had to take a deep breath, look around and realise that this was not the Islam I was prepared to see. There are lies, which produce more lies and it becomes like a maze. At times I feel as if nobody knows anymore what the truth is and what the lie is — they merge all into one. Of course, I am being a bit overly general here but on the whole it is the norm.