Biases, assumptions, and stereotypes – we know we have them, though we rarely admit to them. This week our global guest Samina Sundas, founder of American Muslim Voice, talked about traditional life growing up in Pakistan. How peculiar it was to hear that many of her friends and family “back there” don’t want to have their children watch American TV shows because they are too violent and disrespectful. Didn’t I just read that it is official, “Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world?”
I could buy into that headline, stereotype, and simplistic thinking; with all else going on in my life, it would certainly be easier for me to only see Pakistan as the feeding ground for terrorism (Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, women’s honor killings and so on) than to open myself to all the personal subtleties, cultural nuances, traditions, and paradoxes that I am learning about Pakistan through my friendship with Samina. For example, her family tradition has it that her father (an Islamic man) helped to do the cooking, dressed the kids, and polished their shoes every day before school. Her mother felt as if she was treated like “gold” in her traditional role in the family. Not a day went by without a family dinner, conversation, and reflection of the day. In Samina’s opinion, many of the women in Pakistan that she knows have it much better than the professional American women who are “doing it all.”
We could revert to a historical debate about gender equity and the cultural roles of men and women, or I can simply allow some “fresh air thinking” into my media-saturated brain. A shift – an opening - has occurred inside me, because I know one woman and am in relationship with her; Pakistan means something new to me, now. And here’s where it lies for me. Nothing replaces the power of personal connections as a way of opening our worldviews, testing our assumptions and biases… because only then can we know who we really are. How many blind spots do I carry with me because I happen to be an American woman? I can only know through friendships with women like Samina. She is my messenger.
You can find her work at www.AMuslimvoice.org
Fear of Terrorism in Pakistan and Violence in American Television
by Linda Higdon