I’m Pakistani. I’m Marrying a White Woman. My Parents Can’t Deal.

Racism, bigotry, and hatred are curious things. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be fought with weapons and violence. Somehow, despite all the destruction they cause, they still persist, like resistant viruses.

For those of you who know me, you know my life has been characterized, at least in part, by a constant struggle against the worst parts of my upbringing and the worst parts of the culture I belong to. One of these worst parts is the festering exclusionism and bigotry that typifies my family, and many Pakistani families alike.

I find people from all different parts of the world to be beautiful and remarkable. Every color and shape is another thread that comprises an ever expanding global tapestry. In an increasingly flat world, those threads are blending together. Multiracial couples, and children, are becoming more common. I am one half of such a couple. I am marrying the woman of my dreams, and she is white.

I decided, after much deliberation, to tell my parents, and I have spent the past 4 months arguing with them about it. I have heard every nonsense reason they can come up with for why I shouldn’t be marrying someone who isn’t Pakistani, someone who isn’t a part of “our” culture. After so much arguing, my parents will not be attending my wedding. They will not be offering their support to the decision I’ve made, and though I wouldn’t have thought it possible, our relationship has become even more damaged.

There is a desire that permeates the Pakistani ethos to separate from other peoples and associate only among ourselves. There is a blind adherence to the idea that Pakistani people are somehow better, and becoming too close with others is some sort of crime. I was raised with stereotypes about every other race. Black people are thugs. Spanish people are dirty. Chinese people are just weird (of course every Asian is either Chine or Japanese as well). And white people, white people are the worst. They are the devil. They corrupt innocent Muslim Pakistani boys like myself. Their women are immoral temptresses, and their men are idiots.

The remarkable thing about these stereotypes is not that they exist. After all, if  you’re taught nothing else your entire life, it makes sense that you will adopt these beliefs and find evidence in your life to support them. No, the remarkable thing is how unwavering these beliefs can be. My parents have traveled the world. They have met every kind of person and experienced the multicultural wonder the world has to offer. Few in the world are so fortunate to have experienced the wonder of the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids in Egypt, and the Eiffel Tower. Many would regard these experiences as transformative, and take them as opportunities to appreciate the beauty that is present in people all around the world.

Instead, they have become a catalog of experiences used to justify incorrect beliefs. That one woman in France who was wearing a crop top and shorts is enough to prove that all white women are whores. That one Chinese child pooping in the street proves that they’re out of control. Quite to the contrary, though, Pakistani people are regarded as infallible. No matter how bad of shape our country is in, there is a conspicuous lack of introspection and self improvement. The intelligent educated people leave the country because they can’t stand it there, while the others stay and continue to perpetuate a destructive culture.

I’m not writing this to explain what I’m going through, not really anyway. I’m writing this out of hope for something better. I’m writing this because I care about others in my situation, and because I care about my people and my country. There is a tremendous feeling of loneliness and abandonment that comes with your parents refusing to support anything you do, a feeling no child should have to experience. There are very concrete explainable reasons why Pakistan is in such terrible shape, and is not improving despite every impetus imaginable, and this is one of those reasons. It is my hope that, one day, we will live in a world in which everyone will have read Pakistani poetry, a world in which Pakistani food is just as popular around the world as Indian food. But I fear that we will never see such a world. I fear that these things will fade away, and become distant memories.

People who challenge the flow of the Pakistani tide are shunned. They are excluded and become black sheep forced to wander without a flock. This post is a plea for change, for evolution. It is an explanation of the experience I have gone through used to highlight a hidden adversity that many of my friends and loved ones are facing as well. I only hope that my generation learns from the mistakes of its ancestors, and treats its children differently.

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8 responses to “I’m Pakistani. I’m Marrying a White Woman. My Parents Can’t Deal.

  1. How can you attribute all the ills of Pakistan to its culture? Pakistan has a beautiful culture, and reducing it to what you described above saddens me. The problems you mentioned are not unique and are prevalent almost everywhere in the world.

    • There are things about Pakistani culture which are beautiful, as I say in the post. Urdu poetry, Pakistani food, etc…are wonderful things which ought to be shared with the world. But overall, the Pakistani culture is destructive. The problems I mentioned are not unique, you’re correct, but they don’t exist everywhere in the world. It is no accident that Pakistan has maintained one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world throughout its history. It is not a coincidence that a nuclear nation does not provide electricity and water for its people. Strong leadership, good medical care, basic necessities for life, and many other things are lacking. Alcoholism is rampant in the country, yet drinking is against the law. Karachi is controlled by drug traders. Crimes like theft, assault, and pick-pocketing happen everywhere on a daily basis.

      These issues are cultural. They stem from a populous that has embedded a terrible emotional structure into its way of life. They stem from close mindedness, arrogance, disrespect of youth and children, mistreatment of women, and many other things. This is a country in which people shunned Malala Yousufzai as a puppet of the West instead of embracing and supporting her quest to fight for education for women. Yes, not all Pakistani people share these values, but to simply say that you are saddened does not diminish or change the gravity of the problems in the nation. In fact, you are embodying the very problem I talk about in the post, that people in Pakistan are shockingly unwilling to be self-critical.

      What I’ve posted does not reduce Pakistani culture. If you read the post, it demonstrates a complicated, loving, and personal understanding of it. It is that love and understanding which encourages me to be critical because I have hope that people can learn, grow, and change.

  2. As a first generation American-Egyptian, we similarly have our own set of problems, but I never accuse culture for them. I too accuse greed and arrogance amongst other deadly sins, but I don’t go as far as to say its a problem with the culture. Not to say Pakistan or Egypt’s problems are minor (they truly are widespread and burdensome), but we shouldn’t extrapolate, overgeneralize, and broadly define problems. I do justice to my countries diversity, culture, religion, and history by isolating the root cause of the problem.

    I support your emotional energy towards the issues in Pakistan, but my sadness comes from the fear that you may want to impose Western culture upon Pakistani culture. I’ve seen too many times Westerners insensitively criticize the Middle East. I hope I am wrong.

    I don’t encourage you to be critical. Criticism has its place, but it very well can kill “learning, growing, and change.” Negotiation and compromise requires patience. I find that criticizing someone that is so entrenched in their ways only reinforces negative behavior.

    Forgive me if I offended you. These are heavy problems and they ache me as well.

    • Hi Beta,

      I assure you that you haven’t offended me; this is just a healthy discussion, so no need to worry about that 🙂 I too have lived in Egypt, for five years, and I would contend the same thing about Egypt. In fact, I would say the same about many Middle Eastern and South Asian nations, having visited and lived in several of them. There is diversity, yes, but cultural problems are endemic to the region, in my estimation. I agree with you that imposing Western culture is a bad idea, and I wouldn’t want to do that. There is so much beauty that these places have to offer, and homogenizing them does not good. We disagree, however, on the approach. I don’t know that deliberate lengthy compromise is the way to change things. We need more Arab Springs, and they need to be free of influence from the West. Only radical, self-determinant change from within can have a lasting impact.

  3. I similarly have always emphasized that change must be grown locally and organically. As someone living in the United States, I can only pray for Egypt and the Middle East. My focus (or approach) is directed towards building a long-term and sustainable Muslim community here so one day we can rebuild over there.

    • That’s an interesting perspective, and different from one that I’ve heard. I haven’t heard of any idea of building a community here and then taking those lessons back to the Middle East, but it definitely seems to be a noble quest. I wish you the best, as I do with people everywhere 🙂

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