A major theme of my writing and public speaking is an insistence on distinguishing between what I call the Pakistan I know and love – a rich, diverse, fascinating smorgasbord of humanity – and the distorted, two-dimensional Pakistan that most Americans see on TV. But when what they see on TV is Muslim Pakistanis burning crosses in a Christian neighbourhood, it makes it even harder than usual for me and other friends of Pakistan to make a case.
It’s all too true that Pakistanis and other Muslims are unfairly stigmatised and victimised in America. But anyone who would point that out in this particular context, as any kind of excuse would be playing a shameful politics of distraction. As an American, I feel shamed by the ways that my society mistreats Muslims here. By exactly the same token, Pakistan and all Pakistanis are shamed by mistreatment of Christians in Pakistan.
What happened in Lahore is not political or religious terrorism, although surely it has the effect of terrorising Pakistani Christians, but simple bigotry and bullying. Pakistani Christians are not Americans or Westerners, and to mistreat them as if they were somehow responsible for America’s sins is the crudest and ugliest kind of scapegoating.