Last Updated: Wed Jul 13, 2011 23:36 pm (KSA) 20:36 pm (GMT)

Muna Khan: The unbearable lightness of being clueless, or how a simple Google search can save you from appearing silly

It is normal practice for man in Pakistan to hold hands in public. (File Photo)
It is normal practice for man in Pakistan to hold hands in public. (File Photo)

I should have known from the first line that the story would cause my blood pressure to hit the roof. A few days ago, I was directed to a post on Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish blog that began like this: “Here’s the kind of thing that makes you proud to be an American. On June 26, the US Embassy hosted a meeting to support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Pakistan.”

This story was reported in various news outlets, including Al Arabiya, but the writer on The Dish, Bruce Bawer, stated so many fallacies that it made me want to vomit – which is why I chose to do so on these pages.

Leaving aside for a moment that Mr. Bawer offers no proof of gays being “put to death in accordance with Sharia” in Pakistan, there are a host of other presumptions that stem from ignorance of Islam and Pakistan. For example, the belief that because Pakistan is a Muslim country it punishes and kills gays. Mr. Bawer forgot to add “Obviously” and “And I don’t need to prove it by citing one single report from one single organization, even an obscure one, to lend my theory some credence.”

Mr. Bawer is outraged by a “gay Muslim” reader who emailed him about an earlier post on the same subject to say that no gay person had been sanctioned by law to be executed in Pakistan in more than a century.

Mr. Bawer’s indignation doesn’t result in him producing evidence to the contrary, only more outrage that the brave efforts of the American embassy to recognize the LGBT community in Pakistan are being hindered. Shockingly by a “gay Muslim.” Maybe the gay Muslim didn’t realize he was to kneel at the altar of Mr. Bawer’s championing of the LGBT cause in Pakistan, of which he knew only two things: Pakistanis have no tolerance of the gay community and that the Obama administration is the only bastion of tolerance.

Perhaps Mr. Bawer should have paused and asked whether the Pakistani LGBT community wants to be defined by American terms of sex and sexuality. Perhaps no one feels the need to be labeled when fighting for civilian rights. Must one’s sexual identity be hijacked by another who perceives it to be the correct version?

Let me state unequivocally that this is not a head-in-the-sand approach of “there are no gays being persecuted in Pakistan, Yankee go home!” A lot of people in Pakistan think being liberal is an alternative form of lifestyle, forget tolerance for gays. However, I’m indignant at Mr. Bawer’s assumed train of thought, which is that because gays have been executed in Iran, and Iran is a Muslim state, and Pakistan is a Muslim state, ergo gays are executed in Pakistan.

I don’t blame people for reading his post and believing that gay people are sentenced to death in Pakistan, given that all kinds of crazy things happen there, but to present this as fact is grossly irresponsible and flies in the face of all that is ethical journalism.

Last but not least, and my favorite part, because even my obese nine-year-old Labrador knows better than to say this, Mr. Brawer writes about the outrage the event elicited, citing religious leaders who referred to it as “cultural terrorism.”

Yes, the 100-odd protestors of a religious party that is not represented in Pakistan’s parliament came out in Karachi to denounce the event. The other 17 million minus 100 residents of Karachi were too busy carrying on with their lives to attend an event that was heralded only by other self-righteous silly people.

Pakistanis have realized that they are in a terrible mess, most of which is the doing of their military and inept governments, but they do not want to be rescued by “do gooder” administrations that brazenly disregard international law and human rights in their quest to enforce their version of what is acceptable.

Mr. Bawer’s opening salvo that he is proud to be American after hearing of the US event made me laugh because I wonder how he proud he will feel when the very community his embassy wanted to fete is persecuted for attending it.

As a liberal Pakistani woman (code for elite, Godless NGO worker), I am uncomfortable allying myself with Americans who support their administration’s policy of drone strikes that have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan. Imagine if I was an openly gay person.

I suppose Mr. Bawer would get the statistics on the persecution of the gay community he was lacking – but that’s about it.

(Muna Khan, Senior Correspondent of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at muna.khan@mbc.net

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