As mentioned in a previous blog, Egyptians are funny people. They have this grand sense of pan-Arabism. Well this you find in all of Arabia.
Although in the last sermon of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) he said the best amongst you is not about who is Arab or non-Arab, it is about who is the best Muslim. Who follow the commandments of the religion, is the best amongst you. Therefore, nationality or language does not mean you’re better than non-Arabs. It doesn’t make sense either. I am told that usually the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca is a Pakistani who speaks fluent Arabic.
Going back to the topic of this story, wherever we would go on our sight-seeing around Egypt. In Khan-Khalili, at the airports, in Luxor, Aswan even in the Egyptian Museum, in the taxis, basically everywhere. Even in the lavatories, I would be asked in heavy Arabic accent fram vherrre? Or, min wayn? In the beginning I would tell them Pakistan and they would just wrinkle their noses as if it was an inferior nationality. In the tourist places for no reason they would go ahhh min Hind! Hindi Hindi Hindi. As if Pakistan doesn’t exist. Then I changed strategy and said in Arabic “Ana masri, ana baskun fi Masr, Cahira, ana masri.” Some would laugh, others would just keep quiet.
Then I thought of something else. I went to the Egyptian Museum and one of the security guards by the mummies sections asked the usual question…”from where? From Hind?” I said “no, not Hind, are you from Hind?” He was slightly taken aback by my question and said a very determined No as if he was insulted and said with pride, like when a duck flashes its breast and wriggle its tail “….Ana Maasri!” From then on I used this strategy to counter the Hindi song. Usually when they were counter asked whether they were from Hind, they would get insulted, taken aback or just laugh embarrassingly and say “nooo, we’re Egyptian!”
Some Egyptian are quite dark skinned and they resemble South Indians from Tamil Nadu or Kerala and I would say in Arabic, “…but you look Hindi, you’re darker than I am. Compared to you, I look Arab.” This way the Hindi singsong would stop and if they were talkative, the conversation would automatically change direction. It also happened that when I told where we’re from they would say ahh, from Pakistan, welcome. So it’s not all bad. As for being Hindi and the slighted reaction, I was surprised by the result. I mean If they take pleasure in calling others Hindi why don’t they like it when they are called Hindi? As for Indians or India, they are people just like everywhere else. It is a country with an ancient civilization and a dynamic member of the world community.
Finally, I am Pakistani, but it is rude when people automatically assume you are a certain nationality or ethnicity and when you counter ask them they find it offensive. Moreover, as a Pakistani, I find it insulting when people refuse to acknowledge the country of my ethnicity. It is a valued member of the United Nations, has been a geopolitical entity for the past 64 years. Pakistan the first ideological state, it is a paradigm in nation-state formation theory that religion is a basis for national self-determination. Israel is the second such state. We should appreciate and celebrate the colors of the world instead of rebuffing them.