A BRIT AND A PAKI

So politically up our own backsides.

A short while ago, I had an extremely interesting, if somewhat unorthodox and, according Britain's often irrational fixation with being politically correct, an undeniably non-politically correct conversation with an acquaintance of mine.

We were chatting about the population of Bahrain and how friendly I found most people there compared to England. I regaled a few anecdotes of my experiences, highlighting some of the differences I have found between living in Bahrain and the UK when it comes to the graciousness and affability of many of the locals. He then asked me what the general population was made up of. I said that the population of Bahrain was around a million people, there were only around eight or nine thousand Brits living there but hundreds of thousands of Indians and Pakis...”

 

Before I could finish the sentence, the person I was chatting too suddenly put up his hands in dismay and exclaimed loudly “You can't say that!!”

 

“Say what?” I replied, confused.

 

“Paki” he said, “you can't say Paki.”

 

“Why not?” I asked, just as confused. “Paki is an abbreviation for Pakistani, as Brit is an abbreviation for British, and I wasn't being rude to the British.”

 

“But it is derogatory and rude calling a Pakistani person a Paki” came the swift reply.

 

“Why?” I asked once more. “Paki is the first four letters of Pakistani, as Brit is for British. How on earth can that be derogatory?”

 

I didn't get an answer, just a “Because it is...”

 

“Then what about Scot for the Scottish, or Pole for Polish, is that rude too?  How about Swede for Swedish or Dane for Danish or Fin for Finnish? Again the first few letters are the same. Are they all derogatory and rude too?” I was on a roll with this politically correct idiot standing before me. “OK then, let's look at the countries that end in 'stan' shall we? We call people from Kurdistan, Kurds, people from Kazakhstan, Kazaks and Uzbeks are from Uzbekistan. For sure calling an Italian a wop is rude, or frog for someone French, but how can abbreviating a word, which is dome many other times with many nationalities, be rude?”

 

He looked perplexed.

 

“And I remember once being told in my school geography lessons that the suffix 'stan' is an ancient Persian word meaning country, and so surely Pakis therefore come from Pakistan?”

 

As this acquaintance of mine was pondering my arguments I remembered back to when Prince Harry's used the word "Paki" to describe a member of his army platoon, referring to his colleague Ahmed Raza Khan as "our little Paki friend." This caused a media uproar, David Cameron said it was "completely unacceptable" and Prince Harry had to publicly apologise. But why? Would Ahmed Raza Khan have had to publicly apologise if he had called Prince Harry a 'Brit'? Would I have to publicly apologise if I called someone a Scot or a Swede or a Fin?

 

Or is it perhaps because most Pakistanis have darker skins than most Brits or Scots, or Swedes or Danes or Fins? and so therefore - especially in the UK - we have to tread very, very carefully and treat people with darker skins very differently?

 

Isn't this though itself being racist and discriminatory?

 

We are so politically up our own backsides in Britain with our 'you cannot say this' and 'you cannot write that' attitude and I have no doubt that it won't be too long before even the conversations we have to our friends and acquaintances in private will be reported and some 'do-gooder' from some jumped-up organisation will be knocking on the door, accusing us of whatever.

 

There was not a hurtful thought in Prince Harry's head when he said Paki, nor was there in mine. The Pakistanis in Bahrain are infinitely nicer and kinder and more respectful than many westerners I have met around the world; many of whom I have found rude, brash and arrogant and completely disrespectful of their hosts culture (not all though!). We in the UK cane each other when we mention a single word that might call offence, yet we can cause offence in every country we visit with our behaviour and arrogance and attitude.

 

The conversation with my acquaintance quickly turned to something less controversial and after bidding him my farewell, I called a friend from Pakistan and told him about our conversation. He enlightened by telling me that the name Pakistan was created in 1934 and actually means Land of the Pure. Pak means pure. The country was originally called Pakstan, but the letter 'i' was added later to ease pronunciation.  “It is not the word Paki which is the problem,” he said philosophically. “It is the malice with which some British, and other nations, use the word; it is their thoughts and feelings and intentions which is the real problem, certainly not the word. How can an abbreviation of a country which we hold so dear be derogatory and defamatory? This is impossible”. He said didn't mind at all if someone called him a Paki, why should he? as they were in fact calling him pure.

Wording © COPYRIGHT 2012, ROBIN BARRATT

 

1st Published in Gulf Insider, 2012

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