Published December 24, 2008

Mend our Manners

Fatima Khan

Toronto

As a young Muslim Pakistani-Canadian woman, it often surprises me to see the way Pakistani youth behave in this society. They are disrespectful, irresponsible and just plain stupid at times. Many a times I am embarrassed to call myself Pakistani because of these particular people. For example, the Little India Bazaar on Gerrard Street in Toronto is a cesspool for those that I’m referring to or the “lafungays” (hooligans) as my mom would call them. As a kid I used to love going to Gerrard. It reminded me of the hustle and bustle and especially the food you’d see in a bazaar back home. However, as I got older, the groups of guys randomly standing on the street started to make me and my family uncomfortable. Those guys obviously had nothing better to do with their time than to holler at girls and stare them down, regardless of whether they were with their families or not. This is (or was supposed to be) a place for families, but when you can’t enjoy yourself without having gangster wannabes staring at you and making you uneasy, it is no longer a decent place to be at. I honestly don’t quite understand what these guys get out of intimidating families in their large (and badly dressed) groups. If they’re trying to make some sort of impression, it’s definitely working; albeit it is the wrong impression.

            Another example of similar behaviour are “melas” or festivals and concerts. Groups of young people tend to get out of hand and start misbehaving and disrespecting those around them. Even on Pakistan Day parades and shows we’re not spared. I understand people want to have fun and celebrate, but there is an appropriate way to do that. Many times I have seen groups get into arguments and fights in front of all the families present. At events where there is media presence, it is a real shame to see your people get into pointless fights, or to have the host constantly plead with the crowd to calm down.

            Now I’m not out to “get the guys” and point fingers solely on them, Pakistani girls also need to get their act together. Last year, I was dragged to the aforementioned Gerrard India Bazaar by a family friend. There was a small Pakistani concert taking place and she insisted I come with her. Of course it was also an event for families. As more people started coming, a young girl (most likely a high schooler) came in wearing a mini-skirt (and it was seriously mini). To top it off she wore “hooker heels” and a skimpy top. I was really surprised to see her wearing such revealing clothes in a family atmosphere, and even more shocked as to how her parents allowed her to wear such a disgraceful outfit.

I expressed my disbelief to my friend, who in turn told me I was overreacting because I had just recently returned from a trip to Pakistan (apparently I had become more conservative after the trip). I angrily told her it was just plain common sense not to come dressed like that to an event such as this (not to mention it was during the winter anyways).

 This anecdote reminds me of another girl in my Islamic Traditions course this year at York University. A Pakistani girl consistently wears inappropriate clothes to class that exposes her body. If she’s not ashamed of herself, I’m ashamed for her. Now I’m not saying that she should wear shalwar kameez to class for the sake of the reputation of other Pakistanis, but there should be some decency and self-respect.

            Our people, I find are lurking between westernization and modernization. To be “modern” is to be and to project an image that is decent, respectful, civilized, and most importantly educated. To be “western” is to lose your own unique identity and adopt the ways and behaviours of the “goras”.

 I hope people are not thinking that I’m trying to show myself as highly moral or above anyone. I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I have learned from them. I’ve read about Pakistani youth getting high or drunk in this very newspaper, and I just want say that it’s about time we get our act together.

In a time where our parent’s country is facing turmoil and is consistently misrepresented in the media, I really think we, the Pakistani youth, need to get together and show the world we’re not who we’re made out to be. We’re not the terrorists; we’re not the uneducated, “jahil”, or confused people; and neither are we going to settle for the lowest of the low. We need to stop pretending to be something we are not. We need to stop trying so hard to be “cool”.