David Maine: U.S. Misperceptions of Pakistan and Islam
David Maine was born in 1963 and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona and has worked in the mental-health systems of Massachusetts and Arizona. He has taught English in Morocco and Pakistan, and since 1998 has lived in Lahore, Pakistan, with his wife, novelist Uzma Aslam Khan.
Question: What are some of the misperceptions Americans have about Pakistan and Islam?
David Maine:What comes to mind is the idea that the perception that they are all fundamentalists, they are all fanatics. I don’t know just we have an election yesterday in Pakistan. I don’t know how the religious parties did, but I think they did really really badly. But in even the previous election the percentage of people who voted for the conservative religious parties was, all of them combined taken together, was less than 20%, and I know that the few months ago that a UK newspaper did a poll and found that at that point the support--this is before Benazir got shot--the support for the religious parties was less than 6%. Now if you look at conservative Christian Americans and if you look at the percentage of Americans who would be willing to vote for a religious party, okay, I believe that you would find it more than 6%. I believe more than 6% of the let's say Republican Party's support comes from Mike Huckabees, frankly, who think that the earth is 5000 or 6000 years old. So saying that those people are all fanatics and we are all secular, moderate democrats is rubbish on both sides. Most people in Pakistan want democratic government. They want freedom. They do not hate me or you because we are free. No, they do not. Some people hate me and you because our government has spent billions over the last many, many years ensuring that they are not free and that they do not have a democratic government. That’s the problem. Over and over you see--and this does apply to the Muslim world in general--that the countries with the lowest regard for American policy are the countries with the least amount of freedom because of the policies of the United States and who they support. So the idea that they hate us because we are free is rubbish, and the idea that they are all fundo, bearded fundo freaks is rubbish.
Recorded on: 2/20/08
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