Afghanis and Pakistanis in London
This Newsweek article doesn’t take sides in the War on Terror. But if you’d like to take a short break from the one-dimensional images of religious fanatics and terrorists — these are the personal experiences and impressions of a Pakistani citizen who spent three months in London. The author was born in Afghanistan but his family fled to Pakistan in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
This article is long but fascinating. London’s South Asian immigrants really come alive here. Well-educated immigrants who fit right in with London, Taliban chickenhawks — you’ll meet them all.
The author struck up a friendship (or acquaintanceship anyway) with one of these Jihad Chickenhawks. This wannabe was 23 years old. Nine years ago his family had him smuggled out of Afghanistan and into England so he could be safe from the Taliban. The author says: “Now he's a legal resident, yet openly cheers for his supposed oppressors to defeat troops from his adopted homeland in Afghanistan. The irony seems lost on him.”
A lot of non-militant “normal” Afghani immigrants are scared shitless of these Taliban wannabes. Anyone who crosses them or gets in their way, is warned that if they still have family members back in Afghanistan, they might be paid a visit by the Taliban. Picture somebody named Vinnie or Luigi saying “I know people. I could make a few phone calls.” Only now, “Vinnie” has been changed to Hassan or Ahmad.
The same above-mentioned Taliban wannabe had a different way of ruining things for one fellow Afghani immigrant who was “assimilating” too well. This person was walking along with his English girlfriend, and the jihad wannabe went up to him and hollered at him for looking too “Western,” and threatened to tell his family back in Afghanistan that he was having a forbidden affair with one of those decadent Western women. At that point, his girlfriend broke off their relationship because she had been lied to. The Afghani had told her that he was from Turkey, and this run-in with the jihad wannabe had blown his cover.
The author also mentions racism and being marginalized as reasons for militancy among Afghani immigrants. Not that that justifies anything, but…
I was in London for two weeks in 1992, and I remember two minor — but very telling — incidents. They both happened on Brick Lane, a South Asian neighborhood in London’s East End.
I went into an Indian restaurant, and everything went quiet; there was this tension you could cut with a knife. As soon as I asked the waiter something (I guess he recognized my accent), he turned and said something to the rest of the patrons; I only picked out the word “American.” Immediately the tension evaporated and everybody started talking and chatting again.
In the other incident, I heard some Indian pop music booming out of a store, so I went in just to listen to it. (Yes, I like some of that Bollywood music, what can I say.) But as soon as I walked in, the owner turned the music off.
The British term “Paki Bashing” has been around since the early ‘70s, if not before. Those two incidents seemed to confirm all the rumors.
cross-posted at Bring It On!