Who am I?
I was recently asked a very simple question. And I had to spend a good few minutes thinking about it before answering. I was asked where I was from, but the reason given for asking this question perplexed me even more as it was for the purpose of getting to know me better.
I always dread this question every time I meet someone. As it’s one of the initial questions people ask during the ‘getting to know’ period, more often than not, I hardly know the person asking it and am in no position to give a long winded answer.
You see, I’m a kind of nomad. I have lived in the UK, Bahrain, Qatar and Jordan but hold a Pakistani passport. Although I’ve visited Pakistan many times, I’ve never lived there. So when faced with the question, I don’t really know how to answer it and furthermore, what would make me a Briton, Pakistani, Bahraini or Qatari (assuming I wanted to be any of them)?
Having lived in Britain for a good few years, I often witnessed this discussion, particularly after the Iraq war. The Muslims living in Britain are British citizens and therefore expected to be on the side of the British Army in this war, even if they think the war in Iraq is illegal and people have a right to self-determination. American’s are supposed to support the American army and be more concerned about the body bags returning from Iraq than the death toll of Iraqis. And applying that rationale, I guess I’m supposed to support the Pakistani army even though I disagree with their actions at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.One dictionary definition of the term ‘identity’ is ‘the individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognised or known.’
If it is indeed the characteristics by which we are recognised or known, then how does the concept of national identity fit into this? Does the colour of one’s passport dictate who they should support? What about the values and principles? Shouldn’t the principles be the strongest characteristics by which a person is recognised?
As Malcolm X said:
You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.
The fact is, there is no equality between people from different nations. Especially when considering the countries of the north and the south. Hasn’t national identity or the ‘flag’ just replaced racial discrimination? And aren’t nation states just a refined version of tribes? Is this type of identity really the way forward for a civilised world?
I would like people to know me for my ideas and thoughts, and not by the colour of my passport (which by the way, I had no choice but to accept), or where I live.