The Experience Of A Pakistani American

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The Experience Of A Pakistani American

  1. 1. A Pakistani-American Civic Association and its Experience of 9/11 Diasporic Diplomacy in a Time of International Tension Sept 2004: Congressman Vito Fossella (NY) and Pak Foreign Office Spokesman Jalil Abbas Jalani
  2. 2. Thesis • A robust Muslim civil society can be established, however the following must be considered: I. Democratic institutions must take into account local traditions. II. Civil society requires a secure environment in which to flourish. The environment changed after 9/11 resulting in an environment which was not conducive to the flourishing of a Muslim American civil society. III. These elements lead to larger questions about whether in Middle East countries, Islam and the development of democracy are compatible with one another. IV. Provides some preliminary thinking based on the experience of Pakistani-Americans in Staten Island, New York 2
  3. 3. I. Importance of Culture “Culture provides a repertoire or ‘tool-kit’ of symbols, stories, rituals and world views, which people use in varying configurations to solve different kinds of problems” Ann Swidler, “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies” American Sociological Review, 1986 3
  4. 4. Civil Society • Consists of a base of traditions upon which democratic forms are based. • A civil society may be defined as a society in which groups aggregate the views and activities of individuals, and which act to defend and promote the interests of their respective constituencies. 4
  5. 5. Staten Island, NY “An Ethnic Smorgasbord” • Population up 17% 443,728 • White Population decreased from 85% to 78% • Black and African American population rose 2% to 10% – 42,914 • Two major new Immigrant Groups: – Asians up 48% to 25,071 – Hispanics up 77% to 53,550 • Census 2000 figures might be under reported • Asian ethnicity sometimes reported in Other categories 5
  6. 6. Who are the Pakistani-Americans? 6
  7. 7. • Collective society rather than emphasizing individualism • Large social functions • Strong commitment to hospitality, your guest is a gift to you • Honor concept similar to that in Far Eastern cultures Mother and Daughter 7
  8. 8. Examples of Democracy within Cultural Context • Community Board appointments – – The late Rosalie Flanagan, CB Director – Borough President vs. City Councilman appointments • Local Political Party – Executive Committee ‘slate’ followed by unanimous vote by County Committee (~250) – Pak-American Civic Organization ~ Executive committee consensus vote 8
  9. 9. No Single Type of Pakistani Organization • Pak Cultural Association – Executive Committee by invitation, Doctors, Dentists, Business Owners • Local Mosque – Governing body by invitation only • Pak-American Civic Association – Decision to open Executive Committee to entire Pak community a la Ali Bhutto (’70s Pak Peoples Party) • The Pakistani American Congress – Constitution changed to hold elections for Executive Committee, privacy in voting, election tallies published – Positions previously decided by consensus 9
  10. 10. Pak American Civic Association ~ Pre 9/11 • Cultural-Political functions - 1000+ attendees • 3 Members in Local Political Party (LPP) Executive Committee • 2 members in LPP State Committee • Newly organized Political Club under umbrella of LPP initiated by members • Involvement in all aspects of local politics: fund-raising, signatures, literature drops, phone calls, temp jobs in Board of Elections, Election Day watchers, etc. • All their major functions attended by City, State and Federal Politicians and Political Party representatives • Community Service Award by LPP, Gov Pataki • Women’s Club VP ~ Child Advocates • NYS Chair Women’s Health Committee 10
  11. 11. Cultural Shows served as a medium to bring together large Pakistani groups and the Political Community 11
  12. 12. In attendance: Community Board District Manager (NYC Govt), LPP County Chairwoman (Political entity), District Attorney candidate (Law), Newspaper Reporter (Media) 12
  13. 13. Bridging the Divide 13
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. Pakistani Political Functions • PM Muhammad Nawaz Sharif • Former PM Benazir Bhutto, PPP • Pres. Of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf 15
  16. 16. Benazir and LPP Chairperson The Civic Organization was not restricted in meeting with leaders of various political parties and some members attended a function hosted for ex-PM Benazir Bhutto 16
  17. 17. Gov. George Pataki, NY Rep. Vito Fossella (NY) 17
  18. 18. Post 9/11 • The organization dropped its plans to run a candidate for City Council or State Assembly • Large Cultural-Political Functions were discontinued at my request • Candle-light procession for firemen was discouraged by local police department • Food prepared for WTC site workers • Two positions lost –LPP Exec Committee 18
  19. 19. Initial Efforts “The association coordinates social events to unify the Island Pakistani community and raise political awareness” Staten island Advance October 28, 2001 19
  20. 20. II. Importance of a secure social and political environment 20
  21. 21. 21
  22. 22. January 11,2002 January 24,2002 22
  23. 23. Newspaper Circulation NYC Media Solutions, SRDS Newspaper Advertising Source, March 2005, Vol. 87 #3 Total NDM Outside Daily News M-F 715,052 676,521 38,531 Sat 545,216 508,441 36,775 Sun 786,952 738,362 48,590 NY Times M-F 1,133,763 Sat 1,045,347 Sun 1,677,003 NY Post Morn 686,207 Sat 481,860 Sun 455,511 SI Advance 23 M-Sat 65,607 Sun 81,830
  24. 24. Newspaper Searches • “Frequency of terms ‘islami* and terror*’ increased by quantitative count after 9/11 and are not yet back down to pre-9/11 figures in all three NYC newspapers with largest circulations: NY Times, NY Post, Daily News: March 1999 to March 2005 via computer search • Words may have been replaced by: insurgents, other terms • Front headlines for Sunday SI Advance had 52% penetration in 2004 in SI households: .02% national or international news pre-9/11, .06% after 9/11: March 1999 through March 2005 • Numerous extra headlines re terrorism included in SI Advance in new section located between Front page and World News page. 24
  25. 25. Perpetuators called: Pre-9/11: Post 9/11: Extremist Muslim rebels Militants Rebels Suicide bombers (4) Separatist groups Islamic militants (2) Guerrillas Militant group Hijackers Terrorist cells Insurgents Militant Muslim group Militia Network headed by OBL (3) Militant gunman guerillas Militants gunmen (4) 25
  26. 26. Number of Times “Islam__ and Terror_” Appeared in the Same Article 1200 1000 800 NY Post 600 Daily News 400 NY Times 200 0 1999 2001~ 9/10 2002 2004 26
  27. 27. Activities of other organizations • Yearly picnic continued each summer • Non-political • New organization: The Council of Pakistan, in Brooklyn to help Pak women learn English (NY-1 News Channel Report) reported thousands of Pakistanis leaving the Coney Island Avenue area in Brooklyn. 27
  28. 28. “You're right at the epicenter of a tremendous (and largely awful) storm. I do see parallels now with the treatment of the Japanese, perhaps more with the less harsh treatment of Germans during WWI.” Stephen P. Cohen, Senior Analyst, Brookings Institute, 3/13/05 28
  29. 29. Conclusions • …Hardly an environment for a flourishing Muslim-American civil society.. • However, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, I believe based on the support of President George W. Bush, and on down through the State and City levels of government. • Potential Implications for the Development of Democracy 29
  30. 30. 8 Lessons Learned in the Promotion of Democracy Around the World • There are many models of democracy. • Elections do not make a democracy • Democracy takes time. • Democracy rests on an informed and educated populace • Independent and responsible media are essential. • Women are vital to democracy • Political and economic reforms are mutually reinforcing. • Although it can be encouraged from outside, democracy is best built with people from within. • Richard N. Haass, director of the Policy Planning Staff, US Department of State, “Toward Greater Democracy in the Muslim World”, The Washington Quarterly, Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 26:3, pp 140. 30
  31. 31. New Initiatives • American Muslim Group on Policy Planning , Saban Center, Brookings Institution December 2004 • To provide perspective, integration, efforts at diplomacy, educational outreach, and television targeting to convey a positive message to Muslim populations. • In addition, several participants recognized that civil liberties issues were hindering American Muslims, and the discussion ‘exhibited the challenges of inclusiveness and exclusiveness that have characterized Muslim-American issues since 9/11.’ “Bridging the Divide? The Role of the American Muslim Community in US Relations with the Wider Islamic World”, December 13, 2004 31
  32. 32. • Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department outlined goals and approaches of the US government and ways in which American Muslims could work with the US government in promoting democracy, stability and prosperity. • To counter the forces of extremism and to build trust, the US State Department would like to provide a ‘compelling, alternative vision of opportunity, participation, and change to the Muslim community. 32
  33. 33. American Muslim Group on Policy Planning • Farid Senzai, The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding • Currently being developed in terms of structure, and its funding mission. • I urged them to start a website, take interviews with newspapers for publicity purposes and look towards the general Muslim-American community to fund their initiative. The Web-site is also a way to request applications for scholars willing to participate in their endeavor. Farid Senzai, telephone conversation, March 11, 2005 33

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