No Singaporean ever believes I am a Singaporean. My statement is as accurate as stating night follows day.
My memory bank does not contain any images of developing Singapore - only the modern, developed city-state
A few days ago a close friend of mine suggested that, despite my protestations, I remained a Pakistani first and a Singaporean second. Is it really worthwhile to argue about such a deeply subjective and emotional question?
It is difficult to say. But, it is hard to deny that on occasion I will be more Pakistani than Singaporean. At other times the opposite will be the case.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with such a duality. It's my own personal form of Yin and Yang and not necessarily an early warning sign of schizophrenia.
Despite the heat and humidity, I do enjoy aimlessly wandering the streets of Singapore. When I do walk the streets phenomena occur.
Being a Pakistani in Singapore brings with it some unique experiences.
Pakistani schoolgirls celebrate at the August 14 Independence Day celebrations, an occasion similar to Singapore's National Day Parade (NDP)
Pakistanis are possibly the only people ever to have their belongings checked at the Admiralty MRT station! Does the highly trained 9 am to 5 pm MRT security staff ever check anyone else at these stations, or am I the only one?
It seems the sweet, old Chinese security 'Aunties' are trained by the US Department of Homeland Security. Hence people of Pakistani origin are automatically singled out as potential security threats. (Is paranoia another symptom of schizophrenia?)
No doubt, I am routinely a victim of racial profiling while travelling by air but the experience at a Singapore subway station left me just a little irritated and slightly puzzled.
Pakistan – where's that - isn't it part of India? Well, yes, like Singapore is part of Malaysia. How come you don't look Pakistani? Please tell me, what exactly are we supposed to look like - a few extra ears or eyes maybe?
Imran – ah so you are a Muslim. But you don't look Malay? In Singapore, being Muslim is tantamount to being Malay.
There are no generic Muslims in Singapore, only Malay-Muslims. It is also understood that all Muslims speak Malay. I frequently receive requests for money from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (or MUIS) in Malay.
Maybe if I understood what MUIS was saying I would send them money one day.
Lahore's Badshahi Masjid was completed by Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb in 1673 and can accommodate over 100,000 worshippers
Because I am a Muslim, Malay customs, including the mysterious ritual of burying a new born baby's placenta and the (un-Islamic) tradition of female circumcision become part of my culture.
A Pashtun will threaten you just for looking at his daughter but imagine what he will do if you try and circumcise her. And the idea of burying a placenta sounds more like Scientology than Islam to me.
Of course, I am no learned Mufti.
Chinese girls, and there is an abundance of pretty girls here, hesitate to go out with Muslims because of a perception that Muslims are 'off limits.' The Malay-Muslim men seem to have (selfishly) scared off all the non-Muslim girls through their constant talk of conversions!
Singapore law is mixed (or just confused) in its dealing with Malays.
The Administration of Muslim Law Act places some unusual guidelines (restrictions?) on the civil rights of Singaporean Muslims. These guidelines, which are often based on Malay tradition, apply to all Singaporean Muslims.
Like the Western media's notion of a monolithic Islamic world, Singapore's micro version of monolithic Islam is to see all Muslims as Malay (and vice versa).
Singapore likes organization and structure, especially where the sensitive topic of race and ethnicity is concerned. But Singaporeans do sometimes get confused about whether I am Malay or Indian.
When in doubt prudence dictates that the truth is legislated. Thus, in order to avoid any confusion Singapore law classifies me unambiguously as an Indian.
Singapore defines Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sinhalese Sri Lankans as Indians. Consequently, all 'Indians,' including me are automatically enrolled into a monthly donation programme operated by state sponsored Singapore Indian Development Institution (Sinda).
Never mind that Pakistan and India are frequently close to war with each other.
In the final analysis, does it really does matter whether I see myself as a Singaporean, a Pakistani, a Pakistani-Singaporean or a Singaporean-Pakistani. Others will always see me through the prism of their own experiences.
However, I must confess that I enjoy painting an exotic and often exaggerated picture of myself for my Singaporean friends.