Trump’s ban on Muslims is just as offensive as Pakistan’s racial profiling of Pakhtuns

Published: February 25, 2017

The Pakistani public has developed kneejerk hatred against the Afghan Pashtuns. PHOTO: AP

Not every Muslim is a terrorist but a significant number of terrorist incidents are conducted by Muslims. This statement is controversial and yet, deep down we all know that there is some sort of evidence for it. At least the terrorist incidents which are indiscriminate and use suicide bombings are overwhelmingly committed by Muslims.

Of course, as already mentioned, this does not mean that every Muslim is a terrorist and in fact thinking in such terms would be overstretching and overgeneralisation, resulting in bigotry if endorsed by the general populace and institutionalised discrimination if incorporated into laws by the state.

Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban got so much criticism mainly because of the very same reason. The argument presented against it is that individual Muslims cannot be punished or barred because few of their coreligionists are terrorists. Eventually, no matter which group we belong to, we are individuals and deserve to be treated with respect and equality. This argument will still hold even if a large majority of an ethnic or religious group to which an individual belongs to is indulging in extremism. Every person needs to be ultimately judged on his/her individual merit. Even if the group influence is strong, we should be judged on our individual merit. This principle is the foundation of liberalism which ultimately places individual rights over group rights or the state.

When Trump’s ban was announced, there was a huge hue and cry in Pakistan, and ironically even from the right-wing circles. Many who have shown even the worst kind of bigotry against some minority sect (particularly Ahmadis) or an ethnic group were crying over “discrimination” against Muslims.

Was Trump’s ban discriminatory? Yes it was and there is absolutely no doubt about it. However, I wish that my fellow Pakistanis and our government would also consider our own bigoted and discriminatory behaviour before crying about unfairness of Trump’s ban.

The very fact is that as a society, we reek of bigotry and are guilty of stereotyping groups and sects we don’t like. We continuously violate the same fundamental principle of liberalism and yet cry when we find ourselves a victim.

Furthermore, examples of our third-class mentality are abound. For example, many of us think that Pakhtuns, particularly Afghans, are all terrorists. This mind-set right here is responsible for the calls behind deporting all Afghans refugees. Many hypocritical Pakistanis, who feel the “pain” of Syrian refugees (particularly of those who have been denied asylum), are extremely vocal in saying that Afghans are a nation of ingratitude people whenever a terrorist attack happens on Pakistani soil. The fact that Afghanistan’s present anarchy has a lot to do with us is something that escapes our otherwise rich imagination.

Every time there is a blast in the country, the ethnicity which gets the spotlight is the Pakhtuns, along with the Afghans. Over the years, the Pakistani public has developed kneejerk hatred against the Afghan Pakhtuns, which has permeated our cultural zeitgeist. There are news of incidents where even ordinary warnings issued by normal law and enforcement agencies openly draw the focus towards them, and reinforce the prevalent stereotypical views. Below is an example:

The said “notice” making rounds on social media is ill worded and simply frames all Pakhtuns as potential terrorists. In my opinion, this is exactly the kind of offensive racial profiling which Muslims living in western countries have at times complained against. In fact, it is even worse because it is blatant.

I do admit that the number of suicide bombers who are Pakhtuns, particularly Afghans, is higher. However, this does not mean that we must start looking at every person of this group with a suspicious eye. As already mentioned, this severely violates the liberal principle. An overwhelming number of them are peaceful people.

Moreover, the apparent higher frequency of suicide bombers from this group also has a strong historical basis behind it, as after all it is their land which has been the playing ground for various powers. During the British Raj, it was the great game between Russia and Britain and the Pakhtuns were caught in the middle of it. Subsequently, it was them who had to bear the brunt of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. After that, it was again the Pakhtuns who suffered when the Taliban regime propped up in the 90s. They again bore the brunt when the US invaded it on the pretext of catching Osama Bin Laden. Their misery has not ended as literally every operation against militants has disproportionately targeted the entire group.

The Pakistani government and the establishment also bear a lot of responsibility for whatever has happened so far, but in our collective imagination, the Pakhtuns somehow are responsible. This belief is now resulting in racial profiling and offensive stereotyping, particularly by the Punjabis.

I think we need to change our pattern of thinking and start understanding that people need to be treated on individual merit, and racial profiling and stereotyping creates hatred and complicates our fight against extremism.


Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Usman Arshad

    I condemn thisRecommend

  • BEE K ben

    trump mission is ban muslims!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    You are absolutely right. Pakistan was radicalising Afghanistan for its own financial benefits. Now they are crying.Recommend

  • Shumaila Mehdi

    warning notice in the column is NOT an Official warning…. its a fake letter …part of 5th generation war against the state…. presstitutes must show some maturity :/Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    haha libtards call it racial profiling

    on one hand they are terrorists in the making but on the other racial profiling is the biggest sin people should be staying away from

    pakistani libtards never fail to amuse me

    All terrorists are from Peshawar hence it makes sense to “racial profile ” people who are of that originRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    how do u know this? its all in your head
    long live nawaz and long live pak army and kashmirRecommend

  • Shayan Khan

    Law enforcement agencies should play their role to curb hate and revive love.Recommend

  • Shumaila Mehdi

    though the presstitute columnist have changed the immage of fake letter… i’m posting here warning in regard

  • Shumaila Mehdi

    and here the disclaimer of letter present in Asad Umar’s tweet
    Laholwalaquwata illa biLLah …look at the political wisdom of PTI’s leadership

  • Sane

    There are so many missions against Muslims. None shall succeed.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Pashtuns of Pakistan are the bravest, honorable, proud fighting arm of Pak.
    This is overstated. Their first loyalty is towrads their tribe and their culture!.

    Rex Minor .Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    The USA has never had a ban on Muslims.

    Never mind whether the Trumpers had a muslim ban or the muslam countries ban, the results are that the evil forces have been unleashed in the American continent, Indians and blacks being targetted for hate crime and the jewish graves being vandalised.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    A very informative video; too bad that the local media was not allowed to witness the military operations in waziristan at the behest of the yankees, by destroying peoples dwellings on the pretext of chasing the so called talibans. One wonders as to how many of the readers understand the waziri language being spoken?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Sane

    If enemy use sword, then sword must be used. If gun, then there must be gun against. India needs reply in the same coin. Indians are full of hate against Pakistan and Hindus against Islam and Pakistan both. No peace talk will solve the problem or any mediation. Gun against gun is the only solution and with tactics India practices against Pakistan.Recommend

  • Gul Ghazi

    Do you not know the atrocities and crimes against humanity have been committed in Waziristan and Kashmir?Recommend

  • Gul Ghazi

    Almost two generations with parents from Afghanistan were born in Pakistan. They are legally Pakistani by birth, by natural and constitutional law. What is your charge against them? What would you like to do to them?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    i know that my country’s security is more important than my feelings so I would not be all hurt about it like you are being right now.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    It is not about feelings being hurt, Lubna. Why would I want to hurt your feelings. I have nothing against you. It is about the truth. You are not being told the truth. When you know it then you will be with me and not against me.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    im a master of all trades.
    give me all u gotRecommend