Passport woes: Does the world need to know we are Muslim?

Published: April 20, 2011
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Muslim identity and Pakistani nationality are not co-related

Whenever I travel overseas I feel uncomfortable when the immigration officer opens my passport and looks through my personal details.

It’s not because the colour of my passport is green; what annoys me is the fact that he knows my religion. Why should I tell the official that I am a Muslim? Is my nationality i.e. Pakistani, not enough?

Does it matter if we are Muslims or non-Muslims? We are Pakistanis. Is that not enough for an identity?

I, for one, do not understand the reason for having a religion category on one’s passport, especially seeing all the problems our country has faced because of religious divisions. In the last 50 years or so, the nation has been divided into several religious sections. We have divided the society into Muslims and non-Muslims.

Some might not consider this to be an important issue. But, to tackle the major challenges being faced by our country, we first need to look at the internal problems which we have created ourselves.

Former President Pervez Musharraf tried to abolish this section from the passport when he was in power, however, he back tracked when religious extremists protested. No wonder all leaders are the same (at least in Pakistan’s case). They are strong against civilians but weak when it comes to extremists and external enemies. Musharraf did what one can expect from a Pakistani dictator. He bowed in front of religious zealots.

Being religious is not a problem as long as you do not force your beliefs on others. In our case however, we have taken a very extreme position and scores of people have been killed due to it. People have been killed merely because they belong to a minority community of the society, or because they have expressed their opinions on different religious matters including the blasphemy law.

We need to ask questions which can bring improvements in our society. Questions like why do we want to discriminate against our non-Muslim Pakistani brother and sisters? They are Pakistanis and they love Pakistan as much as we do.

We do not need to tell everyone what faith we believe in. We are Pakistanis and that should be enough for the world and for ourselves.

Shahid Mahmood

Shahid Mahmood

A certified public accountant living in Dublin, Ireland.

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