Bombs, Bullets & Burqas

Daisy Rockwell in The Sunday Guardian:

ScreenHunter_11 Apr. 13 12.04 Last summer, at the local farmers' market, I was surprised and pleased to see a stand advertising “Pakistani Food.” Who would expect such an offering in a small New England town? But when I approached the stand I found that none of the food, a series of fried, stuffed turnover-like snacks called 'mantus,' seemed all that Pakistani. I struck up a conversation with the man behind the counter. His English was poor. I tried Urdu. His Urdu seemed poorer. I was confused. He was confused. Finally, I asked, in English, very slowly, “You're not Pakistani, are you?” He acknowledged that he was not. He indicated he was Persian, but said he was not from Iran. Finally I ventured that he might be from Afghanistan, and he agreed, but hedged his response by mentioning that he had lived for some time in Pakistan. He seemed convinced that advertising his food as Pakistani was a smarter business move than associating it with Afghanistan. This summer the booth has been a fixture in the market again, but now the banner reads “Afghan-Pak Foods.”

Thanks to such characters in the ever-expanding cast of the Global War on Terror as through Faisal Shahzad, the loftily nicknamed 'Times Square Bomber' (can you really be called a 'bomber' when your bomb didn't go off?), an awareness of Pakistan has suddenly burst into the American popular imagination. Our previous total lack of awareness of Pakistan in the United States has now been replaced with a perhaps more unfortunate awareness of militancy in Pakistan. Even the disastrous flooding of vast swaths of the country, characterised by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a 'slow-motion tsunami', has failed to make much of a dent in perceptions of the country. The chance that an increasingly xenophobic American populace will agree to buy stuffed savory snacks from Afghanistan over those from Pakistan have diminished greatly over the past year.

More here.