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American Muslim

Pakistan Link April 4, 2003

US Pakistani and Indian Communities Split on Iraq War

By Sandip Roy

While the governments of Pakistan and India often disagree, they are united in opposing President Bush’s campaign against Iraq. Here in the United States, however, Indian and Pakistani communities are split on the war.

When Arvind Kumar, editor of the San Jose monthly India Currents, wrote an editorial questioning the US “Cowboy-in-Chief’s penchant for unilateral action,” an angry reader threatened to start a boycott of the magazine. “What was surprising was the outpouring of support I got from Indian and non-Indians in the next issue,” says Kumar.

Indian Americans are feeling less reticent to speak out these days, since many Americans are against the war, says Kumar. But Ashfaque Swapan, senior staff reporter with the San Leandro weekly India West, thinks that the visible South Asian presence in antiwar rallies is a phenomenon that is “largely second generation, since the first generation immigrant doesn’t want to rock the boat.”

Even as television is saturated with news of conflict in Iraq, Akhtar M. Faruqui, editor of the Irvine, Calif.-based weekly Pakistan Link, says many Pakistani Americans seem to have other things on their mind: “We are not getting much reaction to the war in our letters. People are writing in about India-Pakistan cricket matches, Pakistanis fleeing to Canada to avoid registration and even the meeting of non-aligned countries.”

But Faruqui says he has no doubt that Pakistani Americans, who number 204,000, of whom 27,000 live in California, are just as ambivalent about the war as the rest of the nation. (Now that the cricket fever has died down, the war in Iraq indisputably enjoys primacy in the Pakistani-American community. - Editor)

Though apprehensive as well, Samina Faheem, coordinator of the American Muslim Alliance’s 24-hour hotline thinks it is important for Pakistani Americans to make their voices heard.
Recently, the Alliance and another group, the Pakistani American Democratic Forum, took part in a candlelight vigil in Milpitas, Calif., to “show how concerned we all are,” says Faheem, who invited children of all faiths to speak as a way of emphasizing that the war was “affecting all humanity.” Pacific News Service, Mar 25, 2003

[Ms. Samina Faheem,  the former National Coordinator of the American Muslim Alliance and Coordinator of the AMA/PADF Hotline is now the Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice.]