December 11, 2008
Anti-Semitism in Pakistan—hate on a sliding scale
This is the second of two parts on Pakistan and terror. Previously: Pakistan Reaction: Something dark is growing in our own backyard
Right in the middle of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, stands one of the most recognized symbols of Judaism: the Star of David. It adorns, in relief, Merewether Tower, one of the city's best-known landmarks, a 112-foot-tall clock tower built by Sir Evans James in 1892. Today, a busy transit intersection has developed around the tower, which hundreds of thousands of Muslims pass each day on their way to work.
Nadeem Ahmed, a broker at the Karachi Stock Exchange located just across the street, points to some old graffiti at the base of the tower that reads "Israel na manzoor" (Israel is not acceptable).
"These marks show the anger of some fanatics for the brutality of Israelis against the Muslims of Palestine and Lebanon," he says. "Frankly speaking, I'm neither happy nor sad about the Jews who were killed in Mumbai."
Ahmed's apathy falls right in the middle of the spectrum of Pakistani attitudes toward Jews. At one end are the virulently anti-Semitic beliefs held by people such as the members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Army of the Pure, a banned terrorist outfit operating in Kashmir. The LeT is suspected of being behind the attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai and the murder of the five Jews, including Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah.
At the other end of the spectrum are Pakistanis such as Maria (not her real name), a Shia who converted to Judaism, married a Jewish professor whom she met during her studies in the United States and with whom she has two children.
Unfortunately, tragedies such as what took place in Mumbai last month, in New York in 2001 and in London in 2005, as well as the 2002 murder in Karachi of Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Daniel Pearl, throw the spotlight on only one end of the spectrum in Pakistan and give the worst impression of Muslims. The other end lies in the dark -- the many other variations of how Pakistani Muslims perceive Jews are left out of the picture.