Pakastanis Offer Views on U.S.

Family says America’s government biased against Muslims

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – There’s a mountain bike in the hallway.
The oldest of Badar uz Zaman’s four children is contemplating
college. The parents try to fend off unsavory cultural influences.

This family 11 time zones ahead stayed with friends in Denver
last year, enjoying the same malls, aquarium and movies that
Coloradans enjoy.

The living room of the uz Zamans might feel familiar for
Americans who also are unsettled, anxious about the recent
terrorist attacks and the possibility that violence will beget
more violence.

They fear, as many fear, more trouble.

Their lives underscore the forces that connect families

But a visit with the uz Zaman family – in the quiet of a
living room rather than the tumult of a street demonstration –
also might help Americans understand how very differently some
people here view the world that now seems so conflicted.

The children, ages 11 to 16, just returned from
government-organized public rallies supporting Pakistan’s
pro-United States position in the war against terrorism. It’s a
stand that has divided the country in part because it aligns
Pakistan with a non-Muslim country that may attack Muslims in

Sitting on a red Afghan rug in their living room, where a
framed quote from the Koran – “The greatness of God has been
explained in a beautiful manner” – hangs over a Sony television,
the children blurt out what they really think: that U.S. leaders
have insufficient evidence against Osama bin Laden to justify
attacks on Afghanistan.

That America’s government is biased against Muslim people.

That pro-Israel lobbies guide the campaign against terrorism.

The television on this recent night replays images of
hijacked airliners crashing into World Trade Center towers. Badar,
47, confides he recently dreamed of F-16s flying above a horrible

“World War III?” he says. “Maybe.”

“These attacks may provide the American government another
cause, another excuse, for putting more military weapons in this
region,” 15-year-old Osama says. “These things scare us. We all
know the nuclear issue. I want a peaceful world.”

“Enmity in its heart’

Badar, giving voice to the divide political scientists see
between the West and the Islamic world, says he’s convinced that
“the West has enmity in its heart against Muslims.”

And like many on the other side of that divide, this family
wants the United States, beyond smoking out villains, to
re-evaluate policies.

You enter their two-story house through a white metal gate.
Hamida, 43, her head covered with a magenta veil, labors out of
sight in the kitchen.

Each day begins with hustle. Badar or Hamida drives the
children to school around 8. Hamida runs the household while Badar
buys and sells real estate, then breaks around 2 to take the
children home for a meal before returning to his office.

Thanks to Badar’s success, the family is preparing to move to
a bigger house in neighboring Rawalpindi. Everyone prays daily –
though not always five times. On weekends, they sometimes pile
into a black, four-door Toyota to visit the mountains up north.

As a boy, Badar memorized the Koran word for word. Now
Muslims around America – where Islam is the fastest-growing
religion – invite him to recite by memory during the Ramadan holy
month of fasting, a few hours each night.

Frequent trips to Denver

The family has been to Denver twice and Badar has come 13
times since 1985. He speaks fondly of Denver’s gold-domed mosque.

“There are opportunities,” Badar says of life in America.
Good universities. “Freedom.”

He considered moving his family to Denver but decided to stay
in Islamabad, the capital of this country of 141.6 million.

“In America, you are very busy,” Badar says. “Life is more
comfortable here.”

Americans sometimes felt out of balance, struggling to make
mortgage and car payments without cultivating family life. A
“cruel” interest-based banking system – the dominant global
banking system – may be part of the problem, he says.

“Islam says man’s life is more than just working and sleeping
– there must be space for the soul.”

Another issue was his discomfort with aspects of American

“Just watching television in the United States, you could see
it’s not good for the little ones – especially girls. Boyfriends
and girlfriends, those things. After 18, you have no control over
our children.”

Badar is the son of a soldier who became a farmer. He grew up
in a stone house – no electricity or running water – in Waulah, a
town about 100 miles south of here.

A strict local imam spotted him at 13 and, with support from
Badar’s mother, drove him to memorize the Koran’s words. He hated
the challenge at the time, reading over and over by the flickering
light of a lantern. But he persevered.

“We want peace’

Now his children are studying too, not by lantern light but
at an elite public school where seniors aim for Oxford and Yale.
Coursework includes British history in eighth grade and the U.S.
Constitution and legal system in high school.

They adopt their critical posture toward the United States,
Badar says, because they read the two newspapers that arrive daily
at the house.

They also take in television, conversations with teachers and
parents, and words in the Koran that call for defense of Islam.

“It’s not that we hate the American people,” Osama
emphasizes. “It’s not like that. It’s a matter of government. We
can’t support the stance of the U.S. government. We like the
American people. We want peace. We want peace all over the world.”

Sore spots he and his sisters cite: U.S. policies toward
Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.

Students perceive a willingness to let Muslims suffer.

Breaking down barriers

As the smells of lamb, spicy fish and rice waft from the
kitchen, Sana, 16, says the United States revealed its bias when,
in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, many people quickly
suspected Muslims.

She and her sisters – Ifra, 13, and Sundus, 11 – take an
active role in family conversations. They don’t wear the
traditional veil. Badar “is pretty relaxed” about that, says Sana,
who wears traditional loose trousers and a flowing top.

The younger girls play cricket, baseball and badminton at
school. They’ve grown up at a time when a woman, Benazir Bhutto,
broke down barriers as Pakistan’s prime minister.

Osama, wearing khaki trousers and a blue T-shirt, talks of
studying at elite universities in Britain or the United States.
He’s inclined toward aeronautical engineering, and also is
passionate about politics, devouring this week’s issue of The

Skeptical on terrorism

A question on this 15-year-old’s mind: “How is terrorism

Without a clear, accepted definition, he says, a U.S.-led
crackdown might focus too much on Muslim groups. “Why not think
about Jews, or other people? They could be terrorists, too.”

The United States is trying to assure current and potential
allies in its anti-terrorism campaign that this is not a war on
Islam. Many here are skeptical and say they want the Bush
administration to show the proof it says it has that bin Laden is
behind the attacks of Sept. 11.

During the public “solidarity” rallies, for which class was
canceled and students were enlisted as marchers, some students
spoke in Urdu as foreign broadcast cameras beamed.

“Osama is a star. We condemn the United States,” they say
half-jokingly, Sana and Osama say.

The United States, those children say, should apply its own
principles. Osama opened a notebook and spoke about the Magna
Carta and U.S. Constitution and due process in the legal system.
Attacking a terrorist suspect in Afghanistan would be “violating
your own Constitution,” he says.

Sana says: “If America presents evidence, we are with you.”