Things are getting out of hand. For example, one agitated caller to today's Jeremy Vine Show, who said he was a Pakistani living in the UK, said that the term "Paki" was charged with much more negative emotion than the term "Brit" or "Yank".
That's where the fellow lost my sympathy. I suspect he's never been in a quondam Glasgow to watch columns of IRA supporters marching down the street shouting "Brits out!" and, British citizens (mostly) themselves, baying for the blood of "Brits" in the Army stationed in Northern Ireland. As for the term "Yank", if he addressed this to somebody from the Southern States of the US - as I once did out of ignorance many years ago - he might not get the response he expected.
When "Paki" and other terms based on unalterable characteristics are used aggressively as insults or abuse, there's no excuse. But having watched the News of the World video embedded in the Telegraph report linked to in the first paragraph, the term doesn't come across as insulting or abusive. Certainly the reaction in this country to a friendly gibe made in an Army environment doesn't bear any resemblance to the "British tolerance" which Gordon Brown assured the Indian people of when he visited to the sound of riots over the prolonged racist treatment of Shilpa Shetty in Celebrity Big Brother; and I certainly don't recall any Pakistani voice raised in protest when Greg Dyke, former Director General of the BBC, called the corporation "hideously white". I wouldn't be surprised if much of the present furore is coming from Brits who are as hideous and as white as the IRA supporters.
The then-cadet, who received the élite award of the Sword of Honour from the Queen at his passing-out parade and is now a Captain in the Pakistani army, has not made any complaint in the three years since the home-video was made. But his father, also an officer in the Pakistani army, has complained bitterly.
I rather think the father is more culturally Pakistani than the son, in the sense of being closer to the concept of Pakistan as an ethnocentric theocracy. One of Pakistan's founding fathers was Mawlana Abul A'la Mawdudi (1903-1979), who stated that Islam is
a revolutionary concept and ideology which seeks to change and revolutionise the world social order and reshape it according to its own concept and ideals.I quote the above because of another story involving somebody born in Pakistan that broke on Sunday - and in my home town - showing that people from that country can definitely be genuine victims of discrimination. Reverend Mahboob Masih of Awaz FM, which serves the Asian communities of Glasgow, was debating the views of Zakir Naik, who states that Jesus is not the only person who is the "way, the truth and the life".
This may be a fair comment for a Muslim to make in the context of Islam, but Naik, who has been criticized by Muslims in his native India for issuing fatwas (sharia rulings) with no authority to do so, demands that Christians recognise Mohammed with the equal reverence that they afford to Jesus. Rev'd Masih defended Christianity, and found himself sacked by Awaz FM, which claims in its mission statement to be "the voice of Glasgow’s ethnic communities and their respective faiths" (my italics). The Telegraph's Andrew Alderson reports that the minister has "reluctantly" apologised in order to calm things down, but has refused the station's demands that he apologise in person at the city's Central Mosque, on the reasonable grounds of fears for his safety.
I don't think those fears are overstated. The Pakistani caller to Jeremy Vine's show attempted to show how downtrodden Muslims were in Britain by stating that it was unacceptable to insult Georgina Bailley, but not to insult a Pakistani. I think he said more than he realised - namely, that in Islam, women are viewed as being worth something less than men. Case in point: today's Telegraph reports the murder of one of Pakistan's famous dancing girls called Shabana by the Taliban because the terrorist organisation considered her dance too erotic. Given that Georgina Baillie is a burlesque dancer, I hope the remark wasn't meant to be as sinister as it sounded.
I hope also that Prince Harry gets what he deserves - a bollocking directed at stopping him from putting daft remarks on tape, especially when that tape might fall into the hands of papers owned by the anti-monarchist Rupert Murdoch.
You can take that as the authentic ethnic view of an honest Jock. (I changed a washer today...does that make me Jock the Plumber?)
The Jeremy Vine show referred to in the second paragraph can be accessed until Sunday 18 January 2009 - click here