Christian Long

Asher Hasan: Message for Peace from Pakistan

In TED Talks on May 3, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Reflection by HERSH T.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Asher Hasan:  Message for Peace from Pakistan


When you hear the word Pakistan what comes to mind? Turmoil, war, fighting, death. Am I right? However, that is just because it is placed in such a situation. We often make assumptions about people, religion, countries based on the situations there in and how they react, not based on the people themselves. This is a rather disturbing phenomenon, if a human one. Pakistan was formed physically from the split that Muslims wished for from India after Indian independence was achieved because of Gandhi. Gandhi himself wished for a joint state however, a Hindu extremist killed him.

Pakistan itself is a country born from violence. However, Pakistan theoretically, was created a long time ago. During the British raj, or their rule over India, they understood the power of dividing and conquering. There was already some animosity between Hindus and Muslims but the British realized that their control over India would be much easier if they were able to make the Hindus and Muslims hate each other.

The British inflamed the relationship.

Mr. Hasan comes as a peace bringer. He is the epitome of the man caught up in the reputation of his country. He is just a normal man like all of us and brings us the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of everyday citizens who fight to live.

“We often fear what we do not know.”

This omnipotent quote is used yet again in Mr. Hasan’s speech and it rings true even more powerfully here. We are told stories on the news in regard to Pakistan and what is going on there and so, unknowingly we make assumptions and formulate ideas regarding Pakistan. We have not even given Pakistan a chance to make its own impact on the world. For example, when we meet someone new we automatically make our assumptions about the person. It takes a lot of time with the person, slowly talking to them and understanding what makes them tick to truly know who they are. Similarly, Pakistan has been dumped in the metaphorical category of “feared” or “evil.” And so we must take a step back, and intellectually analyze why it is that Pakistan has incurred such a relationship, and we must then realize that it is just a reputation that has been thrust upon them, not earned.

In the first story presented to us, we see the comparison of a beard to the beards of the Taliban. The man came to associate the beard not with its traditional roots but instead with the degrading imagery of the Taliban. The affect of this small percentage of people has affected everything and everyone in such a profound way that we have come to associate normal and everyday things with them. This is so sad; we must be able to transcend this type of social discrimination based simply on assumptions.

Another one of the people that Mr. Hasan brings into the light is an IDP, or an internally displaced person. He is shown from the outside of a fence which stretches into the horizon. And a question that motivates terrorists and ends the spark of life in many a person living in those circumstances is brought up. The question of does he really matter? A person needs to know that they matter. It is not a question of self-confidence or of self-pity; a person simply needs to know that they matter. Otherwise, the magical spark that keeps all humans running constantly will be put out, the spirit of humanity will be reduced to nothing but a shell of what the person used to be.

Mr. Hasan closes with the idea that because both Indians and Pakistanis are simply two different sides of the same coin, they must work together to end poverty. Now sure this hippie-like idea incurs some skepticism however, his complete honesty and his complete intellectual faith in the idea gives it some weight. Mr. Hasan asks us to, “Celebrate our diversity.” Put like that how can we refuse?

Thinking about peace is easy, taking action is very difficult. Thank you Mr. Hasan


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