We should be grateful that some Muslims remained in India and learned to compete. These Muslims are going to compete internationally and give us something to be proud of while our elites in Pakistan, who shun excellence and hard work, maintain their privilege and extravagance Many of us watched the Oscars with a lump in our throats when AR Rehman was given a standing ovation by the American movie establishment. Rehman, a Muslim from a country we don’t consider friendly to Muslims, was eulogised by the Hollywood establishment, traditionally controlled by those of the Jewish persuasion. Rehman’s obvious talent overwhelmed them all. Jai ho! There he stood, saying simple but powerful words: “I had a choice between love and hate. I chose love!” A simple Muslim of simple origins made us all proud with his talent. Jai ho! What would he have been had he been in Pakistan? He converted from Hinduism to Islam in 1989. Here, such a conversion would have put him in grave danger; quite possibly, some zealot might even have snuffed out his talent. Yet in his acceptance speech at the Oscars, at one point he said “Allah-o Akbar!” Jai AR Rehman! For many years we have comforted ourselves by saying that Muslims have no opportunities in India and that Pakistan was made to give Muslims opportunities. Indeed, Pakistan has given some a lot of opportunities to get rich. There are numerous stories of excess wealth gained through government-dispensed licenses and plots, misuse of power, and other abuses of public office. Wealth has been created and the new class of rich shows off its Porsches, Range Rovers and other expensive toys. Their lifestyles could even dwarf some of the well-heeled rich and famous in India and the West. While we laud wealth and power, talent has no place in Pakistan. The rest of us run around serving these princes. Talented musicians like AR Rehman play at the pleasure of this class. They play at their parties and the expensive weddings of their children; they play and the aristocracy hardly notices them. They do not even stay quiet during performances, pay no attention to the artists or give them the feeling of stardom. Because the stars are the aristocrats who managed to make their money through corruption and manipulation. Jai power! In Pakistan, this would have been the fate of AR Rehman. He would have been a mere court musician. No Oscars, no recognition. Many a talented Pakistani musician has been forgotten. They leave behind some good music, of which we buy pirated versions. None is honoured. There are no Nur Jehan avenues or airports. No Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan squares, universities or buildings. No concerts; no awards and certainly no major movies that could get them to the Oscars. We are all aware of how Bollywood is full of Indian Muslims. And they are widely respected in India. Darwin’s ideas seem to be at work: Indian Muslims are flowering under competition and showcasing major talent. Jai ho! Darwin is right here too. We in Pakistan face no competition. Our path to success is rapid gain through actions such as raiding the exchequer, befriending the powerful, influence-peddling or power-brokering. Lives of privilege — where the taxpayer picks up the tab for everything: from umrahs to polo, from mujras to free air travel, and from plots to stocks — have led to generational deterioration. Hard work is looked down upon and he who competes internationally is only a kammi kamin. Ministers, the well-connected and the powerful, are not supposed to dirty their hands or even consort with kammis like AR Rehman and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Why? The answer is simple. Our leaders wanted to save themselves the hard work of competition. They wanted and got easy rents — handouts from the government. The army, the bureaucracy, the landed and the licensed industrialist all got it easily. They took no risks, they did not innovate, and they developed no products. They competed against no one for their ill-gotten gains, nor was there any accountability. Kids now see that the path to success is rents and influence, and that hard work and talent does not pay. After all, what did we do to Dr Abdus Salam? So why work hard? We do produce talent, for no country of 200 million can be devoid of talent. Hashim Khan and his family, Imran Khan and his cousins, several cricketers and hockey players, the wrestler Bashir, and, of course, Abdus Salam. Now thankfully a few younger people like Mohsin Hamid and Daniyal Moinuddin are beginning to blaze some sort of trail. Will our musicians and artists have the opportunity to vie for the Oscars? No, for our elites are too busy destroying institutions, and talent cannot emerge without institutions. These few talented people struggle against huge odds, with little recognition at home. But most of our younger generation is lost. Rich kids are given to pleasure and privilege, and the poor are turning to religion out of desperation. We should be grateful that some Muslims remained in India and learned to compete. These Muslims are going to compete internationally and give us something to be proud of while our elites in Pakistan, who shun excellence and hard work, maintain their privilege and extravagance. So thank you, AR Rehman. Jai Indian Muslims! Nadeem Ul Haque is former Vice Chancellor of PIDE. Email: [email protected] http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\04\10\story_10-4-2009_pg3_4 Editorial Published in Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper.