Is discrimination natural?

OCTOBER 1, 2019

Discrimination appears to be inherent in the DNA of humans. Why are many men and women instinctively repulsed by those who are different? The American poet John Pizzarelli wrote: “You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made/And people whose skin is a different shade.”

I was reminded of these lines when residents of a building in Karachi recently posted a notice in English: “Non-Muslims not allowed to purchase or rent apartments here.” It caused a furore, and when media persons visited the building to find out the reason for such a discriminatory notice, they found that it had been removed, and the building association’s office-bearers were not willing to talk about it.
But what is not widely known is that this kind of thing has been going on unofficially for a long time now, especially in localities where land has been allotted to co-operative societies.

There are some buildings where flats are available to only the followers of the Aga Khan, known as Aga Khanis. There are co-operative societies where only members of a particular sub-sect or ethnic community can buy bungalows.
In Clifton’s Frere Town, for instance, there is a building where only Harijans (Dalits) can live, as the land was allotted to their co-operative society. 

Though this may be discriminatory and even illegal, a lawyer friend told me it has never been challenged in courts.

This reminded me of the time when the Indian actress Shabana Azmi could not buy a house in Mumbai as Muslims are apparently not permitted to live in some (or most) localities in that city. Apart from religious discrimination, some places in India are off-limits to non-vegetarians. But then it’s only natural for Indians to discriminate against others due to their caste system. I once met a brilliant Indian who couldn’t get a job in a multinational just because he was a Muslim. He finally managed to go abroad to be able to earn a decent income.

This, of course, is the reason why Narendra Modi and his Nazi associates want to make India a racially pure Hindu Rashtra (state), where Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits and other non-Hindus would be second-class citizens.

In Karachi, apart from the few examples quoted above, most buildings and localities have people of all religions and ethnicities. I live in an apartment complex, of seven hundred flats, with a surprisingly large number of Hindus as well as foreigners. Apart from the Chinese, we also have some Koreans and Europeans. They generally keep to themselves.

Despite being highly educated, Muslims in my neighbourhood have told their children and wives not to become too friendly with non-Muslims. I remember a time when it wasn’t so bad, when I was in school, with children from all religions, including Jews, eating and playing together without being scared of each other.

A recent alarming development is the hatred felt by those of the majority to people who belong to other sects or sub-sects. It is now common for such people to first find out which sect or sub-sect a job applicant belongs to. I didn’t know how deeply rooted this feeling was until I met a man who wanted to rent out his bungalow. He insisted that the tenant should be someone who belonged to the majority sect, preferably to the sub-sect of which he was a member. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and is apparently due to the poisonous filth being spewed out by some ignorant mullahs. This is not what Mr Jinnah wanted. In fact, as he was not among those who belonged to the majority sect, extremists no longer consider him to have been a Muslim.

The government should seriously look into this matter before our people become even more radicalised than they already are. Otherwise, it won’t be long before the residents of some buildings decide to allow only those they consider ‘real’ Muslims to purchase or rent apartments in their premises.

The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College