That was me, over and over again as I obsessed with friends and strangers alike about my upcoming trip to Pakistan.
Even as I said the words, they felt strange. I am an American-born and bred Pakistani, but I visited Pakistan nearly every year of my childhood.
As an idealistic 17-year-old, I spent an entire summer trekking out to a low-income neighbourhood in Pakistan to teach English to 21-year-old college students. I still remember my prize students, Shazia and Faisal, who encouraged me to keep showing up every day, despite the taunts and hostile stares I received from other students. They nurtured my idealism even when I was ready to give it up.
I didn’t have Shazia and Faisal back home, though.
And in the 17 years since I last set foot in that college, all I knew was “terrorism” and “violence.” These were the words used to describe Pakistan in the news and even in casual conversations among Pakistani-Americans.
With my professional interest in religious freedom, came other equally troubling descriptors for Pakistan: blasphemy laws, persecution, assassinations.
Editor’s note: A longer version of this article appeared on Alt Muslimah here. Asma T. Uddin is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of altmuslimah.com, and Co-founder of altFem Magazine and altVentures Media, Inc. She is also a lawyer and scholar specializing in American and International religious liberty. A list of Asma’s speaking engagements on behalf of altM can be found here. Write to her at email@example.com. Her views are her own.