U.S. President George Bush has unwittingly used an offensive racial slur against the Pakistani people that the community has been trying to squash for at least 30 years.
Mr. Bush used the term Pakis in remarks to reporters yesterday, when discussing the possibility of nuclear rivals India and Pakistan going to war. The word has the same impact in the Pakistani community as the term nigger has for American blacks, said Aziz Khaki, vice-chair of the Muslim Canadian Federation.
"It's a very derogatory term," he said yesterday. "People use the term when they do not like you. It is used against people of colour."
However, the term may reverberate with more force outside Pakistan than inside the country.
Athar Razvi, a Toronto-area writer who often visits his native Pakistan, said the word lacks impact there.
"Actually, this [word] is a creation of the British media. The British are known for giving names to peoples and nationalities. It started in Britain, the word Paki, and it was here [in Canada] about 25 years ago, and it was taken as a kind of bad name to call a person from the subcontinent. . . . But I don't think the very word Paki, in Pakistan, will be taken as seriously or in as bad a connotation as people may think. If he had said something bad about Islam, that would be something different."
Speaking about the confrontation between India and Pakistan, Mr. Bush said he did not believe their tension has yet been defused. "But I do believe there is a way to do so, and we are working hard to convince both the Indians and the Pakis there's a way to deal with their problems without going to war," Mr. Bush said.
© 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.