“Where are you from?” That question has always confused me. When I answer Northern Virginia, I am rebutted with: “No, where are you originally from – like where is your family from?” I bleed red, white and blue…and green? Yes, that’s right. I’m a proud Pakistani-American Ahmadi Muslim. Pakistan has given me a lot. It has provided me with culture and a means to stand out. I take great pride in being trilingual. These unique qualities help me stand out from a billion other individuals.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Pakistan following the country’s independence in 1947. America has a multi-faceted relationship with Pakistan in areas ranging from anti-terrorism to energy to trade and investment. The only thing Pakistan hasn’t given me is the freedom to express my religion. In Pakistan I am not allowed to call myself a Muslim because I am from a sect that believes Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the 19th-century founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is the long awaited Messiah and that he has come to revive the religion and bring us back to the path of righteousness when the religion needed it the most. The second amendment states that Ahmadis are a non-Muslim group. Since 1974 members of my community are being persecuted and accused of violating the country's controversial blasphemy laws.
This is also why I am so thankful to call America my home — a country that allows me to thrive however I want. With a hijab on my head and with strength in my blood, I am able to live my dream of going to medical school and becoming a physician so that I can give back to the country and to humanity.
So now whenever I’m asked “where are you originally from?” I ask the same question. The amount of melanin in your skin or the kind of clothes you chose to wear don’t make you any more or less American. Your country is, in the end, the people that live in it. Sure, you might have an association with the geographical location but it’s the people as a whole that give you an identity. I love my Pakistani roots and I love my American identity. Both parts have shaped me into the headstrong and ambitious woman that I am today. God bless America and Pakistan Zindabad.
The writer is a second year medical student.