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Lalo's journey to Pakistan

In 1947 a nation - Pakistan - was born from the cry ''Islam in danger'' in South Asia. Indian Muslims could not annul history, and coming to terms with it was proving painful. Hindu and Muslim neighbors who had lived together for centuries were maddened with communal rage. In one of the greatest population movements in history, millions of people crossed borders, Hindus to India and Muslims to Pakistan. With the millions who arrived in Pakistan was my father, a gentle and devout Muslim. For me there was an important lesson of faith in the turmoil.

Accompanying us were a couple. Both were Hindus. Lalo - from Lal - had long served my father. His wife, who looked after me like her own child, was my ''ayah,'' a nanny. ''Where my sahib goes there will I serve,'' said Lalo; ''I would die rather than leave my son,'' said his wife; so they accompanied us to our new land. Lalo and his wife had expressed faith in my father. And my father had reflected confidence in the Islamic ideal. Pakistan was good to us. And with us Lalo and his wife prospered.

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Looking back now I am struck by their example. They were leaving their home in India - a land devastated by Hindu-Muslim rioting - and arriving in one where Hindus were fleeing Muslims. Like ours their journey was one of faith; unlike ours their faith lay not in a religion but in human relationships. At the core of the upheaval faith had survived.

Was the example of my father unique? No. He was simply an ordinary Muslim reflecting the Islamic ideal. The ideal of toleration and compassion for humanity established by the prophet of Islam in Arabia 13 centuries ago.

But in the West, Islam is a collage of negative images: the Ayatollah, Qaddafi, OPEC, and the ''Islamic bomb.'' In the popular Western mind each image threatens and menaces the established order.

Is the incorrect perception the fault of those who perceive the image or those who project it? If we understand the question we may be able to attempt its resolution.

The passions of the Middle East blow strongly in the United States. Even university departments are not immune. It is a tragedy - and reflection of the times - that few scholars have resisted parochial pressures in order to rise above the din and attempt building bridges.

Observers of Muslim society sense rage among Muslims which they easily translate as anti-West. How are we to understand the social dynamics of this tension? Recent colonial history, the emergence of religious leadership, rejection of materialism, and reversion to fundamentalism combine to create unresolved tensions in society. The rage is not simply anti-Western. The tensions are as much social as they are religious.

In his last major address the prophet of Islam said: ''Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.''

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Tolerance and understanding for humanity breathe in these lines. They reflect the consciousness of modern man, as reflected in the United Nations Charter, and help me understand the spirit of Islam and why Lalo made his journey to Pakistan.

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