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Pakistani Drag Queens Against U.S. Intervention


Yesterday, in his always lively blog, the’s James Taranto, cited a Washington Post story about a Pakistani drag queen with a negative view of the U.S.. The Post is running a series on how the world sees the U.S., and Taranto thinks that this commentator is exotic enough to win the reporter who found him a Pulitzer:

Dragging America Down
Just how much damage has the Bush administration done to America’s standing in the world? Amar Bakshi of, as part of a series called “How the World Sees America,” reports that he’s even lost the respect of Pakistani transvestites.

“I’m a drag queen, darling . . . not an extremist . . . and I still say if Pakistanis had more self-respect, we’d be even more anti-American,” says Ali Saleem, who glosses his lips and dons a sari each week to interview celebrities and politicians on his TV program Begum Nawazish Ali, a talk show sensation in Pakistan. “I’m not speaking religion; it’s common sense.”

From politics to culture, Ali says American intervention in Pakistan has “brought nothing but sadness” by supporting dictators and rendering Pakistan’s people impotent, constantly looking to the outside world, particularly the U.S., for help solving its own problems.

The gentleman’s views about Pakistan-U.S. relations, and who is to blame for the sorry state of domestic politics, to one side — this piece raises a somewhat more basic question about the extent to which Pakistani culture is defined by fundamentalist Islam — and just how repressive the (clearly authoritarian) government is. It is hard to imagine the state-controlled TV broadcasters in, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia allowing a drag queen to host a TV show (except maybe Today’s Beheadings), let alone local politicians and celebrities show up to be interviewed. In fact, it is hard to imagine the worthy U.S. candidates for president showing up for such a thing — though last week’s Democratic gay debate suggests that the possibility exists.

Of course it is an open question whether this represents progress — or just a nice balance of undesirable cultural forces. For that matter, you wonder whether the boys at the Madrassas get stoned, order kebabs and stay up late to watch…  


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