That’s part of the reason I decided to come to America.
I am among 14 journalists from Pakistan currently visiting the United States. The U.S. State Department sponsors our five-week-long visit.
The main purpose of this visit includes my own professional growth and learning but also the chance to share experiences, skills and ideas. We interact with the American people about our culture and tradition and also learn about their living style and culture.
We attended a three-day orientation in Washington D.C-based International Center for Journalists, the organization which works to advancing journalism worldwide. The center provided the journalists’ arrangements in the U.S.
We arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 13. Each member of the team was attached to a different newsroom in 12 states. I have been attached with The Oakland Press here in Pontiac.
When I left Baltimore’s airport to come to Michigan, I was worried with many questions in my mind about the American people and society.
When I landed at Detroit’s airport, my feelings and thoughts changed and I found Americans most cooperative, kind and humane.
Being human — the great creature of God almighty — everyone has to play his or her role to make this world more peaceful and safe.
We should accept diversity and pluralism on earth. The world must be considered a garden and people its flowers, who keep that garden attractive and graceful.
I have found Pontiac to be a beautiful city and a place of beautiful, civilized and kind people. People here are hospitable and kind to strangers, welcoming newcomers to the city and going out of their way to help them.
During my stay here, I observed that people are busy with their pursuits and business, do not waste time and believe in hard work. I used to talk to the common citizen of United States and try to know their impressions about Pakistan and Pakistanis. They are not much aware about us. A very small group of people knows about us.
The people of United States appear to love and respect all humanity without discrimination and hypocrisy. The majority of Pakistanis are also good, polite, civilized and hospitable. We respect and love visitors but a minority are presented as all of Pakistan in Western media. That hurts the innocents people of Pakistan.
I had an opportunity to visit the courts around Pontiac with my Oakland Press colleagues. I came away really impressed by the system in the courts. Justice is done without any delay and nobody can force or interfere in the matters of the court. They set petitions and wait for justice and judges offer a transparent justice.
It was beyond my imagination that judges asked to a murderer sentenced to life in prison, would you like to say something in front of the court? And he replied in the front of the judge and hundreds of other people with their eyes full of tears “I wish it could be taken back.” I had watched such thing in movies but not in real life.
This was the actual face of United States, which unveiled for me on that day. We have courts and judges in Pakistan to do same job but honestly, it might not have happened.
I closely observed how the media works here. It is a good experience for me. Media is really a watchdog here, playing its role with the great sense of responsibility.
I went to a store with a colleague recently — a store being investigated by the police and a state agency. My friend stood outside the store and I asked, why we should wait here? Let’s go inside and see what’s going on. My friend smiled and said, Let them to do their job first. Then they will share the information with us, and then we’ll do our job. It’s a very normal attitude for Americans but for me, it was enough to open my eyes and mind.
This exchange program provided such a golden opportunity to see the people of United States closely. We Pakistani journalists are observing the working style of the state owned institutions and as well as private institutions.
I hope during our stay we will see a lot of good practices and good aspects of American culture and society and also share something reality about my country’s image badly projected in the United States. I will share with the Americans that we are also the human beings and we are not terrorists. I will try to prove that Islam is not the religion of terror but instead, a religion of peace and harmony.
The author Fida Ali Shah Ghizri is reporter for Baang-eSahar. He is visiting The Oakland Press newsroom until mid-October. This piece was originally published by The Oakland Press on 30 September 2011.