Where in the world?

While Peshawar burned, Fayes T Kantawala looked upon the immigration policies of Canada and Australia

Where in the world?
After declaring in my last column that I am ready to emigrate to another country, it is unbelievably awkward to still be here. Mega-awkward. It’s like I created a huge scene at a fancy restaurant, flung a shawl around me as I majestically swept from the room after a monologue of soul-crushing wit, only to find there isn’t a single taxi outside. Now I have to stand around pretending to check my cellphone for the next 20 minutes in full view of the recently abandoned dinner party and hope nobody notices I’m out of battery.

There actually have been some developments on the moving away front, which I am tentatively titling Escape 2015 (sexy whisper: “…by Calvin Klein”). I say developments but what I mean are Google searches of countries that I may want to swim out to in my desperation. First place I considered was Canada because in my head it’s the town whore of immigration. Unfortunately Canada caught the equivalent of migratory syphilis sometime ago and has since closed shop and put on an air of virtue. Gone are the days of the easy Canadian passport and breezy free healthcare, or so I am told by the clever people who moved out there in the early 2000s. I really don’t mind; I lived in Canada for a year. It’s a lovely, sane nation and in the words of Robin Williams (awww, RIP) Canada is like a really big loft over a really great party. Plus it’s so cold your nipples fall off like dandruff. I find I wouldn’t want to live there for the rest of my life, not that the Canadians are asking.

My next thought was Australia, which I’ve been fascinated with since I saw the movie Muriel’s Wedding at the tender age of 5. They have weird seasons, the entire continent has evolved to be highly poisonous/pretty and its people are ridiculously hot and very optimistic. Indeed, their optimism was a measurable force this week. I’m sure you were pretty irritated that a self-proclaimed cleric/madman took over the Lindt café in Sydney and held many people hostage in a siege that ended with him (and another) dead a few hours later.

The madman was not remarkable. He was not a mastermind terrorist but rather a sick person living out delusions and he shall not be missed in death. Still, given “another Muslim terrorist” story, there was a real fear that there would be a backlash against Muslims in Australia, a place that had until recently been fairly immune to the trend of global terrorism.

This story changed that: a woman was riding in the subway when she noticed another woman take off her hijab and exit the train. The first woman ran after her and told her to put her hijab back on and offered to escort her home in case she felt scared of being alone in the current climate. The hijab woman cried, hugged the do-gooder for a good long minute, but then walked on alone. So began the movement #illridewithyou, an outpouring of Australian support for Muslims in religious attire who felt unsafe. Isn’t that sweet? I mean: this happened while a madman made people hold up ISIS posters. (Biggest naming tragedy of the decade: why o why has Isis stopped being a fabulous Egyptian goddess and become a murderous Muslim acronym?). The Australians were so calm and cool in their reportage of the incident, too. Honestly, the only reason I wouldn’t move there right away is my belly fat. And jellyfish.

Of course Australia wasn’t the only country with Mad Mozzie incidents. Take the Masked Murderess of the Emirates that everyone was talking about last week. Haven’t you found it remarkable that despite their lavish lifestyle and access to sin, all the Muslim warriors of the world manage to skip out on attacking the U.A.E.? It’s like the Switzerland of the Middle East. There are terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Oman and Yemen, but not a single one in U.A.E.

I’m sure the country’s rulers spend a lot of money to make sure it remains that way. One bad terrorist attack and the magic of Dubai would evaporate. But now there has been an attack, and against Americans in the U.A.E., no less. It happened in a public restroom. A fat woman covered head-to-toe in a black abaya walked into a shopping mall’s restroom and stabbed an American teacher to death. Then she walked out again, with not a care in the world. Impressively, they found the murderess in less than two days, laying to rest the suspicion that the hijab is like a criminal invisibility cloak. She also turned out to be slightly mad, though the Emirati police would never say otherwise.
How cute was Malala at the Nobel ceremony?

But on a much brighter note, how cute was Malala at the Nobel ceremony? So cute! I was so pleased to see her and her friends there (all apparently teenage crusaders themselves) but above all I was thrilled to see our former PM Gillani sitting there. It was a big deal to have a former prime minister there to support Malala, especially considering official support for her in our country is practically invisible.

Later a picture emerged showing Kailash Stayarthi, the Indian Nobel-winner, comforting a crying Malala in front of a display of the bloodied school uniform she wore when she was shot. My first thought upon looking at that picture was: Here come the naysayers. I mean those Pakistanis on social media who never tire of calling Malala a “drama” and believe that the attempt on her life was staged.

Nothing will silence such people, I’m afraid. But I was silenced – losing any capacity to speak, think or comprehend – by this week’s attack on a school in Peshawar, an attack that, at the time I was writing this column, had killed more than 100 children. The Pakistani Taliban instantly claimed responsibility (they were apparently lashing out at our country’s military for Operation Zarb-e-Azb). But as the condemnations came in and my Facebook Timeline went black with virtual mourning, I could already hear the counter-clamor of those who, in their manic, frothy denial, were searching for motives and casting doubt over the ability of “any Muslims” to carry out such a killing.

Write to thekantawala@gmail.com and follow @fkantawala on twitter