News! Now US State Department has an office of Special Representative to Muslim Communities (SRMC), and Hillary Clinton has appointed Farah Pandith as its head. So, who is Farah Pandith?
According to the State Department press release,
Pandith, a Muslim, immigrated to the United States with her parents from Srinagar, India. She has said that she sees her personal experience as an illustration of how Muslim immigrants to the US can successfully integrate themselves into American society. She grew up in Massachusetts with a diversity of faiths, ethnicities and perspectives.
So, Pandith is of Indian Kashmiri origin, coming from the same region as this blogger. According to this news report from India, her folk in Baghat-e-Barzulla in Srinagar are celebrating, and rightly so. The report also says that her family comes from the North Kashmir town of Sopore, which has been famous for its apple trade in better times, but in the last two decades it has been the hub of Islamic terrorism. Looks like Farah can start charity at home, by converting the people in Sopore to “America loving Muslims”. I remember (from 1980s) that there used to be a prominent family of Samad Pandith in Sopore and they used to own the lone Samad Talkies theater in the town. Most likely Farah belongs to this family. Most movie theaters in Kashmir were burnt down or closed during the ascent of Islamic militancy in the early 1990s, and if I remember correctly Samad Talkies was razed to the ground too, as were most houses that non-Muslims vacated in the town. In the eyes of these separatist militants, these were all symbols of Indian/Hindu culture, which they had disowned a few generations ago. Read this interesting article about the sweet-sour relationship of Kashmir with Bollywood movies.
Some people may wonder if Pandith is not a Hindu last name? No, she seems to be a full blooded Kashmiri Muslim, which makes her fully eligible for the post of SRMC. There are many last names among Kashmiri Muslims that are similar to Hindu last names, and Pandith is the most obvious among them; this seems to reflect the fact that these are more recent converts from Kashmiri Hindus (a community now mostly exiled from Kashmir). While Kashmiri Hindus use Pandit or Pandita, Muslims spell it as Pandith, reflecting its Kashmiri pronunciation. Other such last names that are identifiable with Hindus are Bhat/Butt, Kaul, Raina, Dar/Dhar, etc. Other surnames, with Kashmiri etymology, and used by both communities are Kachroo, Mattoo, Makroo, etc.
Anyway, coming back to Farah Pandith, let us hope that she will be able to bridge the divide and make America a less hated country in the Muslim world. Listen and watch how Farah feels about the issue.