Last month Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida began a social media and blogging campaign against a restaurant in Pakistan which refuses to serve Pakistanis. (Sounds counterintuitive, right?) Now Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune has picked up on his campaign and showcased how the problem is with more than just a single restaurant.

La-Moison-Pakistan
Image: TheExpressTribune

La Maison refuses to serve Pakistanis

Almeida said on Twitter that he had heard a rumor about a new restaurant which only accepts reservations for people with a foreign passport. Another Twitter user gave the name of the restaurant—La Maison—and said that those who call it and ask for a reservation are required to give their nationality and passport number. The restaurant then refuses to book a reservation if the caller is Pakistani.

Sadly, what this French restaurant is doing isn’t illegal in Pakistan, and as The Express Tribune points out, there are many other examples of this sort of discrimination going on there.

All Pakistanis aren’t Muslim

After hearing about Almeida’s campaign, the restaurant’s owner met with him and emailed him. He said that they welcome Pakistanis with a dual nationality but refuse service to Pakistanis because of the Muslim culture. He said that it’s “impossible to open a place to the public when we serve food non halal.” That’s a term which means “permitted” or “lawful.”

Not all types of food are permitted for Muslims, and since the restaurant serves food which Muslims aren’t allowed to eat, it bars all Pakistanis from eating there. The restaurant initially said something to Almeida about “Pak law,” but it should be noted that not all Pakistanis are Muslim. While it’s true that more than 96% of Pakistan population claims adherence to Islam, this still isn’t 100%. Also there are many other nations, particularly in the Middle East, which also have large Muslim populations.

Discrimination… or respect?

The owner of La Maison in Islamabad said he sees his restaurant’s policy of turning away Pakistanis as being a form of respect rather than discrimination. However, the restaurant does employ Pakistanis and Muslims to serve patrons, suggesting that it’s alright for them to be in a service capacity and handle the non-halal food in the restaurant but not be served there.

The owner of the restaurant also pointed to numerous other places which discriminate against Pakistanis within their own nation. Various clubs and housing complexes refuse to allow Pakistanis in, showing just how widespread this problem is within the nation.

Fatima A. Athar of The Express Tribune closes her article with a musing about why this is allowed to go on:

“What were the struggles of the independence movement if not to allow us a chance to live free and not be treated like squatters in our own homeland? Where is the country that supposedly resulted from this?”