There is much debate this month over national diction, and it makes me wonder why. There are so many people frothing at the mouth about the Arabic pronunciation of words like Suhoor and Ramadan. Are we really so seething with internal rage, that to hear someone use the Arabic version of certain words (words which do happen to come from the Arabic language), is utterly unbearable?

What happened to live and let live? What about the spirit of the month of Ramadan/Ramazan/Ramzan? (putting all three versions out there before the pitch-forks start flying). This month, in case we missed the memo, is not just about abstaining from eating and drinking. It’s about tolerance, patience, self-reflection. About not getting angry, not thinking negative thoughts, being extra charitable, extra nice to other people. How about controlling one’s temper? Being at peace with oneself? Experiencing how the less fortunate feel every day - looking at the world for thirty days from the perspective of someone who, quite possibly, might never hope to expect three regular meals a day?

This ‘hate energy’ seeps into everything in Pakistan - the enraged way we drive, the strange class systems we’ve set up and inherited, the way we subconsciously judge people, labelling them pretentious, or paindu, or immoral. So what if someone learned the original pronunciation of a word and wants to use it? We have our fair share of people influenced by the United States or Britain or India, for that matter. We watch American movies and shows, we listen to American and European music, we have tons of cut-throat Bollywood lovers. Many of us dress like people do in the West and many of us talk like them. Sometimes we roll our R’s and sometimes we skip our R’s. And so what? So what if someone has an American accent after living there or watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air growing up?

And in the same vein, so what if someone who went to the Middle East (or not) wants to pronounce words that sound more Arabic than we are used to.?Must it carry deep ideological repurcusions, off to offend the next “pure” Urdu speaking man or woman? Can’t we just take it at face value? Does it really hurt us so much inside?

We have become a reactive society, often taking deep personal offence to change, to disparities and diversity. We really must stop being so defensive about our culture, about what it means to be Pakistani. There is no one way to fit people inside of that label. If we don’t mind acting Anglicized and Indianized in so much of our daily lives, then the use of a few Arabic words - particularly those related to a holy month in Islam- shouldn’t bother us so much.

We badly need to get rid of our stereotypes of Arabs and must stop using racist caricatures we’ve been fed by Hollywood. Arabs are not just in Saudi Arabia. They don’t all wear Keffiyehs, or live in deserts or ride camels. Saudi Arabia does not in any way represent the culture of the Middle East or Arabs as a whole. Having lived and worked in the Middle East, I can safely say that this is a region full of rich culture, food, different religions, languages, and ethnicities. Jordan is beautiful, and so is Lebanon. So was Syria, in fact (before regional geopolitical games began - but that is another story for another day). The people of this region are vibrant, open-minded, modern, and progressive. I strongly encourage fellow Pakistanis who have the means to do so, to visit this part of the world more, instead of the usual UK/Canada/US summer holidays, just to understand that there’s more to the Middle East and Arabs than Saudi Arabia.

And does it really matter whether someone says ‘Allah Hafiz’ instead of ‘Khuda Hafiz’? Are we really that threatened by a different way of saying goodbye? I use them interchangeably, and I’ve never been offended by anyone using either of them, as they mean the same thing. Is it a punch to the gut when someone calls an ‘elevator’ a ‘lift’? Does it really offend our sensibilities so much if we hear something slightly different to what we’re used to? Is that how feeble and fragile our national cultural identity is?

Just let it go.

Next time you hear ‘suhoor’ or ‘ramadan’ at Iftari, take a deep breath, smile, hand the offending party a pakora, and say ‘Wow, you said that berfectly!’

You’ll live. So will they.

The writer is a humanitarian aid worker, based in Beirut, Lebanon. He is currently enjoying rozas and iftaris with his family in his beloved Islamabad.