Pakistani Tennis Player speaks to crowd at US Open
September 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi delivered his message loud and peacefully, and it had nothing to do with forehands or backhands, or even the doubles title he failed to win. As a Muslim from Pakistan playing in the U.S. Open doubles final, he said New York needed his words the most, as post-9/11 counsel. So the 30-year-old grabbed the microphone and addressed the estimated 15,000 at Arthur Ashe Stadium – probably the biggest crowd to watch a Grand Slam doubles final – and made sure the moment wasn’t lost. “I want to say something on behalf of all Pakistanis,” he said following Friday’s defeat to the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike. “Every time I come here, there’s a wrong perception about the people of Pakistan. “They are very friendly, very loving people. We want peace in this world as much as you guys.” The crowd cheered. By now, such poignancy is expected from Qureshi and, to a lesser extent, his doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna of India. Together, they’ve formed the politically charged tandem known as the Indo-Pak Express, breaking down barriers with their kinship and jettisoning expectations with their recent play. Their respective neighboring countries have warred with and terrorized each other since the 1940s, citing religion as their great chasm.
Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, has long been considered a headquarters of Al Qaeda. Qureshi said he’s been stopped at airport immigration “every time” in New York – three hours at a time – including after his latest flight for the Open. And on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he wanted to defend his country’s masses. “Since September 11, every time I come to the States or western countries I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation,” Qureshi said. “I just wanted to declare that we are very friendly, loving and caring people, and we want peace in this world as much as Americans and the rest of the world wants. “There are extremists in every religion, but just because of them you cannot judge the whole country as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to get this message across as a Pakistani.”