Norway: Pakistanis and the caste system

Several hundred Norwegian-Pakistanis are looking for their future love on Pakistan's largest dating site Shaadionline. Here you can read how much they earn a month, how religious they are, their skin color, and what caste they belong to. Many prepare their own profile, but sometimes a guardian, a father or other family member, does it on behalf of a relative.

The sister of Norwegian-Pakistani Maya (22), for example, wrote on her profile that she is average looking, a moderate Muslim, has light skin color and belongs to the gujjar/chaudrey caste. Caste is central to the site and which caste you belong to is central for Norway's 28,200 Norwegian-Pakistanis. Everybody belongs to a caste and this becomes especially important when deciding who to marry. spoke with several Norwegian-Pakistani about which caste they belong to and how big a role it plays today.

Center party politician Danny Ghazanfar Chaudhry (46) says that everybody's proud of their own caste. To change caste is like changing your own father. To show which caste he belongs to he adds Chaudhry to his family name (Ghazanfar), a common custom among Pakistanis. Chaudhry is a caste of landowners, which is considered a high caste. Gujjar and Jatt are the biggest sub-groups in this caste.

Danny Chaudry is the head of the caste organization Gujjar union. The caste system has had negative consequences for him. today regrets marrying a woman from his own caste when he was in his early 20's. After living with a Norwegian girl for over 5 years he had let his family push him to marry a Pakistani girl he had never met. A short time later they divorced. He says it was the first time he'd been to Pakistan and he let himself be brainwashed. Instead of marrying the woman he loved, he let himself be pressured to marry a Pakistani woman he has never met. He says that was the dumbest thing he had done in his life.

There are many sites like Shaadionline on the net. Another common site for Norwegian Pakistanis is there you can see in several ads that it's not realistic to marry somebody from another caste.

Noman Mubashir (33) told that he knows of people who didn't get permission to marry because they were from a different castes. He thinks castes are anti-human. It annoys him that the Pakistanis took their 'un-culture' with them to Norway and that they hand it down to their children, says Mubashir, who belongs to the Arain caste, a farmer caste.

When the Pakistani work-immigrants came to Norway at the end of the 60's they brought not only a cheap working force, but also customs from Pakistan. One of those was the Pakistani caste system. According to labor party politician Aslam Ahsan (65) there are two main caste systems in Pakistan. One follows the Indian system, where the most common higher castes in Norway are Rajpoot, Gujjar, Jatt, Malik and Rein. Another system is based on the family's traditional occupation. They are divided into four main groups: farmers, tradesmen, craftsmen and intellectuals. Ahsan belongs to the Rajpoot caste, and to the farmer cast.

Crafts work is seen as a low status. The system of occupation-castes was defined by the English during the colonization period and defined both rights and duties, says Ahsan. He says it's still common in many parts of Pakistan to write down the occupation-caste in addition to the first and last names when turning to the judicial system. Typical occupation-castes are barbers, pot makers, tailors, water carriers, shoe makers, carpenters and smiths.

when he's in Norway he's called just Aslam Ahsan, but when he goes to Pakistan he uses "Chaudhry", a name also used by Danny Chaudry, and which means land-owner. The system still characterizes the entire Norwegian-Pakistani community.

Ahsan says he can tell which caste a person belongs to according to how they act or speak. If a person is exaggeratedly formally ornamented, uncertain or submissive it's a sign he comes form a lower caste.

On SHAADIONLINE, the brother of a Norwegian 19-year old boy write that he "likes to drive, see movies" and belongs to the Rajpoot caste. Lawyer Abid Q. Raja (32) also belongs to the high-caste Rajppoot and has the caste name as his last name. He says he had problems with his family when he wanted to marry a woman from another caste.

He says the entire family in Pakistan was against it and that it caused a lot of trouble for them. But today, he says, the family has accepted his wife. He thinks it's time for the youth to rebel against the entire caste system. Raja says that those who belong to the so-called higher castes must pull down the system. The older people must change and the young must rebel. If that happens, he believes the system will disappear.

Conservative party politician Afshan Rafiq (32) thinks it's not right to call it a caste system, but rather "social classes". He himself belongs to the Jatt caste. He says often the name means which 'occupation class' a person belongs to. For example "Sheikh" means that the man is a businessman, says Rafiq, who is married to the Conservative Party politician Aamir Sheikh (37). He says there are often problems when young Norwegian-Pakistanis from different classes get married.

Rafiq says that for him there no higher or lower castes and that he believes the class system will disappear with the new generations. He says he knowns several families that want to marry off their son or daughter. They've decided they want somebody from Norway, and that it's very important to find somebody who both belongs to the right class, is well-educated and well-integrated in Norwegian society. But then they must drop some of those criteria.

Almost all member of Shaadionline write their caste on their profile, but there are also those who refuse to do so. The guardian of a 28 year old Norwegian girl writes in her profile that she belongs to the "human" cast. Further they write that she is orderly, humble and the only woman from a good and educated family. She has been through an arranged marriage when very young, but the two didn't together. His family had neither good Islamic nor human values. They were just interested in the marriage, money and visas. She was badly mistreated by her mother-in-law and husband, and had divorced after just four months, because she couldn't continue like that.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

See also: Caste system among South Asian Muslims (Wikipedia)

1 comment:

jeyam said...

Islam being a religion which stands for equality brotherhood dose not profess casteism.However,it is sad to know that many muslims in Pakistan and those migrated to other parts of the earth follow casteim.Is is disservice done by them to Islam