When You Discover You’re Being Watched

I loved Christmas growing up. Even though Pakistan’s small Christian minority had overall been humbled by the dominant Muslim majority, the missionary hospitals and schools left over from British colonial rule were still the most desirable. I was born in Lady Willington Hospital, and my parents were delighted when I got into a prominent Catholic school. So I was exposed to Christmas early on. I found it bright and beautiful.

Preparations for Christmas began at school in early December. Decorations on the tree dazzled me. The lights and ornaments evoked a fairyland where reindeers flew and Santa delivered presents. The teachers were happier and less strict, and I even played an angel in the school Christmas play with a halo over my head and glittering white clothes. My parents never came to see the play.

In my life today, the dynamic is reversed. The outside world around me is filled with Christmas celebrations, while at home my family wrestles with how we relate to the holiday. It’s particularly a challenge with my American children. I don’t mind if they feel some of the seasonal magic, but I don’t want them to go too far. Some friends are less concerned and put up a Christmas tree in their home, but I can’t bring myself to do that.

Walking in the mall last week with the kids, we heard the Christmas carol “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” It’s a catchy melody but I suddenly noticed that the lyrics were a bit creepy: “He sees you when you’re sleeping / He knows when you’re awake / He knows if you’ve been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake!”

For some reason the song made me think of the latest headlines with CAIR, which suddenly announced that they had caught a spy. One of their veteran staffers had apparently been feeding inside information for years to an organization called The Investigative Project, a longtime nemesis of CAIR. The employee (with an unusual South Asian name Romin Iqbal that makes me wonder if he might be Christian) had even risen to be the head of CAIR’s chapter in Columbus, Ohio.

It’s a very strange story. Suddenly discovering someone you trusted has betrayed you makes you feel vulnerable. And the idea that your private affairs have been watched the whole time but someone not as friendly as Santa Claus is disturbing. The whole thing plays into the paranoia many have of being watched and judged, of worrying if someone close might betray us.

On the other hand, I know CAIR has betrayed our community. The organization claims to speak in our name, to defend our rights, and yet more and more of us know the truth: it is a racket run by corrupt and sexist men. Most of us are too afraid to say so publicly – because we know they are watching us and will not hesitate to destroy anyone who publicly challenges them. Just look at what happened to Lori Haidri. Nobody likes CAIR’s head Nihad Awad, but no one dares to take him on.

So the whole incident has left me confused – sort of like how I love the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” but can’t stand the lyrics. On the one hand, I hate the idea of outsiders secretly inserting themselves into our affairs. On the other hand, we have been too weak to take deal with the problem of CAIR ourselves, But maybe that’s finally starting to change.

Anyway, wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas. And let’s all try to remember the main point of the song: Be good for goodness sake!