Babar (pronounced “bobber”) Khan is a Pakistani-American resident of Eden Prairie and a director of the Senate District 48 DFL. Recently he sat for an Eden Prairie Local News interview to discuss the Pakistani-American community in Eden Prairie and to help EPLN showcase EP’s growing diversity. He and EPLN are quite conscious that he does not speak for all Pakistani-Americans.
Khan is a mechanical engineer working as a consultant in quality management systems. Many Pakistanis in Eden Prairie, he noted, are working professionals—physicians, people in finance, clinicians.
Many Pakistanis who come to the United States have higher levels of Pakistani education, he said. They are interested in getting involved in advanced levels of research that may not be readily accessible in Pakistan.
Khan noted he earned his master’s degree at Oklahoma State University. The transition to America is facilitated by the curriculum that is shared by Pakistani universities and U.S. universities. Also, many Urdu-speaking Pakistanis have English as a second language.
Not so much complaining as simply commenting, Khan said he believes there is stereotyping in the U.S. against people of color, including Pakistanis. There is the issue of color, and Pakistanis often do have an accent. He is detached enough to see how color and accent might influence hiring for possible work in the face-to-face world of marketing, especially since observant Muslim Pakistanis also cannot engage in social drinking.
He does feel, however, that media are too quick to attach religious and ethnic labels to malefactors in the news. He is heartened by the fact that very young children do not fear differences in color, religion, or ethnicity. He has served as a parent-at-large on an Eden Prairie High School curriculum committee. He is somewhat concerned that he has perhaps been viewed as someone who had to learn about the school and not as a person who might actually contribute to the committee. He has pushed for fuller high school teaching about international history, not just U.S. history. At EPHS he also did broach the topic of the cafeteria using halal meat so that Muslim children are not essentially forced to be vegetarians. He grinned and said, “There are people who have halal burgers.”
Khan said that in Pakistan and in the U.S., Pakistani parents urge their children to work extra hard in school and in their jobs so that they will have a chance to succeed. He said, “Nearly every person of color—which includes definitely Pakistanis—they know they have to be competitive.” He emphasized that they absolutely do not want to be perceived as dependent.
Beyond his engineering work and his Pakistani-oriented work, Khan works for human rights and gun safety. He is also a member of the Group Leadership Team of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers-Minnesota Section.
There are many noteworthy Pakistani figures in Eden Prairie. Besides spreading the sport of cricket, Masaood Younus helps out with EP/Pakistani cultural events and also manages the Facebook page of the Pakistan American Society.
Faisal Masood is an information technology consultant and also hosts the Whatsapp group, “Eden Prairie Pakistanis.”
In addition to being Khan’s sister, Dr. Onaiza Ansar is a board-certified psychiatrist. Ansar provides education on mental health issues and has served as the director of education at the Islamic Center of Minnesota.
Rehan Subhan is an entrepreneur and supports the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Adeel Ahmed is an entrepreneur in investment and is Outreach Officer for the Senate District 48 DFL.
Eden Prairie also has businesses run by Pakistani-Americans, including Insight Vision Care and Anderson Lake Dental.
Khan says much of his experience in Eden Prairie has been very positive. He brought his family to Eden Prairie because of the excellent reputation of its schools. Early on, when Pakistanis needed a place to worship, Pax Christi church made its facility available. Generally, he finds relationships with the people of Eden Prairie to be governed by “mutual respect.”
As immigrants, Pakistanis do have challenges. In Pakistan they must pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language, and Pakistani-American medical applicants must pass the USMLE English-language test. Typically, Pakistani students at American colleges do not have grants available to them and pay all college costs.
Clinging to a bit of tradition, Khan hopes that future generations of Pakistani-Americans will retain their historical values of hospitality and also respect for elders. Khan says there is much to like about America: the movies, the athletes and Olympians, the food, the people. He especially likes the fact that Americans are very open and direct.
Sometimes the tentativeness and solicitousness of old-style Asian etiquette can make something as simple as serving a cup of tea an unnecessarily drawn-out process. And, again, he finds that with many Americans, relationships are governed by mutual respect.