Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

'Offensive if used with malice'

Sunny Hundal
Sunny Hundal says the incident has been blown out of proportion

Prince Harry's use of the phrase "little Paki friend" to describe an Asian colleague has been described as "unacceptable and wounding".

But is the term offensive to all British Asians? A former Army officer and a journalist tell the BBC News website what the term means to them.

Shukeel Chohan, 41, a British-born Pakistani and former officer in the British army, said it was a generally accepted part of army culture to mock and ridicule each other.

"It's all part of the character building process. Nobody ever has any malicious intent," he said.

"The thing is the same person, one day, is going to be relying on you to look after their life.

"If someone had said something to me, you'd say something back, whether they were ginger, fat, Scottish, Jewish, Welsh, no one ever means it maliciously."

'Band of brothers'

Mr Chohan admitted the first time he encountered such comments in the Army he was "taken aback".

Having been chosen as top recruit in his regiment, he was called in to see the brigadier who said "oh, you're one of them," when he entered the room.

"I said, 'sorry sir, what do you mean, British-born and patriotic?' He laughed and said, 'don't worry son, you'll do well.'

"I didn't take offence. In that environment you're like a band of brothers, you have to be like that. You can't be mollycoddled, you can't be dropped on a battle zone if you can't take a bit of banter."

Mr Chohan said he doubted that Prince Harry was racist.

Me and my friends all use the phrase like that. If you're using it with friends and without malice, it can be fine to use.
Sunny Hundal

"His Pakistani colleague probably gave as good as he got but, unfortunately, that's not evidenced in the video on this occasion," he said.

Mr Chohan grew up on white council estate in Birmingham, at a time when the National Front used a local pub for its headquarters, and had encountered racial abuse.

"We grew up with a lot of abuse. At the time I was quite reactionary and would have fought in defence of my race and colour. I grew up fighting in a time when I had to defend myself," he said.

"But you have got to get on with your life and realise some people have prejudices, you have to accept them and that they have different views."

Context

Sunny Hundal, 31, a British-born Asian journalist, writes for the Guardian newspaper and runs a political blog called pickled politics.com

He said the power of racial insults, such as Paki, to offend depended on the context.

"Me and my friends all use the phrase like that. If you're using it with friends and without malice, it can be fine to use. If you're just mucking around - a boy at school used to call me the 'sweaty Arab' and I would call him something else back.

"It's offensive if it's used with malice."

He said what struck him more was the way the prince "casually" used the term "raghead" in the video.

"It's more offensive because it's misused against Asians and Muslims, and also Sikhs in Britain. To them it's a particularly offensive term. His casual use of that struck me more than Paki."

Mr Hundal said he thought the incident had been blown out of proportion.

"He's a young person messing around and all the rest of it. Young kids say stupid things," he said.

"But it's a legitimate debate to have, as such debates set the boundaries on what is acceptable and what isn't. Which phrases are still offensive and which aren't."



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