Whispers of the other

Mar 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: World

A trusted pair of hands sweeps down and in one motion he picks up the giggling 2 year old carefully placing her on his shoulders. The giggles grow louder and the child looks for the reaction on a graceful female face that follows and finds a mix of content and loving approval. Surely, we can feel the warmth of the moment if not through personal experience then by the sheer humanness of the scenario. This family of three could be walking down any mall in America, they could just as easily be walking in the midst of a tribe in Africa on a ritualistic walk to seek water, they could with comparable ease be placed waking down any street in Europe and yes they could just as easily be a snap shot of blissful moment for a family in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia or Malaysia. If the added mental exercise of the fatherly figure sporting a beard or a skull cap, be it a Muslim one or one of typical Jewish fashions, or the mother wearing a veil or head scarf or perhaps even a skirt baring her legs, takes away from the beauty of this moment in your mind then you have for sure added a few bricks to the wall beyond which the “other” is fabled to live.

The world has progressively constricted since 9/11 no matter what side of the wall you find yourself on and whether you own a share in the bricks of this ever growing divide or not it builds regardless. Some of us lay our claim to humanity more than others and the “other” either worships a false God or isn’t loved by ours. When will we realize that this ugliness spares no one? When does the arrogance end and the dialogue begin?

The recent events unfolding in Pakistan inspire these words and I am plagued with the familiar feeling that something obvious is being missed. “We” as human beings constantly wish for ourselves what we are not willing to grant others: dignity, self-respect, justice and the right to be masters of our own destiny and yes the right to choose “our way of life”. The latter brings to mind the arrogance of the Bush era. Most in the US do not realize how damaging the policies of this half-crazy president have been and how it has left the world in an endless spiral of hate and violence. If you are a Pakistani living and working in the US, not a day goes by without a painful realization that evil has no permanent address. The senselessness of the constant media blitz portraying one in every four human beings on the planet as a terrorist at worst or a security risk at the least is only matched by the equally alienating chanting of “down with America” in any street demonstration in the Middle East or Pakistan. The latter is as guilty of lumping a nation of 300 million into a monolith as the former is of generalizing the actions of a handful to 1.5 billion.

Being a Muslim Pakistani in the US gives can serve as a unique and painful vantage point. Each day we see the gulf between humanity widening. The opinion makers on either side of the divide and especially the hypnosis that the media in the west creates with the idiot box as the ultimate determinant of truth with the average American having the choice of subscribing to their own sub- flavour of it based on whether they choose to tune in to CNN or Fox, serve to strengthen generalizations that the “other” is an epitome of absolute evil. The dehumanization of the “other” along with a sense of entitlement for “us” has unleashed endless violence. Forever etched in our minds are the images from that fateful day when the horrible images of the day those planes slammed in the twin towers. I watched with horror in Pakistan as some jumped from the unimaginable heights, choosing between this and the inferno. Around 3000 human lives were lost to senseless hate. I don’t remember rejoicing. If anything I will remember the tears rolling down my mother’s cheeks. The tears would roll down her cheek yet again as the sky over Baghdad lightened up in “shock and disgust”. The same dictator that had been propped up for years by the US is now a danger to humanity. The way the war was being sold over the western media is instrumental in understanding the widening gulf between the west and Islam. Perhaps Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) persecuting a religious minority (surprise it’s the Muslims!) in the US in the name of radicalization should start by considering what is increasingly dividing humanity in to “us” and “them”. His at best naïve argument that “radicalization” in the Muslims of US needs to be gauged as if it is a breathalyser for estimating blood alcohol levels.

Yet there is more to the events that have unfolded in the last decade. The western media has established a rather fluid and make shift moral basis that apply to others variably and mostly never to the international stance the US takes, a case in point being the Raymond Davis Saga in Pakistan. A CIA contractor of the notorious black water brand (the same trigger happy psycho’s who gunned down countless Iraqis and earn to the tune of 200,000 dollars an year), who gunned down two Pakistani men in broad daylight on the streets of Lahore, a city known as the heart of Pakistan. To ice the crime with more blatant arrogance a backup vehicle coming to his rescue enters the incoming traffic and crushes to death a third innocent Pakistani. The widow of one of the victims overdosed and on her death bed tells the many news channels of the country that she wants “justice” and “blood for blood”. Her disillusion with the country’s corrupt and sub-human leadership forces this girl to kill herself as a plea for justice for the man she had a love marriage with. The same western media that would cry itself to bed over a woman being forced to marry a man of her parent’s choice conveniently rips the face off this human tragedy. We will digress, but Islam requires the complete consent of a girl for marriage. The deaths are mere statistics, the story tucked away in some inconspicuous corner of CNN, perhaps not even in the “US edition”. A west constantly brain washed. What you will find instead is an inspiring story of some cancer survivor. There is no doubt that America as a nation is blessed with wonderful people who have achieved great things and have often opened their hearts and homeland to many in need but to think that this rest of humanity is devoid of this kindness is a mere convenience. The more time I spend in the US, the more I realize that the genuine kindness and warmth of its people within its borders is constantly undone by its government by its tyrannical foreign policy leaving the humanity in this part of the world wondering why the same people that they empty out their pockets to help when floods and earthquakes strike are the ones that hate them.

I think to understand each other better the Raymond Davis case offers many opportunities. So this murderer is declared a “diplomat”. His belongings included a cell phone, GPS and firearms as well as photographs of sensitive military installations. The US embassy uses a mix of threats and carrots over the ensuing week. So involved in the countries politics is the US embassy that they are virtually the new East India Company, having hijacked the freedom and dreams of a nation of 170 million. The resentment that an ordinary Pakistani feels against the US has nothing to do with religion but is conveniently labelled such by the western media. Reverse this with the hypothetical situation that a Pakistani spy commits the same crime in the US and then claims immunity for being a diplomat which he is proved beyond doubt not to be. Not only that, the Pakistani government gets Secretary Clinton “fired” for obstructing the release of this “diplomat” and the level of outrage that this Nation would experience is barely imaginable. No rational person would dispute the reason for this indignation as one rooted in religious hatred. Yet, this is exactly how the story is told to an average American. The wide spread shock at how this man was whisked away by dubious tactics and invoking the very Sharia the defenders of civility in the US are using as tool of fear mongering and to widen further the gulf between the west and the Islam, will be labelled as “protests by Islamic hardliners” when in reality the whole nation feels robbed of its dignity.

I will end my tirade here but with the hope that the educated lot amongst the Muslims speak for themselves before we find no means of getting our voices across this wall being built by a handful of hate mongers who use war as a business, who would still support the KKK if that meant being voted in to office and who see humanity as a hierarchy with themselves at the apex, even among their infinitely more well-meaning and kind fellow countrymen. Perhaps for now, I will let the image of this family of three plays out in my mind walking through a church, finding them sitting in a synagogue the next moment, kneeling in a temple and yes praying five times in a mosque. Assalam-e-laikum (Peace be upon you).

Ahmed Javed

About the author

Ahmed Javed is a Psychiatrist working in the US. He is a “legal alien”, has a valid visa and often wonders if one can reciprocate kindness with the insincerity of not challenging half-truths that hurts all and if one really needs a blue passport to really belong to teachers, friends and colleagues.

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  1. Excellent article!
    However, what needs to be kept in mind is that Western media like our media or for that matter any other media is business driven. It has no morals, no loyalties, only sensationalism which sells big.

  2. Very nice article. well written.

  3. Very Very deep article,,,,,,and nice one too,,,there is a time alloted to everyone at a slightly bigger scale,,,we r having ours,,,, inshallah there would be time when we would be able to STAND UP and convince the world about our view point….

  4. v v nice piece!

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