Scrounging around on the internet, I stumbled upon a particularly interesting article authored by Rumana Ahmed on The Atlantic.
In the article, the aforementioned author spoke of, with considerable pride I might add, her time spent working for the White House, and later, the National Security Service under the Obama administration as a hijabi Muslim-American born to a Bangladeshi immigrant family.
She had all the intentions to stay. She further writes, as Trump took office, that she also had the intentions to offer enlightenment to the POTUS on Islam and of the states’ Muslim citizenry.
Day eight and she decided to call it quits on moral grounds, over Trump’s contentious executive order banning the entry of citizens from seven Muslim majority nations.
It was, I admit, a poignant read and no less distressing. Though these were not my first thoughts as I read the author’s account of her days at the West Wing, what occurred to me was something else entirely: What are the odds of a Rohingya-born Bangladeshi taking up a job in the Bangladeshi government as an aide to the prime minister and then quit his/her job over a controversial government policy in moral outrage, and then decided to write of her account on a popular publication?
As I mulled over the question, it was painfully obvious that the answer is what we would all loathe to articulate: Negligible. Because, minority rights and humanitarian immigration policies are not really our strongest suits.
And therein lies the irony. As Bangladeshis we fall under all the disadvantaged categories: Brown-skinned nationals of a developing nation, in most cases of the Islamic faith, and perhaps a tad bit poor by standards of richer nations. For all of which, our passport garners the scorn from visa authorities even at the best of times.
Ethical enlightenment cannot be measured by government action. Rather, it is gauged by the portion of the populace who are concerned enough to take a moral stand for the oppressed
And now, with ramifications of troubling developments in the land of the free and home of the brave, we justifiably fear how much worse it could possibly get. Am I too coloured? Is it safe to put on my hijab? Are Hindus, too, outcasts now?
We are to inevitably ask these questions, as we may apply for visas to the US. And in an attempt to self-bolster our mood, we may think it’s not all that bad as we sigh in relief that our country is not on the list and remember the concerned American citizens of all race and religion who took it to the street to protest.
We are to find even further self-assurance that the American justice system has thrice ruled out the ban as unconstitutional and had put it to a halt effectively (and then proceeded to draft another executive order of equal heinousness).
Yet, only a few would take time here to introspect, even when they are hurling criticism at Trump’s way: Is there much interfaith unity here in our own soil? Do recall that some trolls put a particularly provocative picture which is derogatory to the sacred Kaaba and Islam on social media. Some thugs responded with bashing idols at Hindu temples. Unity, much?
And, in the aftermath, did the more mature and intelligent members of the aggravated parties here hold demonstrations to condemn such acts and facilitate interfaith harmony? Was an apology forthcoming over the circulated picture, or any fund-raising attempts held to pay off the damage done? So, even as we praise Muslim-Americans uniting to raise money to repair vandalised Jewish cemetery, we fail to learn the right lessons.
I am to hand the moral superiority to the Americans here. For ethical enlightenment cannot be measured by government action, which, when too intoxicated with power, seldom practices any refrain.
Rather, it is gauged by the portion of the populace who are concerned enough to take a moral stand for the oppressed, the misunderstood, the outcast, the disenfranchised.
So, in these troubled times, as we watch the evening news, seethe in outrage over the racial profiling of our brothers in faith, fear the possible victimising of our compatriots, and cringe at the harrowing accounts of minorities falling victim to senseless hate crimes in the US, let us reflect on the bigotry and intolerance occurring on our own soil.
And as we rightfully sympathise with people who are being misrepresented in the US and elsewhere for the passports they are bearing, let us not turn a blind eye to the struggles of minorities on the very land these people are from.
Better yet, let us take a stand against them. In whatever capacity we have, through whichever means we can.
Syed Raiyan Nuri Reza is a freelance contributor writing from Tehran.