They inspire us by speaking up
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people,” said Martin Luther King.
Truth today is defined not by what truth is, but how power determines it. Power today is not what people guarantee to some institution in exchange of promised delivery, but what the institution defines for itself.
In such a world, truth finds its place in the alleys only, not in the open courtyard. One who dares to fight for truth knows that this comes at a price. The Mohammed Bouazizis or Jamal Khashoggis are in sharp decline.
In this drought of truth-seekers, there are bold women around the world who unveil the world and raise a finger against those in power. They show us how to be fearless.
Ilhan Omar, the Somali-born first ever Muslim senator in America challenges the status quo. Why does a Muslim legislator have to answer for Hamas or al-Qaeda? Why does she have to be branded as anti-Semitic if she criticizes Israel? Ilhan Omar refutes stereotypes and reigns in those in power with her articulate and candid opinions.
Mohua Maitra of TMC in India, in her maiden parliamentary speech, stunned the global audience by raising fingers at the decline of the democratic system. Despite unprecedented clamour of opposition in the parliament, she pointed out how continuing nationalism is putting the national fabric in danger, causing a veritable rift in Indian unity.
She highlighted the increase in hate crimes through lynching of citizens in broad daylight, extreme subjugation and controlling of mass media to spread untruth, interlocking of religion and government to spawn extremism, and the complete disdain for intellectuals to suppress dissent.
The queen of Bollywood Kangana Ranaut was the first ever actress in India who didn’t take to self-censorship, and spoke against the unfair practises of Bollywood. Yet, she has survived with three national awards and constant success at the box office.
The inability of production houses to allow space for capable newcomers in the industry, rampant nepotism, reign of the movie mafia, etc have been boldly spoken about by Kangana to the media without fear. All attempts to mock or denigrate her failed due to her persistent courage despite the fear of losing her position in the industry.
Then, there was Priya Saha, who reached out to Donald Trump and sought protection for minority communities. Country-wide debate and hatred and a refusal of her statement by her own organization didn’t discourage her.
The purpose of projecting these few women is neither to subscribe to their views nor reject them, but to focus on why they have drawn so much attention.
Valour, which used to be adorned by only men, is now the label of women. The veil that embellished women is now with men. Martin Luther King, Jr may have failed to imagine that it would be women who would not stay silent in the face of oppression.
Brigadier General (Retd) AF Jaglul Ahmed is a freelance contributor.