Society has periodically withdrawn away from or towards morals, values, and ultimately humanity. Progressively, as we become a more technologically advanced and perfectionist society, are we forgetting our roles as human beings? Plastic surgery, tabloid subscriptions, and cosmetic lines advertise their products on a daily basis and we, as consumers, actively participate in this type of brainwashing. In doing so, we must ask ourselves whether such an exposure from the media has made us so caught up in our own selves that we’ve in turn forgotten who we are as a collective group. Individualism is a very common aspect of American culture. However, this individualism is quickly taken a turn for complacency. As the largest humanitarian crisis hit Pakistan late July, many Americans turned a blind eye to the situation. This crisis went ignored due to rising anti-Islamic sentiment, lack of trust in government agencies, and economic tough times.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, American Muslims have often been misunderstood and ostracized. Taking into account the actions of a few extremist Muslims, a war on terror ensued, resulting in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Soon after, airport regulations were increased tenfold, especially for those citizens travelling to the Middle East or South Asian countries. In more recent news, a New York taxi cab driver was stabbed after being asked if he was Muslim. Following the “Draw Mohammed Day” came the controversy over “Burn a Koran Day”, both days ignited by hateful groups on the popular networking site, Facebook. The recent events taking place around the country signify the increased intolerance towards Muslims. A poll conducted on August 29 by the San Diego, California 760 KFMB AM talk radio station indicated that 70% were in favor of forced registration of American Muslims in a national database. Another poll conducted by MSNBC indicated that more than fifty percent of Republicans hold a negative attitude towards Islam. Regardless of the negative opinions spread against Muslims in our society, we must differentiate between a religion and humanity as a whole. According to the United Nations, 20 million people were affected by the flood rains that began on July 26, 2010 in Pakistan. The lack of response by Americans was due to the growing biased against Muslims. Pakistanis, although alienated, are still human beings. Is it just to judge a whole community based on the actions of a few individuals? It is as if accounting the KKK for embodying the ideals of every Christian. Is it possible to justify how this catastrophe remained ignored on the grounds of religious discrimination? It is important to educate ourselves, regardless of what the media promotes or infiltrates in us. Hate for another is a stab at humanity. Socially, we believe in similar ideologies; only our cultures differ. This difference should not be a dividing factor.
A lack of trust in government agencies also caused a decrease in aid response. Forums under news articles indicated as such. However, one must wonder where this lack of faith was when Haiti was struck with an earthquake. Some of the comments stated that they were not interested in donating to a “terrorist state” or that the people were worried their money would be used to “fund terrorism”. Logically speaking, when a fifth of a nation is underwater, this argument seems ignorant and less than well informed. The United Nations secretary, General Ban Ki Moon, stated that this was the worst national disaster he had ever seen. With 2,433 miles of highway and 3,508 miles of railway completely dismantled and 70% of the population not having the means or funds for food, this is an atrocious claim. This is a simple matter of sociology, Maslow’s hierarchy. If a person is not meeting the bare essentials, how can he possibly think of anything more? The population is becoming weaker, with millions having to drink polluted water. Malaria, dysentery, along with starvation is taking a toll on many lives. Thousands are dying with no aid and no sign of incoming aid. And with the infrastructure of the country completely damaged, there is no validity in the argument to say that the money is being donated to a terrorist state. However, it goes to show how comfortable we, as Americans, have become in our luxurious lifestyles. We simply find it hard to see beyond the bias we were brought up in. The media has alienated Muslims to the decree that they are no longer seen as human but only as “terrorists”. However, looking at the mortifying pictures of dying men and women, it is not possible to give such a label to an entire population. Thus, it is vital to understand matters on our own terms, rather than taking an ignorant pathway.
Lastly, the matter of the recession plays an important part in people’s inability to donate. Relief efforts were climactic for the Haiti earthquake, which shows why some may want to opt out on a second time. Considering all the negative energy associated with Pakistan it might not also seem like a “bad idea” for many. However, this was the largest natural catastrophe to have been noted, with more people displaced, starving and homeless. As a supreme power, we already have a lot more than most others could even dream of. Something as simple as clean water is unavailable for these flood victims. There are large convoys leaving different parts of the state regularly. The lack of funds is no reason not to contribute. Everyone can give something, whether it is water bottles, food, or even old clothes. Any and all types of donations are viable. It is easy for Americans to be caught up in our busy lives to not think about that old shirt that won’t be worn again. However, that very shirt could serve for someone in dire need. It is important to start thinking globally and more of a collective union rather than an individualistic person.
The crisis in Pakistan was ignored in large part due to complacency issues. People were largely ignorant, less informed, and took a bias perspective to the situation. Standing as an individual, it’s vital to think of a positive for the whole group. As a community, it is important for us to realize what truly matters to us. It is our responsibility as citizens to learn tolerance and respect for everyone. Whatever our race or religion may be, our species remains the same: human. We must continue to better the human race and help one another in times of need.
SANA FAROOQUEE is a third year Criminology, Law and Society major at the University of California, Irvine
Photo courtesy of Islamic Relief USA