We weep but never fear – Paris

Recently the new Canadian Liberal government had announced the plan of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees. On Saturday, the Prime Minister’s office vowed that despite the attacks on Friday night in Paris, the government still has full intentions in keeping its promise of resettling Syrian refugees. In addition, the Prime Minister’s office reassured Canadians that the refugees coming into Canada will be selected in a safe and responsible method to deal with any potential security threats.

Friday nights attack on Paris has everyone on edge, and this has created a backlash against many of the soon to be Syrian refugees coming into Canada. Many of the concerns regarding the Syrian refugees that have been ‘heightened’ surround issues of security and financials. However, we as a community and citizens of Canada must not fall into the trap of fear mongering nor give into these terrorists. This is our country and we should not dictate our beliefs and morality on the grounds of fear.

In the wise words of Nelson Mandela “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We must remind of ourselves, what happened in Paris is an everyday situation for these Syrian refugees and many others around the world. Just last week alone, ISIS attacked many parts around the world, including Paris. In Lebanon, Beirut 43 Shia Muslims were killed in an ISIS attack. On Wednesday, a nine year old Persian-speaking Shia girl was beheaded by ISIS militants in Kabul, Afghanistan.

There are many people around the world who have the same fears as the West had on Friday night. The Syrian refugees are trying to survive, and if we close our borders to them we lose humanity, and we lose to ISIS. More specifically, accepting Syrian refugees does not mean increased expectancy of potential terrorists attacks. If we compare France and Germany’s Syrian refugee policies, we will see there is no correlation to Syrian refugees with in-country terrorism. France has a fairly closed door policy to Syrian refugees, with an acceptance of approximately 500 Syrian refugees. On the other hand, Germany has had a very open door policy, with an intake of approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees and has had no attacks. Accepting these refugees is not the issue. This is a political power play by all those in the game, and Canada is not in that game.

I understand that it is difficult to not be in fear, as I had three friends who were in Paris on Friday (all of whom are fine), the Paris attacks were a reminder of 9-11 and hit a little too close to home for many Westerners. I’m currently living in London U.K. and since Friday there has been heightened security. I noticed as I was walking around the busy Waterloo tube station lots of MI5 and police presence, which definitely added to my fear. One cannot help be suspicious of everyone around them, and feel at unease. In fact I was even debating if I wanted to take the tube at all. But then I realized I would be giving into ISIS and there is no way I was willing to live in fear. So I put on my trainers and hustled to the station. Since Friday I also have had a few conversations with different people, regarding the Paris attacks, including a gentleman from Syria (my uber taxi driver) last night. I hesitantly brought up Paris, and he said he was glad I brought it up. As a British citizen from Syria, he said every ounce of him despised ISIS and wished he could do something to “wipe them out.” In addition, he stated that the despicable behavior of ISIS was affecting his life in the U.K. He had come to the U.K. when he was 13 years old, he was an engineer by trade and that being a Muslim presently was not easy. He was afraid that after the attacks in Paris many Muslims will now be ostracized even more so than before. Our conversation carried on to the lack of integration of some minorities in the U.K. Which he argued stemmed partially from the lack of “acceptance.” He gave the Syrian refugees as an example and asked “what can we do?” and “Where should we go?” By the end of the forty minute taxi ride, I thanked him for the conversation and the drive home. As I stepped out of the taxi I turned to him and said “All you can do is keeping talking, don’t seclude yourself. Let the people know that you too are scared. They will come around.”

My point is ISIS makes up an extremely small fraction of the Islamic population; we need to not paint all followers of Islam with the same brush. We need to believe in humanity, and above all else we need to unify as one global community. We need to set aside religious beliefs, and come together as humans of one race. ISIS is not an Islamic religious organization as they claim, they are political terrorist and they do not have the right to dictate our morality.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

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Will the Sikh community ever receive closure for the 1984 Sikh massacre in India?

Today, June 1st, 2017 marks the 33 year anniversary of operation bluestar, which led to the attempted genocide of the Sikh people of India.

Over a three day period, October 31 – November 3 1984, approximately 3000 Sikhs were brutally murdered, Sikh women and girls were raped and the homes and businesses of the Sikh community were burned down in India. Yet, the Indian government to date still fails to acknowledge and pursue justice for the victims of the massacre. According to Graff & Galonnier, the massacre followed after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by her two Sikh bodyguards. On the other hand, according to Singh (2009) the Delhi massacre was caused by Operation Bluestar that took place five months before the killing of the PM Gandhi. Operation Bluestar was comprised of the Indian army attacking the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar Punjab. The attack consisted of over 150,000 Indian army soldiers being sent to find a single man that was hiding within the confines of the Sikh Temple. Suggesting, Operation Bluestar was not about this lone man, but an attempt to terminate the sanctuary of the Sikh community.

What is interesting to note is the silence behind this massacre is not something new for the state of India. Rajeshwari (2004) lists over 100 communal ‘riots’ from 1947 to 2003, with deaths reaching far above 10,000 in addition to over thousands of gender-based violence victims. Scholars such as Butalia (2000) and others believe the violence that had arisen during the partition of India has manifested itself within other communal ‘riots’ in Indian history. D’Costa (2011) argues the partition of India, created the initial base of trauma in India. This trauma has led to the reconstruction of Indian identity that has played a pivotal role in the communal violence that exists today. The unanswered communal tension from partition has developed a profound infused anger within the Indian identity. Yet, silence is how the government of India chooses to deal with these communal ‘riots.’ In many of these massacres the government authorities, were culpable in either participating themselves, or turning a blind eye or minimizing the massacres to mere communal ‘riots.’

On a larger-scale breaking the silence behind the Sikh massacre of 1984, and the others will give the nation and its citizens’ closure from the trauma of war and rape. In turn, may assist in re-constructing the divide between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities. The attacks against the Sikhs in 1984, the Muslims in Bihar 1989, later the Ayodhya riots and the attacks against the Muslims in Gujarat in 2001 and so on indicates that partition, most certainly is not over.

However, is it really an issue between religious ideologies? Our worlds are socially constructed through the discourse of our state, community and family. Thus, when particular groups are marginalized within society and their voices are silenced, this changes the collective history. D’Costa (2011) argues failing to acknowledge historical injustices, such as the 1984 Sikh massacre or other communal violence, results in the silencing of its citizens. Thus, by neglecting to recognise the broader effects of muting certain citizens of a state, have detrimental effects on nation building.

In short, communalism is not a product of religion but is a by-product of politics. Through political exploitation, religion [as religion has a powerful emotional appeal] is used to incite violence and marginalize certain groups within society. Thus, communal ‘riots’ are not about Hindu, Sikh and Muslims learning to co-exist, but are about power and domination. This is about acknowledging the current and historical injustices people have faced based on their religion, ethnicity, gender, caste, and class or combination of them all.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny