Zaki Ahmad, UK
2020 did not start off very peacefully with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, when it seemed the USA and Iran moved closer to an all-out war. Then the world was introduced to coronavirus.
Like a pinball game, the virus found its way around our planet’s every country and nation. The “invisible enemy” did not see race, social status or religious ideology and infected anyone and everyone. The centre of the pandemic moved around different continents, first Asia, then Europe, followed by North America, and currently South America where in Brazil the infection has one of the fastest rate of spread. It seemed that nothing else has been happening geo-politically, socially or economically besides the pandemic for the better part of the year.
Then, on 25 May, George Floyd, a 46- year old African American in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a Northern US state, was murdered in cold-blood by a white police officer. Soon, things went south with protests spreading across nearly every US state and then spreading to European countries and elsewhere.
The National Guard were called in dozens of states and Mr Trump threatened military deployment against his own citizens – an order often reserved for foreign lands. At one point, Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, had to be escorted to an underground bunker whilst people gathered outside the White House to make their voices heard.
In his opinion piece for the New York Times, Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist summarises the emergent pandemic of racism in the following words:
“… the core story of US politics over the past four decades is that wealthy elites weaponised white racism to gain political power, which they used to pursue policies that enriched the already wealthy at workers’ expense”. (www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/opinion/trump-george-floyd-police-brutality.html)
We see a similar issue with Pakistan’s politics where the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been turned into a political weapon by the government or the opposition to shift public focus from their own shortcomings or controversies and never-ending scandals.
I remember one specific sentence from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’saa first Friday Sermon of 2020, where Huzooraa said:
“… as we enter the New Year, we congratulate one another, however clouds of darkness continue to gather ahead”. (Friday Sermon, 3 January 2020)
Since then, these “clouds of darkness” have been manifested by both man-made events as well as natural events (although it can be argued that natural calamities are ultimately due to our own action i.e. climate change).
The world is living through a pandemic, a once-in-a-century event, record level of locust invasions in East Africa and South Asia, civil unrest in America and Lebanon among other countries and not to mention the increased occurrence of extreme weather disasters.
Protests against police brutality are not an unfamiliar occurrence in recent American history, but this time, it seems different with no end in sight. On social media, white academics from prestigious white-dominated institutions openly support black people and their decades long struggle to seek justice which the US constitution entitles them to. Many white Americans are also joining the protests from small towns to metropolises.
Coupling the fact that 41 million Americans are without jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, George Floyd’s death likely acted as a trigger for social reform.
According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2020 report, there continues to be racial injustice in the US where imprisonment rate for black men is six times more than for white men. What is noteworthy is that the black community has long-experienced economic and political disparity which ultimately results in commitment of crimes.
Thus, this is not simply an issue of black people committing crimes, but as HRW explains, “rather than address problems of poverty – including homelessness, mental health, and gang involvement – with services, support, and economic development, many US jurisdictions simply add more police and effectively ‘criminalise’ poor communities, a vicious circle that fuels high rates of incarceration”.
In my view, a fundamental problem would remain, even if all the points highlighted by HRW were to be addressed by state and federal governments, and even if, as the protestors hope, Trump is voted out in November: the disease of police violence.
In a simplistic view, it is one human being inhumane to another human. It is no different to when a terrorist mercilessly kills civilians in God’s name or a police officer kills an unarmed individual in the name of protecting the law of the land. Murder of an innocent person represents the highest form of wickedness and injustice.
How rightfully has the Holy Quran described the person who has killed an innocent person “as if he had killed all mankind”. (Surah Al-Maidah, Ch.5: V.33)
I hope we, as individuals and as a society, find a clear path forward and that our conscience becomes as clear as the blue sky. Let it be plain and clear that neither I, nor anyone else is doing any favour on black people by writing, speaking or praying for them.
Here, I am reminded of a few lines from the movie Simple Justice (1993) which is based on Thurgood Marshall who successfully serves as the chief attorney for the plaintiffs in the Brown vs Board of Education, the name given to five separate cases that were heard by the US Supreme Court about segregation of black people in public schools.
After wining the case, Marshall receives a phone call from John W Davis, who argued the case for the State, to congratulate him and says, “You must be very grateful”. Marshall replies “I am very happy, but I am not thanking anybody. Nobody gave us anything today. What we got is ours by right. Simple justice”.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Al Hakam or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat)