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Country of Immigrants, United States is a WORLD in itself
Monday, April 26, 2010 08:20:01 PM, Aleem Faizee, ummid.com
March 21, 2010 was the landmark day in the history of United States when more than 100,000 people converged at the ground in front of the Capitol Building to demand for Immigration Reforms.
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History has it that Christopher Columbus was navigating to India when he accidentally discovered America. Not aware that the land he is landing on accidentally would one day become the most sought after place for people from all across the world. Everyday, they would come to America – not by accident but by choice - and would pump in their bloods day in and day out - to make the land once devoid of life, the world power and epicentre of the world politics. Be it a Church or a Masjid, worship places for Jews or other religions, a workplace or an office, a school or a meeting ground, a street or a market, everywhere in the United States, people of varying colors, different ethnic identities, diverse religions and multi cultures would be seen integrated as if the entire world has converged to one place.
Today, the United States takes pride in terming itself as the Country of Immigrants. Proudly – and rightly - it demonstrates to the world how successfully the country has accommodated – rather integrated into one nation - people from all parts of the world and of different cultures. However, it is only after invaluable personal sacrifices from early migrants – and sometimes even by those who are migrating today - that the United States has been able to earn this status. Otherwise, it was never easy for the early migrants to earn a place for themselves among the white Americans. In fact their experiences are so bitter that today when the situation is claimed to be better than the one earlier, they fail to realise the change.
Speak to Shonee Henry – an early migrant from Philippine and it would be revealed to you how she was called the names just because she was an immigrant and her English language accent was hard on the ears of white Americans. Till she worked hard, promoted herself to the top position in the organisation where she was once humiliated, and then attained a high profile job to become the Commissioner at the Department of Human Relations at San Diego in California.
"I was called the names merely because I was an immigrant and my English language accent was hard on the ears of white Americans."
You speak to Omar Ansari, who migrated to the United States in 1962 from Malegaon and became an example for others in the Muslim majority town in North Maharashtra in India and it would be revealed to you how he faced hostilities from his neighbours when he purchased a house in a locality in New York and decided to settle there. Things changed for him only when he demonstrated remarkable restraint, and after he behaved with them in a manner his religion has advised him to.
Despite the bitter experiences, however, going back to their native countries has been the agenda of neither Omar Anari nor Shonee Henry. Ask them, if they ever intended to go back and they will reply with a big NO. Omar Ansari sounds more adamant. “I am a better American”, he says. Ask him to reason and he would say, “Because, I am an American by choice, not by compulsion or birth.”
The Afro-Americans, however, are not as lucky as the Asians. The United States has elected a black President – something really remarkable, encouraging and a matter of pride for the community. But the year-old stereotype against the Afro-Americans ceases to die even today. Yes, the days of ‘Dogs and Blacks are not allowed’ are nowhere to be seen in the United States. But, the Afro-Americans face prejudice and hostility in the American society even today, is a fact. It was really painful to learn about the conversation between an Afro-American and a white American. The Afro-American while talking to the fellow American was wondering over the way he is frequented by people asking him if he could provide drugs. And sometimes, people coming to him and asking if he needed weapons. He was at pains to describe why he has to face such a fate when same is not the case with other people.
Dr. Farid Zahic
"After migrating to the United States, I not only earned my livelihood but also the honor and dignity."
Contrary to this, there are also the people like Dr. Farid Zahic - a Respiratory Therapist, who migrated from Bosnia and settled in Utica in the New York state. There was a time in Bosnia, he reveals, when he was beaten and subjected to humiliation merely because of his ‘Muslim name’ and ‘Muslim Identity’. The United States, however, not only provided him with the shelter and means of living, but also the honor and dignity. Today, while peacefully working for his family, Farid Zahic has also been instrumental in building a beautiful mosque for the Muslim community in Utica.
Likewise are the Japanese. Due to the infamous – rather inhuman – bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – they were not comfortable with the United States for quite a long time. But today, even they – like Sister Hayashi - are migrating to the United States in large numbers and forgetting their past, take pride in calling themselves as Americans of Japanese origin.
The stories go on and on, and with them come to the fore the fact that despite the odds the United States has been very generous in accommodating the immigrants. Unlike other countries, it has the tendency to integrate people into one nation. It provides them the liberty and individual freedom, and freedom for religious practice. Not only commoners but the Imams whom we met admitted – openly and without any fear and pressure - that the freedom of religious practice that exists in the United States is seldom seen in other parts of the world. Obviously, this is why the United States remains the most favourite destination for them.
"I faced hostilities from my neighbours when I purchased a house in a locality in New York and decided to settle there. Things changed only after I behaved with them in a manner my religion has advised me to."
Nevertheless, the privileges that the United States provide to the immigrants are not unreturned. It is the immigrants who are the major workforce in the country and in return to what the United States has given to them, they work very hard to keep the country going and remain the world power. Hence, when the United States takes pride in terming itself as the Country of Immigrants – it admits that what it is today is because of the immigrants. Yet, the general perception among the immigrants is that the United States is not doing enough to realise their contributions. This is why on March 21, 2010, we saw in front of the Capitol Building in Washington DC more than 100,000 people demanding for the Immigration Reforms. Among them were the people from different origins. Among them were the people from various ethnic groups. Among them were the people of varying colors. Among them were the people of diverse religions. Among them were the people of different cultures. They were all shouting slogans, quite sure and confident that their demands would be met one day or the other.
Away from the crowd and standing near the memorial built to commemorate James Smithson – one of the philanthropists instrumental in building the United States – I was wondering, how and when I would be given my dues. I was thinking, after how much more bloodshed that the people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for that matter in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya would be able to live in peace. I was thinking of the rights of the people in Russia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Dagestan, Philippine and those ‘struggling to live’ in other parts of the world. It was then that I saw a four-year old child holding a placard that said, 'Standing on the side of LOVE'. The placard reminded me the power of LOVE. The next moment my hope for a peaceful and just world was revived ....
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