Have you ever had your home and all your worldly possessions swept away by a giant wall of water?
If you are able to read this right now, then probably not. But for a quirk of fate, this is exactly what could have happened to you. And this is just what’s happened to over 20 million people in Pakistan.
We are in the middle of one of the worst human tragedies ever – probably the greatest overnight displacement of human beings in our history.
Unless you have been avoiding all media for the last 2 weeks, you will know that there has been a major natural catastrophe in Pakistan, where millions of people have been affected by the worst flooding in almost a century.
Thousands have died and millions have lost everything they own.
As you see these images, you cannot fail to be moved by the plight of all these millions of people.
Most people are driven to do something to help.
My friend Abubakar Jamil who actually lives in Pakistan says:-
“Never for a single moment think, that you are helping some flood victims, living in a far away land, unknown to you.
Just know that you are helping yourself.
Because, in the final analysis, we are all connected to each other, we are all one.”
Yet for me what has been surprising and disturbing is the apparently muted response from countries around the world.
Though aid agencies and charities have been pleading for urgent help, the response has not been as generous and rapid as has been in previous natural disasters such as the Tsunami in December 2004.
Now I am wondering why this could be – maybe the economic times but surely not compassion fatigue?
Or could there be a deeper, more sinister reason? Is it because of where this disaster has happened?
I am sure the world wants to help – but the situations needs much more urgency as so many lives and livelihoods are at risk.
This also reminds me of just how much “islamophia” in the world today. It is unbelievable – it’s almost as if some people just need to find a group or someone to blame for all the challenges we face today.
Right now, there is a very heated debate going on in the USA over the sitting of a proposed Islamic community centre and mosque near ground zero.
Even President Obama has had to state his position. As he said, Muslims “have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country”.
Of course, this would not have been a controversy if it was a proposal to build a synagogue or a church.
What’s being forgotten is that the people behind the proposal have as much to do with the 9/11 bombers as you and I. Zilch. Nothing.
This Islamic centre could actually be a perfect way of uniting people and spreading more awareness of just what Islam stands for.
Maybe it just boils down to this – the perception of all Muslims as gun-toting terrorists. And yet the truth is so much further from this.
Like all decent people around the world, all Muslims don’t condone the terrorism as carried out by those few extreme, supposed believers of their faith.
At the same time, we also have such extremists in all ethnic and religious groups. You just have to remember what’s happened over two decades in the name of ethnic cleansing in places like Serbia, Sudan and Rwanda to name just a few.
There are atrocities happening everywhere, with the perpetrators never brought to justice. Closer to my own ancestral home, India, over eight years after hundreds of Muslims were killed in Gujarat, not one person has yet been brought to justice.
What is your perception of a Muslim? Do you think that all Muslims are gun wielding terrorists?
If so, then I invite you to revisit your viewpoint right now.
My understanding of a Muslim is someone who follows the Islamic faith. Simple, nothing more, nothing less.
And we can also have white, brown, black Muslims – it has nothing to do with one’s skin colour. It’s just what a person’s faith is and what they believe in.
I have many Muslim friends – and unless you knew about their religious beliefs, you would not notice anything different about them – they are just like you and me.
Do you hold stereotype viewpoints of other people too?
So look at yourself and see how you judge and condone people based on their other characteristics.
For example, do you dislike people with red hair? Or can you even trust short people? I may not have red hair (yet) but I am certainly short – can you still trust me?
You get my point – people are people – regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, country of birth. They have the same hopes and dreams – and they face the same challenges as you and me.
If you want to learn more about someone’s faith, talk to them and have a discussion. Get to know them and you will find that they are just as ordinary and extraordinary, as you and me.
People who follow the Islamic faith are the same too.
And yes, they too love their children just as much as you do.
So we are the same really.
I would like to leave the final words to my friend Abubakar Jamil:-
“In the final analysis, we are all connected to each other, we are all one.”
You make good points. In the US I think there are three problems with getting this message out…that Pakistan is desperate for help.
The first is the media. The media totally controls what we hear and therefore what we know about that we can react to. The media isn’t covering it. I am reading it on Twitter and some blogs but not MSM.
Pakistan government gets a lot of bad press here because our government gives them a lot of money to fight Al Queda/Taliban and the media repeats the message that we are not getting anything for that money…at a time when our government is broke and over spending even though the citizenry is telling them to stop.
And this is probably the most controversial bit. The mosque at Ground Zero in NYC. This is giving all Muslims a bad rap in this country right now. It is a very emotional issue. Americans are very fickle and easy persuaded. The media message right now does not hold Muslims in a good light. No matter where someone is on the issue the fact is that MSM uses divisive words on this issue.
When money is tight and time is a shortage people become very selective about which causes they support. I believe that the mosque firestorm in this country is having an impact on giving and assistance.
MSM is not doing their job…but it’s been that way for a long time now.
Thanks Caileagh for your considered input.
It’s been clear for a long time home how the mainsteam media has been failing Americans. Here we have had extensive coverage on the BBC.
I have been reading some of the coverage of the non-mosque at not Ground Zero in NYC – and its been extreme and provoking to say the least.
I just hope that through all our blogs we can continue to put out a more hopeful and positive message.
As usual, you make a wonderful point in your post. Here in Australia we’re about to have a federal election, so that’s where the focus is. To find out about anything else I have been looking at the overseas media. At the same time, my son’s school (which is multicultural) has been selling cookies to raise money for Pakistan. It breaks my heart. I wonder how a few hundred children selling cookies can even scratch the surface, and I wonder how many bags of rice, tanks of fresh water, and tents could be bought with the money spent in the past week by the political parties in my country on advertising. I don’t even know where to begin.
Topi, thanks for sharing about your son’s school raising some money for Pakistan.
I am sure it will make a difference somehow, no matter how small. And just as importantly, your son and his friends are learning a key lesson about giving back and thinking of others in need.
And that’s a lesson the world needs more than ever before.
What a beautiful and compassion filled post. I feel great respect and gratitude to you for being the kind of person you are and I do not truly have the words to convey my feelings here.
THANK YOU my friend. This world needs more people like yourself, definitely.
Thank YOU Abubakar for all the work you are doing to help the people in your country.
I hope that my article will help to spread the word in a positive way and also raise some funds through your recommended organisation – AAJ Relief.
We are all in this together, my friend.
Natural disasters come and go but the real message that people like us must spread is what you said that, “We are all in this together…”
Only if more people start thinking this way, so much unnecessary pain in this world will not be there anymore.
Abubakar, let’s all begin to spread that message around the world:-
“We are all in this together”
No doubt you are correct that there are multiple reasons why the world is not rallying as it should. I am really thinking about your phrase, “Compassion fatigue” and wonder, can that be true? Here in the U.S. I know the economy has hit hard and the increasing number of people in distress is disheartening. I think about just my own response – awhile ago I did perhaps give more but with the number of people asking for help multiplying perhaps it’s a defense mechanism to stop “seeing.” As for the potential tie in to the ground zero situation, just sad sad sad. It seems that conscious or not, we have some deep rooted issues that are preventing the greatness of humans to rise to the surface.
Karen, you said it beautifully, we have some deep rooted issues that are preventing our greatness to rise to the surface – just at a time when we need it more than ever before.
And I am sure there is also a bit of compassion fatigue at play here.
I don’t watch much news (this post was the first I’d heard about the flood), but I just learned yesterday about the proposed mosque in NYC near Ground Zero.
I was frankly shocked- isn’t America a country that purports ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘equality’. Why would it even be an issue AT ALL that Muslim people want to construct a building of worship near Ground Zero?
I think Americans should say- please build your mosque ON Ground Zero, as a statement to the world that we’re not bigots, and that we recognize that Muslim DOES NOT equal terrorist. (Because that’s about the same as saying the I am a wacko because I’m Christian, and so was David Koresh).
Rachel, I am glad that you caught up with the news via my blog:-)
As you say, America is supposed to be a country that purports ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘equality’.
Why would it even be an issue AT ALL that Muslim people want to construct a building of worship near Ground Zero?
It would be wonderful if Americans could actually do what you suggest – invite muslims to build a mosque on Ground Zero, in recognition that Muslim does not equate to terrorism.
Many are apprehensive. It could probably be due to siphoning the funds for various illegal activities. In the past, there have been many instances where in the relief funds were used for various illegal training purposes or just to cause more havoc on the people.
Hopefully, the relief gets to the needy this time.
Mike, yes lets hope the relief gets to the needy on time.
What’s just as crucial is how the people are supported and assisted in the long term. The next few months are going to be vital for their well-being.
This is an important post on a critical issue, and you’ve made the case with logic and compassion. I’m not a Buddhist, but Buddhist meditation teachers have taught me that our idea of ourselves as separate is a delusion. What they are saying is that all life is fundamentally interconnected. I find that comforting and appealing, but it also confers profound responsibility to reach out with compassion when other beings respond are suffering. Thanks for writing about this.
Hi Eileen, I really appreciate your input especially since you live in NYC and you are aware of all the heated debate going on about the islamic centre. Thank you.
As you say, we are all one and the idea of being separate is a delusion. And with that comes responsibility to reach out with compassion and kindness in times of others’ suffering.
I just donated today, but I am glad to know of another agency which I will donate to. Thanks for the recommendation. I was unsure where to send money because I have seen several organizations, many of which I have never heard of. I want to make sure my donation actually goes to assist the victims.
I wish there was more we can do. Giving money doesn’t seem like enough with the scale of the situation.
I agree we are all one, no matter what religion, background, race, etc. I think on a larger scale, everything that is happening worldwide is showing us how fragile life really is. Many people, myself included, think this couldn’t happen here, but we have already seen what many months of the Gulf Oil Spill has done to people living in the Gulf area and the long term effect of oil and Corexit on our oceans and health of future generations. It literally feels like the earth is rebelling around the world….
Wendy, welcome to my blog. I am glad you now know of another viable agency to donate to.
I know that your donation will make a big difference and will go to assist the victims.
Apart from our money, we can send our positive intentions and also spread the word.
On a wider scale, we can also help by showing greater kindness to those around us in our immediate community. After all, as you say, we are all one.
And it does feel like the earth is rebelling all around the world – its really time for us all to take stock and revisit our priorities – and accept that in the scheme of things we are all indeed one.
I just looked at an article at the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. It will be two blocks away. There are some long blocks downtown, so two blocks could be more like 4.
This was in another article: “A group of progressive Muslim-Americans plans to build an Islamic community center two and a half blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan. They have had a mosque in the same neighborhood for many years. There’s another mosque two blocks away from the site. City officials support the project.”
This article doesn’t make it sound controversial and it sounds quite normal, which it is. I am sure other news stories have swung in another direction, but in reality this is only “controversial” because of its intended location. Nothing else. I wonder at what distance the mosque location become irrelevant? 10 blocks? 15 blocks? 20 blocks?
Wendy, it is all quite normal and not controversial at all.
Politicians with their own agendas have jumped on this and made it an issue. And as you say, there has been a mosque in the neighbourhood for years.
I have waited for this post from you and I knew you would not disappoint. As always Arvind, your personal radar will always find those in need of help.
They say a country is judged on “how it treats its old people and its poor”. Perhaps history will judge us “all”, on how we have responded to our human brothers and sisters in Pakistan, not so far away in this globalised world.
I think a lot of people would like to donate but are afraid to do so, as they are not sure the donation will translate to reach the flood victims. I feel there may be a “trust” issue.
At this scale of human misery, there exists a responsibility on the part of the Media to co-ordinate extensive footage of the flood victims and convey the misery and suffering for the Pakistani people who are becoming more desperate each day. They should also give clear direction to people to trusted Aid donation sites. This is already been done, but it needs to be increased.
I am printing these photographs to hang on my fridge door. They will serve as a reminder to my son and daughter on the privilege of food and clean water. I have no Swiss bank Accounts. This could be me. If the same flood happened in Ireland, I would have nothing. My elderly Mother always told us as children, when she would see a poor person begging, “There, but for the grace of God go I”. I cant imagine dragging my elderly mother and father through the water as I’ve seen. The Pakistani people are a dignified and hardworking people. They deserve our help. They have mine. I will donate today.
Fiona, thanks for your kind words.
Yes, perhaps in time to come we may look back with remorse how we have responded to our human brothers and sisters in Pakistan. And as you say, it’s not so far away in our globalised world.
There is clearly a trust issue but lets hope that most of the money is getting to where it’s needed.
On such occassions the media cannot do enough to get a true, accurate and unbiased report out there. They have the technology, contacts and access to the key areas – and with this comes great responsibility to portray a correct and unbiased picture. Sadly this is not often the case.
Finally, your children clearly have a great role model, in the same way your mother was and is a great role model for you. Let’s hope more children in the West learn just how privileged they are – and from that awareness may they too strive out to help others less fortunate than them.
I find it sad the stereotypes prevent us from helping the people who need the most help. I often say that you can’t put people in separate boxes and label them based on race, religion and stuff like that. Than again, this is what a lot of us do, even in the 21st century.
Eduard, you said it – we all stereotype others. I do it too all the time, but I am learning to become aware I am doing so.
The key in this situation is to know the dire impact when a lot of a people in a country have the distorted view that being a Muslim equates to being a terrorist.
Very poignant post, Arvind. I think compassion fatigue is likely the culprit. It is unfortunate that the media dictates our level of compassion — what power they have to impact lives. I shall donate today. And yes, we are all one. Thank you for writing from your heart about what matters most in the world.
Compassion fatigue is clearly an issue here as well as the country in question.
The media does dictate our level of compassion – and sadly its not always where its most needed.
We are all one:-)
Wow. I am one of those people who don’t watch the news because I find it very depressing, and I already struggle enough trying to keep my bipolar disorder in check. But I do have the headlines from the New York Times, NBC and CBS sent to my phone daily, and I am amazed that I had no clue that there was a catastrophic flood in Pakistan. (But I did get a message that a baseball player was going to be charged with perjury. Where are their priorities?!??)
I was so affected by the news that I could not immediately go on and read the rest of your post. I had to calm myself in prayer and meditation for the victims, their families, and the government of Pakistan. You are right: we here in America are spoiled, both by our lifetyles and that our catastrophies, such as hurricanes Katrina and Andrew, aren’t nearly on the scale as the catastrophies in Haiti and now Pakistan.
As for whether or not we Americans tend to see all Muslims as “gun toting terrorists,” I can only say that i do not, and I correct the wrong perceptions of the people around me. I have actively fought against stereotypes, labels and bigotry since I was in High School (a looong time ago). I’m afraid at this point the best we can all do is confront that ignorance when we’re exposed to it, including complaining to the media.
I will continue to pray for the people of Pakistan.
Welcome to my blog Annie.
As another reader above comments, the US is being let down by the mainstream media – as you say, where are their prirorities!?
Your prayers and your meditation session will somehow fulfill your intention of helping.
And also great that you are doing your best to correct the view of some Americans of Muslims as “gun toting terrorists.”
No matter what you do in confronting that ignorance when exposed to it, it will surely make a difference in the big scheme of things.
Thank you for writing so beautifully about this very serious, and sad topic. I am saddened by the objections to the Islamic Cultural Center near where the World Trade Towers used to be. I believe President Obama was right to speak out and state that we cannot exclude Muslims from the same rights afforded to all other religious groups in the USA. It’s a political ploy and manipulation by the politicians to create an emotional divide due to the upcoming elections in November.
As for the poor people of Pakistan and the near media black-out – I feel it’s due to the perception of the Pakistani government here in the US, the fear that the money will go to the terrorists rather than the flood victims, and the recent non-event of the Islamic Cultural Center in NYC being stoked into a huge firestorm for political gain.
We are all one – and the people who wall off others – will find themselves butting into wall after wall in their own lives. They will spend their lives objecting to this person and that group because that’s the reality they are creating. Ignorance is a cancer.
Thanks for your lovely feedback and input to the debate.
Having followed the debate remotely from London, it certainly seems that the objections to the Islamic Cultural Center are just a political ploy and manipulation by the politicians to create an emotional divide due to the upcoming elections in November.
Sadly this has so affected the real and urgent need for help in Pakistan.
We are all one – and hopefully over time, more and more people will come to realise and accept this.
As bloggers, we have the responsibility and a great opportunity to spread this awareness.
Thanks Angela for being one such blogger spreading goodness.
As always, you brought up great points in your post. I absolutely agree with everything you and your friend, Abubakar Jamil, wrote. The world is smaller than we think, we are all connected, and we all need each other. We are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our religion, race, ethnicity nationality, etc. We are all human beings who have the same hopes, dreams and wishes to be happy, healthy, safe, respected and treated fairly. And we all feel the same pain, sorrow, disappointment and despair. But a lot of people seem to forget these things or simply choose not to acknowledge them. If we all made an effort to look for what we have in common with others, rather than look for the differences, things would be so much better for all of us.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media hasn’t been covering this catastrophe in Pakistan, and many people out here (in the US) don’t even know about it. However, that wasn’t the case with the recent earthquake disaster in Haiti. They were talking about it everywhere, everyone knew about it, and everyone wanted to help. So what makes the situation in Pakistan any different? People are suffering and dying and their homes and everything they had got destroyed. So why aren’t they getting the help they desperately need as soon as possible? Like you, I wonder if it’s because they are Muslims.
This growing Islamophobia is very sad and creating some serious problems around the world, especially in the US. A lot of people are ignorant of what Islam is all about and want to punish all Muslims for the actions of a few idiots with extremist beliefs (as if those don’t exist in other religions). The mainstream media is portraying Muslims as some kind of evil, war-mongering people who are bent on destroying all non-Muslim nations.
This “uproar” over the mosque being built near ground zero (which by the way is more of a recreational center than a mosque…but some people out here are acting like it’s going to be some terrorist training facility); it’s ridiculous! This overwhelming disapproval clearly shows that many Americans associate Muslims & Islam with terror. And then we have ignorant, arrogant and racist people in high places (like Sarah Palin) who are making the situation worse and making comments that suggest that Muslims are to be feared and not trusted.
There is so much hate and anger brewing in this country (and all around the world). It’s really scary! I recently read an article online that mentioned how there are some churches around the country that plan to hold a burning of the Quran on September 11 this year. It just shows you how far we have come in the last 9 years since the tragedy of 911. Not far at all. May God help us all and protect us from all the evil and intolerant people in this world.
I’m praying for the people of Pakistan, and all the people suffering around the world. I hope they get all the help they need as fast as possible. I just visited Abubakar Jamil’s website and his articles and the pictures he posted of the victims of the flood brought tears to my eyes, and I really want to do all that I can to help. I just made a donation and I will keep spreading the word.Thank you for your inspiring and compassionate post, Arvind. Have a beautiful and blessed day! 🙂
Nasim, welcome to my blog and thanks for your deep and considered input.
It is good to hear from you, a muslim living in the USA.
As you say, the world is smaller than we think, we are all connected, and we all need each other -and we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our religion, race, ethnicity nationality, etc.
Thanks for confirming that the mainstream media hasn’t been covering this catastrophe in Pakistan, and many people out here (in the US) don’t even know about it. And this totally unlike when we had the recent earthquake disaster in Haiti.
Apart from Pakistan being a muslim nation, it could also be as its not on the doorstep of the USA. But that’s not excuse as Pakistan is a US ally and in this globalised world, distance shouldn’t come into it.
It’s so sad and disturbing how the mainstream media is portraying all Muslims as war-mongering people. What you have said about the state of affairs in the USA is rather frightening.
Nasim, all you can do is what you are already doing – taking a stand for goodness, spreading the word, making a donation, helping as you can and praying for those in need.
You’re most welcome, Arvind. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m proud of you! 🙂
Let’s keep hope alive!!
Thanks Nasim – it seems that we are creating here a community of like minded people around the world:-)
All of us love children regardless of what country we live in, or what religion we may follow or not, even if people who do not have children love kids.
I read news story on internet and read articles (both) written by Sunny (Abubakar), it is sad tragedy that happen to India’s neighbor and top to that hear and feel racism must be tough! I wish and pray for peace and happiness everywhere. I really do!
We all love our children regardless of our country, ethnicity and religion.
Continue to do your bit for in your own way and know that it does make a difference to the people affected by this sad tragedy.
I am touched, deeply touched.
Thank you Rakesh.
And great to see you again yesterday after such a long time.
Sorry to drop in late – but I wanted to say, thank you for writing this. I appreciate it immensely.
“..we also have such extremists in all ethnic and religious groups.” What happened in Ireland is an interesting example which I feel gets glossed over a lot these days. I feel as though people want to paint the ”terrorists” as people who are diametrically opposed to westerners – but look at what happened in Ireland! Incredible really! These people are found everywhere – it’s a mindset which can arise be found in any human given the right, unfortunate, circumstances, not just in a particular group.
Regarding our sameness, well, unfortunately, what seems to happen with those who fear/ hate Muslims is that when presented with this idea that we might actually be similar to them, that we might love of our children too….what happens next is the comeback. The comeback usually involves something along the lines of “but they don’t love our children” or quoting of the Quran out of context using one of the ”classic” violent passages. It’s difficult to know where to go from there but hopefully over time this will improve.
In the meantime I pray that the help which is so desperately needed by people in Pakistan is gained in speedy time. Once again, thank you for your post.
Majeeda, welcome to my blog and thanks for all your kind words. I am glad what I wrote so resonated with you, a person of Islamic faith.
Having lived in the UK most of my life, I have been aware of the Ireland situation and have closely followed the transition to what we have today. The very same “terrorists” are now part of the government and are seen as credible politicians and partners in the democratic process. Yet only a few years ago they were treated with disdain by the UK government and the media.
So yes, we indeed have “extremists” in all ethnic and religious groups. And so often in the Hindu v Muslim debate, the extremism amongst Hindus is glossed over. Even amongst so called broadminded Indian friends, I have a challenge to get them to see this.
From the many thousands of readers who have read my article above, I have had just one person who wrote to me directly stating their belief that she didn’t believe Muslims loved their children too. And of course this person is entitled to their opinion.
Thankfully it would seem that more and more people believe that we are all the same, regardless of our ethnicity and religion.
Thanks Rachel for sharing your thoughts about this “issue”.
As you said, are people really serious? Is this mosque thing actually an Issue?