Monday, May 27, 2024

Aamir, tell Kiran: Certainly Not US

A question to  film star Aamir Khan who recently shared his wife Kiran Rao’s concern if they should move out of India due to “intolerance” against Muslims. (Yeah, remember Shahrukh Khan too). 

How do you look at the “complete ban” call on Muslims’ visit to the United States by Donald Trump, leading Republican candidate for the presidency next year.

Don’t you think your “intolerance” bugle in India, at the prompting of a national English daily, sounds a little squeaky to your own ears.

Now that this public bout of racism and religious extremism has emerged from no less than god’s chosen land of morality, human rights and democracy?

Lest you dismiss Trump’s call as one of a joker, it’s worth reminding you that

(a) Trump has repeated his call for ban on all visiting Muslims;

(b) That he has made no exception of students, businessmen, patients artistes and entertainers like you;

(c) That a majority of Republicans support Trump on this matter and so do the primary voters; and

(d)  That such a call has actually helped Trump’s shot at presidency

Interestingly, in backing his call, Trump reminded American Broadcasting Company (ABC) that his views were mild compared to acts of revered president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) during World War II.

Before we take up the matter of FDR, readers ought to remember that United States has a long history of racism and intolerance. A few instances:

CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT became a federal law on May 6, 1882 after president Chester A. Arthur signed it. It prohibited immigration of Chinese labourers. The act was initially meant for 10 years. But it was renewed in 1892 and made permanent in 1902. It was only repealed on December 17, 1943.

THE IMMIGRATION ACT of 1924 completely banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians and severely restricted the one of Africans. The US Department of State recorded the purpose of the act as “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity.” Congressional opposition was minimal.

HIV-AIDS BAN which remained in effect for 22 years between 1987-2009. Even though public health officials were emphatic that there was no scientific or medical basis for the ban, US, that champion of civil and gay rights, was only one of a dozen countries to bar people with HIV. No major international conference of the AIDS epidemic has been held in the United States since 1990.

In the 19th century, the unsuspecting Americans were told of the “Yellow Peril” – Asians with “special powers” who were going to crush the white culture.

Now let’s put the searchlight on FDR whose conduct today is Trump’s testimony.

Franklin D. Rossevelt, during World War II, issued presidential proclamations that allowed officials to declare people of German, Italian and German ancestry to be “enemy aliens” who could be detained without a trial.

Even though there is no evidence of any Japanese-American ever committing a disloyal act during the War, FDR internally deported tens of thousands from the Pacific Coast to concentration camps. Many lost homes, business and lives. You won’t read it in today’s mass media. They don’t care. If the concentration camps are really a blot, FDR would rank alongside Nixon and George W. Bush as one of US’ worst and not one of its most feted leaders.

The United States has never admitted its guilt for these concentration camps for Japenese-Americans. Forty-three years after World War II, Congress did offer an apology and a token of $20,000 payments to each surviving members—after 40,000 of 120,000 prisoners had died. No-one was compensated for lost property. Not many Americans, I bet, know about it.

And what about Woodrow Wilson? That hero of  World War I and originator of League of Nations? He was an extreme racist. Wilson segregated multiple agencies of the federal government. The fact that workers shared towels, glasses and washrooms were suddenly a no-go. First Department of Treasury and then Post Office Department introduced a screened-off workspaces, separate lunchrooms and bathrooms. Black people, who couldn’t be set aside because of the nature of their works—were put in cages (yes, cages) to separate them from white companions. In one recorded case, a coloured clerk thus worked inside a cage for years.

Upon taking office, Wilson fired 15 out of 17 black supervisors in the federal service. Even though it was customary to appoint Black ambassadors to Haiti and Santa Domingo (now the Dominican Republic), Wilson didn’t do that either.

At the 1919 Versailles Convention, Wilson helped kill a proposal from Japan, calling for the treaty to recognize the principle of racial equality.  Wilson even defended Ku Klux Klan in his famous book “A History of the American People.”

Since past is never condemned, it keeps resurfacing with men like Trump who quote FDR to justify their stance. It allows a president to wage a war without its formal declaration as it happened in 1950 with Korea; and later in Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria. Tens of thousands of Muslims are held as Prisoners of Wars (POWs) without charges or access to an attorney at Gitmo.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims visit ostensibly is to prevent a terrorist attack on the soil of United States. But how would he know if a terrorist renounces his religion while applying for a visa? After all, some of 9/11 hijackers were clean-shaven who drank wine and hung out in topless bars.

Meanwhile, Islamophobia is on the rise in United States. In Philadelphia, a pig’s head was left at the entrance of a mosque. A San Bernardino now and Paris attacks earlier have raised the heat on Muslims. Some view anti-Muslim racism today in United States to be worse than in the aftermath of 9/11. 

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