What do you think of this statement: “Put the whites on this side; the blacks on that”?
It is crude and, we are sure you will agree, has no place in the 21st century. Yet all too many promote a by-product of this offensive sentiment.
When you see a black man on the street, what do you see? When you pass a young woman in a headscarf in a school or a hospital, what do you think?
Let us tell you what we see. We see a hard working man supporting his family. We see a confident woman determined to give back to her society as a teacher or as a doctor. We see potential and we see hope.
We the people often look to our global leaders for guidance and inspiration. Some global leaders have proven themselves a cut above the rest – promoting community cohesion and positive integration with passion and energy. But that number is few, too few.
We often seek from them the courage and leadership to confront hard truths and put unjust conventions to rest. Yet, we confess ourselves to be disappointed.
Disappointed because they have sowed the seeds of envy amongst our neighbour, and our brothers and sisters in humanity. Disappointed because dog whistle and hate politics still exists amongst the political class.
We are disappointed for without civil rights we are not civilised; without human rights we are not humane.
Our governments in the last century have scaled technological, scientific, military and economic advancements like at no other time in our history. We have done things our ancestors could not have imagined. Yet for all our advancements, we have lost our fundamental humanity. Under various regimes, we are no better than our predecessors. We see the human condition regressing rather than progressing.
In some of our countries, a black man may receive a longer prison sentence than his fair-skinned counterpart for the same crime. A patriotic people of one faith will be denied citizenship which their neighbour celebrates – after all, their religion is not in favour with the powers that be. A migrant from a distant country will be caged, treated with the contempt and suspicion normally reserved for rabid animals, whilst those seeking sanctuary are left to suffer and fester.
When will this cease? The time is now to call this out. To say that our world leaders do not speak for us – that their world is not our world.
Our world is one that affirms the dignity and equality of each and every human being.
Our world is one where we celebrate the plurality and diversity of our multi-cultural societies.
Our world is one where we guarantee the inalienable rights for every person.
Our world is one where no one group is ascribed less value because of their gender, religion, race, wealth, nationality or any other variable.
Our world is one where we all have the freedom of belief; where we all have the privilege of not worrying about discrimination and bigotry, where we all have the same access to opportunity and safety.
We find ourselves looking to a leader from another time. This leader is Hussain, the grandson of Muhammad, whose comrades were men and women, young and old, of all colours, of all classes. It was Hussain who preached a universal message of inclusion, and not discordant politics. It was Hussain who rose to confront a hateful demagogue. Hussain taught us that “those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves”.
So, dear world, as xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, class politics and prejudice rise, we implore you: take a stand. Let us create our world together; through grassroots activism and by affecting social change, through moving from apathy into action, by utilising the platforms that are available to us and by projecting our collective voices.
We can and will call out injustice where we see it. We can strive to enjoin that which is right, and build a world we are proud to call ours.
Concerned Citizens of the World