by Syed Azfar Ali Rizvi
Among other things, I am a journalist. As someone trained to sift through information and data, I did what any other journalist would’ve done after today’s senseless carnage in Boston. I read how people were trying to draw parallels with the Oklahoma bombing and the 9/11 attacks. Sheer speculation.
We saw an immediate condemnation from all major Muslim organizations across North America. There is something to be said about the Muslim response this time, particularly if you’ve observed how polarized the society has been lately. Of course that does not stop officious cretins, albeit on smaller networks, who just couldn’t let go. Some larger networks couldn’t stay away as well; at one point CNN was talking to an ‘Iraqi war expert’ sifting through the rubble of yet warm bodies trying to hold on to straws. Where does the politicking stop?
Is the collective guilt factor really dragging the society these days? I will concede, it took me down real hard. I prayed and hoped this would not turn out to be some misguided fringe loner who was coaxed by the Saudi regime into collecting brownie points. And I admit the fringe is even less than 1%, our failure to involve this flake in a discourse has brought the 99% to its knees. The society has failed to embrace the reality, has failed to evolve into a critical-mass, has failed to be just. With itself and those around it. We continue to avoid conversations about identity, faith and justice. We let the 1% pull us in their puddle and beat us with experience. Justice, it seems, is not a diminishing commodity. It has already been lost to pundits, lobbyist, politicians and extremists.
But there is hope.
Every day, I meet souls who collectively talk about co-existence. And peace. More people of faith, willing nay wanting to talk about what plagues them and their people. And everyday I get more hopeful. I see more and more courage around me, everyday. This hope comes in all forms. Mothers. Fathers. Sons. Daughters. In schools, places of worships, homes and distant regions. Every protest, walk, tweet and Facebook post denouncing evil gives me hope. And this is how I continue to forge ahead. We are much more powerful than the 1%. We should not be scared to confront this evil, for there will come a time we will account for what we did. And didn’t do. Did we stand up for our fellow beings or not? No man is beyond the Great Design. I’d rather get my brownie points supporting humanity rather than eliminating it. I decided this a decade ago when I survived a cowardly attack on my being, and have since not looked back. In essence, I am a product of their hate about my way of life. Granted these are tough times, but then it wouldn’t be worth it. I feel the pain Bostonians are going through and I wish I was there to offer, if not much, a shoulder to lean on. Or my condolences to the mother of the youngest runner.
Will this piece be yet again another one for which I will be reviled not feted, I can’t say. I know this. I will continue to hold the maxims of love, co-existence and humanity higher than any other I have learned, on or off the field.
Mr President, you were also only partially right. Justice is a fairly elusive concept these days. Lets retrace and go back to the basics. I’d say whoever was behind this heinous act, should bear the full weight of ‘humanity’. Only then will there be a consensus. And one people. And then perhaps one fine day, we can talk about Justice.
About Writing for Peace Adviser, Syed Azfar Ali Rizvi
As a proponent of social justice, Azfar’s been a driving force behind interfaith, cross-cultural and pedagogic initiatives across three continents. He is a Toronto based documentary filmmaker, Photographer, an academic and a cross-platform communications strategist.
Originally from Karachi, Azfar experienced extremism in his early years after surviving violent ethnic cleansing first hand. The incidents shook him to the core and he started exploring reasons behind extremism through this writing; something that evolved from local dailies to covering systemic national issues for news and current affairs publications across Pakistan. Before transitioning into television news and documentaries, he took to presenting radio with the country’s first English radio network at the time.
He was a popular TV morning show anchor in 2005 when Pakistan experienced its worst earthquake in history. He was the first journalist to reach the most inaccessible regions and produced ‘Earthquake Diaries’, a documentary series in concert with UNDP, UNHCR and Pakistan’s security forces. He sent daily updates and live reports for the morning show and organized a massive Eid carnival for several hundred children in the survivor tent city near the epicenter, once the town of Balakot. The series shed light on the magnitude of destruction and helped in garnering international relief efforts. Upon his return, Rizvi advocated for a sustained rehabilitation effort and produced another documentary series ‘Hope Floats’ to this effect. He was both loved and hated for his work, his critics accusing him of cherry picking facts while his supporters lauded him for his role in raising funds of over 15 million. Learn more about Syed Azfar Ali Rizvi here.
Writing for Peace News:
We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.
DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal. We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.
In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.
All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by purchasing your copy today!
Young Writers Contest
Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries. We will announce the decisions of judges William Haywood Henderson (fiction), Phyllis Barber (nonfiction), and Michael J. Henry (poetry) on May 1st, 2013. Every participating young writer will receive a certificate of participation, which will be mailed this month. The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.
In Our Blog~
This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:
Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec
What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray
Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee
Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec
A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner
A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner
Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard
Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz
Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray
This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine
Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine
The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo
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