By Mujeeb Jaihoon
London, Feb 11 2017: There is fun in treading a planned path. A well-planned trip is half the journey. After all, the last thing the modern man wants to do is to spend considerable cognitive energy on a non-entertaining subject. He is promptly ready to pay any numeric bills, walk as many miles, talk as many hours, but shy away from thinking.
Maps, notes, facts, thus become handy when stepping on a foreign soil. Bus and train numbers, distance calculations, and weather information help make the journey fruitful.
However, there are times when destiny diverts us to unplanned territories with unimagined thoughts. Planned routes inform, I already knew. However, unplanned ones inspire and illuminate, I had realized that day.
The Bloodbath of British Raj
As part of my medieval world culture tour, I arrived in London. No Indian can be free from the cruel and colonial memories of the ‘British Raj’. School history textbooks are filled with the demonic atrocities of the White Man, their generals and governors, king and queen, princes and barons, evoking cinematic emotions of fear and abhorrence.
As I swiftly solo-walked through the forest of map-marked London’s historic, yet lifeless, landmarks, something distracted me to jump the marked coordinates on my mobile phone. Just as we always fail to recall the beginning of a dream and remember only the latter part, something similar happens when we get distracted. We only realize the diversion from our awareness after we are diverted, i.e. not during the process.
Insane Mothers. Wrinkled Grandmothers
The distraction led me to walk to the Whitehall locality, where gigantic government buildings gloriously stood with amazing architectural aura. A large number of people gathered under a historic statue, which read Bernard Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. The crowd included men, women, and even infants. It was snowing which explains the freezing cold. No sane mother would bring her infant out in this extreme weather, unless it was a life and death matter. There was nothing to enjoy in the one-degree cold for the old women with wrinkled faces and fading voices. I could not take my hands out of my woolen jacket and these protesters were openly holding placards for some time. It was either insanity at work or their lives were brutally at stake.
Unlearn before Learn
The cold continued its chilling offensive even as I walked a step closer, pushing my way to the center of the gathering. What I learned from there shattered all my calculations and forced me to unlearn some past facts and learn new ones, instead.
Lesson one: They had not assembled there to protest the violation of their immediate rights.
Lesson two: The subject of their protest was not even remotely connected with their way of life, neither geographically nor ideologically.
For Refugees. By Refugees.
Organized by Safe Passage UK, the protest was apparently organized to express their disapproval of the closure of Dubs scheme, created in 2016, for transfer and rescue of refugee children, which is said to have facilitated rehabilitation of 3000 unaccompanied children in different parts of Europe. It is noteworthy to know that Lord Dubs, the man behind the benevolent legislation, was himself a child refugee during the Nazi days.
Geographical Proximity. Ideological Responsibility.
The assembly of protesters had members of all ages, possibly ranging from age 0 to 70. Mothers held their infants, despite the single degree temperature. They had gathered to express their solidarity for the desperate refugee children suffering in camps across Europe. This was certainly an impossible sight to witness in the Asian and Arab countries, who had more geographical and ideological proximity (read, responsibility) to the victims than this European community.
‘Have you no Shame?’
Embarrassed at my inhumanity, I looked up one of the placards. “This is about the Children. Have you no shame?” read one of them. Although it addressed the decision of the present British government, I guess it was more suited to those regions and regimes blind to this modern human tragedy.
The Problem with Muslim Eschatological Preachers
Another heart-stirring truth is the eagerness and steadfastness of the Jewish community in their unwavering solidarity for the suffering refugee children, mostly belonging to the Muslim faith. Jews were subject to inhuman Holocaust and have first-hand experience of the physical and psychological pain of refugee life. Many of them reached the British soil, fearing for their lives at the hands of Nazi demons. Therefore, the media in the Islamic world must refrain from a herd mentality and give up propagation of animosity between the two communities. The Muslims, who cry to distance their faith from the extremist elements within the community, should also make a distinction between Judaism and Zionism. Muslim preachers should be cautious in their eschatological lectures not to address all Jews as allies and harbingers of the Accursed Dajjal (Anti-Christ) in the apocalyptic days.
I also came across several social media hashtags pertaining to this protest event, including #Refugeeswelcome, #JewsforRefugees, #ResistTrump. But no hashtag will be equal to this selfless gathering in the extreme winter.
Artists against Racism
The pro-children refugee movement did not end with street protests and online campaigns. While the film award nights are usually spoiled by glitz and glamour of stars, the BAFTA night (held the next day) witnessed a prominent television director terming the UK government decision as ‘brutal’.
Stand up to the ‘Petulant Child’
The pro-refugee event did not forget to display their scathing opposition to Trump’s racist remarks and raids. In the preceding week, there was a mammoth 40,000-strong march against Trump’s proposed UK visit. There were no second thoughts in their minds when it came to ‘Stand up to Trump’. The fire was spreading beyond London to other cities including Manchster, Leeds, and Birmingham. British MPs termed Trump a ‘petulant child’, while Sadiq Khan, the beloved London Mayor, called for the American President’s invitation to be withdrawn.
London, the Queen. Londoners’ humanity her Crown.
The warmth of humanity emanating from the hearts of protesters there made me forget the ferocious cold. To a local media-person who came to report the event, I could not but share my enthusiasm, “The beauty of London is not merely in the amazing monuments and landmarks of the London Bridge, Big Ben, Birmingham Palace or Windsor Castle, but in the hearts of these heroic human rights champions, who came out in this cold in support of the frozen, foreign, and forsaken refugee children.”
Mujeeb Jaihoon is a UAE-based writer, orator and wanderer of Indian origin. His published books include The Cool Breeze From Hind, a spiritual travelogue across Muslim Kerala, and Mission Nizamuddin, acclaimed as world’s first Twitter-based micro travelogue across North India. He has journeyed to remote areas of Western China, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine, besides the Arabian Gulf countries. His blog could be reached on http://www.jaihoon.com.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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