On one of my last days in the USA, I had an interesting conversation with an American officer keen to know about Karma Nirvana’s police training, and I was enthusiastic to share. However before we got going the officer asked me to consider how the USA is very different. So I asked her to explain.
“Jasvinder we have to be politically correct here and we must not be accused of bashing Muslims.”
Yep, her words not mine, and sadly they no longer shock me. I shared our experiences of the UK with pride as this journey continues to reinforce how the UK has come along way, and I know America is at the beginning of a journey.
The US police force will now have to decide if they really wish to tackle these heinous abuses more than they are afraid of them. Well I spoke our truths and offered solutions based on our work but who knows if we will hear back from them. I sincerely hope for US victims sake that we do.
Next stop Capitol Hill the heart of power in Washington and the last conversation is growing in my mind like an annoying song with repeated lyrics that you just cannot shake!
However my campaigning spirit has taught me well that change takes time, even when I feel the impatience I’m ever the optimist and stand a little taller for the next opportunity. This takes us to a meeting with a senator and upon arriving we are told he is busy but we will be meeting members of his team. My aim has always been to talk to the head not the tail. No disrespect but after the last conversation I really wished to have an audience with the senator.
So we meet what I am sure is the equivalent of a civil servant and I note she is also from a South Asian background and this could go either way, meaning for the issues, defensive or denial. Sadly I have not seen real leadership from within communities even though it remains significant to greater change.
However she is a professional and we talk about New Jersey an area she tells us that has the most significant minority groups, especially Pakistani and Indian and so my eyes light up! An area of significant groups? More of a reason to raise consciousness there, so I voice this and my enthusiasm is evident. Then in one fail swoop she pours water on my fire and there it is again the distorted truths and denials….
“We have to be careful not to offend people, religion and so we will have to consider this.”
I want to scream – no really I want to scream! All rationale has gone out the window and what makes it worse is that she is from that community! My colleagues are calm and now I have switched off. I can see and feel her writing notes and think about how she will report this back to the head.
I recall an officer who investigated a dishonorable UK killing saying ‘how is it that so many talk on this subject, but do not mention the R-word (race) and its central relevance to the honor abuse issue.’ It’s a bit like talking about cancer and avoiding talking about smoking. Is it moral cowardice? I don’t know, but we cannot cure the disease if we don’t talk about the cause. It is a fact that the communities afflicted by honor crimes exist within a religious culture but the religion does NOT support these abuses. If the leaders and communities are not going to say this then we need to speak out louder and get this message to victims and professionals.
I feel moved to anger and maybe that is what we all need to feel in order to act, but I remain open and calm myself down ready for the screening of Honor Diaries on Capitol Hill. This was kindly hosted by Concerned Women for America and regardless of what people tell me about their politics, they have been bothered enough to host us and I am deeply touched as we need all the support we can get.
Thought for today:
I remain open and optimistic but, If you keep doing what you keep doing then you are surely going to keep getting the same outcome- JS
A man’s true wealth is the good he does in the world – Mohammed