Laying out the Bare Bones of Genocide

1054 words | 4 page(s)

I moved from the Middle East to Canada in 2009. I had lived in the Middle East all my life with my family. It has taken me awhile to adjust to the culture in Canada because I came from a culture that is much different. The Middle Eastern culture is ingrained in me along with its religious expectations. Religion and government are hard to separate in the Middle East. I lived not too far from a mosque and every morning at 4 a.m. prayers were broadcasted with loud speakers. I was awakened by that every day. That’s something I do not miss living in Canada.

Another very obvious difference is that my body had to get used to the change in climate. The pros of this climate change were that I didn’t have to endure the heat, I didn’t have to wipe off sand film from my car every day before I went to work, instead I was wiping the snow off my windshield. For the most part, I haven’t experienced anything close to discrimination here. Yet there seems to be a sentiment that under pins the Canadian culture when it comes to dealing with people from Pakistan. This is due to the fact that the Middle East is in the news on an almost daily basis because some rogue group has gone off and done something egregious in the name of Allah. Islam is a religion of peace; the Holy Quran does not endorse violence.

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I am not outwardly discriminated against, and atrocious acts are not committed towards me or my family like the family of Raphael Lemkin in the in the article “Laying out the Bare Bones of Genocide” by Alan Whitehorn. My family did not get hauled off to Nazi internment camps. No one in my family can say that they are a survivor of the Holocaust or have relatives that are. The Canadian government doesn’t come around in trucks and try to gather up all the Middle Eastern people in my neighborhood and send them off to God knows where. I can’t imagine how the relatives and ancestors of Raphael Lemkin, as a young university student, must have felt about the mass murder of the Christian Armenians by the Muslim Ottoman Young Turks in WW1 (Whitehorn).

On a smaller scale, I have witnessed the police in my country perpetrate what the West might call human rights abuses. Living in the Middle East is not for the faint of heart. Many Canadians say that they are living in a military state here in the Canada. But this is a vast exaggeration on the part of college students and others who have a difficult time with an authority in the first place. Coming from the Middle East, I find this attitude inaccurate and absurd. Raphael Lemkin and his ancestors would agree with me.

I have to admit, I do feel a deep down sentiment of distrust coming from the vast majority of Canadian people that I encounter. So far, no one has come up to talk to me about it in the open, but there have been some comments muttered, and body language that suggests I’m an outsider. I’m not one of them. But this is a very rare occurrence and it’s possibly just my imagination. The brutality that I witnessed was not on a regular basis. Now that I’m in the West and living in Canada, I feel like I should not try to minimize the egregious human rights violations by those in authority in the Middle East. Any violation of human rights is tragic and needs to be dealt with swiftly. The mass murder and genocide of the Jewish people in World War 2, the genocide of the Christian Armenians by the Muslim Ottoman Turks, and the personal effect that both had on Raphael Lemkin caused him to come up with a term to define the mass murder of one group by another. The word is genocide, the annihilation of an entire group of people by another group. Thankfully, neither I nor my family will be subject to the mass brutality that the Jews in WW1 and WW2 had to suffer. I am benefitting from Raphael Lemkin’s sorrow. He helped establish the United Nations whose main job is to keep rogue states accountable to an international authority that frowns upon violence, particularly violence of groups against other groups (Whitehorn).

I moved from Pakistan with my wife and two kids five years ago. I am a Muslim man dealing with a new culture that’s very different from my own. It has been a tremendous challenge for all of us. I’m struggling to find a balance between keeping our families religious and cultural identity while at the same time learning to adapt to the Canadian culture. The tension that I feel is due to religion and the belief of the majority of Westerners that Muslim men are to be feared rather than fellowshipped with. So I am torn between completely giving up my Muslim identity by completely embracing Canadian culture, and trying to hold on to something from my ancestral roots to pass on to my children. I have only been here in Canada for five years and I have already come a long ways in regards to integrating into society, and at the same time maintaining my cultural beliefs and rituals in my home.

In the article, “Laying out the Bare Bones of Genocide,” Alan Whitehorn says that genocide is an ancient crime yet it is a modern concept. It’s an ancient crime because mass annulation of one group by the other has plagued our world history. Adolph Hitler wanted to wipe the Jews completely off the face of the earth, and some Muslims want to do the same to other Muslim groups. As a Muslim living in Canada, I am comforted to know that Canada is a democratic society and I can be certain that the atrocities that happened to the Jewish people in World War 2 will not happen to me or my family because I’m living in a free democratic society. Even though I’m a bit apprehensive, I can still practice my faith and my children can attend a great school free from fear and discrimination, and my wife can feel safe to walk in public, covered or uncovered.

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