Our Place in the Shining City upon a Hill
By Mahmood Sabri
When I came to America as a freshman in the mid-Seventies, I was the only Pakistani in a private engineering college on the East Coast. For Friday prayer, about five to seven Muslim students used to gather in an apartment. Eid prayers were held in Ambassador Hotel in New York City. Three and half decades have seen a lot of change. Now, chances are that even a small town in America has a physician of Pakistani descent. The second generation of Pakistani-Americans has shown remarkable achievements. On percentage basis, children of Pakistani parents make the highest number of students being admitted in medical, law, and pharmacy schools than any other ethnic group from east of the Red Sea. America has been very good to us. There is no other society that can match the Americans when it comes to meeting the needs of immigrants from third world countries and treating them as equal.
However, there is one area where accomplishments of Pakistani-Americans are not readily visible. That area is the American political landscape. Although there has been some progress, like Saqib Ali in the Maryland House of Delegates as a Democrat, and Sajid Tarar prominent in the high echelons of the Republican Party, there is a lot of ground that remains to be covered. In post 9/11 America, the media has been less than kind in portraying Pakistani-Americans in a respectable light. Therefore, it is imperative that Americans of Pakistani descent step up to the plate and claim their rightful place in American politics. Success will not come overnight, it seldom does. But if we participate in the political process as activists rather than spectators, we can bring a positive change in American policy.
The process is simple. Get to know your city, county, state, and federal representatives. They are listed in the phone book. Better yet, let them know who you are by showing up in local meetings. As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil said, “All politics is local”. Become a member of Democrat or Republican Party, whichever is closer to your political philosophy. To quote President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” If you can, make monetary donation. Otherwise, offer help in arranging events. In some cases, physical help is more appreciated than cash! Run for a leadership position when opportunity arises. Even if you don’t win, your efforts will be noticed and appreciated. We must strive for our proper place in “the shining city upon a hill,” as envisioned by John Winthrop, and reflected upon by President Ronald Reagan in his farewell speech. It is never too late to start. Active participation in the political arena will provide us much needed voice and help us counter the false negative image projected by the media. Let us show our fellow Americans who we really are. Soon it will be evident that, “Zara num ho to yeh mitti bohot zarkhaiz hey saaqi!”
About the Author: Mahmood Sabri is an Assistant Professor and Vice President of the Faculty Senate at Northeast State Community College in Tennessee. His profile can be found on www.wwAmina.com