Growing up Pakistani in Dundas in the 1970s was not an easy thing. I can't count how many times I was called "Paki" by classmates, strangers, and even my Grade 7 home room teacher.
I was singled out many times by bullies who would look for someone to beat up at recess — "let's get Raza!" they would announce, before pouncing on me, leaving me bruised and in tears. It was always my loving elder sisters who would stand up for me.
Despite the difficulties at school, each weekend I looked forward to watching my favourite TV show — Star Trek. What fascinated me about Star Trek was that these astronauts represented an assortment of shapes, colours and cultures — Chinese, Russian, black, brown, white, blue, some with different physical features (e.g. pointed ears), and they all worked together, in a respectful professional work environment toward a common good (the character with the pointed ears, however, occasionally faced racist jibes from his doctor colleague).
I don't know why, but last week's U.S. election reminded me of my favourite Star Trek episode where James T. Kirk fought the "Gorn" — a terrifying, brutish, impossibly muscular, but slow lizard-headed creature. Both were captains taken from their space ships and transported alone to a rocky planet by an advanced race who wagered as to who would survive a fight to the death. Kirk (representing "good") quickly realized that in order to gain the upper hand over his adversary the Gorn (representing "evil"), he had to use knowledge of chemistry and physics to ultimately triumph in the seemingly impossible-to-win scrum. However, in the analogy with the U.S. election, the outcome falls apart: the lizard-headed creature won. The pundits are still trying to figure out why.
Star Trek was creator Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future of human civilization. To this day I look at Star Trek as hope that in the future of humanity, all people — regardless of skin colour, shape, ability, body features, or race — will be treated respectfully, and equally. This month, nearly 50 per cent of American voters elected Donald Trump as president of the United States. With this outcome, I feel that American civilization turned the "civilization progress clock" back to the 1960s and 1970s.
Indeed, since the American people's endorsement of Donald Trump, many news outlets are reporting a wave of alleged hate crimes against Muslims, Hispanic Americans, blacks, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community. Trump supporting attackers have been accused of death threats, physical assaults and racist graffiti in numerous incidents in the 24 hours following Trump's victory. Muslim women in the U.S. are being warned not to wear the hijab.
The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported recently that a pickup truck with American and pro-Trump flags protruding from it had a message scrawled across its back window "KILL ALL MUSLIMS". It would seem that Trump's success is being treated as a licence for bigots to openly express their hate of other cultures without fear of punishment.
Is Canada immune to the "Trump effect"? No. Hamilton recently had a wake-up call with a reader identified by the Spectator only as "F. Stevens" had the gumption to sign his (or her?) name to write a short letter to the editor entitled "Trump's wave of truth is coming" this past Remembrance Day. In it, he/she assures us that [Trump's] "wave of truth and anger will come, and you, other so called progressives, and your immigrant neighbours will be the first to be washed away."
Even Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch seems to be inspired by the "Trump wave", calling Trump's win an "exciting message" that's needed in Canada. This same candidate wants prospective immigrants to Canada to be screened to determine if they possess as yet undefined "Canadian values".
Muslims and non-Muslims around the world pray publicly and privately for the protection of those who may suffer under Trump's administration, including Muslims, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups. American Muslim civil rights leader, Hassan Shibly tells Muslims to stand together, arm-in-arm, "as Americans, as Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, and stand united for each other's rights and for our own rights." Shibly states that where leaders turn their people against one another, fear, hate and division slowly erodes the fundamental rights that make nations great, and this is the cause for the fall of many great democracies.
No doubt, Trump's triumph in the U.S. election will be an inspiration to a number of political leaders — here at home and around the world. Thank God we are Canadian, and have the innate capacity to empower ourselves by seeking knowledge of other cultures, building unity, and forging strong, respectful community relationships. No doubt, this is how we will face the next "Gorn" who comes out in the future.
Dr. Raza Khan is a Hamilton-born and raised family physician. He is the spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton.