Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Double standards on racial issues

They're both young Indians and they both were brave enough to look beyond the borders of India for a job. But that's where the similarities end. Dr Mohammed Haneef is back in India. As he himself has said at the press conference that his lawyer Peter Russo, his family members and he addressed in Bangalore - he's been a victim of terror investigations. While that may be a very politically and legally correct way of describing his trauma in Australia over the last month, the government in that country has categorically said that his work visa will not be reinstated and there will be no apology issued to him.
That brings me back to the topic of my previous post - glamorous Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty was a victim too! And the UK government went all out to make amends to her - The Queen, then UK PM Tony Blair, UK media, the people of UK, human rights oprganisations and the organisations working on racial relations - everyone was rushing to Shilpa's side to offer her a shoulder to weep on after the Big Brother fiasco.
But no such sympathy wave for Dr Haneef - even though the Australian government has released him without any charges whatsoever. His only strength probably comes from his excellent legal team led by Peter Russo who seems to have pulled him out of his predicament in Australia. Of course, there was support from the India government too. So what would Dr Haneef need to do to turn the tide of sympathy in his favour among the public in Australia and perhaps even in UK - where the media was pretty unfriendly towards him initially. Perhaps hire Shilpa Shetty's PR firm! Shilpa Shetty is a Bollywood actress who has probably entertained Indians around the world with her performances - besides she's glamorous, beautiful etc! But Doctor Haneef too has served his patients at the Gold Coast hospital and played a socially relevant role in Australia. We're all aware about the skills shortages that many western nations face and the need for skilled professionals such as doctors, nurses and IT professionals from India to fill such gaps. Dr Haneef was brave enough to leave the comfort of his hometown in India and go first to UK for training and then to Australia to work. His situation was a real immigrant's story of struggle and not a reality show. Of course, both Dr Haneef and Shilpa were looking beyond Indian borders to make a living and faced racial discrimination in that search. So why is the British government and more importantly the Australian government not rushing to Dr Haneef's support?


Ananya Mukherjee Reed said...

Ishani, why indeed? excellent question ... I was scouring the Indian (and other) media to see if anyone sees the double standard, but of course not.

Raj said...

From Rajesh – The Princeton Perspective


Interesting post re the prospect of double standard between Haneef and Shetty – however, imho these two situations are like apples and oranges – one is a Muslim Dr who showed questionable judgment by giving his SIM card to a terrorist cousin – the other one is a hot, Indian starlet who got trashed in a Reality show. From this perspective, the fact that Haneef and Shetty are both Indians is coincidental at best. Contextually, these are two very different situations with (in my estimation) predictable outcomes. Let me explain why – I used work in the World Trade Center and therefore, I don’t have much sympathy for the terror suspects – I understand that Racial Profiling is wrong and all that good stuff – but from a practical (and statistical) standpoint, it needs to be practiced (to a certain extent) because heretofore majority of the terrorist acts have been committed by the Muslims. At times, innocent Muslims with questionable judgment may get caught in Kafkaesque situations – but that is a small price to pay to save innocent lives. I would venture to guess that most folks in the West share my viewpoint in this regard. Believe it or not, a number of my US based Muslim friends also concur with this notion. As far as Shetty is concerned – she got more than “15 minutes of fame” between the Reality Show diss and the Gere kiss and she capitalized on the Kiss/Diss publicity to open her line of “Curry Houses” in England– good for her as it’s a more stable career choice than being a Bollywood starlet - LOL

ishani said...

Hi Raj,
While I fully appreciate & share your concerns over international terrorism and the challenges that it poses to people and governments across the world today - I'm sure we all agree that for democratic systems to function properly, a fair & free judicial system is very important. What I meant was that when the Australian givernment was not able to bring any charges against Dr Haneef, even after a month-long investigations and grilling - don't you think the treatment that he received from them was a bit too harsh. Even on the issue of the SIM card, it's now proved that he had given it to his cousins without any knowledge of their terror links - which only proves carelessness at best, which is not something that the Australian govt is charging him with. Besides, I was also somewhat critical of the hysterical UK media that rushed to Shilpa's support because they thought she had been a victim of racial discrimination. All I wanted to point out was that Dr Haneef was also a victim of racila discrimination - so why was there no support for him?

Priyank said...

umm -
.. because one was suspected in aiding the slaughter of innocents and the other was not?

.. because one belongs to a community who takes pride in killing the infidels?

I believe in the theory that handful of innocents get killed when million others survive. Its not discrimination, there are hundreds of other Shettys and Haneefs living freely.

Ishani, I'd rather look forward to your views on Kashmiri pandits.

ishani said...

Haneef was suspected and questioned, held in detention and then exonerated - no charges were pressed against him at all, his passport was restored and he was allowed to travel back to India. It is pretty wrong to say - as even Raj points out - that the whole community takes pride in killing infidels. Likewise, it would be wrong to say that all Hindus believe in Gujarat-style racial rioting and killings! As for Kashmir, there has been rampant human rights abuses in that region. The pandits and various other vulnerable sections of people including women and children have been exploited. Kashmir is one of the most strife-torn regions in the world today and we owe it to its people to support efforts for peace and rehabilitation there. It will, however, be very difficult to quantify which section of people suffered the most. The pandits were forced out of their homes and became refugees, similarly many women were raped and children were killed - these are all serious human rights abuses - taking sides will not bring peace to the region I feel.

Raj said...

From Rajesh – The Princeton Perspective

Good conversation guys – I just wanted to put in my 2 cents

As a sovereign government, Australian Government has the right to revoke Haneef’s visa, it’s an immigration issue. Immigration rules tend to be more unilateral as they are rooted in the concept of sovereignty of a specific country (as it should be). I would also venture to guess that the authorities didn’t want to take any chances with him being in the country even though he was exonerated of the terror charges (i.e., Process as opposed to Racism), On the other hand, the government appointed an Attorney for Haneef and the legal process worked in his favor, as it is more jurisprudence based. Couple of final thoughts on this, if the Australians were racist thugs, they could have just as easily kept Haneef behind bars for an indefinite period of time without due process - they are also not routinely rounding up Australia-based Muslims for internment camps – I guess you guys get my drift

IMHO racial stereotyping and sweeping generalizations about ethnic groups are not the best way to approach things. I’m cognizant of the fact that, at times, racial profiling can be necessary (to curb terrorism for example). However, as educated and civilized folks, it should not be our raison d'ĂȘtre. Therefore, characterizing all the Muslims as retrograde, religious fanatics is not accurate because the same label could have been attributed to the Hindus when the Hindu mob demolished Babri mosque. Let’s not get carried away – remember, it’s a double-edged sword

Kashmir is an entirely different ballgame all together. In my estimation, the root cause of the Kashmiri problem (as well as the Indo-Pakistan squabbling in a broader sense) can be traced back to the unfortunate and arbitrary partition of the two countries at the time of independence. Over the years, the situation has been exacerbated by numerous incursions by the Pakistan-sponsored guerrillas and a bunch of opportunistic, ideologues fueling religious and secessionistic fire. However, the most ironic part of the entire Kashmiri mess (and the resulting plight of those Pandits) is the fact that the man responsible for all this misery was a Kashmiri Pandit himself: Jawaharlal Nehru. The questions remains whether or not he was a real Pandit as opposed to the more widely held belief that he was the last Englishman to rule India

Enough of this – c’mon Ishani – new post pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease so that we can ARGUE all over again – after all it’s a Bengali past time J