I was deeply touched by the emails and phone calls I received about the terror attacks in Mumbai while I was away for the Thanksgiving weekend.
Fortunately, everyone I know is alright, but I was saddened by several things, not the least of which is imagining the emotions of those who are there, like my niece who is in her first year of med school in Mumbai. I relived some terrible moments from my freshman year of college... I was in a region in India that in the 80s was a hotbed of naxalite activity, and a local police chief was murdered in broad daylight by naxalites from the People's War Group. Our college and surrounding area were under curfew and clampdown. We had students on campus who were part of this guerilla group, and I was targeted in the middle of the night to be questioned by the police - because I was friendly with everyone and had conversations with another female student in the dorm who was a naxal leader.
I joined bridge-builders, a network of leaders for the interfaith youth movement, who published some talking points to be used in response to Mumbai which I found helpful.
But I really appreciated this open letter in Outlook India, to Arundhati Roy, by an IPS Office, Abhinav Kumar, in response to Ms. Roy's essay "Terror in Mumbai" - brought to my attention by a fellow SAWnettor (South Asian Women's Network).
Ms. Roy's Essay
Mr. Kumar's Response
The words that struck a chord in me:
The creation of a hated outsider, in the case of Kashmir, the Indian; in the case of Raj Thackeray, the bhaiya of UP and Bihar; and in the case of the jihadists, anyone and everyone who does not subscribe to their virulent strain of Islam, including Muslims, is common to all these ideologies.
U of M Professor Ralph Williams said in an address at Wayne State University conference on the 2006 National Day of Prayer, that we must not view someone as the other. It's when we view someone as on another side, opposed to the side we are on, an outsider, that they then become a hated outsider...
But it's hard to let go of generations of hate and distrust. Maybe that's why I like being an American - as a country of immigrants, we have an opportunity to come with just two suitcases when we arrive at Immigration and Customs. It's a chance to bring our hopes and dreams, and leave our prejudices behind.