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Lyrics and Life

By Caitlin Ward

 

02/08/2017

Salaam
By Sami Yusuf

I dream for a day
When there’ll be
No more misery

When there’s no more hunger
No need for shelter
Isn’t there enough to share
Or is that we just don’t care?

We’re here for a day or two
Let me show my way
Salaamu alaik, Salaamu alaik, Salaamu alaikum

I pray for a day
When there’ll be
Justice and unity

Where we put aside our differences
Fighting makes no sense
Just a little faith
To make it a better place

We’re here for a day or two
Let me show my way
Salaamu alaik, Salaamu alaik, Salaamu alaikum
Salaamu alaikum Ya ahlas-salaam, Salamu alaikum
Salaamu alaikum Sayyid al-Kiram, Salaamu alaikum

Let me show my way . . .
Salaamu alaikum, alaikum, alaikum

I can’t talk about Denmark without starting to cry at some point. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t teach certain things in class anymore because, even after seven years, I can’t get through the part about Denmark without my eyes are welling up.

But then, my eyes had been welling up on and off for most of the day, and not about Denmark. On the morning of Jan. 30, when I woke up, I read an article by Yonatan Zunger on Medium.com called “Trial Balloon for a Coup?” that discussed the recent events in the United States in the context of each other. It postulated a rather terrifying future: one in which the executive order to ban refugees and immigrants for a certain period of time was a test balloon for just how easy it would be to subvert and undermine the democratic processes in the country.

Now, Zunger is neither a social scientist nor a social activist, and since that article was written it has come under a certain amount of scrutiny. At this point, few people are questioning that this White House is autocratic, brazen, and racist, but at the same time no one knows how much of the execution of these executive orders is shrewdness, and how much of it is sheer incompetence.

The question of shrewdness or incompetence aside, though, the thing that struck me most that morning was not the fact that it might be some sort of test to see just how much the American people care about rights and freedoms, or even the order itself. No, what hit me in the gut was a few lines that briefly explained a Fox News interview with Rudy Giuliani, in which he said that, yes, this was meant to be a ban on Muslims. He was one of the people that Trump consulted in finding a way to make that happen legally.

It was the word “legally.” With that word I started praying, begging God aloud that, this time, we would be stronger, and kinder, and braver. That when we said “never again” the last time, we really meant it. I walked around mostly normally for most of the day, made plans to go to the mosque that evening to hold vigil with those who mourned the loss of the men at prayer who had been gunned down in a Quebec City mosque the night before. I told a few people that my heart hurt. But after work, I went to my parents’ house. I barely got a greeting to my father out before I started sobbing. Finally, I managed to choke out, “they’re trying to make people illegal.”

I know history is scattered with the normalized, systematic discrimination of whole groups of people, be it Catholics in Ireland in the 18th and 19th century, or Aboriginal peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries in Australia, Canada, and the United States, or a hundred other examples you and I could both come up with if we had five minutes to talk.

But that’s not immediately what this reminded me of — a professional life dedicated in part to studying and discussing the Shoah (or, as it’s more commonly known, the Holocaust) puts the word “legal” in giant neon letters. Because that’s how the Shoah happened. They made a particular group of people illegal. And once they were illegal, there was very little to protect them except the physical bodies who chose to stand in the way. Tragically, and embarrassingly, not many physical bodies chose to stand in the way.

That is why I have so much trouble talking about Denmark. Unlike so many other people and so many other countries, the people of that nation spent the Second World War standing in the way. There is an apocryphal story that Christian X, the King of Denmark at the time, wore a Star of David to express his solidarity with Jewish Danes. Though never substantiated, the story serves as a perfect metaphor for occupied Denmark. Militarily, the country fell to the Nazis in a matter of days, but the people’s resistance was constant and extraordinary. By and large, their Jewish population lived.

That night, at the mosque, I began to feel better. They had to bring out more chairs twice, and there were still not enough for the hundreds of people who came to support Saskatoon’s Muslim community. Representatives from the government, the police, and most of the major religious groups in the city offered solidarity, protection, and prayers, respectively. Afterward, we ate potato pakora and samosas together, and there were once again not enough chairs.

It’s easy to sound alarmist at times like this, I know. But it’s also easy to forget that totalitarian dictatorships do not blossom overnight. Genocides don’t happen without laying groundwork first. Abusive relationships don’t start with a punch to the head. It’s a slow creep, a dawning realization that things are no longer as they once were that

And I also know that tears, on their own, mean very little. I know friendship must not only be offered in times of crisis, but always. I know real resistance is not showing up to one event, but showing up in one way or another every day. But I think — or I hope, at least — that if we all show up in one way or another, “never again” will at least be, “not this time.”

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings