You’ve heard about this, right? Canadian Suaad Hagi Mohamud was stranded in Kenya because KLM Airlines and the Canadian Border Service Agency thought she was an impostor ’cause her lips supposedly didn’t match her passport photo? It finally took DNA testing to prove she was who she says she was. But you already know this story.
When stories like this get a lot of media attention and people get really riled up about such blatant injustices, I always wonder about a few things:
1) Why this story? There are so many human rights abuses and just generally crappy stuff happening every second of every day every-freakin’-where, so why this story? Why this woman? How does this story become water-cooler material? I feel almost manipulated when I get upset reading about stuff like this, ’cause I know that shit happens all the time, but I feel particularly upset about this specific woman.
2) What happens now? She’s finally coming home, so is that the end of the story? Will the Canadian Border Service Agency change any of their policies? Will they find a scapegoat, pay some public retribution and wait for the storm to pass? PM Harper said the agency is being asked to provide a full account of their actions. To what end? The pessimist in me wants to cry ‘shenanigans!’ at this PR song-and-dance routine.
3) What’s the attention span for cases like this? I have to admit, when Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained in North Korea, the situation eventually fell off my radar. That is, until they were released. And I’m sure most people who were outraged at first eventually stopped thinking about it, too. Of course, I remind myself that there are always that group of people – politicians, journalists etc. – who continue to pay attention and take action long after the general public have lost interest in stories like this. It’s a small consolation. I guess it’s not realistic to keep the public outcry going strong for every injustice.
Frankly, I feel rather blue about the whole thing. Maybe there will always be an imbalance between people who look “Canadian” and those who don’t. Could I, as a brown woman from a Muslim family, ever become prime minister of Canada? I’m gonna’ have to say no (but feel free to argue with me on that point).
I always think of this story when I’m on this subject: When I was in grade 5, I had to give a speech, and I chose the subject of holidays. I talked about the origins of Victoria Day and Halloween, and ended the speech by expressing a hope that one day Canada will celebrate all holidays in addition to Christmas and Easter, including Muslim holidays. Afterwards, my teacher said I had done a good job, but explained that in Canada, we celebrate Christmas, and I could celebrate my holidays in “my country.”
I didn’t say anything in response to that because I was confused. Up until that point, I did not realize that Canada wasn’t my country. Unfortunately, that leaves me a little dispossessed. If I don’t belong here, where the hell do I belong? That’s the crux, my friends. What kind of country is this, if its own citizens can’t feel as though they belong?