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A Brief Encounter with a 5 Year Old Deja Vu
12 Nov 2011

   
 
Yesterday, a 5 year old-patient of mine came for a routine follow up appointment. Soon after he settled down in his chair his first question was, “Are you dead?” I was not sure if I heard him correctly, I asked, “What do you mean?”  He repeated, “Are ...   you ...   dead?” I glanced at his parents.  They appeared dumbfounded. Taking charge of the situation, with a quick smile on my face and pretending to be confident in my demeanor, I replied, “No I am alive,” The young patient asked me a second question, “Why do you wear that?” I knew he was referring to my turban. I replied, “This is my turban, it is part of my religion.”  At this point his father, who appeared to have gained some composure, said, “This is his religion, he believes in Allah, he is Muslim.” I was taken aback. At this point I decided not to say anything further. Clarifying the fact that I was not a Muslim would undermine child’s confidence in his father, I said to myself. I felt that my patient's questions were a reflection of what he may have heard from adults around him, presumably, based on their perception of recent media coverage. I admired the child's openness and in a way felt a sense of pride for the confidence he showed in me. How true is the saying, “God resides in the hearts of children!” We should learn from children to be open and honest. Over the next few moments, many thoughts raced through my mind the 9/11 tragedy, loss of innocent lives at the hands of terrorists for no reason, a state of shock and disbelief, followed by hundreds, maybe more, incidents of mistaken identity resulting in a constant fear of backlash that went on for years. Desperately, we in the Sikh community had initiated an education campaign with newspaper articles, TV coverage, events in our Gurdwara, and made presentations in churches, schools, colleges, university, commissioner’s meetings, parks, other social and cultural events and so forth to educate and improve awareness.
On May 2, 2011 President Obama announced “Osama Bin Laden is dead”. Per media reports many celebrated on the streets in Washington, New York and other places. Sikh Community members welcomed the news but expressed caution and apprehension of revival of prejudices, leading to hate crimes that the Sikh community had to face after 9/11 due to mistaken identity. The media continuously showed images of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in flames and Osama Bin Laden with a turban and beard. My concern deepened when I received an email on May 6, about CNN publishing online articles about Osama Bin Laden using images of a Sikh to supplement the news stories.
I could not sleep well that night. Many questions passed through my mind.  Why are the media doing this? A terrorist leader is dead, buried deep in the sea.  Why are the media keeping his ghost alive by showing his face repeatedly (I would rather see pictures of war heroes than a dead terrorist)?
Now, I ask myself, are we back to post 9/11 situation? There is no substitute for improving our understanding of the community we live in and strengthen our unity. What can we do about it? I have several thoughts but no clear answers. Do you?  
Dr Darshan Singh Sehbi, MD
Dayton, OH
Email: drsehbi@yahoo.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need javascript enabled to view it
Ph: 937-369-6010