July 4, 2013

Najia Humayun: Beyond the fireworks

— After settling my elementary school body onto the edge of the open mini-van trunk, my feet were apprehensive, dangling restlessly above the Heritage Park grass. Every cheer, every child’s yell and every glint in the night sky added relentlessly to my apprehension — mere false starts to the electrifying action that was to come.

Only with the blast of the first firework did my anxiety cease, and give way to exhilarated feelings of awe.

As a 10-year-old, these culminating fireworks made my Fourth of July celebration wholly satisfactory. Fireworks, the park, time with family — I got the all-in-one package. What more could a little girl want?

Not much, really. However, little girls, and boys alike, eventually become products of the society raising them. And for American little girls and boys, this means, for the most part, growing up to a country that honors its profound history with American flag T-shirts and Fourth of July barbecues. Only in history class do the children look any further into the Fourth of July than their red, white and blue popsicles permit. Even then, they do not always realize the immense significance of the document signed on the Fourth of July so many years ago.

This document, our Declaration of Independence, serves as the backbone of our country — a backbone grounded adamantly in principles of freedom and liberty that not everyone in this world is granted.

Take a country like Pakistan, for example. Had I been a resident of Pakistan rather than America, I would be deprived of many basic rights. Why? Simply because of my faith. As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I would not be allowed to call myself a Muslim or partake in many basic Muslim practices. If I did, I would be subject to oppression under the Pakistani constitution. This presence of statements against Ahmadis in the Pakistani penal code works offensively to facilitate violent persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan.

On May 28, 2010, 86 Ahmadis were martyred in Pakistan when two of their mosques were attacked by terrorists. Just this past week in Pakistan, an Ahmadi man was shot in his own home. Such is the persecution running deep within the creed of Pakistan, such is the persecution that our American constitution would never permit.

As Americans, we often take our freedom for religion, among other freedoms, for granted. Here, I practice my faith with an openness I could hardly dare to possess in Pakistan.

This openness forms the backbone of a new vision of the Fourth of July — a vision of an older girl, sitting on the back of an open mini-van trunk. A girl with apprehensive feet dangling and anxious eyes wandering, waiting for the impending show.

However, she is anxious not only with excitement for the approaching fireworks, but with eye-opening recognition of the country she lives in. A country doused not only in American flag tees, but in freedoms and liberties longed for by the rest of the citizens of the world. A country teeming with countless rights, provided by its principles of freedom and liberty — and people who truly recognize their significance.

Najia Humayun is an intern for The Daily Citizen.