As I sat down and listened attentively to the Ramadan Finish Strong Telethon by Yaqeen Institute, during the last 20 minutes, Sheikh Omar Suleiman conducted a collective dua (prayer) that really hit home. “Ya Allah [O God], do not let [our sisters and brothers who are being wronged around the world] vanish even more in our hearts and our minds and duas.” Ameen (so be it).

After listening to his dua, I began to ponder on this notion. I realized I had selfishly forgotten about the millions of people who are still facing genocides, hardships, and war zones across the globe, in my duas. With the current situation of the world, I can see exactly why this is the case. 

Like many, when I read the news, it is often entirely made up of some COVID-related story. We are living in uncertain times as a globe, but this is not something new to many countries around the world. Many people continue to face greater challenges of oppression than simply being quarantined, but we do not hear their stories, nor give them the attention they deserve. These people’s voices are being silenced and stories going unheard due to the overwhelming news of this pandemic. 

Recently, the world responded to news of a black man in Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered while on a jog outside his neighbourhood on February 23 by two Caucasian males. The two suspects were not arrested immediately, despite video proof. However, it took months for the world to come together to commemorate him and fight against this injustice, by sharing his story on social media. 

Meanwhile, in Louisville, Kentucky, Breonna Taylor was shot by police officers on March 13, who claimed to be doing a search warrant for a suspected drug dealer who was already arrested. This story barely got any public attention, as it happened right at the time the world was going on lockdown. With the world coming together for Arbery, the Taylor family continues to seek the same response and support for Breonna’s story. 

Amidst the panic of COVID-19, stories like this are buried beneath the weight of the pandemic. Taylor and Arbery aren’t the only individuals whose stories are going unheard— there are many others who have similar tragedies but not the same exposure. 

Not only are people being wronged just because of the colour of their skin, but also because of their religion and ethnicity. We have heard stories of people who have been oppressed by powerful leaders. Some of their stories are quick to be forgotten. 

The government of China has been trying to do a full ethnic cleansing of the Uyghur Muslims by forcing them into concentration camps, which they say are to “re-educate” these people. This genocide has been occuring for a long time, and has only been brought to people’s attention within the past couple of years. As many people were starting to educate themselves on this crisis, COVID-19 spread and the stories of the concentration camps seem to be drowned out. However, not only are we forgetting the Uyghur Muslims due to our focus on the pandemic, but according to an article by The Globe and Mail, officials of China have been found trying to quiet young advocates based in Canada acting as a voice for these innocent Muslims.  

A similar issue is seen for other parts of the world, like in the Rohingya crisis, the Syrian civil war, or the conflict in Palestine, where stories of the pandemic have overpowered any news about the crises being faced around the world. 

Though the quarantine has paused our lives, it hasn’t paused wars. In a recent article from Al Jazeera, a teenage Palestineian boy Zaid Fadl Qaisia, was shot during a raid in al-Fawar refugee camp in Hebron province on May 13.

Many of these unheard tragedies get neglected due to our panic over staying trapped in our safe homes. So, what can we do? At the very least, continue to make the same dua as Omar Suleiman to allow us to remember our sisters and brothers suffering from these great calamities in our prayers. May Allah (God) keep these people not only in our thoughts and prayers, but also in our hearts. 

Ameen.

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