In President Trump’s State of the Union address on the 30th of January, he made no mention of FEMA’s decision to pull food and water aid to the still-devastated Puerto Rico the day before. Instead he told the people of Puerto Rico that he was with them. Does a bully tell a kid he’s knocked over that he’s with him?
I ran into my high school Spanish teacher recently, Señor Ismael León, a Puerto Rican. He told me that a large number of Puerto Ricans are still living without electricity. I was shocked. However, I looked it up and sources like the New York Times and USA Today were reporting that half of Puerto Ricans are living without power. Let me rephrase that– roughly half of all American citizens in Puerto Rico are living without power. American citizens? Yes! Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Can you imagine what would happen if half of Washingtonians or New Yorkers were without power. How about for three months? The kicker really is that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has decided to shut off aid to their own citizens who have been suffering for a quarter of a year. I for one cannot imagine FEMA doing this if a disaster was to strike DC.
I hope our leadership has not forgotten their commitment to the citizens of their nation. What does our current leadership feel about its citizens? I hope, and maybe it is a hope against hope, that we are not falling into a situation predicted in George Orwell’s Animal House where some are more equal than others. Writing this article and thinking about the Puerto Rico predicament, the sacred words of the constitution come to mind: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic peace, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare…for ourselves and our Posterity”. When Puerto Ricans were given the right to citizenship in 1917, did they not become a part of “ourselves and our Posterity”? I did not even realize it until I recited it in my head, but these words of the constitution made me quite emotional. It is truly a wonder if President Trump and FEMA feel the same way.
Why you may ask, do I become so emotional in thinking these words written all the way back in 1787. Why did I kick a strong and immediate response? The reason, I believe, is that I am a Muslim, and the Prophet Muhammad said that “Love of one’s country is a part of faith” (Sakhavi; Safinat al-Bihar, vol. 8, pg. 525; Mizan al-Hikmah, Hadith # 21928)”. As such, you will not find a bigger patriot than me. I’m the type of person that you would want to have around if the nation faces a disaster, God forbid.
And these are not mere words. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association as well as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s international aid group, Humanity First, have been frequently departing to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit back in September. In fact members of the AMYA have been helping all over the country serving victims of both, hurricanes Maria and Harvey in Houston and Florida as well as Puerto Rico. In 2017 the AMYA saved 7,200 lives by donating 2,400 units of blood, it assisted 10,500 senior citizens, victims of abuse, orphans, refugees, it fed 579,000 meals to the needy, raised $38,000 through charity walks, and last but not least donated $10,000 in supplies during hurricane relief as well as volunteered 3,000 man hours in Houston, Miami, and Puerto Rico for hurricane relief (not to mention services in Mexico after the earthquake that hit there). Instead of demonizing Muslims and ignoring American citizens in general, it is my hope that President Trump and others see the reality and develop a true love for their country and for humanity at large.
Adil Agha Khan
Member, Muslim Writers Guild of America
Serving as a National Assistant Director Humanitarian Services, Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA
Serving as a National Assistant Director Islamic Education, Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA