August 23, 2019 | 79° F

GUC: Intentions motivating activism demand reflection

Opinions Column: Macro to Micro

By the time this article will be published, a massive protest on the College Avenue campus will have taken place. I am speaking about the rally against the “Muslim Ban,” or the Executive Order put forth by President Donald J. Trump that prohibits immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries including Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Somalia. And while in the midst of being immersed in the planning of this rally — spreading the news of it, drafting emails, planning out logistics, meeting with the University administration  — I can’t help but right now pose myself this question: Why am I doing any of this? Why am I expending any effort for this type of activism? Activism is not easy, or exactly fun, nor is it immediately rewarding. More often than not, it is draining — physically and mentally. It requires stamina and endurance. Qualities that I don’t really find in myself. Despite all of this, I still find myself submerged within the activist culture. I usually tend to prioritize matters of belief, introspection and activities that require solitude, and yet, here I am, most likely one of the people who was marching and chanting amidst a sea of protesters.

But maybe it is the notion that prioritizing the matters I just outlined, and physical action are not mutually exclusive, as long as the latter does not impede on time for the former. One cannot forever live withdrawn in a metaphoric cave — as tempting as it may be. Though not all of the Muslim community was directly affected by the Executive Order, there was a sense that our community was being attacked after a long series of foreshadowing threats. Suddenly, what could have been categorized as mere rhetoric became a daunting reality. And perhaps, it was this sudden chaotic turn of events that impelled the community to work together. The protest on College Avenue was planned in only two days, maybe even less, and yet I saw leaders of various Muslim and Muslim-majority organizations coming together to help out and organize. As I peered over groups of people talking about safety, speakers and so forth on Monday night, an overwhelming sense of unity washed over me. Our biggest hurdle has always been our lack of unity. Our greatest struggle has always been connecting with one another. And it is in moments like this when minute differences are put aside, and we really shine as one functioning unit.

It was not just the unification of various Muslim leaders but also the solidarity of non-Muslims. Other minority groups rushed to take the Muslim community by the hand in these difficult times. As we mourned over the lives lost in the Quebec mosque on Sunday night — in this moment I saw my brothers and sisters of different colors and beliefs mourning alongside me. While large-scale demonstrations took place in various airports, seeing it within the Rutgers community brought the matter home. At this point, the deceiving shroud of concerned for different issues is lifted. Our most fundamental human need for security and stability to balance with freedom and justice is the heart of all endeavors. It is a reminder that all of our various causes are inevitably intertwined. The rights of Muslims, undocumented immigrants, black lives, the Palestinian people and all other fights for justice are all interconnected.

So I sit silently now, and I find myself, again, faced with the question I brought up in the beginning. Why should I, or anyone for that matter, partake in activism? I did not quite know how I would go about in responding when I first asked this, but writing is a process of rumination, and for that I am grateful, as the answer I have been seeking seems to have been given now: Unity and solidarity. These are keywords in our dictionary under justice. Being engaged in activism, showing up to rallies and even organizing them seem to be a reflection of one’s inherent need to manifest these keywords and qualities. I hold within me an unbridled yearning for justice. It may have been nurtured by my mother and encouraged by my education, but I found the seeds of activism within before any influence or external factor laid a touch upon them. I do not think I am alone in this feeling either. I do not know if complete justice will ever come in this world, but I know that the infrastructure of my being demands that I strive for it. It is this realization and truth that guides me to my answer. It is not the protests, the rallying or the organizing that will ultimately bring satisfaction, but rather, wrestling with the question itself of why one is drawn to such actions and principles in the first place.

Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. Her column, "Macro to Micro," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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Aysenur Guc

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