Once, it was Toy Story. Then, Pokemon. Now, Harry Potter. Children around the West have been thrilled by the release of the Harry Potter film recently. It is, perhaps, the main talk of kids, who have been enchanted by the magic and the fantasy world it takes them into. But, not every child has Harry Potter on his/her mind.
Children around the world é in Asia and the Middle East, for example é live in a much more real world. Their immediate worries do not center on when their mom or dad will take them to see Harry Potter. Their worries are of a more serious nature é of life and death. Children in places of war have far more somber thoughts é of hunger, poverty, insecurity and possibly, death.
My neighbors are a very good Palestinian family, who has been living here for some time now. Out of four children, two are older boys who are currently studying in Palestine. I often talk to the elder of the two girls, who is 10 years old, about many things. I noticed just of late, that many of our talks center on the situation in Palestine and the violence by the Israelis. And I don’t start it, believe me.
She is always describing to me how things are in Palestine, when she goes to her country, through Jordan, every year, for vacation. She tells me about how her brothers are doing and what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians. She is not a brainwashed child; on the contrary, she is very intelligent and smart. She is a straight A student who likes to study and have fun. You see her watching cartoons, teasing her smaller sister and dancing at the tone of songs. You would think she probably does not think of much more solemn situations. But what I saw today completely convinced me otherwise.
Today, Sharon promised vengeance, and he delivered it. The missile attacks in Gaza and elsewhere were terrifying for any parent with his/her child in Palestine. I could understand the horror felt by her mother as I watched her desperately trying to get in touch with her sons. I could understand the tears in her eyes, which she tried to hide from her children. But, she was not the only one frightened. My little friend was far more petrified and her tears did not stop even when her mother was finally able to talk to her sons in Palestine. She was very, very alarmed at what would happen to her dear brothers and despite our assurances and hugs from her mother, she kept crying on and on. I could see that though she was far away from Palestine, her heart was still there.
One of the things that really struck me was that this 10-year-old girl was not living in a war zone. She was living in a far more secure place. Yet, she was so scared. What about the rest of the Muslim children who see all these bombs, mines, missiles and dead people in real life? What about their future and feelings? After the attacks on September 11, there was so much talk about the impact that those events left on the American and Western children. Many were concerned about how they feel and what counselors and psychologists can do to ensure parents are able to correctly talk to them and ensure their safety. But, there was hardly any news about the millions of children around the Muslim world, who have been living through war and poverty for ages. No news about those in Somalia, Chechnya, Kashmir and even Palestine, for example. Don’t those children deserve any attention, for they are going through far worse situations? What has this world come to, when even innocent children are classified and discriminated against?
After my aunt left, I switched on CNN to see the latest news. It was then that I saw Harry Potter. And, I just tried to analyze what had happened. Thousands of miles away, all that kids were thinking about was this magician and his tricks, and right next to my door lived a girl who was thinking of life and death, and she was not the only one. How different things can be on the same planet. How unjust fellow humans can be to each other.
I thought about the Afghani children who watch American planes bombing them, their families and villages to smithereens. I thought about the Somalian children who have nothing to eat or drink, let alone chocolate and other goodies. I thought about the Kashmiri children who do not understand why they hardly have enough to wear and eat. I thought about the Palestinian children who see their fathers dragged away to Israeli prisons, never to be seen again, and their mothers harassed in front of them. And, I thought.. for many Muslim children, there is no Harry Potter. And, if there is, even he cannot save them from this world of unjust ‘civilized’ nations, waging war against them and their religion.
Ms. S. A. A. is a 16 year old Muslim, who has graduated from senior high school.