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Pakistan flood victims desperate, but stereotype is still an obstacle

Photo courtesy of MCT

Heavy rainfall in July flooded major areas of Pakistan and, according to The New York Times, has caused more damage than the Southeast Asia tsunami, the Haiti earthquake and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake combined. Nonetheless, few people have heard of the destruction thanks to prominent Islamophobia in the United States.

Though Pakistan is associated with the War on Terror, that is not an excuse for the lack of attention to the country’s plight. The misconception that all Muslims are terrorists is preventing the citizens of Pakistan from receiving the aid they need. According to the BBC, only half a million of the 20 million people in need have received aid.

The refugees are in danger of becoming ill. In an appeal to the United Nations for disaster relief on Sept. 17, the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said, “In the floods’ wake, we are seeing hunger, misery and desperation. Children becoming malnourished. Skin diseases on the rise because of the lack of soap and clean water. Nowhere for families to shelter from the sweltering sun.”

But it is not right to ignore the devastation merely because we are afraid of a small group.

“Mostly the images that we see are people with beards and people with guns in Pakistan, but that is the wrong impression. If there are people like that, I would say it is less that 2 percent of the population,” said Imran Ghazali, former president of Ohio State’s Pakistani American Student Association.

There have been rumors in the media that the militant Muslims are aiding the refugees in order to recruit members, and that the money we send will help terrorists. The Dallas Morning News published an article Aug. 20 under the title, “Militants take advantage of flooding crisis in Pakistan.” Because the area is vulnerable, refugees might be attracted to the groups that support them, even militant groups. But if we want to prevent that, then this is the time to act and help the refugees before someone else does.

If OSU students want to get involved, the first step is raising awareness and working to change the incorrect perception of Pakistan. Students can also attend benefit events that PASA hosts or donate to organizations that aid refugees, such as The Edhi Foundation, UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders.

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