Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder Highlights President Trump’s View of the Foreigner


When we delve into the intricacies of our current sociopolitical landscape in comparison to the rest of the world, we find that disputes arise from our tendency to otherize certain demographics outside the United States’ borders. I, myself, ponder over the U.S. construct of foreigners, where we emphasize more value behind the American body than that of the foreign.

On Oct. 2, well-known Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi went into, and never came out of, his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi lived in Washington D.C. as media advisor to Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and wrote for the Washington Post. Khashoggi’s abduction and murder raised concern from media outlets and other publications, however, President Donald Trump’s response to the journalist’s abduction seemed unconcerned. When asked why the Trump administration has not permitted an FBI investigation to Khashoggi’s—a man who lives “right across the river in Virginia,” as the reporter put it—the president instinctual response was, “he wasn’t an American citizen, for one thing.” Since then, the Saudi government has admitted the premeditated murder of Khashoggi.

[Read Related: President Trump Vows to End Birthright Citizenship]

Instead of focusing on the alleged government murder of Khashoggi, Trump brought up the writer’s citizenship status as a means to dodge the question. Since Khashoggi was a “foreigner,” he is not worth America’s time, money or thought, in the same manner, an American citizen would be. Compassion, consideration, and commitment to one another have been bounded by our faulty conception of borders that has perpetuated a nationalistic approach to human rights crises. The ideology of claiming that U.S. bodies are more eminent than bodies “belonging” to other countries is inherently undemocratic.

World War II should be a reminder that domestic democracy will not suffice the guarantee of civil liberties and independence. Because of this, the post-war era focused on redefining globalism to endorse an international interconnectedness as assurance for domestic and foreign tranquility. However, 73 years have passed, I am unsure if we have quite succeeded in implementation.

The president of the United States is a self-proclaimed nationalist. Assuming his definition of patriotism for America also means patriotism for the American people – we seem to be living in a paradoxical state. Trump promises the protection of all Americans but disregards to condemn perpetrators of gun violence killing citizens of color, faith or freedom. Trump proclaims to be an avid advocate for freedom of speech, validating white supremacist hate speech, but invalidating the press with daily Twitter rampages. In the time of this extreme partisanship, a universal essence of patriotism has not quite succeeded in implementation in America either.

I have realized the issue of America’s social hierarchy complex is deeper rooted than where one falls on the political spectrum. It resides in the notion of how we view human potential. We respect those who share similar ideologies and can communicate, trade and advance on a similar level. There is a reason why Westernized societies construct modernized versions of the ‘colonial savior’ when dealing with foreign policy in developing countries. Our innate disposition to patronize those who we see as dissimilar to our own subjective meaning of worth and potential not only comments on America’s polarizing political climate, but it also highlights how America interacts with other regions of the world.

Yes, I believe we must once again redefine globalism, where the sole purpose of international interconnectivity is not for political or economic gain but is one that reintroduces love and empathy for one another as a public ethic. This ideal can be and should be implemented within our nation as well.

By Kavita Rai

Kavita Rai is a passionate youth activist and journalist centered around creation and thinking out-of-the-box. She is a storyteller and … Read more ›

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›