United States: Pakistani-American citizen, Mona Hafeez Siddiqui, manages to get into the Virginian cabinet with her recent appointment as the Deputy Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Policy Advisor, for immigrant and refugee affairs for the state of Virginia, United States.
This recent appointment comes as a new collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and the Office of New Americans in the Department of Social Services. Mona H. Siddiqui has an extensive background working with vulnerable sects of society including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Mona H. Siddiqui has an extensive background working with vulnerable sects of society including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Prior to her appointment, she has served as Assistant Attorney General in the office of the Attorney General, where she worked on human rights, fair housing, and disability initiatives as well as establishing practices in civil rights advocacy, respectively. Her academic background revolves around the Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus on Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Virginia and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law.
Currently, she is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Siddiqui has also appeared as Speaker in a TEDx event in 2016, for TEDxRVAWomen where she addressed the role of immigrants in the fabric of the American society. Quoting the first African-American Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, Mona H. Siddiqui set the foundation to what she believes is the coming together of the law and community, “the legal system can force open doors and sometimes knock down walls, but it cannot build bridges”.
Siddiqui’s work stems from creating a network of connections between the community and the law which she explained, by means of her personal story, is an active part of her professional and/or academic journey. She has examined social issues such as race, nationality, migration and Constitutional Law with the aim to aspire for social equality.
As Assistant Attorney General in the office of the Attorney General, she worked on human rights, fair housing, and disability initiatives as well as establishing practices in civil rights advocacy.
Highlighting her family’s connection with Pakistan, she argued for the idea of identity, and the need to navigate its way out of fear. Siddiqui stated that world politics has changed everything with multiple preconceptions that make it difficult to explain, “as fear and apprehension has taken over both sides to the storytelling”. Referring to the 9/11 incident, she added that “On that day of 9/11 I was four-months pregnant with my third child and like everyone else I was devastated by the loss of human life. I was scared of the senseless violence in the name of extremist ideology”.
She added, “As a mother, I was afraid for the future of my children, my unborn child, who would have to navigate this scary and violent world that we had become. A world that I never had to navigate, and at that time, I didn’t realize that I would also become fearful for them, just because of their Muslim identity”.
Siddiqui's work stems from creating a network of connections between the community and the law
“Since that day it feels like the threads of the fabric are quickly unravelling and we are falling out. The threads of the fabric that bind us and cradle our community, but in the midst of the unravelling I witnessed something else. I saw, and I heard voices, from Asian-American communities recalling the Japanese internment camps, standing up for us. Voices from the Jewish communities very familiar with the horrors that were triggered by the Jewish discrimination, standing up for us. Voices from African-American and Black communities, who have endured a hard history of slavery and Jim Crowe, and are still fighting for the value of Black Lives are standing up for us. Members of the LGBTQ who face intolerant attitudes all around and hate crimes similar to our community. They are standing in solidarity with us”, stated Mona H. Siddiqui.
On that day of 9/11 I was four-months pregnant with my third child and like everyone else I was devastated by the loss of human life. I was scared of the senseless violence in the name of extremist ideology
She elaborated, “On a personal level, my professors and colleagues made sure that I know that they are there for me, if I ever feel prejudiced, because of their voices, I don’t feel quite so alone. These people, these day-to-day ordinary folks, standing up for me, standing with me, making an effort to build a bridge towards me and others like me. For me, these bridge builders are the civil rights leaders of today. Where their effort is not on changing the laws, but on changing the culture of insularity”.
She further commented that she cannot allow the voices of injustice to grow louder because the people in her day-to-day life have given her the courage to break out of her reluctance, to build a bridge towards others, so that together “we can continue the work of building bridges between communities”.
During her almost 14 minutes long TED talk, Siddiqui posed the question, “So how do we do this? How do you build a bridge from quite integration into what I call active integration?” She elaborates that the act requires the courage to step out of ones comfort zone and insularity and to allow oneself to become familiar with the new and the unfamiliar.
These people, these day-to-day ordinary folks, standing up for me, standing with me, making an effort to build a bridge towards me and others like me. For me, these bridge builders are the civil rights leaders of today.
Through her academic and research pursuits, building bridges is exactly what Siddique is doing as she gradually works towards creating a more inclusive and integrated society. Her focus on legal representation of children and the elderly as an Assistant Attorney General or advocating for the rights of people experiencing discrimination on the basis of their disabilities are apt examples of this personal and collective battle.
Baaghi TV wishes her the best for her future endeavors, and hopes that she may continue to grow in courage to fight for what is right.
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