Bilal Choudhry

Student Group Coordinator
Brooklyn, NY

Why did you become an activist?

I have family members who experienced human rights abuses, such as my great grandmother who experienced ethnic cleansing during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947. I have also witnessed medical maltreatment in rural Pakistan (e.g. poor people being denied of basic medical assistance). Listening to those experiences garnered my interest in humanitarian work.

What has inspired you to become a part of the human rights movement?

Before and during the Trump Administration, numerous people in South and Southeast Asian countries were experiencing human rights abuses due to weak democracies and dictatorial governments. I remember listening to my relatives’ anecdotes and reading news from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh that constantly blared of bombings and deaths of people in rural and urban areas. I believe human rights movements are not only a means of spreading awareness, but also one for saving people suffering from human rights abuses.

Why is it important now to continue to fight for human rights?

As America and other parts of the world are being divided in terms of ideology, ignorance and misinformation are slowly replacing rational thought with fervor. This leads to corrupt officials robbing fundamental human rights from people – which, sadly, is becoming accepted by the public. It is exactly this mindset that leads people to discriminate against different classes of individuals. Everyone is entitled to their human rights and no one, regardless of their position in society, can take away these fundamental rights.

What are you doing to stop policies like the Muslim Ban?

Our student group was part of the campaign The America I Believe In where some of the members researched the causes and effects of the Muslim Ban and others presented the research by holding a Socratic seminar with the Muslim Club and Amnesty International members. We also coordinated with the Hispanos Unidos Club by holding a schoolwide “call for action” day, which invited students to talk about patterns of migration in America and the importance of immigrants with their foreign language, history, and English classes.

How can we combat hate and xenophobia in our local communities?

Xenophobia and hate are mostly stemmed from ignorance and misinformation. Students can send a letter to either their school administration or their local assemblyman, urging them to take action in supporting students that are affected by xenophobia and hate. They can also hold a presentation on their campus that would teach their peers about this problem and how to tackle it. Community members can reach out to media by sending a letter to the editor and explaining the issue or they can host a culture awareness day. Finally, individuals can do all of the above and simply stand in solidarity with those who are in danger.