Interview for

Sufi Laghari

3/12/2021

Interviewed By:

Katherine Clifton

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:35:00
Summary

Sufi describes his Muslim identity and homeland of Sindh, a region in modern Pakistan. He recounts being blacklisted by the Pakistani government, deciding to move to the United States, his relationship to Sufi poetry, and becoming an activist in the U.S.

Transcript
Other Interviews

Other interviews of this person can be found below:

Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Sufi Laghari

Date: 03/12/2021

Location: Narrator Location: Washington DC, Interviewer Location: Honolulu, HI


Summary: Sufi describes his Muslim identity and homeland of Sindh, a region in modern Pakistan. He recounts being blacklisted by the Pakistani government, deciding to move to the United States, his relationship to Sufi poetry, and becoming an activist in the U.S.

Topics: Historical context, Education, Family, Religious Practice, Politics, Discrimination, Violence, Immigration Process, Asylum-Seeker, Language, Home, Personal Finances, Community, Resilience, Illness, Interfaith Aid, Activism, Faith, Cultural Adjustment, Home, Poetry, Gender


Outline

Section 1: (00:00-13:53)

  • Historical Context, Education, Family - Sufi is from Sindh and talks about its history. Also discusses his familial background and poverty. Sufi goes to school and through his studies, his perspective is opened.

  • Religious Practice, Family - Sufi discusses poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sufi poetry, taught to him by his father. Religion as desire to spread love.

  • Politics, Religious Practice, Discrimination, Violence - In the face of Islamic extremism and lack of tolerance for Hindus and Christians, Sufi spreads awareness. Because of this, blacklisted by the government and has to go into hiding, in threat of being arrested and potentially killed. Government intimidates his family as well.

Section 2: (13:54-22:47)

  • Immigration process, Language - Decides he can no longer live in Pakistan and goes to US. Meets with lawyer, explains he wants to do something meaningful in the US. His case is expedited. In 1994, has his immigration interview. At first, they tell them they have lost his file, but his lawyer has his file to present. Language is a difficulty and his friend works to translate. He becomes a citizen.

  • Home, Personal Finances, Employment, Community - Feels like he experiences his second birth in the US, sense of relief that he is here legally, and it feels like home. He has no money, only $13 in his pocket. Was working odd jobs. Uses this money on a phone booth and catches his friend who tells Sufi he will help him.

Section 3: (22:48-32:13)

  • Family, Resilience, Education - When asked how he is able persevere, he gives two responses: the example set by his mother and the poetry given to him by his father. Talks about his mother as a strong woman, not traditionally educated but still aware. Wanted to give education to her children. Also helped other children, especially girls to get an education.

Section 4: (33:03-37:46)

  • Family, Discrimination, Illness, Violence - He communicated to parents by letters, sometimes not sent directly to his parents. Wanted to keep them safe. When they later visited him in US, he realized that they had been harassed monthly by military. His mother had cancer when she visited in 2008 and died shortly after she returned home. Sufi’s brother murdered in 2015-- he thinks in retaliation to his activism efforts.

Section 5: (37:53-42:30)

  • Immigration process, Asylum-seeker, Employment, Family- When Sufi came in 1994, he continuously applied for asylum. Had to wait a long time to get citizenship in the wake of 9/11. Finally got it in 2006 and got his parents a visa. Was unemployed and uninsured when his mother and father visited. Received help from Catholic Charities.

Section 6: (42:34-54:50)

  • Interfaith Aid, Language, Activism, Employment - Looked to NY Tibet Center to see how it was run. Wanted to make a newsletter to bring awareness of the persecution of the Sindhis, was also working 2 or 3 jobs at the same time. Supported by his friend, and they started a business, but he wanted to bring awareness instead.

  • Activism, Community, Interfaith, Cultural Adjustment - Looked at other organizations, reached out to an executive director of a Kurdish organization. Given the advice to move to Washington DC with his support to start his organization and moves with support of his friends who see the need for the type of organization he envisions. In the same townhouse, helped also by a Quaker, adjusts to American slang, still considers him to be a very good friend.

Section 7: (54:50-1:08:18)

  • Faith - Sufi sees universal values between religions.

  • Politics, Cultural Adjustment - Discusses the freedom in America as well as its creativity and innovation. Before coming to US, only knew what he read. It is different to see with his own eyes. Talks about visiting different countries and wanting to see different examples of Capitalism and Socialism. Feels that in America, he can bring attention to the truths he has observed and make a difference.

Section 8: (1:08:47- 1:17:01)

  • Home- Feels like America is his home and describes one unique aspect of America as being the way everyone greets each other. References life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  • Future - When asked what he wants a listener in the future to get out of his interview, states a saying by Confucius, talks about how the letter Lincoln wrote to his son is still passed from parents to children, references a Clinton speech where he stated that this country was for everyone -- no matter when they came. Out of all this, Sufi has one word that he wants listeners to think: beautiful. Wants to touch their hearts with his authenticity and truth which never becomes stale.

Section 9: (1:17:01-1:23:30)

  • Activism, Politics - When he started his career, no one knew about Sindh. Now, there is a Congressional Sindh Caucus, they’ve hired Sindhis in the consulate and embassy, there was a research report on the Sindh Human Rights situation. He has testified in the UN, Congress, and on the media. Describes the fifth pillar of America to be universities and wants to reach them too.

Section 10: (1:23:30-1:34:59)

  • Faith, Poetry, Interfaith, Gender - Discusses the difficulty of translating Sufi poetry. Shares a line of poetry, describes Sufi as pure love. Gives a few more lines, talks about communicating with his father through the poetry, about how the poetry says to connect with infidels. Tells a story about an unfaithful wife and the justification of her infidelity if she doesn’t feel true love in her marriage. Love is of utmost importance. Describes how this poetry is always directed to women as the heroines who can pass any mountain.