Dr. Ismail Mohamed squinted at the headline of the news article on the screen in front of him; ‘Some women now found to be pregnant……’. He did not want to read further or look at the comments or the reactions to the article. He could imagine the hostility and the denial that would be unleashed yet again. He could almost feel the scars from the past year opening up, blood trickling out and his wounds re-emerging. The professional jealousies turning into scorn and ridicule. The plans to destroy him and a lifetime of good work. The readiness to think the worst of him. He could not endure that general willingness to accept that he had fulfilled the lowest requirements necessary to be labeled as a traitor and scum. This latest news update would not bring about vindication. There would be no apologies. The innocent are rarely forgiven for that which they are wrongly accused of while the guilty succeed in their plotting and planning. He thought back to that day a year ago and how it had all started.
The children rushed around the breakfast table. Dr. Ismail Mohamed returned home from the neighbourhood mosque to find books and bags strewn around. It seemed as if he would not have time to get to the newspapers this morning before rushing off to the hospital. Shoelaces to be tied and shirts to be tucked in. His wife, Sakeena Mohamed packed the lunchboxes, found the missing Mathematics book, tidied up the table and managed to get the children into the car with their father in time to go to school. “Daddy, do you have lots of surgeries today?” asked the youngest from the back seat of the car. “Daadd, can we have ice cream today?” asked the oldest from the passenger seat of the car. Dr. Ismail Mohamed smiled and thought to himself how grateful he was for his beautiful family. A lifetime of a practice in obstetrics and gynaecology meant that he was always aware of the challenges couples faced in creating their perfect family.
He walked in the doors of the hospital and made his way to the elevator to get to his office on the fourth floor of the building. He found it odd that Nurse Wijewardena walked past him and did not return his usual morning greeting and smile. He found it even stranger that Dr. Perera was about to enter the elevator on the third floor but abruptly turned around and walked away when the doors opened. He found it most peculiar when he saw women rushing around as he got out of the elevator shouting and gesturing. He did not see or hear the dozens of missed calls from Sakeena on his phone.
“What were you thinking?” they all said “Is this your way of making sure your lot stays in control?” “Are you a terrorist?” “So was the plan that you guys would go on having large families and expanding your businesses whilst we end up with nothing?” The accusations went on and on. The complaints piled on. There was a presumption of guilt. Colleagues and contemporaries. Neighbours and old friends. The common thread was an assumption of ‘us’ v ‘them’. The assertion of the unforgivable; a threat to the existence of the majority itself. The newspaper headline that broke the story read, ‘Muslim doctor carries out illegal sterilisations of thousands of non-Muslim women’.
Dr. Ismail Mohamed tried to explain the difference between a hysterosalpingogram which checked for blocked fallopian tubes and tubal ligation which is a surgical procedure where the fallopian tubes are tied, clamped, cut, banded or sealed closed. He attempted to draw a distinction between the facts and the claims. He fought against the allegations and defended himself against his detractors. “Why are they saying these things?” exclaimed Sakeena who was distraught over the story being spread across the nation. “Isn't there a way to prove them wrong? How could they say that you actually sterilised these women? What motive could you possibly have had to violate the oath that you took as a medical professional? Why would they destroy our family and our name like this?”
Dr. Ismail Mohamed read the posts and comments about him on social media. The spiteful mockery and xenophobic murmurings. The stirring up of incitement. He thought back to his schooling in his little rural village along the coastline and all the hopes his parents and teachers had for him as a child. He grieved the difficult childhood that had suddenly been thrust upon his own children. The burdens that had been placed upon their shoulders. He reflected on his time in medical school making new friends from various ethnicities and religions and the sharing of food, culture and experiences that came along with it. Friendships that had now soured. Kindness that had turned into harsh words. Trust replaced by betrayal. He understood that it fit within their plan. He had been unknowingly chosen as a lamb to the slaughter. A symbol of the struggle for dominance. A pawn in the game of chess.
Police investigations, arrest, detention and court cases; it was all a whirlwind of faces, conversations, processes and events. He marvelled at the surgical prowess so many had bestowed on him to be able to surreptitiously conduct illegal procedures on patients in surgical theatres filled with nurses and medical staff. Throughout the process of questioning by the police, time spent in jail and hours sitting in the courthouse he wondered about the women who had raised the complaints. Were they just like him; used and then tossed away like crumpled pieces of paper? Did they mourn over their inability to conceive and believe that it was really his fault? How would they react when they suddenly found themselves to be pregnant and realised the cost of their words? Could they have ever predicted the disastrous consequences of their contentions? Or was it really that there were no qualms in the conviction handed out? There was the assurance that there would be no absolution of guilt.
(Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this book are either the product of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.)
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