Popular Indian-American stand-up comedian Hasan Minhaj has vowed to fight for the “immigrant narrative” amid a rise in hateful rhetoric in the US as he was honoured by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Minhaj, who became the first Indian-American to host the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year, was honoured by Blasio and New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray at their official residence here yesterday at the Asian-Pacific American Heritage reception. Blasio presented Minhaj with a proclamation that declared May 10, 2017 in the city as ‘Hasan Minhaj Day’. Minhaj, accompanied by his wife Beena, described the honour as “unbelievable.”
“In our country we are dealing with two different narratives – the nativist narrative and the immigrant narrative. I am fighting for the immigrant narrative where regardless of creed, colour, class, sexuality, gender, this (New York) is the meritocracy and the great place for ideas to rise to the top. If you have a great idea based on merit, this is the great market place for ideas and I am going to continue fighting for that,” Minhaj said to loud cheers and applause.
Minhaj 31, whose parents hail from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, delivered a memorable and entertaining speech at the annual Correspondents’ Dinner which was not attended by President Donald Trump, the first time since 1981 that a US president skipped the event.
As he made fun of Trump, the Indian-American comedian said one has such freedom only in a country like the US because of its commitment to freedom of speech enshrined in its Constitution. “Only in America can a first-generation, Indian American Muslim kid get on the stage and make fun of the president,” he had said. Referring to his speech at the annual dinner, Blasio said Minhaj got a message across to America that is nothing less than “memorable.”
Blasio slammed the hateful rhetoric emanating from Washington, saying it is an effort to “demonise” all immigrants, divide people and suggest that there is “something wrong with immigrants.” He referred to last month’s “horrible assault” on city taxi driver Harkirat Singh, an immigrant from Punjab, who was attacked and had his turban knocked off by unruly passengers.
“We see how many members of the Muslim community have been demonised, we see how many members of the Sikh community have been demonised. We will not stand for that in this city. We will stand up against bigotry,” the Mayor said.
He added that the city and its police department stood by Singh, who was “attacked because he was Sikh”, and will continue to ensure such attacks do not go unpunished. The Mayor called on New Yorkers to stay strong in their belief in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society, saying “we cannot let the hateful rhetoric cause us to shrink from the truth.”
New York is the “ultimate city of immigrants. We have more people born in another country who are New Yorkers today than any time in the last 100 years. New York City is safer, stronger and more prosperous than ever because we are a city of immigrants,” Blasio said.
He lauded Minhaj for standing up for values of equality and justice by “using one of the most powerful weapons” of humour and satire. “He uses his humour to shine a light on injustice, racism and bias and he does it in a very powerful and effective way,” de Blasio said.