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Asher Hasan

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My Top Ten Beliefs as a Social Entrepreneur

Posted: 02/13/2012 12:20 pm

I believe that all human beings have intrinsic value Regardless of their ethnicity, religion, etc. For those of us who have faith we were all created by the same Creator and therefore should respect ALL of his creations (yes, even Donald Trump!).

I believe in the resilience and endurance of the human spirit If given the opportunity, the capacity and the tools, the marginalized can and will extricate themselves from poverty. It's our job to provide them with an enabling ecosystem or get out of their way.

I believe in socioeconomic justice This belief drives my relentless desire to dismantle the de facto socioeconomic apartheid that is prevalent in many parts of the developing and developed world. Much of this 'apartheid' is the legacy of a post-colonial oligarchy that has tried desperately to hold onto power by exploiting and subjugating large numbers of the disempowered. I remember vividly how, as a child, I would be shell-shocked by the sight of kids my age begging on the streets of Mumbai or Karachi or working in Lahori or Delhi 'havelis' (mansions) as informally bonded child labor. The sheer disparity in my access to education, health and economic opportunity compared to these 'Children of a lesser God' made me intensely uncomfortable and more determined to tackle this issue head-on. To this day, I remain amazed at the general apathy of the elite and affluent in the developing world. Have they simply become desensitized by the teeming poverty that surrounds them or are they actually incapable of compassion? This is a question I am confronted with on a daily basis when I see a 'squeegee kid' peering through my windshield with 'help save me' written all over his face.

I believe that poverty alleviation can only occur in an ecosystem of income generation coupled to asset protection In my mind, the ultimate asset is the human body -- that is why I have chosen to dedicate myself to attacking poverty through a platform of quality healthcare access. There are, of course, many different strokes for different folks in the world of social entrepreneurship and international development and many different paths to reach the same destination. However, as Paulo Coelho emphasizes in his tour de force, The Alchemist, it's the spiritually riveting experience of the journey that REALLY matters.

I believe in rooting for the underdog and protecting the rights of minorities Growing up as a child in the UK in the early 80's, I was a minority -- a 'Paki' who was very much in the line of fire of skinheads and the National Front (NF). The fact that I lived in an affluent, 'posh' part of London did not immunize or exempt me from the inevitable 'paki-bashing' that I received on numerous occasions at the hands of large gangs of knuckle-dusting skinheads. I then moved to Pakistan where I witnessed the 'tyranny of the majority', where religious and ethnic minorities were regularly ostracized or subjected to 'second-class citizenship'. From there I moved onto the US which for me, shone as a beacon of tolerance for many years until 9/11 happened. Since that fateful day, I have been 'randomly checked' at airports about 128 times out of 132 flights taken (was security sleeping the other four times?) I'm not quite sure how 'random' that is but once again, I became acutely sensitized to the feeling of being a targeted minority in the midst of a majority that were either blissfully ignorant, openly antagonistic or politely suspicious of me or all of the above. I am now living a 'hybrid' lifestyle leapfrogging between two different worlds and three continents (N. America, Europe and Asia) where I am either a religious minority, an ethnic minority or a religious majority. Tragically, on all three landmasses, I continue to witness discrimination and exclusion of all types. That is why, wherever I can, I try to make sure that minorities are taken care of and have a voice -- e.g. in Pakistan, there are Christian, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Islamic sub-sect minorities that are unofficially discriminated against. It is palpable and it is wrong and it needs to change and in my own limited capacity, I must do everything I can to protect them. Period.

I believe we are all interconnected Not just intellectually or spiritually but also at a molecular/atomic level (and some would vigorously argue even at a sub-atomic/quantum level. Quark! Quark!) A carbon molecule that you have just breathed in may eventually, one day, become part of your brain while it may have, once upon a time, many many moons ago, been an active part of my liver (so if you end up being a drunk bastard don't say I didn't warn you).

I believe that silent majorities need to rise up and be heard Too often our religions have been hijacked by fringe (but very loud) extremists. I think all of us can agree that cultural misogyny, domestic violence, honor killing, human trafficking, child brides, child labor, etc. are heinous crimes against humanity which we must all actively speak out against. No religion advocates these practices and no religion is silent on these issues. The problem is that, as the silent majority, we often let others do the talking and in so doing, surrender the moral high ground. If we don't speak out against oppression, we aren't worth our weight in vocal cords.

I believe you need to practice what you preach We need to take care of minorities in majority-muslim countries. We need to condemn the death of Israeli citizens due to Katyusha rockets or Muslim-on-Muslim violence with the same tenacity and in the same vociferous manner that we condemn the death of an innocent Palestinian at the hands of the IDF. We need to thrive and let thrive.

I believe you have to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences It would have been much easier for me to live a cushy lifestyle driving around in a convertible in sunny Southern California with wind blowing in my hair and a beautiful, buxom blonde by my side but that would have been a self-centered, ego-driven, hydrogen-peroxide enriched, spiritually bankrupt life. Instead, I decided to leave my (somewhat) lucrative career behind and take the quantum leap of faith into the unknown world of social entrepreneurship at the ripe-old age of 35. What was I thinking? My family challenged me... had I lost my marbles or declared temporary insanity? What had possessed me to return to the 'jungle' and live the life of a roving Bedouin? No such thing I retorted. While I may not have written the manual of how to navigate your way to entrepreneurial success, I did know a thing or two about the convergence of business, technology and healthcare and I was going to put all those hours spent in the 'anatomy dungeons' of medical school to good use. As for the convertible, who really needed an outrageously overpriced piece of future scrap metal. Et la blonde? -- well I've always preferred brunettes (with due apologies to Farrah Fawcett).

I believe in having fun! Although, based upon my recent, crazy travel schedule, I have little semblance of a normal life, I have been an avid skier -- the slopes of Zermatt, Chamonix, Heavenly have all been vanquished over the past few years. I also remain a diehard Liverpool FC fan and continue to enjoy sunning my 'derriere' on the beach. Bottoms Up!