It's not technically about politics. But in the current climate, Google’s decision to make its newest homepage doodle an image of a devout Muslim doctor from Pakistan will raise eyebrows all the same.
The search giant is honoring Abdul Sattar Edhi’s 89th birthday with an illustration, or “Google Doodle,” and is calling for compassion toward all those in need. Known as Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa” for his humanitarian work providing basic services to those in need, Edhi died last year on July 8, but his legacy in Pakistan and around the world continues to be recognized.
Born in India, Edhi moved to Pakistan as a refugee after the majority-Muslim state’s formation in 1947. He quickly realized that Pakistan’s welfare system was failing to provide people in need with medicine, education, and other essentials. In response, he made it his life’s mission to help others, Google said in its explanation of the illustration.
In 1951, Edhi personally spearheaded the creation of the Edhi Foundation, which grew from meager beginnings to become Pakistan’s largest privately run welfare system. Today the organization operates 1,800 ambulances, the most in Pakistan, and offers free hospital care, family planning services, and access to orphanages and nursing homes. Edhi’s foundation supports anyone in need, regardless of religion.
A graphic on the Edhi Foundation’s website emphasizes the organization’s principles, stating that it is “serving humanity without discrimination” and “no religion is higher than humanity.”
When questioned about why he allowed his ambulances to assist Christians and Hindus, Edhi, a devout Muslim, responded, “Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you.” This quote gets to the heart of Edhi’s mission: standing up for and supporting all people, cutting across religious, class, and cultural and political differences.
Google is encouraging all who see the Doodle to “lend a hand to someone in need today.”
Google’s recognition of Edhi and call for compassion may be a response to President Donald Trump’s apparent disregard for the plight of Muslim refugees expressed in his January executive order. The executive order overhauled US refugee policy, banning refugees from Syria, Myanmar, Iraq, and other countries from entering the United States. As Vox’s Dara Lind has written, these are the people who need American protection the most.
Trump has made comments about helping Christians fleeing persecution in the Middle East, but his focus on just one group does not reflect Edhi’s call to support all individuals in need despite religion.