On a hot July afternoon in 2013, two men broke into Muniba Sheikh’s home in Karachi, Pakistan, where they held Muniba and her 15-year-old nephew, Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS '20, at gunpoint. They proceeded to raid the house, and by the end of the ordeal, Aneeb's and his family’s cash, electronics, and passports were gone.
Occurrences like these are disturbingly common in Karachi. It’s often referred to as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. With minimal gun control, middle-class citizens walk around with teams of bodyguards. Gang fights are routine, and people pass by muggings held in plain sight. Aneeb Sheikh, born in Karachi in 1998, witnessed these crimes firsthand everyday. When his father, Aamer Sheikh, was given a promotion by Pepsi Co. in 2004 to work in Dubai, UAE, he moved with his wife and children with little hesitation.
In Dubai, Aneeb Sheikh attended a British international school, where he not only found better schooling and greater safety, but he also discovered a whole new wealth of cultures.
“Eighty-five percent of Dubai consists of expats like myself,” Sheikh said. “I met friends from Australia, Sweden, and the UK. I met fellow Muslims and non-Muslims living together harmoniously. I’d reflect on my days in Karachi, when I’d witnessed oppression and hundreds of violent actions [yet still] thought, ‘that will never happen to me.’"
“Everything changed that afternoon my family was robbed,” Sheikh continued. “I was completely disillusioned.” Sheikh had been on vacation visiting his aunt’s home in Karachi when he and his family were robbed of their belongings. “The police didn’t do anything either. In fact, the burglars had probably bribed them into turning a blind eye. The experience made me realize that even though I lived in Dubai, I wasn’t immune to the horrors happening in Pakistan, and I was responsible for fixing them.”
Sheikh was, however, unsure of how he could approach the issues affecting Pakistan as a career and life goal. To further complicate matters, the British school system required him to choose a concentration immediately upon entering college and would not allow him the flexibility to later deviate from it.
“I decided to apply to and attend an American university so that I could receive a liberal arts education that allows me to explore my options. I ultimately decided to attend Boston College because of its strong political science program, which I knew I was interested in,” said Sheikh.
Like many freshmen, however, college was not everything Sheikh hoped it always would be. “Diversity was something I’ve grown up with. I knew beforehand that BC would not be as physically diverse as Dubai is, but I had hoped that everyone would have a certain degree of open-mindedness,” said Sheikh. “When I heard about things like the slurs on the Mod parking lot, and saw people laughing at the recent solidarity march, I realized that if I wanted to be a leader in the future, I needed to start becoming one now.”
Sheikh found the opportunity of leadership through UGBC, which offers senate positions to four freshmen each year. “I’m an outgoing, confident person, and I came to realize that a lot of people know or at least knew of me on campus,” he said. “I’m very vocal about what I believe in and I say what’s on my mind. There are things I love about BC, but there are things that need to change, too, and that’s why I ran for senate.”
On September 30, Sheikh was announced as one of the UGBC senators for the Class of 2020. Currently, Sheikh is working with his fellow freshmen senators to bring more diversity to BC’s dining options and to promote safe sex on campus, among other issues. More importantly, however, Sheikh wants to foster discussion about religion, race, gender, and all the other nuances between members of his class.
“Of course, there are a lot of physical changes I want to make here at BC, but ultimately, I think my job as a freshman senator is to make sure nothing like the incident at the Mods ever happens again,” he said. “Mutual respect and understanding of one another is of the utmost importance.”
Sheikh strongly believes that his background will allow him to become an ideal leader. From his time in Pakistan, he learned that corruption, domineering behavior, and oppression of ideas cannot be condoned. From living in Dubai, he learned the value and richness of diversity.
“Here at BC, I’m going to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard,” Sheikh said. “Being a leader isn’t about always having the best ideas and being able to do everything independently. Being a leader means creating a welcoming environment that can bring out the potential in people, and having everyone work together for a unified goal.”