Monday, 22 August 2011

of stereotypes, prejudices and restrictive thinking.

I've grown up listening to a number of harmless stereotypes, almost all of which I've disproved.

- Germans are a harsh and cold people.
Completely untrue. Some of the warmest people I met in Europe were Germans.
- Those that wear spectacles are nerds.
'coz those with perfect eyesight have better things to do than pour over academia? Got plenty of bespectacled friends who aren't studious. *thinks for a minute* All my friends seem to wear glasses or contacts. But two. One of them is a great student. The other is my twin from another life and takes after my own heart.
- Americans are all stupid - a statement usually made by an Indian working in a call center, glorified in Chetan Bhagat's book, One Night at a Call Center.
- India is such a sad, desperately poor and polluted country (while this might be slightly true, nobody ever talks about the filthy rich).

Then there are the damaging stereotypes. The ones that destroy lives.

Like all Muslims are terrorists.

It's been over ten years since 9/11, but the impact remains. Because of the nefarious activities of a handful (in comparison) of extremists, an entire community of over a billion strong has been branded.. forever? When people make statements like the one above I just come to the conclusion that they failed Statistics in school.

The double standards and hypocrisy have me outraged. Major cities in Britain have witnessed the worst side of its young population. I am not generalizing here but what's to stop me from following the same example and calling every Britisher a pillager and an anarchist?

I love this guy.
The Colbert Report had a brilliant tongue-in-cheek piece on when the American media 'assumed' the Norweigian killer was a Muslim terrorist before his true identity was revealed. They had no proof, it just seemed to make perfect sense to them. Crazed man goes on a seemingly senseless rampage killing 92 kids, what else could he be but an Islamic fundamentalist? When it turned out he was actually anti-Muslim (huh? what's that?) the media didn't apologize for their baseless presumptions. They called him a lone killer.
Do you see a pattern emerging here?

I digress, this is not the point I want to make. A week ago I read about Wholefoods, a supermarket retail chain in the USA and their Ramadan online marketing campaign - which was scrapped by one of its operating regions, as a few haters got too vocal and threatened never to step into Wholefoods again. This shouldn't have deterred the company, considering the vast untapped potential of the billion dollar 'muslim' market. To hell with the hypocritical so-called 'ideals'. News flash! America thrives on consumerism and is a capitalist society. A lot of those Muslims are American citizens that pay tax dollars. What's wrong with targetting them with products they can buy?

Looks tempting.

Wholefoods along with a company called Saffron Road, has introduced a wide range of halal products. Halal refers to food that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic law.

Now if you're a vegan, vegetarian, an animal rights activist or just get downright squirmy with the details, please skip the next couple of lines.

Islam forbids its followers to consume blood because of the impurities, germs and wastes it contains that are to be carried out from the body. Paraphrased from Wiki: Muslims slaughter animals in a particular way (called Dhabiha) by cutting at the carotid artery, jugular vein and the windpipe with a rapid movement, in order to drain the blood out and let the animal suffer as little as possible as it loses consciousness. This is the same procedure followed by Jews, explaining why their meat is lawful for consumption to Muslims.

When Wholefoods announced their campaign there was an immediate backlash, albeit the support from most was immense. I came across a blogger that used her blog as a medium to spew hate making the most of her misconceptions. On some forums, it was unacceptable to some that the company wish 'Ramadan Kareem', even though it's perfectly okay that they wish any other religious community in accordance with their festivals. Infuriated readers and customers made lame and weird comments such as 'does that mean I can't walk past the halal food section with pork chops in my trolley?' This supermarket chain also sells kosher meat. It's a well known fact that pork is forbidden to Jews. Would this intolerant ignoramus have made a big deal out of it in that respect? Others called it jihadist (that's a new one) and simply vowed never to step into the supermarket again.

Why the hate?
They believe we're all terrorists.
They don't want us to get our protein.

Why is that, in this day and age, when we boast of 'open-mindedness' and advancement of modern thinking do people still hold such ignorant and prejudiced views?
Here in the East, I've heard statements like 'they're so broad-minded in the West, unlike here' too many times. I don't see it. Just because Westerners will never make anything of a guy talking to a girl like they do in the East, doesn't mean they are the authority on liberal thinking.

If I spoke about Muslim stereotypes in particular, this post would be much longer than it already is. Let's just say we're viewed as a bunch of hateful insular idiots out to kill. Funny thing is, the individuals that make such accusations are usually not far from it themselves.

A lot of the fault lies with the Muslims, definitely. The dastardly deeds performed by the sanctimonious self-righteous monsters somehow give a regular TV watcher the 'understanding' that the purpose of a Muslim's existence is the annihilation of non-Muslim races and world domination (of course!). What is this? Independence Day? It's terribly ironic that masses are given to believe that this is what Islam preaches, when Islam itself means peace. Just look a little closer, dig a little deeper, what these men advocate is nothing close to what Islam is all about.

I'm a practicing Muslim. I certainly do not want anyone dead. Why on earth would I want anyone dead? I have plenty of close friends from other faiths and close friends from my own, who don't want anyone dead either. I believe peaceful dialogue, friendship and an open mind (a real one, on both sides) are the key to bridging the gulf. Hate is a terrible all-consuming evil. In school, students develop an aversion to subjects usually because they do not understand them, also because the teachers that teach them those subjects haven't done a very good job of it. The same is true here. Seek understanding of a subject before you dedicate a life full of hate and animosity towards it; look for the people that can give you the right answers.

And for God's sake, don't generalize.


Exercise your freedom of speech!
Go on. You know you want to.