Friday, 21 November 2014

Conversation with Racists: Part 2

Around two weeks ago we posted a first part of Conversations with Racists. The list of bullshit that are expressed by some people are overwhelming and it couldn’t fit into one post, so we will keep pouring the most ridiculous statements and questions racist or Islamophobic (or both) in nature with few comments that maybe are not entirely based on our own experiences, but for us are a common knowledge.

I recently had an absurdly exhausting conversation about democracy and majority. Although the topic surrounded homosexuals and their rights, but I think this point is worth mentioning in terms of other minorities and their rights.

Basically, what I’ve learned is that democracy means that majority is right. And only rights of majority has to be protected. So when I argued that in democracy majority DECIDES, I’ve got a reply that yes, majority decides and they can freely decide to limit the rights of the others.

So apparently, being an equal citizen doesn’t mean that you have citizenship, work, pay taxes, participate in a social life – you have to belong to the majority (meaning here: Catholic white Polish), because otherwise you cannot count on your rights being protected.

Apparently it's the right to hate,
oppress and discriminate against
What happened to the fight for freedom? What happened to fight to be free from oppression? What happened to defending HUMAN rights? Is it really what patriotism and catholic values mean to Polish people? That either you are with us all the way or against us?

I cannot understand this religious hypocrisy that many people are expressing. On one hand, the extremism in Islamic countries is condemned and to be feared. You hear criticism of sharia laws, oppression against minorities and women, but at the same time there is a strong protection of our own white catholic extremism that starts to emerge in some countries, Poland among the others. The way I see it, either we express extremism and at the same time we have to accept extremist views of other religions; or we condemn extremism expressed by EVERY religion, be it Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, etc. It just doesn’t seem logical to criticise Islam for some of its followers, than when the Catholics are starting to show exactly the same type of behaviour (restrictive, extreme, abusive, oppressive), the argument is: “But Muslims are doing exactly the same! And nobody is doing anything about it! So if they can behave like this, so can we”.

But this is not the only inconsistency and prejudice expressed.

1.      Muslims are violent and they want to destroy other religions.

That’s the statement I’ve heard way too many times. I usually start by trying to abandon the generalisations such as “Muslims are like this” and “Muslims are like that”. Various sources provide different numbers, but there is around 2 billion Muslims in the world. Seriously, if EVERY Muslim person was violent and wanted to destroy others, well, then we all be pretty much destroyed by now. The fact that violence is concentrated to few unfortunate countries with few extremists factions speaks against the notion that ALL Muslims are jihadists.

But, apparently, it’s not convincing enough, because, let’s be honest: Jihadists are everywhere.

Then I try to list all of the Muslim countries that come to my mind and compare the ones with that are currently at war, under ISIS, Taliban, or other extremist Muslims with those which are peaceful, where people of various religions live alongside and the people work towards more equal and inclusive future for all citizens. And the list of countries with Muslim majority that are not currently at war is quite big.

I myself had a pleasure to spend two wonderful months in Ziguinchor, Senegal, where 95% of population is declared Muslims and I didn’t feel unsafe, I didn’t feel persecuted or discriminated on basis of my religion. Nobody commented on my clothing (I tried to dress as appropriately as possible, but it’s was boiling hot, so sometimes I failed), I didn’t meet with ostracizing, over-sexualising me as a white person, nobody suggested to me that I am promiscuous, because I’m white (there was only a real surprise that I’m here without my fiancé and that I’m 26 and not yet married. But THAT’s cultural thing).

Reza Aslan is worth consulting on topics regarding Islam issues, and catholic issues, for that matter. Here is a brilliant response to some allegation towards countries with Muslim majority.

2.      If Muslims in general are against extremism then why they are not doing anything about it?

Usually, after I start to highlight the difference in Muslim world and that not all Muslims are jihadists and it’s not really a part of an Islam in general, I get to the following argument: if majority of Muslims are against extremists, why aren’t they doing anything?

This is the point where I realise that I get into the conversation with people who really know shit about the world and various issues, but I won’t withdraw from the conversation, so I carry on.

I will not even mention the Rome Statute 1998 and amendments in 2010 regarding crimes of aggression. I think that would be too much for some people to understand and I don’t think it would be considered an explanation for some countries to refrain from direct, violent actions. So I go on and give example of current situation with ISIS in Syria, Iraq, etc. Currently around 40 countries, both Western and Islamic came together to fight. Those include Turkey, Albania, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq itself (on purpose I listed only the countries with Islam as a main or almost main religion). So there is huge group of countries that are not happy with the oppression that ISIS is imposing on “their” territory and are willing to fight it.

You know what counter argument I’ve heard to belittle this action?

“Well, but those countries are fighting only to protect their own countries and so that ISIS doesn’t enter their backyard!”

Well, duuuh!

Of course they want to protect their territory, good government should always make the safety of its citizen a priority. But if their actions were ONLY protective, they would build a huge wall, strengthen borders, shoot anybody to come close to their bubble and wait for others to deal with this mess. Are they doing that? Maybe. But they also joined a coalition and made an effort to play nice with others and to contribute.

A very comprehensive explanation of the coalition against Islamic State has been provided by Abdulrahman al-Rashed

3.  Islam is the religion of hate

This point highly connects to the accusation of violence and will to destroy everybody, but at the same time it’s not.

I will not fiercely defend Islam, there is many teachings I know nothing about and throughout the time I also read about the negative face of Islam. There is no denying that there are people out there who use their status of the teacher to spread hate and negativity. There is many people who internalise the hate that they hear every day, that is pouring into their ears with the dose of bigoted self-righteousness and self-validation.

But it’s also true about Catholics.

I don’t know what you think, but if God was this hateful, discriminatory and destructive thingy, he/she would invent better ways to destroy us all. And the fact that we live side by side for centuries now, with different beliefs, means that we are meant to live in peace. I cannot find the appropriate research by now, but I remember reading an article about conflict and religion. There is no religion that is more conflict-prone that the other, but also multiculturalism and multiple religions doesn’t imply that particular country is more prone to conflict.

The conflict emerges when one group tries to dominate over the other. It doesn’t matter whether the group affiliates with an ethnic background, or historical heritage, or religion. But somehow it seems that religion is best excuse to restrict the rights of others.

Written by Vespertilio

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