There is an article in yesterday’s Guardian, entitled:
As a Muslim woman I was never fearful in Britain. But today I’m afraid.
The author, Masuma Rahim, makes valid points, all of which I agree with. But skirts other, deeper ones.
The author in question, Masuma, is a mental health worker. To quote her:
In almost 10 years of working in mental health, with often violent, dangerous, desperately unwell people, I have never had any trouble because of my faith. But now I am waiting for the day a patient refuses to work with me, or does worse, because I am Muslim.
I understand and sympathise with everything she says, but at the same time, her religion, her faith and belief is at fault. (Meant in a general sense, in must be said, not as an individual.) As you read it, over and over again she refers to herself as a Muslim. Not as a human, a person, not as a woman, but as a Muslim. Yes, absolutely, unquestioningly that is the point of the article, that her faith, through the action of others, makes her a target. But it just focuses her difference, her identity.
This isn’t an attack on Muslims, I feel the same about most religions, particularly Christianity whose history is a lot darker and more insidious than that of Islam. While in many ways Islam is now seeming in the press more and more backwards, up until the 13th century the case was quite the opposite. Read, for instance: Islam – History of Islamic Education, Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education
The problem isn’t ‘her’ as a Muslim in a hijab, it isn’t the mindless minority of other who may assault her, it isn’t even the media moguls who pick and choose stories with their own agenda and politics in mind. The problem, as it ever was and ever will be, is the minute few who profit from this (at any cost to others) and the other 99.9% who stand back, quietly, or choose ignorance over thought.
Two quotes come to mind, the first in my head without a source, the second, known:
"By your silence are you damned"
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
I know what it’s like to live in fear, not of ‘mights’ or ‘keeping your head down in case’, but the abject fear, the knowledge of what’s next. Try living with that every day. Fear of a real known is a damned sight worse that cowering at shadows. At least shadows hide from the light. She’s a mental health worker, she will understand the cost of this silence. The children with violent parent(s) and carers: the broken bones, smashed teeth, the scars that show from belts, knives, guns and anything else the sociopath can grab in their rage, or sadistic pleasures. And the scars that don’t show, but are all too evident. The girls that shy from men or, worse, don’t. The quiet, withdrawn men that shun others or that, like Ms Rahiims’ patients, can turn on a sixpence.
Why do you think this happens?
Because she is a Muslim?
Or even because she is a she?
No, it’s because person who should act – don’t.
It’s because people who should not act – do.
It is because people stand back, don’t want to get involved. On a micro level it’s the callous teenagers that record abuse on trains and gleefully upload it to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc. It’s the adults on the same train that hide in their book or newspaper, or that nod, smile to themselves and stare away out the windows. All it takes is one person to stand up on the train and say, "ENOUGH! That’s wrong!" and others – then and only then – will join in, agree. And so the bully backs down. Bullies, at heart, are cowards. But so too are those that sit back, don’t want to get involved, cowards. I understand that fear, better than most. But sometimes you have to stand up. To say what HAS to be said.
Isn’t it a damning thing about the human race that a simple act of kindness like that makes national news, goes viral and spreads around the world – simply because one person had the courage to start up for another? To be a decent human being! (i.e. Train passengers stand up against racial abuse of Muslim woman)
As she also says:
You cannot fully understand unless it is your reality too. You cannot understand the helplessness and the rage I feel when I hear my bright, sensitive, gentle 11-year-old nephew has had to deflect racist and Islamophobic comments from his ignorant schoolmates.
I am terrified for the world my sister’s children are going to have to live in; for all those at the mercy of people who spread hate and promote aggression. I wish that Isis were the only enemy in that regard. Sadly, Isis is simply the tip of the iceberg, which is showing no sign of shrinking.
Can she not see the irony here?
As for Islamophobia, who is at fault for that?
An increasingly intolerant religion that wants, ultimately, to replace all others, that sees others as a threat while saying how peaceful they are?
The hate-mongers (inside and outside Islam)?
The media gleefully milking and twisting any story, any truth, as long as it sells papers, advertising?
The hate-filled fundamentalists that make up a tiny percentage of Muslims?
The ever-greedy French, British, German, Chinese, Russian (and so on in a long, long list) arms and munitions factories that revel in war, in the profits of hate and murder?
The unscrupulous criminal parasites that feed on war: the people carriers and black-market dealers?
The politicians always looking to profit from dissent, while claiming they (like the priests) have our best interests at heart?
Or is it the 1,500,000,000 Muslims that are quiet? That see and hear a hate preaching radical and, like the Westerners on the train, turn and look away. If you want to educate the world, to remove the ignorance and fear of others, you have to start with yourself.
You can carry it forward to the Hindi that murders their daughter in an ‘honour killing’ because she won’t enter an arranged marriage, she doesn’t want to be forced into a rape-filled marriage for her parents profit. Or to the child beaten to death by the drunkard/drugged up boyfriend. Or a hundred other situations.
Every death in Iraq or in France, every religious, cultural and racist murder in the West Bank, every destroyed monument in Syria, is on you. And you. And you. You cannot trust politicians or religious leaders to sort all this fear, hatred and ignorance. They feed on it. It keeps them in power, position, wealth. When a hate-filled Imam persuades a teenage child to put on a bombvest and kill innocents in Allah’s name it empowers him. him – the imam, not Him, Allah.
Sorry, but Allah, Yahweh, Vishnu, Thor, Zeus nor the rest are real. They are all made up by ignorant men in Earth’s dim history and seized by men for gain. For power, position. They, perhaps, had their place once, to educate the small communities. Then knowledge, guidance was replaced by control, power. Teaching was replaced by blind obedience to ‘faith’. Holy scriptures were no longer parables to guide, they became verses to be memorised without thought, to be interpreted and changed by those in control, as it suits them. Look at the situation now in Saudi, maybe the locals like that sort of thing but I can imagine few things more oppressive, more threatening than a despotic country ruled by dogma and ruthlessly overseen by an army of untouchable religious police.
I am sure the priests of Apollo and the high priests of Set were as solid in their convictions as anyone alive today. Perhaps the Mayans really believed that ripping the heart out of a virgin child at the altar would appease the gods. Yet how many millennium have passed since a temple or towering Parthenon was built in their name? How many Christians now go to church? How many churches and cathedrals in the UK now stand empty, boarded up?
The early Christians couldn’t even give a name to their deity! Why? Because in simply calling Him ‘God’ it was easier to convert people to their faith. And having converted them, exploit them. I’m sure the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope in Vatican city would vehemently disagree. But faced with the question of how many innocents bled to build their edifices, watch them get shifty, side-track the question. "That was a sad episode in our history, we are different now." Cobblers.
In time (regardless of your belief) your shrines, your mosques and churches, your synagogues will be abandoned, one day to be trampled by other religions, visited by the curiosity, or pulled down by farmers to build a cattle shed. This has been repeated for untold millennia and in all that time the respected deity has never appeared in world-shaking wrath to demand of the vandal, “"What the bloody ‘ell are you up to?" That’s the thing about faith, about invented beliefs, they rely on ignorance, on never having to prove their existance.
By all means, have your faith, if it comforts you. But for Gods sake, ask yourself why! Question things. It infuriates me when I hear things like, "My faith says… or that "In my culture…" That is not thinking, that is not belief. That is brain-washing, conditioning, it is ignorance. Yes, your faith says, your culture says, your family always voted for (this party)… Your faith may assert that the Torah, the Quran, The Bible etc is the word of god, but my faith – faith in commonsense – assures you that it was written by men and that people lie. Especially if they stand to gain.
Here is a sobering thought. There’s is only one ‘God’ – and I can summon him!
No, I’m not crazy, I’m making a point. The above statement is, in my faith, true. I can travel the Levant trying to summon daemons and Djinn in Chaldean or Aramaic. None will show. I can go to the most ancient woods in Eire and beseech Danu, but she won’t hear. Nor will Aradia in the furthest reaches of Italy. No God named by man will ever appear. But one will show it’s face: Mammon. Of course the being itself won’t appear, it’s too deceitful. It will send its earthly minions in hob-nailed boots to the chant of "You’re nicked, son!" And to summon said spirit? Burn money. Publically of course; the more public the better. It must be seen to be ‘sacrificed’! Then those that worship Mammon will descend upon you in righteous wrath for your heresy. Mammon is made up too, by men, but its influence is such that to destroy money is a criminal offence in many countries. Telling, I find. There is your god. The root of all evil, or most at any rate. The greed in men’s hearts.
The whole world is going to hell because of fear. Fear of the unknown is ignorance. It is cowardice. The Muslim that won’t stand up for his/her faith because they doesn’t want to say anything against a vile cleric is, in part, to blame for all the evil that follows. The civil servant that, fearing for his job, won’t blow the whistle of his corrupt, abusive boss, is to blame for all the fallout when said person in charges gets away with it, encouraging them to further excesses. With but a moments contemplation you start to lose count of the long list of names in the news, in history, whose sick, depraved actions shocked nations. And for every Hitler, every Tony Blair, every Jimmy Saville, every school or office bully, there’s a crony that covered for them – and a parent, a colleague, who saw and turned away.
Stop labelling others! Stop labelling yourself! You are a person, unique in all time and history. There will never be another ‘you’.
I’ve seen the damage silence causes. The silence in your own head because to are too scared to speak up. The silence of others because they don’t want to get involved. There are times to stand back, yes. And they are times to smile, to ask, "Are you OK?", to say to yourself, "This is just wrong, I have to intervene." Without that moral compass we are less than animals, we are less than those we label ‘savages’. So swallow that fear and act – thoughtfully, considerately, compassionately – on the fear and anger you hold inside, lest it eat you alive.
Have I managed to offend you?
There are none so blind as those that will not see!
Islam itself may not be any better or worse than other organised religions, but you cannot for a moment believe that the genocide of Kurds and Yizidi by hard-line Muslim fanatics and extremists from Turkey to Saudi, the destruction of heritage sites all over Iran and Iraq, 9/11 by Al Qaeda, the constant killings by Sunni vs Shi’ite, all the ongoing atrocities by Daesh… are the acts of a loving, peaceful religion. You cannot, in fairness, say any negative comment against Islam is ‘ignorant’ or ‘xenophobic’ without acknowledging that there are a large number (but small percentage) of extremist Muslims that are frankly xenophobic, homophobic psychopaths!
Of course you may still claim that of me, but first, before you reply, watch all of this – if you do cannot spend 3 minutes to have your eyes opened then perhaps it is you that is the ignorant bigot 😉
The Holy Quran Experiment:
Or try a follow on debate:
(The feature picture at the top, is from Flickr by Rana Ossama. Entitled ‘Her eyes’)