Islamophobia - The acceptable hate of the day is the current face of irrational, hysterical prejudice. But must hate be infinite?
The breeding of fear by the nationalistic and the patriotic, in an exploitation of the ‘unknown’, is a tradition as old as time. Yet it never ceases, particularly after a financial crisis, to gain traction. And what is the answer to this fear? What is it that is time and time again put forward as the response? Hate, suspicion, isolation, aggression. But when did fighting hate with hate ever result in peace or love? Can we not see that this approach only creates a vicious circle that is impossible to break? A record stuck jarringly on repeat, it’s an endless cycle of tragedy and revenge, until someone is big enough to be stripped naked of ego and pride and just say, stop. The majority of the people however, who are most ferociously xenophobic or racist have not actually even had any contact to those whom they are against. And the problem is, they are also the people most unwilling to face ‘the enemy’. If they were to sit down and have a friendly, tolerant and open-minded chat with ‘the others’, they’d soon realise they have much in common and a friendship may even be formed. Instead though, walls are put up, soldiers are sent to the borders, rumour becomes fact and fact is deemed uninteresting or automatically a lie because the rumour is more exciting. There are currently over 65 million refugees on the planet and the suffering of these people is largely a result of western colonial politics and its cousin, neo-liberalism. Yet when ca. 1.2 million crossed the mediterranean and reached fortress Europe in 2015, there was almost instantly talk of an ‘invasion’. The human beings were seen as a ‘swarm’, a ‘flood’ about to destroy the christian, western culture and civil war was supposedly just around the corner. How sad and ironic it is, that if the European Union was indeed as the name states, united, there would be no refugee crisis at all. And if instead of being so eager to predict the fall of civilisation, each person actually worked actively to help and support those less fortunate, then the ‘integration’ or supposed lack thereof that the critics so often complain about, would crumble to an irrelevancy…Indeed if each citizen were an activist, engaged in the fight for social justice and not physically and mentally numb, heavily dosed up on the drugs of consumption and TV, there would most likely be no refugees in the first place. In the words of Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.”
The root of the problem is, it would seem that we are addicted to a group mentality. We are safe in ‘our group’ and those who are different are the ‘others’ and they represent a threat. Whether the ‘others’ takes the form of a rival football team, fans of a different band or something more serious and sinister like migrants or muslims, it would seem we desire desperately to belong to a group or a ‘family’ and vehemently reject those who aren’t a member. Islamophobia is growing fiercely and a poisoned rhetoric that tars all with the same brush, is now perfectly acceptable in mainstream debate or day-to-day conversation. Apparently the reason why it became acceptable is people are scared, people are nervous of change and by stoking this fire of fear, by stating that the fear is justified, many nationalists or simply outright supremacists are again rising to power. Under the motto of, ‘if a lie is said enough times it must be true’, it becomes impossible to change the minds of those ‘fearful’ citizens with facts, figures or compassion. There are Christians under the banner of the Lords Resistance Army slaughtering whole villages and from the ashes of their burnt out homes, surrounded by the corpses of their parents and siblings, children are round up and forced in to the life of a child soldier. Then there is of course the scandal of paedophilia within the Catholic Church where thousands of children were abused by those most trusted within their local community. Furthermore, for years there have been fierce clashes between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland, it is a conflict many of us know little about, yet almost 4000 people have been killed in it. And lastly, need I mention Anders Breivik? These are just a few examples of atrocities not committed by Muslims, yet think for a moment of the differences in how they've been discussed and remembered in comparison to those enacted by Muslim terrorists. No one ever holds all Christians accountable for the aforementioned atrocities. No one ever expects an apology or an explanation from the Christian community. Nor should they. To those who like to throw all 1.6 billion Muslims in the same pot as the Taliban or Daesh however, all these points are irrelevant. Leaving an ideology behind, more to the point, leaving ‘our group’ is something too painful for most people to consider. Especially if the ideology is one based on hate and the concept of an enemy. This kind of ideology is comforting in that all of the world’s problems, or at least ‘our’ problems can be explained. The enemy is to blame. It’s something that’s easy to understand, we don’t have to get our head around complicated intertwined history, geo-politics and philosophy, we don’t have to be open minded and confront ourselves with new, possibly uncomfortable situations or ideas. No, we can stay with ‘our people’ and complain about ‘the others’.
Most recently we have seen this play out in the so called ‘Brexit’ debate. There are of course problems regarding accountability within the EU and that many people are critical of it as an organisation is more than understandable. Unfortunately though, the debate turned sour a long time ago. Built on fear, rumour, prejudice and basically one subject, immigration, the debate has turned in to a race to the bottom, a contest of who can sink lower, who can insult the most people and get away with it. The victors have been lowest common dominator politics, and the right-wing populists. The method? A politics of division, a politics of oversimplification. Their message is simple, their message is clear. Everything will be alright if we just get out of the EU, all our problems will be solved if we just get rid of the foreigners. Point out the economic benefits of migrants, point out that there were plenty of social problems before the EU, that Britain was in fact bursting at the seams with social unease long before the EU and all that is offered as a response is the tired, programmed mantra… “make Britain great again”. In Britain and indeed worldwide, at least in the so called ‘western’ world, nationalism, patriotism and a hysterical fear of ‘the others’, is tragically surging again towards a triumphant hold of power. Hearts and minds are being won by turning both to stone. These are frightening times and one can only hope that the tragedies of the past are not repeated. Are we not after all, supposed to learn from history? The so called Golden Rule of “Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself”, is a philosophical message seen in spiritual teachings and religious works all over the world and if we can work to really live by this rule every day of our lives then maybe, just maybe, we will see a chance of peace one day on this planet. I will be following the Brexit referendum results and the consequences intensively, but whatever happens, amid the scaremongering and the daily talk of crisis, I still hold great belief in the power we as individuals have in our day-to-day lives. A world of peace starts with us. If we wish to see a tolerant, kind, compassionate and just society, then we have to embody that in our lives and in our relationships. It is no good to say, “when there is no hate, then I will stop hating”. We have the power every moment of our lives to be kind, forgiving and patient, we have the power to change the world. If we would only be so brave.
Written by Declan Galbraith
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