Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Sat Nam Readers!

So many issues this week.  Just SO MANY issues.  This post will talk about an issue that is very dear to my heart – discrimination.

I have a friend who we will call Des.  Des keeps me humble.  He’s a really good guy who has had a really, really interesting life and he’s got, for the most part, a great attitude about it.  He’s got wisdom that is only received from learning life lessons directly.  It’s inspiring a lot of the time.  His attitude about life is the thing I admire most about him and I have to say, I could really learn from, from time to time.

The other day I posted this story on Facebook: Israeli Soldiers Speak Out on the Abuse of Palestinians.  I was so appalled when I read this news article, especially the last few lines which indicate the attitude of the Israeli soldiers toward what they had done.  Just frustrated, and sick to my stomach, and sad for the ridiculousness of it.

The response, from Des, was… disappointing:

“Soldiers have always been known to be bullies and cruel, this is hardly surprising.  On the other hand, they did not decapitate or rape anyone.  They did not call for the death of all Muslims.”

His comment is a reference to his beliefs about Islam and Muslims.  We’ve had this discussion many, many times over coffee, over Facebook, over dinner … His holds very anti-Islamic beliefs.  He tries to convince me, but he really isn’t getting anywhere with me.  Here’s the thing, and sometimes even he will agree with it:  One cannot judge an entire group of people by the actions or beliefs of a few.  You can’t.  It doesn’t work and it definitely doesn’t lend any credibility to your cause.

Credit: Citizen Warrior

Islam is not the problem.  Muslims are not the problem.  The problem, as with just about everything negative we come across in our lives, is with an individual and that individual’s behaviour.  Muslims as a group of people who share the same faith, are not terrorists.  They cannot all be painted with the same brush.  That sort of thinking is flawed and problematic.  If you want an example of how flawed and problematic, here are some examples:

  • Read the series of posts about Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and 1984.  Not all Sikhs are militants or extremists yet because of such wide spread discrimination and wrong thinking, many thousands of us, mainly innocent, have died.
  • Not all Roman Catholics are pedophiles who rape little children under their care.  This one seems easy to understand in at least the Western World… we don’t blame every Roman Catholic for the horrors that were inflicted on children in residential schools at the hands of some RC priests and those in the church who hid that behaviour.
  • Not all people who hold religious beliefs are backward, science-rejecting, brainwashed idiots, which is something that some atheists propose to be a truth.
  • Jews did not kill Jesus either… in case you were still wondering on that.   

Painting a whole group of people, in this case Muslims, as terrorists makes the “enemy” easier to identify.  It’s convenient.  It’s simple to place an equal sign between them (Muslim = terrorist) and be done with it.  After all, what do we care about whether or not it’s true?  An exchange of truth for convenience seems to work for us.  But it doesn’t.  It doesn’t.  The exchange of truth for convenience has caused no end of suffering, of misery, of horrendous crimes inflicted upon on another and at some point, we have to realize that it has to end.

'Australian Muslims face some difficult challenges and deserve our support.'
Photo credit: Adam McLean, published in Sydney Morning Herald , September 19, 2012

The problem is terrorism, no matter who is behind it.  The real problem underlying terrorism is hate.  The problem is with those imams (and again this is not all of them) who would push for the killing of others just because they are not Muslim.  The problem is with those who would convince young, often displaced or disadvantaged men to give up their lives so that non-Muslims should die.  Not all Muslims commit these acts, but a few.  The problem is with the jackass who would put a white sheet over his head and hang a black person from a tree for being black.  Not all white people share the beliefs of the KKK, but a few.  The problem is with the man who is so angry over some issue that he parks a bomb in front of an office building in Oklahoma City, an office building that contained innocent adults and children in a day care.  Not all white American males are Timothy McVey, there was only one of him.  The problem is with those individuals.  The problem is with their hate.

We already have a label for the problem – it’s terrorism – so why do we need to add another?  Especially when adding that second label captures innocent people?  People who are bound, by no choice of their own, to suffer after we erroneously equate the two labels?  What is so wrong with us that we cannot seek the truth of the matter?  What is so wrong with us that it is okay to inflict pain, suffering, death, torture, on others so blindly?

We need to address the hate, not waste time making up inappropriate and inaccurate labels for vast populations of people.  We need to address causation.  We need to address the individual.  It’s time to stop trying to fit complex human beings into convenient boxes.  There’s only one box that all of us or any group of two or more of us can fit into – that’s the one labelled “human”.  It’s time to grow up, stop listening to those who feel the need to label others, and seek the truth – as inconvenient, time consuming and complicated as that truth is.

The fact is, Des is right in a way, the Palestinian families in the story above were not murdered.  The Israeli soldiers did not chant “Death to Islam” (or maybe they did, I don’t know) while watching World Cup matches in the comfort of the Palestinian homes they occupied.  But what they did is still telling, still a horror unnecessarily inflicted on innocent people.  They treated their captives like they weren’t human.  Men, women and children gathered up by young men with weapons, young men who had power, and imprisoned in their own homes.  Because they owned a satellite dish and because these ridiculous young men with rifles felt like watching football on TV, while they were supposedly defending their country.  Those Palestinian men, women and children were not lobbing stones or Molotov cocktails at people.  They weren’t screaming “Death to Jews”.  They owned a satellite dish.  They were in their own homes and they owned a satellite dish and for that, they were tied up and terrorized in their homes.  Let me repeat that, in case it hasn’t sunk in, their crime was owning a satellite dish.  And secondarily, being Palestinian and not people, in the eyes of their captors.

That behaviour is also part of the problem.  Yet, I’m not hating on all the young men is Israel.  Nor am I excusing the young men in the story – what they did was so clearly wrong, selfish, ridiculously harmful and inhumane.  It’s a symptom of the poison that is hate.  It gets into us and it kills what is good about us, destroying the best of ourselves.  It causes us to be blinded, like so many poisons do and it makes us very, very sick.  And honestly, I would rather not have any of that sort of poison coursing through me.

So, if there are any readers out there who are also anti-Islamic, or maybe you’re hating on some other group, don’t expect me to join your little parade anytime soon.  I’m not going to cheer while you all drop bombs on one another or lock one another up in basements.  I’m not going to hate and I refuse to be baited into hating.  Instead, I think I’ll stand way over here with my Muslim brothers and sisters, my Sikh brothers and sisters, and all my other complex, human, loving brothers and sisters.  We’ll be over here, cleaning up the mess you’ve made with your labels and your toxic hate, living our truth as human beings and trying to love you anyway.   Come join us when you grow up a little.

Sat Nam Readers!