There is a great bit in a book by Alice Walker (Possessing the Secret of Joy) where a woman goes in search of her roots and gets talking to a woman from her old country.
The woman says “What does an American look like?” (It is a trick question)
What does an American look like? They are all colours and shapes and heights. I am sure you have seen more than one American before. Do they look the same? No.
Why then, is the idea of The Muslim some dark skinned, turban wearing (for heaven’s sake, that’s the wrong religion) man with a beard, looking angry?
Muslims, as was reported on cnn, are 25% of the world’s population. A quarter of the people on this planet are Muslim.
The majority of these are in Indonesia. China has more Muslims than Syria.
Islam being a religion and not a “race” (whatever that is supposed to mean), means that anyone at all can be a Muslim and it has nothing to do with facial hair or skin tone.
Then there are further complications. Islam is not just *one* religion. It has schismed and fractured. There are different interpretations, different lines in the sand, different brothers-in-law to follow.
Imagine saying Methodism was the same as Greek Orthodox. I said IMAGINE IT.
And then if we want to be really picky, it is important to remember that groups of people contain (*and I know it might come as a shock*) women.
Furthermore, disabled people… Homosexual people… Transgendered people… Fat people… Thin people…
Grumpy people… Ambitious people… Hypocritical people… Consistent people… Rude people… Polite people… Have I covered my bases here?
Muslims are all the colours, they are all the ethnicities, all the nationalities and all of the bases I just listed above.
Perhaps I did not say it clearly enough before but we are talking one person in four. At least.
Characterisations of this group tend to be of the nastier kind. They find the worst examples of anti-social behaviour and say it signifies the wider group.
Sometimes the people they say represent THE MUSLIMS are actually just brown skinned teens who are not even Muslim…
They find the nastier excesses of men who think they are Muslims (but are doing it wrong), and say that their messed up ideas are the only ones available.
It is lazy. It is lazy and it is racist. It is lazy, it is racist and it is NOT free speech.
It is lazy, racist, not free speech and it is the first steps towards depersonalisation.
You see, it is all very sinister. You say one group is lazy, you can find a few examples of laziness (of course you can, you have one quarter of the world to choose from) or violence or idiocy or criminality or greed… and then the whole group can be tainted with this judgement.
Then you can do what you want to Them. You can treat Them as badly as you want… And people will turn a blind eye, they will rationalise it, they will excuse it, they will say “fair’s fair”, they will say “it is a few letting down the majority” without listening to themselves.
I just hope everyone reading this can take a few deep breaths and become better people. If you have not met a Muslim, I advise you to do that tomorrow. If you have only met one, I advise you to meet another. If you do not know how to find A Muslim, then I would suggest you perhaps do not understand what these flashing lights on this flat surface you are staring at are capable of.
See if you can make friends with one in Nigeria or perhaps Germany? Then next time someone says “Ahh, those Muslims, always doing their Muslimy things that I do not agree with” you will have a base on which to mount your friends’ defence.
Because if you don’t. If you choose to think of a huge, diverse quarter of the entire population of the bloody planet as a scowling bunch of men in turbans scrounging off benefits when I have gone to all this effort to explain to you that they are not… then what you are is a bloody idiot.
You don’t want to be a bloody idiot, do you?