My day involves commuting from the train every day to be able to reach my workplace. And since I spend about an hour commuting I have learned to be patient and found ways to entertain myself in the train. One of which is listening to my fellow commuters’ stories. There are these two women who are sharing gossip from their workplace. Let’s call them Lady 1 and Lady 2. So the conversation goes as follows;
Lady 1: So X person in the office said blah blah blah about the Y person.
Lady 2: Ahh X person? My god! I just can’t trust them.
Lady 1: them meaning? Did something happen?
Lady 2: No these Muslim people! You never know who will be a suicide bomber or a terrorist.
Lady 1: (smiles uncomfortably) hmm. There was this one colleague named Z (the name indicates that Z could be Muslim). She was really friendly, very nice to everyone.
Lady 2: They will pretend to be nice, but you can’t judge who will be a bomber or what it’s best to stay away instead of dying.
At this point my mouth is open, eyebrows raised, with an expression of surprise mixed with disgust… and I am asking myself, “Is she for real?” I guess she read my ‘oh so obvious expressions’ because she got up from the seat and left.
The world is grieving from the attacks in Paris. Right after the attacks news reported a rise in hate crimes against Muslims. They were called terrorists, their mosques were attacked, people wrote on their doors asking them to go back, people threatened to kill them. Let us reflect a little bit now, shall we?
Imagine, something terrible like a major accident happened in your vicinity. A bridge in the nearby area fell causing multiple people their lives.
Are you concerned for the safety of your loved ones?
Are you experiencing some amount of grief for those who suffered?
You find out… that there was some tampering done with the thus causing the fall. Some individuals believed that people of your need to be taught a lesson thus they resorted to this method. Now others in your vicinity are sad and hurt but they think since you and those who caused this accident have black hair you both must be related. And thus to keep the community safe they decide to teach you and all those with black hair a lesson.
Your places of worship are attacked. You are asked to leave the country. You are given death threats. You are boycotted from public places. Your loved ones and in certain instances even you are attacked. People decide they can violate your human rights, ALL BECAUSE YOU HAVE BLACK HAIR.
Bombings, mass killings, massacres etc. are all acts of terrorism. Terrorism doesn’t have a religion, caste, gender, skin color or hair color. Terrorists are individuals who terrorize others mostly by undertaking acts of violence in the pursuit of political aims. What gives someone the right to violate another individual human rights because of their religion, caste, gender, skin color or hair color? And what do these hate crimes do for us? They just foster some more hate, add on to the grief a little more, and give those terrorists a little more satisfaction because the violence continues. Then how different are we if we make statements like, “you never know which one of these Muslims might be carrying a bomb.”
While at home I am seeing news of how Amir Khan is unpatriotic for calling India unsafe and intolerant. Arundhati Roy wasn’t called a terrorist when she returned her award. Was it because her name might suggest that she is a Hindu? I fear what we are becoming. Discriminating against individuals, being okay when someone is killed because of the food that others suspected they ate, someone being arrested for using their freedom of speech and fostering hate crimes. And how can we as humans be okay with this? How can we as humans be ignorant of this? How we as humans feed into this vicious cycle? Have our life struggles made us so insensitive that we seek ignorance instead of speaking up? Or are we scared that this intolerance will turn against us if we speak up?
Someone fought for your independence, someone fought so that you could enjoy these human rights. But is this independence worth it, if it can be enjoyed only by members of certain religions, caste, gender, color, sexuality etc. Don’t call it intolerance if you don’t agree with the term but don’t ignore the reality that it stands for. Don’t avoid commenting on this reality because you haven’t experienced such discrimination. There are two reasons for it; you have either accepted it and internalized it so you see nothing wrong with it or you are privileged thus never experienced it. I belong to a privileged majority of the religion and for the longest time I wondered if there was any discrimination that people rant about. But look around you, this reality is nothing different than those acts of terrorism. Because it is causing the same grief and damage to our minds and souls.
So today; as a human being I request you to shake those around you and wake them up from their ignorance but only after you have made sure you are awake. If you can’t find words to express it, borrow mine. But don’t feed into this for one more second of the day.