The nature of bigotry

I have to say I’ve been appalled by the fact that more than a trivial number of people (including commenters here – but also on media sites) have actually defended or agreed with what Richard Prosser said regarding banning anyone who is or looks like a Muslim from flying.

To be blunt, they are bigots. You can not defend what he said and not be a bigot. It really is as simple as that.

There is nothing bigoted about having a negative view of the Islamic religion – or in fact any religion. I have negatives views about several religions. But it is when you treat someone as a sub-human purely because they are a member of a religion – or worse “look like” someone who is a member of a religion.

Take the Mormon religion. I think it is a wacky religion, and Joseph Smith was an obvious con artist. However one of my friends is Mormon, and in fact was the local Bishop for a while. A lovely guy, and I would never treat him differently based on the fact he is Mormon. That is just a part of who he is. You treat people as individuals, not just as a member of a race, a religion, a gender, a sexual orientation etc.

The same goes from Scientology. I think it is a crackpot money making scheme. But do I think scientologists should be discriminated against? No.

Now when it comes to Islam, I am someone who has written at length about the flaws in this religion. It has a high proportion of extremists compared to other religions. It has no ability to modernise, and no central authority (the two are linked). There are huge problems in Europe with the lack of integration of some Muslim immigrants and many (not most) Islamic religious leaders do not denounce terrorism or even support it. These are all valid views to have and hold on the religion.

But when you get into bigotry is when you declare that because someone is a member of that religion, that have less rights than someone else and that being a member of that religion is more important than any other characteristics that they have.

This is the sort of views that led to the Jewish Holocaust. Because some Jews were unpopular for various reasons, it was decided all Jews were bad and must be wiped out.

Just as we have differing levels of piety and commitment amongst (say) Catholics, it is the same of course amongst Muslims. Some Catholics are absolutely devout and go to church every week, and their religion is a major defining part of their lives. but also we all know many Catholics who only go to church for Easter and Christmas, and their religious commitment is almost as much cultural as anything.

Well that also applies to Muslims (God forbid that I even have to spell this out). While your religious beliefs are a choice, the reality is that if you grow up in a Muslim family or community, you’re probably going to be Muslim. It is not that big a part of your life – it is just who you are – just like the kids who grow up in Catholic families are Catholics – even if they miss weekly confession. And bigots are unable to differentiate between extreme Islamists and other Muslims.

Some bigots claim there is no such thing as a non-extreme Muslim. Bullshit. This is the sort of view such as there are no Maori who are not crooks or on the dole. I find inevitably it comes from those with very sheltered closeted lives and non-diverse friends.

I’m lucky. I have travelled the world. I’ve been involved in international meetings in the political and Internet spheres where you meet and work with people from around the world. This includes Iranian Internet engineers (who are of course Muslim), the Secretary-General of the Arab Youth League (a young Syrian who was a lot of fun), Internet policy people from Malaysia (who happen to be Muslim) and so on.  It is hard to be bigoted when you deal with real people, rather than stereotypes. I think of those people I know when I recall what Richard Prosser wrote, and how denigrating it is of them.

How would you feel to have someone (let alone an MP) declare you should not be allowed to fly, and all the implications that you are a sub-human who can’t be trusted. And then have others agreeing with him?

We can and should debate the excesses of Islam, terrorism, and the like. But you do it in a way that doesn’t treat individuals as shit.

And don’t even get me started about calling people wogs and saying that even anyone who looks Muslim should be banned from flying. That is not even subtle code for fuck off if you are not white like me.

One can debate issues such as the fact Maori crime rate is higher than non-Maori, without denigrating Maori. One can also debate issues such as rape, without denigrating all men as potential rapists.

At the end of the day we should treat people as individuals. Anyone who proposes any sort of oppressive policy or law based on a group characteristic is bigoted – consciously or unconsciously.  It was wrong for FDR to intern Japanese-Americans in the 1940s for example.

And finally have some common decency. If you have bigoted thoughts, keep them to yourselves. try and have at least a modicum of empathy and decency and think about the impact on others if you rush into print, or online, and say “Oh yeah I think Muslims should be banned from traveling”. Think about the awful impact such prejudice and hatred has on those whom would be impacted by your words.  Just think.

Rant over.

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