So often we look outward and point our fingers at the horrible injustices being committed around the world, but when will citizens in the USA and Canada finally awake to the hate being spread here at home?
In light of recent events in Canada and in the USA, I thought I would once again share some of my thoughts. Below, is a section taken from my Masters thesis, which I just defended two weeks ago in Portugal.
Increasingly, decisions being made by today’s Western governments are running counter to pluralistic and democratic principles. In addition, politicians and academics are advancing the misguided notion that there is more that divides Islam and the West than unites the two. As is written in Rahman (2009, p.38), “The presupposition of two uniform and identifiable entities whose boundaries are clearly demarcated from one another carves up the world in ways that erase fissures within each category and the mutual historical indebtedness between them.” We live in a curious time. It has become conventional for democracies to wage wars in societies deemed to be less organized and less humane with the hopes of transplanting value systems that are often held up as universal standards. Yet, ironically, in our own neighbourhoods, and within our own borders, we are often incapable of defending the rights of some of our own citizens.
In the quest to define (and in some cases salvage) our Western identities, we have allowed ourselves to create different classes of citizenship, where it has become appropriate to question someone’s loyalty to the state based on a flawed notion of what it is to be a good citizen.
As I write, Muslims are increasingly being painted as the enemy within and Islam as an ideology akin to the communist “Red Menace” of 1950s America. For instance, as Ferry Biedermann (2010) recently points out in a Foreign Policy article, Geert Wilders, a Dutch MP and a vocal opponent of Islam has openly called for a “head rag tax” on women wearing headscarves. He favours banning the Quran, “wants to close Muslim schools but not equivalent Christian or Jewish ones,” he wants to force immigrants to sign “assimilation contracts” and wants to include the “Judeo-Christian character of the state in the constitution.” This racism, often disguised as nationalism or protecting the West's secular nature, is spreading across democratic borders with little opposition.
It is truly a shame that decisions currently being made by politically exploitative (Western) governments and ignorant and fearful citizens, will likely contribute to tomorrow’s regret and apologies. Previous decades of mistreatment and abuse of blacks, Catholics, Jews, Japanese, and Chinese (to name just a few) in countries like the USA, Canada, and in Western Europe should be a clear warning sign for our generation to reverse course on the so-called “Islamic problem.” And while it seems that we are indeed on course to repeat the errors of previous generations, the opportunity to halt the latest emerging wave of hate and intolerance has not yet been lost.
It is up to each and everyone of us to continue to confront those voices in our respective countries that are advancing divisive and bigoted ideas that only serve to drive a wedge between neighbours.
This will take some courage and an unwavering willingness to stand up against the majority.