Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What is it with some people?

I removed a blog from my blogroll the other day. It is not something I do often.

I have been doing some work with my Yr10 students on prejudice and discrimination and the role and response of religion recently. I was explaining to them how stereotyping works in the whole process of discriminatory behaviour.

"So: If I start a sentence with....
...All blonds are.....
...How would the sentence end?"

"Dumb!" They chorus gleefully.

"Now, this is how it works: Is it true that there are blonds who are dumb?"


"Is it accurate for me to say, therefore, that all blonds are dumb?"


"Good: lets try another. All Americans are .......?"


We are really entering into the spirit of things now. "Is it true that there are Americans who are fat?"


"Is it accurate to say, therefore, that all Americans are fat?"


"O.K. Last one: All Muslims are.....?"

"Terrorists" they shout with one voice.

"Are there Muslims who are terrorists?"


"Is it accurate to say, therefore, that all Muslims are terrorists?"

Well... yes it is, seemingly. Not in that class: they understood what I was saying perfectly. No: I am talking about the blog world where I have become so frustrated at the thoughtless stereotyping of Muslims that I won't visit some sites any more. It isn't so much that Muslims are being stereotyped as terrorists as such. No: it is more subtle. It is a steady drip, drip, drip of negative comments about Muslims and all things Islamic.

The blog I am thinking of, run by a Christian man, posts every once in a while about Muslims. There has never been, during my time of reading anyway, one positive comment or celebratory post. This man is an Islamophobe in the true sense - he is frightened of Muslims and sees them through a lens of that fear and hostility. Some of his statements represent an understandable concern about terrorism but are couched in the sort of terms we last heard in Berlin in 1939 in reference to Jews: there is misinformation and there are comments which are akin to that old blood-liable of an international plot. Muslims are taking over Europe, Sharia law is set to be imposed, teachers can't teach the holocaust for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities and so on.

Muslims are not seen in the same way that other groups are. Islam doesn't have individuals who are good and bad in pretty much the same proportions as other groups. Instead Muslims are an amorphous mass. They are all the same and are to be feared because of the outrageous statements and behaviours of some on the fringes who really do speak for the whole group. A bit like the IRA did for Christians one might assume.

In the past I have always responded. I point out that where I live gives me a pretty accurate understanding of Muslim concerns, hopes and aspirations. I point out that I have good Muslim friends. I challenge the misinformation that passes for informed comment and it all goes quiet. A week or so later along comes another post. More of the same. More of the same fear driven rubbish.

Toujorsdan did a wonderful series of responses on one such occasion where he used statistics most effectively to rubbish the ideas of the conspiracy theorists. He calmly and logically demolished all their points but they wouldn't have it because they already had their prejudices too ingrained. Why let a little thing like factual inaccuracy get in the way of a good bit of steroetyping?

What is the outcome of all this? In the same way that Dr. Tiller was killed, some poor South Asian will be murdered and then, as with the abortion doctor the haters will club together and say that it wasn't their fault for creating a climate of fear which led to hate and, as with Nazi Germany, to scapegoating and demonising and dehumanising and all that went with it then and will go with it again.

Finding that on a Christian's blog leaves a sour taste and it disturbs me more than I can say.

No. I don't visit any more.