Never let hatred win

charlie hebdo black and white

I was listening to the radio in the car on Monday morning, Radio Scotland to be more specific, and in light of recent tragic events in France the subject of discussion was extremism. I don’t tend to listen to the radio a lot these days, and I tend to make a point of avoiding listening to shows that allows the general public to call in with their opinions. It’s not that I do not care what people think; it’s that a lot of the time the people who call in to such shows are so incredibly desperate to be heard, and their opinions tend to be either extremely narrow minded or mind-bogglingly noncommittal. Admittedly, I am also very set in my opinions, and thus it’s unlikely I will be swayed by the opinion of some random Glaswegian looking to get his five minutes of radio fame. I’d like to point out that I’m not having a go at Glaswegians here; it just appears they make up the majority of radio Scotland callers.

So, I’ve dropped my daughter off and I have to go to Dundee, and in the spur of the moment I decide to listen to the discussion that is about to take place, rather than do the sensible thing for my brain and put some music on. It took two minutes before I regretted the decision, two minutes before I started to feel my blood boil and a desire to pull over on the hard shoulder and call BBC Scotland myself. This man comes on, from Glasgow funnily enough, and he begins to complain about immigration etc. etc., the usual stupidity from a person who blames everything that is wrong about the world on immigration. Then, out of the blue, he turns around and makes, quite possibly the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard on a radio call-in show. “It’s not like Christians would ever plant bombs and blow up people”. Apparently, planting bombs or killing innocent people, is a Muslim thing to do. I’m assuming that this man thinks the Qur’an includes a separate book on bomb making, separated into chapters with explosive titles such as; “Be all you can be, how to build the perfect suicide bomb” and “Sports Direct; The place for all your rucksack needs.”

I cannot begin to fathom just how narrow minded, stupid and uneducated you have to be to believe that killing innocents is a Muslim thing to do. The statement that Christians don’t plant bombs alone shows a complete and utter lack of knowledge of modern history. You can generally gage someone’s approximate age by their voice, and how they speak. The person who claimed to thousands of listeners that Christians don’t build bombs, was at least in his thirties, possibly early forties. At the very least he was older than my 28 years. I remember watching the news as a child and being told about IRA bombings, and I grew up in Norway, so I find it very confusing that someone that has spent his entire life in Britain completely missed out on the fear caused by threats and acts of violence by an organization whose members followed a Christian faith. If simplified, the unrest in Northern Ireland is between two subsets of Christianity, Catholics and Protestants, not a Muslim in sight. The Oklahoma bombings, Waco, the horrible acts carried out by the Ku Klux Klan, the attacks on pro-choice institutions worldwide, the attack on my beautiful home country Norway in 2011. Christians do not just plant bombs, they poison, they shoot and they knife. They kill, they wound and they destroy. Two World wars were started by mainly Christians; several other wars have been instigated by Christians; both in their own countries and far from those borders. Now, surprisingly, most of the time, when a white terrorist whose faith is any form of Christianity, it never seems to be made a point of his religion being a cause, a factor or even of any significance in relation to his bad deed. So then, why is it that in any action by a Muslim extremist, his religion is not only the only cause, sole factor and is the only point of significance, but his actions allows us to paint an entire religion in a bad light?

I do not follow any religion, although both baptised and confirmed in a protestant church. I do not believe in God, Allah, Odin or Shiva. However, I believe in the basic human right of choice without prejudice; a choice to be who you want to be, and believe in who you want to believe in. I also believe that religion is rarely the cause of tragedy, but it is often used as the excuse. The human race has a knack for evil. It is overrun with people whose illness is an addiction to power, and whose high is derived from the misery they bring upon others. Religion isn’t to blame for that, people are. Religion doesn’t plant bombs or pull triggers, people do. Believing in a God, any God, does not make you any less deserving of acceptance or respect, nor does it mean you should be feared simply because of the deity to which your prayers are directed. Living in the west, where the majority has always been white (but far from always Christian) our history shows us that there has always been a lingering fear and prosecution of those who are different. It has mattered little whether that difference lies in the colour of someone’s skin, who their God is or even the gender of the person they share a bed with. When there is a deviation from what we view as the norm, too often that is what is focused on, rather than all the things we may have in common.

It is that fear, that ease with which we can hate someone; that extremists of any background counts on. Exclusion and separation pushes people, especially young people, towards a place of acceptance and meaning. The biggest way in which we can aid terrorism is by writing off an entire religion, a whole people based on the action of the few. After all, should we then not judge ourselves in that same light? Did we not exclude the Jewish community from our countries long before Hitler persecuted them? Did we not continue to persecute and discriminate against homosexuals, people with dark skin and different religions after the death of Hitler? You could argue that what is now going on in Gaza, is a direct cause of what some would see as terrorism or an act of war perpetrated by organizations especially created to be a beacon of fairness and peace. We should not put ourselves on pedestals and make out that we cannot be judged when we have done so much that deserves harsh judgement. And we should take a lesson from history and see that the way forward lies in inclusion, not segregation.

The people who died in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, died believing in freedom of speech, and included in that is the freedom to practice and preach the religion of your choice. I do not see how someone who has been so vocal about such freedoms would be happy that their names are used as an excuse to persecute an entire religion. The term extremist isn’t more synonymous with Islam than it is any other religion, however short term or revisionist some people make even the most recent parts of history. Extremism is synonymous with hatred, and by now, we should all know better than to let hatred win.

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