The inhuman condition

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From the desk of the bastard editor

It takes a moment in time like this to expose the gimp leg of civilization as we know it. I refer of course to blind prejudice and fear of those who are different, especially in this era of voluminous information.I mean, this day in age you have to make an effort to stay ignorant and uninformed. Not that there aren’t lots of people and attitudes left over from the darker times, not that certain things aren’t just hard-wired into our brains. I have an irrational hatred of tap-dancers, who knows where such things come from. But I comfort myself with the thought that no one likes tap-dancers that much, so it’s okay for me to hate them.

Right. Of course there was a time when no one much liked the Japanese, and I suppose if I was impressionable and uncritical in my thinking I might not have liked them either. Maybe in that context it would be okay to stick them in internment camps. But that niggling doubt, that irritating itch, of things called brotherhood and civility, always come back to me.

If you go to the right corner of the world at the right time you will find one group hating or mistrusting another group. Every race, faith, and culture has had a kick at the “persecuted” and “persecutor” cans. Now prior to Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Islam already had a bad rap in the West, I’d say pretty much since the 12th century and the beginning of the Crusades. It is interesting how the word ‘crusades’ still carries the stench of failure. Even so-called crusading journalists are sneered at as hopeless optimists. Getting back on track, I’d say Islam has had one almighty long stay in the dog-house of western perception. Thanks to the mad  actions of a few men and the rush to judgement about their identity, it had better get comfy in there. For the life of me though, I don’t understand why a religion that preaches many of the same core principles as the judeo-christian tradition is so universally derided and distrusted.

In this weeks roots section our correspondent Fatima Najm details the beginnings of an undeserved backlash against Muslims – including some of the violence that has been perpetrated against Muslims and non-Muslims who “look Arab.” In other words, and I don’t mean to offend, people slightly browner in pigment than the average Anglo-Saxon. Sikh’s have really gotten the hammer, because of their customary beards (Osama likes his beard long too), and they aren’t even Muslim. The violence appalls me because it is so baseless and stupid, but what infuriates me is the tolerated casual slights. Experts (I use term loosely since some of these people don’t bother to read the papers enough to keep on top of things like the Taliban banning opium growing last year) tell us how ruthless these people are and how this culture is unique in its ability to create suicide bombers.

This last bit turns me all the way around each time I hear or read it. Islam doesn’t have a lock on zealotry kiddies, there are legions of examples from the past century of suicidal devotion to a creed or a leader. The Buddhist monks who immolated themselves in protest over the Vietnam war, the Christian Branch-Davidians who went down in flames with David Koresh in Waco, the followers of Jim Jones, the Divine Wind (Banzai) pilots of Japan’s state-Shinto credo that flew beyond the return trip range in order to slam their fighters into American ships. All religions are open to interpretation, and when crazy or evil people decide to twist and mangle the messages of holy texts in order to manipulate wills and inspire action through zealotry it doesn’t really matter if they call themselves Jewish, Christian, Muslim or bloody pagan.

– S.D

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