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Its not black and white.

Reader comment on item: Islamophobia?

Submitted by Ilya Gedye (United Kingdom), Oct 29, 2005 at 21:34

Mr Pipes cuts a direct route through the mists of predjudice. And we would all be well advised to be as even handed when weighing where we all stand. Firstly though, lets say that previous to 9/11 the big 'bogeymen' were the Chinese, remember? They'd just confiscated a spy plane and held its crew. That was some international incident! Aaliya, the r'n'b singer had just tragically died in plane crash, and i was in the middle of decoration having just moved into my first home. Ok we all knew there was a militant element of Islamic fundamentalists, as they had been responsible for blowing up the Twin Towers' basement 3 years before, as well as other sporadic bombings. They were limited attacks carried out by opportunists and crooks, or so we thought. We weren't sure if these incidents were linked or not. Certainly, we were never told any of the real intelligence of the time. What a different time it was then. We wre still dreaming.

When the dust settled though, global terrorism had stamped its mark on us all. What came out of it was a lot of anger worldwide, and in states especially - FEAR. The company i was working for was developing high tech, highly efficient generators in partnership with a big yank firm. Suddenly things got iced because our partner backed out. Word was that the industry was about to get hit hard. And it did, my company's stock value plumetted to about 5% of its previous value, our main customers were to be, yes, American - who also got cold feet - and after 2 rounds of redundancies i lost my job.

This whole thing affected me far more than that though. I met my wife back if '97 and we married in '00. She's muslim. And at first we kept it a secret from her half of the family, they didn't even know i was going with her, although i'd done quite a bit of handy work in their homes. Eventually we let them in on it piece by piece. When her eldest sister first heard, she immediately told my wife to dump me and they(family) would arrange for her to meet a muslim man. Being 33 she was getting on. I was totally gobsmacked, as i'd known her to be a kind lady. The reaction of the rest of her siblings (8 in all) must have been similar, as before i knew it they'd arranged a ceremony for me, where i had to recite some arabic, and that was that. I was completely against it though, and only did it so my wife would not get chastised by her massive family. That was that, apart from a big do. According to them we weren't married yntil they had done their thing with us! The fact that i hadn't understood arabic or the custom in which i was partaking mean't not a lot to them. And i'm glad that they weren't too pushy on that stuff - i am not one for religious hoo ha. This all took place about two months prior to the US attacks.

After, a lot changed in their attitudes. Many of my wifes female relations were shocked at the carnage, and in the aftermath fearful of a growth of 'islamaphobia' leading to personal attacks. The men, and mostly the younger generation, nodded in agreement at possble reasons for the attacks. Some were quite vocal that America's meddlings had brought about what occured. This shocked me at first, but then it fitted the picture i was already starting to build about these people, different religions and cultures. I came to the conclusion that, like most people in life they had a fair amount of hypocrisy in their lives, that some wanted just to get on with a normal life and some were patriotic to their faith, wherever they come from or indeed lived.

A question i have still, is does multiculturism really work. I'm of the thought that its the culture in this case , that separates people, not the religion. However the religious differences mean that we will never be a united race. As each generation comes, culture should become much less of an issue, as we'll all be doing the same things and speaking the same languages. But Islam dictates that muslims belong to a different ultimate ideal, and it shall always be. This is a gravely important time for us all. We have now here in Britain a young generation of muslims who are probably the first to be born and bred Brits, and its a great shame that something as strong fundamentalism is reaching its way into their hearts and minds. One of my wifes brothers on seeing a news report from iraq highlighting the struggles of sunnis against shiites amazed me. He said "why are those people always going on about the poor shiites, we're sunnis and we dont recieve any help!". I looked him and just said "what, you think that blowing up fellow muslims, peace keapers and british men is justified?". He replied "its just nor fair, that's all". Like this is some kind of football match. All i can say is to live within this family, i have had to find some common ground, that of love and respect, and just dont talk religion. Those that do openly, they are potential trouble makers, and certainly contribute to the schism found between us and them.

The main failings to be found in this country, and i dare say other western societies, is that we have allowed our communities to drift apart, we've become so insular relying on our wealth and security, and predjuces. We've virtually left racial minorities out in the cold, to their own devices. That is our biggest mistake because culturally they are far better suited to survival when things get really tough, believe you me. The younger people, especially men trying to emerge from these tight knit communities and into society as a whole, really do resent what we have become - outwardly snobbish, selfish and in some ways discriminatory. Then they hear and read clear 'caring' messages eminate from the focus groups in colleges and universities and mosques, and hey presto we're on our way to eventual conflict. Bin Laden's message was simple and easy to understand. And no-one could doubt in there was some truth. But it really is up to all of us to engage muslims. Then maybe they will learn that that man's views were too simple, too perfect, and infact superficial, and to counter his arguments, by us being inclusive and our leaders telling the damn truth, oil or no oil. As the saying goes 'keep your friends close, but your enemies closer!' I get angry all the time i see the news from Iraq, or hear the rantings of madmen in Iran, i'd like to even things up a little sometimes. But when i meet with the muslims i know, i begin to think 'who is it i would get - these aren't the bad guys'.

My message to everyone tonight is to remember that we have the advantage, we live in peace, kind of know what its all about, and that hate and ignorance lead us conflict before. We're bigger than that. Goodnight.

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