For years I used to try and convince people that Islam is not so bad at all, and that terrorists are just a few bad apples in an inherently good system. I was forced to admit that Islam did lead more people to become violent than Christianity or atheism did, but my point remained that Muslims should not be judged prematurely. It wasn’t until last week that I realised that that was an incredibly ignorant and Western way to think.
See, despite the fact that we like to think otherwise, we are all influenced by our environment and by what people around us believe and say. For example, we are told about the terrible events of 9/11 and we take that as an example of Islam gone wrong. However, at the same time, we get told about atrocities such as Abu Ghraib or an American soldier randomly shooting Afghan civilians, and our conclusion is that they are individuals gone wrong, rather than society or a religion.
But have you ever considered that those are actually two very similar situations interpreted in two very different ways? Have you ever considered that, quite likely, Muslims in the Middle East interpret 9/11 in the exact same way as we interpret Abu Ghraib, while they interpret mass killings of civilians by Westerners in the same way as we feel about terrorism? It is something that people never consider, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense and both sides are equally right/wrong.
After all, why do we think that terrorism is caused by an entire religion while we blame the killing and wounding of hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan on an individual? Is terrorism not also to blame on the individual who was insane enough to commit such terrible acts? Or is Abu Ghraib perhaps to blame on the Western system of Christianity and atheism? Perhaps atheism does make us lack the required morals to keep us from committing such awful crimes after all.
And this doesn’t just go for religion. Think of gay rights activism: generally we tend to think of ourselves as open-minded and the opposition as ignorant because we do have the required brain cells to understand that equal rights are supposed to be a given rather than something to be contested, but at the same time, when gay rights activists criticise a-sexuals for being weird and not belonging at a gay pride, we all immediately think “oh, those are just exceptions.” But are they really, or is a big part of the LGBT-community only in favour of equal rights because they happen to be affected by it themselves, and would they have been closed-minded homophobes if they had been straight as well?
Ultimately, it seems like we as humans are very good at shaping information in such a way that it fits our existing beliefs, especially positive beliefs about ourselves. Specifically, we are so good at it that we don’t even notice it anymore and that someone like me, who has been defending Islam for a long time, didn’t even realise that I myself was, and in all fairness still am, extremely ignorant of other people’s point of view. It’s a very sad characteristic of mankind, and the only way to at least diminish its effect is to keep it in mind and to constantly think about it. Because it really is about time we get rid of these destructive cultural barriers and become truly open-minded.
Hopefully that raises some questions, and I am very, very interested to hear what you think about it. Do you agree with what I said about the Middle East and Islam, or is Islam perhaps more destructive than Christianity and atheism after all? And how about gay rights activists? Are we really that open-minded or are we just lucky enough to lack ignorance on one specific subject, LGBT rights, while we are still just as ignorant as the rest of the world when it comes to any other issue?
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