The West: Where You’re Innocent Until Proven Guilty Unless You’re A Muslim

It took a few millennia, but people have finally begun to take a proper stance against discrimination. Sexism, homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism… we all know it exists and we all think it’s wrong. Anti-Semitism in particular is a term that is still so well known and so often used, even though, as much as it’s still a relevant issue, it’s not so common anymore. But while the position of Jews is improving rapidly, another religion took its place. A religion that is feared and despised all over the world. A religion whose followers are subjected to stares, comments or even violence on a daily basis, no matter where they live. A religion that finds itself in a situation very similar to what the Jews went through some 70 years ago, except it hardly receives any attention at all, unless it’s an accusatory headline.

That’s a painful comparison, but just think about it. In the developed world, pretty much every country has a law that states that you’re innocent until proven guilty. That you cannot be subjected to torture and that you have the right to a fair trial. Those things are valued highly among the public, and whenever a country other than our own violates those rules, we, as Western countries, look down upon them and tell them that what they do is wrong. Yet those very same countries have things like Guantanamo Bay, in which “suspected terrorists” are subjected to torture, they authorise drone strikes to execute people who are “suspected” of terrorism and they drag “suspects” from their houses, interrogating them, confiscating their belongings, and when eventually they don’t find anything, there’s not even an apology or compensation or even a chance to get those belongings back: the “suspects” are just dropped back at their houses, expected to be fine with it all because it was for the sake of “national security”.

What I don’t get is that nobody makes a fuss about this. Where are the activism groups? Where is the critical news coverage? Where are the UN Human Rights reports? Or… where is Tumblr…? Did I perhaps miss a clause in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that stated that religious freedom goes for everyone except Muslims? That it is okay to judge, torture and murder people because of their religion, and that it isn’t a problem if the public image of that religion is no better than that of German Jews in the 1930s? Because if so, I’d say it’s about time to change that.

Islam has become the victim of a silent genocide. The world has learned by now that genocides are wrong, but the fear and contempt for Muslims runs so deep that we can’t help but condone it. We don’t actively participate because we know it’s wrong, but we also don’t do anything to stop it. We let our governments send out drones to the Middle East to kill people who might just be terrorists, and when those drones accidentally hit a couple of hundred civilians, or even a couple of Afghan soldiers, then that’s too bad. Mistakes happen. We’ll “thoroughly investigate the matter.”

But we cannot let that happen. It is shown again and again and again and again (and again and again and again…) that Muslims are not seen as equals, that they are not seen as deserving of the same human rights as everyone else. That they are second class citizens, and that while the media would gladly pick up on a case of homophobia, sexism or racism, stories that involve Muslims are hardly reported on at all unless the perpetrator happens to be a Muslim.

If you believe that equality is important, if you believe that you should not be discriminated because of your gender, age, race, sexuality, religion or whatever else, then this is something you need to fight for. It doesn’t matter who you are. This is not something that Muslims should be left to fight for on their own, much like all those other equal rights movements receive support from the majorities. People are dying, and if we just condone that, then I’m not sure how we’re any better than the Germans of the 1930s.

~

…and again and again and again and again

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More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Is Islamophobia The New Anti-Semitism?

Things You Shouldn’t Think You Know About Islam

Western Authority Might Always Keep Us Ignorant of Islam

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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4 Responses to The West: Where You’re Innocent Until Proven Guilty Unless You’re A Muslim

  1. Sally says:

    I think it’s a stretch, Dean, to compare so closely to the situation with Nazi Germany and the Jews. For one thing, there weren’t many, if any, people claiming Judaism as an excuse for terrorism, which might have caused otherwise reasonable people to wonder about the religion that so inspires people to be violent. For another, even with Guantanamo Bay in mind, the West hasn’t rounded up millions of Muslims for extermination – simply for being Muslims.
    I understand rhetorical language, but let’s keep things in perspective and not insult the Jewish community unnecessarily.

    • Remember that I said Germany of the 1930s. I agree that it is not as bad as it was for the Jews during the second World War, but that was a decade later. It wasn’t a sudden thing where from one moment to another Jews were being killed by the millions. It was a slow process that started in a very similar fashion to what is currently happening with Islam, and I would rather see it stop now than wait until it does become as bad as in Nazi Germany.

      Also, the terrorism argument is very weak… there is always an excuse. With the Jews, it was their “greed” and the fact that they were richer than average, with the Muslims it’s terrorism. It’s not a justification for what is currently happening. Even the Hutu had their excuses.

      • Sally says:

        Frankly, Dean, I think all religions are suspect, because I think faith, by definition, is the rejection of reason. The religions that manage to keep a low profile and are not used as an excuse for violence or hatred can just chug right along as far as I’m concerned. But if a religion is twisted around by nuts to be inspiration for violence, then I no longer consider it worth the trouble. Of course it is not up to any one person or group to say that, and it is impossible to simply get rid of a religion that is causing problems, so my words on the subject are a pointless exercise in wishful thinking. Yes, I would erase all religions right now if I had the power to do so.

        I see your point that one can equate the condemnations of the Jews (greed, etc), with the condemnations of Islam (inspiring violence) – as both are excuses for discrimination from others. I would argue however that killing innocent people is a better reason to be against someone than their wealth and greed.

        It appears to me, however, that there is quite a lot of media coverage on the use of drones, and the unfounded imprisonment of suspected militants in Guantanamo Bay. It is a frequent hot-topic in the media that I follow, and a big political club to beat opponents over the head. But Islam-bashing is not something I see a lot of here where I live. I see Christian evangelicals threatening to burn the Quran, but they’re not very popular. I see more of a sympathy toward the Muslims in my community. They are a large group here and generally well respected as business owners and peaceful citizens.

        Yes, the U.S. Government has an atrocious reputation because of the reaction to 9-11. But it is a big scary deal for your metropolis to be systematically attacked and over 3000 people murdered in one day by people who aren’t just believers of Islam, but who did it BECAUSE of Islam. Did they act on behalf of all Muslims? Of course not. But nor was there evident an easy way to tell those who would, from those who would not murder in the name of Islam. The war on terror wasn’t a good idea – it was a horrible idea. George Bush and company should burn in eternal flame for the insults and injury they added to the injury. But I would be remiss if I did not also try to imagine how I might react if I was responsible for an entire nation’s security and something like 9-11 happened on my watch. I don’t know what I would do. I like to think I would be more rational, but how one reacts rationally to such a deadly and irrational threat is not certain.

        Ideally there would be no Islam, nor Christianity, nor any other religion that even might incite people’s passions and hatred. But there’s no getting rid of religion any time soon. So if I’m part of a religion that gets fingered for a few bad apples who use my religion as an excuse to murder children, that’s my burden to bear. It is a choice, after all, and I could always choose to shave my beard and say to hell with it all. If we take the religion part out of it, does your argument still work? What if it wasn’t Islam that was the common denominator – but instead it was nationality? What if nobody cared what religion anyone was, but if you’re from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, you are suspect because terrorists tend to be overrepresented by Saudi or Pakistani nationals? Would that be any more reasonable or fair? What of a government’s job to protect it’s citizens from those who would cause harm?

        There is an argument that it is precisely our policies toward those countries where Islam is the dominant religion/culture that causes such hatred and radicalization. But before 9-11 most Americans didn’t give a hang about Muslims or Saudis or really anyone overseas, and we were still attacked, basically for being American. Since then our policies have gotten worse, surely, but to what era would we have to retreat before we were no longer seen as Devils and deserving of the Wrath of Allah? Still not an excuse to vilify the entire religion, but what other indicia are there of a potential terrorist? Those few Muslims who have attacked us did so by blending seamlessly and inconspicuously into the fabric of Western culture. As a result we appear like the paranoid madman, hyper vigilant and overly, and violently, proactive toward potential threats. We don’t know where to look or what to look for, other than for turbans, and in those places where we know radicalization often happens, and where organized terrorists tend to gather. Is it better to ignore the threat because we will inevitably get it wrong sometimes, and just let the Jihad happen?

        Perhaps it is very unAmerican for me to say so, but maybe it IS reasonable to discriminate against people for their religion. It isn’t their sexuality, or their skin color, or something they can’t change. It is a choice. If you choose to be religious, and the religion you choose is equated, rightly or wrongly, with terrorism, then expect to be treated as a suspect. Every time I meet someone who unnecessarily and overtly identifies themselves as Christian, I certainly come to certain conclusions about them in my head, even if I don’t say so out loud. I know religious freedom is a huge deal and one of the biggest founding principles of my country, but maybe it’s time has come and gone. Really the whole fuss started because our Constitution prohibits the formation of an official state religion – then it was bastardized to excess after that – but the idea was that too much religion was not good. Maybe it just isn’t worth it anymore to give everyone free and protected leeway to practice any cock-eyed religion they want, just so they can turn around and scream Discrimination! when others are suspicious of them for the murderers in their midst.

        To Hell with Muslims, and Christians, and Jews, and Anybody else who claims to have the secret answers to everything based on Faith. To Hell with Faith and with Religion, and then let’s have a rational discussion about the world and how to fix it. We certainly aren’t getting anywhere pandering to everyone’s right to believe what they want, even if it’s wrong. Religion kills people, pure and simple. And those it doesn’t kill it turns into haters or apologists. What is the point?

        And for what it’s worth… Who do you believe would most likely want me punished for blasphemy for what I just typed? A Christian? A Jew? A Muslim? An Atheist? Take a guess. Who, after all, is truly most intolerant?

        Thanks Dean, for giving me reason to think about something enough to reduce it to writing!

        • Thanks for the long reply, it was definitely interesting! I still, however, disagree with quite a lot of it. Particularly, a few quotes:

          “because I think faith, by definition, is the rejection of reason”

          To some extent, sure, but so far religion is still the closest thing we have to a plausible theory about the origin of the universe. It isn’t backed up by science perhaps, but if you are raised religiously and there is not a single argument against the existence of God (which there simply isn’t), then why would it be more rational to become an atheist?

          “killing innocent people is a better reason to be against someone than their wealth and greed.”

          So we’re angry that some people killed innocent people, and therefore we decided to go about killing thousands of innocent people? Not only is that incredibly ridiculous, but it also turns it into an everlasting cycle. After all, Muslims cannot fare war unless their own well-being is threatened. That is a very subjective thing of course, but much like we wouldn’t kill their innocent people if they didn’t kill ours, to the greatest extent they wouldn’t kill our innocent people if we didn’t kill theirs.

          The more people we kill, the more terrorists we create.

          “Islam-bashing is not something I see a lot of here where I live”

          Perhaps not, I am less familiar with the situation in the US. But I do know it’s awfully bad in Europe and India, and it certainly isn’t ideal in the US either.

          “What if nobody cared what religion anyone was, but if you’re from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, you are suspect because terrorists tend to be overrepresented by Saudi or Pakistani nationals? Would that be any more reasonable or fair?”

          I really don’t see how that would make it any less or more fair. It’s still the same thing: discrimination of innocent people.

          “It (religion) is a choice”

          It’s not. It’s something you are raised with, and it would require certain events in your life to denounce it. Again, religion is not an intrinsically irrational thing, because there is no evidence against it. If you live in a family/neighbourhood/country where everyone is religious, then you are bound to be religious yourself as well. You cannot change that as an individual, and therefore, it is not a choice.

          Not to even mention that I’d say it’s ridiculous to argue that discrimination is fine if it’s just a choice… Women could get a sex-change and gone is the issue of sexism! Similarly, some children like reading books, but should they be bullied because of it? Should a child not complain when he gets bullied for playing chess or doing ballet just because “he could choose not to”?

          “Who do you believe would most likely want me punished for blasphemy for what I just typed? A Christian? A Jew? A Muslim? An Atheist?”

          In modern times, Islam (in general) is practised more strictly, but that can change. And it will change, or at least as long as we don’t give them too much reason to radicalise. You know… not killing innocent children might help…

          Terrorism is never justified, but we cannot go about telling them “you are killing innocent people and that’s wrong” when we’re doing the exact same thing. It’s biased and subjective irrationality, in which both sides are equally wrong. It’s like a “he started it!” debate on a kindergarten playground. A teacher would tell them both to stop it, but unfortunately, the world doesn’t have a teacher.

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