The source of most of the world’s craziness

I’ve been a bartender for 16 years. In that time I have overheard many a conversation between guests. These discussions can be placed in two broad categories. The first category consists of relatively mundane subjects, such as the weather, favorite football teams, the latest movies or music…stuff like that. Run-of-the-mill discussions like that pretty much go through one ear and out the other.

The second category consists of those conversations that tend to stick with me. As an advocate for social justice, these are the chats that cause my ears to perk up. These are the conversations that I try to pay attention to (as much as I can while working). During the 2008 USAmerican Presidential election season I listened as people droned on and on about how they disliked then-Senator Obama, or how they really liked Sarah Palin (I was working at a restaurant patronized by a lot of conservatives). During the trial of George Zimmerman, I listened as people tried to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin. Then there was the time a male patron made victim blaming and Rape Culture enabling comments while discussing serial rapist Bill Cosby with two female guests.

Can you guess which category the following comment would fall in:

“Muslims are the source of most of the craziness in the world.”

Yeah. That sentence came out of the mouth of a guest (we’ll call him Greg) sitting at my bar last week. Greg was chatting with a woman he was having drinks with. Is there a context in which that statement wouldn’t be bigoted? Yeah, I can think of a few. He could have been mocking someone. He could have been repeating something he heard from someone else. He could have been discussing how he used to feel about Muslims. I don’t think any of those explanations apply in this case, but that’s just a gut feeling I have. A gut feeling influenced by the fact that there is a lot of anti-Muslim animus in USAmerica.

While I could be wrong, I think Greg was speaking from a place of profound ignorance, and his comment is the perfect example of why diversity is important. While I don’t know his background, I suspect he hasn’t regularly interacted with Muslims over the course of his life. I have to wonder if he would have benefited, at some point in the past, from knowing and interacting with people he knew were Muslims. If he dated a Muslim, went to school with Muslims, worked at a job where he regularly interacted with Muslims, had Muslims as friends, or played sports with Muslims…would he still have made that statement? Perhaps. After all, people with homophobic or racist beliefs often interact with gay people or Latinos. Men and women interact all the time and simply being exposed to women hasn’t prevented some men from becoming MRAs or MGTOWs. On the other hand, prior exposure to Muslims might have shown him that they are people, just like him. People with hopes and desires, worries and fears. People who want to raise their children to become productive members of society. People who go to the movies, watch reality tv, go bowling, or shoot pool. He might have learned that statements like “Muslims are the source of most of the craziness in the world” are not only wrong, but hurtful. Such exposure might have taught him that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful…that extremist Islamic groups like ISIS are not representative of Muslims worldwide.

I think regular, ongoing interaction with people who differ from you, whether it’s people of a different sexual orientation, those with a different gender identity, or those with a different religious background helps break down stereotypes. Such interaction can help show people that despite the [often superficial] differences between us, we humans share a lot in common. Interacting with people of diverse backgrounds can teach us to be more tolerant and accepting of others, their lives, and their experiences.

Shattering stereotypes. Finding common ground. Building bridges based on our shared experiences. Those goals lay at the heart of “Meet a Muslim Family“, a two-week campaign in Canada:

The Choudhry family has an unconventional strategy for fighting Muslim youth radicalization — inviting strangers into their Woodbridge home.

On Sunday, the family invited 14 non-Muslim Canadians to join them for a casual late lunch. The gathering was part of a two-week campaign called “Meet a Muslim Family,” in which Muslim families throughout Canada invited community members into their home for the purpose of uniting Canadian families and dispelling misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.

“There’s one way to learn about Muslims — which is turn on CNN, and you’ll see people on fire and buildings blowing up and bombs being dropped — or, you can actually see real Muslims in your neighbourhood who have been living here for decades,” said Safwan Choudhry, one of the campaign’s organizers.

Choudhry, 26, and two friends came up with the campaign after witnessing a spate of negative attention on, or negative treatment of, Muslims in the media. He pointed to a Quebec judge’s recent refusal to hear a woman’s case because she was wearing a hijab and to terror charges laid against Canadians with alleged ties to ISIS.

“I think any non-Muslim Canadian, hearing all this chatter, surely has to be concerned, if not worried, that like, ‘What is going on?’” he said.

Choudhry said he hopes the initiative draws attention to similarities between non-Muslims and Muslims — he mentioned his family’s interest in skiing and snowboarding and love for Tim Hortons coffee.

Skiing?

Snowboarding?

WTF? It’s like the Choudhry family is just like other families all across the globe. Imagine that. I think Greg could benefit from meeting a Muslim family.

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The source of most of the world’s craziness
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5 thoughts on “The source of most of the world’s craziness

  1. Daz
    1

    The easy way to create lots of radical Muslims: Keep treating non-radical Muslims as if they’re already radical Muslims.

    (In my more cynical moments, I sometimes wonder if this might actually be the consciously thought-out plan, in some quarters.)

  2. 4

    Ha!
    I’d recognize that bigot the moment I laid eyes on him.
    That’s an interesting thought though. If I ever had the opportunity to wait on Harris, I’d have to fight the urge to ask him to explain exactly how airport security could visually identify Muslims.

    For a bonus question, I’d ask him why a supposedly enlightened individual such as himself supports torture.

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