Dortmund, 1936:  

"Wouldn’t mind if a few of those Jewish a******s died. Apparently of their shopkeepers was assaulted by one of our homeless folks down the street. Cant blame us?

‘Wonder where they get money amidst such hard times? Their shops are still up and running’ Germany is starving. Usurers!

The Star of David? Them again."

It wasn’t hatred that they spewed. They weren’t malicious propaganda architects. They were just hungry Germans, who feared the unknown. Who despised the fact that the jews multiplied when the Germans fought to breathe and eat.

They made jokes, fed on a few stereotypes, shared a good laugh and walked onto the next soup shelter.

Gujarat, India, 2016:

‘So, the whole Delta Airline episode, where the Muslim couple was deplaned? It was crazy. Yeah, but then what do you expect? Why on earth would you get onboard and say ‘Allah’? I mean, you are calling for it.

Lol, Yeah. I mean imagine if a Muslim shouted Allahu Akbar loudly? Lol! Then, they should have just shot him there!

They weren’t ill informed or prejudiced people either. It was just another day which called for a coffee table conversation. With ISIS spreading its wings across the South Asian Continent and with popular islamophobia catching up with the not-so-secular-anymore-India, it was possibly normal to fear. Normal to dismiss. And Normal to analyse much.

They made jokes, fed on a few stereotypes, shared a good laugh and walked on to get a new cup of coffee.

She sat amidst her friends, when I spotted her, engrossed in what seemed to be a serious discussion. From what I knew about her, she was born a Muslim, but wasn’t very ‘muslim’, so to say. She often wore sleeveless tops and sported a short hairstyle. She aspired to go to the United States to study further and a corporate job waited as a backup option. (Was a little too arrogant for her own good though.)

She was listening to them, quite intently. Her companions seemed to be weary of the ‘muslim muslims’ (they are that group of people who visibly profess their faith. Presumed to be radical due to appearance). Nothing against her. Still, something awfully stung.

 It was probably the fact that the guy who was her best friend and one of the sharpest corporate minds was joking about killing people who dared proclaim the name of Allah. Or was it because they asked her to not get defensive? Like, we are speaking about the finer minds of the country, Ivy League aspirants.

She was checking facts. Like most people of generation X. Facts and figures are of paramount importance.

1. Most terrorists are Muslims. Check. Tick.

2. They do hijack and stuff. Check. Tick. (But maybe we should look up the number of hijackings by Islamic terrorists, she sort of faintly tried to argue). Never Mind. Tick.

3. Middle Eastern Airlines like Emirates and Qatar aircrafts never get hijacked. Check. Tick.

Well, didn’t the IS terrorists just bomb Medina during Ramadhan? Somehow that argument didn’t seem to cut much ice either.

They looked out for their friend. I saw the concern in their young faces. They wanted her to be accepting of the flaws of her religion. From whatever little I knew her. I had heard her criticise the clergy, criticise practices which claimed that whipping of wives is allowed in Islam and above all, I knew she didn’t eat, halal meat because she knew that the animal was often in pain before the head was severed from the body.[1] She vowed to abstain from halal meat as much as she could till she read up enough to know what really the facts were.

Yes, facts, a good muslim must accept what is wrong with the religion and she too must accept that her fellows in faith are generally presumed guilty unless proven otherwise. That’s okay. Its acceptable too.

 But still..something didn’t quite feel right.

She tried explaining the 1963 Tokyo Convention on Unlawful Offences on Board an Aircraft, which empowers an in-flight security officer (and may I repeat, only him to possess firearms and use them in compelling circumstances)[2], a provision which too has often been a point of criticism. But wait, she was talking law. She was missing the point. She was missing a basic point. I waited.

The Tokyo Convention wasn’t the answer. No legal book would teach you the answer. The answer lies in the fact, treating a person and eradicating a deadly plague isn’t one and the same. That when you spot a Muslim, you don’t get the right to kill him, lest he harms you, first.  

I smiled.

Then watched her struggle with an angry expression on her face. I heard them say, ‘precaution’, I heard them say ‘Muslim’, Alas! She let me down. She said she was offended and briskly walked away.

There is something wrong with your religion, girl. I wished she’d hear me. There was something wrong with every religion. Some believed in crucifying ‘witches’ and some pushed widows in the funeral pyres of their husbands. The only fact being, they all had their own reformers. People who decided not to “accept” what was wrong with their religion. Instead, they changed things with time. They made a difference, because they didn’t accept.

I stayed on to watch them. The concerned look on their faces. They still were good friends. Their reasoning strong, completely in line with the society that had once told citizens to kill in the name of racial superiority. Because well, race existed. Society always did a good job.

If and when their muslim friend ventured out Trump land, it would be important to pretend glorify hatred or lets just say be indifferent to blacks, Muslims, Mexicans and most of the ‘blacklisted people’.  Anyway, she’ll come around. The intellectual banter continued for a while.

I met our confused angry woman, when she was walking furiously back ,to seek shelter. Somewhere, where she could think in peace. What just happened? Why did it sting so hard?

It stung my dear, It stung because you just witnessed and undertook a small part in the ‘subconscious classification of criminals and their origins’. Bigotry and Hatred have walked the earth since times immemorial. They have always claimed their victims in a community of people attached by language, colour or faith. They have been faithfully assisted by jokes and stereotypes, sometimes by propaganda and State laws. They have always done a commendable job!

But then, just like all power plays, there is sometimes a snitch. Propaganda is often stupidly exposed by a few of the insiders. And trust me, the two gentlemen, humorous much, aren’t exactly a stickler for loyalty. They desert the camp and it all falls to pieces. Till they come back again to slyly hatch another plan with a new target group.

I followed her a few steps and grabbed her by the arm.

Did you see, what I saw? The jokes and rumours have already seeped in. I don’t know since when, but they’ve made themselves very comfortable in the cracks and walls of our souls. Our fear of the unknown has played a good host.

Berlin, 1943:

Lol! The Jewish are the filthiest of the lot. You know one when you see one. See the nose? Its like an inverted 9. Lol! Smells money pretty good though. We Germans have already been humiliated and defeated once. We are afraid now and ofcourse weary. Ofcourse there are good jewish people too. But you cant blame, us, Germans of being weary. Can you?

It is probably an accepted fact, that one needs to be weary of a Muslim looking person. It is accepted, that you will be questioned more at an airport if you have a Muslim name.  And you know what, it’s a fact. Its not something to be frowned upon. It happens everyday.

It was a fact that Jews were to wear visible arm bands, they would be questioned more at every employers place, in every public transport. It happened everyday. It was an accepted fact.

You know that the dark clouds are here to stay, when what was once an assertion to be proved becomes a fact. A serious one.

On one end of the spectrum, you have the Muslim radicals, who are playing on the insecurities of people who are tired of proving their innocence everytime they breathe, (for their own selfish reasons ofcourse). And on the other, you have the Perpetrators, chasing the radicals out.

They are closing in, young lady! They are closing in, from all sides. If you are a Muslim, just a Muslim, neither a radical nor an publicly acclaimed radical hater, they are coming for you. If the Islamic Terrorists don’t get you, the Government will. If you are lucky enough to escape both, to find anonymity in society. Your neighbours will pull you out to toss you towards either of them. They don’t take to camouflage that kindly, I am told.

The society at large has been played by individuals forever. Their beliefs planted, altered and then uprooted, only for the cycle to be repeated again. The pages of books and pleas of the intellectuals have always pinned the burden on the educated elite. The future of our society. Because, surely in the age of internet and such vast degree of access and knowledge, they wouldn’t let bigotry breed.

But, there..there..!  I have been told that the modern times are visibly biased to Darwin’s teachings. The strongest survive. The ones who can compete. And, for effective competiton you must master the finer intricacies of your mode of livelihood. Sadly, respecting life, doesn’t feature in there. Especially, if the life isn’t yours.

Her parents sent her to one of the elite law schools, to learn about mergers and acquisitions, they taught her about the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Trials too. They told her that it was advisable to breach a contract is compliance was higher than penalty. They never told her that it was also advisable to stand up for a neutral fact when the stakes were higher for humanity.

They owe you an apology, Girl. And I probably owe one too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Halal Meat, What is it: and is it inhumane?, The Week, 11th March 2015, available at http://www.theweek.co.uk/58447/halal-meat-what-is-it-and-is-it-inhumane

[2] Secure Skies- The European Pilots Perspective in improving Aviation Security, European Cockpit Association. available at https://www.eurocockpit.be/sites/default/files/secure_skies_14_1203_onli...

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