During the election hubub that has gripped the attention of the American people, a few stories have emerged in the DC area in the last couple weeks that have stayed with me. The first story is the posting of anti-Muslim ads on DC Metrorail systems that have sparked an outcry from civil and religious groups about it promoting hate speech. However, there’s little debate that it shouldn’t be protected and rightfully so, for while it does foment hate, it clearly falls within the guidelines of the First Amendment. Therefore, a concurrent ad campaign has been waged by various Jewish and Christian organizations that either condemn the hate-speech ads or promote inclusivity.
As I have followed the story through listening to NPR, one particular segment (regarding the issue) caught my attention. NPR was interviewing a Jewish Rabbi that had condemned the anti-Muslim ads and had contributed to the ad campaign against bigotry when a woman intervened (or interjected) during the interview. A debate ensued between the two with the woman arguing that people of the Muslim world do not respect the same “values and freedoms” as those in the West and, as a result, should not be respected or tolerated. After the Rabbi made his rebuttal that her beliefs are not grou, the woman brought up the story about the 14-year-old girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating education for girls. She made the argument, how can one say that the Muslim world holds the same values of human rights and respect if they get up-in-arms regarding charicatures of the Prophet Muhammad, but not the horrible incident that almost took this little girl’s life?
I was taken aback, for that resonated with me. I did not hear of any protests condemning the attack on this young girl. Especially not from the Muslim world.
I got emotional.
I was upset with Muslim peoples committing acts of violence because someone drew Muhammad, but barely cried out against the violence toward this young girl (and all other girls who desire education). I had not heard of any protests against the Taliban on my regular news outlets – CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, France 24, NPR, Times, Newsweek, Guardian, or any other English language news outlet – so what the woman was saying must have been true. I wanted to lambast my Muslim friends for being part of a religion that allowed such hypocrisy to exist. I saw some political cartoons that satirized the situation of the Taliban fearing little girls getting educated, and felt that it embodied the true nature of patriarchical Islam.
I was being swayed to loathe Islam and Muslim peoples.
And as suddenly as I started to embrace bigotry a certain switch got flipped within me. I thought to myself, there must be more to this story. Did Muslims actually not protest? I sat down in front of my computer and did a simple google search. Lo and behold, I was proven wrong from just 5 minutes of searching. Thousands came out to protest against the attack with the Pakistani people demanding the government to take action. Vigils not only took place in Pakistan, but in neighboring Afghanistan and India as well.
It should come to no surprise that U.S./English-speaking-media did not cover such protests, but I still remain dumbfounded. Even the google search yielded a handful of articles on the protests versus the thousands upon thousands that covered the Taliban shooting little Malala. It makes one wonder whether media outlets actively refuse to cover such events or they simply find it unimportant to the American people.
Whatever the case, this woman in the NPR story and I share a bond. We are both individuals who feel outraged that a girl is shot for wanting an education. Such outrage is noble. But our nobility is quickly corrupted because we’re not given the whole story. Therefore, with the whole truth and little effort being made to cover (or active effort is made not to cover) the fallout, our outrage – unchecked – leads us down a dark, angry path. That path leads us to lash out with bigoted ads and/or actual physical violence on those we deem guilty by association. We add to the divide and contribute to the conflict. The cycle continues.
In the end, I was almost brainwashed with hatred. Thank goodness it was “almost”.