Click here for the Magazine. Updated May 10, 2013
A parody of the Prophet Mohammed in a tasteless, low-budget film set off a series of violent protests across the Muslim world and some 50 innocent individuals wind up dead, including a U.S. ambassador. The film in question, Innocence of Muslims, has garnered more media attention than it ever should have and the violence overseas has only served to further fuel anti-Islamist fires of hatred and polarize the world into a “them against us” mentality.
To be clear, I have not watched the film and have no intention of doing so. While it is important to protect freedom of speech as a fundamental value and a cornerstone to our society, we must remember that plying heaps of attention on worthless expressions of said value only serve to give it validity (point in case; Jersey Shore — really, why are these people famous again?).
Many Muslim leaders spoke out and urged peaceful protests, a suggestion largely ignored by an extremist minority. I impress upon the word “minority” here because it is important to remember that Muslims, numbering world-wide around 2 billion, make up roughly one quarter of the world’s population. Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion and Mohammed now tops the list as the world’s most common name.
Sadly, a wave of radical Islam began sweeping across the Middle East, Asia and Africa in the 1970s making fundamentalism synonymous with Muslim in the eyes of most Westerners.
This is rather tiresome for me you see because my husband is a Shia Ismaili Muslim, as is my daughter. It is not something I come out and say often. Certainly not out of shame but rather fatigue over the bothersome association to a stereotype that I then feel the need to debunk.
Firstly, there is the immediate reference to the film “Not Without My Daughter,” and the reminder that I should NEVER go to his country. Now, I feel for the women caught living without rights in Saudi Arabia and Iran, believe me, but my husband is not even from the Middle East. In fact, he, along with all other South Asians were booted out of Uganda in 1972. Technically, Canada is his one and only country.
Also, let me be clear, I have not converted, do not wear a hijab or walk three steps behind him with my eyes averted to the ground. In fact, I am usually three steps ahead, with him grumbling behind as my gypsy hair flies wildly about in a state that would probably be well-served by a headscarf. And for the record, yes, I still eat pork; that grotesque beast so delicious when cured and slapped between two slices of bread.
My parents taught us not to discriminate or judge based on titles. We were pushed to challenge authority and the status quo (to the chagrin of our school teachers I’m sure!). My mother, the black sheep of the family, suffocated by the closed-mindedness of small-town life, left her home on a small island off the coast of British Columbia to live with an aunt in Chicago when she was in high school. When she ended up back on that Island with two children and my Spanish father, we were something of an ethnic oddity. One of the more red-necked uncles insisted on calling us the “black-children,” which is amusing in that my skin colour can best be described as a sickly shade of white. Nonetheless, my last name made it so I just wasn’t white enough.
Religion? Didn’t have one.
Nope, no community at all as the back-bone of my identity, just a nagging sense of difference. Part of what I found so attractive about my husband was his community; a venue through which a group of people could come together to do good and share common values.
My mother passed away before she had a chance to meet him. In fact, we had just met as she was withering away in her fight against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Ismaili?” She said to me. “They’re good people”; a generalisation that spoke to her unending openness and acceptance of others.
When I asked my father what he thought about dating a man with whom a joint love of jamon would never be possible he said: “It could be worse, he could be a vegetarian!!.” The response was not always this accepting when speaking with strangers for whom my well-being mattered little (please see “Not Without My Daughter” example above).
My husband, whose name is Karim, was buoyed this year by the addition of another Karim to our family — my sister’s boyfriend. Although they are not both Ismaili (he is Sunni) they do drive the same car and have the same professional designation, but we’ll save that discussion for another article.
Three months later my father called me in disbelief, my other sister began dating a boy named — you guessed it — Karim. “Three Karim’s!” I shouted. “Well now this is getting out of hand!”
My husband, on the other hand, now has an inflated ego and claims that he clearly set the bar in that everyone seems to want their own Karim.
My point is simply this: there are crazed, deluded members within all groups of society, but writing off one quarter of the world’s population as an evil, factious group of fundamentalists is simply incorrect.
Recently I received a text advising me that my aunt had died — kind of an unconventional method to break news of a relative’s death but there wasn’t much emotion behind it. She had stopped talking to many of us years ago, and certainly wanted nothing to do with the “black-children.”
As I sat there looking at the text I couldn’t help think what a sad life she lead. A life lived in hatred. We all have our fears and judgments. Just as you may be cautious to not pass your fear of spiders to your child, it is important to do so with your judgements.
If we just start with more open-mindedness (that applies to the flag burning rioters as well), who knows where it could lead.
Ana Tajuelo is an entrepreneur, mom and highly opinionated individual. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for the Magazine. Updated May 10, 2013
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