Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Book called Hypocrisy

Okay, so I read that Afshan Azad, a rather stunning Muslim actress who played Padma Patil in the Harry Potter series, was threatened and attacked by her family for dating a non-Muslim. “Oh shit, not another one.”
There seems to be a misconception, spread by the media, that any Muslim girl who exceeds the boundaries of the norm is liable to be beaten, threatened, abused etc. It seems almost cause and effect, an inevitable course of perverted justice. And, as the article was testament too, some who do step outside these boundaries do receive horrific reproaches from their peers. But there is an element of hypocrisy in these stories, and a sweeping generalisation that helps nobody.
I hope my readers realise that what is reported in the news is just snap shots, the biggest stories. A Muslim family accepting a Hindu into their house is no more likely to make the news than a Christian allowing a Buddhist in. Now a Christian family beating up said Buddhist and kicking him out, that would make the news, and the perpetrators would no doubt be chastised for going against Christian ideals and be sent to church for rehabilitation (hopefully after prison). But when Muslim families do similar acts, the way the piece is written will be different. These articles always give a sense of normality; “Look what this religion does on a regular basis”.
They also give a sense that domestic violence is somehow restricted to certain religions, with the occasional chav and drunkard thrown in for variety. But it’s not. When people say they did things because of the Bible, or the Koran, what they are giving is an excuse for their actions, not a reason. Let’s take the bible, and no I’m not about to go off on an anti-Bible rant. Taken out of context, any passage in the bible could be used to justify an action. Let me rip Leviticus 3:16 out of context. “all the fat is the LORD's. 17: It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” Someone’s eating fat, that’s against the Lord! Etc etc. But do you see random Christians and Jews chastising people for eating fat? You don’t. Probably because the rest of the chapter explains why you shouldn’t or that this is for a special occasion. It’s out of context for a reason.
It’s the same with anything really. Take part of the Queen’s Speech out of context and you could go rob a store with an excuse. Take the Lotus Sutra and you could go slaughter a herd (I remember one, misunderstanding, Christian saying “why don’t you just kill them so they can be reincarnated quicker?). Take the Koran and you have an adequate excuse to beat your daughter. Now I don’t buy into this “For good people to do bad things, it takes religion” (Steven Weinburg). One it makes the assumption that people are wholly good, which we are not. I’d say I am a good person; I don’t harm anyone intentionally, I give to charity, I’ve never stolen (well , a crisp or two). Yet I know that I have exploited people, that occasionally my tongue runs away with me and I hurt someone, I’ve even accidentally given someone a limp for a week (it was a fluke, I promise). I’m not a bad person, but nor am I good. And the bad things I did were not the produce of religion, but of circumstance and mistakes. My point? The will to do things is already there. Afhshan Azad’s father and brother may have used religion as an excuse, even to themselves, to justify their actions, but to perform them in the first place the will must be there. That will may have been doctored by their upbringing, but nature vs nurture is not the point of this.
What I am saying, in my characteristically roundabout way, is that the media’s generalisation of every Muslim family as being lead by an iron fisted man who will crush any who stray is unrealistic and dangerous. And let us not forget that, 60 years ago, that iron fist would have belonged to white, Christian man, who would not let his daughter see a black man, and get his son interned for being gay. I’m no fan of Islam, and I think we should take action whenever these events of religious punishment occur, but saying they are all corrupt does not help, and means we are ignoring our own past.