26 May 2010

Intentionally Stereotypical

For thousands of years people have subscribed to culturally accepted actions and beliefs in order to achieve a sense of belonging. This is a natural desire in a social species but we now face a fork in our evolution since the information age has forced the emergence of global culture and at the same time has forced us to accept rationality through readily available information. It's community versus rationality and i'm sure everyone reading this knows that community will always win but there's hope in the fact that the community of rational thinkers is growing strong.

The inspiration for this post was an article by Muhammad Karim which was written as a reaction to Zapiro's recent comic strip depicting Muhammad. That was of course a reaction to the "Everybody draw Muhammad day" group on Facebook which has since disappeared with no explanation but censorship is another debate. I support "Everybody draw Muhammad day" because of my stance on freedom of information of which freedom of opinion/speech is an important subset. My opinion is that it is unacceptable to harm or even threaten to harm someone for a drawing (offensive or otherwise) of a person (prophet or otherwise). I am not Muslim and my belief system strongly supports the reproduction and spread of information. Reproducing images of Muhammad is not harmful to anyone but i think it is extremely important to point out (as one of the commenters on your article has done) that a punch in the gut certainly is harmful.

This brings us back to stereotyping; it is a common stereotype that Arabic people put violence and aggression first and rationality and diplomacy second. My response; Islam does not define Arabic people. It is a common stereotype that Semitic people particularly those in Israel, are the Nazis of the 21st century. My response; Judaism does not define Semitic people. It is a common stereotype that Caucasian people are racist and greedy. My response; Christianity does not define Caucasian people. I could do this all day, let me address my stereotype though; racism exists only in the minds of those who hand out the racist label. Stereotyping is very real however and it is the responsibility of the Stereotypee to ensure that he does not conform to the negative aspects of the group he has subscribed to. He has a responsibility to not shame the people that he represents.

Mr Karim, i implore you and every Muslim to ignore the Muhammed drawers and continue with your peaceful ways, do not give in to the provocation. If you feel you cannot ignore the situation then you should direct your passion towards your own people and ensure that your stereotype is that of a peaceful and rational people. As i've said; in order to feel like we belong we subscribe to these stereotypes, it is our own doing and it is therefore our responsibility to look inwardly when criticised or provoked. If after considerable reflection we reach the conclusion that our words and deeds were consistent with our ethics then we must remain silent and be satisfied with that knowledge. Only those who subscribe to stereotypes can be stereotyped and only those who bring harm can be criticised.