A few years ago some airports in Nigeria were undergoing rehabilitation; this resulted in manual security check on the luggage of passengers. In one of my trips during the security check, a group of nuns were searched as well as their luggage; a young man said something really remarkable and I quote him “how can you search nuns like that, I would be scared to even touch them or their luggage”. He made the statement because he respects what they stand for but I wonder what he would have said if he witnessed the humiliation a pastor in his full regalia experienced at the airport when everything on him was searched even his BIBLE. He didn’t go through the ordeal for the reason he’s a pastor rather the country he represents. Nigeria was/has been on the news for stories like ‘419’, drug trafficking; hence any carrier of the green passport was a potential suspect. This stigma followed Nigerians everywhere they went and somehow Nigerians are trying to prove to the world that a minority doesn’t define the entire country.
We are experiencing a similar stereotype that isn’t just regional rather worldwide. I found myself introducing my friends or neighbours as Muslims but didn’t introduce others as Christians. While this may mean nothing on the surface but it has a deep implication. In a report written by the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies they found out that “Muslims are often identified simply as Muslims rather than as individuals or particular groups with distinct identities” (Moore et al., 2008). The world is experiencing a lot of radicalism and extremism; from Boko Haram, ISIS to the disappearance of teenage girls from the UK to Syria. There’s heightened tension and fear at the same time, Muslim parents are praying their kids don’t get radicalised, non-Muslims are becoming Islamophobic and Muslims are trying to prove to the world that their religion is peaceful and is against radicalism.
I attended a lecture yesterday organised by the Bradford Churches for Dialogue and Diversity on the theme ‘The Shaykh and Bishop: Faith and Creativity Bradford’. It was an enlightening session with a mixed crowd of Faith and Non-Faith participants with the Bishop and Shaykh chairing it. I took home a few points but the highlight was seeing the Bishop and the Shaykh coming together to discuss ways of promoting Inter-faith dialogue using creativity. The Bishop highlighted the following : –
- We need to speak about justice regardless of religion, gender, sexual preference or skin colour. We shouldn’t be picky about it. The question is Who is justice?
- When we choose who we speak up for as a result of the God we serve, we make Him (God) a ‘Local Tribal Deity’.
And the Shaykh who I found really interesting and funny highlighted the following : –
- Most of the young people are not found in the mosque; hence he wonders where they get radicalised from? (In my Religion and Peacemaking class, I found out most young people can’t relate the teaching in the Mosque to contemporary issues hence they turn to the internet for answers which is popularly called Shaykh Google. Recent survey shows most of the young people get radicalised through the Internet). He cited the non-engagement of the younger generation in the Mosque as a challenge but said they are working on that but he doesn’t know when they will overcome it.
- We need to speak about Religion not as victims or as perpetrators.
I think we all should be concerned about this situation. How can we have productive Inter-faith discussions? The truth is, we are all affected one way or the other. You are either at the sending (Non-Muslim) or receiving end (Muslim). Our various modes of worship, the way we communicate with God, the way we dress may be different but we all have the same colour of Blood. May this unite us even as we seek ways to resolve this issue.
Loads of Love
Moore, K., P. Mason, and J. Lewis, 2008, Images of Islam in the UK: The Representation of British Muslims in the National Print News Media 2000-2008. Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.
Photo Credit : Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters