We live in the world of dichotomy, where unnecessary attention is paid to issues like race, gender, religion and other ideological differences. More often than none, individuals create a “symbolic world,” which explains “realities” of our lives and why things are the way they are. To maintain power or dominance, we use this symbolic world as a presumed superior norm against which presumably inferior groups are tested and found lacking. The subsequent findings, then serve as an excuse for treating the latter as inferiors and keeping them perpetually dependent. At the same time, the presumed norm, which is based on social cognition, also serves to explain the order of things: why things are the way they are; what is ‘normal,’ ‘abnormal,’ ‘right,’ ‘wrong,’ ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural.” Equally, this “reality” of the world gives credence to why a particular group “should” be treated in a specific way. In other words, the “reality” of the world, acts as a justification for and gives meaning and explanation to certain actions, decision, taken in our lives and relationships. In an imbalanced relationship, it equally, justifies the exercise of power and control by one group or race over another.
How does this throw light on what is going on in our various countries, relationship and lives? Does this “explain” why, to some, “all” Muslims (of course we all have had contact and experience with all Muslims, haven’t we?) are regarded as “terrorists”? On the other hand, this equally explains why some zealous Muslims strongly believe that any non-Muslim is not only an unbeliever, or an infidel, as such they must be eliminated. Should one see the treatment of women as second-class citizens in our various societies, especially in Africa, in this light? What about the white-black relationship? Are blacks often treated as inferior to whites? Look around in various African countries and see how certain groups are marginalized? Is our social reality an explanation to why blacks are seen by some as criminally minded? Sadly, in most cases, we use the symbolic world we have created as the judgmental standard against, which we evaluate others and find them lacking. That subsequently provides a perfect decorated box to hide our biased mind and “explanation” or justification for our infamous actions. Our blatant racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and other bigotries are carefully wrapped and hidden inside the “realities of the world”, which justify our standpoint on certain issues.
When a Muslim carries out an attack, it is termed a “terrorist attack,” in the predominately western media; but when the attack is perpetrated by a non-Muslim, it is baptized differently. It becomes a “shooting.” That does not end there. While the Muslim attacker is, in most cases, called a “terrorist,” the non-Muslim attacker has distortedly tagged a “mentally disturbed” person. The perpetrators are labelled differently. The same act, two different names and meanings. Furthermore, based on these “realities” of the world, which explain why “all” Muslims are deemed “terrorists,” certain discriminatory policies and laws can be made and justified. The justification reflects everyday realities and “normalises” certain actions targeted against certain groups of people. For example, immediately after taking office as the President, Donald Trump of the USA banned some predominantly Muslims countries from entering the USA on the assumption ( you mean, “reality”) that they are all potential terror-prone countries. Clearly, from the statistics available, most of the terrorist attacks were committed by Muslims. The fact is overwhelming. However, isn’t is rather speculative a conclusion to make that all Muslims (for that matter, from the banned countries) are terrorists, simply because more terrorist attacks were carried out by Muslims? Have we met and interacted with all Muslims to make such a watery conclusion? Definitely not. Furthermore, ironically speaking, if we see all Muslims as potential terrorists, as such, they must be prohibited from entering certain countries, what will our reaction be to the “mentally disturbed” “shooters” ( definitely, not labelled “terrorists”) who kill hundreds of innocent people daily? We have seen that hundreds of times in the USA – from the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, perpetuated by 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold, which led to the massacre of 15 innocent victims and injuries to 21 people, to the 2012 Aurora “shooting” (if I may borrow the word in the Western media) with Twelve people killed and seventy others injured, 58 of them from gunfire. The infamous Oklahoma City “bombing,” which claimed 168 innocent lives (including fifteen children), and injured more than 680 others, was perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The bombing did not only destroy one-third of the building, damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, it shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars. In total, the estimated damage attributed to the bombing was $652 million worth. The Las Vegas “shooting” with 59 death toll (including the perpetrator) and non-fatal injuries: 851 (422 by gunfire) comes to mind. The Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “shooting”, which is the 17th school shooting in the U.S. within the first 45 days of 2018, claimed seventeen people’s lives and resulted in the hospitalisation of 14 people. The attacks are numerous; you may continue counting the death toll. Unfortunately, based on our social cognition, sometimes, murder is not always seen as murder; it all depends on the identity of the perpetrator and victims. Right? Isn’t that another “reality” of our symbolic world?
That said, the same holds for the treatment of non-Muslims by some Muslims. For one to strongly believe that any non-Muslim is an infidel, as such, must be killed, is the greatest misconception, distortion and insult to any religion, which arguably must promote peace. Likewise, forceful conversion of non-Muslims to Muslim goes beyond common tolerance and freedom of religion –, especially in this present 21st century. Ironically, human beings are a bunch of selfish elements who would rather choose the best side of a coin for their selfish end. As a Muslim, if one feels they love another country and wants to migrate to it, fine. If I was in danger (eg. due to war, religious or ethnic prosecution, etc.) and other non-Muslim country offered me a sanctuary, my best and most honourable reward or token of appreciation to the host country, would be to obey the law, assimilate and contribute economically, politically, socially and otherwise to the growth of the new country. Of course, coming from another culture, exposes one to certain laws, cultural realities of the new country, which might be different from what one is used to in their country of origin. Yes, there might be cultural and ideology conflicts. I have a choice to either adopt myself to these new realities or leave the host country if I cannot cope with the new rules and regulations or social realities. One is not forced to live in another country. It is a choice one makes. That choice comes with responsibilities. That includes, but not limited to obeying the law of the host country.
Imagine a situation, where my life was in danger due to war and persecution in my country. I and the family were forced to leave my country and indeed, part of our lives for the sake of our security. Happily, we were welcomed by another country and offered citizenship of the new country. My host country has a different religion from mine. Despite the religious difference, my host country did not have problems welcoming us and offering us all the benefits and privileges accorded to her citizens. Suddenly, we decided to leave our new host country, simply because there were no or fewer churches or mosques in the new country than in our country of origin, where our lives were in danger. Wouldn’t such a decision prompt one to wonder the degree of danger I claimed to have faced in my country of origin and my priority in life – personal security, progress in life or simply a religion? While living in a foreign country, where you are offered a sanctuary out of the humanitarian ground, would you expect your host countries to radically change their laws, culture and way of life, simply to accommodate you, a visitor? Do I expect my new country, which offered to help me resettle while I was in danger, to stop eating or selling pork meat, for example, simply because I am welcomed in this new country, which offered to help me settle down while I was in danger? This is unrealistic, to say the least. Why would I think I have the right or “honour” to kill a woman simply because I believe she is promiscuous or she has “dented” my family’s name, disobeyed me as a “man”? Would it be ok to me, if my wife would kill me as a man, simply because I have a sexual relationship with another woman? What about banning all Muslims from entering a country because of “security reasons.” One can go on and on with examples. Deep inside – and the reality of that matter is that – there may have been a hidden hatred, fear or insecurity out there. The fact is that, as humans, we often use our everyday reality to justify our hatred, fear, sexism, biased mind, bigotry and other ideological makeups.
While Present Donald Trump of the USA banned certain predominately Muslims countries from entering the USA due to the fear of terrorist attacks, the same President of USA supports gun ownership amongst the USA citizens. Would that action qualify as an irony? Furthermore, President Trump did not have problems collecting close to 5 million dollars from the National Rifle Association (NRA), a lobby group that is strongly behind gun ownership amongst Americans, for his campaign. The question is: If Mr. Trump truly wanted to eradicate gun violence (and for that matter, terrorist attacks) in the US soil, why would the same Mr. Trump not support banning gun ownership amongst Americans, who kill themselves daily with a gun? If one or group of people terrorise or kill other innocent ones, with a gun, isn’t that tantamount to terrorism? It makes little or no difference whether the killing is done by a non-Muslim, Muslim, American or non-American; the bottom line is that innocent people are mercilessly and barbarically murdered. So, if one follows President Trump’s argument that his ban on individuals from certain Muslims countries from entering the USA was borne out of the necessity to protect terrorist attacks (killing of Americans), and yet, the same President supports individual gun ownership, which has caused more deaths amongst the USA citizens than terrorism in the USA, it makes one question the motive behind the ban. Is President Trump using the reality on the ground as a shield to exercise his biased views – and policies – against a certain group of people? Australia was once a haven for guns, with more citizens possessing guns than the USA per population. However, the Australian government enacted very strict gun-control laws and took strong measures and regulated gun ownership. Today, the measure is paying a great dividend. Australia has one of the lowest crime and terrorist incidences in the world. Should our governments borrow a leave from Australia and act decisively rather than being busy rhetoric?
Furthermore, one cannot talk about the present cankerworm in the name of religious radicalism without holding Saudi Arabia partially responsible. Vividly, the present religious radicalism amongst Muslims is the product of Wahhabism, a doctrine, which has been identified by the European Parliament in Strasbourg in July 2013 as the main source of global terrorism. Actively supported and funded since in the 1970’s by Saudi Arabia, to replace mainstream Sunni Islam, Wahhabism has become an increasingly influential force to reckon with. Funded from the oil money, the US State Department has estimated that the Saudis have invested more than 10bn (£6bn) into charitable foundations globally to promote Wahhabism, a harsh intolerant form of Islam to replace the mainstream Sunni Islam. According to the EU intelligence sources, much of the said funds from Saudi Arabia has been diverted to al-Qaida and other violent jihadists. The big question is, if President Donald Trump really, honestly wants to eradicate terrorism in the USA soil, why didn’t he squeeze Saudi Arabia to stop promoting Wahhabism and funding terrorism? Why didn’t the USA declare Saudi Arabia persona non grata in view of its funding and promotion of Wahhabism, which is partially responsible for the global terrorism, including attacks in the USA? More interestingly, why was Saudi Arabia not on the list of Muslim countries that the President of USA banned from entering the USA? It does not help that Saudi Arabia is one of the closest USA allies in the world. Nor is it explainable that Saudi Arabia was the first country Donald Trump visited as President. Perhaps, businesses come first to some of our leaders. With the about social realities, how can one explain the real reason behind Mr. Trump’s policies towards the Muslim community?
In Nigeria today, Muslim herdsmen have been going around in different parts of the country with impunity, harassing and killing innocent citizens who dare question or stop them from grazing in any field of their choice. These herdsmen visibly carry AK-47 guns and other dangerous ammunition. Strange enough, the government of Nigeria has neither arrested nor persecuted any of the culprits. Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police has infamously told the nation he / police cannot disarm the Fulani herdsmen. On the other hand, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) from the Southern East of Nigeria have been complaining over alleged injustice, marginalization and mistreatment in the hands of the Nigerian government. The government quickly labelled the group “terrorist,” banned and insisted it must be disarmed. Furthermore, it launched in September 2017 a heavy military operation called Operation Python Dance II against IPOB, its second military exercise in South East Nigeria last year. Deaths and casualties were reported, including the disappearance of the group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu. In view of the Nigerian government’s attitude towards the Fulani herdsmen and the response to the IPOB, it becomes somehow indefensible for the Nigerian government to convince the country and the world in general, that it is not using security and other social realities to hide any biased policies. It becomes more questionable in view of government’s effort to convince the citizens and the world in general that peace, tranquillity and security are its utmost priorities.
Unless human beings embrace real love, peace, tolerance, and compromise, we will continue to create a symbolic world based on social cognition, to support our biased minds and promote hatred and conflict. The result can only be a vicious circle which does no one good.