Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A Room with a View

Walking to the train station after another day at the office, I noticed these big posters hung on several billboards. The posters were calling for a demonstration to be held in protest of anti Muslim racism. In particular, the poster was pointing at the trigger to this current demonstration: Melbourne’s RMIT University closing down its Muslim praying rooms.
Having attracted too much attention to myself by reading the poster in the first place, I moved on to catch my train home.

My first problem with this poster’s call to arms is to do with its misrepresentation of the term racism. Not that it’s anything new or anything exclusive to Islam, but I think it’s worth pointing out:
Having something against someone just because he/she is a Muslim does not have much to do with racism but more to with a lack of acceptance to other cultures, cultures different to the discriminator’s own. Race is something we all inherit from our parents and can’t do much about, and thus a person born to black parents will always be coined black by those that wish to discriminate against him/her. That person, however, can decide to become a Muslim today and then change their mind a week later to become a practicing Buddhist.
I realize that I am in a minority vote here and that it is common practice to label prejudice against self identified groups with the “racism” tag, just as it is common practice to do it for groups identified by unchangeable traits. My problem, however, is with this trend of making racism cheaper by the dozen: By expanding the set of attributes that make one liable for racist based compensation we are causing society to cheapen the value of racism in the first place.

Which leads me to my second problem with the call to arms mentioned above: the expectation to automatically deserve dedicated praying rooms for the sole reason that one belongs to a certain religion. It is exactly the next logical point on society’s path once it starts cheapening the concept of racism and applying it to every second thing.
Now let me make one thing very clear: There can be no doubt that Muslims are being discriminated against in Australia.
You can feel it almost every time you view an interaction between a Muslim and an “Aussie”, whatever that entity may be defined as (probably “a Christian white with English as their mother tongue”). I could certainly view it by the worrying looks I got while reading the above mentioned poster in the middle of a crowded street. It’s a game of connect the dots, really; a man of Middle Eastern appearance reading a sign about Muslims’ protest, the guy just has to be a blood thirsty terrorist, doesn’t he? Let’s keep our distance away from him. And make sure you don’t let our child get too close, dear!
Discrimination against Muslims in Australia is even constitutionalized, to one extent or another: just check the case of a Sydney suburb’s local council refusing to grant a permit for a Muslim school on grounds that no one would ever think of coming up with had the school been Christian instead. What does society expect Muslims to take away from such an experience to the next time they get to interact with authorities or just their neighbors, the same people who wrapped themselves up in Aussie flags and declared that a Muslim school could only be built over their dead bodies?
Yet however problematic the treatment of Muslims by the great Aussie society is, there is no justification for Muslims to deserve something no one else is getting – praying rooms in their universities – purely on the grounds of belief. Neither does the Christian majority, for that matter; that is, unless they pay for these facilities out of their own money and make sure these facilities do not interfere with the rights of all other university students.

Thing is, if Muslims deserve dedicated rooms to practice their religion in, what about the rest of us?
Just because I don’t believe in any mythology that was spoon fed to me as a child until presented with proper evidence to support it, does that mean I’m to be deprived of my very own room in which I can practice whatever it is I want to practice?
If that is indeed the case – that is, if I need a religion behind me in order to acquire the extra resources the Muslims deserve by default just because they’re Muslims – then I call for the establishment of a new religion. I will refer to it as Bullshitology.
Us Bullshitologists have ourselves a highly demanding religion and we deserve to be provided with the resources we require in order for us to conduct a healthy spiritual existence. For a start, we can’t work too much, because work means we are prevented from practicing our religion; no, work is to be banned due to its obvious racist nature.
Next, in order for us to actively practice our religion, we each need to have our own dedicated large, warm and well maintained Jacuzzi. In this Jacuzzi our practicing Bullshitologist will share the company of 72 knockout babes of his choice (“his” choice, as opposed to “her” choice, because like all religions Bullshotology knows where the right place for women is). Only in that environment can a Bullshitologist go through the deepest practice of the religion, the ultimate way of communicating with his gods: the exchanging of notes on quantum physics with his army of babes.
I think it’s important to stress a good Bullshitologist will never pick virgin babes for his Jacuzzi; a good Bullshitologist appreciates the value of a babe that is well versed in mechanics.
If you disagree to supplying me with all of the above, you’re a bloody racist.

Back to serious mode, the relevant question regarding anti Islamic notions becomes whether these have originated through exaggerated “I deserve this because I believe” requests coming out of the Muslim community itself.
As interesting as this question may be, I think it is safe to say that at least in Australia the fear of the Muslim is a much more primeval than that. In my opinion, it is more to do with a basic fear of the unknown. Most people bearing anti Muslim grudge regard Muslims as a potential terrorists regardless of these Muslims’ demands; they don’t know them well enough to know better.
That said, I really think the Muslims are shooting themselves in the foot with their ridiculously unjustified demands for praying rooms. Such requests, surely made by just a small minority, blemish the group entire.
You could easily pick on me for picking on Islam when its image is tarnished by just a slight few. Then again, Islam is repeatedly being tarnished by a slight few, and the reality is that I don't see as many Muslims as I would like to see seeking out to get rid of the crap in their ranks. Complaints should work both ways, not just to the outside; if anything, one should look inside first before looking to the outside.

An anecdote to conclude with:
With the passing this week of Isaac Hayes, an SBS news item covering his life was saying how he left South Park after the series decided to have a go at Scientology. Hayes was shown saying “I’m a Scientologist and I demand to be respected for my beliefs”.
Well, I respect Hayes for many reasons; his beliefs are not one of them. Still, why shouldn’t I jump on the bandwagon? I’m a Bullshitologist, and I demand to be respected for that, too!

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