It’s hard being a convert (or revert as some call it) Muslim, I’m not going to lie and tell you it isn’t. It’s not hard because I get up early to pray; nor because I fast for 30 days at a time; or even because I’ve changed how I dress – moving my scarf up 4 inches from my neck to now cover my hair. It’s hard because sometimes it feels like the world is against us.
Every day there is something – arguments about everything from halal meat to headscarves, to whether praying 5 times a day makes you a concern for “radicalisation”.
I see it every day and from every direction – UK & Western governments and media telling us to be wary and concerned about Muslims, telling us we are not integrated, or we are barbaric.
My question is – does anyone actually ask a Muslim? Do they ask questions at all? Do they stop and question the agenda of the narratives they are being told, even if they don’t question the content?
Someone once said to me:
“Rather than asking yourself whether what they say about me is true, ask yourself why they are telling YOU”
It is the agenda, rather than the content, that gets me most scared. You can’t blame people for believing what they are told – especially when that message comes from people in power or with a perceived authority that they therefore trust. So we have to ask ourselves – WHY are they telling ME this?
We can examine and decipher the content – and being a scientist and critical thinker I frequently do. For example when there was a petition in the UK this year calling an end to halal animal slaughter, I contacted the person who started the petition and asked him for the studies behind his evidence. I read his evidence and I debated him. I thought critically and I examined evidence from all sides. What struck me was that it was the narrative that was the overriding factor – the narrative of Islamic barbarity. Anything that didn’t fit the narrative was ignored. The fact that most UK halal meat is stunned anyway (which was in his papers) and that this is a RSPCA supported method of killing – was ignored. The fact that stunning in itself is proven to be just as cruel, inhumane and torturous as non-stunning was also ignored. After debating on all points, the only thing he found left to say was that if you are truly concerned about animal cruelty then you should become vegetarian – or even better, vegan. Halal or not, the mass slaughter of animals for human consumption cannot be controlled enough to ensure no suffering. He admitted to me that really he wanted to address ALL types of slaughter; but that agenda didn’t fit to get mass backing so he continued with his anti-halal campaign.
See, even when we unravel the content and prove it to be unreliable and false we are still left with the narrative – the message they REALLY want to portray. In this case an anti-Islamic agenda.
(For anyone who is concerned regarding the stories about halal meat and animal slaughter in general and would like me to share what I learned, please contact me).
So we have to ask ourselves critically if we too are ignoring the evidence that doesn’t suit our cognitive bias (that is the thoughts and ideas we already have in our heads which are shaped by our upbringing, circumstances and influences), and whether our issue or argument is objectively logical, reasonable and backed up by available facts. We have to remember that doggedly following our ideas without following objective logic, reason, or considering other evidence can lead us to make huge, grave mistakes. An example just this week is ex UK Prime Minister Tony Blair apologising for the fact that in invading and destroying Iraq the way they did, they created ISIS – which we all now know to be a much greater problem to the world than Saddam Hussein ever proclaimed, or in reality had the ability, to be. So whenever we get the chance, we should drop our ego and reflect upon the facts. We should never be afraid to change our minds, or just to open our minds, when life presents us with new information.
It seems to me, from my moment of calm inside the tornado of this world, that in order to rule us, they must divide us to conquer us. You see I have found that if we all actually put down our swords, removed our barriers and opened our hearts we would realise that we can live in side by side and support one another. Here is just one example… if everyone who could afford it reached into their pockets and shared food and shelter with those who have neither – we could simply eradicate world hunger and homelessness. There IS enough money in this world, enough food, enough shelter – but it is the constraints of ego and desire of many to rule and be rich, or simply richer, which perpetuates the cycle. So what narrative do they sell us? They tell us that we can’t AFFORD to help refugees. They tell you that our country is in CRISIS and they ask you to question how much WORSE you want your own life to become.
The reality is that if large corporations and the multi-millionaires running them paid their taxes, we wouldn’t need to panic about feeding refugees, or own own homeless population, or struggling families here OR abroad.
Again, we can decipher the content to find it to be false, but most are just left with the narrative which divides us.
So why do they do it? Why do they teach us narratives that divide us?
The answer to me is simple. If we all get on, agree to disagree, live side by side, help one another to survive – then we are all on the same level and the world manages itself. BUT for the rich to stay rich, the poor have to stay poor. For people to stay in power, they have to make us scared of everyone around us so our trust is directed at them instead of at one another. The irony is that countries like the UK tell us that we are a democracy and we believe them – but we’re only democratic when we listen to their narrative. Yesterday’s issue with the House of Lords and subsequent repercussions are proving just that – if the government is massively overruled on something, they will cause backlash and problems until they rule and people have to agree. They have to get their own way and we are only a democracy when we let them get it. Elsewhere in Europe we see the same – in Portugal this month a government that was not voted in has refused to accept the set up of the government the people voted for. According to their narrative, the people don’t know what is best for the country, the old government do – so they continue to rule. But they had a vote so it’s a democracy, right?
In order for us to live without fear in this world we have to reach out to one another. We have to question what we are being told and ask if it aligns with what is really happening in the world. We cannot let them divide and conquer. We cannot turn against one another at a time when we need each other more than ever. One at a time, person by person, reach out and discuss. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen it work. Every single one of us has the power to make an impact – even the smallest impact is relevant. Remember…
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”