A friend of mine sent me a link to this video wanting to know how it made me feel. So here goes. The video is a a show produced by ABC News. It shows that Islamaphobia is very real and exists within the US, but that is not all it shows. I found it to be extremely moving because the show highlights both deep prejudices as well as a deep sense of justice that many everyday Americans possess.
The show uses a scenario played out in a popular bakery by a pair of actors as a way to see how the members of the public witnessing what is happening react. One actor plays a young Muslim woman in a hijab, the other actor plays a bigoted store clerk who refuses to serve her based on the fact that she is a muslim, he proceeds to insult her with all sorts of derogatory anti-Muslim remarks.
It’s the reaction of members of the public that is both deeply disturbing but also leaves me with a sense of hope. The majority of the bystanders who witnessed the incident chose not to get involved – tacit support for the clerk?. A minority spoke up and defended the young lady, whilst others, sadly, got involved vocally and supported the store clerk.
For some reason watching this unfold reminded me of videos I had seen in my history class at school depicting the terrible kinds of segregation that existed in American during most of the last century. Also as someone who has spent a lot of time in South Africa it evokes memories of apartheid and recalling the first hand accounts of men and women who lived under that regime.
In this case though I was genuinely moved by the actions of those bystanders who spoke up in defense of the young lady, who saw and injustice and spoke out against it. That fills me with hope.
There’s two old maxim’s that always spring to mind when I think of these things:
Evil is at its worst when it is practised by ordinary men and women. Evil thrives whilst good men and women stand by and do nothing.
I’m hopeful that over time things will change but I guess the challenge for Muslims is to somehow increase the ratio of the informed to the misinformed. Since ultimately this is about a lack of understanding. How do we do this though? When the mass media spends so much of its time demonising Islam, rather than explaining that the warped views of a minority are not shared by the vast majority of Muslims.