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“By their fruits ye shall know them.”

September 10, 2012

I was reminded again of a topic I have been wanting to write more about for quite a while, running across this video in Why History Matters at Race Files. Not only is this a hugely important subject, there’s also the perfectionism factor which I’ve been increasingly realizing has been getting in the way of my writing much of anything lately (the added stress from which also doesn’t make wrapping words around ideas any easier, yeah). But, I will give another go at talking around it, at least.

Mansimran: A Sikh teenager deals with bullying

I am not able to transcribe the whole video, but here are a couple of excerpts which particularly struck me.

If I call myself a peaceful person, a person who accepts all, if I call myself an American, then I should be accepting to every culture there is. I should be welcoming everybody, no matter what, no matter where they’re from. Or, let alone their national origins, how they look. When somebody looks at me in a plane, airport, public place, anywhere–I’m not just a Sikh, I’m an American. I’m a person who lives in Virginia. I’m the same person who goes, drives to Starbucks, and the same person who orders pizza when he and his sister are hungry, at home. I’m the same person. I should be treated no differently just because I wear a turban.

Every time you bring, like, the second round around your head, it’s like a vow. It’s like another reminder that tells, “You know what? Here’s somebody who needs to protect people. You’re somebody who needs to stand up. You’re somebody who needs to arise. If I see somebody being mean to somebody else, or like, bullying somebody, for example, I would protect that person. I would go up to the bully and be like, you know, “Why are you doing this? What are you doing?” I’m obliged by my religion, faith, and which is reinforced once again by my family, that you know, don’t, don’t do the wrong thing, and stand up for the right thing.

And this is the guy who, through xenophobic ignorance and projection, keeps getting called a terrorist.

I am anything but an expert on Sikhism, but one of the things it has been about from the beginning is radical equality. (This may or may not always work out so well on the ground, but it’s still a core ideal.) This respect also involves not trying to convert people.* There is also a strong emphasis on being “the warrior who would stand up and risk all in the fight for injustice…When all non-violent action fails, the warrior is nudged to take action”–including a moral responsibility to help and protect those who need it, but are less capable of doing so for themselves, on both individual and group levels. By some people’s standards, that probably does count as terrorist activity.

That kind of set of beliefs, I can respect. Because it is likely to lead to treating others with respect. (Not just because I was raised with some similar ideas, though that too.)

And, yes, the site I snagged a couple of links from there does have “Hate Crime News” and “Report Hate Crime” headings, right in the sidebar. (It doesn’t seem to have been maintained in some time, however.) A much more recent partial accounting: Timeline: Hate Crimes Against Sikhs in the U.S. I am having a harder time quickly finding more info about this in the UK, but it is also a problem here. Complicated by the fact that:

Religious hate crime is not currently recognised as a criminal offence in the same way as racial and homophobic crime.
However, if a crime is committed against someone because of their religion, it may be interpreted as an attack on their race as well. This means it can be treated as a racially aggravated or motivated attack. For example, criminal courts have decided that attacks on Sikhs and Jewish people are racial incidents.

Nice! 😐 I was not aware of that before, especially given the “incitement to religious hatred” provisions mentioned there. And no wonder you get a lot of conflation, to my mind, between other xenophobia and racism here, such that religious bigotry gets called racism. It is usually both, though, coming from the US, I am still surprised to see that anti-Semitism legally == racism. (See also Britain wins – for the most antisemitic attacks in 2010; I am also wondering, BTW, how the “file it under racism” approach works in the cases of members of the “strong Muslim pro-Palestinian community” mentioned there, rather than EDL louts and the like, attacking other people because they’re identifiably Jewish.) The page quoted from does also include info on how to report hate crimes if you are in the UK.

Before getting sidetracked by hate crimes, I couldn’t help but be put in mind of part of a famous speech** by Sagoyewatha (“Red Jacket”) to some missionaries who had come in:

Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also, have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all favors we receive; to love each other, and be united. We never quarrel about religion, because it is a matter which concerns each man and the Great Spirit.

Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you; we only want to enjoy our own.

Brother, we have been told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors: We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will consider again of what you have said.

(Bolding added.) Being rather familiar with that kind of high-context tone, I also have to get amused at so many readers apparently missing the way he was carefully explaining things to these missionaries on a level they might understand–as if to very poorly socialized small children who don’t yet understand the way their behavior is affecting the people around them, but who really need to learn this if they want to spend time around others. (Including the “Great Spirit” references, as something vaguely understandable within the audience’s frame of reference. Not to mention all the father and son phrasing.) Ah, the power of preconceptions, and who continues to get cast as “childlike”.

In other words, more familiar to that audience (and not just them), “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

I was going to write more here about the contrast between this approach and ones that suggest that mistreating other people “for their own good” serves some kind of higher purpose, but I’m running out of steam, and need to go and throw some supper together anyway.

That will have to wait for another post, but I have to throw a link in, via Fred at Slacktivist:

“How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions”. Including items such as:

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

I am pretty frustrated at running out of spoons to write more about this kind of thing, ATM. Besides at having no better ideas on how to constructively deal with this sort of fundamental philosophical mismatch than Sagoyewatha and the folks he was representing had then.


* Though I had to get amused at one older gentleman stopping Mr. U on the street to comment several times on his “magnificent beard”, and suggest in a low-pressure way that maybe he would be interested in coming along to the local Gurdwara some time. Erm, yeah, eccentric older gentlemen. 🙂 It did illustrate another point, though, since, as I couldn’t resist mentioning before, it took me a few seconds to figure out that this was not actually Mr. U when it showed up on my Tumblr dashboard (“I haven’t seen that helmet…” ;)). The “having a ZZ Top beard could indicate that you might possibly be interested in Sikhism” factor aside, he didn’t seem to be that hung up on appearances or national origin, even living somewhere with a decent bit of racism directed at South Asian people.

** As Barbara Mann points out, while he is (rightly) considered a great orator, to the point that some of his speeches used to be included in US school curricula, he delivered most if not all of them while acting as Speaker (basically attorney, in contemporary terms) for Women’s Councils, both as a matter of protocol and because most Europeans and later Euro-Americans in positions of power refused to deal with women. To the point that not that many people now know that there were powerful Women’s Councils. The style was his own, but not so much the content.

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