Sunday, 24 July 2011

Blame The Muslims

People should spread the word on this - the worst case scenario is that a light-hearted political joke just generates more hate and anger from people, especially Muslims who might be offended.

When the news broke of the bomb attack in Oslo on Friday, the first reaction from various sections of the media was to assume it was some sort of terrorist attack. In particular the far-right likes of FOX News and The Daily Mail pinpointed it probably being some sort of Islamic attack from al-Qaeda (though in fairness to FOX News they also had some guy who said we shouldn't jump to conclusions). This was at a point where pretty much no concrete information had been provided on what had gone on, and the vague descriptions actually pointed towards it being a white European who had set the bomb off, but still the initial reaction from a large portion of people was to believe that Muslims had probably done it. Bad stuff happens in the world? Blame the Muslims.

This sort of thinking was parodied by the British, Muslim Twitter user Strange_Sanum, who mockingly created the hashtag #blamethemuslims to be used for trivial events. Phone battery has died? #blamethemuslims. Can't find the remote? #blamethemuslims. Et cetera.

As humour goes, it's a fairly standard British form of simply satirising the attitude of a fairly sizeable number of people into something that's fairly obviously ridiculous. Quite a few people found the concept funny, it caught on, and it wasn't long before it was amongst the top trending topics on Twitter. Now I'm not claiming to be any sort of genius of perception, but when I saw that #blamethemuslims was trending I immediately figured the sort of sentiment that was behind it. This is the internet after all, where mockery, satire, sarcasm and irony are the bread and butter of humour.

Case in point (also I need to break up the wall of text):

What's sort of ridiculous is the number of people who clearly didn't get the joke, and quite naïvely took #blamethemuslims to be some sort of legitimate racist attempt to attack Islamic people. Which obviously is when things really took off. The sly beauty of these sorts of things on Twitter is that the more people got all indignant over #blamethemuslims, the more the hashtag was being used, and the longer it's stayed at the top of the list. If it had only been used by the people who got the joke, it would probably have been up there an hour or two and then died down, like pretty much everything else. Instead it's kept at the top of the list by a constant stream of angry comments from people demanding that Twitter block it (as they've done to various celebrity-related tags).

Initially it annoyed me how many people were getting their knickers in a twist over it, until I realised that really if people are going to get so fired up over people being racist against Muslims then that's probably not such a bad thing. And obviously there are people who have both missed the humour and support the statement, but they seem to be a pretty small minority and they're getting the hell flamed out of them as it is. What is a bit annoying are the idiots who are really continuing to argue against the hashtag, or are attacking Sanum over it without really bothering to get their facts straight. It just highlights the exact sort of thinking that has brought this whole thing up in the first place - that people are quick to hate and jump to conclusions rather than finding out the true story. People are happy to spend all their time on Twitter being pissed off about it, but don't actually bother to find the full story.

Not to say I derived humour from an event that killed nearly a hundred people, or that I enjoy taking some sort of moral high-ground from it, but I was somewhat pleased by the fact that the person responsible not only wasn't a Muslim, but was an extremist on the other side. All these far-right media sources who continually harp on about how evil Islam is, how immigrants are bad for our nation, and eventually they're going to entirely destroy our culture, bomb our cities, rape our children and what have you, and the guy actually responsible for these atrocities was one of them. He was a far-right fundamentalist Christian who hated Islam and hated the concept that Europe was Islam-friendly and allowed Muslim immigrants.

I read some of the published manifesto and video (I mostly just watched the video because the manifesto is some 1500 pages), and it is mostly the same sort of anti-Islam, "defend our tradition/culture/heritage from immigrants and multi-culturalist hippies" that you see in the far-right media. Obviously I'm not to say that every journalist who works for the likes of FOX News or the Daily Mail is going to kill a fuckload of people, because that's exactly the same dumbass logic that implies all Muslims are equivalent to al-Qaeda (it's actually not quite as stupid, but splitting hairs there). But, as an example, some of the stuff targeting the BBC in that video is pretty much the same lines of argument as the sort of crap that Melanie Philips spouts for the Daily Mail. The same people in the media who stir up furore that you apparently have to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" nowadays (which is complete hyperbole) aren't that different in some of their lines of thinking to the guy who set off a bomb in Oslo and gunned down around ninety people on Friday.

Now I'm not to claim that my line of thinking is snow white, and that the concept of a left-wing Atheist killing a ton of people is completely impossible, but I'm not the one who jumps to conclusions and stirs hate in these sorts of situations, and that's why I take satisfaction from it. It's not about seeing a group of people whose beliefs I dislike being tarnished by the actions of an individual, it's about this highlighting the narrow-mindedness and the hypocrisy of these people. Hopefully this will have woken a few of these people up to the notion that not all bad people in the world come from Islam, and what's even better is that the actions of these Norwegian to try and take a stand against multiculturalism and the infiltration of Islamic people could actually have had the opposite effect and opened people's eyes a bit and brought people together.

Sure, the people who committed 9/11 and various other terrorist attacks since were Muslim. But really, what's important in that context is not that they were Muslim, but that they were extremists. And extremists can come in all sorts of flavours and from all sorts of ideological standpoints - including your own - and that's why you shouldn't blame the Muslims. Except for when you accidentally spill your coffee. Then it's completely their fault.

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