By Wardina S Fadlullah Wilmot
Trying to brush off the rallies by convincing ourselves that those views are of the minority did not make any discomfort go away. The rally was dangerous, wrong and incredibly hateful. The participants of the “Hateful Reclaim Australia” rally might be a minority but they (whoever they are) are indeed loud and they were definitely heard. Media coverage lasted for days and thus perceptions were formed. Consoling ourselves into thinking “Hey, it’s ok they are only a minority” is not satisfactory. Muslim leaders and Muslim communities must acknowledge the negative attitudes and grave distortions about Muslims and Islam in Australia. The hate out there for Muslims are real. Perceptions must be managed. Comments on social media is of grave concern although a caution must be exercised not to generalize what we read online to the general public. Comments tend to show a growing trend of negative preconceptions and prejudice towards Islam and Muslims. The reality of social media is that views are no longer kept to yourself. Why is this a problem?
Because saying becomes believing. Psychological studies suggests that we begin to believe what we say out loud. Evil acts, evil words and abuse elicited by our self will shape who we are. Evil acts gradually escalates. We tend to hurt those distant from us and “dislike” those whom we hurt and harm. We then tend to justify our aggressive actions towards the victims. Sighting many excuses like “They oppress women” so they deserve this.
Why is this wrong and must be stopped? Mistrusts must be dealt with. From mistrust we hate, from hate we harm, from harm greater conflict will erupt and escalate. The impact has already been felt with an increase of reported attacks on Muslim woman and the psychological fear Muslim woman have to endure when they choose to go out. Ironically ‘they’ claim Islam violates woman.
From a psychological viewpoint, when people think that an idea might be true it usually becomes true. We tend to confirm our biases. We are eager to rectify our beliefs and are less inclined to seek information or evidences that might disapprove it. A perception of how Muslims are bad and evil is made with the help of the media highlighting only negative news of Muslims on their front page. Thousands of kind, professional, intelligent, charitable , hardworking Muslims are just not news worthy. These group of anti Muslim protestors would only read news and sites of anti Muslim opinions verifying their flawed belief . They become critical of disconfirming evidences. They have constructed a social belief and then influence to confirm it. Peoples perception of bias can signal their attitude. Tell me where your bias is and you will signal your attitude. Attitude controls interpretation. If a person only accepts views on negative stereotypes of Muslims to confirm their belief and become critical of any positive views of Islam know that a hateful bigot is born.
The concept of “Availability Heuristic” and “Probability Neglect” comes to mind. The more easily you recall something the more likely it seems. You tend to recall negative views about Islam because that is the only thing you know and read, thus the more likely it seems that Islam is indeed negative. When we read headlines day in and day out about Islam = Terrorist we ‘feel’ that indeed Muslims are indeed terrorists. When we read headlines of plane crashes for example, we somehow ‘feel’ plane crashes occur more frequently than they do when statistically this is a flawed belief when you compare it to car accidents. Our judgment is not made by reason but by emotions attuned to availability heuristic. A search of positive news about Islam is all you need.
These groups then tend to perceive a relationship when none actually exists. “Islam will dominate us and we will have to accept Shariah law”. This is called in psychology the “Illusory Correlation” We expect to find significant relationships and missperceive random events confirming our beliefs. We belief the probability of the event happening being stronger than it actually exists. These are serious psychological biases which do occur in human beings. Having to acknowledge that our judgment might be wrong is a key to a compassionate self and society.
The “Fundamental Attribution Error” is a fairly common problem. It effects all of us. We as human beings tend to underestimate situational (external) influences and overestimate dispositional (internal) influences on to other peoples behavior. If the criminal is a Muslim we attribute his criminality to the religion (external) but if he is a non Muslim these groups attribute it to their dispositional (mental ) state. We find causes where we look for them. Our ignorance of our ignorance sustain our self confidence. We overestimate the accuracy of our judgment. We make flawed errors in our thinking, Our attitudes are often automatic and are mostly activated by our memory without awareness. But implicit attitudes can be changed with repeated practice if we intend to become a more considerate human being.
Perhaps nothing bothers me more than knowing a rally which incites so much hate was allowed than the understanding the psychological consequences of the rallies. A person my have an attitude about something but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they would act upon it. Some people already have negative attitudes towards Muslims. But this does not mean they will act out they hate. But when “rallies of hate” are allowed, the act of doing and shouting will further commit protestors to an increase in their hateful attitude. When will human beings realize hate can never triumph. “Hating Muslims is the right thing to do” “By doing this I confirm my attitude, I indeed hate Muslims and they should all …….” We can verily act our way into thinking. The hate is validated and confirmed deeper. Seeing other protestors like yourself, you immediately identify with them as your in group member. Hearing hateful speeches and cheering together reaffirms ones belief. This whole scenario may take precedent over our moral judgment conforming to a group norm of hating Muslims. Who knows what these rallies might provoke? Extremists are a threat and danger no matter done by who. If the protestors with such extreme hate in them were to be put in a different context and situation, we can only imagine them evolving playing this ugly role and taking it beyond. We can only imagine what they would do if they could.
All I can say is I am a Muslim and I just want to live. I want to be happy like any of you and feel safe in this blessed land with smiles instead of stares. I shall remain patient.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
P/S: No to Halal?
Having a Halal certification would help Australian farmers and companies to capitalize from the 600 billion estimated net worth of market share from the Halal global market. It is the companies that need certification more than the consumers. Muslim consumers in Australia have been living without a halal certification and never did make any demands to certify their products. These companies instead need and want to woe the millions of Muslim consumers to buy and trust their brand. Australia first neighbor is a Muslim country with a population of 256 million. $1 billion livestock exports to Indonesia. Australia also exports to Malaysia. Malaysians are particular of halal logos. There have been cases where consumers were lied to. Products were slapped with a halal logo but ingredients include prohibited items for Muslim consumers. Having a regulative body ensures consumers are not lied to by huge companies by making false claims. How would a vegan feel knowing that a vegan product had meat? Why wouldn’t Australian citizens want their farmers and companies to earn this huge share of the market? Instead of seeing it as an extortion, the halal certification increases demand and revenues for their businesses. Has anyone actually interviewed business owners and companies and asks them their view on the matter? Muslims like vegan have specific dietary needs. The certification ensures that companies abide by regulations and are honest.
If these so called patriots refuse to recognize the right of Australian Muslims, could they at least be considerate to the thousand of Muslim students and tourists in Australia helping aid the economy. How selfish can one be? As for the claims that halal certification funds terrorism. These claims are baseless. Concrete evidences for these claims have never been made. Anybody can make up anything. Put forward your proof. I dare you.