Tag Archives: ignorance

Tolerance limits

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/hookah-smoke/

I’ve harped on about the importance of tolerance and I have also confessed that I am a hypocrite, so please enjoy another one of my potentially hypocritical posts. 🙂 As per usual, I am going to start-off with a story.

When my husband was still my boyfriend, we went out on a double date with close friends, who are a married couple. We went to some sort of a Middle-Eastern Shi-Sha* establishment. It was a Turkish, Lebanese or an Afghani cafe…I cannot for the life of me remember.

Everything was going swimmingly. We took our seats, we were given menus, the time came to make our order… and that’s when things got interesting. The male waiter only asked for the orders of the males present at the table. When I said “I’d like a soy latte, please” – the waiter didn’t look at me, or take down my order. I was beside myself. My then-boyfriend had to order a coffee on my behalf and the husband of the couple we were with also had to make an order for his wife.

This was a first for me. I had never experienced anything like it before. Baffled, I was completely lost for words. I asked the present company what in the world had just happened. The couple we were with (who are of Middle-Eastern background) put forward to me that perhaps the waiter was just trying to be respectful. Oh I’m sorry; on what planet is it respectful to purposefully ignore someone’s existence?

The couple tried to explain to me that because I was with a man, the waiter was being respectful towards said man by not looking at me and pretending that I didn’t exist, which was also in turn being respectful towards me. Apparently, it was a cultural thing. I would like to say that I am not xenophobic, but this definitely hit my tolerance limit. In my mind, here I was sitting in a café in Australia experiencing some sort of blatant sexism that was being masqueraded as a “respect” and “culture” thing.

I’m not going to lie. The- “go back to whichever country you came from, waiter” thought entered my mind.  This wasn’t because I was being intolerant towards him or his culture, it’s because I believe he was being intolerant to me, and my culture and ignorant towards his surroundings.It was intolerant, it was wrong and I am sorry. As pointed out in the comment below, I can’t preach about the importance of tolerance if I myself don’t adhere to the standards that I am trying to set. In the words of Einstein, “No problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it”, so it is futile to fight bigotry with bigotry.

Different societies have different standards and norms. While holding onto your own culture is important, it cannot come at the expense and degradation of the standards and norms of the society in which you reside. As far as I am concerned, if you work in hospitality as as a waiter/waitress in Australia, you are supposed to take orders from patrons of the establishment you work for, irrespective of what gender, nationality, culture etc. those patrons may be. It’s called customer-service…it’s not rocket science. Tolerance needs to work both ways…but it doesn’t mean that if it only works one way it shouldn’t work at all.

The limit to my tolerance is when I feel that it is one-sided. I do my best not to project my culture/(s) and religion/(s) onto others, is it too much for me to expect that others will do the same? In a perfect world, tolerance should know no limits. We all have work to do with regards to tolerance and acceptance. I will continue working on myself and do my best to accept and tolerate others, even if they do not (or do not know how to) accept and tolerate me…and I do expect others to work on themselves accordingly.

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*Shisha smoking – also called hookah, narghile, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking – is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses sugar, through a bowl and hose or tube. (as defined by: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/risk-factors/smoking/shisha)

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

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“Do you have any Jihadi friends?”

Out of all the questions that my husband and I have ever faced, this one definitely takes the cake. I don’t even know where to begin with this so I think I’ll start with the setting within which this question was asked.

My Hubby is a successful personal trainer. He has several clients of various ages and backgrounds. He once trained a male teenager who was around 16 years old. My husband had trained him, on and off, for roughly 6 months. Usually, my husband is quite friendly and open with his clients, but given that this particular client was underage, he thought it best to exercise caution and keep more distance than usual. While my husband did his best to maintain a professional client-trainer relationship, the teenager always wanted to test the boundaries and ask my husband personal questions.

During one session, the teenager asked my husband about his nationality. My husband told him that he was from Iran and the conversation didn’t really go beyond that. On the next session, however, the boy came out with this precious gem:

 “So ‘cause you’re Iranian and all, do you have any Jihadi friends?”

I would have punched him, but that’s just me. My husband, however, answered the teen’s question with another question- “Can you tell me who jihadists are?”. After some silence, the boy replied with: “terrorists”. My husband then asked “Okay, and who are terrorists?”. After some more silence, the teen uttered the following golden nugget:

 “Terrorists are Muslims who kill people”- the teen replied.

Out of mouths of babes…I would have punched him again, harder than the first time. But my angel of a husband simply laughed and said “Oh-kay buddy, ten more squats, thanks”. Later that night when my husband told me about the conversation, I lost my temper. My husband calmed me down, laughed and then jokingly said, “If I actually had Jihadi friends, the kid wouldn’t be alive right now”.

I thought it appropriate to tell the teen’s parents about what had happened, but my husband said that he wasn’t prepared to offer the teen, nor his parents any such favours. As my cousin pointed out after reading one of my very first posts “Building Tolerance”, it’s not good for children to learn intolerance, it’ll only make it harder for them later on in life in our multicultural world.

Funnily enough, when I Google terrorist, the definition doesn’t state “Muslims who kill people”, it states “a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims”. While my husband handled the situation beautifully (and I can only aspire to such eloquence and patience,) he shouldn’t have had to experience that kind of situation at all. Having said that, had the conversation not occurred, I wouldn’t have been able to make this post, so I guess I need to be kind-of grateful to the teen’s ignorance and intolerance, otherwise I’d might have run out of material by now.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Collective concern, collective responsibility

Image: http://www.dejorden.com/blog/50-amazing-facts-about-earth/

Having experienced xenophobia on my own skin, I have always felt the need to prevent others from it. I always thought it was natural for people who have suffered through whatever it may be to be more compassionate towards others who are suffering in a similar fashion. Perhaps wrongly, I have always been more judgmental of those who have experienced suffering themselves and stood back and did nothing when they saw someone else suffering, than of those who had not personally suffered and did nothing to help someone who was.

When I was 5, I was bullied for being an immigrant. Thereafter, I stood up for other kids who were bullied, not because they were being bullied for the same reason as me, but because I knew how it felt to be bullied and excluded. Preventing any kind of intolerance (even if it the subject matter of the intolerance was different to the one that I had experienced) has always been crystal clear to me, but for others it seems to be as clear as mud.

Some people only feel the need to step-in to prevent intolerance when it on some level, directly or indirectly, affects them. That would be like 5 year-old-me watching another child being bullied because they’re parents got divorced, and choosing not to stand up for that child because they’re not an immigrant and not being bullied for that reason. While it sounds primitive to me as I am writing it, its something that happens all the time, all over the world. Although regrettably I don’t remember all the details, I can recall one particular example that highlights this perfectly:

It was Holocaust Remembrance Day and my Bestie and I decided to go to a commemoration ceremony together. The commemoration consisted of a brief recap of what had happened during the Holocaust and the importance of keeping the memory alive so that history never repeats itself. Closer to the end of the commemoration, a representative of a Jewish youth movement (I can’t remember which one) started to talk about an African community (I don’t remember which one) that was being persecuted somewhere in Africa (I don’t remember where). The speaker’s underlying message was that while it is all well and good to remember atrocities of the past, it is necessary to actively try to prevent atrocities that are occurring right under our noses in the present.

It was a powerful message. A message I had full faith that the people in the room, who were affected by the Holocaust in one way or another, would interpret correctly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The reality check was brutal. Some woman sitting behind had the audacity to say something along the lines of-

 “This is Holocaust Remembrance Day. What does some African tribe have to do with the Holocaust? What happens to Africans in Africa is Africa’s problem. It’s none of my concern, it’s not my responsibility.”

My Bestie managed to hold me back from punching the ignorant woman in the face, but she couldn’t prevent me from loudly saying: “I’m sure there were some Germans who thought the same about Jews being exterminated in Concentration Camps”.

I don’t care if my comment offended her; she offended all of humanity with hers. Reality check lady, it’s not just Africa’s problem, it’s a global problem that is of our collective concern and our collective responsibility, which makes it YOUR concern and YOUR responsibility.

Grrrr….

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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.