Thursday, August 26, 2010

This man looks suspiciously brown

If you haven't seen this yet, it's a fascinating study in human ignorance and mob mentality.

The scene is New York City, at the site close to "Ground Zero" where a mob is demonstrating against the proposed building of Islamic community centre.

A well-built black man walks through the crowd, wearing a white skullcap. Because he's so obviously a Muslim, the crowd start chanting "No mosque here!" at him. One man in a construction worker's helmet gets up in his face, seemingly keen to provoke a fight. Someone yells out, "Mohammed is a pig!" Another calls the man a coward as he walks away.

Oh, but wait... no, he's not a Muslim. His name is Kenny, he's a union carpenter who works at Ground Zero. The "Muslim skullcap" is not Muslim at all, actually it has the brand name "Under Armor" written on it. Would a white carpenter wearing a skullcap be accosted in such a way? The answer is easy enough.

Kenny keeps his cool, although he does sum up the exchange quite succinctly when he says, "Y'all dumb motherf***ers don't even know my opinion on sh*t."

I'm reminded of the Cronulla Riots that took place in Sydney in 2005. A mob of amped-up drunken hooligans, ostensibly there to protest against the recent bad behaviour of Lebanese louts at the beach, decided to chase a man of Italian origin (who fortunately made it to the safety of police protection before he was caught), and attacked a car containing two other suspiciously swarthy men, who turned out to be international students from Bangladesh.

Regarding the "Ground Zero Mosque" (it's actually a community centre with a swimming pool, gym and a whole bunch of other things including a mosque), I guess you could make a reasonable case that it shouldn't be built there out of sensitivity to residents, even though they are perfectly within their legal rights to build the thing.  But once prejudice takes over, it's like firing a machine gun into a crowd in order to hit one person. The justified hatred of Islamic terrorists becomes unjustified hatred of Muslims in general, and even spills over into abuse of people who just look like they might be Muslim.

As an example of how this plays out, check this ad opposing its construction for an example of how there is no distinction made between Muslims in general, and Muslim terrorists. The key word that pops up again and again in this ad is "THEY".

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