Discrimination gets bad when whole groups of people are stigmatized, mainly as a consequence of just a few in that group that misbehaved. One of the writers of this paper was singled out by a member of the Navajo Native American Tribe to be dangerous and unwanted, because he was Dutch. In his mind the Dutch were responsible for the terrible genocide of his ancestors. All Dutch, therefore, were to be treated as enemies.
Who has not heard of the horrible stories of the holocaust during Nazi Germany? And we know about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma Gypsies, gay people, and others that were targeted, not because of what they thought, but because of them belonging to a group that was targeted and discriminated against.
And while writing this article, we are aware of extreme forms of discrimination going on in diverse places of the world. We wanted to make sure the reader is aware of a host of current forms of discrimination, some of which are far worse than the ones that dominate the mainstream media. The facts mentioned below are well known to one of the authors of this article because he is an expert Human Rights activist, and advisor to a number of Human Rights organizations, such as the Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Human Rights Without Frontiers, European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom and others.
It is assumed that more than a million people are forced into Re-education Camps, or as the Chinese government prefers to call it “Vocational Educational and Training Centers”. Uyghurs in East Turkistan are the original inhabitants of the region, before the Han Chinese moved in and took it over. Now the locals are labeled terrorists merely because they happen to be Muslims, albeit of a peaceful type. They are picked off the street and forced into these camps, with no way to escape. As such they are stripped off their religion, their Holy Qur’an, their ancient traditions, and language, to be replaced by the worship of Xi Jinping, taught to speak Chinese, and given a new labor skill. The term re-education camps is quite an understatement; concentration camps is more like it. And there are clear signs that this form of discrimination results in genocide, a term not lightly used. The CCP (Chinese government) is well equipped to persecute members of all sorts of religions. Incarceration is not their only skill, but they are good at taking the organs of the undesirables in society while they are still alive, so they can be sold to save the lives of those more fortunate. Organ harvesting under Chinese rule is rampant in Balochistan, Nepal and other regions.The war in Yemen involves Houthis, Sunni Muslims, death sentences for Baha’í and others; thousands are murdered.
In Myanmar the Military, backed by the Buddhist religious orders, have sent more than a million Rohingya on the run, murdering hundreds of thousands of them, burning their homes and villages, sending the orphan kids out into the bush, and taking all of them their identity cards away, making them refugees in their own country – all because these Muslims are not wanted.
In Pakistan and Iran members of Baha’i and Ahmadyya movements claim to be part of Islam because of their focus on Mohammed and his teachings. Yet these people face severe discrimination in these countries, and are subject to anti-blasphemy law, which means death penalty, or at best prison sentencing. Many flee to Europe as a consequence.
The largest discriminated group in the world, the Christians. It is estimated that around 10.000 of them are imprisoned in North Korea alone; the number of imprisoned Christians under Chinese rule is currently, at the time of writing, 4024. Christian genocide in the Middle-East has caused that no more than 2% of the original number remain in Iraq and Lebanon since the troubles there. Many of them are fleeing into Europe and America. And there, too, they are part of discrimination, albeit a so called positive discrimination for Christians. In Nigeria, Afrika, amongst other places Boko Haram is terrorizing the region with a form of genocide against Christians.
It is estimated that as we speak, in the modern world of so called freedoms, 40 million people are trapped in a state of slavery. One out of 4 are children; 71% are female. These numbers alone, should wake us all up to the problems of discrimination.
The list is endless. Behind the numbers are traumatized groups, families, children and parents who have lost everything, including their identity. Discrimination destroys societies and nations. The damage of discrimination goes way beyond our personal ability to cope with. The News Channels pipe information on what is going on in the world into our living rooms. And frankly, we think we must be happy that not all of the news is fed to us. The pain of the terrible discrimination that is going on in the world is way beyond our ability to handle. We are secretly glad the Media discriminates and filters it for us.
With all the cases mentioned above, we have not begun to mention the real problem. Where discrimination really goes bad is when not individuals do it, but when it is institutionalized, or when it is deeply rooted within cultural normality. The current media, social media, and politicians play a very dominant role of forming such sentiments. They feed the brains of the uneducated (which is most of us). Analogous to such negative cultural discrimination is, for example, how in certain cultures males dominate, and belittle women. Another example is most majority religions are involved in discriminating against the newcomers, so called New Religious Movements or in popular language “cults”. One such an infamous organization that goes after cults FECRIS.
The ideal is a free market of religions. But in every case, as religions become more acceptable in society and gain more social power, they link themselves with the government; and once that is done, their objective is to use their influence to stamp out all other religions. This is easily recognized in the predominantly Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Buddhist influenced nations. In nations that are influenced by socialism and communism the “new religious movement” that influences the state is called atheism. And there, too, the minority groups are pushed out. Equality, to them, is good so long as one is atheist. Just to give one of the many examples available to us, look at how in Russia foreign religions are made illegal, under the flag of national security or alleged embezzlement. Jehovah Witnesses in Russia are banned and jailed, as well as people belonging to Said Nursi. Again, Russia is not the only country to do that. It happens under every regime that allows religions to get too close to policy making, including the United States. Is it possible, however, to find a healthy balance between Freedom of Religion or Belief on the one hand, and government policy? Yes it is!!! It is called Separation of Church and State. It is about freedom for religion or belief, and not about freedom for the religious, and not freedom from religion. Religious diversity in nations enhance economic growth. freedom, personal responsibility and happiness.
In the language of the religious, too, we find solid examples of culturally accepted forms of discrimination. Non-muslims are often called Kafir by adherents to Islam; Christians and Jews often quote biblical texts to distinguish between “Jews” and “non-Jews” or “Goj” (Gentiles). If it were merely to identify one group from another that would not be bad. But in these cases mentioned, they are meant derogatory. Apostates, or defectors from religions are often ostracized or at worst, killed. In some cases even their families are dragged into it, resulting in divorce. This form of discrimination runs in the face of Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Expression, and Freedom to Change Religion. To be sure, discrimination is not just part of religions. Some Atheists, Humanists, Agnostics and many others are prone to do it. Nationalism, as well as naming and shaming of foreigners, is a highly irregular form of cultural discrimination, although often not seen as such. So called “populism” is not as innocent as it seems. It is about exploiting the ignorant, and brainwashing the minds of the people so as to create an atmosphere of hatred and discrimination, all in the name of becoming popular and gaining votes. But in reality it backfires in the social fabric of society, and, paradoxically, will in the end, lead to the destruction of the nation.
When discrimination is cultural, individuals who have been raised in it, can hardly be blamed for doing it, due to ignorance. However, that does not alleviate them from the responsibility to educate ourselves and take a stand. The way we educate ourselves is by realizing how certain cultural values actually feed discrimination. Often these values seem harmless, and are defended with deep passion. Take, for example, telling jokes that show our disdain for some groups of people we do not like, or even the way we value competition. When people take competition at face value, and do not learn to use it wisely, it gives rise to assuming there can always but be one winner, and the rest are losers. That idea forms the basis of discrimination, even racial discrimination, or discrimination against foreigners, and discrimination of peoples with another belief system. Competition seems so harmless, and when used appropriately it can be of great benefit. And yet, it is one of the root causes of national division.
Another example is that of free speech. Think of how much benefit societies have then speech is protected. The West was built upon this idea. It was part of Babylonian, Italian and Greek cultures. As a matter of fact, we, Europeans, and Americans, pride ourselves in it. And rightfully so, because there is everything to say for it. And yet, look at what happens when people abuse it with derogatory remarks and jokes about women and minorities, abusive language and vulgarity, publicly shaming the innocent or the corporate competitor, or causing hatred against “the others”. And how about lying politicians or deceiving salesmen, advertisers, policemen, lawyers, witnesses, religious zealots, etc. etc. The difficult question is where and how to curtail such wrongs?
Educating oneself means becoming aware about the issues, looking at our own actions, thinking about them, and having the courage to take action. We cannot hide behind our culture for our own responsibilities. And blindly defending our culture without giving it much thought is arrogance, another serious cause for discrimination.
I, the main writer of this blog, who is a white male (so you know), have a friend who looks completely, as Americans would call “Caucasian”; meaning fair skin, even blondish hair, and I would even say “Northern European” facial bone structure. When I first met him and asked for his name, I was shocked to realize that, perhaps, I had mis-interpreted my first-judgment on him. His name was of Pakistan origin, and I recognized that right away. I was puzzled, and tried to figure out how this was possible, seeing his appearance. Not a hair on my head was involved in judging him as such. But the puzzling face set him off as defiant towards me. He was assuming that I, as so many, was in the process of discriminating against him by announcing his Pakistan sounding name. The attitude he had towards me at that moment, I noticed, he also had against his own peers. He described to me that on facebook, those who knew him but not his surname, would not accept his “friendship” invitation. They assumed he must be a terrorist from Pakistan. Apparently he had experienced it at least once too many times, and it influenced his character. He was suspicious, assuming everyone was against him because of his Pakistani sounding last name. For my relationship between him and me to be normalized I had to bend over backwards to prove I had no adverse feelings towards him because of his ancestral background. Empathising with him, I do understand where he comes from, though.
Not everybody is willing to deal with people who have had so many negative stigmatizing experiences that have made them suspicious or even aggressively defensive. As a matter of fact, aggressiveness of the discriminated person even stimulates, as a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, the type of reactions they are so trying to avoid. And yet, such defensive or aggressive behavior is not only common, but from their perspective the only way to keep their identity and self-worth intact. All of us must be aware of overly sensitive people and be patient and kind with them, helping them overcome their coping strategy.