World topics

Help – What to say when islamphobic statements are thrown around?

It was at a barbecue in Nairobi’s posher neighbourhoods that I lost it.
We talked about the proposed security bill, actions of Police and Defence Forces and how Kenyans may never hear the truth about events like Westgate and killings of Muslim clerics if not for courageous investigative journalists.

Then, as if she intended to bring the conversation to a good end, the lady in her late 20s next to me says that “not all Muslims are bad”.

After weeks of feeling angry and helpless, I exploded.

“Would we ever even consider saying that not all Christians are bad? We know that Christian extrimists are funding an aggressive and dangerous anti-gay and anti-contraception movement.
Would the words ‘not all Americans are bad’ even pop up in our heads even after the recent CIA-report and Guantanamo?”

She weakly defends the anti-gay movement as less deadly and more convicted says that “we humans believe what our leaders tell us” and that it’s a “problem of the majority being uneducated”.

I tell her that I have little respect for giving up responsibility for our actions, for generalizations and for self-defeating language.
I ask her why not more people go to mosques to ask questions or if that’s scary to just google “what does the quran say”.

I can’t quite grasp this is happening in a country, a continent, where both religions where brought in from outside and have lived side by side for over 100 years.

She says “people” like short-cuts.

I feel like telling her about my Muslim friends, how bright, funny, hospitable they are. How some of them take their religion more and others less serious. How my Shia and Sunni colleagues got along extremely well despite millions of victims in related conflicts. How Somali-Kenyan youth are turning against the FGM practice. How the vast majority of those affected by “Muslim” extrimism are Muslims.
But I don’t. I feel alienated.

I’m still angry and helpless.
I’m looking for ways to make a difference.


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