Faatimah Hendricks

Don't let intolerance become the norm

2017-01-19 08:11


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“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” -Oscar Wilde.

South Africans are blessed with diversity. Having so many races, religions, career paths, nationalities, cultures and gender differences offer varying perspectives and viewpoints. This makes it easier for people to feel included. It's very easy for people to overlook or neglect the needs of others when they have no idea what's important to them. This is why diversity is important. Once you understand people's needs you can provide for them and engage with them.

South Africa's diversity has always been celebrated, but it seems some people still have a long way to go to accept others who are different and that they're living in a country where people are free to express these differences.

Selfish individuals like these recently attacked the mosque in Simon's Town by placing the blood and nose of a pig on the door. Muslims are forbidden to consume the pig. A few days later a mosque in Kalk Bay was desecrated. The walls and pulpit were smeared with blood. South Africa's history is replete with religious tolerance and people of all faiths have co-existed peacefully. In fact, clerics of different religions would often come together for discussion and prayer when a community is in strife. 

However, there are highly inconsiderate, narrow-minded, self-absorbed people who are trying to disrupt the peace with their attempts at provoking the Muslim community. It's highly unlikely they'll succeed. But incidents likes these are concerning because it shows how close-minded and intolerant people are in a nation that's fairly progressive and liberal.

One can't help but wonder if women can expect their hijabs to be ripped off their heads. Hate crimes like these have taken place in England and the US. It may be a pig's snout today, but unless we take this issue seriously, it could lead to future indiscretions or greater disrespect of others' beliefs.

A Facebook user, Liam Ferreira, incited violence by calling on people to burn down a mosque in Langebaan because he didn't want to hear the athaan (call to prayer). I'm pretty confident that the mosque's board would have been more than happy to engage with him to come to an amicable solution. But Ferreira was plainly intolerant and selfish. There are many Muslims living near churches who find no issue with church bells and music echoing in the streets. I, too, grew up across the street from a church and regularly heard the congregation singing and playing instruments. It was just accepted as part of life.

Social media has played a great role in revealing people's prejudices. Holidays are an exceptionally vocal time for racists on Facebook and Twitter who cannot stand the sight of black people enjoying some sand and surf. South Africa's constitution provides everyone with great freedom of expression, but when remarks are inflammatory, filled with hate, or call for violence, it simply cannot be tolerated.

To all the bigots out there: you're welcome to approach your nearest religious institution and raise any concerns or questions you have. You'll find out pretty quickly that its believers are ordinary folk just like you but looking for somewhere to practice their faith. You may actually learn something in the process. Your biggest problem is not the place of worship opening in your neighbourhood, it is your own ignorance and fear of the unknown. If you can't handle diversity, then you're welcome to move to an island that accommodates people just like you.

- Faatimah Hendricks is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter, Facebookand at selfwriteous.co.za.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.



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