How to Become a Fundamentalist

 

Image sourced from https://www.lemon-sugar.com

 

Every generation grows up with its defining moment that changes the way that they view the world for good.

From both World Wars, the Cold War, the Soviets and threat of nuclear warfare to the financial crash of 2008 and terrorism that we are experiencing today, every generation has taken its own fair share of social battering.

It goes without a doubt to say that the events of 9/11, were one which has radically shaped the current worldview of young people – especially those who were born after it.

For many, they don’t know anything else, apart from growing up in a world governed by fear of terror attacks, people dying in bomb blasts and seeing revenge attacks take place in their own cities on innocent people.

But the angst of the last 15 years has not gone without a significant amount of collateral damage. It has cultivated a culture of suspicion, xenophobia and the racial profiling of millions of people across the world who resemble the ‘mad, bad, brown men with great big bushy beards‘ wielding guns on TV and veiled women with a sinister agenda.

Soon we were confronted with grainy images of men in the Middle East – dubbed as Jihadi Johns by tabloids – who were brandishing blunt knives and wished to commit mass murder.

On both ends of the scale, we’ve seen modern life (in all its glory) fall apart to both extremes. One being terrorism (which has existed since the beginning of time; to put things into perspective) and the other extreme has seen the rise of right-wing leaders across the world as a rather tepid attempt to ‘balance’ things out.

‘Mad, bad, brown men with great big bushy beards’ vs clean shaven men in suits running for office

Seeing such developments is enough to make people either feel an overwhelming sense of apathy, a spurt of victory  and the feeling that ‘something’ is finally being done, or more fear on top of what some are already experiencing.

But what fuels ideas of fundamentalism on both ends of the scales? Many reasons have been given as to why young men and women go off to join terrorist groups (from across the world), but there hasn’t been the same level of scrutiny given to the rise of fundamentalism happening in front of our eyes.

The single thing that both situations have in common is a desire to create stability; often based on a distorted idea of what they deem to be a reality.

It’s paradoxical to think that establishing fundamentalist ways of thinking can establish social stability. This is because the very notion of what fundamentalism is contradicts what we (as a collective society) believe stability to be yet it exists and we are living right in the midst of it all.

Consider the language used from a variety of voices across the fundamentalist spectrum; a budding politician, the proposed actions of a government and from an extremist group:

“We will make ____ great again!” and “We will make _____ suffer and rule over you” to erasing 200 years of history from education books.

These are just three examples of radical statements (from both sides) that clearly demonstrate a desire to establish stability – just by using different methods.

While each case attempts to distinguish itself from other fundamentalist narratives and tries to prove that they are better than the other, it almost always results in two questions.

Who is easier to blame? And which voice appears to hold more credibility?

Is it those mad, bad, brown men with great big bushy beards wielding guns in the desert or clean shaven, well-educated individuals in corporate attire?

 

 

 

 

“I’m more Indian than you are!”

Image sourced from https://www.tellyfocus.in

This week’s topic is a bit of a strange one in the sense that it’s been in my head, and in my life, for as long as I can remember but I’ve never managed to articulate it into words.

Growing up, I was definitely part of the British Asian brigade, who grew up in the 1990s with strict immigrant parents (until they got divorced), who saw the world through a particular lens.

A large chunk of my upbringing saw an emphasis on being proud of my South Asian heritage and proclaiming it wherever necessary. This included things such as speaking my mother tongue, showing Panjabi pride at all times, knowing and being able to translate my prayers, understand my religion, cook my regional cuisine and upholding my culture.

So far so good. Until I went to school and heard these words from a fellow British Asian kid:

“You’ve never been to India!? Wow I’m more Indian than you!”

As a young child, I was at primary school, to hear this made me feel quite embarrassed in front of my school mates (who were largely white and turned to me for everything and anything to do with India and Indian cultures).

Suddenly, I felt like I didn’t qualify to be ‘Indian enough’ because I didn’t celebrate particular festivals or hadn’t visited India or expressed a wish to do so.

I grew up feeling like I was in a constant tug-of-war with how I regarded my identity and how others regarded me in what they believed were ‘true markers’ of what it meant to be Indian.

It wasn’t until I went to university, that I heard something that was not too different from this childhood episode, but from the most unlikeliest of people:

“Oh my G’d! You guys are so backward here!”

These words came from the lips of an Indian from India. For us growing up in the Diaspora (well me for certain!) the idea that those from the motherland were ‘closer’ or ‘truer’ to being Asian, was one which seemed to reign supreme.

As silly as it sounds, I genuinely grew up believing that because I was born and raised in a western country, that I wasn’t as attuned with my ethnicity as someone from the motherland.

So to hear this, felt like I had been lied to my whole life. I thought this level of cultural competitiveness only existed between Diasporic South Asians.

That off-hand remark is one which has stayed in my mind for a long time, and it’s something that I have started to notice more.

So what if I speak Hindi and Panjabi with a British accent?

 

There is a tendency for South Asians (from their respective motherlands) to almost look down upon or mock  Diasporic South Asians, for upholding certain aspects of their cultures  (such as language, believing in our religions) and condemning them for doing so.

So what if I speak Hindi and Panjabi with a British accent? From a Diasporic view, it’s a bit of an achievement to actually speak your mother tongue, in a country where you’re not part of the majority.

But this aspect of being connected to your identity, has been labelled as ‘backward’ and ‘not cool’ by the self-styled gate-keepers of South Asian heritage.

I don’t know about you, but ‘backward’ mentalities, in my book are things like honour-based violence, forced marriages, belief in the caste system and more.

Language is the last thing I’d have associated with being backward!

For the vast majority of us, whether we’re second or third generation, the constructs of our identity are largely tied up into three main categories, ethnicity, culture and religion.

Of course there are other factors which also have a significant impact on how Diasporic South Asians regard their heritages (which are contextual) but I believe that these three are the basic foundations upon which we build our identities.

 

It’s bad enough that we have this sort of one up-man-ship against each other in the Diaspora, alongside other forms of tension that currently exist between ethnic groups in this segment. The last thing we all need is a similar attitude between Diasporic South Asians and Asians from the sub-continent.

How can we ever fully claim our power, as a collective Diaspora, if we are still so hung up on outdoing each other to satisfy our egos? Can we not see how this will (and is already) only damage us in the long term?

Six Silly Stereotypes about South Asians

Citizen Khan, BBC1 sitcomThis is a pet peeve of mine. Stereotyping, aka putting people into boxes. It’s something which I try not to do in my daily life. What irks me is when people generalise a group of people based on hearsay or what 1 individual out of a billion says and/or does.

I’m a British-born Indian and during my time on planet Earth, I’ve faced an innumerable amount of stereotypes. Some of which have been unbelievable beyond belief. These comments have either been innocently said or backed up with the infamous: “I don’t mean to be rude/racist/offensive…BUT..” It’s the “but” that stops me right in my tracks. Why? It implies that regardless of ignorance or naivety, there is the knowledge that they know it is going to be offensive, but carry on anyway. #YOLO

I’ve whittled it down to 6 silly stereotypes – I could have easily done a million but that could very well be a part II. So here we go!

1. “Do you speak Indian?” – I either laugh or cry in despair at this. There are at least 30 languages in the sub-continent with 1 national language – Hindi – being spoken throughout. And that’s not counting the neighbouring countries! Fair enough, not many people know this, but a Google search to broaden your minds would be great.

2. South Asians can’t talk to people they have a crush on: Raj from The Big Bang Theory, unfortunately, is behind this common assumption. But let’s be real here and put race aside: most people get shy or awkward when they’re around someone they like! The other week I was in Subway, when a really good looking guy walked in. I went to pieces (because I was so flustered) and ordered a random sandwich. I ended up with a meal I didn’t even like or eat. Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice to see fellow brown people on TV, but please, don’t tar us all with the same brush.

3. Every South Asian has a tyrannical strict father: This common stereotype has come about from East is East (top film though) with the infamous George Khan. He is the stereotypical brown, violent father from the motherland who is sadly imprinted in society’s brain. The truth is that, whilst discipline is important to brown families, not every single Asian father is a tyrant.

4. South Asians live in massive families with various aunts and uncles: Not true. In the same way that the nuclear family has become a thing of the past, similarly the massive family under 1 roof is rapidly disappearing. Most Asian families are quite small with the extended family living separately or gradually diminishing. And believe it or not, more and more of us are being raised by brown single parents.

5. All Asians look the same: The sub-continent is massive. Due to its sheer size, this also means that there isn’t 1 climate for this landmass. As a result, people look different. And that’s the beauty of being South Asian; we all look different depending on which region our families originated from. That Atlas is starting to look really really handy now!

6. All Asians are religious: This is something which I think a lot of Asian people face. I’m a tee-total (for personal reasons) yet many people seem to link this to religion. Why they do is beyond me. But it’s annoying. Just because I’m brown and don’t drink, smoke, take drugs etc is not because of religion. Believe it or not guys, but we have a choice like everybody else. With regards to religion, it’s just like any other community: we have atheists, theists, agnostics and those who have their own personal belief systems.