Please Stereotype Me

I am not a writer and I am certainly not a political analyst. I am just a concerned civil activist interested in the field of the intercultural dialogue, conflict resolution and breaking stereotypes. For the last 4 years, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of people from different nations, religions, languages, thoughts and beliefs, but with one common link, and that is acknowledging the fact that we are all part of one human family.  

If you think the last line is just part of my routine to get you to pay attention then please stop reading this article, but if you agree with it, please read on!

As an icebreaker in all trainings and meetings I attend, I usually introduce myself by saying: “I am Karim Gaber– a young Egyptian Muslim man, and don’t worry I don’t have a bomb on me, they took it away at the airport!”

Over the last decade, media has been promoting the three following words heavily: stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, (three words that we, as doctors in psychology consider to be very much related). First, you have to have stereotyping thoughts which resemble our expectation and beliefs about someone, which then leads to prejudice, which is the emotional response, and finally to discrimination which is the action.

This brings me to reflect on the recent real life situation that took place by an unknown American who produced a low budget movie that promotes hatred speech against Muslims and The Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him), which then made its way to the air waves on 9/11/2012. Once it reached the Middle East and the Arab world, violent acts against U.S embassies around the world broke out. This makes me sad, because it seems that every time progress starts to be made, something as insignificant as this video comes out and automatically it becomes a violent, Arab-Muslim act of violence, which only perpetuate islamophobia throughout the United States and other parts of the world.

I believe we should fight ideas with ideas, not with violence and so I am against all the violent acts against U.S embassies in Middle East because if the prophet Mohamed (PBUH) himself was alive, He too would be against it.

That brings me to a serious thought–how would prophet Mohamed (PBUH) react if he were alive? And what does Islam tells us to do against hate speech!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his wrongful conduct.”- (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 15.) He also said “The best (Jihad) is (to speak) word of justice to an oppressive ruler.”—(Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 2040)
He is the one who said: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place.”(Al-Muwatta, Volume 21, Hadith 9 and 10). That is what the prophet says we should embrace and so, I am not angry with the movie, because probably prophet Mohamed (PBUH) wouldn’t be angry either. He would probably go and work more to spread peace, instead of attack embassies. It makes me sad that some Muslims I know who love the prophet don’t follow his rules and attack embassies instead.

It seems that if you call a man black, you are considered a racist, but if you promote hate speech against prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and Islam or any religion it’s called freedom of speech. I am not against freedom of speech, and to prove that I will ask you proudly to please stereotype me! Yes, please stereotype me; at least by doing that you spare some of your time thinking about me which means that you acknowledge my existence!

Recently, SHIFT Network (Euro-Arab Youth Initiative), which I am the president of, Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Earth Charter International have started to take more active steps together to build a platform for a productive sustainable intercultural dialogue based on integrity and respect to counteract the effect corrupt media has had in Arab countries. In May, 2012 in Alexandria, Egypt, The Euro-Arab Youth Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics Forum – Moving beyond Just Tolerance took place at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The forum was divided into two stages–the first stage included four interactive and engaging online sessions for two hours a week, with the active participation of 15 European and 15 Arab youth, representing over 17 different countries regionally. To read more about the forum and its outcomes please click here.
So congratulations, you’ve taken a huge step! Please Stereotype me with all the hate speech you want, but before you transform those thoughts into emotions that judge me, take a moment and come talk to me. I won’t expect you to like me at first, but at least we can say we had a dialogue.

Written by Karim Gaber
(Euro-Arab Youth Initiative)