Two human beings

by garrycraigpowell

I met these two Omani men as I was walking around their village in the Musandam Peninsula. I was with my then-wife, and they stopped us, seeing that I had a camera, and asked me to take a picture of them. Sometimes, in the developing world, people with no access to modern technology will as you to take their photograph out of a fascination for the modern, I think, and sometimes, though rarely, they will ask you to send them the photograph. But in this case I’m sure that wasn’t what was happening. Although these men were probably not wealthy, they were, I’m sure, well enough off to own a camera, and so I think that they were not asking to be immortalized, but asking me and my wife to stop and look at them as human beings. Look at the expressions on their faces: their dignity, their self-possession. The man on the right is carrying prayer beads, so it’s fair to assume that he’s a devout Muslim, but it wouldn’t be fair to assume that he hates westerners and supports terrorism. These men spoke to us kindly and respectfully. It was a moment I was grateful for.

I decided to post this picture because I’ve been distressed by the posting on Facebook, by an ex-student of mine, of an ad that purports to be by the US Marines, whose caption reads something like “Our dating service brings you 72 virgins.” This struck me as hateful and I said so. The implication is that the US Marines are the enemies of all Muslims, and however you justify it, as the ex-student did–saying that it was only hateful to Muslim soldiers who believed they were fighting a jihad, and asking if in fact a lot of Muslims weren’t hateful too–viz. the protests across the Muslim world about the scurrilous YouTube video portraying the Prophet Mohammed–it strikes me that these are disingenuous arguments, not to mention spurious ones–and that those who post them are well aware that in fact they are stirring up hatred and intolerance. And the way they do it is by lumping all Muslims together. I’ll say it again: there are some bad Muslims. I abhor the murder of Ambassador Stephens and other innocents too. But these disturbances have been carried out by a very few thousand people, not the hundreds of thousands who were involved in the Arab Spring. This is not “Muslim rage”; it’s the rage of a few fanatics. And next time the haters want to bomb and send in the Marines, I hope they’ll look at a picture of quiet, dignified men like these, men with families they love, and consider what that means in human terms. I know I’m repeating myself over and over in these blogs. But if we all tried to promote love, understanding and compassion, wouldn’t the world be better? And that starts with thinking of people of other religions and ethnicities not as the Other, not as “them”, but as what they are–individuals, human beings, like you and me.