Posted in musings

fake news and the stigmatization of the other

I have Facebook friends who span the political spectrum (although most are fairly moderate), and I’ve lately found myself surprised and disappointed by articles that are shared or liked by people who I considered wise and mature. A lot of them aren’t even true, and in fact are verifiably untrue with only a brief amount of research – they aren’t contentious points but outright lies.

But what bothers me more than that is my friends’ desire for them to be true.

Here’s an example:

A friend of mine liked an article claiming that Angola has banned Islam and is destroying mosques. I can guarantee that if the religion was swapped and Christianity or Judaism were being banned, and churches or synagogues destroyed, my friend would be outraged and (rightly) condemn the affront to religious freedom. So why is it different with Islam? What happened to “do as you would be done by?”

I believe that, for him, Islam has been completely othered. He is reacting out of a fear of terrorism and a (rightful) disdain for the human rights abuses found in many majority Muslim countries. So instead of perceiving the individual Muslim following their faith with piety and in peace, he sees only the most violent expression of Islamic ideology, and paints all Muslims with that brush. And again, what happened to the golden rule? He would never tolerate a similar stereotype perpetrated against Christians or Jews.

I think it is important for us to remember, as Christians, that people of different faiths are still people, still bearers of the image of God, still entitled to human rights and worthy to be treated with dignity and respect. It is not Christian to deny the humanity and freedom of certain persons just because of their faith, when it is an obvious truth that people of all faiths and none commit crimes and, yes, even acts of terror. And yet that is what we end up doing when we think of Muslims as the other instead of as fellow humans.

And in case you were wondering about Angola… they don’t exactly have a good track record with religious minorities, and they have torn down a few mosques (and many churches) for being built without a permit – but they haven’t banned anything. And even if they had, it would be cause for sadness at that violation of religious freedom, not something to “like” and encourage the US to emulate.

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