I had written this in an email to my school slumni listserve in July of 2006 just after the bombblasts in Mumbai.
It was sickening to hear about the blasts in Mumbai, I mean it happens nowadays no frequently that one does not imagine it happening so close to home, or what one might think of as home.
When I first heard about it, I was very interested to see how much of media attention the bomb blasts in Mumbai would get here, in the West.I have to admit my initial speculation was based on last year's bombings in New Delhi, which hardly got any coverage on media here.However, this time for very sad reasons I stand corrected. The news of the bombings are all over the news, CBC, which is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, (BBC's equal in canada) has been airing stories on their Radio and Tv News programmes all day, including interviews of administration, officials and the grassroots of India's societal structure. What really bothers me though, is what I think is the justification behind this round the clock coverage. In the west, Specially in the States, the UK and Canada we now have this intoxicating attachment to incidents of terrorism. The word,"Terorism" has not lost its weight, however has failed keep on itsmeaning. Incidents of defacing public property, mouthing off to otherpeople, sometimes even dressing apart from others has now become amark of "terrorist attitudes". Terrorism is not just what thedictinary says, "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or propertywith the intention of intimidating or coercing societies orgovernments, often for ideological or political reasons." thanks to the US it now is an umbrella term used to define a different range ofbehaviours, actions and attitudes. Again, I dont know about the Eastanymore, but thats how it is here. Frankly I do not think the news ofthe bombings in Mumbai would have had much media coverage if the firstpress release in India, did not have the word Terrorism in it. Our addiction to the word terrorism is so strong, I have noticed increasing number of people living here in the West get increasingly well acquainted with this whole India-Pakistan issue. Someone told me today, that she didnt even until yesterday know that India andPakistan were once same countries! And now she knows all about thehistory, even down to the fact that "Bangladesh used to be part of Pakistan until early 70s, and therefore was also a part of India untilmid 1940s." I am stumped, a little flabbergasted and a lot confusedabout the ratio of detriment to good that this obsession is getting us to.
The other great thing about this whole issue, blaming Pakistan for theblasts, and the speculation that the blasts are related to rebel groups in Kashmir (which might very well be true, but are yet to be confirmed) is that it adds to anti muslim sentiment here amongst every group of people. People here, more so non muslim immigrants from India have come here with the mentality in the 1970s and have been stuck in that mental state for almost 40 years. While people in our secular country become increasingly progressive and show attitudes that are steadily opening up to variation, immigrants who have been living in Canada are stuck in the nasty quagmire of racism, religious competition and attitudinal narrowmindedness. If I could only bring all of you down here just once and have you meet the people that have been living here for some 30 plus years and speak with them with respect to society, politics and religion I can guarantee the outcome will be mindnumbing. Added to already anti muslim sentiment, is the recent uprise in the natural apathy towards anything to do with Islam and you have probably the most bigoted set of Indians in the whole world. I know these are strong sentiments to be putting down on white paper, but "muslims are like that" has become less of a ridiculous overarching phrase than one that is most used in our everyday life. Its sad to see women wearing hijabs stared at on the subway, and blatant disrespect towards people who wear the traditional muslim clothing or facial hair. Its actually worse to see it happening in Toronto so often now, whereas 6 years ago, myself a reborn Canadian, had hardly ever dreamt that this would happen here in the mutlicultural haven ofthe west. We proudly say we are not a melting pot of culture, we are a salad bowl. And in that salad bowl, racism still exists, maybe not overtly but in the looks, and passing comments of those who think theyknow everythign from the scarce news reports they read in the paper. Ihave seen and dealt with the fall out after 9/11, at the University ofToronto campus there were reports of blatant anti muslim sentimenteverywhere. One woman was even stoned because she was wearing a hijab.
The reason for my sudden outburst? I was on the bus this morning,when I watched a man in muslim clothing get on my bus. Its 6 am in themorning, mind you when everyone is grumpy and likes to acquire their usual seat on a crowded bus on a rainy morning. He sat down in the one empty seat beside this very well dressed Brown guy, (probably indian). The guy got up and walked to the end of the bus with a nasty look on his face,said, "bloody terrorists", looked at me and said "they bomb my country and now they come here to bite the hand that feeds them." I did get into an altercation with him, one that has no relevance here. But this whole shift in attitudinal modes is really painful to watch. How did he know that I too in fact was not Muslim? Just cos I wasnt wearing ahijab??