Right at the moment it’s 4:14am, I’m jet lagged, working on my laptop in a hotel which overlooks Dubai Creek.
Jennifer and I decided to break up the journey so that when we got to Italy, we could head off into the Umrbian hills while there was still some daylight.
I’ve been to Dubai once before. And wandering around the markets, as we did yesterday, I couldn’t help stop thinking about how we’ve demonised the Middle East, because of our fear of terrorism.
Late yesterday we were in a cheap backlane restaurant, eating mutton curry, and I was listening to someone at another table speaking on the phone. We’ve heard that guttural Arabic accent in recent films and tv shows about terrorists. And we now associate it with “bad guys.”
It made me think about how the West demonised the Germans during World War 2, and the Japanese too. How those accents at the time, and some time later, were always associated with hatred and fear. They were the bad guys then – and now they’re the good guys.
Yesterday as we walked along the streets I saw women in headscarves, and some were burqa-ed up so that all you could see were the eyes. And it made me think how this has become such a hot issue in some western and european countries – again because of our fear.
I spent some time in Egypt a while back, and now with this little bit of time in Dubai I have to say that all the Arabs I’ve met have been friendly welcoming people. They smile readily, and are always willing to help.
Now that’s a huge generalisation, I know, because there are some Arabs in Egypt who are serious bad guys – but then there are some serious bad guys in the west too.
Our fear breeds suspicion, suspicion leads to hatred, and hatred spawns racial vilification and stereotyping. We find ourselves sitting in a restaurant eating mutton curry and wondering if the man on the phone at the other table is a terrorist.
He’s probably just calling his mum to say he’ll be late home.
In our country at the moment we read in the newspapers how teachers and headmasters at the country’s most prestigious private schools have been involved in pedophilia.
There was a story the other day about how a Catholic orphanage turned a blind eye to the systematic rape of young children in their care. Nuns beat children who came to them complaining that they’d been raped. One of the young boys had blood streaming from a lacerated anus, and the nun whipped him for daring to say anything bad about the priest.
When I heard this on the radio news I felt disgusted.
People within our own society – people we trust, and whom we’ve entrusted with our children – have let us down.
These people – the teachers, the headmasters, the priests and nuns – they don’t wear funny scarves, or long flowing robes, or burqas. They dress like us, they look like us, they talk like us. They could be our father or mother, or sister or brother. They’re not different to us. And they’ve never roused our suspicion, because they’re one of us.
And yet they are more dangerous, more disturbed, than these women wearing headscarves. Or these men with hooded dark eyes and flowing beards and funny robes.
I watch people in the street, and I often consider how we all come in different shapes and sizes. And how we spend so much time thinking about how we look, and how much money we have or don’t have, and we worry about things which are really inconsequential.
And I think about how alike we all are – underneath it all – and how much actually really matters. Not much.
I look at a distinguished gentleman rushing past in an expensive suit, polished shoes, grey hair, immaculately groomed. He could be a judge, or the CEO of a highly successful company, or he could be a doctor. He could be a heart surgeon rushing to save someone’s life –
– or he could be the headmaster of a private school that has silently sanctioned the sexual abuse of children for decades.
You can’t judge.
So why then should we judge these people in the Middle East, who worship Mohammed and the Qu’ran, and who hold religious and cultural beliefs that are different to ours?