Today I was on my way back home from an appointment downtown. The weather was overcast, cold and windy and I was hurrying to the train station. Just before I got to the entrance of the U-Bahn, a man approached me speaking in a very foreign accent asking for directions. He was small in stature and rather portly. He was wearing a winter coat and a scarf. A little girl was with him. Judging from his accent and his demeanor he probably comes from the middle east. I told him where to go because I knew the street he was looking for and it was not far away from where we were standing. Normally I have no problem helping people out, especially if they are foreigners, but as soon as I saw this man coming my way, I thought to myself "Don't talk to me! Please don't talk to me. I do not want to talk to you!" He walked right up to me and asked for help. I helped him but everything inside me was screaming "walk away and ignore him". I did not want to be nice.
It scared and surprised me at the same time that I was thinking this way and I was actually ashamed. I do not consider myself a prejudiced person and I hate that I have the feeling I am becoming one. My parents did not raise me that way. Quite the contrary actually.
Nevertheless, this raises a question in me. Yes, we should not be prejudiced to the point of being racist, but what if a person or group of people keep doing things that scare us into not wanting to have anything to do with them? It is impossible to tell who the good guys and the bad guys are in a certain group of people. Should I be nice to everyone and risk getting into trouble because I was nice or should I steer clear from them and avoid them altogether so as not to risk getting into an unsafe situation for myself?
Incidents of terror attacks happen more and more frequently now, Not only in France and Belgium but in many other countries as well. I can only speak of Europe and the problem with terror here because this is where I live. Many of the perpetrators are either people of foreign roots that have grown up here and say they feel excluded and others are citizens that have gone to the war torn areas and got radicalized there. Either way, we all say it has something to do with the Muslim religion and we also say that the Europeans are at fault because we do not accept and integrate the foreign cultures living here. We also say that the "west has to do something to correct the problem of radicalization". While I agree that we have to do something to stop this senseless violence, I do not agree that the "West" should be the one to carry the biggest responsibility to do that. I am missing one very important thing here. These people are after all Muslims and the Muslim religion says of itself that it is a religion of peace. If anybody should be leading the campaign to change the extremist tendencies it is the Muslim religion itself. I only hear them saying "We are a religion of peace" but talking does not solve anything. Where is the action?? I need to see that action in the same or similar massive style that the radicals are using. When I start seeing that, then I will probably also start to help the man on the street with a strange accent without having these thoughts telling me not to help and to walk away because it might be dangerous since he is foreign and from the middle east.
To be continued...