Discussion this morning with work mates. I'm not sure why, but we started the week with a heavy full-on discussion about racism. I guess it may have been because we were sitting in a room where there's a local school kids' exhibition called 'Love Southwark, Hate Prejudice' that I had been paid to install.

Anyway, we were talking about religion (we are all from different religious backgrounds) and prejudice. V. said that on some level, she thought that it was about time the Muslims had some come back (payback). Afterall, they are aggressively attempting to convert all British Asian people to Islam in the Universities. She is from a Hindu background and, needless to say, is aware of a long history of hatred and murder between Muslims and Hindus.
On this calm Monday morning, there were many ways to go in a discussion of ideas around justice and retribution. Firstly I said that I knew what it was like to be born into hatred. V., like most people, didn't like the idea that it was hatred she was feeling. Like most people, she found it hard to see herself as someone who 'hates'. But for me, it is hate. It is hatred when you see one person as inferior to yourself. It is hatred when 'their' life is worth less than your own, when their suffering is deserved and yours isn't. I admitted that I too was brought up to hate and that I still find it too easy to hate Germans.
I then pointed out that as people (and as nations), we tend to see ourselves only as victims and not as perpetrators. By implication, I was trying to point out that Hindus have committed their share of atrocities against the enemy.
But it is hard to take responsibility for our nation's past, and our nation's ongoing wrongs. I don't know how to take responsibility for what Israeli soldiers and the government are doing to Palestinians. Plenty of people I meet want me to take responsibility but I don't know how. I especially don't know how because I was brought up to be a Zionist and reading Hannah Arendt's 'Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil' I still believe that a State of Israel must exist.
But not at any price.
But anyway, F. was saying that he feared Islam. I guess this is good: to acknowledge that he does fear.
But surely we have to address our fears? There are people who abseil off builings to address their fear of heights, but when it comes to fear of a person, or a religion, we decide not to deal with it.
It's funny - I sat opposite a man who looked like a lawyer on the Underground, especially given that he got on at Chancery Lane. He opened a book called, 'Understanding Islam' and was about 9 pages in. I wondered about him and the author of the book and how the man had come to chose that title above all others available in the bookstores. The author may be non-Muslim, or self-loathing from a Muslim background or a fundamentalist or a scholar. I thought about the problems of learning about a religion and the many cultures associated with it from one book. I wondered whether he was aware of the problems. Is it better to have a little learning than none at all? I don't know.

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