Don't we all feel annoyed by the stereotypes attached to us? Say you, the Maldivian, were in a foreign country, England for an example, and it's the middle of winter (a time of the year when people over there are unusually edgy). You walk into a small shop owned by a middle aged white man. He gives you one long, searching look of deepest loathing and utter,
"I don't bargain here."
"What? I had never thought of bargaining."
"Oh really? And am I supposed to believe that?"
"Well, I can't see any reason why you shouldn't."
"Oh I can tell you plenty of reasons. You see, don't think that, just because you worship three million false gods you can do whatever you like with us Englishmen."
"Ah! You think I'm from India then?"
"No, I'm from the Maldives."
As usual with most foreigners who discover that you're Maldivian, the shopkeeper will then undergo a drastic and frankly alarming change in his mood. He'll become so warm that you're sure the snow outside will melt at any moment.
"I am so sorry. You must be terrified! Please do forgive me, but those brown tossers are nothing but trouble, I'm sure you understand. But ah, Maldives! It's a beautiful country! You're so lucky to actually belong there!"
"Yes, yes, but anyway, what was it that you wanted to purchase? That watch? No, c'mere, I can show you even better ones. Here, a Rolex. No, no need to bother. I can make it cheap, you know. 20% discount, what do you say?"
"No sir, it's alright. I'm not really fussed...er I'll be happy with a cheap one. You know, I just need something to make myself keep track of the time."
"Oh, so modest. But tell me; how many times have you been hit on the head by a coconut?"
"A co- what? A coconut? Never."
"Never? But there probably ain't a scrap of land that ain't occupied by coconut trees!"
"Coconut palms, sir. But I assure you, I've never fallen victim to a coconut. And I've lived there most of my life."
"Ah yes. You must be one of the few lucky ones then, boy! I shudder to imagine the number of coconut-related injuries your people sustain every year."
"Well, to be honest such injuries are pretty rare."
"Rare! Hohoho! I don't know who you're kidding boy. Are you pulling my leg?"
"No, no, I'm being serious. Coconuts aren't nearly as dangerous as you appear to think!"
"Hahahaha! Oh, you've made my day, boy! You Maldivians have a good sense of humour too! I'll tell me wife of that. Incidentally, do you know anyone who could help me wife and I to go over there for cheap? It's our 25th anniversary this summer and what better way than to spend it in the tropical sun, eh boy?"
Yes, stereotypes and generalisation; two extremely annoying traits you're likely to encounter in foreign lands. Although some of them can be pretty amusing like the example mentioned above, others can be downright nasty. The nasty stuff can be attributed to racism or xenophobia. Or even fascism, but they all promote the same thing; hatred.
Which reminds me of Paulo Di Canio, the former Italian footballer who infamously made the Nazi salute after scoring a goal. When accused of being a racist, he replied, "I'm not a racist. I'm a fascist." What an idiot...
And it's a growing trend here in Maldives. Some of us appear to have the illusion that we Maldivians are superior in front of our fellow South Asians, and I'm sure that the rest of us are thoroughly mystified. If the historical facts we've come up with by collecting various evidence are accurate, then we're descendants of a mixture of tribes; Dravidians, Arabs, Black Africans and North Indian Aryans. But does any of this matter? Well, no, unless you're a completely ignorant fool.
And unfortunately, some of us appear to have happily embraced the Completely Ignorant Fool tag. I've seen plenty of blogs owned by Maldivians which shamelessly conjures articles week after week containing shocking derogatory language against "Bangalhis". Recently, several groups have popped up on Facebook calling for the expulsion of "Bangalhis" from Maldives, and their grotesque members have even uploaded photos of immigrant workers being subjected to all sorts of discriminatory acts, which the members of the groups appear to find amusing. Of course, if you confront any of these bigots then they'll always give you the same, Redneck answer:
"I don't like 'em immigrants. They come 'ere 'n steal our jobs."
Fine, then. Why don't you cycle to the garbage dump every evening with bulging bags of rubbish that makes you smell for weeks on end, or get involved in the construction of buildings from eight in the morning till sunset and risk getting baked in the sun, or perhaps maintain the sewers which, once again, will make you smell bad for weeks on end. What? No? It's not your job? Well then, what's with the double standards?
As we're all aware of, the racist attacks on foreigners, particularly Bangladeshi immigrant workers have been getting increasingly gruesome. I won't even bother to discuss them. And the abuse is not just limited to bodily harm, but you get the feeling that the verbal abuse is even worse.
What we Maldivians don't like to admit is the fact that we're getting increasingly unpopular amongst the South Asian countries. A friend of my mother's once told us how her family were residing in an area in Sri Lanka far away from where Maldivians usually stay.
"They call us drug dealers," she said. And you wonder why, looking at the way young Maldivians who go over there to "pursue their education" behave themselves.
All this hatred that has crept into our society wouldn't exist if people really acted like true believers. I recently read an interview of a man, who used to be a hardcore member of the KKK (that is a racist organization in the USA) who converted to Islam. In it, he said something that was really interesting:
"The other element [of my change] was [that] when you hate somebody so passionately and you just live and just consume the hatred everyday, it starts to deteriorate. It's like a cancer because it destroys your personality, it distorts your soul, and it destroys [those] close to you because it wears off on other people. I was inflicting more harm on myself than the people I hated. I was basically destroying my family and anyone else who had contact with me."
You can read the full interview here:
In a country where the majority of its citizens claim to followers of Islam, it is embarrassing to witness such acts of cowardice. If only these cowards bothered to learn more about the way of life, I'm absolutely certain that ones race will not even be considered an issue. That is because racism has no place in Islam.
Which brings us to some wise words said by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
A man once visited the Prophets mosque in Madina. There he saw a group of people sitting and discussing their faith together. Among them were Salman (who came from Persia), Suhayb who grew up in the Eastern Roman empire and was regarded as a Greek, and Bilal who was an African. The man then said:
"If the (Madinan) tribes of Aws and Khazraj support Muhammad, (it is understood because they are Arabs like him) they are his people. But what are these (foreign) people doing here?" (Implying an obvious dislike for foreigners) The Prophet became very angry when this was reported to him. He went to the mosque and summoned people to prayer. He then addressed them saying:
"O people, know that the Lord and Sustainer is One. Your ancestor is one; your faith is one. The Arabism of anyone of you is not (by virtue of the nobility of) your mother or father. It is no more than a tongue (language) The Prophet further said: Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust." [(Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)]
"Humanity is the family of Allah, the best human is one who is kind to His (Allahs) family. (Mishkat) Extending a helping hand to a foreigner is extending your hand to your own family member."