Shedding our prejudices
If you are in a drawing room and any other gathering of your friends or acquaintances, naturally the talk of the day would lurk around what is going on around the world. By all probability, if the attendees are Muslims, they will make the foregone conclusion that the policies of the West, particularly its pro-Israeli policy vis-à-vis its conflict with Palestine, are responsible for inducing this deadly hatred towards the West in the brains of Muslim youngsters. And it is this repugnance that is inducing Muslim youngsters into committing the heinous crimes, either on Western soils or towards Western people in Eastern soil.
This type of drawing room bashing of the West is rampant both at home and abroad, by the people,especially of Muslim origin. At home, one will not be considered an intellectual if he/she does not express despising words against the West. Sometimes children either in schools or homes in Muslim countries are given the feeling that America is solely responsible for the miseries of the Muslim world, although almost many parents may have the dream of sending their children to that 'despised' land. So the Muslim children's mindset are, in general, infected with the general notion that America is the villain of the Muslim world. In the same token, many Muslim homes are the primary breeding ground of anti-West sentiments.
But in reality, is the West or the US really that evil? Is the Western value system so depraved? I often tell my students who were not born in Canada that you (or your parents) chose to make this country your home, knowing very well its value system. While those who were born in this country, did not have the option to make the choice.
In every society, there are both good and bad people, and the US and the West are no exception. However, in my own experience, as someone who lived in the West longer than he lived in his motherland, there are more tolerant, compassionate people in the West than most other countries. Let me share a few personal experiences. In 1974, when Bangladesh was inundated by a devastating flood, I was in a university campus town of the States, with around hundred thousand people. Many Christian philanthropic organisations of the town invited me to their churches to enlighten them on the devastating situation of Bangladesh. After listening to my stories of the miseries of the Bangladeshi people, the devotees in the church came forward with open hearts and wallets to donate generously, knowing very well that the majority of Bangladesh were not fellow Christians.
A year later, a club by the name of Cosmopolitan Club of the town, associated with the university run by Christian philanthropists took ten of us, incidentally all of them Muslims, including a young Tunisian couple, to a rural town of Illinois of some five thousand people and put each of us for the weekend with a local family to familiarise ourselves with the American way of life. I was assigned to an old couple; the man was a World War II veteran who fought in Asia. During two days of my stay, they tried to do everything to make my stay as pleasant as possible and showed their great interest in Bangladesh and its people. On Sunday morning, they took all of us to the local Church, not to teach us Christianity, but to share their happiness that resulted from our stay. At the end of the sermon (where we were collectively mentioned by the priest), each of our host families was asked if they have any happiness (or sorrows) for that week to share. When my host family's turn came, she said, "It is with great pleasure I am sharing our happiness that Mozammel, a young man from Bangladesh, is staying with us. He is a lovely young man who came from a wonderful country". Before I left, they asked for my parent's mailing address in Bangladesh and asked my permission to write to them. Later on, I came to know from my parents that they indeed wrote to them, where the most important sentence was, "You have every reason to be proud of your son, who is working hard in America".
The US and the rest of the West are representative democracies. Their policies towards other countries are formulated by politicians. These policies vary from time to time, depending on the political party in power. For instance, due to a brewing conspiracy to carry out a 9/11 type attack by 18 youngsters, known as Toronto-18 belonging to Muslim faith, on Canadian establishments, which was foiled by the RCMP (counterpart of American FBI) through a pre-emptive operation ten years ago, and a suicidal bomb attack by a Muslim youth on Canadian Parliament two years ago, the previous Conservative government passed Bill C-24 to subtly denigrate and vilify Muslims. It came into effect May last year. This allowed the government to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason and several other serious offences. This draconian law was applicable even if one was born in Canada. However, the current liberal government headed by Justin Trudeau campaigned on the promise of abolishing the bill, and kept its promise as the bill is now history. Aside from the conservative government's action as mentioned above, there were not much visible backlash in Canada against Muslims following the bomb attack on the Parliament by a Muslim gunman or similar heinous attacks elsewhere by Muslim miscreants.
Over the years, hundreds of Muslim students came to the US for study and many of them went back to their parent countries. But many also stayed back. The fact that they stayed back in the US assured them better careers and comfort, and benefited them. A handful of them who returned to their parents' countries or went elsewhere, did not do so because they don't cherish the American way of life or despise their value systems.
The other night, when the news of the Nice massacre came over my car radio, I told my wife sitting beside me, "Let us hold our breath and hope that he is not a Muslim". The same thing happened when we got the news of the Orlando massacre.
A lot can and needs to be said about the reactions of the general public in the West even after several instances of mass killings by Muslims there. Yes, there were a few instances of recriminatory attacks, but by and large the reaction of the general public in the US, France, Belgium and other European countries has been one of understanding and acceptance.
The writer is currently the Deputy Speaker of the Senate of the Sheridan Institute of Technology and is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.