The Writing Challenge: Notable Notes
The Writing Cooperative

“Muslims are savages,” he said.

Freshman year at Indiana University, a drunk floor mate of mine told me that all Muslims are savages. I told him he was ignorant, so he yelled, spat at my feet, stormed off, and slammed his door. I wrote a brief note in my journal about this moment, and then I dug it up last night again due to recent, horrific events.

As I watched the flashes of news from the grotesque attacks in Paris, someone at the bar near me muttered breathily. I didn’t pick up on it all, but the comment flowed in the same vein as the “savages” comment. Then I heard him say to a friend, “When’s the last time Protestants massacred Lutherans?” — implying, I suppose, that ISIS is a radical group of Muslim militants who attack in a seemingly indiscriminate manner, even murdering others who subscribe to Islam. Essentially, he was saying, Muslims kill Muslims.

Ok. That’s interesting.

But it’s totally ignorant to believe that a single group is responsible. Sure, ISIS is responsible for these recent attacks. Sure, I want ISIS to go back to the hell from where it came, but the comments I’ve heard — and I’m sure there’s no shortage of them wherever you are — were meant for a militant group alone (i.e., ISIS) yet were nonetheless displaced on a broader group (i.e., Muslims). It looks something like this in my head:

ISIS = all Muslims

That’s like saying:

Nazis = all Germans OR Hutus = all Rwandans

So, how are all Muslims savages, then? What about the individuals within these groups?

There are white people, black people, Catholics, atheists, football fans, liberals, heroine addicts, waitresses, and mechanics who are good and bad.

In the case of the Muslim comments, I’d say this: Religion is an ideology, a system of beliefs, crafted for a purpose, and that very purpose is relative. Relative to the creator. Relative to the user. Relative to the advocator, the amplifier, the provocateur, the general, the criminal; to the abstainer, the peacekeeper, the quiet one, the victim; to the traditionalist and the abolitionist, the conservative and the zealot.

Such a broad swath of ideologies and personalities.

Yes, as humans, we tend to form groups of people with like minds and common goals. It’s in our nature to come together as communities — whether or not those communities advance or impede our humanity. Many people, like the two men I mentioned earlier, seem to believe that labeling a group makes the individuals otherwise associated with it, no matter how distanced or close to fringe, all bad. Some place blame on an ideology — on a group — instead of pinpointing the varied uniqueness embedded deep in each individual’s fiber.

It got me thinking: Do I believe in true individuality, creativity, originality, and the notion that every idea — every person — is unique, no matter the association with a likeminded group? Or do I believe that people generally walk with their heads down as blind followers, deserving of ignorant association with others’ hideous actions, no matter how peaceful they are?

I’d hope you answer the same as me.