TRAVEL THURSDAY: On Manchester, Religion and Jumping to Conclusions

Following the terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday, AJ is sharing his views on religion and making assumptions.

Throughout my travels I am always very fortunate to meet a lot of people. People of all shapes and sizes, who I never would have met if I’d stayed in my tiny Blenheim hole.

There are two men who I met, however – one in Innisfail, and one at my workplace back home – who will always stand out in my memories.

  1. Mohit
    When I met Mohit, I was living at a friend’s house in Innisfail. We ventured to the local watering hole for a meal and some grog. But we were flat broke and didn’t realize until our cards had declined. Embarrassed, we were considering cutting the night short and heading home for a stand night of Left 4 Dead 2 when this fellow approached the bar. He had overheard our plight and decided to pay for a giant basket of chips, offering us a seat at his table with his friend. We ended up staying for two and a half hours after we finished the food, so engrossed in conversation with these two met we hadn’t met before. Mohit and his friend Vishall were so positive and motivated, and their stories from India captured my imagination like you wouldn’t believe. We only met once more after that before circumstances took me away from Innisfail.
  2. Amit
    Four years later I got to meet Amit, a cleaner who worked in the same establishment as me. A lifelong Barcelona fan, we bonded quickly over our joint appreciation of Luis Suarez. I mentioned my love of garlic bread and the next day discovered that Amit had left me an entire roll of it on the counter in the staff room. We chatted every day we worked together, and every conversation was incredible. In his final week, Amit assured me that if I were ever to visit India I could have a couch at his place free of charge, and even some good Indian company (sharing that a Westerner is less likely to be robbed if they’re with an Indian. To this day I don’t believe I’ve met a kinder man than Amit, nor a man so filled with love.

Mohit and Amit had a lot in common. They were compassionate, kind, interesting, and were also Muslims. They were not some turbaned delinquent, and they certainly would not like to inflict pain. Mohit and Amit praised Allah, but denounced those who killed in Allah’s name. They were incredibly devour men but at no point did I feel they were pushing their religion onto me, and at no point did I ever feel unsafe around them.

They went against every notion I ever had about Islamists. Notions that I’d been given by a media who are so quick to point fingers. A media who are so desperate to break news stories that they forget about the lives they’re affecting.

As I’m typing this, investigations into Monday’s incident are ongoing. An explosion occurred after Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, killing 22 people and injuring more than double that. ISIS have claimed responsibility for this attack, but it’s important that, until we have that knowledge, we don’t point fingers.

Islamophobia is always high right after terrorists attacks, but we must remember: Muslims aren’t the only people capable of being total pieces of shit.

The most disgusting incident I’ve ever witnessed was in Auckland. A group of Maori youths crossed the road to scream at three men who were minding their own business. Verbally attacking them, just because they were wearing turbans. Not all Maori are like those youths, so why do people instantly assume all Muslims are like the extremists? What right do we have to tar everyone who follows the religion with the same brush?

I do not know.

What I do know? Terrorists make up a very small number of the world’s population.

I also know that no child, teen, young adult or parent should ever go to a concert and not return home.

Stay strong, Manchester.