Is your conscience awake?

Published: April 15, 2011
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How are caring American mothers sitting quietly in their homes while Afghani mothers cry tears of blood?

Recently, my dog Travis brought me home a little gift from his walk.

As he proudly displayed in front of me the remains of what must’ve been a small white kitten, I screamed and ran in horror around the house.

This, by the way, is the same dog that lovingly guards my one-year-old nephew and melts into licky fests when I come home from anywhere.

After a while of frenzy, I had to forgive the old dog. It was years of biological conditioning combined with innate and learned behaviours that led to his offence. Cats were the enemy – it didn’t matter if they were young or old, good or bad, white or black. As long as they meowed, his conscience allowed him to kill them.

Conscience is a funny thing. Sometimes it can become overbearingly omnipresent, heightened and awakened by the slightest stir, keeping us bound to it like prisoners. At other occasions, conscience can go completely amiss, reduced to a bare minimal or even fall completely asleep.

Looking at the pictures of the US soldiers in Afghanistan grotesquely grinning and posing with the recently slaughtered Afghani unarmed youth lying helplessly on the floor which appeared on March 21, my conscience awakened. However, I wondered whether this news item had any impact whatsoever on the Western world.

How does their conscience sleep in matters concerning the murders of Muslims and completely awaken when it comes to animal rights?

No mother, American or otherwise, can look at the picture of US soldiers celebrating next to the bodiless, Afghani man’s head and not feel repulsed and disdainful. So how are caring American mothers sitting quietly in their homes while Afghan mothers cry tears of blood?

Well, for starters, when faced with war directly or indirectly, we take a particular side and turn our backs completely on the other. The other side is no longer human to us and as Ervin Staub puts it quite eloquently; the other side becomes “excluded from our moral universe”. We consider them an ‘it’, if you may like to call it. This ‘world of its’ is filled with child molesters, rapists, serial killers, tyrants and some deviant politicians and now us Muslims.  It’s simply an ‘us’ against ‘them’ stance.

Looking at the way this particular news was hushed and forgotten shows that Muslims are now officially ‘its’ of the world. You can yank our chains like dogs or drag our dead through the mud – anything goes when it comes to us. This moral expulsion hasn’t happened in a few years.

Decades of brainwashing and gas lighting the American public has made them think of us as mere court jesters.

Fear ‘it’

One of the quickest ways to dull an active conscience is to create a fear against the ‘it’. This fear is so pervasive in America society today that ordinary Americans are scared of sitting next to liberal, educated and even America-loving Muslims on the plane in fear that they may blow up some imaginary bomb tied underneath their suits or launch into an aggressive jihad with their plastic food cutlery.

Ridicule ‘it’

Another way to sedate one’s conscious is by ridiculing the ‘it’.

One of the cleverest ways of doing so has been through the constant ridiculing of the Arab culture and its most significant cultural and religious symbols. They scoff at the beard, the niqab and burqa, and make fun of our prophet.

They might call this blatant ridicule ‘freedom of speech’. They may call us fundos when we respond a little too aggressively to their ridicule. However, the damage has been done and the ‘it’ has become even more ridiculous and unfathomable in the eyes of the general American public.

Muslims aren’t blameless

At the same time, Muslims are guilty of the same sedated conscience when it comes to their enemies. The Americans are also ‘its’ in our perception. But, for most of us, including me, they are the kind of ‘its’ that are revered in some regards and loathed and feared in others.

We consciously or unconsciously want to look, eat, dress, talk like the ‘its’ we so hate. We would go so far as to making fun of our own institutions and religious beliefs just to appear more moderate and liberal.

However, how many Americans would willingly toss aside their jeans for a burqa? We, on the other hand, would do it the other way round in a heartbeat.

Before you judge me for being hypocritical, let me do that myself. My conscience dies or sleeps when I want to study at one of US’s most liberal, highly regarded universities but it wakes up instantly when I hear that the US soldiers threw candy out of a Stryker vehicle and shot the children who came running to pick up the sweets in an Afghan village.

Consciences on both sides need to be awakened. We have to stop thinking of the killings as crucial or sacred in the struggle of good and evil. The world needs to realise that killing innocent people on either side is neither jihad nor a crusade.

And that can only be done if we feel connected to the ‘it’ and consider the ‘its’ human as us.

Saba Khalid

Saba Khalid

A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at www.thecityalive.com and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.