The Oxford Dictionary defines prejudice as, “Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” In 2018 there is a lot of preconceived opinions about Islam, which leaves many associating Muslims with extremism and violence. This ignorance must be discussed, and dialogue is a great way to begin this conversation. The conference at St. Andrew’s opened a way for students, and other young people in attendance, to listen to different speakers on this inviting topic. We must start with the questions: what is radicalisation, and why do many people associate this unfairly with predominately one religion? What is reconciliation and why does it matter? These questions are important to consider for steps towards tolerance, empathy and reconciliation.
Radicalisation is a word that many hear on the news at night or when scrolling through their newsfeeds on Facebook or other social media outlets. It is a word that is often associated with different people and groups, claiming some sort of religious association. “He/She was radicalised”. “He/She became a radical after joining this group”. These are the statements we usually read online. The word radical is defined by the Oxford dictionary as: “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.” This can be a positive effect or a negative effect, depending on the outcome. It does not have to be associated with a negative connotation. Radicalism could easily be associated with political parties or social groups, not just religions. One of the topics discussed at the Scottish Interfaith Youth Conference zoned in on this topic. A PowerPoint slide was presented that pictured a couple photos of “radicalisation” which were present in other religions outside of Islam including: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and others. For example, there was a photo of the Klu Klu Klan, which gained its notoriety as being a radical Christian group promoting white nationalism. In another slide presented, there was a photo of Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi. These men were radicals in their time and they promoted justice and peace, and yet they were still associated with the word “radical.” It is only recently within the last ten years, that Islam has become associated with radicalisation in a negative way. This prejudice needs to be stopped. However, where do we begin to stop this prejudice? This was one of the many questions asked at the conference on Saturday. How can young people help and end this prejudice? Answer: this can be done through reconciliation.
Reconciliation is a restoration of friendly relations. It is a chance for grieved parties to come together and end their conflict. However, reconciliation cannot become a veil to hide behind. Reconciliation must include a restoration or even a revolution. Sometimes people or groups of people can become consumed by the “peace and harmony veil” and use this as a cover for real change and acknowledgement of past struggles and a sincere future of peace. Young people need to be present in interfaith dialogue, whether it be in their own neighbourhood or classroom. Breaking down prejudice and starting the process of reconciliation begins with a conversation. If you hear prejudice being spread by someone you know then you should speak up. Words are powerful. Young people have the power to change a generation of prejudice. By educating against ignorance and by working to break down prejudice we are living in a world of respect and love and not fear and hate.
Let’s hope and work together to help dispel prejudice which leads to intolerance. Let’s do as Jesus instructed us, and “love our neighbour”. I hope that in the future more events like the Scottish Interfaith Youth Conference are held in order to educate young people and help them lead future generations to reconciliation and promote peace between religions.