One swallow does not a summer make

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I am one of those who believe that the economic miracle in this country is a whole lot of hogwash. I do believe, however, that we have achieved a miracle – a social miracle – that has allowed us to live together and respect one another in spite of our differences and our occasional acts of intolerance. 

That miracle is every now and then challenged by extremists of all ilk. Whether these elements in our society pull down a tent where there is a religious gathering, gratuitously break windows in a church, attack a mosque or a temple or, as in the latest manifestation of intolerance and bigotry, they illegally demonstrate against a legal demonstration by people who merely want to assert their rights to love who they want like everyone else. That we start fantasising about the sexual practices of LGBT people is our problem, not theirs. We have always expressed the belief that what goes on between two consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom is none of our bloody business. Anyone who thinks it is has not heard about freedom and human rights and should revisit those chapters in their book. And I am not even going to get started on the notion of reducing a love relationship between two individuals to what goes on in their bedroom. 

The expression of these types of intolerance does not threaten our social miracle. These are isolated incidents orchestrated by some unhappy, ignorant individuals who cannot accept that they can only decide for themselves and for no one else. What does seriously threaten our living together and the reputation of our country as an example of social peace and tolerance is the amalgam we make between individuals and their religion and the extrapolations from there. About 400 people held an illegal demonstration. One of them is suspected of terrorism – without having ever been convicted in spite of the severity of the POTA laws. This does not make us a terrorist state. Far from it. And we should never allow ourselves to be terrorised into believing that. That would jeopardise the values we have been able to live by to maintain our social peace. 

What happened on Saturday is certainly not a reflection on a whole community. For one thing, while the illegal demonstration of a few bigots was taking place, none of us could have missed the number of people from the same community – some of whom had never participated in public debate before – who used all the social media platforms available to come down very hard on those protesting and dissociated themselves from their act. None of us could have missed the thousands of law-abiding citizens from the same community who were just going about their own business totally unconcerned about who loves who and in what way. And we should not lose sight of the fact that one of the two people who allegedly received death threats – Najeeb Fokeerbux – is a gay Muslim.

Over sweeping generalisations are dangerous. Dangerous because they lower us to the level of those we are rightly criticising. Dangerous because they threaten our social miracle. And dangerous because they shift the focus away from the main points, namely that our sexual orientation has nothing to do with anyone else and that all our human rights should be guaranteed and respected; that every citizen should be protected; that the police are there to enforce the law and not be at the beck and call of politicians who have lost the control of this country completely; that the law and order situation has reached rock-bottom and that no one feels safe anymore; those taking the law into their own hands are just one manifestation of this. 

In times like these, we have to take a step back before reducing a whole community to a couple of hundred hotheads. As far as we know, Javed Meetoo is not the official representative of any community nor was he mandated to speak on anyone’s behalf. He should stay in the obscurity and loneliness that he deserves. For the sake of those whose rights we are defending; for the sake of the social miracle we have achieved.    

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