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The undoing of stereotypes
M. Aslam Kahn
Aslam Khan
Muhammad Aslam Khan is an IREX Fellow (International Research and Exchange Board) scholar from Quetta, Balochistan province Pakistan, studying political science for one semester in an exchange program from Government College University, Lahore.

Must we live in a world filled with false judgments, or can we learn to judge others on the basis of facts or reality?


Why we do not use Ms. for a man and Mr. for a woman.

 

Why we differentiate between a bull and a cow or a dog and a bitch.

 

Why people mind when they are not called by their names or called by names that are not their own.

 

Human beings try not to do so because they do not want to distort reality, and doing so is considered foolish and illogical. 


The science of positivism and empiricism negates the existence of apriopri ideas in the human mind.

 

According to this science, nothing meets the standard and legitimacy of knowledge until it is based on reason and tested through sensory stimuli.

 

Knowledge is what gained through personal observation, experience, and logical judgment. Anything out of the positivist or empiricist paradigm of knowledge is a preconceived and baseless chain of thoughts, which can be called a misnomer for reality.


When we apply the positivist or empiricist argument to the relations between different peoples of the world, we come to see a host of problems they are confronted with.

 

Peoples’ ideas about one another around the world are not very rational and not based upon reason.

 

Owing to the lack of communication and interaction, people have come to use heuristics (shortcuts) or schemas to make images of one another.

 

These images, more often than not, happen to be baseless, less rational, and less logical.


These images have developed certain kinds of stereotypes, which in turn have given birth to hatred, animosity, and enmity between the peoples of the world.

 

For instance, the perception of some narrow-minded and biased western scholars of Islam as an evil religion or a violent political ideology, and the view of some extremist and conservative Islamic religious scholars about the West as Islamophobic are far cry from reality.

 

Then, why are we so eager to identify things or ideas with people that actually do not belong to them?

 

Why do we assume the wrongheadedness of one individual or a group of individuals and apply it to the whole society?

 

Perhaps, this is because of the lack of information or misinformation, prejudice towards other people, or the human instinct that frames images of others the way the images serve their beliefs.

 

These forces have led human beings to frame non-existent and unrealistic images of their fellow beings.


I acknowledge the fact the there are differences of religion, language, race, color, nomenclature, etc., but these differences do not mean that some are better than others, and that there is clash of human interest.

 

These differences, honestly speaking, stand for the identity of different peoples. Rather, these differences should be used as a source of collective synergy to achieve the goals of love, peace, and prosperity common amongst all human beings.


I know it is not easy to make correct judgments about people who are novel to you.

 

This does not suggest that you should develop wrong and baseless frames of another’s identity.

 

The best way is to wait and logically reason who people are, why they are the way they are. It is also a fact that it becomes difficult for people to be fair judges when they do not have direct contact with people from other cultures, but they are advised not to easily fall prey to the narrow-nationalistic and one-sided viewpoint of the media.

 

This may show you the many positive aspects of human beings, and you may reach logical conclusions about your fellow beings. 


My personal experience with the United States has provided me corrections on a number of viewpoints that were victim to the malaise of stereotypicality.

 

For instance, a major chunk of the world’s population is anti-Semitic on account of the heavy-handed and wrongheaded policies of Israel towards Palestine, but I met a Jewish boy in Chicago who was strictly against the Israelis’ treatment toward the Palestinians.

 

I do not believe that all Jews might be like him, but I do believe when I say that all Jews should not be enlisted in one and the same category. Similarly, the rude and inhumane image of the U.S. immigration staff toward non-Americans or particularly toward Muslims, having been fixed in my mind by the classic movie “My Name is Khan” from the Bollywood film industry, was undone when I personally faced them.

 

The immigration staff was quite respectful and duty-oriented to me. Other non-Americans might think them disrespectful to them because of their race. But this is not normally the case. 


What I observed during my travel inside the U.S., tells me that the staff at the airport is to follow the rules and ensure security for all of us.

 

They did not seem to discriminate between me and Americans, and often times I witnessed that it took a long time for them to check in an American. Likewise, my belief about the openness of American society changed when I came to know that Christianity does not allow pre-marital sex, though it is a different debate that the American society is very liberal, secular, and open.

 

Moreover, my host community, Kearney, Neb., is very humane, welcoming, and friendly. I will never let them depreciate in recounting my experiences.


We share a plethora of things in common. The same blood runs in our veins. We have similar physical chemistry, biological structure, are born with the same thinking pattern, and long for the desires of love, peace, and happiness.

 

What more do we need in common to be good to one another?

 

I am convinced that no feeling is stronger than that of humanity, and nothing provide as solid a sense of oneness and commonality as the human body does. 


Nature explains that all human beings have the ability to empathize with one another, and ethics reinforces the argument by emphasizing that they must do so.

 

If you do not want to be stereotyped, stop stereotyping others. If you do not want to have your identity misrepresented and distorted, do not misinterpret others’.

 

Stop falsifying the facts.

 

Say goodbye to stereotypes.

 

Do not base your judgments of others simply on ignorance, prejudice, myopia, or unreliable sources of information.

 

Learn to judge others on the basis of facts and reality.


Do not reject someone outright because their attire seems weird or novel, but take your time to develop a space in your mind for others to understand them.

 

This would believably mirror the real face of the world, which is very calm, pleasant, and peaceful, and eliminate the one created by our false judgments.

 

Let’s thrive in a world premised upon reality not subjectivity.

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