Ah yes, as i type this the word Islamophobe and Islamophobia has a red underline on it, indicating a “spellcheck” because it is a word still not formally accepted by dictionary definition. Yet just because the word is not recognized by the dictionary does not mean a strong anti Muslim sentiment does not exist. In fact both Anti-Antisemitism and Islamophobia are on a steady rise, yet only one of these statements of intolerance is formally accepted, despite both of them being as detrimental as the other in regards to its impact on a cohesive society.
The United States, Europe and Australia have all seen an increase in Islamophobic behaviour from the minor annoyances of constant protests by nationalistic groups or to the more serious Burning of Mosques all the way to the heinous assault and even Murder of innocent civilians who just tend to share a supposed name or look to the “enemy”. In September of 2012 i received a strange friend request on Facebook from a Man that looked suspect to me.
Yes, even i fell victim to generalizing others. This man looked like your typical Skinhead that would attend those Anti Muslim rallies on the streets, rambling on about Halal, Terror and Mooslims. In fact, he outright looked like a Neo-Nazi and i was thinking “What could this guy and myself possibly have in common”.?
Ladies and Gentlemen, i would like you to meet Frank Castle, my dear friend from the United Kingdom, many thousands of kilometers away but a character you wish you could meet face to face, every day! Our online friendship is approaching its third year and this man has quiet the story to tell you.
You see Frank WAS everything i feared him to be, well for the most part. Yet believe it or not, people change and this man made a 180 degree turn on his life and his attitude towards people. In the process of our mateship i did not only learn more about him, i learned about myself and the damage that generalizing could have from destroying fruitful relationships because we are so fixated on stereotyping one another.
Frank was kind enough to be Interviewed by me about his Journey from a Muslim hater filled with seething anger and hostility to the “other” to a wonderfully funny, tolerant, welcoming and kind human being who now has a Facebook Friends list that resembles a FBI Watch List (JUST KIDDING!!) 🙂 Let us begin this interview and i hope this dialogue between us can open a few hearts and change a few minds on how we see the World around us, even more importantly how we see the people around us. Peace.!
Ramey: First of all Frank, give us a brief introduction about yourself and your history.
Frank: Well,let’s say I wasn’t exactly the kind of kid that looked forward to going home. I felt most comfortable among fellow Skinheads, Rude Boys, Rastas and Punk-rockers. I was a troublesome, frustrated, youngster who picked all the fights he could. I disowned my whole biological lot and am happy about it, it’s not ‘sad’ at all. I feel much better since I got rid of them over a decade ago, my chosen family in North England and the United States, plus my taken-on children in Britain, America and Pakistan, make me feel a lot more as a part of a family.
Ramey: Did you ever think- given your history- that you’d ever end up in a situation like this? Where you are being interviewed by a Muslim about how you’ve “changed your ways”?
Frank: Haha, absolutely not! I’m a stubborn git, changing my mind don’t come to me naturally, like my mate Danny said recently, I stick to my convictions like shit to a blanket.
Ramey: Now tell me, when did your seething hatred for Islam start? Then explain to me what periods escalated that already lingering hatred?
Frank: I didn’t really notice Muslims even existed prior to 9/11 (September 11th)- of course I knew they did, but it never mattered to me before the collapse of the twin towers. The day it happened was the day my hatred of Muslims flared up, later on revived by the 7/7 bombings (In London).
Ramey: During your period as an Islamophobe did you ever get yourself a copy of the Quran and read it, or pay a visit to a mosque to “learn more” about this supposedly evil ideology?
Frank: No, my explanation was “All I ever needed to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11.”
Ramey: You describe yourself as a skinhead- during the days of your intense hate for Islam and Muslims did you openly support a Nazi like perspective of Muslims- just as the Jews were once seen?
Frank: No, not ever. Racism, fascism, Nazism, etc, were never my thing. I’ve always been a traditionalist Skinhead, my thing was always Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, patriotism, working class background and a tough guy attitude. Extremism of any kind was always something I rejected. My hostility towards Muslims escalated in verbal abuse, physical assault and spitting, otherwise I mouthed off about how the government should do something about ‘the Islamic threat to our nation’.
Ramey: Were you ever part of extreme Nationalist groups like the English Defense League? What was your opinion of such groups during your time as an Islamophobe?
Frank: No, I always looked at such groups with great distrust, as I knew they tend to attract racists and Nazis, and so far I’ve always been proven right. I’m genuinely a patriot, that’s nothing like being a nationalist, I love my country, I don’t reject others for having a different background, never have.
Ramey: What moment in your life did you see the tide change when it came to your views on Islam and Muslims? Was it a slow moving tide or a sudden rush that swept over you?
Frank: It was a mixture of both. The deciding moment that radically changed my attitude from one moment to the next was when a teenage Muslim girl, Shahzeen, countered my disgusting comments with kindness and understanding. Of course, it took me a while to stop sounding stupid, such things don’t change overnight. It takes the patience of a Muslim to put up with that for as long as it takes. Over the years, Shazzy and I grew very close and she became a daughter to me, my love for her is deep and genuine.
Ramey: What was the biggest challenge in seeing the “other” as basically “The same” as you?
Frank: . I may not be a fan of multiculturalism, but it occurred to me rather quickly that it’s not my call and the majority loves it. Also they’re not usually breaking any laws, so that’s where I’m an example for true tolerance, which some mistake for ‘intolerance’ because they get it confused with acceptance. Tolerance is putting up with things you don’t like because they’re not actually causing you any harm- but race never came into it, as a traditionalist Skinhead who rejects political extremists and calls them ‘boneheads’ as a way to reject the notion of accepting them as our own. I feel a deep connection to Jamaican culture, that kind of wouldn’t have been possible if I ever had racist views, hahaha!
Ramey: So today, what is your opinion on Muslims and how extensive is your “Muslim Network”?
Frank: I got to know Muslims as the kindest, most generous, and infinitely forgiving and understanding people I’ve ever met, and these days I have a ridiculous amount of Muslim friends because I feel much more comfortable around Muslims than most other people. I now actually find it easier to forge a friendship with a Muslim than anyone else, because it is easier for me to trust a Muslims after learning as much about Islam and Muslim values as I have after meeting my baby girl [Shahzeen]. I once called the Prophet Muhammad ‘the first terrorist’, now I know he was an honourable man, a great leader, and very committed to the teachings of Jesus Christ, which he passed on to his followers to the best of his ability.
Ramey: Do you agree with the term Islamophobia and do you believe it is a real movement?
Frank: Well, a lot of things, especially the hatred of Muslims and homosexuals, are being commonly referred to as ‘phobias’, but as Morgan Freeman said, “they’re not scared, they’re being arseholes.” So that seems to be a new, or secondary, meaning of the term ‘phobia’ now. Movement… I have a hard time to apply that term to a relatively small bunch of braindead f*ckwits who aren’t actually doing anything besides being nasty.Yet for some time now there have been enough of them to at least in some places be a massive nuisance to everyone, and even a considerable threat in some instances to the residents of some local Muslim communities and a number of people who simply disagree with them.
Ramey: Are you proud of your accomplishment in banishing your past generalizations and looking at the world from another angle?
Frank: One of the very few things I’m actually proud of, yes- it has made my life better and brought the best people I’ve ever known into my life. I can’t grasp why they so easily treat the bad things I’ve said and done to Muslims like they never happened and give me their unconditional love.
Ramey: Do you have any advice for Muslims that are battling through Islamophobia today?
Frank: Well, Muslims and Skinheads have something in common: being judged for the despicable actions of a few idiots who abuse a good name for bad purposes. Us Skins handle it like this: the youngsters take it to heart, want to be understood, keep explaining it to everyone and always end up being disappointed, because no-one wants to listen, everyone loves to hate us. Should sound familiar to a Muslim, I’d say. Well, us old farts have stopped giving a f*ck long ago and just let the losers talk, and we’re much more content that way. Maybe Muslims should try that some time. As for physical attacks, I’m afraid everyone will generally have to go about that the way they usually would, there is no universal recipe against that.
Ramey: What words of wisdom do you have to the people today that mirrored you 10 years ago?
Frank: Stop being arseholes, get a grip, and start listening to people, you just might love what you hear.
Ramey: Thank You Frank for your contribution! Love ya mate.
Frank: My pleasure, bro, love ya too!