Online prejudice: The new normal?

By in Opinions

Comment sections are where the IQ dies. I have heard this phrase before, but it never impacted me until I read the comments on a Facebook event called Faith Against Racism hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Muslim Chaplaincy, the local extension of the Canadian Muslim Chaplain Organization.

The event was described as a multi-faith panel contemplating individual perceptions and solutions with the goal to address racism. It was unfortunate when, ironically, the very racism the event was trying to tackle became evident in the comments — which included negative remarks and vulgar references concentrated heavily on Muslims.

That’s when I began wondering about online aggression. It seems that, when anonymity is established, we create a space in which xenophobia thrives. But, why does this happen? Why do people believe that, just because it is online, it is okay to post their hateful thoughts? Why is this behaviour more acceptable online rather than in person?

A study done at the University of North Florida in 2012 showed that people behave more aggressively online when their identity is anonymous, which I believe is common knowledge. More interestingly, the study also revealed that verbal aggression via blog posts is highest when an anonymous person is exposed to aggressive social modelling.

This angry thread of Facebook comments showed me that xenophobia is still prevalent in our community. The comments repeated the same misinformation that people have consumed and held to be true for so long that they have now almost become a mundane occurrence.

Realizing this, I understood that, rather than being frustrated and complaining about the situation, I should take the time to inform people of what I have learned about Islam, Christianity, Judaism and many of the other religions that exist in our province.

To those who think that Islam is a religion that teaches hate, I encourage you to read more about it, and then, maybe look in a mirror. Ignorance facilitates conflict. To those who believe that Islam is a political ideology disguised as a religion, I’d encourage you to seek out the similarities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity — there are more than you’d think.

The people who decided to spread religious intolerance and racism on the U of S Muslim Chaplaincy’s Facebook event page are uninformed and certainly have not considered attempting to understand anything from the perspectives of others.

The reality is that the people of Saskatoon come from various cultural backgrounds. The people of Saskatchewan are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Christian — among many other faiths. Most importantly, we’re all Canadians, and I believe that the best way to combat prejudice is to act how we are most often stereotyped as behaving — just be polite and say sorry.

J.C. Balicanta Narag / Photo Editor

Graphic : Linda Minh