Photoshop and the Path to Religious Intolerance

Imagine a young Canadian Sikh man’s surprise when a selfie which he took in 2014 implicated his role in the tragic Paris shooting on Friday night. The selfie which Jubbal took in his bathroom mirror, like many people his age, was edited on Photoshop. The reflection of Jubbal’s iPad in the mirror was changed into the Quran and a suicide bomber’s vest was added over his shirt. An object looking like a sex toy was also added to the background.

This adapted photograph, which was most likely chosen as Jubbal is wearing a turban and has a full beard, was published by various media outlets labelling this innocent man as an ISIS terrorist. Accusing him of taking part in Friday night’s shocking events in Paris which left 129 dead and hundreds more injured. Just to be clear, my problem here is not with Photoshop, I am assured it is wonderful software and my appreciation for it would probably increase if I knew how to use it. I do, however, take issue with those that would lay blame on an innocent man. Wrongly identifying him as a terrorist, seemingly because of his religious convictions.

In response to what has happened Jubbal has responded “Sikh articles of faith, such as our turbans and beards, represent a commitment to universal justice, equality, and helping others (seva), yet Sikhs continue to be mistakenly and offensively associated with terrorist networks abroad,”. This is just one of (I’m sure) many wrongful identifications of religious people as religious fundamentalists who use violence to achieve their aims. This wrongful identification has at its root, to my mind, ignorance of the peace and respect preached by religion. As a society we are too quick to judge, not quick enough to forgive and too eager to point the finger.

It is not just the confusion of Sikh’s with Muslims or one religion for another. It is also the assumption that one group of people speak for another. That is to say that ISIS terrorists speak for all of Islam. This is wrong. For how much longer are we going to lump people together? Use one criminal charge to convict an entire society. This is at the root of religious intolerance. Our lack of education about religious belief, our placing blame at the door of those who cannot defend themselves or, in this case, those who took a selfie.

When will our young people, targeted in this merciless terror attack by a minority Islamic group, be free from the cloud of religious intolerance? Is it any wonder that people, regardless of age, may not feel comfortable wearing religious paraphernalia? Openly discussing their religious beliefs? Be seen to associate with one religion or another? Where is the society I will into existence where we can be open and comfortable with our religious predilections? Until then I will be found photo shopping signs of religious tolerance all over the internet…that is, when I learn how to Photoshop!

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