Someone in Hamilton is stupid as well as racist

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It is election time. Throughout the country billboards are springing up from the ground with pictures of people wanting to be civic leaders and associated words designed to persuade the public that these people understand the job and will represent them best.

Graffiti and damage are common occurrences, although thankfully this year much less frequent.

Years ago on my first campaign it seemed that a third of all signs had to be rescued and repaired each week. Nowadays the incidence of damage is thankfully much less common. Although these are early days …

In Hamilton a piece of graffiti has attracted public attention. A local candidate standing for the Community Voice ticket, Yugraj Singh Mahil, has had the word “ISIS” sprayed on his billboard.

What if anything was going on in the sprayer’s mind is unknown. Presumably he or she thinks that Mr Mahil is a Muslim and therefore an ISIS supporter.

There are however major flaws with Hamilton billboard graffiti artist’s understanding.

Firstly Mr Mahil is a Sikh. This is an incredibly short disrespectful description of them but Sikhism is a religion that originated from the Punjab and involves belief in a monotheistic god. Male Sikhs have “Singh” (Lion), and female Sikhs have “Kaur” (princess) as their middle or last name. Initiated Sikhs wear a turban. There may be 27 million Sikhs in the world.

Their beliefs are comparable to christianity. Their religion is opposed to greed, ego, attachment, anger, and lust. Throw in envy and sloth and you have a checklist any Catholic could agree to. And their religion proposes meditation, prayer, and that everyone should improve their relationship with God and if they do so God will forgive, cleanse, and save them. Very similar to Catholicism of which I have more than a nodding acquaintance with.

Every Sikh I have ever met has always been pleasant. I have had way worse interactions with Australians.

And let’s be clear here. Sikhs are not Muslims. It is like saying that Irish are Anglo Saxons.

The next problem that Hamilton billboard graffiti artist has is equating Muslims with ISIS.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world or about one in every four humans. This analysis from Clarion Project suggests that there are 42 million Arabs who think somewhat positively about ISIS. The phrase is “somewhat positively”. This is not strap on an explosive belt and lets see who we can kill supportive, this is my home has been destroyed by bombing and I am somewhat upset by it sort of supportive.

Number wise this is 2.6% of the total Muslim population. It is like rounding up all the New Zealanders who support ACT and United Future. Suggesting that they are somehow representative of Kiwis as a whole is just as much of a stretch.

Another comparison is to suggest that members of the National Rifle Association or the Klu Klux Klan represent all American views. The proportions may be different but the principle, blaming a whole population’s belief on the actions of a small minority, is the same.

Clearly it is dangerous to ascribe the beliefs of a small part of a population to the population as a whole.

But this is the really stupid thing. Hamilton billboard graffiti artist clearly does not understand that Sikhs are not Muslims. So blaming them for the beliefs of a very small minority of Muslims is very silly because they are not Muslims. It is like blaming New Zealanders for something the Russians might have done.

Anyway I home Mr Yugrav Singh Mahil had a good campaign and I would be more than happy for him to be elected. Our democratic institutions should be representative and include representatives from all of our communities.

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