More from RELS 348: Empire, Colonialism, and Religion

Re: “Why thousands are standing behind one Muslim lawyer,” BBC, 12 October 2014

#Istandwithmariam is the hashtage used throughout Twitter to show support to Mariam Veiszadeh. Veiszadeh, a Muslim and lawyer living in Australia has received racist and abusive backlash from the online world for her act of calling out Woolworths for their ‘bigoted singlets” that had the slogan “If you don’t love it, leave” printed with the Australian flag on the clothing. Strong pride in nationalism is not a new phenomenon. It has a long history of strengthening large groups over a wide geographical area during good and bad times. On the other hand, overt slogans like the Woolworths one or other strong actions that may be intentionally meant for unification can actually cause ‘othering’ to minority groups or individuals who do not solely identify with the major identity indicator.

The backlash Meiszadeh has received from online haters has a long historical lineage with people who identify with a religion, cultural group, or heritage that is not the dominant one in their current residence. The dilemma of these groups, who do not completely mould into the perceived majority, or ruling class, is reminiscent of many of history’s Empires. The Mughal Empire, a Muslim dynasty that lasted almost 200 years, ruled a majority of Indian yet many Indians did not practice the Muslim religion. The Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th Century aimed at eliminating all religious groups, mainly Jews and Muslims, who did not convert to Catholicism, the official state religion. A more recent example of ‘othering’ and forceful conversion is the government of Canada and the First Nations people from the 1600-1900’s. Where residential schools were implemented to convert the Indigenous population to Christianity among other goals. The notion that these groups must fully convert to the streamlined version of nationalism or possibly be targeted creates great unrest.

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