I have a nephew. He is an absolute darling. My sister visits twice a week and her hubby is often away on business so she spends a few days here while he’s off so I see him quite often. He’s this 7.5 year old little cutiepie that’s obsessed with Marvel Superheroes and loves collecting the various McDonald’s toy series.

Yesterday, he was hanging out in my room when he suddenly squealed and grabbed a book off my bed’s headboard/shelf. It was The End of India by Khushwant Singh, I’d been reading it a while back for something I had to write for class. He opened it and read the first line, something about 1947 he claimed, but his joy at the title bothered me.

“Why does the title make you happy?” I asked.

“because it means India is finished,” he said happily.

“But why is that a good thing?”

“Because Indians are bad!”

“Why? Why are they bad?”

“Because they beat us at the World Cup.”

“But that’s just a game, its not reason enough to hate a whole country, is it?”

“Plus they’re not of our religion either!”

It was at this point, that for the first time, I was actually disappointed by my Little Dude. The world cup thing, fine, he could easily pick that up from his family, hell even I was bummed out that we lost to India of all people. But the religous discrimination, that I’m certain he could not have picked up from his family. I know he’s just 7, but he’s a really precocious kid, so I knew he’d understand what I was about to say to him. I explained to him, in simple terms, that its bad to hate people because they’re of a different colour or religion. “Look at your khala for example,” I told him. “I don’t pray, I don’t follow religion, I’m not a proper Muslim. Do you hate me now?”

“But you pray, nana tells you to pray so you do it,” he said innocently.

“No, nana tells me to pray and I lie to him and say I did,” I explained, feeling mildly guilty at telling him that.

“But why don’t you pray? Don’t you fast?” he asked, blinking up at me with those big eyes of his.

“Because, I don’t want to, so I don’t. Does that mean you hate me too, since I’m not of your religion?” I asked him again.

“Nooo, you’re my cutiepie cool khala!” he said, hugging and kissing me.

I used my own example to explain that religion is not enough grounds for hating someone, and that Islam actually teaches you that all humans are created equal and you’re not superior to anyone on the basis of which book you follow or what colour your skin is. I mentioned the US civil rights movement, telling him about segregation and signs that would say, “No animals or blacks allowed.” This is the kid who actually understood the entire history of the Iraq war when I explained it to him, trust me, it wasn’t too much for him to take in.

“So what have we learned from khala today?” I finally asked him.

“That we can’t hate someone because they’re of a different religion, colour, or country, and the people who we should hate and fight against are the people that take away our rights and freedom,” he said hesitantly.

There are few moments in my life when I’ve felt like I’ve been worth something but at that moment, my heart swelled with pride at my Little Dude, for understanding the bigotry he’d been indoctrinated with, and at myself, for being able to teach him this.

I remember the day after Salman Taseer died, my journalism teacher took me aside and told me to lay off discussing topics like blasphemy since people were far too extremist nowadays. Faced with my despair, he told me that the only way a change can come is if we talk to people and explain them how and why they’re wrong, and that it would be a battle lasting years even, but this was the only way. “I don’t have to be here right now,” he told me solemnly. “I could easily be sitting inside an office right now. But I choose to be here, because I want to teach. That’s how you’re going to bring about a change.”

I remembered these words yesterday, and as my nephew giggled at the Bugs Bunny cartoon I’d put on for him as a reward for being a good boy, I prayed that I would be in his life long enough to protect his innocence, and from the poison that is spreading throughout our society today.

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Comments
    • Ghausia says:

      🙂 I figure, his generation will be drenched in hate and bigotry just like mine but no way am I letting my little dude be a little asshole like the rest of them. 😀

  1. Aww thats so cute Ghausia, I’m so glad you led him to see things in a less bigoted way. Its true, we need to start the change right when they’re still impressionable.

    • Ghausia says:

      He’s a darling. 😀 Little cutiepie tadpole with his big eyes shining behind his glasses lol. He’s too young to be lectured about not being a chauvinist, but at least in this sense I can protect him from our typical hate mindset.

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