From the dictionary:
Guilt by association - guilt ascribed to someone not because of any evidence but because of an association with an offender.
In other words guilt by association means that, by helping crime directly (providing shelter and a hideout, supplying with ammunition and firearms, intelligence gathering...) and also by not reporting a crime, after having witnessed one, a person can be associated with the criminal and treated as such.
Recently, images like the following are floating around the internet:
The pictures above are presumably showing people a few years back in ISIS or Al-Qaida and then, a few years later they were recognised somewhere in Europe as a refugee. The goal of those images is to show how easy it is to change an outfit and blend in among ordinary people. Following the same logic, it would be dangerous to let refugees enter the country.
For the sake of argument, we will say that both soldiers are genuine former soldiers of what is identified as a terrorist organisation, ignoring that the uniforms were not typically black, as ISIS soldiers have, and that ISIS has not captured the white reporter in those photos and executed him, as they usually do.
Now, the question we need to answer is this: does this make all refugees from these countries of origin also terrorists?
Imagine a town in Syria — for instance, Aleppo: if there is one Daesh soldier in some building, should we level the entire building? Should we level an entire city block and all the civilians in it?
If the answer is “yes,” then shouldn’t we use the same logic in Boston or Chicago, when some random member of the mafia kills or kidnaps someone? Shouldn’t we send drones to level entire city blocks?
Those civilians surely cannot be innocent!? They probably know something about the assassin.
By the same logic, in order to eliminate a kidnapper, should we blow up the kidnapped airplane, along with all of the hostages?
Eric and Dylan were lovely boys, but, one day, something snapped in their brains, and they killed 13 and injured 24 people — all students of the Columbine High school. Now, tell me: should their parents and family serve a lifetime or be executed, because they were directly associated with them? They provided food, shelter, and even gave them the money they used to buy guns. Should we extend this list to neighbours? Neighbours said they were lovely boys, and that they cannot explain what happened. Why should we trust them — they probably knew something, but they were protecting them.
Sadly, more and more voices like Milo Yiannopoulos — in the following video, “America does not need mass Islamic immigration” generalises the matter, furthermore saying that all Muslims are the same.
So, there is that argument that “If 25% of cereals in your bowl are poisons, would you eat from that bowl?”
Well, I know one thing: people are not cereals, and this is why that metaphor is wrong:
Do you remember Anders Behring Breivik? He was a quite nice Norwegian, until, one day, 22 July 2011, he woke up and blew up government buildings in Oslo, and then he sailed to Utøya Island, killing a total of 77 and injuring 319 — all of his fellow Norwegian countryman.
By the logic of cereals, if only one cereal flake is a deadly poison, and you do not know which one, would you eat from that bowl? So, should we ban all Norwegian from coming into the country, since we surely do not know which of them can be the next Breivik?
Furthermore, can anyone guarantee that, even if they ban entrance to all refugees, the terrorists will not go to neighbour countries that are not subjected to the ban, connect with the underground, take real papers with a fake history (by bribing corrupt officials), and again arrive legally into the country they want to attack?
And what about Hitler? He was German, and he was responsible for millions of deaths; shouldn’t we ban all Germans from entering the country?
To make this matter even worse, Hitler was “Christian.” Should I mention, Breivik, too?
Now, someone could say, “But Hitler was a Nazi.”
What is the difference?
We can say that ISIS-Muslims were similar to Nazi-Christians, but Christian is not equal to Nazi in the same way as ISIS is not equal to Muslim.
There is a difference between saying (declaring) “I am Christian” and actually being Christian; there is a huge difference between what the teachings say and how different people interpret them, but that is a whole other story.
Why is this generalisation so dangerous?
It puts expectation on people. When we equate a person, group of people, or entire religion with criminals, we are saying that they are no better than those criminals. We are placing them in the same basket, and we treat them the same, therefore creating a situation where victims starts behaving as criminals, instinctively trying to protect their own lives. This is the main reason why this type of rhetoric is fuelling the hatred.
Imagine you live in a 13-story building. Inside of it, in some flats, there are a few drug dealers. As it happens, you have lived there for a while, but you do not know anyone there. Being busy and minding your own business, you have never met the people around you. Now, the police raided the entire building, and they convicted you, as well. You are trying to explain, but they do not want to listen. So, they put you into jail. You have been there for 2 years, with all kinds of criminals, and you barely survived. Now, when you get out, you don’t have a job, and your friends and everyone else do not believe you were innocent. At that point, your life is a nightmare, no one wants to hire you, and you are struggling for survival. You are thinking you were better off in prison — at least you had food and a place to sleep. In prison, you met Joe and Mike; they helped you to survive while you were inside. You are turning to them, and they offer you to be a drug dealer.
Remember, you are starving at this point; would you accept their offer?
Now, try imagining how it would look if you were a parent to two children who have not eaten anything for several days, and you do not have anything to give them. In addition, bullets are almost constantly flying over your head. Somehow, you have found a way to escape, and now you are sailing on the sea on a raft with 50 other people, and you know that if the weather gets worse at any moment, that handmade raft will sink. Then, after several days, when you get to the other shore, people there will deny you entrance. They will deny shelter, food for your children — those same people you hoped were fighting on your side, wishing you well. Also, it happens, by the game of chance, that the governments of those countries were the ones that supplied guns to the ISIS rebels — the ones you despise from the bottom of your heart for everything they represent. On the way back, one of your children has not survived, and the other was killed by a shell after you arrived.
What would you do? What army would you choose to join?There are very small chances you will befriend someone by insulting him — saying he is ugly, stupid, or a bad person, so why are you doing it, then?
Being born Syrian, Iraqi, Muslim, or any other distinction — many cannot easily change their nationality or religion without being condemned by their own people. So, by labelling everyone as bad people, they are left without a choice, as they have been marked as guilty without a chance to explain themselves — without a chance to justify their actions.
People can be changed only by showing them love and kindness, not hate. Hate just creates more hate.
I know that it is not possible to reason with someone who does not want to learn or be reasoned with, and I know this is difficult to communicate. It is even harder to follow a complex argument. Many just want to blame someone for the problems they have in their lives. Putting on labels is easy; we just need to say, “S/he is Muslim, Islam is a bad ideology, therefore Muslims are all bad.” It is easy to crucify someone and punish.
Same as with everything, to hate and destroy does not require effort.
To create and love does, but only in the beginning — until you learn how.