Thursday, March 05, 2009

Xenophobia

On Friday, I read in Trud daily about a Moroccan soccer player currently engaged in one of the leading Bulgarian teams. The report wasn't about his performance on the field but about his driving with 0.12% alcohol in blood, crashing the car into a fence (happily, nobody was injured) and spending several hours in police custody. That wasn't his first offence of this sort. Bulgarians can read about the incident e.g. here.
Upon his release, the player was "greeted" by a pack of reporters, as any celebrity in his situation could expect. Some of their questions to him and his answers (when any) are published here. However, the Trud report listed also another question, which in various forms is repeated by various Web commenters:
"Why do you drink, after your religion bans alcohol?"
Eh well, I also hate drunken driving (though some of my best friends have been punished for it), I particularly dislike sport star drunken drivers after figure skater Maxim Staviski killed a man and left a girl in coma, I don't see any use of professional sport, I am outraged by the giant salaries of sport stars compared to the offendingly low salaries of people like me, and I don't wish in my country any guest workers from North Africa (for my new readers, I am an Islamophobe).
BUT. You may not, you just cannot look a survivor of Islam in the face and tell him that because he has had the poor luck to be born exactly in this religion, he is obliged to live by the rules of Sharia whenever this suits you.
I think this petty xenophobia reveals the spiritual vacuum of today's Europe that may eventually be the true reason for its demise.

6 comments:

shlemazl said...

Don't think the example fits your title.

Firstly, the question has nothing to do with ethnicity. It's about religion. Therefore it is not xenophobia in my dictionary.

Secondly, if the guy is indeed a practicing Muslim then the question is a reasonable one. The kind of question I would ask a Hasidic Jew if I were to see him eating pork.

And the salaries of sportsmen are fair. That's what the market conditions permit them to sell their labour for.

Maya M said...

I call "xenophobia" any dislike of other people based on a cultural difference, including religion. So of course I justify some examples of xenophobia - but not this one.
Nobody cared whether the guy was practicing his religion. I don't think he is practicing. They just wanted to keep him in the cage of Islam, for their convenience.
It is my impression that when people of Muslim origin do drink alcohol, they are much more likely to end in trouble than members of traditional drinking cultures. After all, we have been taught from age 11-12 what food is best to eat while drinking red wine and what with white wine etc. Nobody teaches Muslims these things, and their encounter with alcohol sometimes reminds me that of native Americans.
At the spontaneous "press conference" in front of the police station, the player said in broken Bulgarian that he had never wanted to be a star player for his Bulgarian team and that he wished to return home. He seems to have his own deep troubles where money is of no help.

shlemazl said...

I didn't drink at all until I was 20. Then a glass of champagne until ~25. Now I have a glass of red most days, but I have never been drunk and I have never drove having drunk.

As for xenophobia... It really is very important to differentiate between ethnicity/culture and religion.

Religion is world view/beliefs/ideology. It is something you can change on your own volition. It can be a set of beliefs that is moral or... not. It is exactly like communism. Is it xenophobic to be anti-communist?

Ethnicity is different. You can't change that. It does not cause you to be either moral or immoral. Xenophobia should never be confused with a dislike of nasty ideologies.

Maya M said...

To be precise, I think xenophobia is disliking some feature of some other people just because it is foreign, different from what you are used to. I think that I dislike Islam because it is nasty, some people say that it is due to xenophobia or even racism. I prefer not to argue with them on that but, rather, to point what I dislike in Islam.
What sort of people are the Hasidic Jews?
Anti-Communism can hardly be xenophobic because in which culture could it be xenophobic? I don't know a single society without believers in communism!

Charles N. Steele said...

"Xenophobia" means "fear of foreign things or people." Clearly it includes but is broader than ethnicity and religion. Your use of the word is right on target.

So is your post.

Maya M said...

Thank you!