Appearance Can Be a Life or Death Matter


Immediately when I heard about the attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin (USA), the first thought that came to my mind is that the shooter must have confused Sikhs for Muslims because they wear turbans and grow beards. There have been many similar incidents, one of them in 2002 when four teenagers burned down the Sikh temple Gobind Sadan in New York. The teens told authorities that they believed the temple was named “Go Bin Laden” (!!!)

Similarly, Christian figures and nuns may be mistaken for Muslims, with their loose outfits and head coverings. A picture taken in Jerusalem may confuse many, for it can be very unclear who is Jewish, who is Muslim and who is Christian. I have asked lots of my friends and they often think that the three Morrocan Muslim girls in this picture look more like Jewish women because of their headscarf style and their dress.

Almost everwhere I go in the world, people on the streets mostly call me Chinese. I have embraced a business idea of producing millions of T-shirt that say, “Everything is made in China. NOT ME!” and sell them to desperate and angry Japanese, Korean, Singaporean and Vietnamese tourists. I’ll probably be rich and earn enough money to travel more.
When I was in Syria lately, immediately upon stepping into a neighboring house, Abdullah my friend shouted out even before the host could see my face: “She is not Chinese!” Very wise of him, because the man we were visiting belongs to the opposition, who is of course very pissed off with China and Russia for their support towards Assad’s government.
Looks do matter, regardless of how superficial they are. Of course no one should be killed, and most religions have love and respect at their core. It can be detrimental and become a matter of dealth and life in this age of speed, in which people only have time to watch, not to think, and news is more important than knowledge.

2 thoughts on “Appearance Can Be a Life or Death Matter

  1. i am from Mumbai and in our local formal education system we have nothing on intercultural studies. study abroad is expensive. i request your suggestions on online tools or resources.

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  2. Thank you for your comment and question, and for helping the world to become a more inclusive, collaborative place. We are just releasing Cultural Detective Online, a tool that we have done our best to keep very affordable. Single user access for one full year, to over 50 complete packages, is priced at less than US$100.

    A terrific and free of charge resource is “What’s up with culture?”

    http://www2.pacific.edu/sis/culture/index.htm

    There you can find modules targeted to study abroad (pre-departure and reentry), but I believe you could well tailor them to cross-cultural experiences at home (visiting a temple or neighborhood other than your own, for example).

    Let me know if this helps, please. Good luck!

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