Hitler was a white supremacist Christian, that didn't make every god fearing, well meaning Christian to be a supremacist like him. Not every Tamils in Sri Lanka or India are suicide bombers. Not every atheists in Stalin's religion free mother Russia and now the defunct Soviet Union was as monstrous as him. These go on and on.
There are good and there are bad. Every culture, race, creed and nations have them. Good outweighs bad in exponential manner. In the past few centuries the world has achieved quite a lot in furthering modernity and civilization. Slavery is abolished. Even many feel compel to apologize historical misdeeds that their forefathers made in the name of lynching. "Blood libel" type of hideous episodes against the Jews and Gypsies are things of the past only, and hopefully will remain so from established governments and institutions. And there are more to be done in solving more acute inequality spread around in our visible world. But we have moved this experimentation of humanity far away from ancient and medieval horror, at least on paper. Through Bill of Rights, constitutions, United Nations charter, human rights laws, ensuring freedom, liberty and justice from underclass to higher class. We cannot afford to loose them. Even a tiny bit of infringement on liberties or instill hypocrisy in law may tantamount to be that small crack that may propagate to destroy the entire humanity in the end.
Terror cannot be overcome by further terror or injustice.
I am a lawyer, not a bomber
Asians should not be prejudged because of the way we lookRabinder Singh
Saturday August 6, 2005
GuardianAn open letter to the person I sat opposite on the train yesterday.
Yesterday I sat on my commuter train and you were already sitting there in the seat opposite. Your eyes were closed. You must have been tired. Then you opened your eyes and you saw me. You got up and moved to the next carriage. Perhaps you wanted some privacy or did not want to disturb me with a mobile phone call. Or perhaps you were afraid of me ...
That would not surprise me. Some people say that the police should stop and search people who look "Asian" or "Muslim" at underground stations. In fact I am not a Muslim, I am a Sikh, but it does not matter - I still look suspicious to some. They say that only young men are like the suspects, but I have heard of women being stopped.
I share your fears. I do not want to die a horrible death any more than you do. I have a family to look after - perhaps you do too. You know so little about me - I wish we could have chatted and perhaps we might have realised what we have in common. All I ask is that you do not prejudge me. That is what "prejudice" means: to prejudge someone simply because of what they look like.
What can I say? On the television everyone is talking about what it means to be "British" and the end of multiculturalism. You may not think I look British but I feel British - I am a British Asian, or British Sikh if you like. If I go to India they know I am not one of them - they can see me coming a mile off. I like Indian food but so, I think, do you. And I also like Italian food, and Chinese, and bagels ...
I don't particularly like Bollywood, but apparently enough people in the area where I live do like it because they show Hindi films at the local cinema. By the way, in case you were wondering, it is not in Southall - in fact most of our neighbours are white, although one is from Norway and another American. I don't think people ask them: "What are you doing here? Are you British?"
I do not go to the gurdwara very often but I do believe in God and I am proud of my heritage - I respect my parents and the tradition they came from. I do not think God would want us to hate each other because of the way we look. And I certainly cannot accept that God wants us to kill innocent people.
But we have to care about innocent people everywhere - in Iraq and Chechnya as well as in New York and Madrid and London. I am not a pacifist, but I do believe in the principle of nonviolence. Only in the last resort could it ever be justified to use violence, when there is no other way open to defend ourselves or to protect others. You may have heard of Mahatma Gandhi. He was not British. In fact he used the principle of nonviolence to help push the British out of India. I think he was an inspiration to everyone; I think you might agree.
I am a lawyer, by the way. What do you do? In my work I sometimes represent the government. Not just the present government; I used to represent the last Conservative government in court too. But I also sometimes defend the rights of individuals who are pretty unpopular. That's my job. They may be asylum claimants or gay people. They may even be suspected of terrorism. I don't think suspending the Human Rights Act is the answer to the terrorist threat. The act is not part of the problem. It is part of the answer. It represents what we stand for - democracy and the rule of law.
Some people say we should not let the terrorists win; we should carry on as normal. But they seem to be the first people to say that we should get rid of these laws that "get in the way". In the way of what? Do we want people locked up in prison for years without ever being charged, let alone convicted? If it happened somewhere else, I think you might write a letter for Amnesty International demanding their release. But it happened here - until the law lords said it was incompatible with human rights.
These are not some foreign laws. British lawyers helped to draft the European convention on human rights, which was "brought home" by the Human Rights Act. And it is based on British notions of fair play going back to Magna Carta. Yes, I do know about these things and I do care about them. Shakespeare, John Locke and Tom Paine. They have made me who I am. They were as British as I am.
Maybe I am not what you think I am. Remember, we are all individual human beings, with our hopes and dreams; we all have our faults but are basically good, I think, and try to do the right thing. It's what is inside us that really matters, not the colour of our skin or what we wear. I do not ask you to agree with me about everything. But I do ask: please do not prejudge me because of the way I look.
· Rabinder Singh QC is a barrister at Matrix Chambers and a visiting professor of law at the LSE