Off Beat Opinion

Unveiling the Shadows: My Encounter with Hate and Stereotypes

Hate is a four-letter word, but when it spreads, it leaves nothing but chaos and despair in its path.

Hate is a four-letter word, but when it spreads, it leaves nothing but chaos and despair in its path. I am Zaina Afzal Kutty, and this is the story of how I realized hate.

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A while ago, I went house-shopping and looking for flats with my family in the place where I live—the small town of Vasai. No, looking for a flat isn’t an unusual thing, but what felt different that day was the fact that I was a Muslim.

A little backstory about me: I come from an interreligious family background, where I was always taught that humanity was the biggest religion of all. But on that day, I saw how my religion was the biggest fear for humanity.

Being cooped up in the safety bubble of my secular family, I never quite experienced or realized how difficult it was outside the four walls of my home. I didn’t realize how my religion was termed as my identity, not my qualities as a person or my achievements. What shocked me to the core was how normally people I talked to reacted to this story.

Coming from a mixed religious background, as I mentioned earlier, I never quite fit completely in with just one. According to the ‘stereotypes,’ I wasn’t a full Muslim nor a complete Catholic. When people learned about my core religion, I was always met with remarks saying that I don’t ‘look’ like a Muslim. Similarly, when I refused to follow some Muslim practices, people always excused it by saying it must be because of her influence from her Christianity.

Being a kid, I never quite understood what they meant, and I always defended myself by saying, “So what? My parents encouraged me to practice both religions and that, be it anyone, the teachings of all were the same.”

As I grew older, I saw that not everyone is as lucky as me. Not everyone is wrapped up in this safe bubble like me. The Lady of Justice has her eyes blinded so she couldn’t differentiate between anyone, but today we, as humans, have our eyes blinded; hence, we differentiate everyone.

The easiest defense I could give about it is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word ‘terrorist.’ If the first thing that comes to your mind is ‘Muslim,’ then, my friend, welcome to the world of hate crime.

The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. When these stories become the basis of the narratives of people’s actions, that is when hate ignites in one’s heart.

Hate is such a thing that never stops at one place; it takes its victims one by one. It’s like a black hole that never gets full. When hate rises, humanity gets lost in its darkness. Hate is like a fungus; it grows on every living being and slowly deteriorates to its core. Hate revolves around the earth; today, if there is darkness in one religion, tomorrow it might be in the other one.

Today, our country has been blinded by hate so much that we have forgotten that we are all humans who bleed and breathe the same. No one but the people in power benefit from hate, but they forget that power is a throne that doesn’t last in one hand for a long time. In the race to be the superpower, we have become mere puppets who put on our blindfolds and attack our master’s commands.

On that day during the house-hunting, I realized that no matter how successful I become, as long as the devil of hate crime looms over society, I will never be just Zaina Afzal Kutty; I will be Zaina Afzal Kutty, a ‘Muslim’ to this society.


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