When I am abroad (and of course also when I am back home) I try to keep updated on what is going on by reading a variety of online news in the languages I know and by browsing through my FB page. The view I get when being abroad is that of a huge distance between me and what is going on in Europe, while when I am in Europe I feel that I am in the middle of what is happening and can easily get carried away by newspaper headlines and the general mood.
I am abroad now, far away from Europe and am living (for a few months) in a small country (Singapore) where people of many different cultures, ethnicity, languages, religions, background, and preference of food are living together in harmony. People dress the way they want, eat the food they want to eat, and pray where and when they want to pray. I could walk around in shorts, in a hijab or in a business dress and no one would look strange at me; I can eat Chinese or Indian food for breakfast, halal food for lunch and a burger for dinner; and I can go to a temple in the morning or pray five times a day and no one would think that this is strange.
The obvious success of Singapore with its just over 5.5 million inhabitants actually builds upon this racial, ethnic, cultural and religious harmony, which is praised as something really special and very important. From this view point, the various discussions and events in Europe (as perceived from my newspaper readings) come across as totally strange. Of course I am still very shocked by what has happened in Paris, but I am also always deeply shocked whenever I read about what is going on in Nigeria or in the Middle East, or elsewhere. But I am even more shocked by the negative opinions and the hate that are circulating in social media and by the way newspapers and politicians contribute to stirring up these feelings.
Let me however make one thing clear so that I am not misunderstood: I detest all kinds of violence, I think wars and atrocities committed between people are the most terrible things I can think of. I think wars are mainly being fought because they are big business (so much money can be made from producing the never ending amounts of weapons). I also think that religion and politics must be separated and that religion is each person’s own private matter. And, I think that violence just leads to more violence and that hate leads to more hate. What seems to be going on in Europe right now certainly does not give me a good feeling.