Hate Is No Substitute

Don’t touch me with that barge pole.
The disease you fear in me might travel
down your arm through the fibres
of that deceased sliver of tree and
burn a dot on my arm.

Don’t squint at me through that pinhole.
Your face is contorted
all the beauty your mother kissed into it
wrung to angry creases.

Don’t throw darts at me from behind that wall.
Your dartboard lies behind you
inside you
a whole room of
poison-filled balloons
that need puncturing.

You see, I can shake off this shit
before it hardens and turns to
shit-hardened armour
I can soak my blood-sodden
rag of a heart
in rose water
cook it with comfrey
til it stitches itself back together
I can call up cool breezes
to blow away the debris
reveal sand-polished jewels beneath
I can open a window
onto the vacuum created
when intellect left the room
I can rebuilt the city left a
concrete skeleton
for as long as my time runs on

But your time is running out
and every day wasted in
smearing excrescences on your
neighbour’s car window
is another chance for joy
wiped away and
hate is no
substitute.

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Dear Bigot

Dear bigot
– sigh –
when you appear on TV
or write your editorials
or seize a woman’s hijab and deafen her
with a tirade on her lack of British values
– how very British of you! –
dear bigot, don’t you see?
The more strenuous your conviction
of Islam’s threat to humanity
the more your knowledge is shown to be phony,
your intellect imprisoned.
We can see it flailing about in there
behind a stiff, dyspeptic exterior
that flushes green at overt expressions of
Muslimness.
How many times a week do you have
falafels and batata harra
at the home of your Muslim neighbour?
When was the last time you popped into
Abdul’s Islamic Supplies
– undaunted by the white manniquins
in their sequin-encrusted abayas –
and stayed for a chai and a chat?
When you complain that Muslims aren’t
outraged enough about Isis,
count how many Muslims
you have befriended who might
litter your newsfeed with their grief.
We’re not just good for driving your buses,
for amalgaming your cavities
and selling you fags.
There’s a whole world
behind the undifferentiated
Islamic-hued masses
and for all you crow about
how deeply you’ve studied the subject
read those editorials
watched those war zone clips
tell me if you’ve ever asked
a flesh-and-blood Muslim what they think,
how they live, who they are.
Without those voices
your condemnations are
a drone strike on an unseen village
by a 19-year-old video game junkie
with a lethal excess of patriotism.
What does your myopia make you?
An ostrich, or a mole?
Look how your heart has been papier-mâchéd
with pages of The Telegraph!
Break out, dear bigot!
You aren’t so monstrous under all that crust,
and nor are we. See us:
we are human.
Allow room for our failings
and we can forgive your blindness, too.
We are only trying
still trying
always trying
to make things better.

(A poem prompted by this article by Juan Cole in The Nation.)

To Kill or Convert You

Hatred is a tide
that gnaws away at coastlines
salty teeth so fine you might
mistake it for subtlety.
But bitterness is never mild
just as acid always burns
and bigots pour their poison
into intellectual-sounding words
like ‘civilisation’
‘integration’ and
‘radicalisation’
to stun the seaweed
bobbing idly in the surf
infuse the fear into it
that some vile wave is rising over there
its colour bilious green
and even if it tells you it’s benign
enriched with algae to revive the earth
you mustn’t heed its lies:
it is bloodthirsty, heinous,
risen up from different lands
infested with parasites
designed to leech
your vital organs dry:
to kill or convert you.
Race from it as you would from a shark
fear it
spurn it
vilify it
warn the world about it
kill it before it kills you first.
The biosphere must have its predators and
in this one you are their prey.
This tide’s a spiral
pushing us apart and
driving us down deeper
into the blurring mud.
Once it was Jews
and Gypsies,
Negroes
and Natives,
Commies
and Draft-dodgers,
Gays
and Molesters.
Now it’s us,
the Muslims,
and this fresh wave we swim in
the water soaked into our cells is now
a tsunami threatening
to smash their homes to matchsticks.
Vague outrages that flare up
each time the words are spoken
dump blood into the sea
and choke the wildlife.

Hatred has always been a tide
stooping low at times
or breaking its banks
in the absence of truth.
I am learning to tread water
for the day it hits my roof.

To Kill or Convert You

Hatred is a tide
that gnaws away at coastlines
salty teeth so fine you might
mistake it for subtlety.
But bitterness is never mild
just as acid always burns
and bigots pour their poison
into intellectual-sounding words
like ‘civilisation’
‘integration’ and
‘radicalisation’
to stun the seaweed
bobbing idly in the surf
infuse the fear into it
that some vile wave is rising over there
its colour bilious green
and even if it tells you it’s benign
enriched with algae to revive the earth
you mustn’t heed its lies:
it is bloodthirsty, heinous,
risen up from different lands
infested with parasites
designed to leech
your vital organs dry:
to kill or convert you.
Race from it as you would from a shark
fear it
spurn it
vilify it
warn the world about it
kill it before it kills you first.
The biosphere must have its predators and
in this one you are their prey.
This tide’s a spiral
pushing us apart and
driving us down deeper
into the blurring mud.
Once it was Jews
and Gypsies,
Negroes
and Natives,
Commies
and Draft-dodgers,
Gays
and Molesters.
Now it’s us,
the Muslims,
and this fresh wave we swim in
the water soaked into our cells is now
a tsunami threatening
to smash their homes to matchsticks.
Vague outrages that flare up
each time the words are spoken
dump blood into the sea
and choke the wildlife.

Hatred has always been a tide
stooping low at times
or breaking its banks
in the absence of truth.
I am learning to tread water
for the day it hits my roof.

To Kill or Convert You

Hatred is a tide
that gnaws away at coastlines
salty teeth so fine you might
mistake it for subtlety.
But bitterness is never mild
just as acid always burns
and bigots pour their poison
into intellectual-sounding words
like ‘civilisation’
‘integration’ and
‘radicalisation’
to stun the seaweed
bobbing idly in the surf
infuse the fear into it
that some vile wave is rising over there
its colour bilious green
and even if it tells you it’s benign
enriched with algae to revive the earth
you mustn’t heed its lies:
it is bloodthirsty, heinous,
risen up from different lands
infested with parasites
designed to leech
your vital organs dry:
to kill or convert you.
Race from it as you would from a shark
fear it
spurn it
vilify it
warn the world about it
kill it before it kills you first.
The biosphere must have its predators and
in this one you are their prey.
This tide’s a spiral
pushing us apart and
driving us down deeper
into the blurring mud.
Once it was Jews
and Gypsies,
Negroes
and Natives,
Commies
and Draft-dodgers,
Gays
and Molesters.
Now it’s us,
the Muslims,
and this fresh wave we swim in
the water soaked into our cells is now
a tsunami threatening
to smash their homes to matchsticks.
Vague outrages that flare up
each time the words are spoken
dump blood into the sea
and choke the wildlife.

Hatred has always been a tide
stooping low at times
or breaking its banks
in the absence of truth.
I am learning to tread water
for the day it hits my roof.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.