“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” ~ Max de Pree
Yesterday, on a whim, I posted a picture of an absurdly flavoured bar of Australian chocolate on my facebook page with the caption Dear Vegemite Chocolate, I love you. That is all. <3
I was not expecting much interaction, but this bizarre flavour combination certainly sparked some discussion.
Including a comment from someone who ‘would not buy Cadbury because their profits go to support halal…’
Now here’s the thing. I’m psychic. Psychic and highly empathic. And that one little comment had a motherload of emotional charge behind it. It was a charge so strong I couldn’t ignore it.
I asked the writer if they were unhappy about Cadbury having halal certified products. Although it was a courtesy. I knew the answer already. Yes, you could interpret that from their comments and angry emoticons, but I was also reacting to this aggression that sat behind the words.
Which made me sad. Very, very sad, because here I was posting a photo of a weird chocolate combo that had made me curiously happy, and here was someone being passive-aggressive about Muslims in my happy space.
In fact, this flood of emotion that hit me got me out of bed (I was trying to have an early night) and back down at my computer, after I had a conversation with my husband about the angry comment.
Boot them off, my husband said. Block them. Forget about it. Go and get some sleep.
But when I felt into the person who had written the comment, I knew that wasn’t the answer.
I tried a little humour first, mixed with some non-emotional fact.
Halal certification is a business decision that allows many Australian products to reach a wider export market. I have no problem with that. And if Muslims throughout the world can enjoy Cadbury Vegemite chocolate perhaps it will lead to greater cultural understanding and world peace. Yes, this chocolate is that good! It is just a little misunderstood.
That didn’t help. The person felt I was making my own comment based upon my ignorance. And I also knew that at the heart of their stance was this place of fear and judgement and anger.
I’d just wanted to talk about yummy chocolate. But instead I found myself thinking about friends here in Australia who own a dairy. I thought about all they had gone through after making a business decision to help their farm remain viable. I thought about my many friends and clients who are judged, alienated and misunderstood every day, and I knew I had to stay up, typing in my pyjamas, because I have values and I need to stand by those values.
I shared my story:
You’re entitled to your view, and you can vote with your dollar. Here’s my view: I have a friend who owns an Australian dairy. Times are hard for dairy farmers, when costs are rising and the product price in supermarkets is falling. Their family now exports milk to Malaysia, and they went through halal certification to help grow their business, which is a significant employer in a country area. Halal certification meant that their milk was proven to contain no alcohol, no pork etc. For this business decision my friends, their families and staff ended up with abusive phone calls, death threats, vandalism and other despicable acts.
If you buy a product that has the tick from the National Heart Foundation, that company PAID for that certification. Same with certified kosher, organic, halal, gluten-free and cruelty-free products. My friends include Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Druids, Gluten Intolerants, Disabled People, Aborigines, Gays, Lesbians and Transgender folk, Vegans, Vegetarians, Suburbanites, Greenies, Artists and Writers and Full-On Carnivores. I have already disclosed that I have friends with a Halal certified business. Our own business is certified organic. I have a friend who drives a Volvo. I also like Vegemite Chocolate. Some of this is pretty objectionable stuff. If you object to certification, fine. But if this is an anti-Muslim stance please defriend me and get off my page.
The person responded again, and I could feel the hurt in their response. They accused me of being irate and told me I could block them if I didn’t like what they liked, and that they were a very caring person with certain people.
And there, there was the crux of it. My initial feeling had been right all along.
Their first response to my delicious chocolate bar had been to be triggered into an anti-Muslim sentiment.
I slumped in my chair with the truth of it. Tears pricked my eyes. I do believe this person is caring. I am also sure that their world has seldom been enriched through meeting and getting to know people of different cultures and beliefs. Had they had that opportunity they wouldn’t be sprouting the kind of misinformed propaganda that floods facebook masquerading as fact, from which they had made their ‘authoritative’ comment.
I thought of how differently this post might have turned out if this person, some of my Muslim and other friends had been sat around my kitchen table, enjoying a cup of tea, sharing some food and talking, in the way of ordinary good people everywhere. Discovering how much we have in common, and how our diversity makes us such a rich and beautiful humanity.
My final response was this:
I’m not irate. Just saddened. You’re entitled to your views, as I said. But so am I. If you can only be caring to ‘certain people’, and the people you can’t be caring to include some of my friends, then I’m sorry, but I will stand up for those friends every time. I stand for inclusion, not intolerance.
After which, they apologised. Because I know, deep down, that this person holds that same value. That they will stand up for their friends.
So, that’s it.
I stand for inclusion.
I stand up for my friends.
I welcome you all to my table.
Kindness. Inclusion. Chocolate. Peace and Understanding.
20 thoughts on “Inclusion, Chocolate, Peace and Understanding”
Hello. I have just discovered your blog and it seems really lovely. I am looking forward to reading through it in more detail. I just wanted to comment on this post and give another angle to it. There is some controversy as to where the proceeds of halal certification go, which does not appear to have been fully clarified despite investigations and reports regarding this matter. Some people are not opposed to halal as such, and the inclusion of enabling Muslims to share the enjoyment of chocolate or whatever other product. What they object to is the possibility that the money goes to terrorist affiliated groups. Unfortunately when people have legitimate concerns based on real events taking place worldwide, voicing them can see them labelled as narrow minded, uneducated, bigoted, alarmist, etc. I do think is is entirely possible to be an inclusive, spiritual, loving person but also balanced and intelligent enough to have concerns about current events. I have Muslim friends, I eat Cadbury chocolate, but I don’t know the truth (neither do government investigators, although austrac and other authorities are monitoring the situation). Any concerns in that regard do have some justification and people voicing those concerns are not necessarily to be pitied, educated, persuaded and seen as lacking in love and light. Such comments are not necessarily anything to do with hating moderate Muslims, burqas, religious traditions or anything else, but may be logical, legitimate questions to which we all deserve answers. Susan
Well said Nicole. I totally agree!
Nicole I am so glad you blogged about this…. I happened across those comments on your fb page and I too, was shocked. Thank you for articulating tolerance and understanding so beautifully and with so much grace and respect. I too lost sleep thinking about those posts. It’s a worrying world we live in. So much love to you and yours xo
Ooooh so beautifully and lovingly written to allow all to understand the importance of knowing, understanding and acceptance.
I stand for chocolate too!! Well said as always Nicole. xxxxxx
I didn’t have chance to read this post yesterday but wow this morrning it packed some punches . I completely agree with your sentiment …here here !!!
This post also resonates with me, as I have a very dear dear friend that also has the same mentality as the person that posted. She is the most caring of people but where halal is concerned the blinkers are on. I am going to show her your post and hopefully open her eyes.
Bless you for your wisdom and loving nature xxx
A+ on this post. No one could have said it better and you may have just brought one more person into the light. This world was created with diversity and contrast as a way to keep it moving forward. If we can include them, maybe one day they will find no one left to hate. Fear is where so many are operating from.
Trust Vegemite to have brought out such growth.
. . .a flower placed in each of your hands
Wow. Im so silly I didnt realise the non Halal movement was racist based. I thought it was cruelty to animals based. And an objection to some of the Halal certification people’s tactics to bully businesses into paying for certification they dont want (isoloated cases – nothing to do with the race or the religion, more to do with a person using objectionable practice to increase their business locally). I will have to do more research. I read that being Halal is bad for the animals – cruel slaughter practice, cruel dairy practice. But I cant imagine any friend of yours standing for that just for a business decision. I will try to find a more detail explanation of it all.
as a first generation australian of european descent, raised in a country town with children of many other migrant families, i become disappointed to see and hear fearfilled and hateful comments regarding halal, the burqa and muslims in general. i do not understand the fuss.
my son is at a very multicultural school and has friends from many nations. some of his friends are muslim. my mother commented how lovely it is to see their families trying to fit in – ‘WTF!’ was my response.
one evening i had tea all cooked and ready for the kids to get home from their fitness session in the park when my son called to ask if there was enough food for another friend to come for tea. yes, there’s plenty. then a text message to ask if its halal. i had no idea.
my son made her nachos and they all sat around the table eating and joking, as teenagers do. i now know the butcher i use is halal certified but does not advertise. i am now better educated to ensure my table is inclusive.
i saw the comment last night and was a little surprised someone would post it in response to you finding a chocolate you liked. i’m sorry it caused you to lose sleep. i was so very glad your followers did not jump in, boots-n-all, to have it disintegrate into a free for all as i have seen on other sites.
i am still not inspired to pop chocolate, caramel and vegemite in my mouth.
*scratches my head. Mind boggling really. You dealt with this beautifully Nicole, with class as always.
I will say labels tend to separate and divide us. If only your ‘fan’ could remove that temptation to paint an entire group of people with the same brush. She’d no longer look for things that separate us from each other but things we all have in common. Rant over. That actually pissed me off! I’m almost 5 months pregnant and seem to get fired up with injustice lately more than normal.
Tolerance and inclusiveness – beautiful 😍
Thankyou, thankyou for your voice of reason. Mostly when Facebook friends post anti muslim things, I ignore it and post my ‘universal brotherhood’ ‘love-peace – mung beans’ stuff and I think they mostly ignore me too. But there are times when you really have to make a stand just like you have and perhaps offer a little understanding while doing so. Great post. Thankyou
This post resonates so strongly with me.
I grew up in a multicultural area and have always been open to learning about other cultures. I also grew up in an intolerant religious environment which judged people first and didn’t bother asking questions.
I became very close with a Muslim family several years ago to the point where they referred to me as their adopted daughter which I was proud to be. Whilst we’ve grown apart as people tend to do over time, I still care for and support whatever causes are important to them.
It enrages me greatly when people are especially prejudice to Muslims because I’ve seen and been part of an ordinary loving family that just happened to be Muslim.
The same thing goes for other groups that you’ve mentioned as well. Whilst I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting and befriending as many different cultural groups as I’d like to, I openly welcome the opportunity and hope that one day others will rise to the occasion as well.
Love your posts!
Thank you Nicole. Tears pricked my eyes too, reading this. Now I’m going to go and buy this Vegemite chocolate. I hear it is 1/2 price in Coles. If I like, it I’ll stock up.
Thank you for getting out of bed and for typing in your pajamas. Thank you for posting. Thank you for standing up. And thank you for being compassionate.
Blessings and love.
Amen….. that is sad, I send love and light to you, the person you were interacting with and your page. You handled that very well, now let’s talk chocolate, vegemite ….. no BUT marmite and chocolate…… that’s something that I would love to try xxxx
Coming from India, we are pretty accustomed to the diverse cultures that stretches across the land. Still its a fact that acceptance, in its complete sense, is yet to happen, be it even in a community or a suburb.One decisive wise person , at a time , can make a mighty difference tomorrow.I’m with you in on this – the universal law of inclusion.