Why do we feel the need to publicly shame others?

Earlier this week, an image went viral amongst British Muslims on social media, which showed bacon-flavoured crisps in a Ramadan promotional stand at a Tesco store in London. Many people who shared the image used it as an opportunity to mock the perceived cultural insensitivities of the company, but are we being arrogant in assuming that Tesco should be fully aware of the practices of 5% of the UK population?

And why did the image go viral in the first place? Surely the first person to have seen the Pringles should have spoken to the manager of that Tesco store and informed them about the mistake, so that they could have dealt with it quickly and quietly. What did people gain from sharing the image on social media?

For some reason, we seem to get a sense of glee and pride when we see other people making mistakes. But how many of us are genuinely without fault? Don’t most of us make mistakes on a daily basis? And whilst some of us might make fewer mistakes than others, why does that give us the authority to mock others because of their mistakes?

I’m reminded of the story from the Bible of Jesus and the woman who was brought to him because she had been accused of adultery. The people said she should be stoned, in line with the law, to which Jesus responded: “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” One by one, the people dispersed, leaving Jesus and the woman.

And for those Muslims who seem to think anything from the Bible is heretical, there is a common expression in Islam along similar lines: “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for him. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” (I’m not sure if this is an authentic hadith, but it has clear Islamic principles behind it.)

Where were the excuses made for the employee of Tesco that put the Pringles on the wrong shelf? How do we know what was going through his or her mind at the time? And again, what authority do we have to mock their mistake?

Please be aware that I’m not advocating for us to become a docile community that takes any old crap. Our community does come under attack from genuine cases of anti-Muslim hatred, but those don’t seem to be as popular as Smokey Bacon Pringles.

During the month of Ramadan, when fasting has been prescribed for Muslims, so that we may attain God-consciousness, I would advise everyone to perhaps think before they act.

(Submitted anonymously)

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