Although I come from a somewhat conservative household, I used to hold a prejudice against religious people. In my mind, I’d stereotyped them as close-minded individuals, whose company is boring and religion-based. I gave no controlled thinking to the idea of individual differences, and instead, I automatically and unconsciously “grouped” being”religious” (whatever that even means) to being isolated, dissatisfied and unmotivated. I guess my attitude of grouping aligned with the Implicit Personality Theory. So anyways, I created several illusory correlations between devout individuals and certain traits. For example, I thought religious people were boring; and so, when I would interact with them, I would remain extremely silent and I would give one word answers. Not only was that a form of discrimination, but it was also a portrayal of the self-fulfilling prophecy: When people act towards others in a way that conforms their expectations of those people. Also, since some of the people were unaware of the existence of a stereotype threat, they would go on and on about God and their beliefs; I would use those conversations to confirm my stereotype.
Further amplifying my prejudice was perhaps the institutional discrimination that I observed at my school. There wasn’t really any institutional sexism, but it was more of discrimination against religious people. Most of the teachers employed were open-minded, and those who weren’t were either treated poorly and left, or they would give in to normative conformity. Most of them would change the way they dressed a little bit and they would carefully avoid certain topics of discussion. There was actually a religious girl with us who was the students’ scapegoat in a way, since any frustration or anger would be taken out on her, until she too changed her style of clothing, and became very cautious around people. Since I saw the same actions from those I interacted with, I strongly began to believe in out-group homogeneity. Eventually, that led to the ultimate attribution error, which in this case, was prejudice against anyone who publicly discussed religious matters. Despite all of these attitudes, however, I still displayed perfectly modern racism. I had not allowed myself to discriminate in any extreme or harmful way that would disclaim my “I’m unprejudiced” attitude.
One day however, I experienced mutual interdependence with extremely religious people, and although I was initially unwilling to be myself around them, I did not really have a choice. As our beneficial relationship continued, I was “shocked” at how alike we actually were; people didn’t necessarily have to be part of my in-group for us to share beliefs and ideas. As a result, I began to question my affectively based attitudes and stereotypes about religious people in a cognitive and controlled manner, and I understood how illogical my stereotypes were. Moreover, I realized that my correlations were extremely biased since my schematic definition of religious people was based on their attire, but what about religious individuals who don’t necessarily wear a veil or a abayah? And what about people who are veiled but aren’t religious? And what is “religious” anyway?
Below are images of stereotypes and discrimination in different parts of the world.