Thursday, September 13, 2012

When righteous indignation is not righteous at all

"Do they even know their faith or the Prophet they claim to defend?"  That is what comes to my mind when I see the rioters in the Middle East around the American embassies protesting a disgusting movie made to insult Islam and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

There has not been a moment of boredom in the new Egypt and other Arab countries following the 'Arab spring'.  Let us pray things may eventually end up well, and there is still hope.

But the long history of oppression, ignorance and the lack of trust by the people in their own governments and in the world at large, are hugely compounded by extreme social and economic hardships. Anger at the world and at life takes unfortunately a hyper-religiosity path in a place where 'life on this earth' does not offer much for the youth to look forward to, and nothing to lose.

Criminals prey on this anger and hyper-religiosity, and the outcome is what we witness off and on: random violence against the innocent, and criminal acts that added up to the murder of our American ambassador, a fair, friendly and an upright human being by all of what I have read, the late ambassador John Christopher Stevens, and three of his aides in Benghazi, Libya.

I and every one I have been in touch with, here and in Egypt, have been very distressed and hurt by what happened.  But it is even more maddening that the 'righteous indignation' that those killers and rioters appear to express is not even acceptable by the same religion they claim to defend.

I am mad at the idiot rioters in Egypt, Libya and Yemen 'defending' Islam and the Prophet by means that neither God nor the Prophet would approve,  I did a quick search and compiled a short list of 'anti-anger', pro-tolerance and forgiveness sayings from the Quran and the Prophet's sayings.

For me, this is just another demonstration of the distance between the faith teachings, and Muslim's practices, a dichotomy that underlies most if not all of our problems in the Arab and Muslim world.

Here is what I found on very quick search.  There are many more Quranic verses that convey the same sentiment, but this was not meant to be a comprehensive collection – just a sampler.  These Quranic verses are encouraging patience, forgiveness and benignly ignoring the non-violent enemies and abusers:
(25:63)  وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
For, [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the foolish address them, reply with [words of] peace;

(7:199)  خذ العفو وأمر بالعرف وأعرض عن الجاهلين
MAKE due allowance for man's nature,  and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant."

(23:96)  ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ السَّيِّئَةَ نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَصِفُونَ
[But whatever they may say or do,] repel the evil [which they commit] with something that is better: We are fully aware of what they attribute [to Us].

(41:34)  وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil) with something that is better - and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend!

Prophetic narrations (sayings of prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) echo the same Quranic sentiments.  There has been enough incidents in his lifetime that makes it clear that he lived by his own teachings.  That is not surprising of course as the Quran was his moral fiber ("كان خُلُقُه القرآن"), as his wife Aisha was narrated to have said.
الغضب يفسد الإيمان كما يفسد الصبر العسل
Anger spoils Faith as bitter aloe spoils honey.

من كف غضبه ستر الله عورته
He who restrains his anger, gets God to cover for his sins

ليس الشديد بالصرعة ؛ إنما الشديد الذى يملك نفسه عند الغضب
The strong among you is not the one that wins the fight; it is the one that restrains himself when angry

إن الغضب جمرة توقد في القلب
Anger is red-hot piece of charcoal that burn your heart.

وإذا غضبت فاسكت
And if you feel angry, shut up

أشدكم من غلب نفسه عند الغضب وأحلمكم من عفا عند القدرة
The toughest among you is the one that conquers his own anger, and the wisest among you is the one that forgives when he is capable of punishing.
 After you read this, do those rioters seem to know the faith they seem willing to sacrifice life and limb to 'defend'?


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trial of the Century in Egypt botched by the village idiots

You all probably know by now that the so called trial of the century for Mubarak, the deposed president f Egypt, his Minster of Interior, Al-Adly, Mubarak's children and 6 most senior assistants of the Minister of Interiors has ended with a fizzle.
Mubarak and al-Adly received life sentences (that I am certain will be reversed on appeal), and ALL the others got acquitted.

A lot of Egyptians are mad as hell.  Count me one of those for many reasons.  Reading the reasons for judgments (حيثيات الحكم) is enough to get one's blood pressure go through the roof.

I am cutting and pasting here from my facebook comments on the subject with some thoughts and feeling about the trial. So, excuse me if it is coming across choppy.
سماع و قراءة حيثيات الحكم في قضية "القرن" تثير الغثيان. ما هو قدر عدم الكفاءة المطلوب كي تصبح احد اعضاء النيابة الخمسة في اكبر قضية في تاريخ مصر و العالم العربي؟ بيدو ان اي قدر من الكفاءة سيكون من معوقات الحصول علي الوظيفة. أرشح اعضاء النيابة في القضية لجائزة عبيط القرية الاول.
Reading or listening to the Reasons of Judgement in the so-called "Egypt's trial of the Century"  is simply nauseating.  How much ineptness does it take to qualify for a prosecutor's position? It seems clear that any degree of legal proficiency is a great impediment to getting a position as a prosecutor (النيابة).
I know it sounds strange at this time (since all Egypt is mad at the judge), but I kind feel bad for the presiding judge, Rifaat. Without proofs what was he supposed to do? My gut feeling, he took it on his own to give the top 2 accused (Mubarak and Adly) a guilty verdict with life sentence because he simply could not let them go. It was distasteful by all moral standards to let them go.  He just could not stomach it, even though he was not provided with any material proof. If the evidence is as meager as was seen on TV during some of the last few public sessions and as per his ruling statements, he probably would have had to give them all innocent verdict if he wanted to be legally in the clear.
For those non-Arabic speakers who followed the so-called "trial of the century" of Mubarak and his security assistants, but could not read the reason of verdict, here it is: 

The reasons for judgement provided by the judge for acquitting the 6 most senior assistance of the minister if interiors included the following: no material evidence linking would of the dead and injured to the weapons of the police, no evidence of communication (wired or wireless) between the acquitted leaders and their troops re the actions taken, no reliable weapons, ammunition or recovered bullets linking any police weapons to injuries (in a case that included including charges for the death of 850 Egyptians and injuring/assaulting 7000 others over 17 days of assault on the unarmed demonstrators, the prosecutors presented 4 guns and about 10 bullets in total). 
Prosecution witnesses were all deemed unreliable with past history perjury for some and previous media releases of suspicious nature for others.
The village idiots (playing the role of the prosecution) also filed the abuse of power and embezzlement charges against the children of Mubarak AFTER the statute of limitations has expired.  They actually chose - of all the corruption charges possible against Mubarak and his family after 30 years in power - to present a charge that has expired.  an no one notice that over the 10 month trial till the verdict was released less than 24 hours ago 
Prosecutors positions in Egypt are some of the most privileged and prestigious positions in the government.  It secures a life-long guaranteed career of financial comfort in a position of power, total immunity from nearly anything, and and easy access to a judge positions after few years.  As you would have imagined, they were exclusively filled with the children of the rich and powerful, especially in the higher-ups in the military, police and judiciary. Moreover, Law school of Egypt is not like hear: it takes the BOTTOM tier of students, so we are not starting with the creme de la creme anyway.
And I have to finish in a lighter note, otherwise I will have to bang my head into the wall.

And the Village Idiots prize of the Century goes to... the 5 members of the Egyptian prosecution in the trial of the century.
Egyptians are expecting to have many more days and months of turmoil. Tens of thousands are back into the Tahrir square. I do not know how much more blood would be shed before they start getting any breaks.
May God help us all.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Islamic Parties may rule Egypt, but Islam does not

The political situation in Egypt is very depressing for me and for most of the Egyptians I know, both in Egypt and out outside it.  The most obvious reason for that is the total lack of transparency in the political scene, combined with near total lack of credibility in Egyptian media.

Poor credibility, lack of political integrity and absent strategic vision taint the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Salafi Islamic parties,  as much as it taints the more secular, progressive and liberal groups.  Most Egyptians I interact with, which – for full disclosure – is not a representative sample of all Egyptians, feel totally lost.  They have no one that speaks for them, and no clear political figure that they trust.

I have no trust in  the ability of Islamic-leaning parties  to lead politically, yet I have to admit that the election that brought them to power was technically fair election for the most part.  They control 70% of the seats in the parliament: 45% for MB, and about 25% for Salafi groups.  The secular, liberal and progressive groups suffered humiliating loss garnering less than 20% of the votes.  The remaining 10% or so belong to Wafd Party that truly is a Machiavellian Chameleon that is hard to classify politically, and I personally would not rust with a penny.

And even though I am a believer in Islam and a practicing Muslim, I have to admit: I do not like any groups to rule in the name of religion, any religion.  But, in Egypt, that was the people's choice – like it or not.

But I am stull disturbed, and confused, but the results of Egyptian elections.  And here is why.
Nearly 70% of Egyptians voted willingly to be governed by parties with some version of Islamic ideology.
But, Islam is big on deeds – not words.
Quran 9:105 "And say: ‘Work (righteousness): Soon will God observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers: Soon will you be brought back to the Knower of what is hidden and what is open: then He will show you the truth of all that you did.’"
"وَقُلِ اعْمَلُواْ فَسَيَرَى اللّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ"
In Islam, you are supposed to do your work to the BEST of your ability.
"God loves, if one of you is doing something that they should perfect it".  A saying by Prophet Muhammad pbuh.
ان الله يحب اذا عمل احدكم عملا ان يتقنه""
In Islam, you should honest in your testimony, fair even to those that treat you with hatred.
Quran 5:8 "O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for God in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to God. Lo! God is Informed of what ye do."
"يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ لِلّهِ شُهَدَاء بِالْقِسْطِ وَلاَ يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُواْ اعْدِلُواْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ"
In Islam, you are supposed to not take, give or mediate for a bribe.
Quran 2:188 "…  nor seek by [your wealth] to gain the hearing of the judges that ye may knowingly devour a portion of the property of others wrongfully."
"وَلاَ تَأْكُلُواْ أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُواْ بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُواْ فَرِيقًا مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالإِثْمِ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ"
Or as the Prophet, pbuh, said "God's curse is on the one that gives a bribe, and the one that takes a bribe"
"لعنة الله على الراشي والمرتشي"
In Islam, you are supposed to care of you fellow society members as you care for your own family.
"Believers are like one body; if part of it is sick, the rest of the body responds to it with fever, and sleeplessness" ".  A saying by Prophet Muhammad pbuh.
"المؤمنون كالجسد الواحد  اذا مرض عضو منه تداعى له سائر الجسد بالسهر و الحمى"
In Islam, you are supposed to be fair, equitable, charitable, tolerant, non-argumentative, kind and merciful.
Quran 3:134 "Those who spend (of that which God hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; God loveth the good;"
"الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاء وَالضَّرَّاء وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ"
And Quran 42:40  " But requiting evil may, too, become an evil: hence, whoever pardons [his foe] and makes peace, his reward rests with God - for, verily, He does not love evildoers."
"وَجَزَاء سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ"
In Islam, you are supposed to put your faith to work.  And when you do that, the society you live in transforms into a society where life is worth living and you become the envy of the world.

Well, Egypt is far from that enviable society.  That make me, and many others, wonder: if 70% of Egyptians voted freely for someone that declares Islam as a reference ideology, how come that Egypt is in the deep social, moral and economic trouble it is deep in?

And more importantly, if Islam-based political powers, be it Salafi movements or the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood are really keen on repairing and healing the society, rather that just being power hungry, how come they have not initiated nation-wide Islam-based campaigns encouraging their voters - the huge 70% of the population - to correct the social and moral evils that plague Egypt rather than focus on getting votes of those that responded to political Islamic slogans with no desire or intention to live Islamic morals rather that just vote for the candidate with Islamic slogan?

People of God care more - or should care more - about goals of religion and not about political positions.  If they control the hearts and minds of that huge segment of the population, why have not we seen any real change into the why their followers lead their lives?  If they do have that power over people and their use it for good, Egypt will be rebuilt and become great, even if there is not a single Islamic party in the parliament.
Unfortunately, Egyptians may have voted for Islamic parties to rule Egypt, but not for Islam.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

'Religious' road to hatred and How the Quran sees the 'other'

Edited portions of a speech I gave before a church in St. Louis, Missouri,  on the 10th annual remembrance of September 11 Events
September-11 did not change the face of the world.  It just made it easier for a lot of ugly feelings and restrictive policies to come to the surface in an explicit and unashamed way, sadly with very little resistance from us – the people, wherever in the world we live - out of a combination of fear and ignorance.
For some,  perhaps many on ALL side, the hatred that has become easier to show was appealing, especially for those who see the world in only two tones: black and white; arch-enemies and dear friends, or simplistically; us and people who look like us on one side, and the 'different ones' on the other side.
That simple-minded world view is a trait of 'splitting personality'.  It is a personality defense mechanism that is sometimes more convenient than learning to understand the world the way it really is: a continuum of shades of gray that are in a never ending flux.

The Religious Road to Hatred
Religion was meant to be a message of thoughtfulness and peace, and a source of comfort from God.  But it turned out that enterprising humans found religion to be an effective tool in achieving their ungodly goals using unsuspecting masses of the faithful; sometimes as warriors in an army, perceived to be the army of God.  At other times, the clever entrepreneurs use religion to help get the faithful out of the way (i.e., not resisting an evil agenda) while that agenda of the clever ones is being completed.
The most effective religious tool used to achieve those goals is to teach us that our eternal salvation, as well as our worldly well-being, is mutually exclusive with that of our enemy.  Our enemy is defined as those that have a different set of values, or those who follow a different belief system.
Self-serving agenda of the entrepreneurs' could thus be presented as a mean to serve God, and that for God to like us, we need to oppose his enemies, Hate of fellow humans on the other side of the religious fence becomes something not to be ashamed of, but rather an act of devotion to God.
The simple religious idea of judging people by what they do (a widely held moral concept) is not strong enough to rally the troop, or to incite hate against others.  That simple idea had to morph into a simplistic but more captivating idea: judge the others by what they believe in and mostly by what you think they believe in.
Judging me by my deeds takes time and effort.  You will need to observe me, analyze how my circumstances influenced my behavior, and weigh my intentions. In other words you need to know about me before you make your judgment.  This is the kind of due process we extend even to a person caught while firing the gun at the heart of an unarmed person.
But judging me by my beliefs, or by what you think my faith teaches me, is a lot simpler, and a lot less work.
A case in point is that of an excited fellow American who once confidently put it on TV: I knew all that I needed to know about Islam at the moment when the plane hit the tower on September-11.

The 'Other' in the Quran
Burnt copy of the Quran
What God tells us in scripture is good not only because it is Divine but also because it will help us build a world for all God's creatures to live in balance and harmony without aggression or oppression.  At least, that is the dream.
And if believers can live the universal message of 'live, do good and let live', and if they do not let differences in terminology and rituals get in the way, then faith in God would be the most positive force in the history of mankind.
But such tolerant concept does not work well for some of us: especially those who think of faith as a tool to rally the faithful so the leaders can gain more power, more followers and even more territory.
Also, for some of the faithful unfortunately, such material success is a sign they need in order to know their faith is the correct faith.  Fancier and more crowded house of worship tells them that God likes them more, thus they must be on the right path.
So, and over the years, some so-called 'religious thought' leaders transformed God from the universal Deity for all those who believe in a wise benevolent Creator into a god that officially sponsors a specific group: frequently a ritual-based group, but in many instances the group's admission criteria are racial or ethnic.
To clarify where my faith, Islam, stands on this issue, today I will speak as a Muslim referencing simple face-value interpretation of some relevant Quranic verses about 'the other'.
If we all agree to race with each other towards doing good things and let God settle our difference later (i.e., in the life after), we will live a good life, enjoy each others' company and still maintain our independence as we practice our chosen religion - freely and peacefully.
That last sentiment is not only echoed in the Quran, but it is there stated almost verbatim:
Quran 5:48
  • "… For each, God have appointed a divine law and a traced-out path. Had God willed He could have made you one community.  But He has made you as you are so that He may try you by that which He has given you. So vie one with another in good deeds. Unto God you will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein you differ."
In the context of God instructing Muslims not to show disrespect for other people's beliefs and deities, even if Muslims thought of them as idols, the Quran tells us that each of us is strongly attached to our chosen belief system.  We cannot help it – this is how He created us.
Quran 6:108:
  • "Revile not those unto whom they pray beside God lest they wrongfully revile God through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have God made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do."
And regardless of what Muslims feel to be the right path to follow, their only duty is to deliver a message:
Quran 3:20
  • "So if they dispute with you, say: ‘I have submitted My whole self to God and so have those who follow me.’ And say to the People of the Book and to those who are unlearned: ‘Do you also submit yourselves to God?’ If they do, they are in right guidance, but if they turn back, your duty is to convey the Message…"
Quran 5:99
  • "The Apostle is bound to do no more than deliver the message [entrusted to him]: and God knows all that you do..."
Such understanding that truth is in the eye of the beholder, and that only God can hold us to account, leads to the concept of freedom of faith.
Speaking of those that reject Muhammad's message, God says: (Quran 50:45)
  • "God knows best what they say; and you are not one to overawe them by force. So remind with the Qur'an whoso feels the awe of My Warning!"
And more bluntly, in Quran 2:256:
  • "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks..."
Such freedom of faith could result in an amazing society to live in for the average individual; and for people of all faiths.
Most religions adopt some of that spirit of equality, and autonomy for followers of different creeds. The existence of such thoughts in most religions allows mystics from all religions to get along fine, while they still have strong association with their original religion in spirit and in rituals.  Mystics feel unity with one another across the religious lines without a need to denounce or reject their own distinct belief system.
Islam presents itself as a unique path, distinct from others.  But that uniqueness is in a beautifully simple and almost generic understanding of God and theology.  Let me explain that.
Today, Islam has become a word used exclusively as a 'proper noun' and, as such, it is translated phonetically as Islam.  But that has not always been the case.  In the Quran, the word 'Islam' is used exclusively in the way it linguistically means in Arabic: a concept of surrendering to the authority of God, and none other than God.
Frequently, the Quran refers to pre-Islamic biblical figures and believers as Muslims, and attributes to Prophet Abraham the initiation of the practice known to us as Islam.
  • Quran 3: 67 "Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to God) [phonetically: a Muslim], and he was not of the idolaters."
Other prophets that followed Abraham, pbuh, and their followers, notably the Disciples of Jesus, pbuh, have been repeatedly described in the Quran as Muslims; or if translated properly: as people who surrendered their being unto God.
What distinguished those blessed people was not their following of a particular set of rituals but an understanding of the nature of the relationship between man and the Creator, and then they adopted a way of life based on that understanding.
Defining faith as a mental and a spiritual state, rather than a mere collection of rituals, makes God the only possible judge of righteousness.
Stated clearly in Quran 22:17
  • "Those who believe in the Qur'an, those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians [i.e., Mandaeans], Christians, Magians [i.e., Zoroastrians], and Polytheists,--God will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for God is witness of all things."
In a different verse, the Quran gets more explicit about Christians and Jews.
Quran 2:62
  • "VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians - all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds - shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve."
From the sublime and down to reality.
It is likely that only a few of you have ever read these verses from the Quran.  Fewer will ever hear it discussed on TV or in a newspaper.  Many are more familiar with something along this line: "Find the infidels and slay them where ever you may come upon them".  I doubt that many of you who are familiar with that last statement have even tried to find if it is there.  And if it is, what does it really refer to?
I frequently ask my non-Muslim friends and audience how many of them have read their Holy Books from A to Z, and how many have made the intellectual effort to understand those books.  The numbers are abysmal.  But, if it is any comfort, on the Muslim side, the numbers are equally abysmal!
Compare anyone's knowledge of their Holy Book to their knowledge of baseball statistics or Super Bowl history and you will have something to laugh at, very bitterly.
Compare the time spent on fantasy sport leagues or reality TV with time spent on understanding one's faith.  That will not make you feel better either.
I sarcastically say that if one bet's their life and the eternal life-after on a book being correct, they better know what is in that book.
Similarly, if I decide to go to war with people I chose as my enemy because of who they are, I better know a good deal about them before I kill them, get killed fighting them, or worse yet, turn them into eternal enemy for me and my children for the wrong reasons - with no one to blame other than my intellectual laziness.
I hope you feel my distress when popular cultures here and 'over there', and despite talking a lot about God, use un-Godly set of rules
  • It is us versus them; we are good, they are bad.
  • God loves us, and our God will send them to hell.
  • We never hurt them, yet they hate us because of who we are.  They will always hate us no matter what we do
    It is part of what they believe in
  • We are civilized, and they are savage.
  • And, by the way, you are either completely with us or you are with the enemy.
Any light at the end of the Tunnel?
Some people are unlucky. They do not find comfort in black and white slogans like those I mentioned above and fill our airwaves and popular culture.  They are those with the irresistible urge to engage to world, and the urge to try to make the world a better place for us, for our children and for the other, no matter how we define that other.
Those unlucky ones have lived a stressful 10 year stretch of the 'post September-11 world'.  Do they see anything good coming out of what we witnessed on that day and over the last 10 years?
I know that, for 10 years, there has been more explicit hate of Islam and Muslims, but there has also been some genuine interest in understanding that culture.  Some people get it right and become agents of moderation.  Others do not get it right, and they carry on their path of hatred, racism and xenophobia like they did before September 11.
They are more vocal than before that day.  And they feel more empowered to express their hate very colorfully.  But I do not think they are more numerous than before.  Will the silent moderates become more vocal to balance that out?  I do not know, but I am more hopeful about one group: the youth.
The Quran talks about Fitra, or "the innate human sensor of the Truth".  In its simplest translation, it would be the innocent unpolluted conscience. As we get older, this Fitra is clouded by the material needs and ambitions of life.  And, gradually, conscience slides slowly from a humanity-leaning stance to a self-serving posture.
In the youth, healthy Fitra is coupled with the tendency to rebel against what their parents' generation assumes to be the undisputed truth.  That makes me trust that most of our youth, in the US, and the Arab and Muslim world, will move in the right direction.
Many of today's youth were children or teenagers when September-11 happened.  That is the most vulnerable age in a biased environment.  Yet, they are the ones that seem to be the most curious about the other; and the most comfortable in circles of diverse friends and loved ones.
With all the tools of unrestricted communication and access to knowledge, they will grow up less racist, less fanatic, and more open to the other than our generation.  They may even be more resistant to soul contamination when they are exposed to our so-called thought leaders in the media, in politics and even in religion.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Somehow, Israel will not be there for a long time.

Another good article by the always-level-headed Akiva Eldar. Unfortunately, and despite people like him, Israel is doomed no matter how many nuclear weapons or superpowers are at its disposal. Arrogance and supremacy are ingrained in Israeli mindset - and that is inconsistent with long-term survival.  Remember apartheid South Africa, anyone?
When Israeli arrogance meets Arab honor - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
Back to my 2 cents.  Few weeks ago, and on exposure to some of the recurring expressions of Israeli arrogance and hubris, I thought that modern day Israelis owe it to the millions of their ancestor victims of the holocaust that they have a state today, otherwise the world would have hardly swallowed the idea of gathering world Jews into another people's land.
The shame is that most modern day Israelis, and many of their arrogant supporters in the world will not leave behind a great prospect for their grand children.  Exercise of arrogance, excessive use of power, and abuse of the blessing of wealth and world sympathy for decades leave the future of their grand children very likely as uncertain in that part of the world as the prospects of their ancestors having their own country were before the twenties century.  The scars of the last 60 years will not be forgotten anytime soon.

For things to remain as good for Israel as it were over the last several decades, a lot has to remain the same.  But, as history teaches us, not much remains the same: not world superpowers, not the deluded Western public opinion, not the vogue of Christian Zionism, not Arab submissiveness, and definitely not Arab dictatorships.
I am not saying that the world is ripe now for any big change, but I know that in 50-60 years, the Middle East map will not look the same.  Israel still has a chance to be a 'normal' part of the Middle East but it does not listen to its many wise voices.  

The racist, bigoted, power-drunk voices are a lot louder and they have the podium.  That is where Israel's end is coming from.

There will ALWAYS be Palestine and Palestinians. Israel as we know it today is a transient phenom. 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Are religious fundamentalists really in the center of God's attention?

Religious fundamentalists and groups on the religious right in general think they are very special.  That arrogance, of course, occurs across the board, whether they are Muslim, Christian or Jewish. Many do not only think that they are the only ones that will ever get to paradise, but frequently they think they are in the center of God's attention, and that the whole universe has been planned by God in advance to suit their needs. They also think that those who oppose them become the center of God's wrath. (See previous posts here, here and here)

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood would not generally count as a 'fundamentalist' religious group but they certainly are part of the conservative religious right in Islam. Like many other groups in Egypt, they have become more vocal and less 'politically correct' since the fall of the dictatorship of Mubarak in February of 2011.

Day after day, their sense of 'specialness' seems to be expressed more assertively.  As I mentioned in a previous post, one of their leading figures tried to discourage marriage of MB members outside the group so that MB sublime members and their values do not get marred by mingling with less pure elements.