I went to a conference in the city this past Saturday. I went on behalf of a club on campus and my job. Its main focus was on the Future of Western-Islamic Relations. Are we on the right path? What part does media play into this? Etcetera, etcetera.
I must say it was very interesting. I remember knowing I’d have so much to tell people and to say, but now I don’t know what to tell you. The future is in our hands. That’s the message I got.
We have to stop politicizing events and acting upon our whims. We need to speak out against wrongs even if our own people are committing those wrongs. We need to stop being naive. We can’t ever think our efforts are enough. They’re not. We can always push harder, always strive for more.
So when that person yells “jihad” at you or tells you to go back to your country. Smile. Greet someone else’s ignorance with tolerance. Show them they were wrong by not allowing yourself to become angry. People desire a response. Give them one–let it be positive. When you are rude to someone, apologize. If for one moment you are deluded into the illusion that you are better than someone else, stop. Your ignorance of your faults is your greatest ignorance.
Yes, I took notes. But the nitty-gritty isn’t so important. One of the speakrs at the conference said that before we classify ourselves into these global terms like the ‘Western world’ and the ‘Islamic world’ (which by the way, many speakers agreed were misnomers and were used for lack of a better term), we are human. The unity we desire is independent of our differences. We can’t typify a people, we need to reach out and embrace our differences and learn to overcome these classifications. What the rest of the world does, inevitably affects us. In some way or another, it does. We can’t employ the isolationist policies of our prior history. This world is increasingly becoming interdependent.
A Gallup survey was done that asked Americans what they admired about their Muslim neighbors. 33% said nothing. 23% said “I don’t know.” That is a disgrace.
The problem is two-fold.
One, there is a lack of education and understanding. People see what they want to see. They will read the news they want to and not search for other sources. They will listen to what their teachers tell them without question(a teacher of mine told me Shia Muslims believe terrorism is sanctioned by their God- what garbage. Regardless of how people feel about Shia Muslims, their God is my God. He does not promote terrorism).
Second, Muslims aren’t putting the truth out there enough. This is in part due to media, since controversy sells and news is sensationalized. But there needs to be a stronger voice. Muslims aren’t terrorists. Muslims aren’t backward (funny thing, Muslims were the one who preserved the science that “Westerners” are so fond of. If they hadn’t we wouldn’t have the technology we do now). Muslim women aren’t oppressed (The media told the story of Mokhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman who was raped, insinuating that when she spoke out about her rape she was going against cultural norms. Like women who are raped were supposed to sit at home and do nothing about it. The reality of the situation which was covered by much less media was that the Imam of her masjid protected her. He is the one who brought the media to present her case. He is the one who helped her. Islamic society is not misogynistic). Muslims do not “hate freedom.” Contrary to what President Bush likes to say, no person in their right mind hates freedom. And if you look at what bin Laden said is his famous fatwa to declare war against the West, not once does he state anything about hating Western freedoms. Warped as his ideology is, he talks about the West as imperialists and as an occupying state. He never says “Let’s bomb them because they’re free!”
We need to speak out. And though I do believe Muslims do need to be more proactive, I believe all of us should take greater responsibility in the world. We can sit here and blog and talk all we want, but what are we doing to actively change the future? Peace doesn’t come by sitting around idly. Understanding doesn’t come by wanting others to understand you when you are not willing to understand them.
Are we going to be the generation that did nothing? The generation that sat around waiting for change to happen? We have the resources, we have the intellect. We have the power. We have the drive. We can do as we wish. We can actively pursue a better world or we can pretend like we did. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you have an opinion about an issue, you have accomplished something. Words without action are meaningless. Get up and do something.
Hoping for a better future,