Religious tolerance [Archives:2005/893/Viewpoint]

November 10 2005

As Arabs and Muslims we find ourselves encapsulated in the endless cultural pressure in the form of a strict opinion opposing everything that is not on par with us, with cultural mottos indicating that whoever isn't our friend must be our enemy. Unfortunately this notion has put us as a culture in a disadvantage especially when we want to consider ourselves as an integral part of the global village. Arab and Muslim people are hurt, wronged and in turn feed conspiracy theories to the young minds it becomes easier for Muslims in general and Arabs in particular to explain our failure as a conspiracy against us; to blame others for all our problems.

In spite of being quite helpless, poor and suffering from corruption, dictatorship and poverty, Arab societies continue to feed this vicious cycle of conspiracy theory forgetting the true essence of Islam, the modest religion of peace that calls for religious tolerance and harmony among cultures and religions.

Fortunately, this is changing. Muslim youth of today are becoming more aware and more tolerant religiously. Recently I read an article of an Egyptian writer who said that 9/11 was good for the Muslim world because it was a wake up call for many people in this part of the world. Of course no one denies the magnitude of the tragedy and the loss of human life, but still, it seemed as she explained that this has become a chance for people, especially youth to find answers. This is equally accurate among non Muslim youth, who have started wondering “why do they hate us so much?” I believe that wondering is the first step to reaching the truth, because if you have stagnant thoughts and conceptions then it becomes very hard for you to see the other side of the story.

A new American friend of mind reminded by this fact as she was upset with an article dedicated to the conspiracy theory tightly knitted around Israel; Many Muslims blame Israel for most of the tragedies the Muslim world faces. Regardless if it is true that this new country has a hand in our political mess or not, does not matter, what matters is that if we want to become a better nation, then we should start with ourselves from within. If we are secure, strong and efficient then no one can manipulate our fate. I believe it is the excuse of the weak to blame others for their situation. My American friend made me think again about the preconceptions we have in our minds and she advised me to browse some websites on the Internet and try to get a gist of the other point of view.

Along my surfing I came across a web log that started with the phrase “I certainly hope you haven't come here with your mind already made up.” And it was striking that it is actually a fact that most people, Muslims and non-Muslims, even as they attempt to listen, they are listening with their ears and not their hearts and minds. The web log continues with an interesting quote from Albert Einstein, which I feel compelled to convey to you today, it says: “The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”