Foundation, NJ U. S. A
the Message Continues ... 9/97
Newsletter for September 2009
Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12
The Other as a Brother
Dr Liyakat Takim
|One of the major obstacles
to an understanding of the other
is when we compare our ideals
with the realities of the other.
Viewed in this context, the
violence perpetrated by members
of one party is often contrasted
with the ideals of peace and
love of the other. A more
appropriate basis of comparison
is to contrast our ideals with
theirs or our realities with the
realities of those we dialog.
When communities compare their
respective realities, they often
discover that both of them have
been unjust to each other, and,
in the name of religion, have
committed atrocious acts.
Indeed, disputes between groups
often arise when one party
believes that it is the only
injured group or victim and
refuses to accept its role in
Dialog provides the challenge and opportunity for both Muslims and non-Muslims to acknowledge that they have both inflicted and suffered much pain. For this to occur, dialog needs to go beyond merely understanding the other; it has also to provide the platform for people to acknowledge and experience the pain of the other. As a friend of mine commented, “Dialog should make me see the other as a brother.”
Muslims in the West need to take a stand with their co-religionists and speak out against injustices perpetrated by various Muslim governments against minorities. Muslims must also be more vocal against all acts of terrorism in different parts of the world and the suppression of the rights of women. They need to articulate a theory of human relations that will incorporate notions of dignity, freedom of conscience, rights of minorities, and gender equality. Muslims must also insist that their non-Muslim partners speak out against injustices to various Muslim groups, the occupation in Palestine, and the suppression of rights of Muslims and civil liberties in America after 911. It is on these occasions that we can know inform the others of the atrocities committed against Muslims and the need to pressure their governments to radically alter their policies toward Muslims all over the world. Indeed, in today’s world, such outreach programs provide the best platform to inform and reform “the other.”
Historically, Islam has exhibited much tolerance to members of other faith communities such as in Spain, India, the holy lands, Turkey, Africa, and Indonesia. The tendency to view Islam through violence and militant lens distorts the view that Islam has a rich cultural heritage and precepts that necessitate co-existence with the other. For much of Islamic history, Muslim societies have been remarkably open to the outside world. Spain is a great example where Muslims not only co-existed peacefully with Christians and Jews, but also protected them and shared their scientific achievements with their counterparts.
It is essential that we move away from defining ourselves over and above an enemy “other.” This is an important measure to establish peaceful relationship. In this sense, I believe, that we need to go beyond tolerating or understanding the other. More than ever, there is a need to embrace the other. This suggests a different function of dialog, one that can bring the hearts - not just the minds - of the people together.
Given the realities after the events of September 11, 2001, dialog can no longer be confined to a room where partners talk about peace and understanding. It must also confront the realities of hate, discrimination, and violence in society. Collaborative actions have become more important since September 11, 2001 as Muslims have realized that conversations with their non-Muslim friends ought to lead to shared commitment so as to address humanitarian issues that concern both communities.
The challenge for Muslims in contemporary times is to recover the tolerance and means for peaceful coexistence through the Qur’an. As they engage in a re-examination of traditional exegesis, the point of departure for Muslims has to be the Qur’an itself rather than the multi-faceted and multi-layered scholarly discourse that has accumulated since the eighth century. This re-interpretive task demands that Muslims undertake the task of re-evaluating the classical and medieval juridical corpus.
Slightly edited for this site.
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