By Nour Hamed
In our daily life, we often argue about simple stuff like the best food, the nicest color, the cutest haircut for the season, etc., or about complicated issues like the 2008 economic crisis or the US-Iran nuclear negotiations. Our opinions rarely match, and almost no day passes by without getting into a debate over who is right or wrong. However, these regular arguments usually end with a peaceful settlement or we just agree to disagree. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I have noticed that when it comes to religion, people insist that there must be only one right opinion, and that one is probably theirs. It seems that when it comes to religion we cannot agree to disagree.
As a Muslim, I always find myself in situations where I am interrogated about my own faith. Such situations make me feel obliged to defend it and explain why many violent actions are being committed around the world in the name of Islam. On many occasions, I was in a room surrounded by people who had gathered all possible information to prove me wrong, no matter what I have to say! Well, today, I am not writing to defend my faith.
I don’t have a PhD in Islamic Studies, and I have not read every book out there about Islam. I cannot therefore prove or disprove every piece of information you have learned. I also know that I will probably not be able to change your views on many of the things you believe to be true. However, as that is not my intention, that is fine by me!
Instead, I want to share with you my experience of religion-based violence. I lost my father, two uncles, three cousins, and many friends. Today I see my countrymen and women being slaughtered everyday by ignorant savages, all in the name of religion. I have been discriminated against only because my last name indicates that I belong to a certain sect. Indeed, I was forced out of my house for three years because I did not belong to the right sect! After all that, do I still owe the world an explanation because of my faith?
I have been involved in many arguments about religion, and not once do I remember the argument ending with any change in opinion or stance. I have sadly come to realise that we don’t argue to learn, we always argue to prove the other person wrong.
I cannot help it but wonder: when it comes to religion, can we all not be right? Or better yet, does it really matter who is right?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we just stopped arguing and instead treated each other as human beings, regardless of individual faith?
I believe that the more we argue over who is right, and the more we blame terrorist acts on a certain faith, the more we encourage the extremists from all faiths and fuel their wars.
I am writing to defend those who suffer from terrorism of all forms and have no way to make their voices heard by the world. Today, 2.5 million internally displaced people are living in miserable conditions in refugee camps throughout Iraq. They have been out of their homes for a year now and there is no end in sight to their misery.
Adding insult to injury, in the past year, Iraq and indeed humanity has lost a huge part of its civilization. ISIS, using sledgehammers, have destroyed walls and statues in the city of Hatra. These thugs have demolished historical mosques and churches and burned over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of human learning! No religion or ideology can justify these atrocities. However, blaming each other for what has happened will not eliminate extremism; on the contrary, it will nurture it. Trying hard to determine who was right and who was wrong will do nothing but fuel hatred and discrimination.
Khalil Gibran, the famous Lebanese poet, wrote in the Prophet that,
“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion and it is the spirit.”
It is this spirit that unites us all, it is the common thread of our humanity. When it comes to religion, it should not matter who is right, what should matter is that we all do the right thing. In this way we can together create a world that provides a haven of peace and security for everyone.