A reflection following Imams Online delegation visit to show solidarity with French, Jewish and Muslim communities following tragic incidents at Charlie Hebdo and Kosher Supermarket, Paris.
On the return flight from Paris, a young toddler of colour, sitting excitably in the seats behind me starts to make conversation in French. He is keen to disseminate information and wants to know who I am and where I am going. Finding confidence in having successfully struck polite conversation and encouraged by his mother sitting beside him, smiling all the while, he continues his engagement.
‘O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you….’
Al-Quran, Surah Al-Hujuraat, Chapter 49: Verse 13
We are all born upon a natural state, fitrah. We do not inherit nor carry intrinsically within our nature, tendencies to hate or discriminate against others.
It is the conditioning of our minds, crucially during the formative years, moulded by our environments and close and extended societies that we develop irrational aversions to others, developing bigoted views and discriminatory attitudes towards others.
There is however the capacity to overcome one’s own handicap and to recalibrate oneself to one’s natural state. This is an exercise for the intelligent, who seek to explore and understand, with reason and ration, the beauty in all, ousting ill-conceived and misplaced judgments, however deeply ingrained.
This was certainly my experience during dialogue with French Ministers and citizens, discussing the need for cultural evolution in order to overcome disparity in equality, as experienced by the French Muslim community. Their openness and frank assessment of their country’s blight was admirable. Affording its minority communities the opportunity for greater social inclusion as opposed to the forced pressing for assimilation, would vastly enrich French society. French people would experience the privilege of enjoying a plethora of different cultures, modes of being and ways of thinking.
It was touching to hear the experience of a Jewish man, of Arab origin describe his upbringing amongst the Muslim community in Iraq. He talks of communities that lived in peace. His message, a simple one: For over 1400 years, Jews and Muslims have lived together peacefully, they have shared a history. Let our communities not lay divided.
There are many like minded people of different ethnicities, working tirelessly across many communities to build bridges of peace, respect and acceptance wanting to preserve and share the solidarity they, themselves have enjoyed.
There is much we have in common as human beings.
There is much that joins us in faith.
There is much that unites us, either in Faith or humanity.
Let us enjoin the good and forbid the evil, for all, of faith and none.
‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. The rest is commentary.’
Let us allow what ties us, serve to unite us, rather than allow those who seek to divide, to divide us.
‘Peace is the gift that God gave us.’
Moshe Sebbag, Chief Rabbi of Synagogue la Victorie, The Great Synagogue of Paris.
Naima Umme Ubaydullah,
Al-Lahun Ul Qur’an
Institute of Quranic Sciences and Social Development
15 Rabi’uth Thani 1436 AH/ 5th February 2015