Archive for March, 2015

Before one talks about Islam and the Middle East these days, it is important to start with a context.  There is so much disparaging that I believe it is critical to show the side of life and belief that are not talked about or portrayed on Western media channels.

Unlike Western languages, Middle Eastern languages are symbolic.  A word is more than a concept or a group of letters or set of grammatical rules.  A word is a philosophy.  The above image showcases Compassion. I do not read or understand the language so I will share the explanation from the page from which it is shared:

Bismil-Laahir-Rahmaannir-Raheem is the soul of Islam which recognizes and honors the very existence and all Blessings, Compassion and it’s the very source of all Mercy from Almighty Allah Subhaanahu wa Taala who responds to our moral integrity and our tremendous love for Him . This is said at any tasks that Muslims take before entering a house, eating, reading a book and also beginning any prayers.

I find it appropriate for this blog post because I use this post to join my voice to those of outsiders begging for compassion for Raif Badawi and those like him.  For those unfamiliar with Raif Badawi, you can read a summary of his story here.  Before you start pontificating about Islamic barbarism, I’d like to remind everyone of a certain period in Western History called The Holy Inquisition.  Those who claim the West has become more civilized would have to answer the question my heart friend labeled by others as an atheist has asked: if you believe in a loving God, why must honoring his love be done through the destruction or demeaning of others?

Many Western countries believe in the separation of Church and State.  In this belief lies the assertion that each should have no authority over the other.  In the Middle East the approach has been Church and State are one.  Muhammad was both a religious prophet and a military general.  He brought unity to the Middle East.  You can read a brief account of his life here.  His legacy was preserved for centuries but now the current state of chaos and destruction has many questioning and looking for the path that will restore safety and order.  An insight on some of the debates.

I do not know the sum totality of Raif Badawi’s writings or talks.  All I know is the little I have read in the link I have shared.  A see a man bitter about the level of despair he is living in and desperate for a change that will bring peace and order so he can sleep soundly knowing his wife and children are safe and healthy.  In anguish we say many harsh things that, in a calm state, we would most likely have said a little differently.  Add to this the mixed blessings of youth that has not yet been tempered by aged deference to the status quo or to patience.

Most importantly, I cannot tell people of another country how they should administer their own laws or what they should believe and do.  What I can do at this time is share my confusion.  The Islam I grew up watching as an outsider was so peaceful and benevolent it made me feel Christianity often feel short on the true meaning of God and Love.  The Islam I see today is factionalized and violent.  The writings and principles of Islam have not changed so what has happened?

There are times in any culture and history when a person or an action becomes symbolic of a much larger meaning than the context in which it originally took place.  Raif Badawi and others are becoming such symbols.  Throughout the Islamic diaspora there is open debate on the rights to self-determination, religious practice and self-expression.  Here are views from Malaysia and Britain.  As an outsider, it is hard for me to understand how flogging anyone will settle such debates.  Catholics have tried flogging and self-flagellation  both of which still have supporters.  However, for most (myself included), such practices alienate people from religion, acceptance and tolerance.

It is important to note that daily life still goes on despite chaos and conflict.  Here is an image from a caligraphy workshop:

Fear and terror should have no part of daily life.  Hence, for me the debate is not about whether Raif Badawi should be flogged, imprisoned or exiled.  The debate is about what is the best mechanism to practice Bismil-Laahir-Rahmaannir-Raheem in the current Middle East?  As an outsider, I humbly beg for mercy to be shown as a symbol of compassion and tolerance during such difficult times.

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