Friday, December 5, 2008

Interfaith Understanding Against Prejudice

If you were a ______ (fill in the blank, with Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist etc.), would you be angry if others of different belief system than you utter the following to you?

Muslim:
  • Muslims? Bah, I've had enough of them causing troubles with their endless jihads of suicide bombings.
  • Look at their girls, why are they in the veil thingy? Poor people, oppressed by their lustful males.
  • They are violent people, I tell you. They chop hands, they stone people without mercy!
Christian:
  • I wonder if they have any values left at all? Other than attending Church on Sunday, or having "Angelina" as one's name, what defines a "Christian"?
  • Those warmongers from big (Christian?) nations are Whites. Many Whites are Christians. So, it must be Christianity that teaches them to bomb other nations, right?
  • I hate it when those do nothing but trying to "save" me by knocking at my door, and then quoting verses from the Bible that I could not even comprehend. Oh, they forgot to say hi, too.
Buddhist:
  • All Buddhists are Chinese, right?
  • You guys are cool Kung Fu masters. With bald head and orange robe living over the mountain, "civilization" must be the last thing you know.
  • Who is Buddha anyway? I think he's a God or something. Umm... what is Buddhism anyway? I only know that big fat statue standing, sitting, or leaning in a temple when you say the word, "Buddha".
Hindu:
  • You don't eat beef? Come on! Beef is tasty, beef is good! (Eat a Quarter Pounder in front of a Hindu Brahmin)
  • Hindus = Indians. Indians = Hindus. (period)
  • What's up with the cows? They're VIPs!
Etc.:
  • I could not care less. Not my concern.
Those are just few examples of pure prejudice. Although in daily life, we may not commit prejudice to such extreme degree, in some way or another, we may be ignorant to what others may think or belief, and thus live life they way they are.

Throughout the course of history, many battles have been fought in the name of religion and in the name of God. Most often, the outcome had been a terrible bloodshed that leave a relentless legacy of revenge and indignation. Some departed away from religion with the belief that religion has indeed imbued its believers with feelings of self-supremacy that ultimately leads to fanaticism and endless conflict.

But others maintain that it is not religion that sparked the violence. Rather, a complex strand of politics, economics, social and nationalistic interests did so. Also, the base feeling of men - his self-centeredness to survive and to be glorified ARE the main causes of prejudice and violence.

But it is true however, all religions and teachings in any matter and any way, intend to educate their believers towards the higher values and moralities, away from animalistic and base feelings of human lust and desire. But contenders of this point may argue that certain verses in the Holy Book(s) of the religion such as the story of Rama in the Battlefield in Bhagavad Gitta, and the verses calling for Jihad in the Qur'an do indeed propagate violence among the believers. However, the people from this quarter failed to realized the entire spirit of the religion. More often than not, misquotations and partial-quotations are not uncommon in their speeches and literatures; for whatever motives have in mind.

But, among the believers themselves, not many know at least to a functional degree, about the belief system of fellow believers. Usually, the only time they get to know other religions are through biased and mediated speeches and/or articles spoken/written by the people of "authority", be it from the government or from religious institutions. Little personal effort had been made to understand why other belief so-and-so and do so-and-so. It is unfortunate only when a crisis come, when somebody bombed a building, then will only these naive believers flow onto the streets, chanting for justice.

Let us see what the Qur'an has to say about this:

"Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you ..." [Qur'an 5:48]

"Have, then, they who have attained to faith not yet come to know that, had God so willed, He would indeed have guided all mankind aright?" [Qur'an 13:31]

"And [because He is your Creator], it rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright." [Qur'an 16:9]

"For had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; however, He lets go astray that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided]; and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did!" [Qur'an 16:93]

For what seemed to me here that in every community, there are always the good and evil doers. One has the right, in his right-minded conscience, to submit to whatever belief system he/she wishes to belief. But one has not the right to smear others' religious belief in the name of God.

What the Qur'an prescribes mankind to follow is this:

"O people! Behold, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes to that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware." [Qur'an 49:13]

Thus, let us listen to the voice of reason, not the voice of ego. No, this is not a call for a compromise in fundamentals of religious belief. Rather, a mere call for the voice of tolerance to prevail over the voice of hatred and discrimination.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet." [Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)]

"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:34)

By the way, I happen to encounter an inter-faith love-prayer song that I think is interesting to share. For we who are unfamiliar with how people from other belief systems praise the God (some say, the One), this song gives a good introduction of prayers and praisewords:

Interfaith Yoga Kirtan Chant by Jaima James



1 comment:

kamen said...

my fren you are very right. i wish more people can think this way of religous. yes i do believe in jihad and hating those who had opposed us (muslims in specifically) but that does not mean that we hate all the world for it. there are a more peaceful ways to deal with those so called problems and prejudice.

here i am living (maybe) in one of the most strict and conservative malay comunity especially on this matter. yes they are very well educated and much versed in the islamic way and knowledge but i pity them for most of them never really get to know the world outside the community. they keep talking like they are the only ones exist when there are hundreds more of other people out there.

exposure is the way to go to really educate ones. when you go out to see the way but never get out of your way.

just my humble opinion bout the post. love it very much^^ keep writting bro~