Firstly I was not surprised by the reaction of our Muslim brothers and friends.Not that I am suggesting they are violent or anything like that, but their zeal and passion for religion, as since in their overwhelming response in the Danish cartoon incident.
But are some Muslims tryng to prove the Pope's quotation right by exerting violence?Is it okay to slaughter a nunwho helps out in your impoverished country just because you don't like what her religious leader said?Is it okay to torch churches, mostly who have no relation with Catholics whatsoever,an act as ignorant as Americans beating up Sikhs coz they wear turbans after 9/11? 'Call us terrorists and we shall terrorize you!'? The self-fulfilling prophecy?
I understand that Muslims have long suffered many oppresions and wars, much economic disparity and a whole bunch of misfortunes since the budding of Islam to this very day.Venting that anger through means of suicide bombings and violent demonstrations,riots et cetera, wrong as it is perfectly comprehensible.But what causes a skewed view of Islam is the association by these demonstrators/rioters/bombers/terrorists with religion.Denouncing their actions itself has become insufficient.In my humble opinion,Islam needs to distance itself from wrongs,for people to see it as a religion, not a malevolent ideology nor an advocate of aggression as being wrongly portrayed by some.I mean , can we really blame the West for their misintrepetation of Islam? When news reports carry the rape of women and mass-slaughter while crying out God's name? (think the recent Indonesian massacre of the Chinese)
How do we correct the perception?I believe by talking, and separating individual convictions and actions as opposed to a religious point of view.
It is also my belief that educated Muslims,like those you find responding logically (like Tun Hanif Omar in the Star), with reason in the papers prove the Emperor(not the Pope, who was merely quoting him) wrong.It is also my hope that such Muslims come forward and act as catalysts for honest inter-religious dialogue we so badly need now.Truly, there is much discourse needed with so much prejudice between one another like we have now going on in the world.Let's face it-the current level of interreligious dialogue is nothing more than a feel good charade where everyone quotes what I call 'happy quotes'from each other's religious books or texts, quotes that promote the notion of mutual respect and tolerance.
Then the speakers will go on to speak on such cheerful things like common moral values, social justice, and how we all should adhere to the 'Golden Rule' (which of course is a common teaching of all the major religions), and forms the basis of what we call 'inter-religious dialogue' just as the theme of Jesus becomes the central point of focus in an ecumenical dialogue.I am not saying it is bad to find a common ground, but I am saying we need to move beyond the common ground.The Government's recent ruling to move all inter-religious dialogue under the purview of the Religious Department in my humble opinion only impedes this.We so badly need to move beyond this point of dwelling on mere euphoric feelings and instead exploring our differences that causes dissent and tension between us.Only than can real acceptance and coexistence be achieved.
I would call the current scenario hypocritical to sound pessimistic, and at best I would call it sugar-coated.Tiptoeing the line of political correctness seems so important that we're really missing the point.How can the leaders of Saudi Arabia walk down the halls of the White House or Vatican or Buckingham Palace and even talk about religious rights, equality and these issues when their country censored any websites deemed 'blasphemous' to Islam,where no house of worship can exist apart from mosques and where no non-Muslim is permitted to exercise their faith openly?
How can Indonesian and African leaders talk about peace and equality when their countries teem with people with genocidal tendencies?
There can be no justice without equality and no real peace without justice.Equality will not happen until people start talking about it, and talking is pretty difficult when you get executed each time you try to do it :)
There is also a tendency by people to quote the past.The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and each accusing the other of wartime attrocities.
I feel we should get past this dark epoch of history as Christians, Muslims and Jews have all suffered in these wartime attrocities due to mistakes,error in judgement and pure ego trips made by those before us.Should we harp on this unendingly, we would be living in a dark loop where our children, and our children's childrenwill be taught to hate the opposing race.I saw a really disturbing video clip on YouTube some days back where an Arabian little girl was saying that she hated the Jews .Even more distubing was the fact that the 'interviewer' went 'Allahuakbar' and praised the child ! 'This, some other videos, and reading some Malay books on Islam out there really painted a bleak picture on hopes for real solidarity between our two religion and the divide hopelessly seems to be getting bigger.Yet, those like Tun Hanif give out some rays of hope for a realistic and honest dialogue that hopefully will resolve many unanswered questions and heal the rift between religions today.
A nice Muslim blogger, Nizam Bashir kindly commented in a previous post about a Prof. Juan Cole's comment on the situation.To me this is the type of response which would get us talking.For example, if I were to dialogue with Prof Juan,I would ask him for more proof historically to back up before accepting his good reasoning,.His organization ,the Global Americana Institute (sounds like a golf college to me somehow, Nizam) apparently does translation works of American literature into Arabic to build bridges into the Arabic world.It is a commendable effort and I sincerely hope his good work bears fruit and that the governments of the Arab world reciprocates his kind work with the support he needs.
Another point to note the Coptic Pope's open 'Western Pope' bashing is commendable but I wonder what he would have to say about this or this or this .I guess you would expect that from a church leader who has to play ball with the authorities.Then again,would not really be bothered much with what he says as I believe we are closer to the Greek and even Russian Orthodoxies rather than the Coptics.Besides his church is much smaller than these other two and they only need Patriachs.
Seriously, if you ask me, the world needs to sit down and have one good talk and not hide behind religious sensitivity, political correctness and being afraid of being labelled a bigot, a racist etc.We really need to talk.