Month: November 2017

Atheism, Free Speech or Hate Speech?                                         الإلحاد أم حرية التعبير أم خطاب الكراهية؟

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

The intellectual battle against Islam has been largely handed over in recent years to Atheists.  After countless debates and arguments in which Christians have been soundly defeated by Muslim experts on comparative religion, a new brigade of Atheists have taken up the fight.  People like Richard Dawkins Sam Harris, Douglas Murray, and the late Christopher Hitchens, have adapted their antipathy towards religion in general to focus specifically on Islam.  Recently there was a public relations campaign in the UK which saw signs posted on the sides of trains and buses stating “there probably isn’t a God, so just relax and enjoy life”.  It would seem that the desire to undermine the spread of Islam is so great that the West is even willing to throw God aside, if it will mean getting rid of Islam in the process.

Here in Malaysia a clash is brewing between the government and a group calling themselves “the Atheist Republic”.  The group posted a picture on social media of one of their gatherings, causing concern among authorities and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki issued a badly worded statement saying essentially that Atheism is unconstitutional in Malaysia, and that attempting to spread Atheist ideas would be deemed a threat to public order.  Dawkins tweeted in response that the Malaysian government was comprised of “prodigies of stupidity and injustice”, adding, apparently, to his credentials as a biologist and author; ‘expert on Malaysian constitutional law’.

Malaysian MPs from the opposition have criticized Asyaf’s statement, and suggest that the curtailment of Atheism represents a kind of repression and a deterioration of human rights in Malaysia.

Malaysia is a country in which all religious faiths coexist; each group respecting what the other regards as sacrosanct.  While lawyer Azhar Harun, another critic warning against any restrictions on Atheist promulgation, says that “freedom of religion includes the choice to opt out of religion”, he is missing the point.  What Atheists are opting out of, in the context of this discussion, is not religion, but the underlying social contract between the citizenry to respect each others’ beliefs.

The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process, clarified the issue in a statement, saying, ““They are rejecting their responsibility to respect what their fellow Malaysians hold sacred…it is no longer a matter of being anti-religious but a matter of being anti-social”.

Indeed, anyone has the right to opt out of religion, and if that is all Atheists do, then there is no legal or ethical issue here.  But what can be called “Evangelical Atheism”, by definition, constitutes an attack on the religious beliefs of every community; Muslim and non-Muslim.  It is not a matter of disagreeing with the particular doctrinal precepts or practices of this or that religion; Atheism literally calls all religious people ‘stupid and unjust’.  Among religious people, we can have a discussion about scriptures and theology, and that can be respectful and useful.  But the core position of Atheists is that the beliefs of any religious group are fundamentally moronic and delusional; and that is immediately hurtful and belligerent.  Do you see the difference?  And do you see how disruptive this can be to social cohesion?

Now, as I said, the attack on religion in general appears to have the primary goal of undermining Islam; they are willing to sacrifice the followers of other religions if it is useful for denigrating Muslims.  Consider the fact that almost one-tenth of the American states bar Atheists from holding public office, and at least one state does not even allow Atheists to testify as witnesses in court; but are the legislators of Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Texas, and Pennsylvania referred to as “prodigies of stupidity and injustice”?

The fact that Muslim countries tend to take the issue of Evangelical Atheism more seriously than Western countries is portrayed as evidence of Muslim intolerance, and the Atheists are trying to create a perception that their rights are being violated by Islamic regimes – and yes, they are specifically targeting Muslim countries.

However, the curtailment of Atheist preaching in Muslim countries demonstrates how seriously those countries take the rights of religious people of all faiths, and how vital it is for each of them to be respected and protected from ideological attack because, again, that is what Evangelical Atheism is: a slander against all religious people.

When the United States criminalizes racist speech because it is hateful and hurtful to an entire segment of the population, they are right.  And the same principle applies to Atheism, perhaps even more so, because it degrades the overwhelming majority of citizens who hold religious beliefs.  Again, you need look no further than the tweeted response of Richard Dawkins about the controversy in Malaysia.  An Atheist cannot open his mouth to express his beliefs without being harmful to others, just as a racist cannot express his views without being harmful.




لقد تسلم الملحدون زمام المعركة الفكرية ضد الإسلام إلى حد كبير في السنوات الأخيرة. فبعد سجاﻻت لا حصر لها وحجج انهزم فيها المسيحيون بشكل واضح من قبل خبراء مسلمين في الدين المقارن، قام لواء جديد من الملحدين بتولي زمام المعركة. فقام أشخاص مثل ريتشارد دوكينز وسام هاريس ودوجلاس موراي والكاتب الراحل كريستوفر هيتشنس بتوجيه كراهيتهم تجاه الأديان بشكل عام لتتركز بشكل خاص على الإسلام. ففي الآونة الأخيرة شاهدنا حملة علاقات عامة في المملكة المتحدة قامت بنشر ﻻفتات على جانبي القطارات والحافلات تقول “في الغالب ليس هناك إله، فاسترخوا واستمتعوا بالحياة”. يبدو أن الرغبة في تقويض انتشار الإسلام كبيرة لدرجة أن الغرب مستعد “للإلقاء” بالإله جانبا، إذا كان هذا سيعني التخلي عن الإسلام في أثناء هذه العملية.

هنا في ماليزيا أرى صراعا ما يختمر بين الحكومة ومجموعة تطلق على نفسها “الجمهورية الملحدة”. وقد نشرت هذه المجموعة صورة على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي في إحدى تجمعاتها، مما أثار القلق بين السلطات ونائب الوزير في إدارة رئيس الوزراء أسياف وجدي دوسوكي فتم إصدار بيانا غير موفق يقول فيه بشكل أو بأخر أن الإلحاد غير دستوري في ماليزيا، وأن محاولة نشر الأفكار الإلحادية سيعتبر تهديدا للنظام العام. فكتب دوكينز ردا على ذلك بأن الحكومة الماليزية تتكون من “أعاجيب من الغباء والظلم”، مضيفا بذلك إلى سيرته الذاتية كعالم أحياء ومؤلف، بأنه “خبير في القانون الدستوري الماليزي”.

وقد انتقد النواب الماليزيون من المعارضة بيان أسياف، واقترحوا أن كبت الإلحاد سيمثل نوعا من القمع وتدهور لحقوق الإنسان في ماليزيا.

ماليزيا بلد تتعايش فيه جميع الأديان؛ وكل مجموعة تحترم ما يعتبره الآخر مقدسا. وقد قام المحامي أزهر هارون، وهو ناقد آخر، بالتحذير من وضع أي قيود على مسار الإلحاد، وقال أن “حرية الاعتقاد تشمل خيار ترك الدين”، وهو بذلك لم يلتفت للنقطة الأساسية. فردا على كﻻمه، ما يختار الملحدون أن يتركوه ليس هو الدين ولكنه العقد الاجتماعي الأساسي بين المواطنين لاحترام معتقدات بعضهم البعض.

وقد قام التحالف الماليزي لمنظمات المجتمع المدني في عملية الاستعراض الدوري الشامل، بإيضاح المسألة في بيان قائلا “إنهم يرفضون مسؤوليتهم في احترام ما يراه زملائهم الماليزيون مقدسا … لم يعد الأمر متعلق بمعاداة الدين ولكنه أصبح متعلقا بمعاداة المجتمع”.

بالطبع يحق لأي شخص أن يختار ترك الدين، إن كان هذا هو كل ما يفعله الملحدون، ولما كانت هناك قضية قانونية أو أخلاقية من الأساس. ولكن ما يسمى “بالإلحاد التبشيري”، وهكذا نسميه بحكم التعريف، يعتبر شكل من أشكال الإعتداء على المعتقدات الدينية ﻷي مجتمع. مسلم كان أو غير مسلم. فالأمر لا يتعلق بالاختﻻف مع الممارسات العقائدية الخاصة بهذا الدين أو ذاك؛ الإلحاد يطلق وصف “غبي وظالم” على كل وأي شخص معتنق لأي دين. فبين الدينيين، قد نرى حوارًا حول الكتاب المقدس واللاهوت، وقد يكون حوارا محترما ومفيدا. ولكن الموقف الأساسي للملحدين هو أن معتقدات أي جماعة دينية تعتبر في الأساس غباء وأوهام، وهذا طبعا أمر جارح وفيه اعتداء صريح، فهل ترون الفرق؟ وهل ترون كيف يمكن أن يكون هذا الأمر مخربًا للتماسك الاجتماعي؟

والآن، فكما قلت، يبدو أن الهجوم على الدين بشكل عام لديه هدف أساسي متمثل في تقويض الإسلام؛ فهم على استعداد للتضحية بأتباع الديانات الأخرى إذا كان هذا سيشوه سمعة المسلمين. علينا أن نفكر في حقيقة أن ما يقرب من عشر وﻻيات في الولايات الأمريكية تحظر الملحدين من شغل المناصب العامة، ولا تسمح دولة واحدة للملحدين بالإدلاء بشهاداتهم كشهود في المحكمة؛ ولكن هل المشرعين من أركنساس، وميريلاند، وميسيسيبي، وشمال وجنوب كارولينا، وتكساس، وبنسلفانيا يتصفون هم أيضا بأنهم “أعاجيب من الغباء والظلم”؟

حقيقة أن الدول الإسلامية تميل إلى تناول مسألة الإلحاد التبشيري بشكل أكثر جدية من الدول الغربية تصور كدليل على التعصب الإسلامي، والملحدون يحاولون خلق تصورا بأن حقوقهم تنتهك من قبل الأنظمة الإسلامية – ولكنهم هم أنفسهم من يستهدفون على وجه التحديد البلدان الإسلامية.

ومع ذلك، فإن الحد من الوعظ الإلحادي في البلدان الإسلامية يدل على مدى جدية تناول هذه البلدان لحقوق الدينيين من جميع الأديان، ومدى أهمية أن يكون كل واحد منهم محترما ومحميا من الهجوم الأيديولوجي عليه لأنه، مرة ثانية، هذا هو تحديدا ما يفعله الإلحاد التبشيري: الافتراء والتعدي على جميع الأديان.

عندما تجرم الولايات المتحدة خطاب الكراهية لأنه بغيض ومؤذي لقطاع كامل من السكان، فهي على حق. وينطبق المبدأ نفسه على الإلحاد، وربما لأكثر من ذلك، لأن الإلحاد يحط من الأغلبية الساحقة من المواطنين الذين يحملون معتقدات دينية. مرة أخرى، لا تحتاج الأمر إلى أكثر من النظر إلى تغريدة ريتشارد دوكينز على تويتر حول الجدل في ماليزيا. لا يمكن للملحد أن يفتح فمه للتعبير عن معتقداته دون أن يكون ضارا للآخرين، تماما كما لا يمكن للعنصري التعبير عن آرائه دون أن يكون ضارا لغيره.

Turning Islam into an ideology

The 20th Century was the heyday for ideology. Marxism, Socialism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism, on and on.  The 20th Century also sent the Muslim world into a tailspin with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
In some ways, you can kind of see a parallel between what happened intellectually in the Muslim world with what happened in Europe in terms of the shift away from traditional religious structures of thought and understanding to rationalistic ideology, because they basically lost their moral footing when they turned away from religon.  Something Fredich Nietzche predicted well before it happened, when he said “God is dead…we have killed Him…who will wipe the blood off us?”  What he meant, of course, was that men had killed their belief in God, renounced religious structures, and in so doing, had ventured into chaos.

For Europe, the turn away from religion made them turn to ideologies for something to believe in.  For the Muslims, the end of the Ottoman Empire left them scrambling for a way to re-energize themselves around a concept that could restore their power and sense of identity.  Extremism emerged both in the West and in the Muslim world in the form of radical belief in ideologies.  For Europe, these were rationalistic, while for the Muslim world, it was still religiously based, with the concept of Islamism or Political Islam.

Since Islam is a religion and not an ideology, turning it into an ideology was not an easy thing to do.  So what they did was to basically borrow elements of other ideologies.  While there were a variety of trends, generally aligning with one or another European ideological trend, Islamism was essentially focused on building an ideology that was state-centric.  This isn’t surprising, since the whole movement developed as a response to the collapse of the Ottoman state.

As Islamism was developing, in the Arab world, there was also the emergence of another ideology, that of Pan-Arabism, or Arab nationalism; which, in fact, was already brewing prior to the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, and played a role in its collapse.  This then saw the Baathist ideology form, and spread in the Arab world.  It was a kind of mix between Fascist and Socialist, Totalitarian dogmas, and Islamism was quite influenced by this.  In fact, it is more or less the same, politically, but with the religious element blended in.

So what sort of religious element would work here?  Well, it makes sense that it would be an interpretation that emphasizes a strict view on the rules and regulations of the religion, I think.  It should be an interpretation that creates a necessity of enforcement of those rules by the state.  And this is predictably going to mean exaggerating the status of what may just be recommendations into the status of obligatory legislation, and it is going to mean denying the existence of divergent opinions on a single issue.  It should also be an interpretation that emphasizes a divisive group identity and a method of proving group identity through superficial, observable adherence to the rules being mandated.

This is the only viable religious interpretation that can be used to support a state-centric ideology, and to a certain extent, that is exactly what happened with Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia when the modern state was founded.

Now, I should say, of course, that this is not to in any way lessen the centrality and importance of the Shari’ah in Islam.  But the fact of the matter is that the Qur’an, as explained by some of the most eminent scholars of Islam, only contains about 500 verses that provide explicit legislation, explicit meaning, they are not open to interpretation, they are clear-cut rulings; and most of these pertain to acts of worship, not to governance or the penal system and so forth.  That is out of a total number of verses over 6000. So the actual explicit rulings in the Qur’an are relatively few.  The same sort of ratio exists in the Hadiths; the overwhelming majority of Hadiths do not contain explicit legislation.  What has happened is that the line between what is an explicit ruling and what is an interpreted ruling derived from non-explicit verses and Hadiths has become blurred.  That is, the line between the Law itself and jurisprudence, or Fiqh, has been blurred.  And this means the line between what is Revelation and what is opinion has become obscured.

Furthermore, the methodologies for deducing jurisprudential rulings have decreased.  We have started to take a very cut-and-dried approach to jurisprudence, we over-simplify, we discard nuances, we fail to consider circumstantial factors, environmental and historical factors, and so on.  And it is necessary to do that when you are creating an ideology.  You have to over-simplify.  You have to reduce complexity.  You have to create a black and white perspective and eject as many alternate views as possible.

So we have this idea today that because the early generations of Islam are the best generations, we have to do what they did, we have to imitate their actions; rather than saying that we should engage in the same intellectual processes that they did to determine what our actions should be; because those processes are complicated, and because those processes may very well result in a multiplicity of opinions about what we should do.  That approach does not lend itself to the uniformity and cohesion required by an ideology.

An ideology must be able to manifest itself into a system; you have to be able to tick the boxes, with the belief that once all the boxes are ticked, you will have established a Utopia.

But here is the thing:  there is no such thing as an Islamic System.  This term does not appear in the entirety of the Qur’an or Hadith literature.  But, you know, Marxists have a system, Communists have a system, Fascists have a system, Baathists have a system, so we have to have a system…if we are going to have an ideology.

What the Qur’an is, and what the Sunnah is, and what they say they are, is Guidance; not a system.  That is because Islam is a religion, not an ideology; and when you reduce it to an ideology, you make it dysfunctional.  You turn it into a man-made construct, and not Divine Guidance.  We always like to say that Islam provides a prescription for an ideal society; as the Islamist slogan says “Islam is the solution”.  But that is not what the Book says, that is not what the Prophet said.  And if Islam really did claim to provide a panacea for each and every human problem that has ever and will ever occur, and if it claimed that it lays out the blueprint for a Utopian society; that would be proof positive that it did not come from the Creator.

I know for Muslims, this sounds strange.  We are fond of likening the Qur’an to an instruction manual for life.  We say that Allah has provided us with a rule book for how to live our lives, how to deal with any and every difficulty and challenge; and that it is the very comprehensiveness of Islam that proves it has a Divine Origin; because who else could have come up with such a system other than God?  But the truth is that our Creator Knows better than we do how complex we are, how complicated our nature is, how much our circumstances and situations change, and that any sort of comprehensive set of instructions are inevitably going to become obsolete in a very short span of time.  That is why what we get from the Qur’an and Sunnah is Guidance that can be adapted as we and our circumstances change.  That is why Islam does NOT provide a list of boxes to tick to create a Utopian society, because our Creator Knows that the nature of the Creation He produced and the nature of the creatures in it are such that there is no such thing as an earthly Utopia.

The proof of the Divine Origin of Islam is that it does NOT present a formula, a plan, a system for creating an idyllic society, because only a human being would imagine that such a society could be created.  Islam provides Guidance and Wisdom that can adapt to circumstances and that can inform us about our nature to help us navigate through life in ways that will hopefully make our lives more successful and our selves more virtuous, and most importantly (as it IS a religion) improve our relationship with the Creator and make us successful in the Afterlife.

Even though Islamism is awash with religious rhetoric and references to Allah, really, it functions as a secular neo-fascist ideology, almost exclusively concerned with material issues and explanations of worldly matters, and it has very little to do with worship or spirituality.  Allah has become the rhetorical figurehead of a conceptual state in the Islamists’ minds almost like the mythologized image of Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia, whom everyone wants to please and associate themselves with through their strictness and expertise in the ideology.  Islamists have kind of become the clergy Islam never had, and isn’t supposed to have; the priest class who are the arbiters and enforcers of an ideology that is primarily interested in power and control.  And again, that is one of the things that happns when you turn religion into ideology; you create a class of experts and authorities who have no real qualification outside of the niche they have created for themselves. That is what happens with any ideology I suppose; you have a group of intellectual interpreters of the ideology, and they become authorities; and they are people who could never attain authority in any other scenario.

Recognising the dark side     علامات الجانب المظلم

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

As Muslims we believe in two basic forces that can draw us into bad behaviour and wrong-doing. One is external, and one is internal. There is Shaytan, and there is the nafs. We do not believe that people are innately good or bad, but that they have the innate potential to be either, and indeed, to be both simultaneously.

It is fairly important to clarify that when Allah says that “all human beings sin” He did not say “all human beings are sinful”; that is a significant difference. A person’s life is comprised of both good deeds and bad deeds, and these will all be weighed against each other on Judgment Day.

The nafs, or the Self, is more or less similar to what Carl Jung described as the Shadow; it is the dark side of our nature that we are continuously grappling with, and to which we often succumb, though to varying degrees. Muslims are aware of this perpetual struggle, and the added factor of the external temptations and promptings and incitements of Shaytan which further complicate our efforts to live a moral and disciplined life.

Despite what most people think about Islam; that it is harsh and unforgiving, our awareness tends to make us more compassionate and less judgemental when someone stumbles; even if that compassion does not negate the necessity of punishment.

And we are emphatically encouraged to conceal the misbehavior of others, to address wrong-doing one-on-one rather than in a public forum, and to refrain from prying into the private affairs of other people looking for their sins. We all know that every one of us is struggling, and that every one of us fails in that struggle from time to time; and we know that righteousness does not mean never failing, but always continuing to struggle.

It seems to me that the standard shock and vilification non-Muslims display about the misbehaviour of others is quite dishonest, or at best very naive and self-deceiving. It seems to be a denial of the fact that everyone has a dark side and that everyone is capable of succumbing to urges and confusions which cause them to behave in ways radically contradictory with their own moral aspirations.

No one is their “best self” all the time, and everyone’s “worst self” can be utterly horrendous, disgusting, and dangerous. This is something that we all must acknowledge, about ourselves and about each other.

We have all been subjected, at one time or another, to other people’s ugly descent into their worst selves, and it is always hard to know what to do and how to react. But, by the same token, others have been subjected to our own ugliness at one time or another and I would argue that across the board, the people who have reacted to us with understanding and pity tend to become dearer to us and help us to become better. And this, after all, is what we should be trying to do with each other.

كمسلمين نحن نؤمن بوجود نوعين من القوى الأساسية المؤثرة التي قد تجذبنا لارتكاب الذنوب والسقوط في الآثام: المؤثر الأول خارجي، والمؤثر الثاني داخلي. فهناك الشيطان، وهناك النفس… نحن إذا لا نؤمن بأن الناس إما أشرار أو أخيار بالفطرة، ولكن هناك قدرة فطرية لدينا أن نكون إما هذا أو ذاك، أو كلاهما في آن واحد.

من المهم إلى حد ما أن نوضح أن الله سبحانه وتعالى عندما أعلمنا بأن كل بني آدم خطاء، فهو لم يقل لنا كل بني آدم مخطئون، وهناك فرق كبير. فحياة الشخص تتكون من تركيبة من الأعمال الصالحة والسيئة، كفتين من الذنوب والحسنات سيتم وزنهما يوم الحساب في مقابل بعضهما البعض.

فالنفس إذا هي أقرب ما تكون إلى ما وصفه كارل يونغ بـ”الظل”، فهي الجانب المظلم من طبيعتنا الذي نواجهه باستمرار، وغالبا ما نخضع له، ولو بدرجات متفاوتة. والمسلمون على دراية بهذا الجهاد الدائم، مع العامل الإضافي للإغراءات الخارجية وتحريض ووسوسة الشيطان الذي يزيد من تعقيد جهودنا في أن نعيش حياة أخلاقية ومنضبطة.

على علكس ما يظنه معظم الناس من أن الإسلام قاسي وبلا رحمة، إلا أن وعينا يميل إلى جعلنا أكثر رحمة وأقل إصدارا للأحكام عندما يتعثر شخص ما، حتى وإن لم تنفي هذه الرحمة ضرورة العقاب.

نحن نشجع بشدة على ستر أي زلل في سلوك الآخرين، وبأن التصدي للخطأ يكون بشكل شخصي (من شخص لشخص) بدلا من أن يكون في ميدان عام، وعن عدم التلصص على خصوصيات الآخرين بهدف تتبع خطاياهم. فنحن نعلم أن كل منا يجاهد نفسه، وأن كل منا يفشل في هذا الجهاد من وقت لآخر، كما أننا نعلم أن التقوى لا تعني عدم الفشل أبدا، ولكنها تعني الاستمرار في جهاد النفس.

يبدو لي أن الصدمة المعتادة التي يظهرها غير المسلمين عند سوء تصرف الآخرين تعتبر غير أمينة ومضللة خاصة عندما يشيطنون هؤلاء المخطئون، أو في أحسن الأحوال فإن ما يفعلونه يكون مخادع جدا ومضلل، فهو ينكر حقيقة أن لكل شخص جانب مظلم وأن الجميع قادرون على الاستسلام لإلحاح النفس وللتشويش الذي يدفعهم إلى التصرف بطرق تتناقض جذريا مع تطلعاتهم الأخلاقية.

لا يوجد أحد على وجه الأرض “متمالك لذاته السامية” طوال الوقت، ولو كان الجميع يتصرفون “بذاتهم المتدنية” طوال الوقت لكان الأمر أصبح مروع جدا، ومثيرا للاشمئزاز، وخطيرة. وهذا أمر يجب علينا جميعا أن نعترف به: عن أنفسنا وعن بعضنا البعض.

لقد تعرضنا جميعا، في وقت أو آخر، لدركات للجانب القبيح في الناس أو إلى ذواتهم المتدنية، ومن الصعب دائما أن نعرف ما يجب أن نفعله أو كيف نتصرف. ولكن، على نفس المنوال، فقد تعرض آخرون لقبحنا في وقت أو آخر، وأحب أن أقول أنه على كافة الأصعدة، فإن من تعاملوا معنا بالتفاهم والشفقة قد أصبحوا أعزاء علينا وساعدونا على أن نصبح أفضل… وهذا تحديدا ما يجب أن نحاول أن نفعله مع بعضنا البعض.

Brotherhood of circumstances                 أخوة الظروف

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

Perhaps the most important and useful thing I learned in prison, or rather, that happened to me in prison, was the excruciating experience of developing the capacity to tolerate and forgive.

In prison, obviously, you cannot choose your company.  If you have a dispute with someone, or if there is someone who annoys you, or someone who embodies everything that you despise; you have no choice but to interact with them on a daily basis.  You cannot “unfriend” or “unfollow” someone in prison, and make them disappear from your life.  You have to deal with them every day, throughout the day.  And this is extremely beneficial; even though it is also extremely hard to cope with.

Feeling offended becomes unviable very quickly in prison, because you realize that you simply have no option to eject offensive people from your life.  And I am someone who has always been exceedingly selective about the company I keep, so this process was often torturous.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you do not have confrontation; but in prison, it is understood that the confrontations have a boundary beyond which they will not escalate.  You and I are both going to still be here tomorrow, we are still going to interact, and yes, we are both still going to be sharing the same difficult circumstances, and we still have to get along.  You do not have the luxury of branding someone you dislike as “evil” and banishing them from your presence forever.  You have to keep your conflicts within the parameters of what is your unavoidable camaraderie as prisoners.

In the online, virtual culture of social media, I think, it is far too easy to shut people out, and far too easy to escalate your offended-ness to the point of basically turning off the switch of other people’s existence in your life, over mere differences of opinion or because their manners do not correspond to what you are accustomed to.  This is really quite harmful, on an individual level and on a societal level.

It seems to me that, look, we are all here on this Earth, in our countries, in our societies, in our communities, and none of us is going anywhere, and we have to deal with each other.  “The world is a prison for the Believer”; I think we need to begin to understand this beyond just thinking that it means our life in this world is just hardship.  We need to begin to see it as if we, this population that is inhabiting the planet right now, are all inmates of the same prison, and we are going to have to share this world with each other, interact with each other, today, tomorrow, and beyond; and we cannot eject anyone.

I am thinking about this in terms of the anti-Muslim hate going around, and the anti-non-Muslim hate going around as well.  Muslims are not going away, and neither are non-Muslims.  And if you think that by these arguments and attacks between us, that we are trying to settle problems for future generations (as if we, in our generation, are going to implement some sort of Final Solution to the disputes between us so that our children’s children will not have to fight the same battles), you are horrendously mistaken.  It would be far more responsible for us to bequeath to our heirs a sensible, mature, and realistic view of fundamental human brotherhood; to keep our conflicts within the parameters of our unavoidable camaraderie as human beings.

لعل من أهم وأجل ما تعلمته في السجن، أو بالأحرى ما حدث لي في السجن، كان هو التجربة المروعة لتطوير قدرتي على التسامح والمغفرة.

في السجن، طبعا لا يمكنك أن تختار صحبتك. فإذا كان لديك نزاع مع شخص ما، أو إذا كان هناك شخص ما يزعجك، أو شخص يجسد كل ما تحتقره في هذه الدنيا، فليس لديك خيار سوى التفاعل معه بشكل يومي. في السجن لا يمكنك “إلغاء الصداقة” أو “إلغاء المتابعة” لشخص ما فيختفي من حياتك. ولكن عليك التعامل معه كل يوم، وعلى مدار اليوم. وعلى الرغم من أن هذا الأمر مفيد إلا أنه من الصعب جدا التعامل معها.

فالشعور بالإهانة يصبح إحساس غير قابل للتطبيق في السجن، لأنك ستدرك بسرعة أنه لا يوجد لديك خيار لطرد الناس المزعجين من حياتك. وأنا عن نفسي كنت شخص دائما انتقائي للغاية في الصحبة التي أبقي عليها، لذلك فقد كانت هذه المسألة في كثير من الأحيان تعذيبية جدا.

بطبيعة الحال، هذا لا يعني أنه لن تكون هناك مصادمات؛ ولكن في السجن، معروف أن الصدامات سيكون لها حدود لن تتصاعد بعدها. فأنت وأنا سنظل في نفس المكان هنا غدا، وسيكون علينا أن نتفاعل معا، وطبعا سيكون علينا أن نتقاسم نفس الظروف الصعبة معا، وسيكون علينا أن نتفاهم معا بأي شكل. لن يكون لديك ترف تصنيف أي شخص تكرهه على أنه “شرير” وإبعاده من حياتك إلى الأبد. سيكون عليك أن تبقي صراعاتك ضمن نطاق صحبة مفروضة عليك من سجناء لا يمكنك تفاديهم أو تجنبهم.

في الانترنت، ومع الثقافة الافتراضية لوسائل التواصل الاجتماعية، أعتقد أنه من السهل جدا أن نقوم بإسكات الناس، ومن الأسهل أن نقوم بتصعيد شعورنا بالإساءة للنقطة التي قد نصل بعدها إلى ضغط زر “الغلق” لوجود هؤلاء في حياتنا، وهذا لمجرد اختلافات في الرأي أو لأن أخلاقهم لا تتوافق مع ما اعتدنا عليه. وهذا أمر ضار حقا، على المستوى الفردي وعلى المستوى المجتمعي.

انظر معي… يبدوا لي أننا جميعا هنا على هذه الأرض، في بلداننا، في مجتمعاتنا، في جماعاتنا، ولن يذهب أن منا إلى أي مكان، وعلينا أن نتعامل مع بعضنا البعض: “الدنيا سجن المؤمن”. أعتقد أننا بحاجة أن نفهم هذه المقولة أبعد من كونها تعني أن حياتنا في هذه الدنيا مجرد مشقة. نحن بحاجة إلى أن نبدأ في فهمها كما لو أننا، نحن سكان هذا الكوكب، جميعا نزلاء نفس السجن، وأن علينا أن نتقاسم هذا العالم مع بعضنا البعض، والتفاعل مع بعضنا البعض، اليوم، وغدا، وبعد غد؛ وأننا لا يمكننا أن نقوم بإنهاء وجود أي شخص هكذا ببساطة.

وأنا أفكر في هذا الأمر في ضوء الكراهية المناهضة للمسلمين، والكراهية المناهضة لغير المسلمين التي تدور حولنا. المسلمون لن يختفوا من الحياة، ونفس الشيء بالنسبة لغير المسلمين. فإذا كنت تعتقد أن ما يدور بيننا من جدال وهجوم هدفه هو تسوية المشاكل للأجيال القادمة (وكأننا في جيلنا سنجد نوعا من الحل النهائي للنزاعات التي بيننا حتى لا يحارب أبناءنا نفس معاركنا)، إن ظننت هذا فأنت مخطئ بشكل كبير. الشيء المسئول فعلا الذي يمكننا أن نقدمه هو أن نترك لأبنائنا رؤية عقلانية وناضجة وواقعية للأخوة في البشرية، وأن نبقي صراعاتنا ضمن نطاق صحبة مفروضة علينا من “بشر” لا يمكننا تفاديهم أو تجنبهم.

Keep the cycle going                 إعادة تكرار الدورة

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

A short time ago I said that if the US were going to intervene in Myanmar it would not be because the regime had committed genocide, it would be because they mis-managed the genocide. What I mean is that the regime allowed too many Rohingya to flee.

It has always been my contention that power was not genuinely interested in exterminating the entire Rohingya population, but rather in maintaining a population perpetually eligible for extermination. The existence of the Rohingya in Myanmar is extremely useful as an instrument of distraction, diversion, and control; as a technique for the regime to manage the ethnic Rakhine by directing their insecurity and anger towards the helpless Rohingya.

Since August 25th, however, too many Rohingya have fled, leaving far too few left behind to serve this purpose effectively.

This, I think, is why we are seeing talk about repatriation, which, under the circumstances, would seem utterly bizarre otherwise. How can you possibly talk about ‘welcoming back’ people you have just driven out, and whom you are still continuing to drive out? It is absurd. But the bottom line is that Myanmar needs a larger number of Rohingya available if they are to be portrayed as a security threat.

The objective here, in my view, is not to resolve the conflict, but to keep it going.

قبل وقت قصير قلت لكم أن الولايات المتحدة إن تدخلت في ميانمار فإن هذا لن يكون لأن النظام قد مارس الإبادة الجماعية، ولكن بسبب سوء إدارة النظام للإبادة الجماعية. وما أعنيه هنا تحديدا هو أن النظام قد سمح لعدد كبير جدا من الروهينجا بالفرار.

لقد كان اعتقادي دائما بأن السلطة غير مهتمة حقا بإبادة الروهينجا كلهم، بل بالأحرى هي تريد الحفاظ على عدد كافي منهم ليكونوا مؤهلين للإبادة. فوجود الروهينجا في ميانمار مفيد للغاية كأداة إلهاء، وتحويل انتباه، وسيطرة… فهم طريقة يستخدمها النظام لإدارة سكان راخين العرقيين عن طريق توجيه فقدانهم للأمن وغضبهم في اتجاه الروهينجا العاجزة.

ولكن منذ 25 أغسطس، فر عدد كبير جدا من الروهينجا، وتم ترك عدد قليل جدا منهم لخدمة هذا الغرض على نحو فعال.

وهذا، في رأيي هو السبب في أننا نسمع الحديث عن إعادة استقبال الفارين، الذي يبدو، في ظل هذه الظروف، غريبا تماما على المشهد. فكيف يمكن أن تتحدث عن “الترحيب بالفارين” الذين قد خرجوا للتو، والذين تستمرون في طرد المزيد منهم؟ هذا شيء غير منطقي بالمرة. ولكن خلاصة القول هي أن ميانمار تحتاج إلى عدد أكبر من الروهينجا ليتم تصوير الأمر على أنه تهديد أمني. والهدف هنا، في رأيي، ليس هو حسم الصراع، بل هو السماح بإعادة تكرار الدورة.

Myanmar: Resolution avoidance

I have seen that there is a petition that will be presented to Parliament in Malaysia, signed by NGOs, calling for the withdrawal of Petronas from Myanmar.

I am really sorry, but this is just absurd.

No one seems to have comprehended the first thing about business and economic influence. Not only is it near impossible that Petronas will leave Myanmar; making this demand basically futile; but it totally misses the fact that Petronas HAS influence by BEING there.

Think of it on a smaller scale.  If someone is abusive to you, and you happen to know someone who is friends with that person; would you actually just tell them “stop being his friend because he is abusive”, or would you tell them “your friend is abusing me, can you please talk to him and get him to stop?”

It seems to me that, at least in terms of a political solution to the Rohingya issue, activists have been devoting themselves to essentially symbolic efforts rather than practical ones.  I don’t know if this is due to insincerity  or ignorance; but the result (or lack of result) is the same.

Western military support for Myanmar is minuscule to the point that it plays almost no role whatsoever in the army’s capacity to carry out the genocide.  The recent bill introduced in the US Congress to prohibit certain types of military assistance and cooperation is being hailed as a significant step; though it comes after more than half of the Rohingya population has already been driven out of the country, and even though it will have zero actual impact on the army’s existing capabilities.  Even this is a symbolic act.

The recent Council on Foreign Relations article talking about this bill, and what other steps might benefit the Rohingya, makes no mention of multinational corporations when listing other global actors with the power to influence the Myanmar regime; though the economic development of Rakhine state, and the creation of conditions favourable to foreign investors are absolutely the key elements driving the ethnic cleansing.  The article is not discussing steps for resolving the crisis, it is discussing steps for continuing to avoid resolving it.

We are at a point now where the Rohingya issue is no longer even going to have a political solution, and it will become exclusively an issue of humanitarian relief, which will basically never end.  The regime has been practical and realistic and systematic in pursuit of its agenda all along; but activists and NGOs advocating the Rohingya cause have been anything but.  The word “Rohingya” is now going to be synonymous with the word “refugee”, and it will remain so for generations.