To whom who seeks to achieve peace of mind in a world full of different types of phobia, desperation, conflict, war, etc., let's make a stop for a few minutes and take a look at the recent reports, surveys, and studies which have revealed that xenophobia(1) and Islamophobia have soared over the last few years. Such reports and studies raise several unanswerable questions about the reasons and motives laid behind. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves why people feel threatened by immigrants or any minority groups who are just trying to get a safer zone, especially in the West, away from the ongoing conflict areas. Moreover, some people may feel triggered by others who may have the same nationality, race, or even religion, as they just admit another way of thinking or have a different point of view. No sooner had the world suffered from the crisis of social isolation and immigration than it faced the crisis of ISIS returnees who feel deeply regretful for joining such an extremist group. The aforementioned arguments and more might provoke deep thinking to figure out the reasons lying behind such claims and thus address them.
Actually, what makes me feel oddly disturbed is the way in which some civilized nations are demonizing “the other”. While these nations consider immigrants or any minority groups as intruders who seek to take over their lands and spoil their lifestyle, or even be potential terrorists in different languages, they (immigrants or any minority groups) feel grieved due to the hatred, intolerance, and narrow mindedness they have to encounter. Every day, many of us read in newspapers topics about a Muslim woman forced to take off her veil in public, an employee fired for his religious appearance, or a passenger banned from travelling and put under surveillance for his cultural or religious background, not to mention those who get bullied for nothing other than their skin color, race, appearance, etc. And unfortunately, most of those who get bullied are mere innocent citizens who did not commit any sin.
If such a bubble of “otherness” is to be burst, there should be a unanimous acknowledgment that diversity does not mean enmity. Achieving this requires us to recognize and define our “blind spots” that distance us from the real value of inclusiveness. It takes courage to stand up for ourselves and not to let any differences define us. Unfortunately, sometimes we compel ourselves to fit the mood, however, every one of us should have the right to dream and achieve his/ her own. If we examine history, we may remember the Nazi era- the worst era in human history- and “Mein Kamph”… “My Struggle” (2)written by Adolf Hitler; a book that stated the negative “otherizing”, and then morphed into violent extremism.
To counter this tendency of “otherizing”, we need to realize the core of ourselves as humans. To confess that being different is an advantage; it reveals how special and successful we are. It takes courage to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, show them respect, search for the beauty within others, and engage in a more constructive and closer dialogue. This would be the only way to challenge all these growing sentiments of fear and contempt of “the other”. Here, it is worthy to mention what Nelson Mandela said, “We live by the African concept of “Ubuntu”, which means I need you in order to be me, and you need me in order to be you”.
For this cause, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the Pope of Vatican have signed earlier this year “The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”(3), emphasizing the importance of the role of religions in the construction of world peace. It upholds the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence; to re-establish wisdom, justice and love; and to reawaken religious awareness among young people so that future generations may be protected from the realm of materialistic thinking and from dangerous policies of unbridled greed. This Declaration may constitute an invitation to reconciliation and fraternity among all believers, indeed among believers and non-believers, and among all people of good will. It may be an appeal to every upright conscience that rejects deplorable violence and blind extremism; an appeal to those who cherish the values of tolerance and fraternity that are promoted and encouraged by religions. Moreover, it may be a sign of the closeness between East and West, between North and South, and between all who believe that God has created us to understand one another, cooperate with one another and live as brothers and sisters who love one another. This is what we hope and seek to achieve with the aim of finding a universal peace that all can enjoy in this life.
In a nutshell, simple awareness is such a pivotal thing that would remedy the situation. Promoting the sense of inclusiveness begins by the act of expanding the circle of human concern. Let’s live with one another, and search deeply in ourselves finding a torch of awareness to find our essence and reach the common ground. Imagine the kind of existence we can have if we abandon our ego and appreciate the privilege of life and the marvels that follows.