Maverick: Why I choose to be ‘communal’
By Farzana Versey
Covert January 16-31
It ended in a rather unpleasant quarrel. He and I were both brought up in a liberal atmosphere where after the initial tut-tuts inter-sect and even inter-religious alliances were acceptable. Both of us lived what is called cosmopolitan lives. Our social meetings took place at ‘modern’ places, including pubs.
On one such day, as he tapped his glass of Scotch, he started discussing religion. He said, “I don’t give a damn about Muslims, they can do what they want, but the moment I hear anything against Islam my blood boils. I will not tolerate it.”
Seeing my impassive expression transform into some sort of disappointment, he asked me if I agreed.
“No. For me the Muslim matters more. People matter more. I do not understand your idea of Islam or that of others, which means there are several such ideas. So, which Islam are you talking about? The Holy Book? The Prophet? They do not need your support. Groups of people do.”
This brings me to the possibility of someone arguing that I am therefore ‘communal’. It is an interesting thought to not be religious but communal. We need to understand that on a macro scale. It is easy to say that there is nothing in common between a Muslim in Iran and a Muslim in Iraq, or a Muslim in India and a Muslim in Pakistan, or a Muslim in Saudi Arabia and a Muslim in Turkey, or a Muslim in Palestine and a Muslim in Bosnia.
One could further argue that if they are targeted in any manner it is due to their religious affiliation. True? Not entirely. Examples in societies clearly show that there are fissures within it. Nations may use the Shariah for jurisprudence but that is at the level of the ruling class.
Persecution and minorityism are the result of imperialistic religious attitudes – whether it is by Israel or America. These societies get away with it due to their superior position not in the ethical hierarchy but on the economic evolutionary scale. A rich sheikh just does not have the same legitimacy as a rich Jew; the former is seen as tautology, the latter as achievement.
Does it behove well then to invoke the name of god at all? Once we bring in god, then evil or good take on a moral dimension and there is more to these attributes than morality.
The paradox lies not in the ‘person’ of god but in the perception of godliness. If god created evil, then must god be evil? Does a carpenter who produces a flawed piece of furniture become a flawed carpenter? Carpentry may not be empowered with supra powers but a carpenter is a creator too.
The concept of god “doing everything” essentially means that the believer plays a subservient role. Many believers today may be considered ‘evil’. In some cases it is indeed true. Therefore, should we assume that such evil challenges godliness and has nothing to do with god? And isn’t that possible if we go by the theory of god as creation/imagination of the human mind?
To return to evil, is it a finality? Does it have shades? Can evil transform into goodness at some point in time? Then is evil really evil or a pretence at it? The same would apply to good.
Cain’s tragedy is greater than Abel’s for he suffered from pangs of conscience. Was he then evil? Or were his circumstances responsible for making him commit the act?
Can whole nations be considered evil because their governments have policies that are not for the greater good? Then must we include the people living in those societies within this limited paradigm?
God is what believers – and non-believers – make of her/him and that provides the attributes of good or evil. A creation takes on a life of its own outside the creator.
This puts religion, beyond the point of our understanding of it, outside the grasp of individuals. Human nature and suffering are more universal. My friend and I could keep arguing over it – for him the blood at Karbala takes precedence over what occurs under his nose. I choose to look at the congealed crimson in bodies of people who share the same space as I do.