February 14, 2003

Of Life, philosophy, idealism and other asbstracts …

I’ve not been at my computer much the last few days – the day before because it was one of the two festivals of the Muslims – the Haj festival – and I was with my family in Kurunegala and yesterday because I was at a workshop about peaceful co-existence for work. Both days provided me a lot of fodder for thought and obviously, I’ll be sharing some of that here :p

The day before yesterday, quite a bit of our family gathered together for the Haj festival and as is usual we had a group discussion going on various topics ranging from politics to cricket. Eventually of course, the talk turned to the current situation with Iraq and one of my cousins made a comment that set me off <g> He said that the world fears the Muslims and that’s why they are persecuted – incidentally, I should mention that a lot of Muslims believe/fear that they are being persecuted by the rest of the world because of their religion – and I said that the only reason the world fears the Muslims is because we are fanatics and that that is our own fault because some of our people kill others in the name of God when just that act proves that they are not Muslims nor have they understood the teachings of Islam. So the fault lies with us to a great extent – not the rest of the world. Then my cousin said something to the effect "but look at Israel and the Palestine. Israel gets everybody’s support".

Somewhere around this point I had an epiphany – well, maybe not really an epiphany since I think I’ve known this before but it suddenly became crystal clear to me as a fact and has since become part of my philosophy about the world and humanity. My response to my cousin was based on this insight – I said that most of the conflicts in this world are not based on religion but on politics. America does not attack Iraq because they are Muslims – it attacks Iraq for various political reasons, the fact that they have oil not being the least of them. Israel and Palestine are not engaged in a religious struggle – it’s purely political. Man is a political animal and while we would like to put the tag of "religious struggle" on a conflict, it is almost certainly not about religion but about politics. The Islamic fundamentalists who claim to wage a war in the name of God are also not in it because of God but because they want power – again politics.

I’ve been thinking about this after the fact and I realized that we find it easier to talk about religious struggles or to feel as if we are being persecuted due to our religion than to realize that it is all politics – so we turn a blind eye to the facts. We feel comfort in a way in thinking that all insert-racial-or-ethnic-grouping-here are persecuted because then we belong to a group and can feel safe and secure while we think about the persecution we face. It also makes sense from the other side. Would many people support the US government if it simply said, "we need Iraq’s oil. So we are going to war"? Hardly likely. But you say "we are going to war against terror. Support us" – can anybody refuse? Of course, the Muslims perceive this as a direct threat on "their" religion and that sparks a new wave of fundamentalist terrorists and so the business of politics keeps on rolling … sad …

I think I got a little bit carried away there and since the stuff about the peaceful co-existence workshop would probably take just as much space as this, I’ll reserve that for tomorrow :-)

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