April 5, 2006

Chrononaut chronicles

Yesterday while meandering through the web, I came across a message from writer Dan Simmons. Apparently, Dan Writes a message to his fans every once in a while but this one seemed to be slightly darker in tone. I say "seemed" because I know nothing of Dan’s politics nor his intentions. All that was there on the site was a rather bleak message which seemed to hint at total annihilation as the only possible solution to the "Islamic menace".

I was originally going to post a message about writers and their responsibility to their readership here. About how whatever we write and how we ourselves mean it, that it could be taken a completely different way by somebody else. Dan’s message could have been a satire along the lines of Jonathan Swift’s "A Modest Proposal". Or it could have been an April Fool’s joke with the traveller’s final three words being "Happy April Fools!" :p But I cannot know what Dan Simmons intended. All I have are the words on the website and how the words themselves are interpreted.

The words on the page sent me off on another hunt. Or rather, one word – "dhimmi". I am a Muslim but I had not heard this word before. And yet, supposedly this was a word which had great meaning to Muslims. I looked at Wikipedia and found an article that had its neutrality and factual accuracy questioned. I searched Google and came across hundreds of thousands of pages but the interesting thing was that most of the pages seemed to be by non-Muslims on the topic. The only Muslim site on the first two pages that I found was Islamic propaganda rather than an impartial article – I wasn’t interested in propaganda. I wanted the true account of things and the more I searched, less I found in the way of truth. Opinions, sure. Conjecture, yes. But facts were scarce.

I then went on Dan Simmons’ forums to see what the regulars there had to say. I saw a whole bunch of people saying that Islam was a militant religion, that nobody wished Muslims ill but if things came to that, they’d beat the Muslims down "out of need". Truth be told, there were those who opposed this point of view as well but it seemed as if that was the minority. Now I’m a Muslim. I’ve never wished ill upon Christians or Jews or people of any other religion. I believe that God lets us choose our own path and whether we choose good or bad depends on us – not our religion. After all my web browsing, I feel a great weariness, a sadness. Why can’t people see that the issue is not with different religions or ideologies but with people?

I am not angry at the people who will not see the wrongs on their own side as people of a particular nation or people belonging to a particular religion. But I do feel anger at our own stupidity, arrogance and blindness. We always believe that somehow "we" are right and that "they" are wrong. We keep finding a new "us" and a "them". It’s as if all humanity can do is break into ever smaller groups and keep fighting each other till we dwindle away into nothingness. Is that our fate?

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