Had a talk today from a professor from the Centre for the Study of Society & Secularism about Peace in Islam. I learnt a whole lot and I'm glad because despite having so many Muslim friends, there's so much I don't know about the religion. I learnt, for example, that Jihad, while often translated and perceived as 'holy war', actually means to struggle and make an effort in the name of Allah (God), NOT fight in the name of God. It is then the misinterpretation that causes conflicts to arise.
He went on to explain how the gender discrimination against women is not at all in line with the Qur'an's teachings and things are often taken out of context which leads to the perception most of the world has of Islam today. There's a difference, he said, between Arabic and Islamic.
There were, however, things he said that really confused me and seemed contradictory. He said that he's against killing unless it's justified, failing to give examples except to say that there's a lot of controversy about the death penalty but sometimes it's justified. He later said that people who do things we don't approve of, or things that are wrong, are not for us to judge. It's our job to love and care for them despite their wrongdoings, and only God's job to judge.
He also made many references to Mahatma Gandhi, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and various religions, which were all fascinating but disturbing at the same time.
If it is not for us to judge, surely lives are not ours to take?
If you want to talk about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, look at Article 3 - everyone has the right to life. Islam? It was just today that I learnt, from you, about compassion being an important part of the foundation of Islam. You mentioned Christianity too - Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone? I get the impression that Gandhi is someone you really look up to. So surely you know that Gandhi said, An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. With all this in mind, tell me, Sir, besides self-defence, what does justified killing mean?
Also had a talk from Nick (UK) about Israel and Palestine. Shame on me for not knowing more than what I did about this earlier - I didn't realise things were as bad as they are. It's totally unacceptable and goes against human rights in so many ways.
Briefly,in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Jews wanted a national home in Palestine. 1918 Palestine was colonised by the British, who sponsored Jewish immigration from the UK and US. 1947, Brits gave up, UN assigns 55% of the land to the Jews and the rest for the Palestinians - that's 45% for 2/3 of the population. During '48-'49, Israel became independent, war broke out with surrounding countries, 13,000 Palestinians were killed and 75,000 driven from their homes. Houses are demolished, more than 80% of the land belongs to Israel and the Palestinians are refugees in their own country; it's increasingly difficult for them to travel from East Jerusalem to West Bank due to hundreds of checkpoints.
It just seems appalling that nothing's being done. UN, ICJ, anyone?
Sometimes people ask, what does freeing Burma have to do with us, or the war in Gaza, or political unrest in Thailand. Nick put it well - basically that with increasing globalisation, we are more Global Citizens than anything else.
If we do not speak for those who cannot, or stand in solidarity with those who struggle, then who will? Not our governments, unless we make ourselves heard.