Our Beacon Forum

Nine steps for overcoming fear the Other
By:Farhan Shah, Norway
Date: Friday, 24 May 2019, 11:07 am

1. Get to know Muslims within your immediate context. Make friends with them. Do not make theological thinking as a starting point, but begin with shared values and shared daily experiences.

2. Recognize that those Muslims who develop an extremist mentality are a small minority. Condemn their atrocities with as much as righteous indignation as you need; advance the cause of free speech, of open and critical dialogue, if this is your issue. But do not develop negative emotions such as hate toward them as human beings. Know that they, too, carry a sacredness and a great potential for moral reform and goodness, if they open their hearts to a Spirit of Goodness in whose life the universe unfolds.

3. Understand that extremist mentalities do not develop in a vacuum or in isolation. There are myriad of inter-dependent factors causing people to develop small-minded mentalities, lost in their own darkness, the ones who know only the power of oppression, bullets and bombs.

4. Try to gain knowledge about some of the history behind the animosity of some Muslims toward the States and some European countries such as France and Germany. Come to understand the dark realities of American and European expansionist agendas. Understand that the domination and use of unilateral power has been cultural as well as geo-political. As you seek to gain an awareness of the history of colonialism, do not limit your mind to sources found in “Christian” bookstores, or from a Western-centric perspective, but understand the history from more objective and critical perspectives.

5. Undertake a study of Islam as a complement to making friends with your Muslim neighbours. As you do so, look for what wisdom and goodness Islam can offer you in your life, but do not expect perfection. Come to understand that the history of Islam, like any world religion, is a series of finite interpretation of Islam. And since every understanding introduces the note of interpretation, recognize that interpretation is the child of its own historical context, and thus restricted within the confines of its environment and age. Some interpretations are based on shared human values such as compassion, social justice and love, and some understandings of Islam are ideological and oppressive. Avoid universalizing and generalizing time-bound interpretations.

6. Be aware of the fact that any religious tradition is much more than its teachings and ideas. It is a mode of living that consists of attitudes, ways of relation to each other, art, architecture, music, sound and longings. Do not think that you understand Islam fully by reading some interpretation or expositions of the Qur`an. You learn about Islam by also making friends with Muslims; and to understand their lived realities within which their faith find concrete expressions.

7. Come to think of Muslims and Jews and Christians as an extended, interdependent family, most of whom seeks to live faithfully in the tradition of Abraham. Think of Prophet Muhammad as a guide in this vast tradition, who was a messenger of wisdom, too. Think of the Qur`anic scripture as a living text from which you can learn and have dialogue, even if you do not believe it to be the word of God.

8. Try to think along the philosophical-theological tradition called process thought. In this tradition, Islam, Judaism and Christianity are considered living traditions which can grow and develop over time, never totally defined by their past interpretations and expressions. Recognize that, today, the leading edge of their growth may well lie in local contexts, where Muslim and Christians and Jews work with people of other faith-traditions or no faith to help develop communities that are compassionate, ecologically wise, creative, participatory, and religiously diverse, with no life left behind.

9. Try following the gist of every religion and secular ethics: the golden rule and the active development of a moral faculty. That is, try to think yourself into the position of the other. Start demanding it from your religious leaders and politicians, too. It is especially important to apply this role and this faculty in response to those Muslims who are frightened by the rise of anti-Islamic/Muslim attacks, physical and rhetorical. Understand that their fear is real, and not illusory.