2019 / 8 / 26
I was thinking a lot in the past few days about something that was triggered in one of my conversations with a group of young Europeans from different origins, we were talking about some of their experiences volunteering in refugee camps across Europe since the migration wave that began in 2015. Their stories made me think about our generation in two different parts of the world, divided into two groups, in Europe most young people gravitate towards activism, volunteering, travelling and exploring the world. In third world countries most of the young generation is governed by depression, they lack motivation and are taken over by fear. So it made me think of the why! in hopes of finding a way to overcome this state, since I know how much we will be able to give to the world if we conquered our fears.
So I was thinking, what s the difference between the two groups of the same generation?
The obvious answer that most of us would rush to say is: third world countries, and to be more specific in the Arab world, suffer from conflicts, wars, dictatorships, poverty, weak education and health systems, among other issues. but one can claim these all are just excuses, because if we look at other societies that had similar problems, we could see they somehow managed to fix their situation and become great countries, like: Japan, Malaysia, South Africa...
So what else do we have that could be the real issue?
In one of the conversations someone brought up the comparison between Christianity and other religions around the world, and how Christian societies have changed between the control of the church in the past and the control of law in the present time. Which made me think, maybe it all has to do with religion,´-or-our interpretation of religion. Like in Islam we are taught to obey and submit, to do specific things if we want to go to heaven and avoid other things if we want to be saved from hell. This mindset could have been the reason that lead generation after generation under those teachings to believe that life is merely an empty quest for unrequited pleasures, while the afterlife is the only reality we should work for, which likely made us lazy, turned us into dependent followers.
We are taught from an early age that if we pray 5 times a day, fast Ramadan, do the Hajj, and testify that there s just one god and Muhammad is his prophet we will go to heaven no matter what else we do, even if we killed someone´-or-at least stayed home all day just focusing on those practices.
On the other hand if we drink alcohol, eat pork, gamble, have sex outside marriage, we will go to hell no matter what good deeds we do, even if we help the poor, save and protect people, fight for justice and equality, even if we lost our lives trying to do something good to others it still won t count.
This way of thinking from an early age made us stand by and watch the world move on, you know why? Because we re not interested in this world. there s an afterlife waiting for us, a life more marvellous and perfect where again we don t have to do anything just sit in lavish gardens under the shade of trees, eating anything we wish for, drinking wine and yoghurt from rivers, so that at the end of the day we can return to our palaces that we haven t built´-or-paid for, oh no we did pay for them, by praying.
I always wondered whenever I listened to those statements, what are we actually doing to deserve these rewards? pray, not eat pork´-or-whatever?
What about the billions of people who are doing amazing things for humanity? They re all going to hell because they re not following the rules of Islam?
When the comparison was raised between the history of the Christian church and the Islamic system, it became clearer for me the connection between religious control and cultural decline in the Arab world and I thought maybe from here we we can find a way to start fixing our challenging situation.
One of the reasons that brought my attention to the control of Islamic interpretations over people, is the relation between Christianity and most of its followers who are now less controlled by the the religious system.
After the social public revolutions in eighteenth century Europe against religious systems, people started realizing they have lots of powers, especially the power of choice, which helped them choose whatever suits them, their new life styles, their comfort, their hopes and dreams of a better future, they practised this freedom of choice to the fullest.
They diminished the power of the church, turned it into decoration, chose to use the good parts and leave the bad, here lies the contrast with most people in Muslim communities, they re still unable to make their own choices, still repeating the same teachings and rules that didn t work out before and won t ever do. Most people living under Islamic rule always need to consult with the religious institution´-or-even religious men who sometimes don t even have any kind of higher education, just because they know about religion more than most people (or that s what we were brought up to think).
I d go so far to say that what we see in the Arab world of conflicts and wars, could be the result of such submissive mindset, because we reduced our knowledge to religion, hence there s more ignorance, and because we handed the remote control of our lives to some men who claim to have a sacred knowledge which they studied in books written by other men with different interpretations hundreds of years ago.
The scariest part is that we have other systems controlling our lives, minds, beliefs, behaviours and relations-;- systems that branched out of the same mindset-;- liberal capitalism, we have that, we also have socialism, nationalism, tribalism, sectarianism, social classes, populism…
different labels, same teachings. In most cases they all derive their power from religion which stands as their favourite platform, why? Because there s an abundance of religious interpretations obliging the public to obey and follow the ones in power even if they re wrong and heading straight to destruction. every group under each of those systems have their own interpretations that tells them they re right and the rest is wrong, so we re not even allowed to accept difference. most people, communities,´-or-systems in the Arab world believe their mission is to fix others, there s no place for difference.
When I started going through my religious crisis journey I became curious, searching for people going through something similar. I started meeting up with fellow Arabs, especially men, who I can t deny finding so many similarities with, but the majority of their experiences held also traces of the patriarchal mindset they still carry-;- most of them came to Europe to seek freedom´-or-future, went through some changes in order to fit in, but through out they always felt they had the right to have fun and enjoy life, since Arab and Muslim male is considered more privileged than his female counterpart. So those men would indulge in some pleasures that would be considered sins if practised by women, and there was no such thing as shaming´-or-social pressure that would have been an extra weight unto them during their journey of discovery.
still most of the men I had conversations with, couldn t admit of their status, because they re going through some sort of crisis, re-questioning their believes, detached from their societies-;- most couldn t admit that their self reflection is the reason of their seemingly rebellious, revolutionary acts, like drinking alcohol, smoking weed, taking drugs, dating non Muslims… they believed they re doing so because they were deprived for so long and now they have the chance to enjoy, also because they re men and more likely to be forgiven for their misbehaviour, mistakes and even sins, since again in some religious interpretations men stand on a pedestal.
What I came to realise is that religious interpretations would corrupt anything that stands in their way, especially figures disillusioned by power and status.I think religions and their control over people s minds through clergymen, priests, Imams´-or-monks, is an alarming thing that we need to be aware of and maybe it s time for us to start healing from.