Recently, a woman I know posted a photograph of a collapsed Buddhist temple in Myanmar and she added a caption praising God. As a Muslim, she was so outraged by what is happening to the Rohingya, that she must have forgotten her innocent Buddhist brothers and sisters – who have nothing to do with the acts of fundamentalists – in her moments of fury. No human being, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not, can watch the persecution of the Rohingya without feeling heartbroken; but, if we only support victims who share our own religion, we are only perpetuating intolerance. Intolerance breeds phobia. Intolerance makes us gloat at the misery of others. When will we understand that a shared doctrine is not a precursor to love – which is all-encompassing?
Imagine a Buddhist showing a photograph of a desecrated mosque and praising Buddha for punishing the Muslims who live in that country for the act of extremists. People of all religions across the world are suffering and people of all religions (and no religion, for that matter) are inflicting suffering on others. And though Muslims are being persecuted, many non-Muslims are being persecuted in the world, especially in Muslim countries. And many of these non-Muslims are defending the plight of the Rohingya around the world, the same way many Muslims are praying for the victims of hurricanes and earthquakes globally; the same way many people of various religions come together in tragedy.
This is not about religion. If we are only defending people that inhabit our thought matrices, something is inherently wrong with us. How ignorant are we that we cannot see the irony of all this? The victim and persecutor are one in all cases – when it comes down to labels. Why does the mind keep objecting to this very obvious fact? When we finally acknowledge that everyone from all over the world plays both these roles, regardless, we can break free from the realm of divisiveness and polarization.
A week later, this same woman posted a popular quote which states that if your religion requires you to hate, then you should change your religion. She captioned it as a note to Buddhists in Myanmar. The irony of the quote was certainly, most certainly, lost on her. And for a brief millisecond I actually giggled, thinking to myself how insane we are and how we use quotes for others that really may just as well apply to ourselves, if we dare to self-reflect. But then I became sad again, because most of us do not self-reflect. We would much rather stay in our cocoons where our families and relatives reside. What is upsetting though is that sometimes our families and relatives are not aligned with love.
Myanmar is just another example of ideological vindication: Vigilantes avenging the acts of a few. As Gandhi warned us though: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. We pray for the Rohingya Muslims who are being massacred and forced into exile, but we also pray for all those from other religions who face the same fate at the hands of Muslims. We pray for all of us who are suffering, whether because of religion or not.
We do not only suffer for those who share our ideologies and skin color, but for all our brothers and sisters around the world who are hurting. If we are Muslims, let us stand up for Christians. If we are Christians, let us stand up for Jews. If we are Buddhists, we can praise Sikhs. If we are Hindus, let us speak highly of Jains. If we are believers, let us speak highly of those deemed unbelievers. Let us praise whom we deem the other, until we realize there is no other.
Side-note: I will not un-friend the lady who posted the messages of divisiveness, because I know she is a victim of brainwashing, as we all are in varying degrees and in different ways.
By Nejoud Al-Yagout