Sunday, January 25, 2004

Born on the 9th of April.

What have we learnt from our bitter experience?
I think many of us have learnt so much that makes me some times say to my friends that what we’ve been through was somehow a blessing. If it hadn’t happen, I doubt that we would scratch our heads trying to explore beyond what we were told. This tragedy provoked us to do so, trying to find logical reasons that explain it, after we lost faith in the creditability of what we were told in the schools, mosques and Arab media. We started to look back in history and think about what was happening in different part of the world searching for a clue, a case that resemble ours and most important we dared to look inside our minds hoping and thinking that we might find the real reasons.
Here I recall one of the Jewish friends of this blog telling me that the Jewish people learnt important lessons from the Holocaust and asking me if we have done the same. My hope, and my belief, is that we did. The lesson was hard and cruel, but maybe it will benefit us or at least the new generations in a way that compensate the very high price paid for it.

What did the others learn is something that I have the right only to assume, but I can speak about what I did learn.

I think I’ve learned many things, few mounted to the degree of becoming principles and others still under investigation with some favoring for the new ones over the inherited and I think that is the most important thing that I learned; to question everything and not allowing myself to stop when confronted with (natural or holy facts). I came to the believe that it’s every man’s right to ask, search for answers and dare to make his own conclusion, refuting his fathers’ beliefs and that the lucky man is the one who can find the path to the truth and not the absolute truth as this, in my opinion, is impossible, that is if such a thing as absolute truth ever existed (not in our life at least). To some of western people, this was the way their family raised them or what the school taught. Here it means like being in a war with everyone including yourself.
I also learned to care about the others a little more and about me and my people, a little less. Some may find that hard to believe, but maybe you have noticed that, and blamed me, to be the Iraqi who talks less about his major concern, Iraq. Yes, everything I say has something to do with Iraq, but that’s only because Iraq seems to be the major concern of the world these days and because I see that the Iraqi people are in real need for help and I happen to be an Iraqi living in Iraq. I’m going to talk about my life now, as I thought that this would be a beneficial illustration to what shall follow.

I was born an Arab Sunni Muslim Iraqi. This is what my ID says and what people surrounding me since birth have been telling me about myself, and I was proud about that and I though it couldn’t have been better, I was one of the luckiest people on earth.

The 1st thing that collapsed inside me was my belief in (Arab nationalism) and it wasn’t very easy, but it wasn’t very difficult either. This absolutely doesn’t mean that I hate being Arab or that I don’t like Arab. It’s about the idea (Arab nationalism) and I like Arab just as I like any other people. It’s just that being an Arab doesn’t mean anything that matters to me, it’s just a coincidence that doesn’t make me better than the others nor does it make me less than them.

Followed that, the loss of my Sunni belief, and that wasn’t easy at all. The religious feelings in the ME are very strong and complex even among different Islamic Mathahib, it has something to do with belonging to a certain group of people more than being a belief and this belonging is even stronger than the one to Islam. You could find people who are not religious at all, yet have a very strong belonging to their Mathahb.
Being an Arab is something that I couldn’t change (if it was needed to), it’s neither a privilege nor a handicap, but being a Sunni -even if it was inherited- is something I can change, and that’s what I did. This doesn’t mean that I turned to become a She’at, a Wahabi or any other Mathahb follower. I (simply) made a step forward from being a Sunni Muslim into just a Muslim.

The way those two stale beliefs fall inside me made me dare to investigate what’s much harder and more dangerous, being an Iraqi and a Muslim.

Changing and denying these two (if it needed to be changed) is much harder and more questionable effort than the former two. It’s because (Arab nationalism) was relatively a new concept and it didn’t take much effort to find out that it was a fanatic one. Besides there were millions of Arabs who refused to believe in it before I was even born and a similar thing applies to being a Sunni, as even among Sunni and She’at, you can find many people who say that they are just Muslims, although it meant in the minds of the vast majority of those that they believed that a Sunni Muslim is the only (real Muslim) and others are not so he can call himself a Muslim still not getting out of his Mathahb. The same applies to the other Mathahib. These people are more hypocrites and fanatical than those who simply say “I’m a Sunni” or “I’m a She’at”. They only agree publicly that fanaticism is an ugly thing while they represent its (purist) forms. As for me and many of my friends, it was completely different. We rejected both, ours and their and all other Mathahib and we spent a long time and effort searching for the real Islam. I'm sure I'm not Sunni anymore.

As I said, rejecting the above was something one can do with clear conscience, but going further carries greater risks. If we suppose that a man reaches, by conviction, a state where he rejects his religion and his nationality -without adapting others- as a way of defining himself, what would he have left to belong to?

No, I’m not one of (Colin Wilson’s non-belonging) and I will not go deeper in the details of investigating my belonging to my country and religion and I will not give a final judgment here, nor do I think I can do for the moment. It’s enough now to say that I’ve done/ still doing my search and I’ve reached a primitive belief that I’ll probably talk about in the future.
Many will say “what is your identity then? What have you left for yourself to believe
Without getting into details again, I’ll simply answer “I’m who I am, just a man who cares for all human and looks at them only through according to what their minds and hearts tell him” of course I have some distinguishing specificities due to my environment and my individual mood and way of thinking, but I never allow them to ammount to the degree that makes me judge people according to things I already rejected and it never separates me from the others and from considering Christian, Jew, American, African…etc a friend and a brother/sister with nothing making me favor the Arab, Iraqi or Muslim over him/her and if there was a need to favor someone, the scale would be-as I said- real feelings and convictions and not what his ID says.

There seems to be a great contradiction here. I’ve just stated that one of the important things I’ve learnt is to be less selfish, and here I’m talking only about myself! Excuse me, but it‘s not me who’s in question here. All I said was a long and boring, yet important introduction to show that minimizing our differences, breaking the boxes we live in (I picked the term from a fabulous speech made by Bill Clinton in London) is such an important issue that requires the greater possible attention on part of all of us, if we wanted to avoid learning only through disasters.

I’m aware that I’m not the 1st one to say this and I’m sure that there are great organizations and political parties in the west that believe and work through similar path, and it is from the teachings of those and the great minds and souls in history that I took the inspiration and the courage to go through the unknown. But I still have to disagree with most of those on how to put our feelings and belief in humanity into action and I'll talk about it in another post.

I broke the walls of my box years ago only to find myself in big jail. Large as this jail was its walls were crushing me along with all the Iraqis and made it even harder for me to go further with my freedom of mind and joining my brothers and sisters. After the 9th of April the walls of this sadistic jail collapsed and a new man was born together with so many Iraqis who are already –and despite the enormous difficulties-prepared to say their word and share the sufferings of others.

By Ali.

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