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Changing the present and dreaming the future

 


I want to share with you some ideas about the future.


 


I will start with some introductory remarks. It is my perception that we have continued the process of interfaith dialogue among ourselves without taking into account the reality of our present world. Our world has changed tremendously, especially during the last 10 years.  We are going from one crisis to another; social crises, civilization crises and cultural crises and we have to deal with all these crises.  In the present time we are perceived as naïve, simplistic, far from the world. This is my perception and of others around me. I think that it is our responsibility, if we are true before God, true before our conscience, to come to a realistic and true commitment. 


 


As we represent the faiths of the people, we have to deal with this reality and we have to face up to our responsibilities when we are dealing with these crises. If we are speaking about hopes we have to start by being realistic and face up to the responsibility.  If we want something to happen, we should try and change not only the way we are dealing with each other but also the way we are dealing with the world we are living in.  When we speak about hopes and dreams, there is the Prophet’s peace upon all of them, who are dreaming the future and transforming the present.  It should not be the other way around. By dreaming the present you are not helping me to deal with my problems.  Therefore,  dream the future, change the present and this is the way we have to deal with our values, with our teachings. 


 


If I as a Muslim man, try to share my views with fellow citizens of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or indigenous spiritual traditions, I and others like me are very often perceived as naïve people, dreamers, far from reality.  Is this true?  If many perceive us like that, elementary psychology is telling us that we have to ask ourselves if there is any truth in this perception.  I think there is. Our discourse is sometimes far removed from the reality of people’s lives.  We speak about love but as soon as we seek to promote love in this world, it becomes difficult. To love is difficult.  We speak about peace, but to get peace, inner peace and collective peace, that is difficult. We speak about the importance of family. But people want concrete answers on how to build a family in this world today, within this reality of social crises and psychological crises.  We are living in a world where we need to give answers.


 


My prayer and my hope are for us to be humble, more realistic and more committed to giving answers on how to get peace.  Let us not only talk about peace but also tell people how to get there.  Let us speak with people how to move closer towards the realm of love, with dreams of the future, as one family of humankind. As Muslims we regard man and woman to be brothers and sisters.  Yet, it is difficult to be sisters and brothers.  It is difficult for me to be your brother.  It will be difficult, if you would dare asking me to forgive you.  To understand why you are doing what you are doing today is difficult. 


Let us hope that we are committed and that we are trying to change the world.


 


But while we are promoting this interfaith dialogue let us take into account that our world has changed. We are dealing with ignorance, with people not knowing each other, and today we are dealing with something more vicious and perverse than all that: a new ideology of fear. Fear is promoted everywhere: wherever you go, to the south or the north, to Muslim, Christian or Hindu communities, everywhere you will see and feel the same the same: fear.


 


We are not secure and we do not feel secure. In the United States, there is a great deal of fear after 9/11.  In Israel, Palestine, India and other parts in the world, everywhere is fear. It is not only a state of mind, which we are witnessing. It is also used by politicians and by religious people, people of faith. If we are true and understand the meaning of faith, we will have to deal with fear. Then we can begin to understand that we live in a world where emotions are promoted and emotions have nothing to do with spirituality, in fact they are its opposite. 


 


Emotions are superficial reactions. Not superficial in a bad way, but the first reaction surfacing when something happens.  Spirituality is something different. It is about effort, about something that you experience deep in your heart. Spirituality is the way to master your emotions, not to be or to submit yourself to your own emotions. It is of vital importance to talk about our spiritual teachings. What do they tell us of mastering emotions?


 


Why is it so important to go beyond our emotions? Because they put us in a position where we perceive ‘us’ versus ‘ them’ and where we have to defend our identity.  That mindset is perverse, it is vicious in the world that we are living in to see each other as separate, always protecting myself from you and you protecting yourself from me. It makes dialogue quite impossible.


 


Today we are living with virtual wars, we are scared and we do not know how to deal with this.  At the local level this ideology of fear is nurturing and is nurtured by suspicions. In which way do we trust each other?  At a conference it may be easy to trust each other, but in our daily life it is different. How can we transmit this mutual trust at the local level, at the grassroots level?  This is the commitment, this is the challenge, to create spaces of mutual trust, to move away from this globalized fear, to return to our own traditions and plan to contribute something concrete. 


 


This is my hope: first to reconcile us with the complexity of the world around us and to make it clear that to have a spiritual heart and to nurture a spiritual heart, you need to build a critical mind.  Spirituality has nothing to do with naivety.  Spirituality has nothing to do with just dreaming. It has to do with a critical mind enabling us to make an effort, a spiritual effort to take a distance from our emotions and to try and understand the worldIt means to learn to listen and it is not easy to listen when you are emotional.  Very often people are speaking about Muslims saying that we do not listen. We listen suspecting you to say what we want you to say and so we do not listen to the words said.


 


This is happening daily, this is concrete life. We have a complex heart, living in a complex world.  To learn to listen is not just dreaming about being together, it means to get to know each other more and to promote something which is very simple. 


 


Let us be committed to reconcile us to this world with complexity and not make simplistic statements about love and peace and family.  Such statements are far from the people, so people will listen to us from very far.  This is when we think that we are a minority.


 


We are promoting majority values, majority teachings, majority feelings, but we are far, and we speak alone and as a minority.  Why? It is not because people are far from  the content of what we say. It is because we are far from their lives. That is a totally different thing. 


 


If we move closer to the complexities of daily life, it is my hope that all that we are doing is a road to the civil society at the social level.  Let us work together so that our ethical input becomes visible, our understanding of the ethical imparity before God to say something about social issues.


 


How should we promote ethics in our society?  Let us take education as an example. Is it our sole ambition to add one hour on religion in our school systems? Is that all we desire?  Should we not see the importance of ethics in a more global, integrated multi-disciplinary way?


 


I am convinced we must promote ethics in every discipline. To be satisfied with only one additional hour per week will again mean disconnecting ethics from reality.  It will not convince students of our deep commitment towards creation.


 


To promote ethics in every discipline makes visible our deep concern about education, social justice, discrimination and gender issues. It is promoting a new, deep femininity and it is more than a struggle for rights. It is a struggle for being. We must engage in the world showing that we are committed to understand and promote majority values. 


 


People who want to change the world are challenged by two biased feelings: that they are a minority and that they are victims.  If we are true to our religious traditions we have to get rid of those feelings. We are not victims and we are not a minority.


 


If we are true before God, we will understand that this is a challenge. We have to be the subject of our history, subjects of our own lives and not victims of the lives of others. 


 


Let us change this mindset and reconcile us with complexity. This is the way to connect with other people. 


 


Let me conclude with two final remarks:


 


Firstly, we have to be accountable when attending international interfaith meetings.  If we engage in dialogue only at conferences, then we are not living up to our spiritual commitment. We must be committed to go back to our communities and share what we have learned and put our words into actions.    


Secondly, we must invest in trusting each other. Mutual trust is possible. 


I was in Sarajevo a few weeks ago and there, ten years after the war, an Eastern European was asking a Western European: “Let me ask you one thing: After what happened and us being Muslims, how could I trust you?” 


This question of trust is essential.  How are we committed to promote this mutual trust?  We must network at the local level, understanding this global strategy and ideology of fear, and we must create spaces for mutual trust.


When we do that, we are changing the present and dreaming the future.


 


 


 



    SOURCE : Lecture given in Geneva in June 2005 during the conference organised by the World Council of Churches : “A Critical Moment in Interreligious Dialogue”


“Changing the Present, Dreaming the Future” edited by Hans Ucko


Website : http://www.wcc-coe.org

    

9 commentaires - “Changing the present and dreaming the future”

  1. trusting is very difficult to practice. I don’t wanna be pessimistic about the world, but how can we trust those people who are intransparent with us? how can we trust the decietful political decisions that are increasing the heat between different people. I know how much it is important to live mutually with “others” since we all are sharing one world, but nothing is working. The more the world becomes smaller the more conflicts are generating between cultures. we as arabs are compromising alot of ourselves for people who don’t bother understanding us. When I think it is the time to live peacfuly and without fear, something sparks out (in political/religous/ cultural relations) and the state of confusion conqures my mind. I think we should not only accept the idea that we are different, but more importantly, accept the differences as alternative solutions that bear some truths.

    1. Trust is something that in the first place must grow in your own heart, while you are spirtually piercing through the superficial differences that seem to dictate more and more that we are indeed separated. The fact is still that all of humanity knows very little of one another. That’s why we must start at the very point were we are standing, by transforming this spiritual worldvieuw in our daily practises, while not pointing at other people’s mistakes. On the other hand there is yet to be discovered that the question that concerns all of humanity, the question about faith, is deeply hidden in the dichotomy off the West and Islam.

  2. As usual Tariq,
    another essay with a message of incarnating truth, goodness, and beauty in a real, livable way for all.
    Thank you

  3. from mushroom

    to mosque

    to the red arc of each day’s

    setting sun,

    let each urge along the

    wheel of exchange,

    until we are able to ride

    hands-free

    in Victory!

  4. [TR]
    As we represent the faiths of the people…

    [FP]
    Please, can you define “we”?
    Can you proof your claim?
    How can a faith of a person be represented?

    [TR]
    Therefore, dream the future, change the present and this is the way we have to deal with our values, with our teachings.

    [FP]
    Poetry. Nice and mistic. Good metaphore. But unrealistic, sorry to say this. You may try to change the future — or to try to make it look good for you — by working hard, but you need more than dreams and hard work to get results.

    [TR]
    If I as a Muslim man, try to share my views with fellow citizens of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or indigenous spiritual traditions, I and others like me are very often perceived as naïve people, dreamers, far from reality. Is this true?

    [FP]
    Well, you are I guess not only a Muslim and a man. You have a valid passport, a carreer, a job… you are member of several groups, you are a religious intellectual and so many things. But you are, above all, Mr. Tariq Ramadan. You have just one identity: your one one. You may share with others religious faith, intellectuals interests, professionals activities, soccer team support, opera love…
    And then– what about freethinkers? Do you think all wich it is there is faith based dialogs?

    And your particular faith — or other — does not make you a dreamer or a naïve person, I supose. And if it does, use critical thinking and sceptic inquiry to look at your believes and try to fix them.

    [TR]
    If many perceive us like that, elementary psychology is telling us that we have to ask ourselves if there is any truth in this perception. I think there is. Our discourse is sometimes far removed from the reality of people’s lives. We speak about love but as soon as we seek to promote love in this world, it becomes difficult. To love is difficult.

    [FP]
    Dependes what you mean by love and how you try to promote your own idea of love.
    And love is not difficult. It’s an fundamental part of human nature. You and me are here because peolple before as have loved. And they have cared for us and for others that make the chain of life.
    But then, again, all depends of what do you mean by love.

    [TR]
    We speak about peace, but to get peace, inner peace and collective peace, that is difficult.

    [FP]
    True. But we have to keep on promoting peace in the human societies. Collective. Inner is such a personal thing that you may wish it to others, but… Inner peace means differents things for differente persons. Even among people of the same cultural traditions.

    [TR]
    We speak about the importance of family. But people want concrete answers on how to build a family in this world today, within this reality of social crises and psychological crises. We are living in a world where we need to give answers.

    [FP]
    You have to be very careful and don’t confuse semantics with epistemology. Family is a word with a meaning that has been always historic and changeing from one society to another. Of course, traditional concepts of a family, as the ones we can read in text of 1400 ore more years a go, my be very difficult to mantain in our societies. The crisis then is more on the side of the idea of family rather than on the differentes real societies, don’t you think so?

    [TR]
    My prayer and my hope are for us to be humble, more realistic and more committed to giving answers on how to get peace. Let us not only talk about peace but also tell people how to get there. Let us speak with people how to move closer towards the realm of love, with dreams of the future, as one family of humankind.

    [FP]
    O.K., but— be carful and don’t be too much utopian. A one family of humankind… Well, I think is more realistic to promote a sens of bein all members of the same spieces living together in a very fragile World.

    And try to find a modus vivendi tha rejects violence to solve disputes. You see, you don’t need to love your neighbour to undertand that you have comun interests and that you have to solve your differnece without violence.

    [TR]
    As Muslims we regard man and woman to be brothers and sisters. Yet, it is difficult to be sisters and brothers. It is difficult for me to be your brother. It will be difficult, if you would dare asking me to forgive you. To understand why you are doing what you are doing today is difficult.

    [FP]
    Again, If your faith ask you to regard man and woman as brothers and sistesr, it’s O.K. Well, excellent if you realy feel it and act consequently. But you can’t ask other people to have the same religiuos mandates. And I think you don’t need to see all men and women as brothers and sisters to interact with them with respect and according to the secular laws that a society have democraticaly aproved wich are the same for every member of this society.
    Of course, if you don’t like this laws you may try to change them— democraticaly.

    (To be continued if the owner of this blog is interested in this discussion)

  5. I have a dream, you know…

    “… we cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead (…) This is our hope, and this is the faith…(…) With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together (…) And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted… (…) and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.””

  6. Now is the time for all good Muslims who truly believe in a merciful Allah to stand up against the spin doctors who have hijacked their faith, women and children.
    You are not alone as this is what’s so troubling to many Americans when we hear our President state/spin “War is peace” How disturbing to hear these words, We must expose this as the insanity it is.
    Good Muslims it’s time to make a stand if you have a true belief. Tell the world how In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful He is or…….. your silence will speak volumes against all that you hold dear to your heart and Allah. The world is watching, women and children are waiting and above all your Allah is watching. Peace to your world.

  7. In this short message I would like to bring up something which from a different angle confirms the vision that I share with you: that the world today is in fact confronted with the question whether we want live in a world with or without god.
    There’s now doubt that this question is raised with the coming of Islam in to the global discourse. I believe, as I think you do as well, that on a metaphysical and spiritual level the paradox of the western idea off individual freedom and the still in the Muslim world existing understanding off tauhied should be integrated. That’s why I think it is interesting to know that a western philosopher called Rudolf Steiner, at the end off the nineteenth century ‘revealed’ a spiritual philosophy that brings these two fundamental questions in harmony, that which the western philosophy has clearly failed to do so. As you can imagine, Steiner has never been acknowledged. But in my view as far as I can overlook things now, his philosophy is the ‘inner western match’ for the vision that I share with you.

    I would be honoured if you would send me a reaction. At this moment I’m working on a lecture that I myself as a student of the university off Tilburg in the Netherlands have to give on your person.

    Thank you,

    Mario Hooijmans
    [email protected]

  8. What’s accordig to you this new femininity, what is new about it? I personaly think islam has a lot to offer to women, but social problems have clowded the perception people have. I have Moroccan muslim friends that are educated sometime impress me in the choices they make and the way yhey are free like me, but differtent. So i do not believe islam in itself is a problem for women but underdevelopment is.

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