Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Racism and Muslims
BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Wednesday 22nd April 2009
Amanullah De Sondy
There was much commotion as President Ahmednijad of Iran stood to address delegates at a UN Racism conference in Switzerland the other day. In his speech he said that Israel was “totally racist” which led to 30 country delegates staging a mass walkout, coupled with clapping by those who stayed. The conference aimed to unite nations on their common battle against racism, but - sadly - seems to have done nothing more than show the divisions between them
As I watched these scenes on a TV screen from my hotel room in Berlin, it made me wonder about the issues at stake. Racism, prejudices and stereotypes are often woven into our lives in more ways than we realise or admit. As a Muslim, I take to heart the last sermon of the prophet Muhammad in which he said that all believers in a loving God were as one, beyond colour, tribe or creed but I don’t for a second believe that racism and prejudices are void amongst Muslims. Muslims may be united in belief but they are far from this idealised ‘one’. When I spent time in Syria and Jordan I experienced first hand the way that some people looked down upon me because of my South Asian heritage, at times being reminded that Arabs were blessed with the language of the Qur’an – Arabic.
As a theologian I am intrigued at the way in which the spoken and written expression of faith often contradicts and twists the lived experience. I am left confused when I see Muslims being anti-Semitic based on their pro-Palestinian stance even though Islamic traditions, especially the Qur’an, speaks highly of Judaism. Israel and Judaism cannot be generalized and labeled as racist just as my fellow Muslim shows outrage at being labeled a terrorist. For me, Islam is a religion of love and peace and such fundamentals must be central in everything. The challenge is then to consider, or re-consider, how we reconcile our beliefs with our actions.