muslim-boys-peace-sign…We start with our own families to make sure there is a safe, non-judgmental space for everyone, all the oddities and the depressives and the questioners, so that no-one feels so isolated from their religious environment that they swing first to extremes of rebellion, drugs, gangs or suchlike, only to bounce to the opposite extreme of psuedo-religious death cults.

…We invest in the arts. Ezra Pound said that “Artists are the antennae of the race”, which I take to mean the human race. Artists are not beholden to political vetos or line-toeing: we can say what we like, and often it’s the artists who point out hypocrisies when no-one dares to. We’re like the jesters of medieval courts. But more important than that, the arts are a space in which we can renew ourselves, be freed from frustrations and heartache, find deep peace and then share it with others. We don’t need to wait to be “discovered” by the mainstream – we can create our own channels and platforms, but it needs support, time, a bit of manic sharing on social media and most importantly, investment. This might be through micro-grants or crowdfunding via sites such as LaunchGood (I recently did a crowdfunding campaign through them and they are very friendly, helpful and dedicated).

…We learn Non-Violent Communication to defuse confrontation and turn verbal abuse into a valuable way for Islamophobes to reassess their prejudices. I believe this is essential if we are to get away from defensive attitutes that turn into insular, divided realities. Read how families have soothed ancient feuds, women have pulled the rug from under the feet of would-be rapists, disputes between Israeli and Palestinian neighburs have been resolved, and millions of people worldwide have been enabled to deal with problems without resorting to fighting.

…We recommit to the founding principles of our faith, compassion and mercy. Why compassion and mercy, why not just love, straight up? Because compassion and mercy are forms of love you can give anyone, even when they’ve hurt you or treated you unjustly. You have to be a saint to truly love your tormentor, but even us mortals can hope to treat others with compassion.

…We campaign passionately but peacefully to end the roots causes of extremism, of any kind: militias and corrupt dictators being propped up and funded by our tax money ($500m of American tax dollars was sent to Syria to arm the Free Syrian Army in their fight against Bashar al-Assad…yet the FSA is the biggest source of arms and recruits to ISIS, go figure); poverty; social exclusion; racism.

…We take every opportunity to create beauty in the world. When everything looks ugly, plant roses. Write poems, paint murals (where you can), sing, whirl, do whatever you can to drown out the ugliness with its opposite. This is how we love and respect creation, how we show thanks to its Creator, how we free ourselves from fear and pessimism. This is a spiritual path that encompasses everyone, regardless of faith or practise, and does not require others to agree with us.

There will always be extremism of some form or another, somewhere or another. But at least we can say we didn’t sit and watch helplessly. There are no excuses – “A smile is charity”. You don’t need money, only determination. Now read this again without the title!

By Medina Tenour Whiteman, Cavemum

 

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)