My mascara is made my Maybelline and it is awesome – I am complimented everyday on my long natural appearing eye lashes. Every morning as I apply it however I feel guilty as I am aware that Maybelline is owned by the Nestle company who not so many years ago sent sales representatives dressed as doctors in to developing countries to tell mothers that Nestle powdered baby milk (even if mixed with the available unsterile water supply) was better for their babies than breast milk. Vulnerable women believe doctors, and followed this advice – as a consequence, babies died. So every time I apply my eye makeup I am reminded that (a) the west had a lot to answer for and (b) little things I do daily may be negatively impacting on innocent people globally, (c) no one enjoying the comforts of the developed western world can say they are not connected in some way (even if it is simply the origins on their make-up) connected to the suffering of those in the developing world. Although I have never deliberately harmed another human intentionally but my actions, purchases and privileges have a direct connection (often financial and always in my/the western worlds’ favour) with hideous actions causing death, destruction and suffering overseas – hurting people I don’t know, who we don’t see.
I don’t want any anyone to be hurt – ever – it isn’t nice, it isn’t kind and it doesn’t fit into the world that I want my son to grow in. Driving to before school care this morning, my son Mandela hears on the news that over 100 people were killed in Paris over the weekend and he wants to know why. I tell him it is a very sad and evil thing that some people have done because they (the perpetrators) have made a very bad decision and this hurt people. I reason with myself – How else does one explain an act of terror to a seven year old?
Then again, like the commercial media – I could explain it like this:
“Muslims are bad and they want to kill all of us because they don’t like our freedom.”
Only Mandela has a prayer mat of his own, many Muslim friends and would absolutely never believe that a person would attack and kill based on race or religion. Mandela understands that Muslims and Christians follow the same God and that God tells us to be kind to one another (and to listen to Mummy). Mainstream knee jerk reactions to the dangerous Muslim other do not fly with my seven year old (and he believes in the tooth fairy) which should indicate to the rest of us that we need to look deeper for reasons, for answers and for solutions.
You know, way back when Mohammad began to spread Islam first within his small community and then gradually more widely across the region he was he first person to officially condemn female infanticide, grant women child support rights, and the right to vote. Islam was based on the premise that we all belong to one God and peace was paramount. Islam encouraged its followers to work hard, in the face of adversity. This is called Jihad – which is simply a struggle to do what God has asked of us, against what is difficult, which could mean, if you are a single Mum, simply feeding and educating your children, if you are vain (like me) not focusing on the superficial, but looking deeper, for my Dad, Jihad is going to work 12+ hours every day for 30 years for minimal financial reward only to provide his ten children with greater opportunities than he had. One of the key teachings in the Quran is “whoever kills a soul – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely,” (Al-Quran 5:32).
Islam further teaches:
“Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression,”(Al-Quran 5:2).
“And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness,”(Al-Quran 5:8).
Quran 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct,” prohibiting the harm on any individual. Bombs or any kind are prohibited, as is suicide. Nuclear and biological warfare also prohibited.
Historically Islamic Armies have been instructed “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)
With this in mind, I am looking at Paris. I am looking at London. I am looking at New York. These attacks are at odds with the teachings of Islam. These attacks are indeed at odds with any teachings I have ever heard from any religious group or non-religious person – killing innocent people is abhorrent and to be condemned.
The above, is relatively easy to explain to people, including my seven year old. God tells us to be nice, but he gave us free will (choices I would say to Mandela) but sometimes people are evil and abuse their privilege of choice. Mandela then says “why?”
I could again – explain it like this:
“Muslims are bad and they want to kill all of us because they don’t like our freedom.”
But as Mandela is smarter than this, and even in his limited world experience he knows that we ought not bunch all people of the same religion or race or gender or any other real or perceived grouping together and judge them, I am forced to look for a better answer.
To do this let me take you back to when I was seven, which was during the “first” Iraq War in the early 1990s. I remember I was doing my primary school homework, and as I asked Mum if there were any other Wars in history other than the one that Grandpa Coen had been in (which was World War II), Mum told me about World War I which both of my great grandfathers had fought in, the Viet Nam War which Uncle Jack had fought in, and the Gulf War which was happening “at the minute” were her exact words. This was 23 years ago, however I still remember feeling shocked that there were STILL wars going on – have all the grown-ups gone mad? Why were they still fighting, and why didn’t I know about it? Was I safe? These were my questions.
So, somewhere in the Iraq there is a 30 year old who when he/she was seven must have asked her Mum, is there peace anywhere, and why was it not safe for him/her to go to school? I imagine the Mum would have answered as follows “Inshallah (God willing) the war will end soon. But people in the government are fighting over oil, because they can’t agree, and even though God tells us to be kind, sometimes people are evil and make bad choices.” 23 odd years later, this child is an adult who has grown in war affected turmoil inflicted upon them purely by the accident of their birth in a geo-politically inconvenient location – not because they are Asian, European or Africa, but because they were “there.” I imagine that this now 30 year old is wondering how and why they have never felt safe, and what they did to deserve it. After all, their Jihad is pretty simple: They go to work, they come home, they raise their kids and they are nice to their elderly neighbour. All of the things that God requires of them.
We may be able to come to an answer to this question however if we take a moment and remember that no one bombed Iraq to gain access to the Quran or anything else religiously based, we bombed the crap out of them, repeatedly, to get oil, and we in the West are not racist or discriminatory – we will steal oil from anyone, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew…… We just want oil and money.
We did however need an excuse to do it… No one likes it when a political leaders says “Hey, for the purposes of financial gain, very little of which will be enjoyed by you, my electorate, I propose we declare an expensive and traumatic war on a country who poses no actual threat to us at this stage but who has oil we can use, sell and enjoy.” My son would cut that polly down in seconds – “Mr PM/President, that is not kind. We should share. Maybe we can send them Australian stuff, and they can send us oil.”
As the PM/President is not an idiot (although this is open to constant debate) he tells his electorate: “Islam and it’s followers are different to us, and can therefore not be trusted. We need to curb their growing strength by force, which will keep us safe and also ensure access to resources which will benefit out great nation.”
Western nations it seems are quick to forget that there are literally millions of people suffering and thousands dying every week just because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and many of these people die for “causes” (when I say causes I am talking about in diamond mines, cobalt mines, as a result of US drones dropping bombs, or as a result of a sales campaign by Nestle) all of which profit the “West” not the “East.” Is it any wonder that there are a certain number of men and women, who are hurt and angry when they see their children and brothers and sisters suffering for no reason other than their birth place whilst the “West” swims in affluence funded by “Eastern” blood?
I am not condoning violence and I am not excusing it, but I am empathetic to the hurt and frustration an entire region may feel after living in fear for their lives for decades. When this suffering takes the form of a deprivation of education, we have angry, hurt and vulnerable people who, as we have seen even within Australia, are ripe for coercion.
We have young people who don’t have educations – because they were mining oil for the West, or hiding from bombs – and so they cannot read the Quran. Their religious knowledge is limited, and their prayers consist of “Dear God, please ease our suffering and make our children safe.” Does this sound familiar? Is this not what every parent in the world prays for?
Enter the evil leader with the agenda, who knowing that they can entice such a vulnerable individual into committing a heinous act of violence by convincing them that it is God’s requirement of them – even though the evil leader, and any well-educated individual is aware that it is in conflict to Islamic requirements. The evil leader is then aware that the general populous in the “West” will not question their motives, they will just blame “Islam” as a blanket scapegoat. Divide and rule tactics.
Western leaders are aware that under educated, vulnerable and starving populations are easy to manipulate into committing violence because they lack any other avenue to better their situations – and let us be honest…. if your child is hungry and you can’t help them, you might just go crazy enough to commit an act of violence. We have, as westerners, an option – we could keep people starving and on edge by bombing them as we have historically – which we are aware only ends in more violence.
Or we could – bomb the world with butter, bread and educational opportunity. Meet hostility with hope and understanding. Waking up to France bombing Syria – a nation already ravished by war where thousands of innocents are dying – this is not a solution, this will not end terrorism. This will kill people.
Western leaders are aware that educated, secure, and engaged populations live in peace. We are aware also that terrorist leaders would not be able to entice a well-educated, secure and open minded individual be they Muslim, Christian or atheist to harm another person. One might argue that these disengaged and vulnerable populations are not our responsibility to support as western governments/populations. Conversely, one might argue that when suffering, poverty and deprivation overseas is (a) caused as a result of enterprise or trade which we benefit from then it is our business.
One might further argue that when suffering, poverty and deprivation overseas is (b) results in civil unrest or attacks on western countries then it is our business.
One might go further still and argue that when suffering, poverty and deprivation overseas is (c) resulting in knee jerk reactive declarations of war involving multiple countries then it is our business.
Now that we have concluded that:
- those in developing countries are often struggling due to political and business deals which involve western profits;
- that violence is not the answer;
- that educated, well fed populations do not engage in senseless violence because they have too much to loose
- that Islam does not cause or encourage terrorism – it is just bad people doing that
- no happy and safe person ever blew themselves up.
I don’t want anyone reading this piece to think that I am victim blaming or that I don’t care about the victims of the tragic attacks which occurred in Paris last week – I do. I vomited and then cried when I heard the news report.
I am terrified of a terrorist attack which might harm innocent people including my loved ones. But, I am more afraid that the tragedy in Paris will lead to further tragedy elsewhere that women, children, babies, elderly, – innocent people – will die for the sins of a few evil men.
I am more afraid that we as westerners have again drawn distinction between a French death and a Somali, a Syrian or an Iraqi death and placed the value on France as higher.
Perhaps we are targets in Australia – but that means that people are looking at us. If the world is watching us, can we not lead an example for the world?
We are aware that violence is not the answer – let us, as Australia try something else so our children can know a world where they aren’t scared of random acts of violence.
“You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb it into peace.” (Franti)