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Today: consumption kills eco-systems; fraud, greed, grand larceny and theft bring down world's finances; deceit, infidelity and instant gratification destroy families; murders and wars have left us without peace or stability. On top we have droughts, earthquakes, floods, storms, tsunamis … has the world gone mad! Submit now to Allah before it is too late - to the One and Only God, the Creator, Lord and Sustainer of the universe, Unique in His Person and Actions, without any blemish, weakness or relatives. Follow the Sunnah of Muhammad (the last Messenger and Prophet - upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah), and join those who will be the really successful ones.

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Monday, October 04, 2004

idealism, leadership and education

First let me talk a little about idealism. Idealism is good, but at some stage one must be able to know what is wrong, to be able to identify the imperfection in ourselves and in those we trust that may lead to a trampling of other people’s rights, for only God is perfect. And when we know what we and are colleagues and those we employ are imperfect, we will put in place a watch to catch out any deviation before much damage is done.

It is here that I think Bush fails. He thinks he has a mission. That is good. People without missions do their jobs and retire. People with missions make that extra effort to make the world a better place.

But he blindly trusts his business friends, and he wants blind trust from everyone. I was struck by a discussion between Jazper and Wagar on IoL. Wagar says the Republicans are lax on business morality and Jazper says the Democrats are lax on sexual morality. Why can’t there be leaders who are big on both types of morality?

Now I will talk a little about the effects of this blind trust. Bear with me. It is to understand the world around us so we know what to do, that I am developing this argument.

As a result of this blind trust on Bush's part, Halliburton/ Kellog/ Bechtel get juicy contracts. No one watches how the contractor executes these contracts. I have given you an example of the type of swindling that went with it. I think Wagar is right here.

As a result of this blind trust in one’s own people, the fundamental rights are suspended. Anyone anywhere can be seized and held incommunicado for an indefinite period. A special name is given to them – enemy combatants. A special place is built (actually there are several) where these “enemy combatants” are to be held, where no laws apply. The Attorney General assures the world that although they are not prisoners of war in the Geneva Convention sense, they will be treated as such. We hear otherwise from our sources. Lawyers for the Justice Department express their concern. Questions were asked. Allegations were made about torture. The attorney General dismissed these as propaganda. There is denial all around. Then what happens?

The abu Gharaib scandal breaks out. It transpires that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been complaining about these, and no action was taken. A female inmate’s letter finds circulation in the world, an internal report is ordered and finds the accusations true, including rape and murder. The media is told to hold off publication of photos. It is only when others plan on publication, that the media reluctantly releases thes photos, but it still holds back those of rape, for fear these will inflame the Arabs and the Muslims even further, and endanger American lives.

That is the only concern. American lives should not be endangered. Iraqi bodies are not to be counted.
So the world sees is that US is concerned only with itself.

Do you see now how mistrust of the US has multiplied.

The Supreme Court decides that those held in Guantamao and other places can now sue the government. We know now these prisoners were tortured.

What happened was that in their certainty that they were right, the President and his men helped create an atmosphere and a lawless environment where human beings of the wrong nationality could be dehumanized, tortured and raped and killed.

That is the danger of blind conviction in oneself and one’s cause.

The Americans in the Bible belt have such simple and blind faith in America, that almost 50% of the American population dismisses any accusation as propaganda, and takes the word of its media and its government about the “others” at face value.

Knowing that our leaders are human, that they may have selfish motivations, will keep us watching, and we will not be taken in by mere declarations that everything is being done according to the law and to morality.

We in the third world know that we live in an in perfect, even cruel, world. We know our leaders. We know they are corrupt and that they lie. We take their pronouncements with a grain of salt. And we do the same with the pronouncements of the West’s leaders.

Growing up is of course learning that one is not the centre of the universe. It is also learning that no human is that centre. God is. God put humans in charge here and put all resources of the universe at his disposal, giving him gifts such as reason, industry, empathy, etc.

What we make of it is our test on this earth.

and the accomplishments of civilisations past and present, are indeed in which God takes pride when He talks to angels about us humans.

Today, the advances in space technology, in medical care, in communications, etc. all have become possible because of universal education, rewards of taking risks, etc.

Karen asked:
“What can we do to begin to assure that all citizens of the world will have available to them all of the educational opportunities that God would want them to have?”

Education is not enough. Many educated people commit fraud, and even murder. And many uneducated ones are wonderful humans.

What is most important is internalization of certain values, of a common humanity, of loving and giving and caring, of standing up for justice, and of forgiving.

Education or knowledge by itself is not enough. There must be a mechanism of putting this knowledge into practice.

Incomplete knowledge should not be put into practice.

When do we know that there is enough knowledge for us to put it in practice?

There were the Thalidomide babies. Nuclear power has resulted in a colossal problem of disposal of nuclear waste. Use of CF refrigerants has resulted in a big hole in the Ozone layer. Burning of fossil fuels has improved our standard of living, but it has given rise to the greenhouse effect, endangering many people – many lands may go under water. And of course, the oil wars are for control of this commodity.

In every thing you can think of, excess or a large scale, causes an upset in the natural order of things that brings catastrophe imminent.

So, we must recognize limits on allowing certain human endeavors - business, yes, but under certain rules: no monopolies, no cartels for example, but associations to safeguard against undue persecution. Labor unions, yes for collective bargaining and protection against unfair dismissals etc, but watch against blackmailing employers. Build cities, yes for community identity and bringing together efficiency of services, but do not let them grow unwieldy.

What is the keyword here?


This is what Islam has taught us, but we Muslims have also got sidetracked and failed to internalise many things.

Why does that happen? Why do we forget some basic principles that previous generations had passed on as their collective wisdom?

It is because on the Day of Judgment we will stand alone to answer for our deeds. So we face tests here in this world.

This forgetting of wisdom and common humanity is also a test.

The Utopia we seek will not come by itself. Remember, Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy. We are all descended from Adam and Eve. The Jews and the Arabs are cousins. All the religions of the world teach that there is but One God.

Yet there continue to be wars and every human rights violation that one can think of.

A religion that taught love and turning the other cheek has been used in the Inquisition and colonisation. Religions that teach peace have been used to make wars. There have been many -isms that promised peace and prosperity on this Earth. Nationalism should have united people within one country towards bettering the lot of all people within that area. Instead it developed into a colonial mentality. Scientific socialism, or communism, was used to establish an empire run by a privileged bureaucracy. So, whatever the ideology, it can be used to persecute the “other”, and where the other does not exist, to create it within one’s own brothers and sisters. It comes from the certainty of being right, of being better, of being superior to the others who can then be dehumanized.

The Socialists brought many things under the government so that food, shelter, medical care and education became the state’s responsibility. It helped. Many people, who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get education, were able to do so. Many countries introduced continuing education, projects that put education available in spare time, so that it became available to those who had to work full-time.

But socialism killed off individual initiative, and an individual’s responsibility.

Capitalism worships money. It rewards entrepreneurship; it rewards business acumen; but many bright ones are unable to develop their potential to the most because of lack of money or opportunities.

Education has become a business in many parts of the world.

What we can do is to ensure we do not succumb to rhetoric.

We do not get misled. We remember and remind others of our humble origins. We do not seek positions of power but seek help from the Almighty, and we open our actions to scrutiny, so that our mistakes are pointed out, and we should learn to accept and correct our mistakes.

The Utopia will only come with the Messiah. We call him the Mehdi. Jesus (as) will also come back. And then evil will be eradicated for a while from this Earth.

But there will be lasting peace only in Heaven.