August 1, 2014


Perhaps because I live faraway I feel immune and thus less invested in the war in Gaza. Perhaps because I am an atheist I am nonplussed to the numinous claiming that they have god’s mandate and perhaps I think they are all fools. With the internet and social media and 150 channels on cable I am of a generation desensitized to bombings and maimings and dead babies and falling planes. Sometimes I feel it is not easy to be human, or indeed be humane, in that our daily lives are mundane and routine and we are barely surviving for its own sake.

And so being human is something I remind myself to do everyday in different manifestations, and they are not always automatic. In gestures as simple as smiling at somebody or saying thank you or holding the elevator door, to forging more meaningful friendships, to involving in local communities, to being part of nation building, to contributing to a pluralistic society – are deeds, though not automatic, always in my mind whenever I make a decision, an effort to feel not so detached. Sometimes empathy needs to be coaxed.

But my impulses and ideas of humanity and of morality are not religion based, nor do I believe that religion sets the moral compass in which humanity aspires to. I do not subscribe to claims that only God holds the key to moral values, and certainly not one that condones or even advocates genital mutilations, slavery, the subjugation of women, of homosexuals and so much more.

And so it plays out, and this time the theater is in Gaza, acted out by representatives of 2 of the great monotheistic faiths, whose motivations are utterly irreconcilable, and millions are caught in the crossfire. On one side, a chosen people will only rest when they have fully claimed their promised land, and on the other, interpretations of their holy scripture ranges from the mild ‘can never be friends” to dictating that “they are to be wiped out” The Hamas charter is a genocidal document incompatible to peace.

As the death toll rises, and the gruesome images increase, and i get updated mainly through my newsfeed on facebook. My friends or friends of friends would take sides, and overwhelmingly against Israel. In so much as I want to condemn the parochial view that many have taken to reach this conclusion, such as “I am muslim so I have to support the muslims”, they are oblivious to the fact that the blame lies both ways. Hamas fires missiles from densely populated areas, from schools and buildings, they use human shields as they see people either as collateral damage or as sacrificial martyrs. The Israelis build bomb shelters to shelter their people, the Hamas do not, instead uses their limited funds to build tunnels to try to kill more people.

As it were, I sit in the anti-Israel camp, but not before weighing that Israel’s leadership are only slightly more evil.

But also from where I stand, ISIS and Al-Qaeda and Hamas are not extremists groups, but mainstream adherents to teachings of the scriptures. They are conservatives and traditionalists so eager to die and along the way drag as many people with them as they can to reach paradise.

When so many of the conflicts in the world and throughout its history spring from ideologies based on religious faith, why do we not attack religion as the root cause? Can we say to one to not take everything as offences to his religion but if he truly believes in the almighty that let Him mete out the punishments in the afterlife? Can we say to the other that two wrongs does not make a right? That you do not get to your heaven by killing other people?

Will there ever be a time when this God could be relegated to Poseidon, Zeus and Ra?


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