31 October 2013

It takes courage to stand one’s ground, but the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing that one’s conscience is clear.

WHEN parents try to teach their young children certain values and behaviours, consistency is the key.
When you tell children that lying is wrong, then they must never catch you telling untruths.
If you say there’s no money to buy some fancy new toy, then you can’t come home with a brand new car without them wondering how come you can afford that.
Children have natural radar for hypocrisy. It is tuned to catch any inconsistencies, white lies or complete untruths that parents spout because these grate against the natural sense of fairness that kids have.
And every time they catch their parents out, a small bit of parental authority erodes.
This anti-hypocrisy radar is only maintained if the child doesn’t then learn that to be hypocritical is more rewarding than to be true to one’s own conscience.
If they find that there is nothing to be gained from telling the truth, and everything to gain from fudging facts, then the children grow up with their moral compass askew.
They learn not to take responsibility for their own misdeeds but to blame others for it.
Thus you get stories, for example, about kids who blame their maids for not putting their homework in their schoolbags on the day they are meant to pass them up.
Unfortunately there are more and more adults behaving in this way these days.
I can only assume that once they did have a conscience, believed in certain things but along the way grew to learn that being true to that conscience is no way to get ahead in life.
As children, they might have had a strong sense of justice, of instinctively knowing when something is unfair.
But when they become adults, that instinct is put aside because it’s not a ticket to advancement. Besides if everyone else is doing it, why be the exception?
To be the exception requires the strength of moral character that is able to withstand the pressures that come from others, whether family, colleagues or bosses.
It also requires the courage to take whatever blowback that might come from standing one’s ground, some of which undoubtedly will have implications to more than one’s self.
But for those with such courage, the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing their conscience is clear.
These days I find myself wishing I knew more people of such moral fortitude because they do seem thin on the ground.
I see people who have no qualms about making themselves popular by preaching the oppression of those who have no voice.
I shudder to read of people who blithely believe that the rule of law should only apply to themselves but not to others.
If one were ever to accuse them of any crime, they immediately plead that they are innocent, but they accord no such consideration to those they don’t like.
They say that those of us who open our mouths in protest have no respect for the law, when they themselves barely hesitate to override those very same laws.
The tragic thing is that these types of people think they are leaders, because in the popularity contests they indulge in, they win.
Never mind if their means of winning would hardly fit a child’s description of fairness, what matters most is that they win.
I look at the lineup of the so-called leaders we have and I have to despair.
Not a single one of them would be anyone I would look up to.
None are names that would come immediately to mind as those who could take us confidently into the future, to take our place among the best in the world.
Instead I see people whose minds remain in an ancient age where might is always right, and the majority always wins. And a fat wallet is everything.
Many years ago I was in a country much poorer than ours where I met a young politician who seemed just the type of dynamic leader the country needs.
There were rumours that he would stand for election as the mayor of their capital city.
But when I asked him, he replied that he was not going to.
“It takes a million US dollars to have a running chance of winning that post,” he said.
It wasn’t that he did not have the money because he came from a wealthy family but he did not feel that was the right thing to do.
Today I saw a quote about how much it takes to stand for party elections in our country.
It costs four times more to run for elections in a party of three million members than to stand for mayor of a city of 18 million.
Enough said.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

12 October 2013

Many Muslims are quick to defend their religion as one of peace, but very often words are not enough because the actions that many Muslims do in the name of Islam are neither peaceful nor just.

WHENEVER Islam is attacked for being violent and oppressive, many Muslims are quick to defend their religion as one of peace.
At each attack, the same words are trotted out as if these alone would be evidence of such truth. In fact, very often the word are not enough because the actions that many Muslims do in the name of Islam are far from being peaceful or just. Worse still, that the injustices and violence are mostly inflicted on other Muslims.
How is it possible to classify the burning of houses of worship of other faiths, or the abuse, and sometimes killing, of people of other faiths or other Muslim denominations as peaceful? How do we classify the rape of Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman given to another family because of an alleged wrong done by her brother, as just? Or the shooting of Malala Yousufzai?
Nearer home, how do we proclaim Islam as a just religion when the poor disproportionately are unable to obtain justice in our courts, when women have to spend energy and money they don’t have going in and out of court to get what is rightfully theirs and their children’s from irresponsible husbands?
What sort of justice is it when a woman who, fed-up with the long drawn out process, insists that the court punish her by whipping her is seen as a good Muslim woman, while men who repeatedly ignore court orders are not seen as bad Muslim men?
What sort of justice is it that women are invariably blamed for all of society’s ills but never men?
This week, a gross act of injustice has been done by the Federal Territory syariah court to a young woman who had the misfortune of being female and Muslim when confronted by Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) officials looking for someone to arrest.
They could not arrest her non-Muslim boss nor could they charge her employers.
So they picked on her and subjected her to unabating harassment to this day.
Never mind that the civil courts found that they had no right to raid the bookstore before the book they sought was even banned. Never mind that the civil courts lifted the ban on the book.
If the conditions for her arrest no longer exist, it stands to reason that whatever charges against her must be withdrawn.
After all, the courts have said that the book is not banned, therefore, how can she be charged for selling a banned book?
Here is where hubris trumps justice. Instead of gracefully withdrawing the charges against her, Jawi did a duplicitous thing.
In order not to be cited as being in contempt of the civil High Court’s order to lift the ban, they said they respected the court’s orders.
But then they said that the syariah judge had the power to make his own judgement on the case.
And he duly did, by refusing to withdraw the charge.
In what universe is this justice? In what world does this contribute to the image of Islam as a religion of justice and of peace? And what are the implications of this incredible judgment?
Firstly it means that no bookstore, except perhaps those selling Islamic books, may employ any Muslim at all since they will be held responsible for the content of each and every single book in the inventory that may contradict Islamic teachings. Does this mean that all bookstores must now summarily fire all their Muslim employees?
What about other employers that may have in their workplace things that are also considered unIslamic, such as alcohol?
Does this now mean that no Muslim may be employed in hotels, restaurants, even on our national airline? At a time when jobs are already hard to come by, how do we help anyone with this ridiculous judgment?
And it’s ridiculous because it makes no sense.
The court session was only meant to be a formality to withdraw the charges against the woman, since logically speaking, there is no reason to charge her. But the judge decided to prolong the case, make it even more controversial and perhaps even trigger a constitutional crisis. All for what purpose?
Meanwhile a young woman, who has worked hard to get to where she is, has to continue living with this charge over her head. That she has done so with great equanimity is testimony to her fortitude and courage.
Or perhaps, as a Muslim she knows this verse better than the judge: “Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards [one’s] fellow-men; and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind.” (Surah An-Nahl, Verse 90, translation by Muhammad Assad).
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.