One of my favorite sayings is when you point your finger at someone, you have three pointed back at you. People are always criticizing others peoples beliefs, practices and lifestyles. We like to find fault in everyone, for their mistakes, short comings, for being different, for having a different life style, for not sharing our beliefs. It is one thing to speak out against someone who is hurting someone cant protect themselves, a child, the poor, a vulnerable woman, the disabled, and elderly. But it is another thing to attack another persons personal choices that has little to do with anyone else.
Religion, faith, spirituality, and devotion, is such a personal thing. But we love to criticize people’s beliefs and ways of life. For isntance, many in the West see Islam as this monolithic entity of 1 billion people. Many see Muslims as this homogeneous misogynist, anti-modern, authoritarian, blood thirsty, vengeful, violent mass of fanatics. They see our faith as lacking spiritual vitality, ethical values, humanism, compassion, mercy, charity, or even connection with God. They dont see the beauty in the faith, culture, thought, individual and community expression. Above all, they dont see the diversity of views and the way each individual determines for his/herself how he/she is going to engage with the system of beliefs and practices that we call al-Islam. But then again, that is the fault of many of Muslims who hold that there is only one way–their way. They argue that the others are misguided. This is a dialogue that we Muslims need to address within our own communities, locally and internationally. Muslims are often intolerant towards each other. And our criticisms and attacks of each other are often more vicious and harsh than anything launched against Christians, Jews, Hindus, Animists, etc..
I may not agree with a lot of things that people do or say. I may feel like their beliefs are irrational or do not ally with Truth as I understand it. In the process of looking in the mirror and reflecting on my own faith, I am busy trying to look at myself and better my condition rather than analyze and nit pick the fine points of theology and subtleties of practice with someone else.
I find that intolerance to be really a symptom of insecurity. It makes people feel better to find the fault in others. It makes us feel better to rip into someone else in order to justify the soundness of our views, the correctness of our behavior, the righteousness of our way of life. In understanding that there are many perspectives to Truth, we have to recognize that one view cannot encompass all facets of Truth. Some people operate in a two dimensional world, others are blessed with the insight of a three dimensions. Does it make sense explaining to a two dimensional personal that their flat earth is really part of a globe? Yet at the same time, two dimensional thinking is often a self-imposed limitation. And we have to engage with two and one dimensional people on a daily level. The question is how do we enter dialogue with them? And to what capacity?
Finger pointing seems to be an integral of some peoples faith and practice. These people are often the most outspoken members of our community. Without name calling, I think it is important that we begin to address how destructive this is to ones own personal development and the building of bridges and connections between people and communities. We have to work day by day to battle the limitations of our imagination. For it is through the creative practice that we are able to imagine ourselves in some one else’s shoes. It is through imagination that we are able to have empathy. It is through broaderning our minds that we are able to break through those boundaries and move beyond two dimensional thinking and imagine a unified world.