Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Mixed Emotions

There is something about modern technology that exacerbates problems. One is able to sit comfortably in one’s living room watching television and still feel as if one is in the midst of a conflict far away. And yet there is the realization, once one turns away from the television screen, that one is helpless to do much to influence the conflict one way or the other. The instantaneous nature of electronic media likewise causes extremes of emotion. In less than an hour, here are three consecutive news items that caught my attention and triggered very different reactions:

1. I found out about a report of the First World Congress of the Imams and Rabbis for Peace, released by the Hommes de Paroles. I had been waiting anxiously for the report to come out, and it did not disappoint. The summary and photos of the historic event brought reluctant tears to my eyes. Though much of it was fluff (much talk, little action), it demonstrated a willingness to dialogue and relate to each other as equal participants, and that in itself is a positive indication. Change will only result when the strongest on both sides engage each other – and imams and rabbis are often the ones with the most passion and influence invested in the conflict. Those who participated are now charged with the responsibility to share that collective vision of peace, good will and commonality with the communities they have returned to.

2. I then checked one of my many email accounts (yes, I currently have seven) only to find that the supposedly “world renowned Middle East expert” Daniel Pipes is coming to UofT next week to speak on “Radical Islam and the War on Terror”. His presence alone is bad news, but it is made worse by the fact that he is coming to inaugurate a new student group: the Middle East Forum at UofT. I was completely taken aback to read that this is happening. I fear that it will only serve to further poison relations between Muslims and Jews on campus. I cannot explain how much this disappoints and deeply saddens me.

3. Finally, I learned that Hillel, the Jewish group on campus, has decided it no longer wants to be named Hillel. It is changing its name back to the old Jewish Students Association. This is a very smart move, and I am delighted to see the Jewish students on campus go that way. Independence from the international organization that is often associated with strong ties to Israel will alleviate the fears of those who want to establish good relations with Jews but cannot bear to work with an organization that promotes Israel as one of its primary goals.

How is one to respond to these three very different stories? I believe the stories mirror the news of the Middle East. The diversity: one can hear good and bad news in the same day, and the complexity: not only is it impossible to predict what will happen, it is also impossible to figure out exactly what is happening. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know. But I come away with a renewed sense of how complicated the conflict is in the Middle East, and how strong are the reverberations even in far-away Canada that the impact can be felt among people who are only psychologically and spiritually linked to that tiny but tumultuous piece of the world.


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